Thursday, June 13, 2002

Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit had this to say (scroll up) regarding the detention of Abdullah al Muhajir: "When the government locks up citizens without following Constitutional niceties, it may tempt it to abuse that power..." My take is slightly different. It seems to me, and call me a whacko liberal if you like, that when the government locks someone up without following Constitutional "niceties", that is an abuse of power.

Why do we have rights which are protected by the Constitution in the first place, if they can be totally ignored on the mere say so of the President? I realize that al Muhajir is an extreme case, and I'm not advocating just letting him go, because he does present some kind of real, legitimate threat to this country. But Constitutional protections were designed explictly for extreme cases, weren't they? The Constitution in general, and the Bill of Rights in particular, is supposed to be a limit on government power. If these Constitutional protections can be withdrawn merely because the president says so, then those protections aren't worth very much, are they?

I'm reminded of President Bush telling us, with a straight face, that these terrorists hate us because of our freedom. Well, I imagine they're somewhat mollified now, because there seems to be a bit less of it now.
On the heels of their victory over the Republicans on the Inheritance Tax issue, the Senate Democrats are trying to get it done again on Prescription Drug Benefits. Expect Republicans to start whining about how expensive it is. According to this article, it will cost $500 billion over ten years. My, yes, that does sound like a lot of money, doesn't it? But remember that the permanent repeal of the Inheritance Tax was going to cost (before the Democrats heroically squelched it) $750 billion over ten years. Plus, the Prescription Drugs Benefit will help people who actually need help, for a change. Write your Senators. Pass this bill.
I don't think this article from Salon.com is a premium piece, but if it is, I'm duly sorry. Frankly, I can't tell. I didn't see that little star next to the headline, so.... well, I don't know. Anyway, this is a review of "Pot Planet: Adventures in Global Marijuana Culture", which has just topped my list of must-reads. It's by a guy named Brian Preston, who admits that during the bulk of the researching and writing of this book, he was stoned. According to the reviewer, this is not evident in the writing, and, despite it's comedy-inviting subject, the book is actually very good. If I can get the cash together, I'll pick this up and review it myself here.
Bob Herbert has a great column in this morning's New York Times about the need for an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate both the September 11 attacks, and to study the terrorist threats currently facing this country. To make his case, he evokes the Hart-Rudman commission, which in January, 2001, predicted that a large-scale terrorist attack would take place on U.S. soil in the first quarter of the dawning century. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration disregarded the commission and decided to create its own commission, led by Vice-President Dick Cheney, to look into the same issues. More unfortunately, the Cheney commission did not get around to meeting prior to September 11. Interestingly, Herbert's column is a lot more interesting, persuasive, and, frankly, relevant, than this column by Gary Hart and Warren Rudman, which argues for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security (which was, incidentally, part of the previously rejected Hart-Rudman Commission's report, just like last year's Airline Security Legislation was part of the previously rejected Gore Commission's report). While I personally think that the Department of Homeland Security is a step (a disappointingly small step) in the right direction, it still needs a full airing of pros and cons before we rush forward and sign onto it. Sadly, Hart's and Rudman's column does not contribute to this airing in any meaningful way.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Here's a story from Salon.com about Woody Allen settling his lawsuit against former producer Jean Doumanian. I'm a huge fan of Woody Allen's, and think that his collaboration with Doumanian really gave his films a new spark. I was sorry to see them go their separate ways. On the merits of the lawsuit, I have no opinion. [Is that a major sin for a Blogger, do you suppose? Having no opinion?]
Here's a story on IMDB about the animators working on Attack of the Clones doing the digital-Yoda lightsaber duel scene. Apparently, they feared that they were ruining the film. Half-right, I say. It was certainly an atrocious scene, filled with all the tension, drama, and excitement of a coffee commercial, but it hardly ruined the movie. The script ruined the movie, with an assist from the acting. Basically, I think we can just pin the whole thing on Lucas and let everyone else off the hook. The downside of auteurism.
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post are weighing in on the GAO report regarding White House vandalism. In the NYT article, we get a picture of a petty and infantile Clinton staff sticking it to the incoming administration in a shameful manner. But then, this WP article puts a slightly different spin on it. Remember, there was only one GAO report here. As usual, astute readers would be advised to read as many articles as possible and form their own conclusions. My conclusion is that the GAO report affirms what we've known already for some time: the claims of vandalism made by the Bush White House were grossly exaggerated.
This is a wonderful story from the New York Times on the sudden decision by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to start debate on repealing the inheritance tax. This a brilliant political move, I think. Daschle deliberately tries to score political points by having a vote on a costly tax cut for the mega-wealthy right after voting to increase the federal debt limit. This one is a no-brainer. Even if I were to agree with retiring Texas Senator Phil Gramm's contention that this is a matter of principle, right now is absolutely the wrong time to do it. The country simply can't afford it. It really is that simple.
There's a harrowing series of articles up at TOMPAINE.com this morning about "trafficking in people" going on right here in the United States. According to the articles, a form of "virtual human slavery" is going on all over the world, and even here at home, especially in remote portions of the "American Heartland". [Is it unpatriotic to loathe that phrase?] I hope this story gets the attention it deserves.
Great editorial in the New York Times this morning on the civil liberties issues revolving around al-Muhajir. I think they've hit the nail on the head with this one, and the quote from President Bush is priceless. The editorial is here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Check this out: MWO has just had the final word on the "Trashgate" story. Oh, you remember: Back in January of 2001, right after the Bush Administration moved into the White House, we started hearing reports about how the outgoing Clinton people had trashed the White House and Air Force One, causing $200,000 of damage. Well, the GAO just released a report giving us the true facts. What damage there may have been was entirely commensurate with what one might expect during any such changeover, and was actually far, far less than the vandalism which greeted the Clinton Administration on arrival. So the story here is that the Clinton Administration left the White House in far better condition than it found it. Hmm, kinda reminds you of the economy, doesn't it, when you put it like that?

Apparently, the Associated Press bungled this story, and it's been picked up by Salon.com, so watch out for misinformed claims supporting the "Clinton vandalism" lie. Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson argued about this one tonight on "Crossfire". If you didn't see it, you really missed something. Begala started quoting from the GAO report about the vandalism performed by the Bush Administration, and Carlson fumed. It was a classic moment. Carlson responds to simple facts with impotent, seething rage.
Well, I've promised a blog about Politics, Movies, Music and More, and so far on the very first day, I've only covered politics. I suppose it's time to partially redress the balance.

I just finished watching Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence. It's basically Scorsese's Barry Lyndon. Like the Kubrick film, The Age of Innocence is a major departure for the director into the realm of costume drama. It is also concerned with aristocracy (this time American aristocracy, which ought to have been an oxymoron, but never was). But Scorsese's film is much less grand, much less sweeping, and much less epic than Kubrick's film. It's only slighty less good. Both films, I think, are unfairly overlooked by their respective director's fans. Both films have a very, very slow pace, and are filled with formal, stilted dialogue which, aided only by the subtlest of performances, manages to convey as much meaning as an extended soliloquoy.

Scorsese's film is blessed with a remarkable supporting cast filled with some of my favorite British actors, such as Richard E. Grant, Michael Gough, and Miriam Margolyes. Roger Ebert, if you're interested, gave the film four stars, and had this to say. I concur.
Have you heard this business about Grover Norquist's report on the political affiliations of Washington lobbyists, where he's urging Republicans in government to deny access to any lobbyists who don't have the right views? Am I the only one here who thinks that, if the partisan roles were reversed and some Democrat had compiled this list for President Clinton, the Republicans would have raised the roof in protest? Now, Republicans are brushing of Democratic objections as mere whining, as evidenced by last night's "Crossfire". You'd think I'd be accustomed to Republican hypocrisy by now, but I'm not. The Washington Post has a story about this, and Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid's objection to it, here.
Well, will you look who's back! H. Ross Perot has been asked to testify before a California state Senate committee regarding the role of Perot Systems Corp. in the California energy crisis of last summer. The story, from yesterday's Sacremento Bee, is here.
Well, now that I've successfully posted, and successfully linked to another site in the classic politico-blog style, let me take a step back and introduce myself for you all. Don't worry, this won't take long.

I discovered the Blogosphere (personally, I prefer BlogWorld, but I guess it's too late) through politics. I am a unabashed liberal, and a few weeks ago I discovered something that Eric Alterman wrote about some really good web sites out there for liberals. I had no idea who Eric Alterman was at the time, but his article "Sites for Sore Eyes" put me in contact with a bold, angry, animated underground liberal media that I never knew existed. Specifically, it led me to Media Whores Online, which, interestingly, led me back again to Eric Alterman. It was MWO that pointed me to Altercation, his own blog. But my web-surfing goes far beyond Alterman and MWO, and beyond politics as well.

If you've noticed the brief description tucked away on the sidebar there, you'll see that I'm also interested in movies, music, and other, unspecified things. Well, I expect to talk about all of those things in my blog. Once I get around to it, the somewhat meager links section will expand greatly, and I'll provide not only a bunch more liberal political links, but some non-liberal political links that I also find interesting, informative, or simply well-done, and lots of non-politcal links.

Eventually. We'll see. Anyway, thanks for staying this long, and I hope you'll stay a little longer, or at least pop back occasionally, to see how I'm doing. Perhaps I'll tell you where the name comes from, one of these days. Or not.
Tapped is concerned about the detainment without charge of the apparent "dirty bomber" Abdullah al Muhajir. I'm not surprised, especially in light of this story which seems to shed doubt on the whole thing. And it's impossible not to be a little suspicious of the timing of the announcement. After holding him for a month without telling anybody, or taking credit for what looks at first blush like a pretty good example of preventing terrorism, suddenly several members of the Administration are talking about this guy like he's big news. Even if he is big news today, what was he last month?
Good afternoon, and welcome to Terminus. I have just a basic idea of where I want this "blog" to go, but before I can worry about all of that high-minded nonsense like "concept", "direction", or "purpose", I've got to figure out how to actually run one of these things. I feel like I'm sitting behind the wheel of a car for the first time ever, and it's scary. So... be nice.