Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Never mind: Gorbachev insists he's still an atheist

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made clear this past weekend that he is an atheist after European news agencies last week claimed that he had confirmed his Christian faith during a visit to the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi in Italy.

Gorbachev, the last communist leader of the Soviet Union, confronted speculations that he had been a closeted Christian during an interview with the Russian news agency Interfax.

"Over the last few days some media have been disseminating fantasies – I can't use any other word – about my secret Catholicism, citing my visit to the Sacro Convento friary, where the remains of St. Francis of Assisi lie," Gorbachev said, according to an Interfax article posted Friday.

"To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist,” he stated.
--The Christian Post, March 24

Well, okay, then.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gorbachev comes out

Reagan suspected Soviet leader was a closet believer

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union, has acknowledged his Christian faith for the first time, paying a surprise visit to pray at the tomb of St Francis of Assisi.

Accompanied by his daughter Irina, Mr Gorbachev spent half an hour on his knees in silent prayer at the tomb.

His arrival in Assisi was described as “spiritual perestroika” by La Stampa, the Italian newspaper.

“St Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, the other Christ,” said Mr Gorbachev. “His story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life,” he added.

Mr Gorbachev’s surprise visit confirmed decades of rumours that, although he was forced to publicly pronounce himself an atheist, he was in fact a Christian, and casts a meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1989 in a new light.

Mr Gorbachev, 77, was baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church and his parents were Christians.

In addition, the parents of his wife Raisa were deeply religious and were killed during the Second World War for having religious icons in their home.

Ronald Reagan, the former United States president, allegedly told his close aides on a number of occasions that he felt his opponent during the Cold War was a “closet believer”.

Mr Reagan held deep religious convictions himself. However, until now Mr Gorbachev has allowed himself to express only pantheistic views, saying in one interview “nature is my god”.
--London Telegraph, March 19

Gorbachev’s coming-out reminds me of a short story that appeared in Toronto Life magazine many years ago. Set in the future, it describes the last hours – prior to execution – of a man who is unnamed, but clearly the “last” pope. Grim and shocking as the story was, it seemed terribly plausible at the time. What was implausible then was the fall of the Soviet empire, aided in part by an historic pope.

Those of us conservatives who tend more towards despair than happy warriordom should take note.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Jerk

Candidate Franken ridicules conservative student’s facial tic, then refuses to shake his hand:

According to Fritz, things started out fine with him taking photos of fellow Carls (that's what students call themselves) with Franken. Then Franken's curiosity was raised about why Fritz didn't want to be in a pic.

He's a conservative, another Carl yelled out by way of explanation.

At that point, Franken reportedly began peppering Fritz with questions about supporting President George W. Bush and former President Ronald Reagan's tax hikes. Fritz told me he got tense and, as he does in those situations, started chewing the inside of his mouth, a gesture he said was mimicked by Franken; Fritz also thought his style of speech was mocked by Franken.

An aide eventually interrupted Franken's act, Fritz said, by announcing to the candidate that it was time to go.

Fritz told me Monday that he then stuck out his hand to shake Franken's. "Well, at least it's nice to meet you," the GOPer said he told Franken, who reportedly replied, I can't say the same.

There was no handshake, said Fritz.


Fritz told me Wednesday he was stunned by Franken's behavior: "I usually expect politicians to, at least, pretend as though, even in that kind of interaction, that they can convince me or have some kind of reasonable dialogue -- the whole Minnesota Nice thing, at least."

Fritz's version of the encounter was backed up by Pablo Kenney, prez of the Carleton Dems.
--Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, January 23, 2008

Somehow, I don't think Stuart Smalley would approve.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hell freezes over

David Mamet explains "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'" in the Village Voice

Mamet is acknowledged to be one of the greatest dramatists of our time:

I wrote a play about politics (November, Barrymore Theater, Broadway, some seats still available). And as part of the "writing process," as I believe it's called, I started thinking about politics. This comment is not actually as jejune as it might seem. Porgy and Bess is a buncha good songs but has nothing to do with race relations, which is the flag of convenience under which it sailed.

But my play, it turned out, was actually about politics, which is to say, about the polemic between persons of two opposing views. The argument in my play is between a president who is self-interested, corrupt, suborned, and realistic, and his leftish, lesbian, utopian-socialist speechwriter.

The play, while being a laugh a minute, is, when it's at home, a disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those of government intervention.


And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live, and that that country was not a schoolroom teaching values, but a marketplace.

"Aha," you will say, and you are right. I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them: a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.

Continue reading here. And be sure to share this with all your friends studying drama or screenwriting.

H/t: NRO's The Corner.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A New York politician’s presidential ambitions may be finished (but not the one you think)

Spitzer makes brief appearance at delayed news conference: apologizes but makes no announcement about his future

A news alert from the New York Times:

Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring
By Danny Hakim

ALBANY - Gov. Eliot Spitzer has informed his most senior administration officials that he had been involved in a prostitution ring, an administration official said this morning.

Mr. Spitzer, who was huddled with his top aides early this afternoon, had hours earlier abruptly canceled his scheduled public events for the day. He is set to make an announcement about 2:15 this afternoon at his Manhattan office.

Mr. Spitzer, a first-term Democrat who pledged to bring ethics reform and end the often seamy ways of Albany, is married with three children.

Just last week, federal prosecutors arrested four people in connection with an expensive prostitution operation. Administration officials would not say that this was the ring with which the governor had become involved.

He had a difficult first year in office, rocked by a mix of scandal and legislative setbacks. In recent weeks, however, Mr. Spitzer seemed to have rebounded, with his Democratic party poised to perhaps gain control of the state Senate for the first time in four decades.

Mr. Spitzer gained national attention when he served as attorney general with his relentless pursuit of Wall Street wrongdoing. As attorney general, he also had prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized crime task force.

In one such case in 2004, Mr. Spitzer spoke with revulsion and anger after announcing the arrest of 16 people for operating a high-end prostitution ring out of Staten Island.

“”This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multitiered management structure,” Mr. Spitzer said at the time. ”It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring.”

Albany for months been roiled by bitter fighting and accusations of dirty tricks. The Albany County district attorney is set to issue in the coming days the results of his investigation into Mr. Spitzer’s first scandal, his aides’ involvement in an effort to tarnish Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, the state’s top Republican.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Would Obama ask Parliament to reverse its decision on Afghanistan?

Foreign policy adviser promises additional US troops, but expects Canada to maintain its combat role “as long as it possibly can”

N.B. This post has been corrected.

In case anyone missed Leslie McKinnon’s long piece on Barack Obama on last night’s "National," here’s what one of his foreign affairs advisers, Susan Rice, said about Obama’s hope that Canada would extend its combat mission in Afghanistan:

Rice: Barack Obama has also said that he would add at least two additional combat brigades to the American contribution in Afghanistan.

Reporter voiceover: this would add 15,000 troops: a gift to the Canadian military effort. But Parliament has all but agreed to withdraw from combat in Afghanistan in 2011. This doesn’t sit well with the Obama team.

Rice: And we will look to our allies in NATO to step up their contributions. In Canada’s case, we’d hope very much that Canada would continue and sustain its very important contribution.

Reporter: Continuous combat role?

Rice: Yes.

Reporter: Really. Because you know there’s a big a debate.

Rice: Yes, I understand. I think it’s fair to say that an Obama administration would hope very much and work in partnership with Canada to encourage Canada to continue and maintain its contribution for as long as it possibly can. This is crunch time in Afghanistan

These comments start at about 43:00 min.

Now, I don’t know when this interview was filmed, but by now all the US presidential candidates should know that the House of Commons has passed a motion to end Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan in 2011. Correction: the motion is expected to be voted on this week. My apologies.

Unfortunately, in recent days NDP leader Jack “troops out now” Layton seems focussed on auditioning for an internship in an Obama White House. So I doubt he will be raising the fact that his hero wears combat boots, and would like Canadian soldiers to keep wearing theirs indefinitely.

“Friday Night Lights” reportedly coming back for a third season

Nikke Finke’s Hollywood Diary is reporting that the high-quality, low-rated NBC drama “Friday Night Lights” has a deal for a third season, after several weeks on the bubble:

I’m told that Jeff Zucker, Marc Graboff and Ben Silverman had been searching for a way to renew the critically acclaimed but low-rated Friday Night Lights for a 3rd season so that it would still make financial sense. The answer came in a deal with DirecTV, now owned by John Malone’s Liberty Media. Clearly Malone is looking to distinguish DirecTV from its rivals on a content as well as price basis. “It’s an innovative deal where NBC found a partner who will share costs and exhibition windows,” an insider explained to me. So both NBC and DirecTV will be airing Friday Night Lights across multipurpose platforms.

My back is sore from shovelling snow, so I am doing the end zone dance in my mind. Woo hoo!

For those who haven’t seen it, FNL is a brilliantly written, cast and acted drama about marriage, family and growing up, with less football than you might think. NBC is not airing episodes at the moment (and will not be doing any more new episodes this season), but Global has just started showing reruns on Wednesdays at 10:00.

h/t: Lainey’s Entertainment Update.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

McGuinty took nine months to provide details for “fast-tracked” jobs fund

Qualifying industries have also been changed twice

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I received a news release from Premier Pinocchio announcing that his nine-month old “Next Generation of Jobs Fund” (originally titled "Next Generation Jobs Fund") is now accepting applications.

Now, why would such an announcement need to be made at this time? Could it be because (1) McGuinty is in a bun fight with federal finance minister Jim Flaherty over McGuinty’s crappy management of Ontario’s economy, and (2) next to nothing has happened on this file since the fund was announced last June?

As I wrote last September on the “Election Battle Blog” sponsored by TVO’s “The Agenda (I was the Ontario PC party’s designated blogger):

With the election looming, McGuinty announced something called the “Next Generation Jobs Fund” in June. Here’s what its web page says today: “Program details to follow.”

But there have been a couple of interesting changes to the “fund” since September, all while it was impossible to actually apply to the fund for a grant. Eligible investments were expanded from clean automotive and other “green” technology, to encompass health and biotech R&D, creative industries, and pharmaceutical research and manufacturing. Here's what the web page said last September:

The fund will invest in:

- The manufacture of green cars and auto parts
- The development of clean fuels, and
- The creation of clean technologies and products.

At some point since then, this was expanded. Here's what the site said on February 20:

- Clean automotive and other green technology,
- Health and biotechnology research and development,
- Creative industries (digital media and ICT), and
- Pharmaceutical research and manufacturing.

Now, the eligible industries appear to have expanded yet again, to include:

- financial services that involve global or North American mandates and the establishment of new, discrete operating units
- anchor investments to support cluster development, including in the services sector
- opportunity based or unique investments.

Yup, the McGuintyites really have a handle on this thing.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hillary's campaign puts reporters where it all goes down

Think Harper disrespects journalists? Well, he hasn't forced them to cover his events from a public toilet like Hillary Clinton did.

Reporters work on their laptops in a men's bathroom as Democratic presidential hopeful US Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks during a campaign rally at the Burger Activity Center, March 3, in Austin, Texas.(AFP/Getty Images/Justin Sullivan)

H/t: NRO's Media Blog.

P.S. Mmmm . . . burger.