B After The Fact

Friday, December 31, 2004

B-s Greatest Hits of 2004 (with Bonus Tracks!, including "Bush's Era of Good Feelings)

I am posting my own version of my Greatest Hits of 2004 (with bonus tracks)

As someone in the music business, I know of my contractual obligation to deliver something new for the colection, and here it is:

Bush's Era of Good Feelings

In reading through my blog entries, I noticed that after writing voluminously on the election, I said nothing on the site about the election after it was over. In fact, I have hardly spoken about politics at all -- some history, some baseball, a lot of museums and movies, and some weight control issues. I have even set up another blogsite Time After Surgery which I may or may not be posting to.

I don't think that the Bush-Kerry election was winnable by anyone that the Democratic Party might have put up. The fact that Kerry came as close as he did only shows that Kerry wanted it badly enough and was willing to say anything to get it.

In the end, Kerry handled the Swift Boat controversy properly -- he understood his own relationship to the Vietnam War better than any of his advisors, both paid and in the blogosphere. No other candidate could have handled his weakest point -- and I am sure Karl Rove was keeping a list --- as well as Kerry handled his. After all, Kerry has been defending his Vietnam record for a long, long time.

When people say they would have voted for Kerry, but for the Swift Boat, I believe they are lying to themselves. If it wasn't the Swift Boat, it would have been the $87 billion, if it wasn't the $87 billion, it would have been Teresa, if it wasn't Teresa, it would have been Massachusetts. But these people would have all held their noses, and voted for W-.

In retrospect, if Al Gore had refused to accept the result of the 2000 election, and kept running, he might be President today. I think John Kerry feels the same way about himself. I think that if Kerry keeps running, running into 2008, the only state he'll carry is the State of Confusion.

The fact is that most people trust that W- will, all-in-all, do the right thing. I believe that the trust is misplaced, but my viewpoint lost the election. I think the trust is based, in part, on the fact that people still see this as a liberal government, a high-tax welfare state, a Gomorrah surrounded by two oceans, and that the Republican Party is just a corrective, a pruning against excesses, until the "FemiNazis" return.

But ---

From the time of FDRs election to LBJ's election --- 9 elections. 7 Democratic victories, 2 victories for a Republican (Eisenhower) who wasn't really a Republican.

From the time of Nixon's election to the time of Bush's re-election --- 10 elections, 7 Republican victories, 3 victories for Democrats (Carter, Clinton) who were Democrats in name only.

Any real opposition to anything Bush will do between now and Labor Day 2006, when the Congressional elections kick in, and Bush will become a lame duck, will have to be made by Republicans. This is Bush's Era of Good Feeling, and no amount of pointing at the liberal media can disguise the fact that the liberal media has not influenced an election in a very, very, very, very, very long time.

In the meantime, Democrats have to assist those Republicans who believe in the Constitution. I get a lot of flak when I say that Republicans do not believe in the Constitution. They think I am using code-words. I am not. I know that Republicans believe in freedom. However, as I have said many times before, it is my contention that a critical mass of conservatives, the movement conservatives that are in charge of the government and will be in full power over the next 21 months, do not believe that the Constitution is the single, most important vehicle for preserving that freedom. They are dead-in-their-tracks wrong.

To the extent that they believe in the Constitution at all, they believe in the slave-owners Constitution that died at Gettysburg, or they believe in the factory-owners Constitution that died on Black Friday. These new leaders believe that the clock should be turned back --- that the old days were better days, that they were more God-fearing days. They are wrong on every single count, including the notion that people in those times were more moral or more God-fearing than they are today. Because these people are in power, other people, including the sons and daughters of those currently in power, will live shorter, less prosperous, and less healthy lives.

It is the job of Democrats, short-term, to help those Republicans who believe in the importance of the living Constitution and the right to pray to the living God -- to insure that the United States preserves them both, and keeps damage from the political tsunami to follow to a minimum.

It is the job of Democrats, long-term, to ignore those who say that it is passe to support a Democratic Party whose primary purpose is to help working Americans work in dignity, and to help more-and-more people realize the American Dream.

If the Republican Party is stuck in 1863, if it stuck in 1929, the Democratic Party can surely be stuck in 1964.

My own wrinkle, and there is nothing new to it, although it is rare in today's Democratic Party, and which comes across more clearly in the selections below, is that the American promise of freedom, as set forth in the Constitution, in the Declaration of Independence, in the Gettysburg Address, in the Four Freedoms, is exceptional.

Freedom is, as George Bush likes to say, God's gift to everyone.

American Freedom, as set forth in the Constitution, and lived in this New Jerusalem, is not. It takes muscle to preserve it, and people living elsewhere simply do not get it, and cannot get it unless they are living here. A Democratic Party that is not taking its cues from the American Experience, and the American Experience only, a Democratic Party that turns a blind-eye to the nature of American Exceptionalism, the American Exceptionalism has a radically liberal view of the freedom of the working person to speak, read, pray, travel, and yes, to defend their own property, and maintain their own privacy, as he or she chooses, is going to find that America will turn a blind eye to it.

Thanks for reading, those of you who read all the time, and those of you who read once in a while. Pass it on if you can.

Happy New Year.

From August 8, 2003

"When people talk about limiting the government to its smallest possible level, I get the sense that they are not trying to make me more free, but are trying to switch the power to the church, the moneyed interests, or they're simply trying to starve me to death.

"All-in-all, here in the United States, allowing government to be the dominant actor gives us a better chance for freedom than the church, the corporation or starvation does. Of course, the government has to be pared back from time to time, but that does not mean that a power vacuum should be created that is filled by one of the other three horsemen. The ministers and the landlords and the CEOs and their major stockholders have less freedom than they would otherwise, but I can't be so worried about them. Set up any game you want to play, and they still come out ahead.

This New Deal/ Great Society government has been so successful that it has raised a generation so well-fed and so free that it cannot imagine why the government had to become so large in the first place. One of the biggest losers of the New Deal sits in the Oval Office. Without the New Deal, his family would have so much more money, and we would have so much less opportunity"

From the March 21 entry:

"1. I am in favor of the war against Iraq. I hope we can stay the course.

"2. I don't really care if the Europeans like the Americans or not. Our families all had very good reasons to leave Europe. Everytime a European politician opens his mouth, those reasons are simply reinforced. I think that Kerry is in a too-liberal bubble if he thinks that the American public as a whole will vote for him because people around the world don't like us.

"3. As a general rule, it is ridiculous to assume that the United Nations can be entrusted in a long-term mission to spread democracy. Although, I guess, it is possible that the U.N., as an institution, can grow into it if they were asked to do it.

"4. I believe in the vast right-wing conspiracy. As a matter of domestic policy, the Bushies were looking for a war, any war, as a vehicle to clamp down on what they saw as too much freedom at home. Like a lot of dictatorships in the Middle East, it is easy to say that (i) you are in favor of the rights of people far away, like the Palestinians or the Iraqis, and that (ii) their lack of freedom is causing such a grave crisis that you have no choice but to clamp down on freedom at home.

"5. One piece of proof is that the PATRIOT Act was all typed up and ready to go minutes after September 11. Another piece of proof is the constant refusal of this Administration to take actions, even symbolic actions, that will engage the American public as a whole in the war-effort. They are looking to create a ruling class and a warrior class and a subject class.

"6. And it is because of this systematic and unneccessary clamp-down of freedom at home that Bush has to go."

From May 7

"You cannot be surprised that when George Bush finally decided to apologize for the Iraqi prison abuses, that he would apologize to the King of Jordan. Bush seems to feel that people are not his peers, and he does not owe them apologies. Kings, however …

"I thought I read everything about it, every obvious point that could be said, but how systematic do the abuses have to be, how upside down does the culture have to be, to have GIs pose for those pictures? I don’t see a lot of Kodak moments of smiling guards at the Gulag or Auschwitz.


"This is like that moron juror – with a law degree, natch --- who said that Dennis Kozlowski can not be convicted of a crime because despite the fact that he managed to become the CEO of a major corporation, he did not have the moral compass TO UNDERSTAND THAT TAKING WHAT DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU IS A CRIME.

"Interrogating prisoners of war is a core military function. It is not, to paraphrase the other Donald, wussy little social work. If you do not have enough soldiers to do interrogation, then you do not have a military. If you do not have a military. you do not need a Secretary of Defense, and this one should go. The Department of Commerce should take over.

"A more paranoid notion would be this: the Military is a function of the United States government of the people, by the people and for the people. The current mess in Iraq is, in large measure, the work of independent contractors, whose only loyalties are to the crown. Rumsfeld probably knows too much to be released before he wants to go."

From August 27, 2004

"Obama’s speech was not televised by the networks. The conventions are no longer deemed worthy of the full attention of the networks because the nomination being a foregone conclusion, the conventions are no longer sporting events, and therefore no longer newsworthy.

"This attitude is a tragic mistake. Network television spends hours of prime-time broadcasting events where the conclusion is already known to viewers – the hero will survive to next week’s episode.

"Moreover, the final result of the convention, the final pageant, is completely about the horse race and completely about relative power, two things television professes to love. The outcome of the convention, the bland speech by Senator Jones from 8:43 to 8:49, is the product of intricate power plays of who gets to speak, who doesn’t get to speak, who gets the best time slot, how much they get to speak. The speech itself shows whether or not the speaker benefits, whether or not the candidate benefits, whether or not the party benefits, and whether or not the public benefits.

"If the networks would cover this – the convention as a fight over television face time --- they would have both their horse-race analysis and something highly relevant to say about what the political parties believe themselves to be, and how much of that they choose to show the voters. The Democrats tried to limit Al Sharpton to 6 minutes. Did not happen. They tried to censor Jimmy Carter’s remarks. Did not happen. They wanted, and got, Max Cleland in at 10:00 prime-time pick-up to introduce the President. I say Kerry would have been better off at 10:00 p.m. if his daughter was telling the hamster story."

Rudy Guliani -- Madison Square Garden --- August 30, 2004

(This is what we music types call a "cover": What follows is an edited version of Rudy's speech at the Republican National Convention. It further explains how I can support this war, even when I am so opposed to this President. It has been edited to delete pandering praise of you know who)

“Terrorism didn’t start on Sept. 11, 2001. It started a long time ago and it had been festering for many years. And the world had created a response to it that allowed it to succeed.

“The attack on the Israeli team at the Munich Olympics was in 1972. That’s a long time ago, that’s not yesterday. And the pattern began early. The three surviving terrorists were arrested and then within just three months the terrorists who slaughtered the Israeli athletes were released by the German government. Set free. Action like this became the rule, not the exception. Terrorists came to learn time after time that they could attack, that they could slaughter innocent people and not face any consequences.

“In 1985, terrorists attacked the Achille Lauro and they murdered an American citizen who was in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer. They marked him for murder solely because he was Jewish. Some of those terrorist were released and some of the remaining terrorists, they were allowed to escape by the Italian government because of fear of reprisals from the terrorists.

“So terrorists learned they could intimidate the world community and too often the response, particularly in Europe, would be accommodation, appeasement and compromise. And worse, and worse they also learned that their cause would be taken more seriously, almost in direct proportion to the horror of their attack.

“Terrorist acts became like a ticket to the international bargaining table. How else to explain Yasser Arafat winning the Nobel Peace Prize while he was supporting a plague of terrorism in the Middle East and undermining any chance of peace?

“Before Sept. 11, we were living with an unrealistic view of our world much like observing Europe appease Hitler or trying to accommodate the Soviet Union through the use of mutually assured destruction.

“[W]e could no longer just be on defense against global terrorism we must also be on offense …"

From the October 14 entry:

"Bush all but admitted that he would raise taxes (or seek revenue enhancements, benefit cuts, or whatever euphemism will be used) to cover the gaps that will be created when Bush shifts social security over to an "ownership system." Who gets this money, which will promptly go into a deep hole never to be seen or heard from again --- fund managers. The kinds of people who looted the savings and loan system during Daddy's administration (a crime so big, and so impossible to get your arms around, that they basically got away with it) will be back for a second meal of eating your social security money. That's the rationale, that is the only rationale for a Republican restructuring the Social Security system. Do not trust these people with your money."

From the October 14th entry

"Abortion, gay rights, prayer in public schools, contraception, stem cells, cloning, euthenasia, the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage, separation of church and state, and why (in my opinion) the church benefits more from the separation of church and state than the state does. In this talky internet world, we lack the vocabulary to discuss these issues. We need new words to discuss these new issues. When we use old words, we drag in old baggage, and wind up engaging in old arguments that are besides the point.

"Because of the limited vocabulary we have, all issues about a woman's right to choose wind up being entwined with whether or not God made the sexes equal, and whether or not the state can alter that result. Because of the limited vocabulary we have, all issues about gay rights wind up being a sewer of code words about our views on sexual deviance, and our notions about what is and is not appropriate behavior to display in front of a child. We can't separate out these issues, even if we wanted to, we don't have the proper vocabulary to communicate honestly (as opposed to a politician asking for your vote). We are not used to talking about these matters to people who might have other opinions, and it shows.

"I keep looking for people like Rick Santorum (I wish I could think of anyone from my side of the aisle) to find the vocabulary to bridge the gap, to frame the argument in a way where we can all agree on what we agree on, and make intelligent choices about what we disagree on, but Santorum keeps sliding down the slope. When W-speaks about a "culture of life," he is clearly rallying his base, but he is telling the people outside his base, "silent, barefoot, pregnant, dependant." I know he doesn't believe that, but he is certainly saying it. If you trust W- you make allowances for him, and if you don't, you can't.

"Great spiritual leaders are needed in this country, people who can make modern responses to modern science, people who can show from a spiritual, religious, moral basis, how free God wants us to be. Those people may be able to bring the discussion along. I don't know. It is not for politicians to be spiritual leaders. It is for politicians to make sure that the traffic lights work, and that the terrorists don't. In this society, our spiritual leaders are politicians and talk show hosts. It's depraved."

From the October 15 entry

"States rights is not a philosophy, its a tool. When your guy controls the White House, you don't need states rights. That's why there has been massive Federal involvement in areas like education and family arrangements and so-called faith-based initiatives, which have typically been the domain of the states. Whether the power brokers in individual states, mostly conservatives, will complain in a second term, when they see the cumulative effect of having their perogatives (and their control of the purse strings) diminished, remains to be seen.

"There are no governmental checks and balances on the Bushies.

"The right-wing says that there are checks and balances coming from Ted Kennedy and the left-wing media. There is only one Ted Kennedy, and he gets older and fatter every year."

From the Election Day post:

"The failure to find WMDs does not disturb me at all. Those of us who supported the war, but not the stated rationale behind it, had an obligation to explain ourselves more publicly, to force the Bush Administration to state publicly whether it agreed with our goals, and more importantly to engage the American people in a discussion of these goals. If the American people were opposed, after a fair hearing, that opposition should have been factored in.

"Our goal -- democracy in the Middle East, or at least a system in the Middle East where democracy will not be disturbed elsewhere --- will take at least 90 years or more to achieve. It took 45 years to fight and win the Cold War, and that was among people who shared our religious traditions, and saw democracy and freedom in the same way we did. Many of the Europeans had experienced some degree of freedom, and were merely trying to get back what they lost.

"So as a loose rule of thumb, I am saying that it will take at least twice as long for democracy to root and hold in the Middle East, where the traditions are different, where there is absolutely no experience with any sort of freedom. That 90-year estimate is based on the notion that the United States maintain a presence in the Middle East that entire time. Those of us who believe this to be true did not state this agenda openly. We were hoping that the truth would become apparent along the way. Perhaps they might still. We have only been in the Middle East for a few weeks, especially when compared to the 90-year committment we are going to need to make.

"Perhaps I am all alone out here in my analysis, but I doubt it. Anyway, the failure to state this goal openly, to see if it would respond to a thorough scrubbing, will make it almost impossible to accomplish our goal. Now the goal is being attacked by the left because the President is a conservative. Once the President is a liberal, it will be attacked from the right as a breach of American isolationism. People are saying that already, but after a liberal President is elected, those voices will be encouraged. The failure to accomplish the goal in the Middle East, once we set out on the path in Iraq, will come back to kill us.

"I am terribly afraid of what John Kerry might mean to the security of Israel, and by extension to Jews everywhere. I am sensitive to the opinions of people like Charles Krauthammer and William Safire. They warn that if Kerry seeks a world consensus to solving the situation in Iraq, then the consensus solution will be to destroy Israel. Given the dynamics of the situation, the destruction of Israel will mean the destruction of a great many, if not most, Jews worldwide.

"However, 80% of the Jews will continue to vote Democratic. In the end, the response to people like William Safire and Charles Krauthammer must be: If you feel that strongly about Israel, you should go and live there. If you believe that you have more influence over the future of Israel by staying in the United States and attempting to increase the influence of Jews and pro-Jewish thinking in the United States, that is more than wrong thinking. That is a death wish."

Another cut from the Election Day post:

"An important part of freedom is honest and open discussion of what America needs to do next. Contrary to what John Kerry says, that is not a discussion that Europeans are qualified to have. Contrary to what Orrin Hatch says, that is not a discussion that Arnold Schwarznegger or some soon to be determined Arab Prince should someday be qualified to lead. That is a conversation that only Americans are qualified to have and only Americans are qualified to lead.

"If the Old World was not a sewer, most of our ancestors would not have made such a treacherous trip over here in the first place. I'm certainly not going to escape from hell, and then call the Devil up for advice."

"I have said this since the day he announced his candidacy. Bush is not a Republican, and Bush is not a Democrat. Bush is a Bush."

From an Election Day e-mail the inestimable A Red Mind In A Blue State

"You say that Kerry is a "liberal, squeamish, dithering" candidate.

"I have mentioned before that Kerry is not that liberal. If he is the most liberal Senator, it is only because someone has to be the most liberal Senator. He is not liberal by any standards except 2004. Paul Wellstone, may he rest in peace, was a truly liberal Senator. If you make a careful comparison between Wellstone and Kerry, you will see what I mean.

"Kerry is neither squeamish nor dithering. Whatever the result tonight (or whenever), none of us who held our noses and voted for Kerry in the primary simply on "electability" has any right to feel disappointed.

"No one could have held up to the "Swift Boat" machine the way Kerry did. Kerry, despite what we all thought in August, wanted it badly enough, and just like Bush, is willing to say and do anything to get it.

"The only way to beat back a Bush or a Gingrich or a Delay is to understand that you are playing a game with no rules. Kerry understood that. No other Democrat who understood that had the stomach to make the run.

"Kerry is the best candidate the Democrats could have offered. If Kerry only gets 3 electoral votes today, I am very comfortable in the knowledge that no Democrat, besides perhaps Clinton (either one), could have run in these times and gotten more."

From the November 6 post --- "The Civil War Must Be Refought In Every Generation" (originally written in 1996)

"The very notion of a “Contract With America,” the very choice of the words “Contract With America.” no matter what its contents, implies that the government is not of the people, by the people, and for the people. The very notion of a Contract “with” America implies that government is an outside alien entity that needs to enter a contract with the American people (whatever that means) to be legitimate.

"That, however, was not the result of the Civil War. The result of the Civil War was that there is no Contract with America. There is a contract of, by and for America. It is called the Constitution. It is made among people with American citizenship, which is a privilege that comes with being born on the land, or comes by meeting certain minimal citizenship requirements. I hold these truths to be self-evident. Pat Buchanan does not.

"The people who wish to defend the Constitution better wake up and go to war to defend it. The people against the Constitution have been wide awake for a very long time."

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

More Light Stuff About Football

Shout out to blogcritics.org, which I had never heard of before, and to my friend ---, who appears on this blog from time-to-time as "NoTrust". I had an opportunity to discuss Freddy Exley's A Fan's Notes , perhaps the best novel ever about the effects of watching instead of doing, and what happens when you have a whole country of people like that. I read the book during the same period I was introduced to Kozinski's "Being There," and the two books together changed my world view (for the better?) for a long time.

Now for something truly controversial:

In today's New York Times, Dave Anderson interviews tailgaters at the Meadowlands, and discovers, surprise, that tailgaters would prefer that a new football stadium be built to accommodate tailgating. He also discovered, double surprise, that many tailgaters consider the tailgating to be the main event, and the football game to be the side dish. Football games can disappoint you, but barbecue sausage ---

I live in Queens, and want the new stadium to be in Queens (a much more accurate portent of the End of Days than tsuanamis or Mel Gibson movies). I pay the same taxes, and only get a small portion of the benefits that Manhattan/ Brooklyn residents do. I am hopeful of being able to extract a high price from Queens politicians (you know who you are) who have lined up behind the West Side Stadium.

Shout out to Anthony Weiner, my Congressman, the man who would be Mayor, who most definitely wants the stadium in Queens.

Anyway, and this is the deal -- In the end, there will be 65,000 to 75,000 seats in Bloomberg Stadium. There will be parking for practically no one, and tailgating for absolutely no one. All those fans who drive in from Long Island and Jersey to tailgate now will simply give up their seats. In the New York metropolitan area, I am sure they can find 75,000 people, 8 times a year, who are willing to take the Subway or the train to the ballgame without tailgating.

If you want another reason to oppose Bloomberg Stadium. Call this reason 43,000,000 -- is that the stadium will make it even less possible for outer-borough, suburban fans to get near a live football game.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

World War IV; The New York Football Giants

Unrepentant Individual reviews Norman Podhoretz's September Commentary piece on World War IV. I read the article back then, and did not blog on it, because of the supposedly-important goings on during the election. It received less attention than it should have at the time, in part, because of the election, and because the Podhoretz article is so long. The Podhoretz article will have long legs, and people will get around to writing about it, and thinking about it, for some time to come.

I have been on vacation, so I have not been blogging. I was going to start blogging on the health site Time After Surgery, but I find myself in the Weight Watchers chat rooms instead. I am sure I will be back writing, on both sites, after the New Year.

On a subject I never write about: Football. Your New York Jets will be the five seed in the playoffs, which is more than anyone could reasonably expect. We will then find out if Pennington has a greater ceiling than he has shown the second half of the year. In football, you can only play the games they ask you to play. Chad Pennington is no Joe Montana, sure, but no one blamed Montana for the annual schedule of patsies (the Aints, Falcons and Rams) that gave San Fran a 6-0 cushion before the start of every regular season.

My New York Giants play in a division, along with the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins, that fell for a media myth: A great coach can make lemonade out of lemons. Great coaches can not make lemonade out of lemons, but they can make bad teams better, and by that standard, Tom Coughlin is a great coach.

The Giants should be blown out of every game. They have no defensive line. They have no offensive line. They have to play a rookie quarterback because their starting quarterback is too slow to play behind such a bad line and live to tell about it. For all of that, instead of being blown out of every game, they are playing competitive, heart-breaking football. That is playing way beyond their talent level, and Tom Coughlin should get some of the credit for that.

Apparently, Wellington Mara wants some of the players to look into the mirror. They have. They see what they are. Old and slow. That's why they get called for so many false starts. A little less reality. A little more of Tom Coughlin demanding things that the players can not possibly produce is the best that can be expected.

Oh, by the way, Mr. Mara, while you are endorsing the coach and burning the players, why don't you saunter over to the general manager's office and ask for an accounting?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Time After Surgery

The 2005 blog will mostly take place on Time After Surgery

It seems all the political pundits are doing fine without my help and input, so I need to turn to more personal matters.

Take a look. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Plot Against America -- by Philip Roth

Charles Lindbergh, an “America First” guy who blames the British and the Jews, although probably not in that order, for the war fever sweeping the United States in 1940, runs against FDR and wins. Hitler and Lindbergh sign a non-aggression pact. The government takes anti-Semitic actions. Private anti-Semitic acts, including some murders, are tolerated.

All seen through the eyes of the 8-year old Phillip Roth, son of a salesman for Met Life. The father is a man whose sense of right and wrong has cost him plenty by the time the book opens, and will cost him a lot more by the time the book ends. The mother sounds more practical on the surface, but it is clear that she is just as idealistic. Older brother is a fine artist, easily obsessive. Philip is a mischief-maker, in ways both comic and tragic. The older Phillip Roth, the narrator, is sort of forgiving of his younger self, is trying to cope with a stressful situation. Aunt Evelyn, conveniently for the purposes of the book, works for a man who is acting as Lindbergh’s “rabbi.” There is a ne’er-do-well nephew living with them too, just draft age, if there was a draft, if there was a war. There is a Jewish family downstairs with a sick father, and a nerdy son who idolizes Philip. Philip, and everyone else in this Jewish part of Newark, idolizes Walter Winchell. The Plot Against America will change them all.

The book was very stressful to read, and impossible to put down. It starts fast, keeps accelerating, and just when you think you are not going to be able to take it any more, Roth flashes forward, so you know where land is, and then fills backwards. It was needed. It reminds you that any terror you read about is nothing like the terror certain people have to live through. Roth lets you off the hook a lot with his glimpses into the future. You realize that the people living through the situation are not so lucky.

Most of the focus of the book is on family matters. What else could a book about an 8-year old be about? Although the narrator is actually an older Phillip Roth, he is generally very careful to avoid saying what impact the events of 1940 had on the man who survived it all, and is writing, probably in 2004. I only recall one incident in the whole book where Roth broke his time line to describe the future of a character after the war was over. Keeping the events circumscribed helps to counterbalance the flash forwards, and keeps the suspense up. Maybe everyone learns their lesson. Maybe no one does.

Roth does provide an appendix of facts on which the story was based. These facts cover the complete biographies of certain of the central characters, like FDR and Lindbergh, so the biographies break the time line. However, by the time you get to the time line, the only things you are focused on are the events that took place right before Pearl Hatrbor.

The book is a real valentine to his parents. I have never read Portnoy’s Complaint, but this mother was an amazing, loving woman. I have spoken about the father of course. Given the stress all the characters are under, everyone behaves quite heroically.

I have never read It Can’t Happen Here, but there are, apparently, several veiled, and one or two very obvious references to the old book. This leads us to the question that everyone seems to be asking? Is this book about something that really took place in 1940, or is it an allegory about George Bush, and is everyone just one step from being a Nazi?

I think the book is about the effects of anti-Semitism on this family, already wracked by financial woes. It says that there are decent people everywhere, and not-so-decent people in your family, and one of the not-so-decent people may be you. In this book, Jews are plenty virtuous, as are non-Jews. But the book also contains a great many Jews who made their fortune in less than ideal ways.

The book reminds you that you do not need too many not-so-decent people to cause an extreme amount of mischief, so everyone else has to be super careful to make sure that mischief makers are nipped in the bud early. Many big actions in the book have no consequence at all, and some seemingly benign actions are tragic. Of course, several pre-meditated evil actions have predictably evil consequences as well.

In this book a great many people show courage, and take great risks, simply because they believe it is the right thing to do. These people are of all religions.

I would recommend this book, even though you get the sense that Roth did not get his big literary reputation writing a gentle family reminiscence in the middle of a dystopia novel. On the other hand, I don’t know who else could have pulled this off.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Welcome to the Mets, Pedro

If the Mets staff can remain healthy, the nominal rotation is

Martinez, Glavine, Benson and Zambrano.

The Mets won't win anything unless (i) the rotation does in fact remain healthy and (ii) Benson and Zambrano win more and do better than Martinez and Glavine.

No matter where Pedro pitches in the "nominal" rotation, Benson is the ace of the Mets staff. Benson is the guy who has to go 18-6.

The Yankees had a similar situation for years. Jimmy Key, and later Pettite and later Mussina were always the "aces" -- even if the Clemens and El Duques and Wellses and Cones grabbed all the headlines.

So is it worth it to pay Pedro $50 million plus to be the number 3 pitcher? If they win, of course it is. If the attendance goes up, if the MESS television network does well, if the back page coverage at the POST goes up, why not? The Mets have a tremendous financial upside in this region.

Is it worth it to pay Mike Piazza $17 million in 2005 as a back-end to what he did to save the franchise in 1998, 1999 and 2000? I think it is.

Does paying Pedro $50 million make it impossible for the Mets to sign the hitters they need, and the bullpen help Pedro needs? It's New York man. If the Mets spend the money, and win, they will make plenty of money. And as a Met fan, I will have the only thing I care about -- fun.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

States Rights, The Constitution in Exile -- A "B After The Fact" Greatest Hit

Working on the novel this morning.

The New York Times finally ran an editorial note about The "Constitution In Exile" . The New Republic notes that given the Democratic losses in Washington Justice Rehnquist's views on State Rights do not appear to be half bad.

Gratefully acknowledging and thanking all the new readers I am getting, noting the perogatives of my other writing, my marriage, my full time job, and the holiday season, I offer you one of the entries you may not have read earlier. One of those that I think defines me best and defines what worries me most.

This is from October 15, 2004, slightly edited. I think it helps, every once and awhile, to reset the argument.


It is increasingly clear, as I have been saying, in one form or another, for 20 years and counting (although not on this blogsite recently), that the only important war in the United States is the Civil War, and it is constantly being refought. I will try to say a lot more about that in the months to come.

This is a real high water mark for the Confederacy. The opportunity for the intellectual heirs of the Confederacy and Jim Crow to control the White House for the first time since Woodrow Wilson is more important than any consequence of having a man-who-would-be-King in the White House.

It is more important than whether or not what Bush is doing helps Jim Crow or the Confederacy at all. One thing about Bush, he is not in any way, shape or form a racist. He carries less baggage about race than any major political figure in any of our lifetimes, including people like Carter and Clinton, who had baggage but found a way to leave some of it behind.

States rights, as I have been saying all along, is not a philosophy, its a tool. When your guy controls the White House, you don't need states rights. That's why there has been massive Federal involvement in areas like education and family arrangements and so-called faith-based initiatives, which have typically been the domain of the states. Whether the power brokers in individual states, mostly conservatives, will complain in a second term, when they see the cumulative effect of having their perogatives (and their control of the purse strings) diminished, remains to be seen.

There are no governmental checks and balances on the Bushies.

The right-wing says that there are checks and balances coming from Ted Kennedy and the left-wing media. There is only one Ted Kennedy, and he gets older and fatter every year. There is no left-wing media that matters. Professional journalists who regularly make six-figures may not be Republicans, but they are not liberals, and they couldn't see the left wing if they were floating in space. There are no checks and balances on these guys.

There are not, and will never be, enough liberals to stop these things, just as there were never enough liberals to force Nixon to resign. There is not, and never was, and never will be, enough liberal media or enough so-called Jews to stop McCarthyism or the Red Scare, or Gingrichism. These are house-cleanings that must be done by self-styled conservatives who believe that justice, freedom, restraints on power, and most importantly, the rule of law, matters most, even when it leads to some limitation on their own power. These guys have woken up before, maybe they can again. 216 years of the Constitution and counting is just a statistic. It means nothing if we don't work at it.

It is also possible that we may finally see some push-back from religion, but I am way out of my depth. I hope to see something, but I couldn't describe what I was looking for, and I won't be able to see it until it is sitting on me.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Why Sandy Isn't THE APPRENTICE -- and other lessons from Bernie Kerik incident

I will leave it to brighter minds than mine like A Red mind In A Blue State to explain to me why Bernie Kerik cannot work for George Bush, or why Scott Kazmir cannot pitch for the New York Mets.

I'm still trying to figure out why Sandy, the bridal shop owner got fired from THE APPRENTICE.

Sandy, who made the final four this year, got fired for flunking her job interview with Robert Kraft, and the other CEOs. They told the Donald that Sandy did not have the skills one needed to deal with CEOs in the boardroom. I thought, well of course she lacks those skills. That's why she applied to be the "Apprentice". If she had board room skills, she wouldn't need to be an apprentice, and she could go on the show called "The Board of Directors"

I'm miffed because if they were going to hold Sandy's lack of Fortune 500 experience against her, they shouldn't have let her start the process in the first place. The Final Four is very late in the day to bounce someone out over an issue that should have been clear in the initial application. I'm doubly miffed because last year, Amy made the quarter-finals and got fired due to the same interview process, and because of the same flaw in her initial resume. None of Sandy's or Amy's subsequent good work was apparently good enough.

There is a flaw in the interview process and it needs to be corrected.

Similarly, Scott Kazmir is no longer on the Mets, because the same people who drafted him with the first pick in 2003, decided in 2004, that he was too small to be a major league pitcher. His height was the same both years.

It was clear from the get-go that Bernie Kerik did not withdraw his nomination because of a nanny problem. In a world where the Attorney General designee wrote memos in favor of Gitmo and Abu Gharib and countless uses of the death penalty, it would have been easy for Kerik to say, "I've had experience with immigration matters, and I have already made my beginner's mistakes." No, Kerik is being bounced for reasons that would have come up during the same sort of credit check that I get when I try to open a credit card account at Target.

20 years ago, President Reagan nominated someone for an important position. I said to myself, "Don't they know that so-and-so does such-and-such." I never met the man, but mutual acquaintances would tell me about it in casual conversations on the street. If I know, if people are telling it to me as street corner gossip, and have been for years, well surely the FBI must know. It took another two weeks, but the FBI finally got off their hmm-hmms, and the candidate had to withdraw.

Interview processes are always flawed. One of the reasons I like THE APPRENTICE is because it confirms my experience in the corporate world, without too many of the long boring parts. The Donald can hire whoever strikes his fancy. It's his dime.

However, when we are talking about the public dime, when we are talking about life-tenured appointments, and Cabinet Secretaries and Homeland Security Advisors, and, when it comes up in my own experience with the people I know and the hiring and firing of school teachers, another standard has to apply --- The people who are doing the hiring and firing have to at least apply the standards that are used to hire at a temp agency or get a credit card for a low-level store.

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI failed the test again.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Peter Beinart tries to ask a question about liberalism

Everyone is very exercised by Peter Beinart's piece in the New Republic including John Judis of The New Republic.

First off, not everyone seems to agree what the main point of the piece is about. It seems to say that if liberals cannot get behind anti-terrorism (even anti-Islamic fundamentalism) as the main order of business, and cannot begin to understand that the threat of terrorism and all it stands for is greater than the threat posed by people like John Ashcroft, liberalism will never regain traction with the public at large.

What seems to torque everyone off even more is that not only does he believe this tactically, he believes it anyway.

He frames his article by talking about the post-World War II split between the anti-Communists in the Democratic Party with those he calls non-Communists, that is to say people who were not pro-Communist, but who did not mind being aligned with Communists if it meant increasing their power.

Beinart sees the same split today. He identifies strong-defense, anti-terrorism liberals as a small group which includes people like Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, and yes, all you haters, Senator Clinton (somehow I was not mentioned in the article). On the other side are people like Michael Moore, who tend to see the United States as the problem. Beinart also puts Moveon.org into Michael Moore group, and spends a lot of ink on it. You can't accuse Beinart of picking on small fry.

Beinart says that the first thing to do is to get the Moveon.orgs of the world out of the center of liberal politics.

There is a lot wrong with Beinart's presentation of the problem. First off, he inadvertently (or maybe not) opens a huge can of worms: what is a 2004 liberal anyway? Nevertheless, he is on to something true blue, and he is absolutely right that, post World War II, the United States was not the problem, it was the solution. And post-9/11, all-in-all, the United States will wind up being the solution as well.

I hope to have more to say about the article later, but for now, I would point out that one of the problems is that by framing the argument at the point of the post World War II splits on the left, Beinart forgets a rather large elephant: Liberals in the late '40s who understood that the United States was the solution and not the problem had just spent the last 6 years (the article focusses on 1947) fighting totalitarianism side-by-side with other Americans, and found those Americans to be not so bad.

2004 is not analogous to 1947. We are not at the post World War II stage yet. I have argued elsewhere in this blog that I am not sure we are out of the December, 1941 stage yet. Maybe March, 1942, but the real fighting has not begun yet.

In America today, more and more, we do not have common experience with one another. Of course, if we did, we may still not be drawn closer together. Even though anti-Communist liberals in 1947 did not find conservatives to be such bad people, conservative Americans fighting side-by-side with liberals during World War II did not draw the same conclusion. McCarthyism was just around the corner.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Let The Players Association Do The Drug Testing

Being a union member myself (Screen Actors Guild), it is always a little hard for me to trust management, even though as a lawyer, I often represent management, and find their problems compelling.

The history of baseball labor relations is one of well-documented deception by the owners, first against the players (in the early years)and once the players got organized, by the owners against each other.

In recent labor negotiations, the owners pressed the players to give them relief against the fact that the owners had no idea how to value the players, and therefore kept overpaying mediocrities. This winter, when baseball is flush with money again, will make instant millionaires of a lot of players who are only marginally better than you and me.

In some measure, because the players could not trust the owners, the players union, Fehr and Orza, would not allow the implementation of a real drug policy. The players believe that the owners are only interested in drug testing as a way of getting out of a bad contract -- the Jason Giambi scenario. Otherwise, the owners would prefer that there be more good players -- the more supply, the lower the cost of labor. Of course, that has now blown up in the Players Association's face, and Fehr and Orza have needed to admit that a drug policy should be in order.

But I am sure that the players distrust of the owners remains -- and is still well-placed.

Ethics issue -- September 1, 2005, Yankees 2 games behind the Red Sox. Gary Superstar's drug result -- positive. Joe Benchwarmer's drug result -- positive. Will the Yankees really risk the wrath of their fans and suspend both Gary and Joe? Fuhgedabotit! Will the YES Network willingly concede the opportunity to broadcast the Yankees post-game during the World Series. Fuhgedabotit! Will the fans care that Senator John McCain goes on the floor of the Senate and thanks the Yankees for putting the interest of fair play above the interst of winning? Fuhgedabotit! Will the fans appreciate that the integrity of the game prevailed, and that the team with the best 26-29 year old players that you never heard of(which is probably a team like the Florida Marlins) won the World Series again! Fuhgedobot it! What if it turns out that the Pittsburgh Pirates have only one good player, and that player tests positive? Do the Pirates suspend their one player and default on their mortgage payments? ---fuhgedabotit! Do the owners care whether the players are on steroids or not, other than the week or two a year that it causes bad p.r.? --- fuhgedabotit!

Is there a chance, that rather than go through the whole scenario, the owners will try to tamper with the timing of Superstar's drug test, so that even if he tests positive, he will not be suspended during an important part of the season -- Now perhaps we're talking!

Do the players, who don't want to have to juice their bodies, but increasingly feel that they have to juice their bodies, not to hit like Barry Bonds, but just to hit enough to stay in the big leagues -- do the players care about what the other players do? Finally -- we're really talking!

The Players Association should do the drug testing, and handle the discipline and suspensions themselves. The coming negotiations ought to be solely on the subject of how the Players Association keeps the Commissioners Office involved in the drug testing in a way that the Commissioner feels comfortable supporting. The Commissioner should have a way of holding the union accountable if it fails to follow its own drug testing rules. The club owners should not be involved at all. This way the so-called point of the exercise -- cleaning the sport up from drugs -- can be accomplished. This way the group of people most interested in the integrity of the game, the players, will be the ones doing the enforcing.

There is also a huge win for the Players Association, for those of us labor-loving lefties, and the sports reporters who cover them. A union-controlled drug testing policy tightens the notion of a closed union shop. Instead of the owners certifying who is eligible to play, the union certifies. If the owners are truly interested in stopping the flow of illegal steroids, they will give a proposal like this, if not an unqualified "thumbs up," at least a serious listen. If, as I suspect, the owners don't care about steroid abuse (except as a PR issue), and are more concerned with looking for reasons to break contracts with overpaid athletes, are more concerned with busting the union, the proposal will be a non-starter, and will poison the well for another ten years.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Playing Games with Electoral College Numbers -- Why Are They "Red States"

The recount is officially over in Ohio. Or maybe not. Looks like Bush still wins.

The final electoral vote tally:

Bush 286 Kerry 252

If Kerry had won Ohio:

Kerry 272 Bush 266

In my November 30th blog, I wrote:

"I haven't done the math, or seen the math, but it won't take too long, and I'll try to do it this week -- If you kept the Electoral College "winner take all" formula, but eliminated the 2 additional votes that states like Wyoming and South Dakota get for "their Senators," the electoral college vote would be really close and nobody would be talking about Bush mandates."

This is another way of saying that the Constitution favors small states, favors areas of low population density. Giving each state 2 additional electoral votes (just for Senators) favors small states at the expense of big ones. It favors the Red States.

Bush had 286 Electoral Votes, based on winning 31 states. That means he gets credit for the number of electoral votes equal to all of the U.S. Representatives in those States (224) plus all the Senators in those states (62). Kerry won 19 states. That means he gets credit for all of the Representatives (211) plus all of the Senators (38).

The electoral vote, without adding Senators, and without adding the District of Columbia (3 electoral votes for Kerry)

Bush 224 Kerry 211.

If this was the law, the election would be much closer than it is. Instead of looking to win the election by trying to get a recount in Ohio (18 representatives --our 7th largest state), Kerry could have won by trying to get a recount in any state with 7 representatives or more. 24 states have 7 representatives or more. Kerry's odds of finding a state where he could have won a recount would have been higher.

Once you start playing games like this with Electoral College numbers, there is no end to the fun you can have. I will haul some more of these out in the next blog site entry or two. My big dilemma in printing the results is (i) everybody knows that you have to be a huge nerd to be playing with Electoral College numbers at 3 in the morning, and (ii) no matter how hard I try to manipulate the numbers, I cannot manufacture a win for my boy John Kerry.


Why are they Red States, when in every other country the liberal party is considered the Red Party? What ever happened to "better dead than Red?"

A lot of ink flowed on this topic during the election, and a lot of it spoke about the nature of graphics on television. I have this thought, and it came to me while I was rewriting my "The Civil War Must Be Refought In Every Generation" entry.

Once the map colors were settled in as Red and Blue, one would think that the liberal Northeast would be the Red States. However, the old South did not want to be known as the Blue States, since that would confuse the readers of "The Blue And The Grey." I guess there are worse things than being a commie after all.


Finished reading "The Plot Against America" by Phillip Roth, a dystopia about the election of Charles Lindbergh as President of the United States in 1940. More in future blogs.

The Price of Flax Seed Oil

I don't know if Dave Anderson of the New York Times reads this blog, but his article today on the price of flax seed oil sounds pretty similar to the one I wrote Sunday. Thanks Dave.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Suppose They Gave A Drug Scandal and Nobody Came?

In Sunday's Boston Globe, Gordon Edes titles his article "A Harsh Injection of Reality?" which he could also title "Suppose They Gave A Drug Scandal And Nobody Came?"

Jason Giambi is taking quite a bit of heat lately for his admission that he knowingly used steroids. Barry Bonds is taking not a lot of heat for his admission that he thought he was paying thousands and thousands of dollars a month for designer flax seed oil. He should be taking a lot more heat. Not for steroid use -- but for being a poor shopper. Bonds should have sent one of his messengers over to the Vitamin Shoppe on Queens Boulevard. The price on the bottle of Flax Seed Oil tablets in our house says $7.17, but there is almost always a sale on at the Vitamin Shop. I can't imagine that a flax seed oil ointment (clear or creamy style) could cost much more than that.

Yeah, Jason Giambi is taking a lot of heat. Over at ESPN,Buster Olney ran an uncharacteristically nasty article. Maybe that's Buster's true feelings. Maybe he was providing cover for the Balco Bum, who gave ESPN "exclusive sports magazine rights" to the story, or something like that.

Jason Giambi wouldn't have taken so much heat if he hadn't have had such a poor season. Don't see anyone looking for ways to void Gary Sheffield's contract. Gary Sheffield also admitted putting things on or into his body that he shouldn't have. Gary Sheffield is Dwight Gooden's nephew, so he knows that funny things happen when you aren't completely sure about what is going into your system. Anyway, Gary went ahead. How bad can flax seed oil creme be for you?

Randy Johnson, over the age of 40, has a career year. Yankees are dying to sign him. He's never been accused of steroid use. Must be that if your tall (Randy's 6'7"), you can maintain your 20-something athletic edge well into your 40s. The Yankees, looking to void out Giambi's contract, are looking longingly to Johnson.

Roger Clemens, over the age of 40, wins another Cy Young award. You can draw false conclusions from this sort of thing --- but --- here's a fellow who had several incidents of something that is, hey -- exactly like 'roid rage, on the World Wide telly-vision during the most recent World Series he got to. Everybody said that pitchers are throwing broken bats at players all the time. No one said boo. Clemens retired after the 2003 season --- and this is I know, a complete coincidence --- in advance of what looked for a minute or two to be the implementation of a strict drug testing system. The drug testing system turned out to be two tests one week apart (and I wonder whether Bonds and Clemens tested early in the year or late. It turned out that Roger did not have to travel with the Astros on the road (the better to watch his boys play high school football, the better to control his diet and supplement use --- or maybe just a coincidence). At that point, Roger agreed to sign. Now the 2005 drug testing regimen is up in the air, and, Cy Young or no Cy Young, and I am sure, a complete coincidence, Roger is unclear as to whether he "wants to put his family through" the ordeal of another 8-figure paycheck. The Yankees will pay him anytime.

Not to pick on Clemens and the Yankees. The Mets knowingly gave Mike Piazza a contract to be the oldest successful power-hitting catcher in the history of Major League Baseball. You are going to have to ask the Mets how that's working out. Now someone is willing to give Jason Varitek a similar contract based on a similar assumption. Is it all weight training?

Why isn't there any heat on Bill Romanowski? Why isn't anyone drug testing the players who lost control during the Pistons-Pacers game?

The heat will come down on Jason Giambi because he did not hit in 2004. That's all.

It is too hard, in a business, which is what baseball is, to try to graft what is "right" on top of what the "rules" say. Before you accuse me of being a moral relativist, I need to leave you (unfairly, I know) with two sort of cheap shots.

What will it mean for the business of baseball, if after all the drug testing is done, and the hitters can't crack them 450-feet anymore, and the pitchers can't throw 90-miles an hour anymore, and there are only, as perhaps their should be, 10 or 20 real superstars in the sport? And the Yankees sign half of them? Would you still go watch the brand of hit-and-run, stealing, slick glove work baseball that would result? Never happened in the past. I know there will always be hard-core fans, but the casual fans needed to make the business of baseball really run have always watched power baseball, and power baseball only. Should these guys go out of business?

What would you do in your business if your top salesmen was using drugs, and it was effecting his performance. Say that due to the drugs, he was able to stay up later, have more energy, and make so many more sales. Say he was winning awards. Say he had the time and energy to raise a family and engage in community activities. Say that 20% of your top salesmen were like that? Would you really risk firing them all and going out of business?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Some loose ends; Some movies


On my recent article decrying the push for a 28th Amendment, repealing the requirement that a person be a native-born citizen in order to run for President. A letter to the editor of The New York Times suggests that perhaps you amend the age requirement for President as well. It currently states that a person must be 35 years of age. The letter suggests that a person be a citizen for 35 years. I need to think it through more, but I could possibly live with that.


Saw Finding Neverland, a film based on a play that was originally produced at our very own Workshop Theater. It is the "story" (inspired by actual events)of how J.M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan. It is a very quiet movie, and even the scenes with the most emotional fireworks --- which are the scenes between Johnny Depp and Julie Christie --- are played at barely above a whisper. There is a lot of stiff upper lip. Still, if you like this sort of heart-warming costume drama, you will really like this film (if you can stay awake through a perhaps over long set up), and if you don't, you won't.

I would add that all four of the leads (Depp, Kate Winslet, Radha Mitchell and Christie) are very careful to avoid cliche in this work, and they all basically do it by giving the audience a peek into their own self-awareness of how childish their adult behavior can be, but how in life adults often can not help acting like children. One of the films central ironies (and it is clear very early, so I am not giving away secrets) is that the boy who is the model for Peter Pan (one of the sons of the character played by Kate Winslet)is the most reality-based person on the screen -- a child who will often act like an adult. As an advanced seminar in acting, of avoiding the traps inherent in this sort of stiff-upper-lift tear-jerker, you might also really like this film.


We also recently caught up with this Jim Carrey-Kate Winslet film on a Charlie Kaufman screenplay. It is a romantic comedy, but unlike any romantic comedy you have seen before. According to the movie, you can have a spotless mind -- brainwashing your prior bad romances away. Even after you figure out the central conceit of the movie (and if you are quicker than me, you might do that simply by looking at the box the video comes in), it is very interesting how they go about it.

Remembering Kate Winslet mostly from Titanic, or even Sense and Sensibility, and now seeing her in these two films, is a startling change.

By the way, this is not a "Jim Carrey" comedy, he is an actor for hire. And this is not a Jim Carrey "serious movie," most of which stink. Carrey is very personable, and charming, but without all the antics.

It is very effective, and in common with Peter Pan, it is very self-aware of its own childish antics. I recommend it highly.


Whereby Paul Giamatti, early 40s, middle-aged, middle-school teacher, wine expert, wanna-be novelist, but really collector of rejection letters, takes Thomas Haden Church, horn-dog, ex-soap opera actor, voice-over "artist", familiar but not famous, career on the downside but not a complete disaster, for a trip, in lieu of a bachelor party, to the Northern California wine country. Giamatti takes up, to his own surprise, with Virginia Madsen, an old acquaintance, a waitress with aspirations of being a horticulturist, a wine expert in her own right. Church, to be married on Saturday, takes up with Madsen's friend, Sandra Oh, also a wine expert. Life appears to have knocked Giamatti's character, Miles, "Sideways," or maybe, like a good bottle of wine, he is just spending time in the cellar, waiting for the right time to be opened up.

I am glad that this movie appears to be succeeding financially. These characters, especially the women --- a little older, still attractive, but not what they were, coming off divorces, with children --- are not the sorts of people you see represented in films, or even on television. But you know them, and if you haven't been through what they're going through, you either know someone who has or you don't get out enough. I also know that if you are under a certain age, basically the target age for most movies, you don't know them, have not been through that, will not go through that soon, and cannot understand why anyone would waste a Saturday night on a movie about such "dull" people.

The movie is shot in California, and, perhaps because of budget, the director, Alexander Payne (who also directed Election -- the best movie about high school since American Grafitti and The Breakfast Club)missed a chance to make a movie with truly stunning photography. Short of that, however, if you are feeling a little past your prime, can sit through a movie without a lot of high speed car chases, and can understand how a movie can be completely about sex and marriage without being dirty, you should go see this movie.