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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stupidest tool with internet access and some semblance of an audience who's commented upon the Obama inauguration

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things....

— Barack Obama, Inaugural Address upon becoming the 44th President of the United States.

There is simply no excuse for United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts bungling the presidential oath of office to such an extent that Barack Obama might need to do it again, at least in private, to ensure the legality of his inauguration.

Roberts should be impeached and removed from office for this unforgivable error....

Craig Crawford, supposed pundit, incompetent member of the Florida Bar, all-around tool, and someone I'd describe as a "child" except for the fact that that would be an unfair insult to the world's children.

The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour ....

Article III, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which conspicuously fails to mention isolated, innocent slips of the tongue, no matter how embarrassing, as constituting a lack of "good behaviour" sufficient to remove members of the federal judiciary from office.

Posted by Beldar at 07:19 AM in Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2009) | Permalink | Comments (11)

A tip of Beldar's cap to Juan Williams

For my money, the best pundit of the just-past election and transition season, friends and neighbors — either in print, on radio, or on TV — has been Juan Williams, who draws his paychecks from the perhaps improbable combination of NPR and Fox News. That doesn't mean I've agreed with him more than I've agreed with any other pundits. But he has nevertheless earned my respect.

Dating back well into the Democratic primaries during which it first became conceivable that Barack Obama might become POTUS-44, Williams has, for the most part, managed to retain a degree of objectivity about Barack Obama that easily puts him into the top 5% of mainstream media pundits, and into the top 2% of left-of-center pundits. But he has also managed to do so without losing his sincere and distinctive voice as a black man — a man of my own generation, whose own accidental timing of birth spared him from the worst of racial discrimination and segregation, but put him in position to witness first-hand the breath-taking accomplishments of our nation in putting those wicked remnants mostly behind us. If I met Mr. Williams in person, I could not help but hug him, and then tell him how his elemental joy — palpable through his articulate but plain-spoken reactions to events — has infected and moved me. And then I would shake his hand, and commend him for the professionalism which he has imposed upon his emotion — which has made him a valuable voice on the subject of race relations in particular, in addition to politics in general.

Mr. Williams' post-inaugural op-ed in the Wall Street Journal — Judge Obama on Performance Alone — is spot on. Read the whole thing, but here's a typical half-paragraph, which reflects what Williams has preached for many months:

... Every American president must be held to the highest standard. No president of any color should be given a free pass for screw-ups, lies or failure to keep a promise.

He has also spoken frequently — and movingly, and at no small risk — of the symbolic importance that the Obama presidency has, and in particular, the Barack and Michelle Obama First Family have, in providing role models for all American families, and in particular for the black community (in which, sadly but statistically, stable two-parent families are the exception rather than the rule).

A commenter at my blogospheric friend Patterico's blog lamented that Inauguration Day was "[t]he most racist day in American history. MLK wanted people to be judged by the content of their character. But today was all about skin color." I think I understand where he's coming from, and I share some part of his frustration that we're not already farther along — that Obama isn't in fact the first "post-racial" president, and that, indeed, race played a complicated but still-important role in the election and the inauguration, and will likewise play a role in how the Obama Administration is perceived.

But there's no switch to be thrown that will make us all "post-racial." Such things take generations at best, but we can salute (rather than bemoan) the leaps forward. The Emancipation Proclamation was one; Brown v. Board of Education was another; and Barack Obama's election and inauguration, regardless of his success or lack thereof once in office, is yet another. And while I heartily endorse and believe in Chief Justice Roberts' prescription that "[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," it's okay to pause to note the momentousness of the remedial strides we've made. It does no good to study history is your soul is dead to its genuine high points.

We're capable of simultaneously embracing both principled discussion and the meta-memes or subtext it portends. Thus we can, without suffering crippling cognitive dissonance, embrace both the notion that it's appropriate to celebrate the inauguration of the first black POTUS — while simultaneously insisting that he ought get no more slack cut on account of his race. Chief Justice Roberts' prescription would fit neatly into Juan William's WSJ op-ed. What more could anyone ask from a thoughtful liberal pundit, regardless of his own skin color?

Posted by Beldar at 06:33 AM in Obama, Politics (2009) | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Regarding Obama's inaugural address

The Forty-Fourth President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, began his inaugural address with a fib.\*/

No, I don't mean the salutation — "My fellow citizens" — for I have never been among those who were captivated with any of the various theories about Obama's birthplace or years in Indonesia or the like.

But what came next after the salutation is almost certainly untrue: "I stand here today humbled by the task before us ...." I do not believe Barack Obama is a naturally humble man, nor that he has been made so by the contemplation of "the task" before either him or this nation.


That is not a terrible indictment. Humility is conventionally considered to be an important virtue. But I don't consider myself a humble man either, and I have far less by way of position or accomplishment to claim. Barack Obama has indeed hewed a wondrous and improbable path to stand where he stood to take the (slightly mangled — not his fault) oath he took today.\**/  Leaders who are to be faced with great challenges and subjected to harsh criticisms need strong qualities, including resilient egos.

And it is indeed extraordinary and historic that a black man is, for the first time, our President. That it is Barack Obama in particular who is that man is, for him, an entirely legitimate source of personal pride, one with respect to which all Americans can surely share with him our personal congratulations — and as part of our national celebration of a landmark event of powerful and important symbolism transcending any single individual.

But without dismissing or denigrating that, I respectfully (if not humbly) submit that there is an even larger sense in which today's inauguration is extraordinary and historic: Never, in at least modern American history (since the rise of prompt and effective national channels of communications some time prior to the Civil War), have we chosen a President about whose fundamental qualities we all know so very little, and onto whom such diverse and mutually inconsistent expectations have been passionately projected.

Pick almost any imaginable description of Barack Obama's fundamental beliefs and tendencies and instincts, and you can then find rhetoric from his speeches to support that description. (But beware: contrary examples can be easily found.)

Pick almost any imaginable description of Barack Obama's fundamental beliefs and tendencies and instincts, and you will then find only a short and insubstantial list of actions and accomplishments to support that description. (And beware: contrary examples can be easily found.)

I genuinely do not know — but I have grave doubts — whether Barack Obama even has any fundamental beliefs and tendencies and instincts, other than a pronouncedly non-humble belief that he ought to be President. I think he may have that, along with gifts for rhetoric and back-alley politics, in common with the Forty-Second President, the husband of our present Sec-State Nominee.

I fear that we have replaced President Stubborn (who succeeded President Poll-Driven) with President Quicksilver.\***/


Because my conviction is that Barack Obama is, at present, still so without a track record that he cannot be meaningfully evaluated, I frankly don't attach any importance at all to the rest of his inaugural address. I concede that's flippant on my part. He struck a great many fine notes in it. But his own history doesn't give me a clue what parts of it represent core beliefs and what parts of it are rhetorical window dressing — so as far as I'm concerned, at this point it's all window dressing, and we don't know what's actually inside the window.

I am consciously resolved to hope for the best. Our new President is, to me and I think to anyone who's even moderately trying to be objective, a known unknown. Because he's never actually led anything larger than his own presidential campaign before — and that achieved a modest victory over a pathetic opponent in a political climate in which it would have taken concentrated self-destructiveness for any Democrat to lose — it requires hope and faith to believe that Barack Obama can effectively lead the United States of America as either the Chief Executive of our laws, the head of State, or the Commander in Chief of our military.

So I will forgive him his fib today about being "humbled," and I'll reserve judgment on the rest of his speech. I will instead hope and pray that he turns out to be even a fraction as well suited for his new job as he clearly believes himself to be.

Congratulations to Barack Obama on his inauguration, and God save the President and these United States.


\*/  I presume we're all free to use The One's middle name now, since both it and his middle initial were used in the inauguration ceremonies with his express permission and at his direction.

\**/  I wonder if Pres. Obama and Chief Justice Roberts, with or without the Lincoln Bible, will re-speak the Oath of Office correctly sometime today in private, or perhaps already have done so? As Adam Liptak points out, there's precedent for that dating back to the Coolidge Administration, and it's a low-trouble cost-free way to forestall litigation and foreclose doubts. (Surely by now someone has already grabbed the BadOathMeansObamaIsntPrez.com domain name.) As for the video-clip moment being slightly spoiled for history's archives, perhaps Sen. Obama ought to have thought twice about voting to deny confirmation to our Chief Justice — who I'm sure was innocent of any malice aforethought, but who might also recognize, in settings outside the Supreme Court Building, the laws of karma.

\***/ Regular readers will understand that I refer to Dubya as "President Stubborn" for the most part with affection, admiration, and appreciation. In commuting the sentences of, but refusing to pardon outright, even such arguably worthy candidates as Scooter Libby or former U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, he left office just as he entered it — hand-in-hand with and faithful to a devoted and loving wife, stubbornly as ever "the anti-Clinton." In a moment of considerable self-insight near the end of his term, Dubya mused that 9/11 had changed him, and that while after 9/11 some Americans had managed to return to their pre-9/11 mindsets, he never had. He said today, upon arriving back in Texas, that what he'll miss most about the presidency is the association with the incredible men and women of our armed forces who served under his command. On behalf of myself and my safe and healthy family, and all of the other Americans who've been free from major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11/01 (including those who lack the sense to appreciate that for themselves or the grace to give credit where due for it): Thank you, President Stubborn.

Posted by Beldar at 07:05 PM in Obama, Politics (2009) | Permalink | Comments (7)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Takedown and pin

Regular readers, long-suffering souls that you be, may recall this same handsome young man's photo in a post from last February that also included a video clip. Through an act of great self-discipline, I'm going to limit myself to no more than two posts, and only a later one with video, in which I will permit myself to brag on that same young man's wrestling during this season, at least through the district competition next month. (But If he advances from that meet, all bets are off, and I may blog about his achievements with uncontrolled euphoria.)

Bellaire High School wrestler Adam Dyer at Cypress Fairbanks High School wrestling meet, January 9, 2009

My sixteen-year-old son, Adam Jackson Dyer, is in his second season as a wrestler on Bellaire High School's varsity team. November, December, and January have been busy months in the 2008-2009 wrestling season, and my personal goal as a fan and supportive parent this year has been to make it to all of their matches — which partly explains my infrequent blogging lately. All of the matches so far are really just preparation for the "official" competition through the Texas University Interscholastic League in February: Wins and losses now do affect one's seeding for the district UIL meets, but they're mostly just for practice and "mat time." The entire Bellaire team is much improved this year, in large part thanks to the efforts of its coaches, Dr. Marcellars Mason and Coach Greg Menephee, and team captains including the incomparable Jonathan Eagleson, who's such a long-time and close friend of the Dyer family that he, like his older brother Christopher, is almost like a surrogate son/brother. And with their help and the further experience he's gotten so far this year, Adam has advanced considerably in skill and confidence as a competitive wrestler.

Although I'm trying to catch up, I still don't know enough about the sport to provide much insightful commentary. Here, though, are a series of photos from a dramatic meet this past Wednesday, January 14th, at which teams from St. John's and Bellaire visited Kinkaid.

Kinkaid and St. John's are both exclusive private schools with superb facilities and long traditions of both athletic and scholastic excellence. I gather that they're arch rivals of one another, so it was gratifying, and somewhat amusing, to hear each of them root for Bellaire's wrestlers against the other's. Adam had a good night against both opponents' in his 152-pound weight class, winning both matches with pins even though both of his opponents were solid wrestlers who obviously were highly motivated and had been well coached. These images, screen-captures from an HD video, can only give you a hint of the speed, power, and controlled violence in these matches.

The first screencap is mid-way through the second two-minute period against Adam's counterpart from St. John's — the first period having expired with each wrestler tied in points and neither showing a particular advantage over the other. In this shot, however, at 7:40:17 PM, Adam (on the left, in the singlet whose red stripes extend down his leg on both sides and with the gray shoes and green ankle band) has just managed to get the grasp he'd been seeking on his opponent's neck. (Note: Wrestlers make incredible faces and noises, most of which are evidence of concentration and effort, but some of which indeed are evidence of pain and frustration. I have yet to see a parent of a wrestler dash onto the mat to "save" his or her child, but I am thoroughly convinced that every parent watches every match with, proverbially and metaphorically, his/her heart in his/her throat, praying that no one will be injured and that the pain will soon end.) 


Below, at 7:40:18 PM (fractions of a second later), Adam (behind, facing camera) is beginning to twirl his opponent around to his right, still with that same headlock grip.


By 7:40:19 PM in the next screencap, below, Adam (right) is continuing the twirl, but beginning to exert twisting pressure too.


By 7:40:21 PM in the next screencap, below, Adam's opponent (right) has slowed the twirl with a strong plant of his left foot. Unfortunately for him, that becomes the pivot point for what's about to happen next.


Below, still at 7:40:21, Adam (in back, mostly hidden in shadow) has his opponent mid-flip onto his back. More than any other moment, this screencap tells the tale of this entire match. Note the full extension of Adam's left leg, from which he's launched this move.


And in the screencap below, at 7:40:22 PM, Adam's opponent has been taken down — cleanly, without injury, but in a hard twisting fall that could not help but knock a fair amount of wind from his lungs. Adam has already continued spinning around so that his body has ended up perpendicular to his opponent's as his opponent landed on his back:


Fractions of a second later — at 7:40:23 PM as measured by the camcorder from which these screencaps were taken — Adam (on top) is trying to turn this take-down into a pin. His opponent struggles valiantly, slamming his left foot to the mat, and next the right, wriggling like a fish, rolling hard from shoulder-blade to shoulder-blade to keep both from touching the mat and Adam from achieving even a moment of control. The opponent knows, surely, that he's in trouble, but he's not quite finished yet. If only Adam loses his grasp, or sneezes, or the second period expires — something ....


But Adam permits no escape, no reversal — at least not this time. The combination of physics, geometry, and through them, wrestling technique will have their inexorable way. By 7:40:25 PM — a mere eight seconds after this sequence of screencaps began — Adam (on top), as shown in the screencap below, is on the toes of both feet, with his knees off the mat, forming the widest possible triangle to concentrate all of his weight and force and will-power chest-to-chest on his opponent. His opponent is short of breath, without leverage, without ready means to escape the hold Adam still has on him, and unable to resist all that pressure. Adam has demonstrated unequivocal control. And moments later, the referee pounds his palm to the mat to signify the pin:


I'm not posting these screencaps under the illusion that this is a "perfect" or even "exemplary" set of moves. I pretend to no objectivity, I admit to overwhelming bias, and I and still have only the slightest knowledge of wrestling's basic vocabulary and concepts. Indeed, I'm probably going to embarrass my son, whose knowledge is still fledgling but vastly exceeds my own, by overt mistakes or less obvious omissions in my descriptions here. As does he, I have enormous regard for the opponents my son has faced, including this young man from St. John's; this match could easily have gone the other way in just as short a time, because they were well matched. Nor do I intend to disparage anyone who's a participant in or fan of more popular sports like football or baseball, for I knew nothing of serious wrestling as I was growing up, and like most Texans I thought there were really only four sports: football, basketball, baseball, and spring football.

But in addition to my natural fatherly pride that my son is applying himself earnestly and with good results to this endeavor, I can't help but marvel at the purity and elemental beauty of this old, maybe oldest, of sports. It seems so simple, with two evenly matched young men (and, indeed, sometimes young women) holding each other at arms' length as they do halting, asynchronous dance steps around one another — and then suddenly one of them who knows even a little bit about what he (or she) is doing suddenly does something which looks like magic, just a glimmer too fast to even catch on slo-mo instant replay sometimes — and WHOOPS!, the other guy (or gal) is on his back, pinned. Low-tech and old-school. But way cool.

Posted by Beldar at 12:39 PM in Family, Sports | Permalink | Comments (10)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Of Sputnik babies, paratroopers, and senators: Why Caroline Kennedy's "qualifications" are a bad joke

The first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched on October 4, 1957, and burned up upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere on January 4, 1958. About mid-way through its effective life, on November 26, 1957, my mom launched me in Lamesa, Texas. And on the very next day, in New York City, Jackie Kennedy launched her daughter, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy and I are thus "of an age" — meaning we're both now 51, and that we're both "of" the "Space Age." We're both tail-end Baby Boomers, but more specifically, we're "Sputnik babies" whose very pregnant mothers perhaps looked for that same unblinking point of light crossing the same night skies, albeit half a continent apart from one another.

Caroline_kennedyI remember watching Caroline Kennedy and her brother John-John on television at their father's funeral in November 1963. I remember being told that she and I were almost exactly the same age. I felt very sad for her, and I've been aware ever since that while her life has been filled with certain kinds of privileges, growing up with a daddy has not been one of them. I, by contrast, was able to celebrate my dad's 86th birthday with him this Christmas Eve just past — and I would not trade that, nor the years in between, for all of Caroline Kennedy's fortune and privilege. She seems like a nice person, and although my politics differ from hers as dramatically as the circumstances of our respective upbringings, on a personal level I wish her nothing but good things and happiness.

But I've been baffled and dismayed that she, or anyone else, has tried to make a serious argument that Caroline Kennedy is well qualified to become the next junior United States Senator from New York.

I will concede that she's minimally qualified — which is to say, per section 3 of Article I of the Constitution, she has indeed "attained ... the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States." I would also agree that the current junior U.S. Senator from New York was not much, if any, better qualified before she was elected to that office. And I will stipulate that from time to time throughout our history there have been many other U.S. Senators, from not just New York but every state at some time or another, whose qualifications were also objectively poor. Some of them nevertheless turned into adequate or even better legislators once in office. These things are not in dispute.

Yet as I've watched and listened to Ms. Kennedy discuss her purported qualifications to become Hillary Clinton's successor during press interviews, I've felt a mix of astonishment, amusement, and pity.

Ms. Kennedy says, for example, "I am a lawyer." That is true in exactly the same sense that I could say "I am a paratrooper."

I haven't actually ever been in the Army, you see. But I own a pair of camouflage pants, and I did take a weekend skydiving course and made — and survived! — one static-line jump from 2000 feet while I was in college!  Ms. Kennedy is, likewise, a law school graduate and a member of the bar in both New York State and the District of Columbia (I suspect at least one of those via reciprocity, rather than her having taken and passed both bar exams, but that's just a guess). But she's no more actually practiced law than I've secured the Arnhem bridge as part of Operation Market Garden. If both of us are being really honest in describing ourselves, I'd say I'm a lawyer, and she'd say she's an unemployed heiress.


In Sunday's New York Times Magazine, however, Lisa Belkin — described by the NYT as a "a contributing writer and author of the [NYT-hosted] Motherlode blog" — makes yet another serious effort to refute those who've questioned Ms. Kennedy's objective and non-dynastic qualifications. The only possible way to do that, however, is to either (a) change the definition of what it means to be "qualified," (b) expand the list of experience types which can lead to becoming "qualified," or (c) do both. Ms. Belkin ambitiously tries for option (c).

Ms. Belkin tries to persuade us that we ought to change our ideas about what it means to be "qualified" by trying to ridicule other purportedly unqualified people who've nevertheless gone to Congress: "Those who aspire to serve in Congress sometimes 'pay their dues' by playing for the N.B.A. or the N.F.L. or starring on 'The Love Boat,' which are all less relevant qualifications for the job than financing city schools."

But playing sports does involve teamwork and discipline, and acting involves communication skills — all qualities that Ms. Kennedy has yet to demonstrate that she possesses. Whether it was on the set of "The Love Boat" or the floor of the U.S. House, Fred Grandy certainly managed to speak without embarrassing tangles of "ya knows" and "umms." And does anyone who's heard them both speak doubt that former Congressman and Sooner QB J.C. Watts could eat Caroline Kennedy's lunch (and then drink her milkshake) in any kind of political debate?

I will grant that Caroline Kennedy is probably gangbusters at twisting arms or guilting vast numbers of rich friends, classmates, and wanna-be Kennedy groupies into donating lots and lots of money that they can well afford. But that's hardly the same thing as actually running even a single school, or a single classroom. Hell, nobody has ever doubted Rod Blagojevich's prowess as a fund-raiser. I'd be far more impressed with Caroline Kennedy if instead of an unpaid no-need-to-show-up fund-raising "job" for the New York schools, she'd actually spent even a few weeks substitute-teaching a seventh grade civics class.

To persuade us to ignore such traditional qualifications as prior public service in a lesser elected office, or military service, or executive service running a business, Ms. Belkin points out that Ms. Kennedy "has served on boards — those of the Commission on Presidential Debates, the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation — where those who worked with her agree that she was hands-on and not just window decoration." But did she have any qualification for any of those positions other than being a Kennedy? And even as a "hand-on" board member, did she ever do anything but attend meetings with other wealthy, famous board members, at which they all listened to reports and then cast mostly unanimous votes? If you told me she actually ran the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or that she had executive or operational experience of any sort in any of these organizations, then that might suggest that she had acquired some wisdom or skills which she could potentially use as a U.S. Senator. But with due respect to Ms. Belkin and to Ms. Kennedy, there ought to be something more required by way of qualifications for the U.S. Senate than a demonstrated ability to show up and vote "yay" or "nay" on other people's ideas and hard work.


So then Ms. Belkin approaches and perhaps crosses into a sexist argument. It's one that may be patronizing and offensive to women who've actually had both successful families and successful careers outside the home — a category of women which (were they still alive) would include both my own mother and Caroline Kennedy's:

[W]omen changed the culture of the workplace, not least when highly visible women began to leave it. The rhythm of office work — its hours, its demands, its life cycle — is designed for a man, ideally a man with a wife back home with the kids. Ever since the industrial age, career tracks have been built on the assumption that you can work around the clock in your 20s, shoulder increasing responsibility in your 30s and 40s and begin to ratchet down and move over for the next generation in your 50s and 60s.

That doesn’t work for many women, who are apt to want to pause, physically and emotionally, for children, maybe slow down in their 30s, when men are charging ahead, and come back with a new energy in their 50s, when men are slowing down. Someday, perhaps, work will become more a lattice than a ladder — a path that allows for moving up, stepping down a notch or two, taking a few large sideways strides, making your way upward but not necessarily at a sprint....

But this vision works only if experience — we’re back to that word again — is redefined. If what you do, and think, and produce, and change all count — even if none of your activities take place in an office, where you enjoy a title and a salary....

I agree with part of this. I'm one of those people, for example, who thinks that Barack Obama's experience as a father is at least a small plus in his thin list of credentials. And I'm certainly one of those people who's impressed that Sarah Palin could address a governor's conference in Texas, fly back to Alaska to give birth to her fifth child, and then resume her work as a public servant after a break measured in hours instead of weeks or months.

I don't think you need to diminish those of either sex who have climbed ladders, however, by pretending that lattices are exactly the same. And I don't think we should pretend that presiding over a family dinner table is comparable to presiding over a presidential cabinet meeting either. But provided that we're still talking about identifying genuine excellence and extraordinary achievement of some sort, then I'm open to considering non-traditional categories in which that excellence and achievement can be manifested, and I'm also open to further consideration of why those categories ought be counted as senatorial qualifications. So let's take Ms. Belkin's prescription on its own terms:

Q: Whether in an office with a title and a salary or not, what precisely has Caroline Kennedy ever "done, thought, produced, or changed" that we should count as a sound qualification for her to become the next junior U.S. Senator from New York?

A: [For sound effects comprising answer, click here.]

I'm emphatically not insisting upon conventional achievements. If Caroline Kennedy's particular genius was that she figured out how to make one 20-count package of Pampers meet all of an infant's diapering needs for six full weeks, I'd be very impressed by that, even though she didn't have an office and wasn't a vice president of product research for Procter and Gamble. Or if she'd done some substitute teaching, for instance, and had gotten every single student in a seventh grade civics class to understand that Article I of the Constitution is about Congress — a datum which Joe Biden, the very Vice President-elect whom she helped Barack Obama select, hasn't quite managed to figure out despite his own law degree and years on the Senate Judiciary Committee — then point that out to me. Just show me something, anything, that she's done, thought, produced, or changed that is genuinely impressive. And then we can talk about whether it's the sort of "impressive" that ought to count as a legitimate senatorial qualification.

But after working up all that righteous indignation (and going out of her way to insult poor Fred Grandy), Ms. Belkin utterly fails to make any persuasive showing that Caroline Kennedy is qualified even under her (Ms. Belkin's) expanded and re-defined terms. Indeed, with this sentence at the beginning of her concluding paragraph, Ms. Belkin practically flees the debate hall: "None of this is to say that Caroline Kennedy deserves to be senator, or that she wouldn’t be better off being elected to the post rather than appointed to it." Well, duh. If that's not a grand-scale cop-out, I guess it's just a wild coincidence that the first eight paragraphs of the op-ed were about Caroline Kennedy at all then, huh?


Let's grant Ms. Belkin's point, gentle readers, that some types of "untraditional [experience should] count" at least some times and in some ways. But let's grant, too, what's obvious even so to anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty:

Whether appointed, elected, or otherwise anointed, and whether based on conventional or unconventional standards of achievement and experience, Caroline Kennedy does not deserve, and is not well qualified, to be a U.S. Senator — no more than either she or I deserve or are well qualified to be paratroopers. An accident of both our births made us Sputnik babies, and an accident of her birth, combined with her family's tragic fate, made her into a sadly beloved American princess. Grown-up princesses who actually govern, however, are only for fairy-tales, and the accident of Caroline Kennedy's birth ought not make her into a United States Senator.

Posted by Beldar at 03:42 AM in Congress, Current Affairs, Family | Permalink | Comments (19)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Review: Beldar & kids see Jim Carrey's "Yes Man"

My oldest daughter, Sarah, was working today, but I took my sons Kevin and Adam and my younger daughter Molly to a Saturday afternoon movie matinée. None of the choices were terribly appealing, but they opted to take a chance on Jim Carrey's latest comedy, "Yes Man." My kids liked it quite a bit better than I did — Molly and Kevin gave it four stars on a zero-to-five scale, and Adam gave it three, but I would only give it one.

I am certain that at some point during the earliest planning for this movie, someone made the inevitable observation that "Gee, this script reminds me a whole lot of Jim Carrey's hit from just over a decade ago, 'Liar Liar.'" And that observation ought to have triggered some serious second-thinking and re-writing. But it didn't. The result is a film that's completely predictable, from the first frames to the closing credits — a film that lacks even the dramatic arc of a sleazy lawyer's eventual redemption. Other one-word descriptions that I'd consider apt include stale, boring, tedious, and trite.

My kids and I did find leading lady Zoey Deschanel appealing and funny, and according to imdb.com, she and Carrey actually share the same birthday — January 17th. The problem is that hers was in 1980, making her a still very young-looking 28, whereas his was in 1962 (and he looks it). They are simply not a credible couple. Indeed, Carrey reminds me more and more of Jerry Lewis at the same stage of his career, struggling in an ever less successful, ever more painful effort to simulate youth through a goofy, zaney affect. (Maybe the reason my kids found this less sad than I did was that they haven't got a clue who Jerry Lewis is.)

Indeed, this movie even manages to make super-model Molly Sims, in a too-brief supporting role as Carrey's equally improbable ex-wife, look comparatively unglamorous. Her presence in the movie, however, gives me more than enough of a fair-use excuse to republish this fabulous photo of Ms. Sims, not from "Yes Man" but from the 2004 Sports Illustrated swimsuit model collection, just to illuminate — as a matter of public interest and, umm, intellectual artistic commentary — the potential squandered by Warner Bros.

Super-model Molly Sims, as better appreciated by Sports Illustrated in 2004

And on that note, and with that visual, I'll wish you all a Happy New Year!

Posted by Beldar at 09:46 PM in Family, Film/TV/Stage | Permalink | Comments (6)