Friday, July 31, 2009

45365: A Special Presentation

Shot over the course of 9 months in Sidney, Ohio, "45365" (pronounced: four, five, three, six, five) follows the lives of a cross section of the town’s residents as their storylines coalesce into a mosaic of faces, places, and events. A Judge’s race for re-election, the County Fair, the Barber Shop, the retirement home, a football team, a father and son, a young relationship, arrest and sentencing are all explored in this sweeping survey of life in a small town.

The film is the work of two favorite sons of Sidney, Bill and Turner Ross. Beginning today, and until August 6, anyone with an internet connection can watch the film from home as part of their online promotion. The film is about ninety minutes long. Check out the trailer above, then click here...

...and don't forget the popcorn.

More information about the film can be found at the Ross Films' website:
Maybe this has happened to you. You’re sitting in the food court of the mall, minding your own business. Suddenly people burst into song, with the mall’s PA system providing the soundtrack. Improv Everywhere is the brainchild of Charlie Todd, who in August of 2001 began to assemble hundreds of “undercover agents” to cause what they term “scenes of chaos and joy in public places.” This New York City-based endeavor has since engaged in over 85 so-called “missions,” including NYC’s annual “No Pants Subway Ride.” (It sounds worse than it really is. Really.) They were also responsible for the “Best Buy” incident, shown here earlier this year.

They have another one planned for the end of next week, and you’ll read about it here first. Until then, let the search for the elusive napkin suffice for this week’s Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Article One, Section Eight

I was sent this little number earlier today. It seems that Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) held a town meeting in Saint Louis to discuss the proposed national health care plan. There, she got a lesson in the limits imposed on her powers by the Constitution, from a US soldier. Members of Congress can get a little full of themselves, but if you've ever watched some of them on C-SPAN asking really stupid questions in a committee hearing, you have to wonder where they get their bragging rights.

Looks like someone was overdue for a civics lesson. You gotta love this country!


One Minute Theatre: The Happy Life

Our midday Wednesday feature is back again.

This short animated film about “the happy life” placed fifth at the Leffinge “One Minute Film and Sound Awards” in 2006, and was nominated at the “One Minute Belgian Open” in the same year. Our consumerist culture tempts us with complete satisfaction with that very next purchase. If only life were that simple. (CONTENT ADVISORY: Recommended for adults and adolescents.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Taking Charge

Occasionally, we here at mwbh like to be of service to the savvy consumer. Unless you raise your own chickens and tomatoes, pay only in cash, and keep your savings account underneath the mattress, you would know that credit card companies are using the current economic situation to be real jerks about everything. (One company lowered my limit because those clowns at E@#$%&*n claimed I did not have a mortgage, or something. You really gotta work at missing stuff like that!) Anyway, a recent piece by WCPO, the CBS affiliate in Cincinnati, tells you the six things you do not want to put on your credit card...

1. Traffic tickets
2. Cash advances
3. Lottery tickets
4. Repeated liquor purchases
5. Or strip clubs and x-rated Web sites

...or they will assume you're a high risk and raise your rates. Hey, I said there were six things, didn't I? Well, you won't believe the last item:

A shopping spree at a dollar store!

I never would have picked that one, but the author explains why.

[PHOTO: Spencer Platt/Getty Images. Used without permission or shame.]

Monday, July 27, 2009

What is wrong with this picture?

I can understand the prospect of reading one thousand pages of legislation being seen as quite daunting. What I can't understand, is why some loser would get up in front of people, and actually go on record objecting to the point of even trying.

That's the good news. The bad news is... you idiots keep electing guys like this!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yes You Can!

My maternal grandmother graduated from the teachers college at Miami University of Ohio -- back then they were known as "normal schools" -- and I nearly went there myself. Today I read an inspirational story in The New York Times:

Because I was from a single parent, money was the decisive factor in choice of college. I attended Miami University because it offered me the most. This was my first time in both an affluent environment and living on my own. I didn’t fit in. I was too country, too blunt, too poor and too black...

This young woman has gone on to found a support system for other women of color like herself. This week's Tip of the Black Hat comes in just under the wire for Tierionna Morris. I will remember her in my prayers at Mass tomorrow.

“Goin’ to the chapel and we’re...”

By now, everyone else has seen this. Everyone but “Sal.”

Tonight I had the chance to show her what all the fuss was about, expecting her to be amused. To my surprise, she was sort of grinning, but mostly shaking her head. I believe what followed was something like: “Yan ang pinaka bobo ideya na nakita ko.” (“That is the stupidest idea I have ever seen.”) Or words to that effect.

[MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: We showed the video last night to Paul, who despite being ever-so-vigilant on all things in popular culture, had not yet seen it. He found it inappropriate as well, but it gave him an idea for the reception, should this ever happen to him. It would be a dramatization of how he and his bride met and so on. The working title so far: "Paul and Whats-her-name: The Musical." The kid still cracks me up.]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Honest Conversations

Today, the President contacted a police officer who is white, and an eminent scholar who is black, both of whom are the parties in a recent and highly publicized misunderstanding. Having misjudged the actions of the former during a press conference, perhaps the President was hoping to make up for it. But before we go any further...

I went to a Catholic high school that was one hundred percent white. At least it was for my first two years. Then a black guy was transferred to the class behind me. He was the only non-white at the school for a year, maybe two. I didn't know him all that well, but he seemed like a nice enough fellow, wanting to do right by everyone. As the order of sisters who founded our school was based in New Orleans, come the spring of every year, we had a formal dance to celebrate Mardi Gras. There was a court of senior men and women, two of whom were crowned king and queen. And although the black guy was not particularly active in the school, nor did he possess any distinctive leadership qualities, he was elected to the court.

As far as anyone could tell, his being the only African-American amidst an entirely white student body, was the only reason there was to honor him. This was in the early 1970s, and some parts of the country had integrated their public schools only a few years earlier. So, if you are a man or woman of color, I have a confession to make, concerning white people in general, particularly white males.

We don't like being accused of racism.

We may have undue prejudice toward other ethnic groups, and it may determine the company we keep, whom we hire to work for us, or whom we elect to public office. We may, in fact, be little different than those who turned dogs and water hoses on civil rights demonstrators in the South in the 1960s. Don't ask me how, but some of us can live with that. It's the thought of being called on it that scares us more than anything else.

So you might say, well, you're afraid of being caught. But there's more.

We may not go out of our way to avoid being racist, but we will do anything to avoid being accused. We will hire and promote people of color to prevent them from complaining, passing over others more worthy if necessary. We will show them considerable latitude in their public behavior, whether at a restaurant, or in the workplace. Seventeen years ago, I was assaulted by my supervisor, who was black. There were witnesses. There was a police incident report. Normally, he would have been fired the next day, but this wasn't normal. Agency officials said I had no cause for complaint. He was promoted the following year.

This is what some white people will do, and much more, to avoid hearing anything that sounds like: "It's because I'm black, isn't it?"

Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr, knows this. That's why, according to Rich Lowry of the National Review...

Any passer-by seeing a man breaking into a home without knowing that he lives there might reasonably suspect a burglary, whatever the man’s race, religion, creed or national origin... According to the police report, when Sgt James Crowley asked Gates — now in his house — to come out on the front porch and speak to him because there had been a report of a break-in, Gates replied angrily, “Why, because I’m a black man in America?”

No, Professor, it's because you're an Ivy League poser who forgot how to behave in the real world. When a man identifies himself as a police officer, you don't give him any lip, even when you think you have a reason. He has a gun, and you don't. We are a nation of laws, and he enforces them. He is also the only thing standing between your sorry ass and someone who really WOULD break into your house. Things will get sorted out later, and you'll live to tell your side of the story.

Sometimes I walk by the White House. I'm on the sidewalk, it's a lovely day, and I'm minding my own damn business. A police officer -- Secret Service Uniformed Division, or United States Park Police -- tells me to walk on the other side of the street. I could ask him why, but I'll probably just piss him off. Not because the question is inflammatory, but because they don't necessarily tell him why, and even if they did, it doesn't matter.

But hey, I'm a white guy, right? And it's perfectly alright to misjudge me in politically-correct America, so what the hell do I know? Well, you don't have to be white to see it this way.

One man who does is Dr Boyce Watkins, who doesn't feel sorry for Gates.

Basically, this situation may have been a battle of two egos: One of them from a Harvard professor who seemed to feel that he should not be disrespected by a lowly police officer; the other from an officer who seemed to feel that a powerful Black professor could be treated differently from a powerful White professor. What is abundantly clear is that this is NOT the case of a poor Black male being exploited by the racist, classist power structure.

The other is Mansfield Frazier, a former newspaper editor from Cleveland.

Fortunately for him, he was in Cambridge and not inner-city Boston or some other largely black metropolitan area, which thankfully boded against the situation escalating into one in which deadly force was used. But the simple fact is, under different circumstances, it could have; our American history is littered with the bodies of black men whose only crime was that they didn’t know when to just shut the hell up.

It's probably fair to say, that young black men will still have a harder time flagging down a cab than a young white man. It can also be asserted that our prisons house a disproportionate number of men of color, relative to the overall population. And maybe the President can drop what he's doing with the Nation's business long enough, to help two men accidentally pitted against each other, to see each other in a different light.

But before they do that, everyone at that table will have to be honest; with themselves, with each other. We ask a lot of the men who answer the call to protect us. If we ask them to be fair and just, we can use who or what we are as a wedge for an ideological advantage. That may gain points for us, but they may hesitate to protect the next citizen, and the world as a whole will lose.

Which means that nobody wins.

[FULL DISCLOSURE: It should be noted that this writer is a close companion of a woman who, as a native of the Philippines, would be classified as being of "Asian/Pacific" ethinicity. To the degree that he might be credibly accused of a racist mentality, such a relationship would be unlikely.]
“Liberian Girl” was the ninth and last single from Michael Jackson’s 1987 album Bad. It was dedicated to one of his dearest friends, Elizabeth Taylor. I’m probably going to regret giving this guy any attention at all -- may God rest his soul -- but I stumbled across this video for the song (produced in 1989 and directed by Jim Yukich), and found it mildly amusing.

It also features a number of movie stars and recording artists, including one of my favorites, “Weird Al” Yankovic. Try and see how many celebs you can pick out.

What’s more, when Michael appears at the end, he is still identifiable as being of African descent. That was the final litmus test, to include it as this week’s Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

All The News That Fits

Mama always said, be careful what you wish for. Now The New York Times is saying it.

It has become his common lament. Challenged about difficulties with his economic or legislative programs, President Obama complains about the tyranny of “the news cycle,” pronouncing the words with an air of above-it-all disdain for the impatience and fecklessness of today’s media culture... Yet after six months in office, perhaps no other president has been more attuned to, or done more to dominate, the news cycle he disparages...


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mary Magdalene

Today is her feast day. Everybody writes about her. Some of them actually know something, like Amy Welborn, which makes less work for me.

There is an enormous amount of legendary material about Mary Magdalene in both West and East. It's fascinating and rich. One of the primary strains in the West has her traveling to Provence (an idea picked up by the radical feminist author of The Woman With the Alabaster Jar, Margaret Starbird, and then turned for her own ends) and, along with Martha and Lazarus, evangelizing the area; there is even some medieval art that depicts Mary preaching and baptizing... [b]ut what we know for sure about her is contained in the Gospels.

Whew, that was easy!

One Minute Theatre: Animation Reel

It is midday Wednesday, and time once again for our “One Minute Theatre” here at mwbh.

Paul was five years old when I moved to Georgetown. I had a basement apartment just a short walk from the corner of N and Wisconsin. We ventured out one evening, just two guys out on the town, to see a Canadian animation festival at the old Biograph Theatre. They had one of those old-fashioned “nickelodeon” machines, and I had Paul take a look. As he turned the crank, the pictures came to life.

I've often wondered if that adventure may have inspired him. Every movable three-dimensional image begins life as a string of two-dimensional images. Our artist -- he is identified only as “rioyeti” -- shows us some examples of inspirations in their infancy.

Anybody here remember what “flip books” were for???

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Daddy’s Girls

Longtime readers of mwbh know that its author didn't have too high an opinion of President Bush's daughters, Barbara and Jenna.

Children of privilege learn to take for granted, the knowledge that a family name and/or position buys a great deal of latitude toward their behavior. A new book by a former Washington Post reporter describes how your Federal tax dollars enables the fun and games of all the President's kids. The New York Post explains:

Jenna would purposely try to lose her protection by going through red lights or by jumping in her car without telling agents where she was going. As a result, in a total waste of manpower, the Secret Service kept her car under surveillance so agents could follow her.

It gets better. While adult children of Presidents lose the high-priced muscle once he leaves office, Daddy can still issue a presidential directive to "extend security protection... for an undisclosed period of time." Bush the Younger did this before checking out, as did Clinton.

Thankfully, the girls have managed to grow the hell up over the years, and are now not nearly as much trouble. That said, "[i]n March, Baltimore radio station WBAL and reported that a Secret Service van was towed from in front of Jenna Bush Hager's home in South Baltimore for unpaid parking tickets."

I wouldn't mess with THAT towing company, would you?

[PHOTO: Barbara and Jenna Bush: membership has its privileges. Associated Press.]

Ohio: Photo-Ops

I was just sent this photo by Jimmy's wife and the co-host, Lisa. I have more than forty maternal cousins. Just over half of them were at the reunion. They managed to get twenty of us to stand still long enough. (Go ahead, click on it. You know you want to.) At a later time, I'll put together a few more. As it stands now, it's a good thing I wore the hat, don't you think?

Or don't you?

[PHOTO: Lisa L. Used with permission, sort of.]

AMU: “Ooops, we did it again!”

Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, a close friend of Pope Benedict XVI, and theologian-in-residence at Ave Maria University, was fired from AMU yesterday, after privately (mind you, that's PRIVATELY) expressing criticism over the university's finances.

Fessio wrote that he told Donahue [University founder and predominant benefactor] in November that the present administration at the university was “irrevocably wedded” to policies that were at the root of financial problems at the university and that without a change in administration, the university was “at great risk.”

The good Father's only mistake was crossing a man who thinks money may not buy happiness, but it can get you damn near everything else. Apparently the previous attempt at removing Fessio didn't teach certain people anything.

Even in college, some people never learn.

[THIS JUST IN: Father Z has Father Fessio's own account.]

Monday, July 20, 2009

Night of the Longest Step

I caught the space bug in the mid-1960s, hearing reports of unmanned craft landing on the moon. I wondered why they would go to the trouble of something that would crash-land, how it could continue working. In time, they made one land softly.

Eventually, they found a way to send a man there, to land safely, and to return. The whole world watched it happen, and for those brief hours, the whole world had won the space race.

I remember how it felt here on earth. Like the sinking of the Titanic, when the band played "Nearer My God To Thee," the world as we knew it was ending, and another one beginning, with vistas wider than before The radio stations interrupted regular programming to play songs like Jonathan King's first hit from 1965. All was still, in anticipation of the greatest moment in our history.

The houses on Winnebago Drive were all tuned into a stark image from a quarter of a million miles away. It was in black and white -- not that it mattered at our house, since we were the last on the block to get color.

We were allowed to stay up most of the night to watch it too. You know, "the end of the world as we know it" and all that.

I met Neil Armstrong twice in the years that followed. The first was when he was keynote speaker, for the Dan Beard Council Eagle Scout Class of 1971. The second time was a bit less conventional. By 1974, Armstrong had already assumed a professorship with the Aeronautical Engineering Department at the University of Cincinnati. The art and design college was across the way from the engineering college, and our instructor invited him to speak to our Design Fundamentals class. Armstrong was never comfortable with the limelight, and here he was speaking to a bunch of hippie wannabes about... kite design???

In a related development, it was exactly thirty years after that day, that the sunken Mercury capsule dubbed "Liberty Bell 7," piloted by Virgil "Gus" Grissom in a 1961 suborbital flight, was finally recovered from the floor of the Atlantic.

As the late Walter Cronkite would have said, "That's the way it is."

[UPDATE: Think it was all a waste of money? Computerworld says that ten Apollo-era technologies are in use today. You're probably using one of them right now, you big dummy! Click here.]

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I just got in. Did y'all miss me?

I did manage to learn something about Cincinnati that even I didn't know. It's a big town for conventions. It's in the Midwest, so it's kind of in, well, the middle, and at least three major airports are within one hundred miles (Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton). It explains why rooms cost as much as they do considering this part of the country. I'll never book rooms at the Motel 6 again. "Sal" expects more amenities where she stays. I expect wi-fi in the rooms to actually work, since my vacations are always "working" vacations.

If I were home right now, I'd constantly be checking the political blogs like Hot Air, and the church chat blogs like WDTPRS. But who wants to do that when you're in a hot town like Cincinnati? A million conventioneers can't be wrong... right? (I'm betting they don't stay at the Motel 6.)

This trip was of the minimum length for road trips back home: two days on the road, two days staying there. School started this past week, so I had to squeeze this one in.

Sal got to visit her very first American county fair. She wasn't much for the cattle or hog barns, but she loved the poultry exhibits. Poultry husbandry in the city limits has long been common in the Philippines, and this city girl's parents raised chickens and quails when she was young. Her brother also raised prize roosters -- mostly for, er, uh, competitive use (which would be legal there, if not here).

The essential occasion for the trip was the fiftieth anniversary of a maternal uncle and his bride, celebrated at a huge barn party at the farm of one of their sons, my cousin. Jimmy has a very impressive spread, especially when it's 640 acres clear of the bank by his mid-forties. Not too shabby. As two of the images here will show, ee's also got a bad-@$$ set of wheels to get the job done. No, he wouldn't let me drive, but I did learn to handle a much smaller version when I was twelve. Most kids on a farm start even sooner.

There was a lively discussion on rotating corn and soybean crops, planting at just the right time after the last freeze is over and before the rain starts, and being awakened after midnight to learn about two dozen head of cattle getting loose through a broken fence. Then we all posed for yet another all-cousins picture. Most of the nearly-four-dozen among us were on hand, and just as difficult to get to stand still as ever. We'll have to wait on showing that last one for now.

There must have been over two hundred people there, including aunts and uncles I haven't seen in years. Sal might have been a little nervous at the thought of being alone in a sea of cornbread-fed Midwesterners, but those fears were allayed once she learned that members of the Rosselot clan are "the salt of the earth." There was plenty of pulled-pork and green beans, not to mention free beer. Obviously not everyone who showed up was a relative. After all, who could turn down free beer?

On top of all this, Mom showed up, and what with taking care of Dad, she never goes anywhere. Pat and her husband stayed home with Dad for an "Everybody Loves Raymond" marathon, while Mom got caught up with five of her six sisters, and the last surviving of four brothers. The old man was up till midnight getting all the details of the big soireƩ. What a party dog.

While Sal and I were there, we managed to catch a performance of my friends in the band Silver Arm, at a coffee bar that was once a jewelry store. The downtown section of Milford has been transformed in the last half century -- once a place of various and sundry merchandise which, if you couldn't find it there, you could get along without it; now a haven for specialty shops and gourmet restaurants, for aging yuppies en route to antiquing runs. We had lunch on Saturday at the site of an historic building which, last time I entered it, was a barber shop with an Odd Fellows Hall upstairs.

I'm wondering where the Odd Fellows meet these days.

So now I'm back home, which was accomplished in record time, despite millions of others on I-70 in Maryland having the same idea. I'll be up most of the night writing a proposal for a website. It's great to be home anyway.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

All God’s children get weary when they roam...

Tonight, as this is published, I'm packing one suitcase, or two if you count my laptop. Sal and I head out in the morning, at the tail end of the morning rush, to Cincinnati for a few days. I have homework to do, and I have wi-fi where I'm staying, so I'll be getting caught up with PHP and MySQL, as well as making notes of the journey.

Milford always looks different each time I go back. But if I look hard enough, I can see that places where I used to roam, as they were when I was a young man. I never imagined that the bulk of my adult life would be spent here in DC. But we are all wanderers on this earth, keeping eyes front, so that "after this, our Exile," we may arrive at the door of our heart's true home.

It's also an occasion for Sal to see "the real America." Come Friday morning, she will visit her first real county fair. On Saturday evening, there will be a gigantic reunion at my cousin's farm east of the city, where she will get to meet the bulk of my mother's side of the family. I have over forty maternal cousins. With their children and grandchildren, it should be quite a goings-on. Somewhere in between, we'll visit my immediate family, and maybe some friends of mine. The minimum I require for a trip home is four days; two days on the road, and two days there. I'm not crazy about so short a trip, but I had class today, and I've got it again on Monday. Never did like going to school in the summer.

Meanwhile, here's a clip of Joe South on The Johnny Cash Show in 1970. I hear the highway callin.'

And if the good Lord’s willin’ and the creeks don’t rise
By tomorrow I'll be right there.


One Minute Theatre: Man on Bench

For this week's midday Wednesday edition of "One Minute Theatre" here at mwbh, we have a Momentum Films production -- no, I never heard of them either -- shot, edited, written, and directed by Brian Rowe, and starring Rachael Brook and Tony Wilson. It was created in the spring of 2005, for a 1-minute film festival competition, and won first prize.

Tony stars as a man who likes to keep still. Rachael stars as a woman who should have kept him that way.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Plug This: And Sometimes Tea

Our "Plug This" series on the occasional Tuesday, is devoted to lesser-known figures in the Catholic blogosphere. You know, the ones which the mainstream Catholic print media misses while obsessing over the same two or three every chance they get.

The subject of this installment got its title from a line of Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock: "Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey, Dost sometimes counsel take -- and sometimes tea." I don't know what that means. But its author can tell you about herself if you ask her...

And Sometimes Tea

...and if you ask her, it will be thus:

I'm a homeschooling mom. No, I don't know any good crafts. Crafts at my house end with something glued somewhere it shouldn't be. All my art is abstract, if 'lumpy' is synonymous with 'abstract.' I write because...well, I like this quote from Mason Cooley, "Writing about an idea frees me of it. Thinking about it is a circle of repetitions."

What she wouldn't have told you, until less than a year ago, was her name. The writer formerly known as "Red Cardigan" has emerged as Erin Manning, a mother of three girls. She does not fit into the usual "mommy blog" category, which is what you'd honestly expect given the popularity of that niche.

This is why you probably won't see endless pictures of her children napping on the couch or doing something extremely cute. You won't read about what we used to call "female problems." (Deo gratias!) Not much in the way of recipes or how to get fussy children to sleep. But you will get the kitchen window's view of the world, and the events which shape it, through the focus of a Catholic lens. She is a regular feature at Creative Minority Reader, and she has also been a guest at Rod Dreher's Beliefnet blog with the silly name "Crunchy Con."

So, right now you're thinking, hey, Mister Black Hat Guy, this girl's got some game. What does she need with your small-potatoes endorsement?

And I say, hey, she doesn't show off about it. This gal's got class. That ain't bad.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Beyond Sotomayor

Today was the start of confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor, as the next appointee to the U S Supreme Court. This piece is not intended as a complete run-down on the comings and goings. But there are a few matters that bear special attention.

Sotomayor was giving a lecture at UC Berkeley Law School in 2001, when she said:

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life."

She has subsequently stood by these remarks when pressed. The burden falls upon her to explain why one physiological trait makes one person a better judge than the next. She may also want to explain how this Republic got by for so long without one in particular.

That's not all she'll have to explain. Last month, "[t]he Supreme Court has ruled that white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge."

We might be able to explain this, and other decisions of hers overturned by the High Court (and there were a few of them), by examining her view of the role of the courts. Based upon a speech given in 2005 at Duke Law School, this is most likely what she would tell us.

Um, all of the legal defense funds out there, um, they’re looking for people out there with court of appeals experience, because court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know, I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don’t make law, I know. Um, um — [laughter] — I know. I’m not promoting it, I’m not advocating it, and, I’m … you know. [laughter]

Yes, it's hilarious, as long as you agree with every decision a despot makes. What recourse do you have if they do not? If you want to change the law, that is what your local elected representatives are for. If you don't like the way they make the law, you can vote them out. You can't vote a Federal judge out of office, you big dummy!

But some people who think pretty highly of themselves will be okay with it, just as other republics in ancient history were okay with dictators who placated them.

It doesn't necessarily end well, does it?

Recent decades of "legislating from the bench" have brought our system of jurisprudence, to the point which the Founding Fathers took great pains to avoid. It was their earnest objective, to develop a system of "checks and balances." The term itself is well-known; less well-known is why. Those who established our Republic wished to avoid placing too much power in the hands of too few. The lessons of a grade school civics class have been completely ignored for years, and are being ignored now.

So let's do something about that, and hear from someone already on the High Court.

This final clip is a one-hour interview conducted by Charlie Rose, with Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Put the lame caricatures aside about who's a "fascist" and who isn't, just long enough to learn something. (You might try looking up words in a dictionary before you go spouting them off, but I digress...) And when you do, something like this...

“I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [TITLE] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”

...might take on a whole new meaning.

(STILL IMAGES: Copyright 2009 by Chris Muir. Used without permission or shame.)

[Yahoo! News has a rundown of the day's events, and a preview of the following day. Click here and here, respectively.]

“I read the news today, oh boy...”

After a bit of a hiatus, an occasional feature is back.

• Yesterday, on NBC’s Meet The Press, senator and former Presidential candidate John McCain (R-AR) was able to cough up a defense of former running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. This includes the usual she’s-not-quitting-she’s-going-in-a-different-direction spin. Click here, and try to stay awake.

• Meanwhile, north to Alaska, the New York Times stays in business long enough, to report that the road to Palin’s resignation may have begun when she was first nominated. The piece cites “missteps and ignored advice” while also noting David Letterman’s completely tasteless sexual jokes about her 14-year-old daughter. (What? He meant the 18-year-old daughter? Gee, that’s different.)

• If you’re a Kennedy, and you can’t keep your mouth shut about Catholic teaching and practice, you can be recognized as an instant expert on the subject, no matter how ill-informed you truly are. This is how former Maryland Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was able to claim, in a recent Newsweek article, that the President knows more about Catholics in America than the Holy Father, and could teach him a few things. Uh-huh.

• Charles Lemos of wants an explanation: “Leon Panetta was sworn in as Director of the CIA on February 20, 2009. Why did it take four months for subordinates to inform the CIA Director of an on-going program?” Well, Chuck, first you gotta convince a guy who comes into a job thinking he knows all the answers before he’s asked all the questions, that you are worth a few minutes of his time. This involves, but is not limited to, getting through the people in his immediate circle. And to think it only took four months.

• On a more serious note, the Associated Press reports that a bank robber on parole, in Saginaw, Michigan, was caught with the goods, after he hitched a getaway ride with an undercover police detective. Maybe he didn’t have enough for a cab.

• Finally, WCBS-TV in New York City reports, that a 15-year-old girl fell into an open manhole on the sidewalk while text messaging. Because the workers failed to put up adequate warning signs and orange cones and the usual barriers, her family won a court settlement. The Moderate Voice says: “Yes, she should have had the common sense to be watching where she was walking, but the law is the law.” I gotta remember that the next time I'm texting my pals about what Bobby said to Suzie in the lunchroom when Timmy wasn’t looking. OMG!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hey, the zombies are here, and they want you for dinner!

My landlady in Georgetown was a bit of an oddball, but I loved her for it, and sometimes she made pretty good sense, like the time she told me: “When you're in a tug of war, try letting go of the rope, and watch where they land.”

There is a point where people feel comfortable with their presumption of intellectual prowess, such that they will expose themselves for exactly who and what they are. Earlier this week, we heard this little gem uttered by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

Keep in mind that in Germany of the 1930s, this would have referred to Jews. Justice Ginsburg is a Jew. Everybody with me so far?

Okay, now we have some guy named John Holdren, appointed by the President as Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In short, the “science czar.” Holden co-authored a book in 1977 entitled Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, he proposed a number of extreme dictatorial measures to control the growth of human population. This would include abortions by force, mass sterilization through the water supply, state-sanctioned abduction of babies to couples deemed more suitable, forced sterilization of “undesirables,” and a “planetary regime” employing the force of arms to carry out these and other measures.

Now, there are a few of you forward-thinking types out there who think I am making this up, or making a big deal out of nothing. Obviously, you can’t get enough of this stuff. In that case, click here for a little side trip into Zombieland. The rest of you can be assured, that those whose theories meander into the nether regions of thought, will eventually be known by their fruits. When the Final Judgment is rendered, the wheat and the chaff will be separated.

Until that happens, there are some great movies coming out in the second half of this year, that are sure to give you a sufficiently dystopian view of the future. Or you can wait around for the real thing, it’s up to you.

Meanwhile, here in real life, some people were obviously assuming they would make the cut. Others will place their bets on The Only One That Matters.

[CONTENT WARNING: Intense scenes in second clip.]

Friday, July 10, 2009

The forecast is “Partly Cloudy” for tomorrow. What better occasion than to show this latest short film of the same name from Pixar? Actually, I stole this from Danielle Bean at the award-winning group-mommie blog “Faith and Family Live” where she wrote: “ a mom who struggles to embrace some of the more ‘painful’ aspects of her vocation, the inspiring message behind this bitty film left me teary-eyed in the darkened theater.”

Now, don’t think for a moment that Mister Black Hat Guy never got choked up at the movies. Like when George C Scott recited poetry as General Patton. But enough about me. This is just the thing for our Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

The best part is, you can share this with the kiddies.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

One Minute Theatre: No Parking

In making the choice for this week’s edition of “One Minute Theatre” at mwbh, I was reminded of my experiences with parking here in the DC area. In Georgetown, you can actually rent a space to park your car -- it was just over a hundred bucks a month in the early 1990s -- while in my south Arlington neighborhood, some people drive in from the hinterlands to park along the street, without so much as a permit, and catch the express bus into town. In this beautifully rendered Cartoon Network clip, Frankie manages to stay occupied while Foster’s gang heads for fun and games.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Change You Can Believe In

...whether you like it or not.

For all you granola-crunching, New-York-Times-reading, Keith-Olbermann-watching, socially-enlightened visionaries who picked the winner in the last election (and you know who you are, K.N.), the victory party is over, and the payment is coming due. It will start with your utility bills, which you can expect to nearly double in the next year.

(An attempt to refute the facts in the ad has failed. To read about it, click here.)

Even with the President admitting flat out, that electricity rates would "skyrocket" as a result of the "Cap and Trade" bill, Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA) caved to pressure from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to support the bill. An advertisement that was supposed to run in a local Roanoke television station was (ahem!) refused, then run with some, er, uh, modification.

There was a number to call Tommy Boy to try to talk him out of it. Now that it's too late, his constituents can call the number to tell him he is an idiot. Or, maybe they should all send him copies of their electric bills every month, and write on each one: "This time last year, the amount was for..." and so on.

He might get the message, especially after they run his @$$ out of office when his term is up in 2010.

And for a bonus feature, we've got some Tea Party action from Austin, Texas this past weekend. One of the Republicans who jumped on the bailout bandwagon got a snootful from the crowd. The word is out on weasels on both sides of the aisle.

Send them a message. Leave no doubt.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sarah Coulda (Shoulda? Woulda?)

I have no respect for quitters. Me or anybody else, which is why I rarely do. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Me, I keep going.

For fifteen of my nearly twenty-nine years of Federal service, I worked for people who could never have attained equivalent positions in the private sector. Naturally, a guy who gets where he's going the old-fashioned way would have been seen as a threat, and they dug themselves the hole they thought they were digging for me. What's worse, is that they had people around them who actually knew this. All that changed about ten years ago, which is the only reason I still work at the same place.

I didn't have to defeat my enemies. I outlasted them. Perseverance is omnipotent.

When a star athlete likens the game they play to the game of life, they talk about keeping their eyes on the goal. They will depict their metaphors as they may. What they do not do, is mistake walking away from the game, with being part of a winning strategy -- not in the game, never mind in life. That is what is so confusing about Sarah Palin's resignation as Governor of Alaska. She can talk about the challenges ahead, even as she walks away from the one at hand. She can talk about the good she can do for her cause, which is fine as long as it can never be referred to as "lame duck." She can dress it up any which way but loose. But at the end of the day, when the score is tallied and the numbers are in, quitting is still quitting.

Some people are saying that Palin in finished in politics. Political consultant Mary Matalin (you know, the gal who married that Cajun yahoo James Carville) thinks it's some kind of brilliant move. But there's another problem with this. It has less to do with Sarah Palin. It has more to do with us.

It can be said that the mainstream media and the Hollywood elite bullied her and members of her family -- they wouldn't stop at her fourteen-year-old daughter, would they? -- to such an extent that it was no longer about the issues. (Betty White gets on a talk show and calls her a name. Film at eleven. You see what I mean?) Those responsible for being such cads for our amusement should be ashamed. Those of us who watch them on television, who read about them in the newspapers, should do well to put their feet to the fire. We should do it regardless of whose side we're on. If they can do it to them, they can do it to us. If they can do it to us, we can do it to them. What's left will never be about the issues.

Sarah Palin may have walked off the field too early. Maybe she'll make a Nixonian comeback and thus make history. But the American people threw in the towel long before that, when they let a bunch of cake-eaters on the news channels do their thinking for them.

Sarah Palin didn't let the team down. We did. We're the ones who vote.

[POSTSCRIPT: Ed Morrissey of Hot Air: "If all Palin wants to be is a speaker and activist, then her resignation as governor of Alaska won’t hurt her at all... If, however, Palin wants to pursue national office rather than just be an activist for the rest of her life, her resignation will prove a very messy hurdle."]

[ATTENTION PALINISTAS: Karl in the Green Room at Hot Air puts the spotlight on Ace of Spades' remarks. Pay attention to what both have to say about agreeing to disagree, and keep in mind what Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal once said, about the GOP having to be a party of ideas.]

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Obligatory Fourth of July Fireworks Thing

Tonight, some enterprising person managed to get this on YouTube, but Sal and I watched this display from the balcony of my office just west of the White House. It isn't something I get to do very often, especially with building restrictions after 9-11. But this year I got lucky. It also helped that I was able to drive into town and avail myself of the building's parking lot, what with nearly half a million people using the public transportation system and all.

For once, membership has its privileges.

The House I Live In

I have been meaning to write about what I have seen in the news of late, but life and work have interfered. Where they do not, cynicism has taken over. So for today, this two-hundred-and-thirty-third anniversary of our Nation's declaration of independence, I decided to turn for inspiration, to one man who reminds me of what it means to be an American.

“The House I Live In” was a 10-minute short film, written by Albert Maltz and produced by Frank Ross and Mervyn LaRoy in 1945. It was intended to promote ethnic tolerance at the end of World War II. The film won an Honorary Academy Award in 1946, and the Library of Congress included it in the National Film Registry in 2007, for its great cultural significance.

But most important of all, it starred Frank Sinatra singing the title song. Who better to look to for inspiration on a day like today? With lyrics by Lewis Allen (aka Abel Meeropol) and music by Earl Robinson, the song became a national hit for Old Blue Eyes, who continued to sing it at Fourth of July tributes in the decades to come (including in this later clip with Neil Diamond).

And why not? For those of us who believe in America as a nation under God, it says it all. I won’t feel so cynical after this. If you listen closely, neither will you.

God bless America. HOO-rah.

Friday, July 03, 2009

“Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck may be somebody's mother...”

This is sound advice for all occasions, especially if you are a duck. But for those of you who are not, today was sort of like a holiday. The mail was delivered, but the banks were closed, and Federal employees got the day off. The reason for the latter is, that Independence Day itself is tomorrow, and your dedicated civil servants are equally dedicated to getting their share of days off. (Admit it, you would be too.) Sal and I were invited to a pool party tonight to kick things off, and I got talked into that after I learned that Dikki Du and the Zydeco Krewe had their gig canceled in Laurel, Maryland. So, for this edition of the Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy, we give you something to show the kiddies.

Party on, kids.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

One Minute Theatre: Rewind

For this week’s edition of One Minute Theatre here at mwbh, we present a “one-shot” piece filmed entirely in reverse (well, almost) with mildly amusing results. It is written and directed by Fahim Kassam and Heather Murray, and stars Jeffrey Gerein.

The audio track is the tune “Cherry” by Ratatat. Don’t ask me why.

Where have you gone, James Monroe?

The way it was explained to me was like this. The people of Honduras elected a new president, but the old one refused to give up his office. The national legislature supported the election, the highest court in their nation supported the election, but the incumbent refused to leave anyway, using the police or the military or enough people with guns to get his point across.

Until now, I was barely able to follow what was going on down there. Then I read where our nation's leaders called the election results "unconstitutional." Then I was even more confused. There has been some waffling on the part of the White House since then, some sort of posturing with Venezuela's leader, Hugo Chavez. Hopefully the Honduran people will not be looking to us for any further direction. As it is now, the American people can barely look to the mainstream media for whatever is going on down there.

The best source at the moment appears to be NetRightNation.

I'm not sure, but I don't think this is what they had in mind when a previous USA president formulated the "Monroe Doctrine," never mind when another USA president formulated the "Roosevelt Collorary," don't you think?

Or don't you?