- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2007

Plot optional

“Toward the end of one of many chase scenes in ‘Live Free or Die Hard,’ detective John McClane … responds to the stunned observation, ‘you just killed a helicopter with a car,’ with deadpan humor, ‘I was out of bullets.’ … The film … wisely focuses on the character and cleverness of McClane as hard-luck underdog detective who finds himself in the wrong place at the right time and thus does what no one else could or would do. …

“Beginning with an L.A. office building then an airport, a city, and now an entire nation, the arena for Willis’ hard-luck underdog battle against terrorists keeps enlarging. What’s next? Intergalactic detective McClane takes on aliens from the dark side. Even the first film had its preposterous moments and the summer blockbuster is no place for a thinking man’s plot.”

Thomas Hibbs, writing on “McClane Again,” Tuesday in NationalReview.com

Oil and decline

“Russia is one of the few countries in the world where life expectancy is declining; young people between the ages of 15 and 28 have the highest mortality rate in Europe. In the 1980s, citizens of the Soviet Union had the same life expectancy as citizens of the United States.

“Today, the Russian male lives on average to an age of 59, 16 years less than his U.S. counterpart. About 10 million Russians are sterile as a result of bad health or abortions that went wrong. According to the Academy of Medical Sciences, 45 percent of newborns have a disease or a congenital birth defect. …

“[T]he economy has grown uninterruptedly and at a staggering rate over the last seven years, while the population continues to die. What could be the cause? …

“[E]very time the oil price goes up, the level of democracy in Russia goes down and the level of corruption goes up. For decades, political scientists have studied the so-called ‘wealth paradox’ … namely, the fact that countries that are rich in natural resources do not appear to be able to prosper economically over the long term. …

“The proceeds from gas and oil production are so high that tax extraction becomes a less important source of revenue. The reduction of tax pressure weakens the incentive among the population to participate in political affairs and so, paradoxically, it reduces the level of participation in the debate on how taxes should be spent.”

Federico Varese, writing on “The Russian Conundrum,” in the spring issue of Dissent

Castro’s ACLU

“Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, nor a zebra its stripes, an organization whose founder admired the ‘ideals’ of the hammer and sickle can never really abandon those destructive beginnings.

“More than a quarter-century after his death, the ‘legacy’ of American Civil Liberties Union founder Roger Baldwin — a self-professed fan of Soviet communism and of Josef Stalin — is still going strong. With the collapse of the Soviet empire, current ACLU leaders have thrown more of their support to one of the last remaining bastions of the Soviet ideal: Cuba.

“[In June], the ACLU was in federal court, arguing that a Miami-Dade County school board broke the law by removing from its school libraries a book entitled ‘Vamos a Cuba’ (‘Let’s Visit Cuba’), which offers a strangely luminous view of life in Castro’s island ‘paradise.’ …

“Parents filed complaints after finding the book to be devoid of any mention of the oppressive regime instituted by Fidel Castro nearly 50 years ago.”

Alan Sears, writing on “The ACLU Never Forgets Its Pro-Communist Roots,” June 16 at TownHall.com

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