Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The State of the Union

Captain's Quarters live-blogged the speech, and has links to sites with other commentary.

The speech struck one sour note for me, when the President stated "We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy even though this economy could not function without them."

Who's been saying that? Does he mean illegal immigrants? There is a big difference.

La Shawn Barber is equally frustrated by the President's comment. I also completely agree with her that a guest worker program, as currently planned, is "under-the-table amnesty."

On a happier note, what a thrill to see Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts enter the chamber.

Power Line and Hugh Hewitt have also posted commentary.

Captain Ed and the Canadian Election

Dave Kopel points out that while the American media has been busy chasing the supposed scandal about the U.S. security program, it's had no problem ignoring very real corruption in the government north of the border.

Information on the hearings into the liberal government's money laundering and kickbacks was censored in the Canadian press, but was published on the Internet by Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters. Without Captain Ed, the liberals might still be in control of the Canadian Parliament.

As Kopel writes: "It would have been possible for an American newspaper Web site to have given Canadian readers the same information that Captain's Quarters did. When the newspapers failed to act, Captain's Quarters showed that bloggers can do more than just critique; they can report suppressed news and change the course of history."

I would add that this isn't the first election where bloggers played a critical role. Without the Internet, CBS might have succeeded in its attempted smear of the President regarding his National Guard service.

(Hat tip: Michael Barone.)

78th Annual Academy Award Nominations

I was delighted that, as expected, Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix were nominated for their portrayals of June Carter and Johnny Cash in WALK THE LINE. It was baffling, however, that WALK THE LINE did not receive a Best Picture nomination. And how is it that WALK THE LINE has such acclaimed lead performances, but no Best Director nomination for James Mangold?

I find it regrettable, in general, that uplifting quality films such as WALK THE LINE, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and CINDERELLA MAN were passed over for Best Picture in favor of films adored by the Hollywood left, such as BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, MUNICH, and HUSTLE AND FLOW.

Congratulations, Justice Alito!!

The final vote was 58 ayes, 42 nos.

Per Brian Wilson of Fox News Channel, the newly sworn Justice Alito will be present this evening at the President's State of the Union address.

Bench Memos has commentary as well.

Update: Chief Justice Roberts has sworn in our newest Supreme Court Justice.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Latest on ABC's Scalia Smear

The Washington Times editorializes on ABC's trumped-up "scandal" regarding Justice Scalia teaching a legal seminar.

Accuracy in Media has more.

Update on ABC's Bob Woodruff

It sounds as though Woodruff's injuries were very serious. Media Bistro's TV Newser (linked above) has regular updates.

The Drudge Report says that doctors have kept Woodruff unconscious and the extent of his head injuries is not yet known. Woodruff has numerous broken bones, including a fractured skull. According to Tom Brokaw, part of Woodruff's skull cap was removed to relieve swelling.

Woodruff's brother said, "We think he's going to recover eventually."

Cameraman Doug Vogt is awake and apparently doing better.

More on the close relationship between the families of Bob Woodruff and David Bloom here.

Alito Vote Will Be Tuesday

Confirm Them details the proceedings today, as the Democrats' attempted filibuster failed. Bench Memos has the cloture vote roll call.

Senator Kerry, incidentally, invoked the name of Bench Memos' Ed Whelan in his floor speech today.

Ted Kennedy seemed to come close to a nervous breakdown as he engaged in a screaming rant on the Senate floor today, going so far as to blame Judge Alito for children's asthma attacks: "We have doubled the number of deaths from asthma this year than we had five years ago, doubled the deaths for children. I wonder why that is? I don't know what you tell the mother when they see the children having that intensity... pass laws, the president sign them, they go to the court in terms of interpretation, and where will this nominee come out? Will he come on out for that mother who has a child that's got asthma?"

Huh?

As Rush Limbaugh said on his show today, someone needs to tell Senator Kennedy the relative numbers of children who have died from abortion versus asthma.

Michelle Malkin live-blogged Kennedy's rant.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Latest on ABC's Bob Woodruff

New ABC anchor Bob Woodruff, who was seriously injured in Iraq today along with his cameraman, Doug Vogt, is close to the family of late NBC correspondent David Bloom. Indeed, the relationship is such that Woodruff, who was in Iraq at the time of Bloom's death in 2003, returned to the U.S. to help Bloom's widow with the funeral arrangements.

This must be an especially difficult ordeal for Woodruff's family, given that personal family connection, and it must be hard on the Bloom family as well.

Sending good thoughts to those injured and their families.

More here and here.

Media Bistro's TV Newser has posted regular updates throughout the day.

Monday Update: Melanie Bloom has accompanied Lee Woodruff to the hospital in Germany.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Children's Book: Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

My older son has studied this classic poem by Robert Frost this year as part of our homeschooling curriculum -- so when I recently happened across a review of a beautiful picture book version of the poem, I couldn't resist ordering it. My younger children still enjoy picture books, and as for me, I'm not sure I'll ever outgrow them!

The review can be found at the interesting site Semicolon, which regularly features news and reviews of children's books. To read the review, input the title in the search engine on the right side of Semicolon's homepage.

The book arrived today, and it's beautiful! I was especially taken with the translucent dust jacket which allows the snowy artwork on the book's cover to show through. A perfect way to introduce young children to this memorable poetry.

Preschool: No Lasting Benefits After 3rd Grade

More proof that California voters are being misled by taxpayer-funded pro-preschool advertising which insists there are lifelong benefits to attending preschool: a newly released study by the University of California says that any benefits received by attending preschool disappear after 3rd grade.

As the article describes, the new study's results are similar to the findings of a different study which was published last fall.

Moreover, children who attend preschool are more likely to have behavioral problems.

(Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs.)

Familiarity Breeds Contempt?

Tom Bevan, writing on the New York Times and Los Angeles Times at Real Clear Politics:

"...one of the ironies of the new media age: both of these papers are now read in greater than ever numbers thanks to the Internet, but the additional exposure of the heavy liberal slant in the papers' op-ed pages, and to a lesser degree in their news coverage, has eroded their credibility rather than enhanced it."

Gee, Thanks, Dianne

Dianne Feinstein has the reputation of being the more reasonable of the two Democrat Senators from California.

Unfortunately Senator Feinstein has now lost any "moderate" reputation she might have had and has reneged on her recent pledge to give Judge Alito an up or down vote. Friday she announced she had changed her mind and will now support a filibuster. John Kerry's not the only "flip-flopping" Senator!

The RNC takes Senator Feinstein to task (above).

More from Power Line, where John Hinderaker is wondering just what's going on in the wake of Senator Kerry's call to arms from the ski slopes.

If you live in California, you can email Senator Feinstein and let her know what you think of her reversing her pledge to give Judge Alito a fair up or down vote.

Meanwhile, Captain's Quarters muses on the Era of Absent Maturity for Democrats.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Expedition Everest at Disney World

Kevin Yee at Mice Age has a remarkable series of photos of the big new Expedition Everest roller coaster at Disney World's Animal Kingdom.

Spoiler alert: Only look if you don't mind knowing what all of the ride looks like before your first trip!

I can't wait to try it out when we're able to return to Florida.

Meanwhile, here's my first attempt at posting a photo here. Thought those of you across the country might enjoy seeing what Disneyland looks like in January. :)

"Marcel, My Brother"

Sincere, heartfelt condolences to Charles Krauthammer on the death of his beloved brother.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Alito Vote Likely on Tuesday

The Democrats did their best to stall...and may end up giving the President a wonderful moment at his State of the Union address next week, when the newly sworn Justice Alito takes his seat in the front row.

Confirm Them, Bench Memos, and The Corner have more.

According to Byron York at The Corner, Senator Kerry's call for a filibuster came only after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid decided there wouldn't be a filibuster...so Kerry's move was not only graceless, it was gutless.

Brit Hume Interview

TV Guide Online has an interview with one of my faves, Brit Hume of Fox News Channel.

I enjoyed this quote: "If you spend your time doing news for people who don't like news, you're on a fool's errand. What you try to do is the most interesting and intelligent and sophisticated broadcast you can do about the subject at hand and believe that's the way to attract a big news audience. Everybody else will have to take care of themselves."

(Hat tip: Media Bistro's TV Newser.)

Kerry Calls for Alito Filibuster

Today one of my children was learning in History about the "American way," being gracious in the face of political loss.

Kerry is one of a new breed who has completely rejected that principle, and I find it a sad and perhaps scary thing for our country's future.

Public Schools Protecting Their Territory

A district here in Orange County has rejected a proposal for a charter school.

One of the reasons the district educrats gave for rejecting the charter is ""There is no evidence that there is a 'critical need' for the proposed charter school..."

As the Orange County Register editorializes (linked above): "...that argument misses the point of charter schools, which were created by the state Legislature in 1992 to provide choice for parents and students. And it is parents and students who determine the success or failure of a charter by attending it or shunning it."

The charter is appealing.

This is a great example of something discussed here earlier this week, as well as in the past: public schools don't want competition even within the framework of the taxpayer-funded public school system.

Here's another pro-charter editorial from the Register.

A related issue was discussed in the same paper's Ask the Teacher column yesterday. The principal at an Orange County middle school is refusing to allow teachers to write recommendation letters for students who wish to transfer to a high school in another district or to a private school. As the parent wrote: "Placentia-Yorba officials didn't want to enable a student to leave their district because they feel their district has high schools that provide equivalent/competing programs."

In other words, it's far more important to the principal to hang on to the child's body and the accompanying tax dollars than to work cooperatively with parents in their child's best interest, as determined by the parents. What matters to the principal is simply the school and its funding; education and parental rights are not considerations for such an educrat.

Farewell to a Dancing Great

The remarkable Fayard Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers has passed away at age 91.

Nicholas recently completed a commentary track for the Fox Classics release of ORCHESTRA WIVES.

STORMY WEATHER, which also features the Nicholas Brothers, was released on DVD earlier this month. Other new DVD releases, HALLELUJAH and GREEN PASTURES, contain early Nicholas Brothers shorts.

Other great Nicholas Brothers appearances include SUN VALLEY SERENADE and THE PIRATE.

Bob Thomas's obituary for the AP is here.

Disney-Pixar Quarrel Over Sequels Ends

Under Michael Eisner, Disney had been insisting on producing sequels to Pixar's films. Pixar was, for the most part, more interested in continuing to create new stories, so Disney was attempting to make TOY STORY 3 itself; the film was in pre-production.

Disney now says: ""All of the sequels to Pixar movies will be made by Pixar." The future of TOY STORY 3 is unclear at present.

New York Times Demands Alito Filibuster

Rolling eyes...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Federalist Society Asks for ABC Investigation...

...into the NIGHTLINE story smearing Justice Scalia: "ABC has simply chosen to score political points by blatantly disregarding the facts and true nature of the circumstances which surround the Federalist Society's course on September 30, 2005... We call on ABC to launch an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the development and production of this story."

Confirm Them has a roundup of blog reactions. Tom Goldstein of SCOTUS Blog said the story borders on "character assassination."

"What Price Alito?"

Robert Novak weighs the political calculations being made this week by red state Democrats.

Meanwhile, Mary Landrieu has announced she will not support a filibuster.

Other bits of interesting news on the ongoing Senate debate can be found at Confirm Them and Bench Memos. Ed Whelan at Bench Memos has an excellent response to Hillary Clinton's floor speech, in which she blames Justice Alito for the response to Hurricane Katrina. (I'm not kidding -- take a look.)

John Ziegler of KFI Radio asked Barbara Boxer some uncomfortable questions about Judge Alito at a press conference. (Click on Editorials on the left, and then on his 1/25 column.) Boxer, unfortunately, is one of my state's Senators. Her answers were no surprise, but they certainly give a window into the intellectual vacancy of Senator Boxer and her like.

More on Disney's New Head of Animation

I continue to be very optimistic about what John Lasseter will bring to Disney. Thanks to the Pixar purchase, Lasseter is now the head of Disney's animation department as well as Principal Creative Advisor for the Imagineering department, which designs rides for the Disney parks.

Lasseter reveres Disney's history and loves Disneyland. Yesterday (scroll down) I shared the story of the way he honored Ollie Johnston, the last of Disney's "Nine Old Men." Outside work Lasseter is active with his five children in such unpolitically correct organizations as Boy Scouts and Indian Guides. He once arrived at the Academy Awards in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

Sounds like a pretty good guy to me. :)

My one concern is whether Disney, which has already shut down its hand-drawn animation department, will continue to produce cartoons which have the classic animated "look." The 3-D-ish digital style of Pixar movies is fine, but I hope to continue to see movies in the traditional style, even if that's now done digitally and not by hand. (I think LILO AND STITCH was the last really good non-Pixar animated Disney film.) I believe Lasseter has enough appreciation for varied styles of animation and Disney's animation history that hopefully this won't be an issue.

Update: The New York Times mentions in its Lasseter profile that he is, indeed, interested in traditional 2-D animation. This sounds very, very good all the way around.

The Latest on Bible Literacy in Public Schools

300 school districts across the U.S. are considering using the new textbook THE BIBLE AND ITS INFLUENCE for elective Bible literacy courses.

USA Today has the latest news on this subject.

Did You Know...

...the Mexican army may be regularly illegally entering the United States?

If they're not actual members of the Mexican army, then they are Mexican criminals armed with machine guns, dressed in army uniforms.

Michelle Malkin is on the case, with many links, including a link to yesterday's Fox News Channel story about apparent Mexican army members, armed with machine guns, who transported marijuana into Texas. (The Mexican government denies involvement...but if they were actual members of the military transporting marijuana, would the government admit it?!)

Refusing to address border security in a serious, substantive way is our President's greatest failing.

On School Choice and Outsourcing Parenthood

The thing that troubles me most about American public education is that the government takes our tax dollars and then tells us the schools our children must attend. Beyond the issue of school choice, it increasingly strikes me as rather creepy that the government (via the local school) has the "right" to place children with complete strangers for over 30 hours a week, without the parents having any say-so whatsoever in the choice of teacher; often it's difficult to even meet the teacher before the first day of school. Parents are not treated as valued partners whose input regarding issues such as schools and teachers is solicited and respected.

John Stossel has been doing a great job lately writing about the public school system, and in today's entry he considers the issue of choice. The saddest part of his column is the pleasure that a school inspector takes in finding students who are "cheating" by attending the "wrong" school.

There are rare exceptions where "choice" is allowed, often via charter schools, but even those choices are limited, as Betsy Newmark writes at Betsy's Page (scroll down to 6:46 a.m. on January 25th). The teacher's unions and others seem afraid of competition even within the framework of the public school system.

Karen at Spunky Homeschool has written a thought-provoking essay which ties in well with this topic: "Outsourcing Parenthood."

Teachers, in particular, are with schoolchildren so many hours a week they can have an enormous impact, for good or ill, in children's lives. In many cases, things turn out just fine. But is it right for parents to give such power over their children to strangers? Something to ponder.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Network News Lies Again

Last night ABC's NIGHTLINE ran a story asserting that Justice Scalia missed John Roberts' swearing-in to "attend" a seminar and play tennis, and also questioned whether it was ethical for Justice Scalia to attend a function sponsored by the Federalist Society.

Human Events has published a detailed rebuttal to the ABC story. The network deliberately chose to ignore the facts, which they had well in advance of the airdate, and instead "spun" the story to suit their liking.

Perhaps the producers at ABC are upset they can't stop Judge Alito's confirmation and are taking it out on Justice Scalia?

Disney Closes Deal to Buy Pixar for $7.4 Billion

This is going to be interesting.

John Lasseter, who will become the Chief Creative Officer of the animation division and Principal Creative Adviser at Walt Disney Imagineering, seems to be a class act, if the story about his purchase of legendary Disney animator Ollie Johnston's train is any indicator: before Lasseter took delivery, he had the train restored and then brought it to Disneyland, where he surprised Ollie with a trip around the park.

As anticipated, Steve Jobs joins Disney's board and is now the company's single largest shareholder.

L.A. Times Sinks Deeper Into the Abyss

The Los Angeles Times published a deeply disturbing editorial column today by Joel Stein. It starts out "I don't support the troops" and goes downhill from there: "I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War...but, please, no parades."

Hugh Hewitt immediately booked Stein for an interview, to which I'm listening as I post this. As with Hewitt's interview of last week with CNN's Ed Henry (scroll down to January 19th), through polite questioning Hugh slowly peels back the layers to reveal Stein's level of ignorance on his subject. Stein doesn't know anyone in the military, hasn't done any reading on the military, doesn't know how big the military is, and so on.

Hugh writes of Stein on his site: "He does not feel grateful for their service. These are not illegal opinions, of course, but they are deeply repulsive ones, and I don't believe the Los Angeles Times ought to have run this column."

I heartily second that.

To contact the Los Angeles Times with a letter to the editor, email: letters@latimes.com; include your address and phone number if you wish to be considered for publication.

For more insight into why these members of the mainstream media are the way they are, I highly recommend Hugh's piece on the Columbia School of Journalism in The Weekly Standard. (Click on "The Ancien Regime" on the left menu bar at the Standard's site.)

Update: Michelle Malkin, Power Line, and Captain's Quarters react to Hugh's interview. Rick Moore at Holy Coast found the column so unbelievable that at first he thought it might be satire.

John Podhoretz at The Corner went so far tonight as to say Hugh's interview of Stein was "one of the best interviews ever conducted." Stein was "calmly, straightforwardly and meticulously eviscerated."

One of the things I love about Hugh is the way he asks questions -- he's firm in his beliefs, but polite and relatively nonconfrontational; he simply asks a lot of questions and lets the subject talk at length. The interviewee usually does himself in on his own, without much help needed from Hugh.

Alito Voted Out of Judiciary Committee

It was a party line vote, which Senator Jon Kyl warned bodes ill for the future: "It is simply unrealistic to think that one party would put itself at a disadvantage by eschewing political considerations while the other party almost unanimously applies such considerations."

Byron York has some interesting comments at The Corner, including information on the Democrats' "non-filibuster filibuster" which could delay the Senate vote another week.

Magnum, P.I., Coming to Big Screen?

A few weeks ago there was a rumor that REMINGTON STEELE may be headed for the big screen. Now another '80s detective, Thomas Magnum, may also be turned into a movie.

(Hat tip: The Corner.)

Monday, January 23, 2006

CBS & NBC Skipped Covering Barrett Report...

...and ABC gave it an entire 35 seconds. NewsBusters has the details.

With coverage (or should I say no coverage) like this, one has to think any impact on Hillary Clinton will be minimal, unless the "new media" can successfully get the story out during her Senate -- or Presidential -- campaign.

Democrats on the Edge, Part 2

Last week I linked to a number of strange, inflammatory, and otherwise unhinged things said in recent days by Democrats.

Similar liberal behavior is going on online, at the Washington Post's blog comments, where liberal profanity led to the comments being shut down, and in Amazon's reader reviews. Michelle Malkin (above) has links to the liberal spamming of Fred Barnes' new book on George Bush.

Kate O'Beirne's new book has received similar attacks at Amazon, as Kathryn Jean Lopez describes for National Review.

These same people who try to shout down and drown out opposing points of view would be very happy if the "Fairness Doctrine" were re-instituted and voices such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were silenced, because, as Rush sometimes says, they "can't compete in the marketplace of ideas."

I think Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters is exactly right: these are not the actions of people who have confidence in themselves.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Monday Night on PBS: John and Abigail Adams

Monday evening, January 23rd, there is a two-hour program on John and Abigail Adams airing on public television's AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. The film will draw heavily from the Adamses' correspondence. It should be quite interesting for anyone who loves American history and biographies. I plan to tape it and use it to supplement my children's history lessons.

(Hat tip: Mrs. Happy Housewife.)

Continuing Attempt to Condemn Justice Souter's Home

I think this is a wonderful way to illustrate the absurdity of the Supreme Court's Kelo decision giving governments authority to confiscate private property and give it to private developers...especially as we see these kinds of "property transfers" continuing to take place all over the country. (Here is Senator Bill Frist on a case currently under appeal in Ohio.)

Hopefully the states will be taking action to protect private property from continuing to be turned over to private developers.

Update: Friday John McIntyre posted a story at the RCP Blog about a woman in New York whose home is being taken so an Indian casino can expand. I know there are other equally disturbing stories out there. This is truly nothing short of government-sanctioned robbery, and our legislators need to get serious about putting an end to the practice.

NBC Cancels The West Wing

No surprises here, but NBC has made it official: THE WEST WING has been cancelled after 7 seasons. The series wraps up on May 14th, with a retrospective and final episode being aired that evening.

I avoided the show its first couple seasons simply because of what I read about the liberal politics, on and off screen. After stumbling across it one evening, however, I was hooked -- simply put, the show was extremely well-done, of a caliber rarely seen in primetime television. And in recent years they have even attempted, at times, to be more politically balanced. One of my favorite storylines featured John Goodman as a Republican Speaker of the House who temporarily became President. I thought he was a much better President than Martin Sheen's Jed Bartlett. :)

Well, at least I have my DVD's... (I hope Seasons 6 and 7 are released so I'll have the complete set!)

Wednesday Update: Season 6 will be released on DVD on May 9, 2006. (Hat tip: TV Shows on DVD.)

The Cook's Book


I recently happened across this new cookbook and was instantly taken with its step-by-step "how to cook" photographs, depicting ways to do everything from carving to butterflying to kneading bread to chopping vegetables. The photography is so interesting that I think even a relatively indifferent cook might enjoy spending time perusing this book. When I had the opportunity to buy it at over 40% off this weekend, I couldn't resist.

I know I'm going to learn a great deal from this book in coming months. Along with Julia Child's THE WAY TO COOK and James Peterson's ESSENTIALS OF COOKING, I now have an excellent trio of books to guide me as I continue to work this year to further develop my cooking skills.

The Blogging Revolution

Steven Greenhut has written a good piece for the Orange County Register about the changes blogging has brought to the MSM (mainstream media).

He notes that the MSM is still stuck in "complaint mode" -- instead of learning from new and alternative media and adapting to the new ways news is delivered, the MSM prefers to whine.

I suspect that the longer the MSM stays stuck in that frame of mind, the more their influence will decline.

"The Trouble With Boys"

An interesting article from Newsweek on the growing difficulties boys are having in school.

The article mentions, as one issue among many, the diminished time spent on P.E. and recess compared to decades ago. That brought back memories of a personal experience from a few years ago, when our children were still in the local public school. Recess was taken out of the morning schedule, and we expressed a concern to the school that our son -- and the other children -- needed recess time in order to learn more effectively in the classroom. The vice principal shook his head because we obviously didn't "get" it. The interruption of recess could not be afforded, we were told, when that time was needed in the classroom in order for the children to be prepared for state testing. Recess was suddenly declared unimportant.

The school refused to recognize that if a young boy periodically has 10 or 15 minutes to run around and exercise, he's going to be able to accomplish more learning in less time when he's back in the classroom. We were also wondering how it was that previous generations had time for both learning and recess and received a better education than children currently seem to obtain in public school...

That negative experience was just one factor among many that led us on the path to being a homeschooling family. It's quite interesting that over the last year or two, in particular, there seems to be a growing recognition for the varied ways children learn, including gender and age differences -- and simultaneously, recess may be on its way to being "in" again.

I question, however, why the Newsweek article's subtitle refers to boys as being "maddening." How it is that simply by being boys they deserve that adjective? It seems to me that the article's headline unintentionally underlines a problem expressed in the article, that in some cases "Boys are treated like defective girls."

As a postscript, People Magazine has a story in its January 30th issue about schools which have experimented with different classrooms for boys and girls, with marked success. Of course, the idea is opposed by NOW president Kim Gandy, who fumes that "We know that the all-boy math class will quickly become the real math class." (The story appears to be available only in print editions of People.)

Monday Update: Betsy Newmark, a teacher, has thoughts on this today.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Tonight's Movie: The Family Stone (2005)

I wasn't certain just how much I'd enjoy THE FAMILY STONE, given that it centers around a family of rather self-aborbed liberals who are their own biggest fan club. Somewhat to my surprise, I confess that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Although the film had some modern "politically correct" sensibilities (complete with homosexual son and partner among those gathered around the family table), it simultaneously had a decidedly old-fashioned appeal, starting off with Dean Martin singing Christmas music and opening credits set against vintage Christmas cards. When the credits faded to the lovely multi-story family home, my daughter whispered "This reminds me of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS." Little did we know that that classic film plays a key role late in the movie; its use was very effective, layering a viewer's nostalgic emotions for the older movie with reactions to some moving moments in the modern film.

The Stone family members are not always likeable, particularly at the outset, but they're definitely interesting. Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle describes Diane Keaton's no-holds-barred mother as someone "who mistakes her progressive politics for personal virtue and her...aggression for forthright honesty," yet also describes her as "riveting." He's got her pegged exactly right. (The direct link to his review isn't working but can be accessed by clicking on "External Reviews" on the lefthand column at the IMDb link above.)

The characters do show greater warmth as the film progresses, especially as an increasingly chaotic Christmas morning unfolds with life-changing ramifications for all. The film is carefully balanced between humor and sentiment, ending in a lovely though bittersweet epilogue.

As a side note, the sets are wonderful. The Stone family kitchen is filled with eye candy for anyone who loves vintage cookware or cookbooks. Tiny details which might not be noticed by all viewers, such as the granddaughter reading a LITTLE HOUSE book on Christmas Eve, added to the sense of a real family in a lived-in home.

I particularly enjoyed reviews by Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin (click on "Leonard's Picks" and scroll down), and James Bernardelli (accessible via "External Reviews" at the subject line link).

Highly recommended.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Will the Democrats Filibuster Alito?

John McIntyre at Real Clear Politics has some interesting info indicating that there is still a possibility of a Democrat filibuster.

If the Democrats do filibuster, I think they're going to find it even more of a disaster for their party than the hearings.

Earlier this week several Democrats predicted there would not be a filibuster. (Hat tip: Confirm Them.)

Update: Robert Novak reports on the pressure from outside interest groups for the Democrats to filibuster.

Peggy Noonan on the Decline of the Mainstream Media

Peggy starts out: "I don't think Democrats understand that the Alito hearings were, for them, not a defeat but an actual disaster." Besides the Democrats' "snarly tone," one reason their charges didn't go anywhere, Peggy writes, is that the liberals have lost their media monopoly. She suggests that if Ted Kennedy were to make his "Robert Bork's America" speech today, he wouldn't get away with it.

It's an encouraging piece, especially given how much bias still exists -- see my post of yesterday on CNN's Ed Henry.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Disney to Buy Pixar?

This is certainly interesting news for Disney fans.

A couple of years ago Disney and Pixar's relationship had deteriorated to the extent that negotiations ended for Disney to continue distributing Pixar's films. (The current deal ends this year.) Talks resumed when Robert Iger replaced Michael Eisner at Disney, but still no announcement of a new distribution deal.

Now it emerges that there may be more than a new distribution deal in the works -- Disney may actually buy Pixar. If the purchase goes through, Steve Jobs will become Disney's largest shareholder.

(Hat tip: Mice Age.)

Hugh Hewitt Interviews CNN's Ed Henry

Hugh Hewitt did a great job conducting a simultaneously hilarious and infuriating interview yesterday afternoon with CNN's Congressional correspondent, Ed Henry. Henry's refusal to answer certain questions was probably as illuminating as if he'd actually given direct answers, and the answers Henry gave showed how ill-informed he was and is about a major subject on his beat, the Alito confirmation hearings.

For instance, Henry only vaguely seemed to know about the contradictions regarding Joe Biden's statements on Princeton, and he never ran a story about it. Henry had no idea that the Prospect article that Senator Kennedy read into the record, as though it were a serious article, had actually been a parody; Henry had never bothered to read the article himself: "I haven't done a segment, because I haven't seen that article." Likewise, Henry hadn't done any homework over the course of the week and read up on some of the significant cases being debated at the hearings. Mr. Henry seems not to be aquainted with the Internet, where all of these issues could be easily researched, or with the concept of being fully informed on a subject before he goes in front of the camera.

It was also interesting that while Henry was completely uninformed on any rebuttal to the Democrats' point of view, when it came to Judge Alito's non-involvement with Concerned Alumni of Princeton, Henry felt compelled to mention to Hewitt: "...there may be other documents we haven't seen." In other words, it's not enough that the documents produced contained absolutely nothing about Judge Alito -- Henry has to hold the door open for a future negative possibility. It seems that the weight to "prove" something to Mr. Henry lies with conservatives, not liberals.

As Hugh points out, Henry seems to feel his job was only to unquestioningly give a play-by-play on what happened at the hearings, without digging further for the truth. Frankly, just about anyone of moderate talent could give a play-by-play or recap without providing context or additional information. Which begs the question: Why should viewers bother to watch Henry's coverage on CNN when they can see what happens for themselves on C-Span?

Radio Blogger has the complete transcript.

The Barrett Report: Cover-Ups and Questions

As expected, the report by Independent Counsel David Barrett charges that under the Clinton Administration, there was a deliberate attempt by the Justice Department and IRS to block his investigation into wrongdoing by former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros. Robert Novak has some of the details (above).

A fascinating bit of info, highlighted by Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters, is that Cisneros' former defense attorney is now Chief of Internal Affairs at the IRS.

Captain Ed believes these charges will prove "explosive" for Hillary Clinton's Senate re-election or possible Presidential campaigns, but I'm not so sure. Thanks in part to the willingness of the mainstream media to look the other way and not ask her hard questions, I wonder just how much traction this issue will get. Hillary's "missing" billing records, her $100,000 cattle futures windfall, and a host of other questionable activities didn't stand in the way of her being elected to the Senate.

The New York Daily News said yesterday that among the redacted pages was the information that former IRS Commissioner Peggy Richardson was one of those who tried to block the investigation. The law firm of Williams & Connolly, which represents Cisneros and both Clintons, successfully lobbied for the information regarding Richardson's involvement to be removed from the published report.

Power Line noticed something interesting in the New York Times' coverage.

Will Congress ever see to it that the American taxpayers see the report in its entirety?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Latest on the In-N-Out Controversy

Today's Los Angeles Times expresses concern over the controversy behind the scenes at In-N-Out Burger, one of our "state treasures."

There were new developments in the ongoing litigation last week.

I think Lifelike Pundits has a point worth considering regarding the possibility of the chain going national. I don't know that the hidden Bible verses are In-N-Out's "most identifying feature" -- I'd say that's probably the Double Double! -- but the verses, along with the company's general conservative bent, give many of us additional reasons to be fans.

I had occasion to correspond with the company some years ago and was delighted to receive a letter embossed with an American flag and the logo "The Best Enterprise is a Free Enterprise." There was another patriotic slogan on the envelope or letterhead which escapes my memory.

We have a family tradition of stopping at In-N-Out on our way home from Christmas Eve services, and on more than one occasion we have received a Christmas -- NOT holiday -- card along with our meal signed by all the employees. This is a chain which happily embraces Christmas. Will such openly religious attitudes, including "Merry Christmas" and John 3:16 on the cups, be tolerated if the chain leaves family ownership and/or franchises as part of going national?

As I've written here before, expansion is something to be approached very carefully, in general -- witness the ongoing travails of Krispy Kreme. I hope the young lady who will be inheriting In-N-Out is being advised wisely.

(Hat tip: L.A. Observed.)

Tracking Radical UCLA Faculty

A UCLA alumni group, the Bruin Alumni Association, has started an interesting project to collect information about professors who are "actively proselytizing their extreme views in the classroom, whether or not the commentary is relevant to the class topic."

The group's advisory board includes such distinguished names as Walter Williams, John Lott, and Linda Chavez.

Needless to say, this attempt to disclose what is actually going on inside UCLA lecture halls has upset some professors; one says: "Any decent American is going to see through this kind of right-wing propaganda." Another calls it a "witch hunt."

As part of an attempt to collect documentary evidence about the professors, the group is offering to pay for tapes or lecture notes, which has caused additional controversy. At least one member of the advisory board decided to resign because of disagreement with this policy.

My take is that UCLA is a taxpayer-funded university and any professor on campus, right, left, or in the middle, should be comfortable having their views publicly aired to the taxpaying public and/or to university administrators. If "documentary evidence" exists of the professors' views, the public -- and particularly prospective students -- can decide for themselves whether or not a professor is "radical." Leaving aside the issue of payment for information, about which I don't yet have an opinion, it seems to me that transparency is a good thing.

More can be found at Professor Bainbridge (scroll down).

Update: I enjoyed thoughts posted by Gina Cobb, a UCLA grad (scroll down): "What the critics of this new effort and the fans of academic freedom need to think about is what they would consider a reasonable response if a university had a large number of its professors using their courses to promote fascism, as opposed to socialism. At some point, it would be reasonable to say, 'Enough is enough. Teach what we are paying you to teach.'"

Democrats on the Edge...

...or maybe it's "the ledge." The last few days have been of note for a level of invective remarkable even for Democrats.

As if the nutty statements by Democrats like Ray Nagin and Ted Kennedy weren't enough -- scroll down this blog for details -- earlier this week Hillary Clinton charged that the House of Representatives is run like a plantation, and Senator Barack Obama has defended her.

The White House spoke out against Hillary's statements, saying she was "out of bounds."

Michelle Malkin has written about Hillary's demagoguery at Town Hall, as well as at her blog (scroll down).

Captain's Quarters also weighs in on Hillary.

The White House also disputed Al Gore and John Kerry saying that the President broke the law with regard to wiretapping. Kerry went so far as to say that the President "definitely" broke the law, readily ignoring any evidence or arguments to the contrary.

Power Line writes, in essence, that Al Gore was for wiretapping before he was against it.

David Limbaugh (headline link) hopes that the Democrats will keep spreading their unusual brand of "optimism."

Does it strike anyone else that Clinton, Gore, and Kerry seem to be running against George W. Bush, rather than any of the possible nominees for 2008?

Roberts Questions McCain-Feingold

The direction of Chief Justice Roberts' questions in oral arguments yesterday regarding the McCain-Feingold Act was encouraging.

I find it hard to believe that banning political advertisements prior to an election has thus far been upheld by the Supreme Court. One can only imagine what the Founding Fathers would think of this clear violation of the 1st Amendment.

Hugh Hewitt suggests today that "the bell is tolling" for McCain-Feingold: "...perhaps the outrage against Free Speech that is McCain-Feingold can be struck down at least in part by this time next year, and an era of immunity from criticism for elected officials in the 60 days prior to votes on their re-election will come to a end."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

John Stossel on Money and Education

I very much agree with Stossel that what's ailing public education in this country is not a lack of money.

I think it's worth adding to his comments that homeschoolers routinely achieve excellent educational results on shoestring budgets.

Stossel recently made positive comments on homeschoolers in his newsletter, quoted by Spunky Homeschool.

No More "Stealth" Nominees

Robert Novak assesses the Alito hearings.

As also suggested recently in the New York Times (amazingly enough), Novak concludes that the hearings showed that there is no need to nominate conservatives without a track record on abortion or other issues. What matters is what should matter, a nominee's qualifications, and "such stealthy games are not necessary, so long as charges cannot be dredged up about a nominee's personal life."

It turned out to be a very good thing for conservatives, in more ways than one, when President Bush pulled Harriet Miers' nomination. The President nominated a jurist of outstanding credentials and may have paved the way for similar nominees in the future.

Reader comments in various threads at Confirm Them, incidentally, rumor that the rumblings at the Supreme Court are that the next justice to retire may not be Ginsburg or Stevens, but Souter, who is said to have openly discussed a desire to retire when he qualified for his pension, which occurred last fall.

Roberts Dissents With Scalia and Thomas

Sadly, the Supreme Court today upheld Oregon's assisted suicide law.

It is worth noting, however, that the new Chief Justice dissented, along with Justices Scalia and Thomas.

Analysis at SCOTUSBlog.

Rose Parade Was Almost Cancelled...

...due to lightning danger.

At the last minute parade staff worked to ground 100 metal grandstands and address other safety concerns.

Weather guidelines are being drawn up for the future. Hopefully it will be another half-century before it rains again on Pasadena's parade!

Senate Democrats Up to No Good

There may possibly be further delays brewing beyond the current one-week delay to vote Judge Alito out of committee.

Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy's office says, per the Washington Times, that November's agreement to hold the vote January 17th was not binding because it wasn't in writing.

Confirm Them and Bench Memos wonder if there will be yet another delay beyond January 24th.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican, says that Democrats pushing back the vote is "a new low in our confirmation process" which is a "breach of trust."

Sen. Kennedy Pays Dues But Isn't a Member

Senator Kennedy joined Harvard's all-male Owl Club 52 years ago. In his words: "I’m not a member; I continue to pay about $100." (No, I'm not making this up.)

Senator Kennedy lives in an unusual world where he sets one standard for judicial nominees and quite another for himself.

Hypocrisy, thy name is the Edward Kennedy.

Bizarre Comments by New Orleans Mayor

Can you even imagine if a white mayor said: "This city will be a majority white city. That's the way God wants it to be"?

Nagin also said that God sent the hurricanes because we're in Iraq.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Michael Barone on the "Beautiful" vs. the "Dutiful"

Barone is always a great read. I love his closing of this piece:

"...to paraphrase William F. Buckley, I think we're better off seeking guidance from the first 100 names in the Hamilton Township phone book than from a random sample of the Princeton faculty. It's comforting that Judge Alito evidently thinks so, too."

Talk Radio and the Blogosphere in Danger?

This is a long but worthwhile piece about the looming dangers to free speech associated with "campaign finance reform" and efforts to reinstate the "Fairness Doctrine."

The article includes a discussion of the case (currently being appealed) in Washington State where two radio hosts were sued for having provided "in kind donations" for expressing their points of view on a proposed tax hike. There are also scary quotes from John Kerry and Al Gore bemoaning the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the rise of Rush Limbaugh and talk radio.

Democrats Delay Alito Vote

Once more the Democrat Senators show themselves to be untrustworthy and mean-spirited. Apparently they are hoping against hope that a delay will somehow enable them to rally support against Alito.

A bit more at Confirm Them.

More Women Choosing C-Sections

As has been discussed on this site in the past, the c-section rate in the United States is nearing the point where a third of all births in the United States will be by c-section.

Having experienced both kinds of childbirth, I can't fathom why women with normal pregnancies would deliberately choose to have major surgery. This article discusses some of the pros and cons. One of the issues is that we don't know yet what all the long-term ramifications are:

"C-sections are safer, some researchers are finding, without the last-minute rush to surgery after an exhausting trial of labor. But critics of elective C-sections see a downside. Such research is early and conflicting, they say, and science doesn't yet understand the time-honored trip down the birth canal. Babies delivered by cesarean section have more respiratory infections later in life, and may have more gastrointestinal tract problems as well."

One attorney-obstetrician quoted believes the c-section rate will eventually go as high as 60%.

First Katrina, Now the Lawsuits

There are lawsuits of every type imaginable pending in Louisiana...and few juries available to hear them.

I found these two paragraphs near the conclusion of USA Today's article rather strange:

"...a disproportionate number of residents who've returned to the city are white. Does that mean juries will be less willing to award damages than pre-Katrina juries, which were so reliably sympathetic to plaintiffs in Orleans Parish that courts there became a haven for personal injury lawsuits?

"No one is sure. There is a sense of catastrophe, and now abandonment, among Katrina survivors that cuts across race, class and politics..."

The author goes on to conclude in a final paragraph that claims aren't being handled, but the paragraphing is such that this reads, to me, as though part of the catastrophe is that demographic changes may mean plaintiffs may no longer reliably receive damages. Perhaps it is simply unfortunate wording, or perhaps, given some of what we know about Louisiana, that's what the writer actually meant.

In any event, it doesn't sound as though it would be a bad thing if Orleans Parish were no longer "a haven for personal injury lawsuits."

Redacted Barrett Report To Be Released Thursday

The New York Sun has the latest details on the report, which "outlines a coordinated effort by Clinton administration officials to first block and then limit the probe" of former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Feinstein: No Alito Filibuster

I'll give Senator Dianne Feinstein credit for a couple of things this past week: she actually sat and questioned the judges who came to support Judge Alito, instead of leaving the room as most of her colleagues did; and she said today: "This might be a man I disagree with, but it doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the court."

As Ed Morrissey notes at Captain's Quarters, Sen. Feinstein might be one of the few Democrats to realize just how damaging the Democrats' performance was this past week.

I would add that Feinstein is running for re-election here in California this year, and while it's a blue state, it might help her if she looks like a "moderate" rather than a far-left liberal in the Schumer or Kennedy mold.

Amazingly, the Washington Post today editorialized in favor of confirming Judge Alito, saying "No president should be denied the prerogative of putting a person as qualified as Judge Alito on the Supreme Court."

Update: The New York Times writes that Judge Alito's likely confirmation upsets previously prevailing conventional wisdom that a clearly pro-life nominee would not be able to win Supreme Court confirmation.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Universal Preschool Makes CA Ballot

I have a sinking feeling that there are enough people in the state who will look at this measure as "free" daycare that it will pass...with ultimately negative ramifications for children, education, and the state's economy.

There are many open questions, such as whether the courts would allow state funding for church-based preschools...whether private preschool teachers will be required to have state credentialing...whether the state will determine what must be taught in preschool programs...whether the influx of state money will cause private preschools to raise rates and be unaffordable for anyone who wishes to remain outside the state program...whether anyone will be able to attend preschool outside the state program, period...whether "universal" "free" preschool would be a first step toward mandatory preschool in California.

One thing's for certain, I don't think it's going to be as simple and wonderful as Rob Reiner would have us believe.

Latest on Christian School's UC Lawsuit

USA Today published an article yesterday on the lawsuit against the University of California for refusing to give high school credit for courses with a "Christian viewpoint."

The Association of Christian Schools, which has 5,400 members, has joined Calvary Chapel Christian School in the suit.

I found it of interest that this is the first lawsuit of its kind -- because California has the only public university system in the country which rejects high school classes or texts on a religious basis.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Alito Vote

Senator Frist is threatening to cancel the Senate's recess the week of January 23rd if the Democrats have delayed the vote on Judge Alito at that point. Ed Whelan has the details at Bench Memos.

Frist also announced there will be no other legislative action until the Senate has given Judge Alito an up-or-down vote.

Regulate Disposable Cell Phone Purchases?

Michelle Malkin has an extensive roundup on the story about recent large purchases of untraceable, disposable cell phones.

Is there a connection between the New York Times leak and the surge in cell phone purchases?

According to ABC News, there appears to be a link between the cell phone purchases in Texas and a terrorist cell. I'm impressed with the store employees and law enforcement personnel who followed up on this issue and made the connection.

But this story also leads me to wonder: Senators Feinstein and Talent inserted into the Patriot Act a provision to heavily regulate the purchases of Sudafed and other cold remedies, based on the loose linkage between cold remedies and methamphetamine production, and an even looser linkage between drug sales and terrorism.

Following their logic, if honest citizens will have to stand in line at Target or Wal-Mart and give their driver's licenses and other personal information in order to buy Sudafed, are Feinstein and Talent also going to require Target and Wal-Mart to collect traceable personal information for the purchases of disposable cell phones?

Somehow I doubt it.

Of course, I don't actually believe sales of either Sudafed or disposable cell phones should be regulated. But this issue highlights the absurdity and "Nanny state" mentality of the pending Sudafed regulation. I would venture to conclude, based on recent past history, that American citizens are potentially far more endangered by sales of disposable cell phones than by cold and allergy medicines.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Senator Kennedy Belongs to All-Male Harvard Club

Senator Kennedy has spent much of the week trying to paint Judge Alito as a racist or misogynist because of his brief and tenuous ties to Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP), which opposed women at Princeton.

It turns out that Senator Kennedy is himself still a member of a Harvard social club, the Owl Club, which was expelled from the campus over two decades ago because of its refusal to allow women to join.

The Washington Times reports that Senator Kennedy updated his information for the Owl Club's directory as recently as last September.

Senator Kennedy's spokeswoman, of course, sees "no comparison" between the Owl Club and CAP.

Alito Hearings: Day 4 in Review

A much quieter day today, as Judge Alito wrapped up his testimony.

Ed Whelan at Bench Memos (linked above) reports tonight that the Democrats are working hard to push back the final confirmation vote on Judge Alito until February. Let's hope that Senators Specter and Frist have a stiff spine on this; by all rights, Alito's hearings should have started in December.

Byron York detailed at National Review how the attempts to use the Concerned Alumni of Princeton fell apart quickly. As mentioned Wednesday at American Spectator Blog, Senator Kennedy knew all along there was nothing in the papers, anyway. It was all political theater designed to intimidate and smear.

James Taranto of Opinion Journal's Best of the Web has an entertaining roundup of blogger commentary on the last couple days, including some very pointed criticism of Senator Kennedy by Dean Barnett of SoxBlog.

Senator Schumer and colleagues of course didn't want to hear the praise for Judge Alito from liberal judges. Power Line also had an excellent post on this subject.

If you missed anything, SCOTUS Blog again had live blogging of the day's hearings, and Free Republic had 3000-plus comments posted in today's live thread.

Update: David Limbaugh says, "Though Alito's record, demeanor and reputation bespeak of an extraordinarily humble, decent, ethical and scholarly man, senators Kennedy, Schumer and Co. have strained to convince us he is an unethical rogue, among other things." Limbaugh goes on to say that the Democrats are unable to see the "gems" in Alito's character because of their own character flaws.

Captain's Quarters has an outstanding post on today's testimony by a judge who had supported John and Bobby Kennedy, and at 86 years of age flew across the country to support Judge Alito. Of course, Senator Kennedy didn't have the nerve to sit and listen to the testimony.

Daniel Henninger writes in Opinion Journal that Borking has ended with "The Battle of Princeton": "Borking was once a Democratic smear tactic. This week...it became a laugh track."

Do Democrats Enjoy Smearing Conservatives?

Peggy Noonan asked last night if the Democrats really think conservatives are bigots, or are they just playing games?

Paul Mirengoff at Power Line tonight asks a similar question, whether the Democrat senators enjoy smearing people such as Judge Alito. Paul concludes: "My guess, for what it's worth, is that Senators Schumer, Durbin, and Kennedy do enjoy smearing Judge Alito and others. Schumer and Durbin seem very comfortable doing so. Kennedy, I think, gets satisfaction from moralistic attacks on others because of his own history of immoral behavior."

Earlier today I wondered why Senator Kennedy, with so much tragedy in his past, hasn't emerged from his experiences as a kinder, more empathetic person. One would think the average person who has suffered greatly would be reluctant to needlessly inflict pain on others, unless misery loves company. But perhaps Paul has found an answer for the pleasure Kennedy seems to take in (irrationally) attacking conservatives.

New Podhoretz Book on Hillary

John Podhoretz, author of the interesting BUSH COUNTRY, has a new book coming out this May: CAN SHE BE STOPPED? "She," of course, being Hillary Clinton; the book's subtitle is HILLARY CLINTON WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES UNLESS... Podhoretz, who can be read regularly at The Corner and The New York Post, has a nice sense of humor which makes his writing particularly entertaining.

In the meantime, with Hillary Presidential talk bound to heat up in coming months, I highly recommend two older books, THE FINAL DAYS: THE LAST, DESPERATE ABUSES OF POWER BY THE CLINTON WHITE HOUSE by the late Barbara Olson, and Peggy Noonan's THE CASE AGAINST HILLARY CLINTON. These books came out in 2001 and 2000, respectively, but the information in each book remains pertinent.

What a Shock

"Senator Schumer Signals He's a Likely 'No' on Alito."

This is news?

Time and again we see Senate Republicans vote for liberal judicial candidates, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- who was confirmed to the Supreme Court on a 96 to 3 vote! -- in deference to a President's Constitutional right to choose his nominees.

And time and again we see Senate Democrats refuse to vote for qualified conservative judicial candidates based strictly on political ideology and a desire to thwart a Republican President.

What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love

This week I've been reading Carole Radziwill's gripping memoir, the latest in a long line of books on the Kennedy family. Carole's husband, Anthony Radziwill, was John Kennedy Jr.'s first cousin and best friend, and John's wife Carolyn became Carole's best friend. WHAT REMAINS details Anthony's battle against cancer and the awful summer when Carole lost Anthony, John, and Carolyn within a three-week period. The book is sparely written, with much being inferred from a sentence here, a word there, and is a page-turner. I've been picking it up to read a few more pages when I really should have been working.

Reading the book in juxtaposition to this week's Senate hearings, a thought has continued to run around in my mind: With all the tragedy Senator Kennedy has endured over the years -- some of it self-inflicted, much of it at the hands of fate -- one would think that having been through so much, Senator Kennedy would be...nicer. Kinder. And perhaps exhibit some humility as well.

But, sadly...well, I'll stop there. His behavior speaks for itself.

"A Secular Inquisition"

Captain Ed is home from Washington, D.C., and shares his thoughts on the Alito hearings.

John Ham at the John Locke Foundation referred to yesterday's Democratic excesses as a new "Wellstone Funeral Moment." (Hat tip: Confirm Them.)

Brit Hume said something interesting on Fox News earlier today, that Supreme Court nomination hearings are a relatively new concept and that Justice Scalia said very little at his own hearing. Hume said that by contrast to Scalia, Judge Alito has been very forthcoming.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

John Stossel: Public Schools Cheating Our Children

Stossel shares his thoughts on the lack of competition in U.S. public schools and what it means for children's education.

Stossel has a program on the subject airing on ABC Friday night.

In a column that ties in well with Stossel's piece, Thomas Sowell discusses how education in New York has changed since he was a boy. (Click on "Education Then and Now.")

Alito Hearings: Day 3 in Review

The nastiness escalated today, if that's possible (see post below). Michelle Malkin (linked above) leads off tonight's roundup with "Shame, shame on the Dems."

I agree with Holy Coast, "this image [of Mrs. Alito] will haunt the Dems."

The American Specator Blog provides behind-the-scenes details on Senator Kennedy's most notable moment of political theater today. (Scroll down to the Washington Prowler's 2:46 p.m. post.)

At The Corner, Byron York notes that "Senator Kennedy is the gift that keeps on giving." All the Cornerites have been on top of their game this week, especially John Podhoretz.

Jonah Goldberg, in the morning's USA TODAY: "Amid all the country club decorum, there's a whiff of a show trial to these proceedings."

SCOTUS Blog again had live blog coverage throughout the day. The FReepers are also running live threads commenting on each day's coverage.

John McIntyre at Real Clear Politics Blog comments on an email wondering if the Democrats are saving their filibuster for Justice Stevens' replacement. (Scroll down to RCP's 7:13 a.m. post. Some of the Permalinks for individual posts are being a bit "glitchy" tonight.) Unfortunately, McIntyre also speculates that Alberto Gonzalez would be the front-runner for such a replacement, which might not occasion the need for a Democrat filibuster. I'd love to see the Democrats attempt to filibuster someone like Janice Rogers Brown next time around.

(A big thanks to RCP Blog, incidentally, for regularly featuring Laura's Miscellaneous Musings on their "Latest Links" blogroll. It is greatly appreciated!)

Bench Memos and Confirm Them, as always, have lots of commentary. Paul Zummo, writing at Confirm Them, says: "I have ENOUGH of the underlying assumption that conservatives are all just racists at heart. A good man has had his character maliciously impugned."

I couldn't agree more.

Update: Peggy Noonan weighs in at Opinion Journal on the constant insinuations by Democrats that conservatives are bigots: "Do they really think that about us, or are they just playing games and jerking everyone around?" She says she wishes the Democrats would not only apologize to Mrs. Alito, but "I wish they'd apologize to the country for causing it distress. Anyway, they made a mistake. Her tears presage his victory."

The Spirit of McCarthy Lives

Mrs. Alito left the hearing room in tears this evening when Republican Senator Lindsay Graham apologized for some of the attacks and insinuating questions Judge Alito has had to sit through over the last three days.

Newt Gingrich said on John Gibson's Fox show this afternoon: "Today the spirit of Joseph McCarthy was alive and well."

Power Line also picked up on the McCarthy theme. Scott Johnson wrote: "Listening to Chuck Schumer this afternoon, I was struck by the resemblance between his mendacious tirade against Judge Alito and the bullying, sinister tones of Joe McCarthy as I recently saw him in Good Night and Good Luck. It will be interesting to see whether this hearing is the event that finally causes the public to see liberals as the mean-spirited bullies they so often are."

Update: Moderate Mort Kondracke said this afternoon on Brit Hume's program: "The attempts to make him [Alito] out to be a bigot were just pathetic."

Evening Update: Should this headline be "The Spirit of the McCarthy Myth Lives"? (See discussion comments.)

A Revisionist Look at Milton Hershey

Michael D'Antonio, the author of a newly released biography of chocolate giant Milton Hershey (linked above), charged in yesterday's Los Angeles Times that the Hershey Co. was trying to silence him by suing his publisher, Simon and Schuster, for trademark infringement -- the book's cover depicts a large Hershey bar.

D'Antonio says some of the negative details included in his book have upset the Hershey Co. The author's claim that the company wanted to suppress his book strikes me as overwrought, but it doubtless makes for great publicity.

In all honesty, looking at the cover, I can understand why Hershey might have felt they had a trademark case. The suit was settled with the agreement that the publisher place stickers on the book stating that the book was not authorized by Hershey.

The Baltimore Sun recently carried a positive review of the book which was originally published in the L.A. Times.

A book which came out a few years ago, THE EMPERORS OF CHOCOLATE: INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF HERSHEY AND MARS, was enjoyed by several members of my family. Arcadia Publishing has a picture book on the town of Hershey in its excellent Images of America series.

Podhoretz on the Democrats and Alito

John Podhoretz says the only chance Democrats have to defeat the Alito nomination is to let him actually say something -- which they seem quite reluctant to do.

Podhoretz noted yesterday at The Corner that during Senator Biden's half-hour questioning Alito, the nominee spoke approximately just 72 words!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mark Levin Joins the Blogosphere

"The Great One," Mark Levin, who is already a regular contributor to National Review Online's Bench Memos and The Corner, now has his own blog at the NRO website: And Another Thing...

Levin's blog just started today. Needless to say, it will be "must" reading.

Wednesday Update: This morning's post presents Levin's thoughts on the Alito hearings with his typical clarity:

"The liberal senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee look frustrated and sound incoherent because, well, they are. Their problem is that when you don't have fidelity to the written Constitution, your judicial philosophy, such as it is, consists of nothing more than strained and often contradictory arguments made for the purpose of advancing a political and policy agenda. Hence, we hear Dianne Feinstein demand from Alito adherence to judicial precedent respecting Roe v. Wade (Arlen Specter refers to is as super-precedent), and in the next breath acceptance of something called a living and breathing Constitution."

Good Grief

Jim McMurtry, a Liberal Party candidate in Canada, has referred to homeschooling as "a form of child abuse" and said that homeschooling parents are "condemning their children to an impoverished, friendless, and segregated learning environment."

McMurtry's comments are so absurd that they don't deserve to be dignified by a response, but one hopes that our neighbors to the north will have the good sense not to vote for this very ill-informed man.

Paging a Federal Prosecutor...

One of the leakers of the top-secret NSA wiretapping program to The New York Times has come forward.

As far as I'm concerned, this man is not a "whistleblower." If he had legitimate concerns he could have followed up on them through proper channels, not by spilling national security secrets to The New York Times and ABC News.

He has engaged in criminal activity and should be prosecuted.

Wednesday Update: Brent Baker at NewsBusters has analysis of ABC's coverage.

Jed Babbin and Mark Corallo have further thoughts at American Spectator Blog.

Alito Hearings: Day 2 in Review

Ed Whelan at Bench Memos (linked above) says, "It was a great day for Judge Alito...In a single day, the Democrats' feeble wall of lies collapsed."

Holy Coast points out that bloggers serve as instant fact-checkers. A case in point, also discussed by Hugh Hewitt: Joe Biden's lies about Princeton. Radio Blogger has the incriminating transcript of Biden's 2004 speech at Princeton, in which his statements contrast sharply with what he said today.

The American Spectator Blog rumors that the Democrats know it's not going well and have told Chairman Specter they're willing to cancel a third day of questions for Judge Alito.

Captain's Quarters captures one of the day's best soundbites.

SCOTUS Blog live blogged much of the day's testimony. The work was divided between SCOTUS Blog's regular contributors and students at Stanford and Harvard.

Real Clear Politics Blog has an interesting email from a reader who says one reason Alito can't be Borked is the public's education on the issue of judges in the intervening years. He mentions Mark Levin's MEN IN BLACK being a best seller as one example.

More at The Corner, Confirm Them, and Power Line, where Scott Johnson wrote: "Inside the hearing room this afternoon, the momentum in favor of Judge Alito seemed palpable. The Republicans know that the Democrats are playing a losing hand, and the Democrats know it as well."

USA TODAY Fixated on Alito's Appearance

As noted here in November, USA TODAY's editorialists found it cutting-edge analysis to describe Judge Alito as "a dweeby version of Chief Justice John Roberts."

The paper is at it again, noting in today's edition that "Alito's suit and hair were a bit rumpled." They further found it newsworthy to note "He paused before he began testifying to take a long drink of water."

Stop the presses! Alito drinks water!

If that's the most interesting "color" the paper can come up with, perhaps USA TODAY would do better sticking with a discussion of the legal issues.

A Worrisome Precedent for Charter Schools?

Last week the Florida Supreme Court struck down a voucher program as illegal under that state's constitution.

Betsy Newmark (linked above) is worried about the precedent the Florida Supreme Court's ruling against vouchers may set for charter school opponents, inasmuch as the court ruled that public schools must be "uniform."

Betsy's daughter Katie has many links of interest on this subject at her blog, A Constrained Vision.

As Betsy notes, charter schools are often very different from public schools. Here in California, the California Virtual Academy, a publicly funded homeschool program, has been such a success that it will be considered for selection as a California Distinguished School this spring. Similar innovations in Florida could be thwarted depending on the interpretation of "uniform."

Yesterday's L.A. Daily News reported that charter schools in Los Angeles are booming, and teachers are being hired away from "regular" L.A. public schools in significant numbers. In many cases the teachers are willing to give up higher salaries and benefits in order to teach in charter schools. (Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs.)

New Orleans Universities Reopen

Yesterday my daughter received a letter from the University of New Orleans describing full scholarships available for out-of-state students; it appears that she would easily qualify due to her academic record.

Although we've had no interest in New Orleans universities for several reasons, the program was attractive enough to cause a parent worried about upcoming college tuition expenses to read the letter twice, especially as the application process has been streamlined (no essays!) and the fee waived.

Then one opens the paper to read: "The Lakefront campus of the University of New Orleans (UNO) is across the street from some of the worst devastation in the city... The neighborhood is pitch black at night."

Suddenly the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in the challenge of rebuilding" (per the UNO letter) didn't sound nearly as attractive!

The N.O. universities are working hard to rebuild. Dillard University is currently located in a Hilton hotel. Other universities are trying to provide additional services on campus as their students will be quite isolated, with limited services and activities available in the city itself.

UNO, which normally has 17,000 students, is struggling to enroll at least 12,000 students, which is doubtless a reason for the scholarship letters that were sent out at New Year's.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Alito Hearings: The Day in Review

Despite my love for politics and hopes for Judge Alito's prompt confirmation, I have a very difficult time actually watching much of the hearings; they strike me as more a forum for political speeches and gamesmanship than for any truly meaningful discussion of the issues. It's hard enough on my blood pressure to read the transcripts after the fact!

Here's some of the day's confirmation news:

Confirm Them has a comprehensive, link-filled rundown on the day's events (above).

Over at Hugh Hewitt's site, he has a partial transcript of his interview today with liberal law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, in which they discussed Senator Kennedy's outrageous opening statement. Kennedy said, "Judge Alito has not written one single opinion on the merits in favor of a person of color alleging race discrimination on the job. In fifteen years on the bench, not one." Chemerinsky stated, a bit reluctantly but truthfully, that Kennedy "was wrong."

Michelle Malkin has the facts to counter Kennedy's statement (scroll down).

Power Line notes that a former Democrat Governor of New Jersey, Brendan Byrne, has endorsed Alito.

Ed Whelan at Bench Memos has more analysis, including a refutation of Senator Durbin's opening statement.

The Corner has had great ongoing commentary all day -- lots more fun than actually watching the hearings! The "hearing watch" even gets the media pros down: John Podhoretz said he'd rather be watching MY MOTHER THE CAR.

The Never-Ending Parade

Kathleen Clary Miller writes in today's Orange County Register that Stephanie Edwards "wasn't singin' in the rain" last Monday.

It's going to be very interesting to see what KTLA chooses to do come January 1, 2007.

New Book From Fred Barnes

Fred Barnes has a book coming out on January 17th: REBEL-IN-CHIEF: HOW GEORGE W. BUSH IS REDEFINING THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT AND TRANSFORMING AMERICA.

Brit Hume's comment on the book, via Amazon: "I know Fred Barnes and I thought I knew what he knows about President Bush. Boy, was I wrong. This book is a revelation. I couldn’t stop reading it."

Looking forward to it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

"Bedford Falls or Pottersville?"

Paul Mirengoff has written a fascinating piece in The Daily Standard in which he puts forth the theory that how one feels about one's country directly correlates to a willingness to defend it.

Mirengoff looks at historic examples of the left's reluctance to defend our country, including one liberal's criticism of our Cold War conduct as "panicky pugnacity," and then goes on to show that many of the current critics on the left don't simply disagree with foreign policy, they also express a loathing for our country -- witness Michael Moore calling his fellow Americans "the stupidest people in the world."

Mirengoff concludes: "Many modern liberals seem unable to say what kind of country they live in...The defense of Bedford Falls, for all of its flaws, would be a top priority; the primacy of defending Pottersville is less apparent."

Phantom Becomes B'way's Longest-Running Show

On Monday THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA sets a new record as Broadway's longest-running show, with 7,486 performances. PHANTOM will break the record set by CATS; both shows were composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

I was fortunate to see the original Phantom, Michael Crawford, several times in Los Angeles, along with the marvelous Dale Kristien as Christine.

To date I haven't seen the film -- nothing could compare with my memories!

Hewitt on Hiltzik and the Decline of the MSM

The L.A. Times' Michael Hiltzik continues to rant and rave about conservative bloggers in general and Hugh Hewitt in particular.

Hugh ties his thoughts on Hiltzik's anger into a commentary on the overall decline of the mainstream media which is a worthwhile read.

More on the Times and Hiltzik from Catherine Seipp at National Review Online.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Tonight's Movie: In Name Only (1939)

This classic soaper from moviedom's year of years, 1939, is gorgeous in every respect: Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, shimmering B&W photography, sets by the great Van Nest Polglase, and gowns by Irene.

Grant has discovered that his wife, Kay Francis, hates him and only married him for his money. She refuses to divorce him as she's also eyeing a future inheritance from Grant's wealthy parents. All seems hopeless for Grant and the sweet widow (Lombard) he's fallen in love with at first sight...

IN NAME ONLY is not currently available on video or DVD, but it's part of the Turner Classic Movies library and will be airing next on January 18th.

The kind of movie that causes one to sigh at the end "They don't make 'em like they used to."

Say It Ain't So: Problems at In-N-Out Burger

The line of succession at family-owned In-N-Out Burger has been a concern for some time, as co-founder Esther Snyder is 86 and was preceded in death by her two sons. Snyder's only grandchild, 23-year-old Lynsi Martinez, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with board members who are concerned Martinez wants to force her grandmother out and expand the chain too quickly.

A sad turn of events for this beloved Southern California institution.

Hopefully the internal problems will be resolved without damaging the chain. Concerns about expanding too quickly seem valid on the surface -- look at the problems with Krispy Kreme, which incidentally threatened earlier this week to shut down 28 California stores in a licensing dispute. The issue has been resolved, and the stores will remain open.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Pride and Prejudice Coming Soon to DVD

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE will be released on DVD in the United States on February 28th.

Unfortunately, as Missyisms reports (link above), the extras included in the U.S. DVD release may be substantially less impressive than what's included in the European release. I'm hopeful the inital information released about the U.S. version is simply incomplete, but if that's not the case, I'm perplexed and disappointed that the U.S. DVD doesn't rate all the documentaries they're getting in England.

I'd especially like to be able to see the documentary on "The Stately Homes of P&P" as I've been fortunate enough to visit Chatsworth, which stands in for Pemberley in the movie.

Home Schools: Monasteries of the New Dark Ages

Radio Blogger has the transcript of an interesting interview Hugh Hewitt conducted yesterday with Father Joseph Fessio, provost of Ave Maria University.

One particular quote stood out to me, in which Father Fessio said: "...one of the very few things that I've said, which I'm proud of, because it's become kind of almost a slogan to some, is that home schools are the monasteries of the new dark ages. That is...and you non-Catholic Christians have a lot more of them than we Catholics do, but we've got a lot. And I think that is where families are having children. They're passing on the faith to their children. They're giving them wisdom and the knowledge of our culture..."

An interesting thought to ponder heading into the weekend.

More on Judicial Leaking

Yesterday I noted (under "Liberals Seek to Reduce Executive Branch Power") a curious thing which popped up in the Washington Post: judges on the secret FISA court have been leaking to the press in furtherance of their own political agenda.

Andrew McCarthy of National Review wrote an excellent piece on this issue yesterday afternoon, in which he says that the article is "jaw-dropping" in reporting an "outrageous impropriety" by the judges.

He notes "To find federal FISA court judges leaking to the Washington Post...about the highest classified matters of national security in the middle of a war is simply shocking," and goes on to discuss several other issues, including the balance of power issue raised here yesterday.

It's a provocative article, in which McCarthy concludes that the judges who leaked are unfit to serve. We can only hope that yet another leak investigation will be forthcoming.

A Scrumptious Book...

...for anyone who is a fan of See's Candy, or, for that matter, interested in California history.

This little book was available in See's shops for Christmas and can now be purchased at a discount via Amazon. It's filled with historic photographs, colorful vintage artwork and (of course) beautiful candy closeups.

The book concisely presents See's history and how it parallels the economic growth of California. I found chapters on how See's survived and prospered during the Depression and then World War II rationing of particular interest.

And for the record, See's Dark Patties are my favorite. :)

Epiphany Blessings

Today is Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day.

Here in Southern California and elsewhere, many families celebrate with a kings' cake, which is sometimes filled with a charm. In some traditions, the person who receives the piece with the charm throws a party on Candlemas, which commemorates the presentation of Jesus in the temple, on February 2nd.

More Epiphany traditions around the world are described here and here.

Media: Diluting a Miner's Message?

Miner Martin Toler Jr. left a beautiful message of comfort for his family.

I've noticed something odd in the media coverage, however, which is that many major media outlets -- including MSNBC, The Chicago Tribune, CNN, and Newsday -- have changed Mr. Toler's wording from "Tell all I see them on the other side" to "Tell all I'll see them on the other side." In some cases the wording was changed only in the headline, in other cases it was also changed in the body of the article.

I'm reminded of the words of CNN's Jamie McIntyre, who recently told the New York Times that the media's job is to "take that information and tell you what it means." In this case many media outlets have decided to do exactly that. I'm curious that an alternative interpretation of Mr. Toler's words doesn't seem to have occurred to many in the media, or if it did occur to them, they didn't want to communicate it to their readers. The note did not necessarily contain a grammatical error which was necessary for media outlets to "fix" for "clarity."

On my first reading of Mr. Toler's note, I interpreted an even more profound and powerful meaning: that the dying man was having a vision of Heaven.

Since we can't know the intended meaning, it seems to me that the media should have the grace to leave Mr. Toler's final words alone and let them speak for themselves.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tonight's Movie: Duchess of Idaho (1950)

This movie is a delightful romantic trifle starring Esther Williams and Van Johnson. Swimming star Esther is trying to engineer a romance between her roommate (Paula Raymond) and her roommate's boss (John Lund), which leads to complications in Esther's own romance with band leader Van.

The plot unfolds briskly and serves as a good excuse for several musical numbers -- including guest spots by Lena Horne and Eleanor Powell -- two of Esther's trademark water ballets, and a lovely MGM Sun Valley setting, with eye-catching sets and costumes. Red Skelton pops in for a one-minute cameo and has the funniest line in the movie.

The supporting cast includes the inimitable Clinton Sundberg (as Lund's butler), Mel Torme (as a hapless bellhop), Amanda Blake, and Bobby Troup, who appears as a singer and musician in Van Johnson's band. My children are currently watching Troup as "Dr. Joe Early" in EMERGENCY!", a childhood favorite of mine which they received on DVD for Christmas, and enjoyed recognizing the younger Troup. Torme and Troup have bit roles here, but they composed two of the great classics of the American Songbook: "The Christmas Song" and "Route 66," respectively.

The film is currently only available on video, at a steep price. A boxed set of Esther Williams movies is due on DVD in coming months; perhaps this will turn up among the titles.

This movie may not be particularly well-known, but it's a great example of the kind of handsomely made family fare which MGM turned out on a regular basis during its Golden Era.

2011 Update: This film is now available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive. The DVD includes outtake musical numbers by Mel Torme and Lena Horne.

2013 Update: I've now posted an expanded, illustrated review of this film, viewed again on the day of Esther Williams' passing.

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