PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
February 15, 1999
Our Long National Nightmare Is Over
I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.
Table of Contents:
After this week, impeachment will no longer be a fit subject for discussion. Thank God! Next thing you know, we'll polish off the Microsoft case as well. Don't worry, I'll still have things to write about.
Our Long National Nightmare Is Over
Of course, in a last fit of extreme partisanship, Phil Not The Sharpest Tool In The Shed Graham, R-Texas, blocked Diane Feinstein's efforts to censure President Clinton. Showing the kind of kindergarten playground thinking which dominates today's GOP, he said, in essence, "If you're not going to play it my way, you can't play it all." This "man," who voted to convict on both articles, prevented the Senate from putting its opinion on the record. Of course, he'd have voted to convict two weeks before the articles were written. He has the kind of open mind that made the Spanish Inquisition what it was.
Many intelligent things were said after the failure of the articles of impeachment. It was an embarrassment of riches, on the Democratic side at least. I think our own senior senator, Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said it best. I agree with this 100%:
Let me be perfectly clear. I do not condone the behavior of President Clinton. I do not defend it, and I do not accept it. The conduct at the heart of the charges is deplorable. The president acted immorally, he acted recklessly, he acted disgracefully... He has brought shame and dishonor upon the office of the president, and especially upon himself."
Eloquently put. I could not have said it better myself. But if such behavior were grounds for impeachment, we would have impeached Reagan for defecating on the constitution in the Iran-Contra affair, Ike for lying to us, and Harding, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Johnson for their illicit sex in the White House. Maybe even Truman for carrying water for the Kansas City machine. Do we really want to limit ourselves to people the likes of Ford, Carter and Bush as president? I don't think so.
I was ashamed for America by the unrepentant behavior of the House persecutors. They still don't get it. The vote was called "a slap at the House Managers." I wish it had been literal instead of figurative. Tom Daschle, the Senate Minority Leader, should have walked into the well and slapped each and every one of those rabidly biased, blinkered and blindered fools, starting with that sanctimonious hypocrite Henry Hyde. They hurt America, deeply, when they discarded all sense of proportion and began hunting flies with an elephant gun. They disgraced themselves, the House, the Constitution and the country. Yes, it was a constitutional process, Joe, but one which was so abused as to render it ridiculous. Then Daschle should invite Ken Torquemada Starr to the Senate and administer the same treatment., as an antidote to the disgusting butt-kissing Starr received from House Judiciary Republicans as he described his illegal detention of Monica Lewinsky, his monomaniacal pursuit of Clinton, his pornographic referral and his off-handed admission that Whitewater, Filegate and Travelgate came to nothing.
Over and over again, the GOP squealed, "Do we have two standards of justice?" And of course, thanks to them, we do. We have the standard of reason and proportion, under which no federal prosecutor in the United States (ask William Weld, the former GOP governor of Massachusetts, a former prosecutor) would have brought the case in the first case. And we have the standard of hysterical political vendetta, under which a small band of blind haters twisted our constitution and soiled our civil discourse for months on end.
"Let the punishment fit the crime." Had none of the House Managers ever conceived of the concept? If we had a single standard of justice, none of this would ever have happened. The President was never above the law, and is not above it still. He is, however, apparently subject to a level of blind hatred and pursuit not seen in this country since the days of Franklin Roosevelt.
Well, despite the best efforts of Henry Hyde and his 13 simple-minded stooges, the Constitution still stands. There is a remedy for the damage they have done to this nation. Alas, it will not strike them personally, as they are all from districts so Republican that they would win re-election if they committed a felony a day. But 2000 can be 1974. Let us purge the People's House of the purveyors of partisan bile. I think we will.
Barring unforeseen developments, this is the last comment I will have to make on the subject of impeachment for the next 40 years or so, at which time I will make it my personal goal to hunt down and destroy whatever slim positive reputation any of the House Managers have left at that point. I'll probably knock off Newt too, while I'm at it.
Computer Industry News
CMP Put Up For Sale
OK, let's be clear about this at the outset. I have no insider information and would not reveal any if I did. I am an employee of CMP Media, (CMPX, Nasdaq) and my company announced last Wednesday night that it has hired Lazard Freres to shop us around. We'll take a merger, an investment or a buyout. If none of the offers look good enough, we'll stay independent.
Based entirely on information in the public domain, available to anyone on the outside, it's no mystery why our management put us into play. Our market capitalization has been stuck around $600 million. Publishing companies generally sell for 2 times revenue, which would make CMP worth about a billion dollars. For a whole mess of complicated reasons, the market declines to value this company at what it's worth.
I don't know if there will still be a CMP in a year, or whether, as many have speculated, one of our direct competitors, IDG or Ziff-Davis, will buy us and shut down most of our publications. I can't advise you on whether we'll sell at all and how much we'll get.
But I want to put a few things on the record. I have been with this company, on and off, for 20 years come April. The founders, Gerry and Lilo Leeds are two of the most decent people on the planet. By founding CMP and running it for 16 years, they made their mark on American business. In the last decade, they have begun to make their mark on philanthropy, a mark which I feel will become larger and better known over time. Mark my words, the Leeds family will joint the pantheon of great American givers. I salute them. I am proud to have been their employee, proud to have helped create the value which allows them to be so generous.
I am saddened by the unquestionable need to put the company up for sale. I believe our president, Michael Leeds, when he says there won't be a deal unless it is good for both the shareholders and the employees (Michael, by the way, is two weeks younger than I am). I understand it.
If we sell, a great corporate culture, every bit as decent, worthwhile and trail-blazing as that of IBM, HP or Tandem will disappear. And the world of work will be poorer for its passing. But, of course, change is the only constant.
My father worked for the same company from the death of his father in 1950 until his employer's bankruptcy in the mid-1980s. I never expected to work for a company for more than five years; my first five jobs lasted 18 months each. CMP is the only employer for whom I have ever worked more than a year and a half. I will miss it. I will move on.
Remember this: no one is safe. No matter what they tell you. I always took heart from the fact that my job as a journalist couldn't be outsourced to a third-world country. Because our founders were so adamant about not selling the company (Gerry actually authorized his secretary to reject offers for the company without asking him), I felt sure we would always remain independent. Only a fool believes that in this day and age. Last Wednesday night, I stopped being a fool.
If you're like me, you don't spend a lot of time mucking around in the "value-added" parts of your favorite search engine. Which, by the way, Yahoo isn't. My favorite is Alta Vista. Anyway, after CMP was put up for sale, a friend of mine suggested I check the coverage on Yahoo. All you have to do is enter the ticker symbol (in this case, CMPX), then go to Yahoo's finance coverage. It is remarkable! And Yahoo has more active stockmarket chat rooms than the Motley Fool does. If you wanna know the facts and the informed (and uninformed) speculation as well, there are few places you can do better than Yahoo Finance.
Funny Fake Mergers
OK, OK, I ran a list like this a few weeks ago, and some of these are repeats. Well, I have a taste for shaggy dog stories, and I appreciate the kind of effort people have to go to in order to dream these up, so I'm repeating them here.
Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W.R. Grace Company merge to become Hale Mary Fuller Grace.
Context is Everything
Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again.
--TV listing for The Wizard of Oz in the Marin County (California) newspaper
Puns, Puns, Puns
Puns, as many of you know, are the highest form of humor.
Two Aleuts sitting in a kayak were chilly, but when they lit a fire in the craft it sank, proving once and for all, that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
Two boll weevils grew up in South Carolina. One went to Hollywood and became a famous actor. The other stayed behind in the cotton field and never amounted to much. The second one, naturally, became known as the lesser of two weevils.
A three-legged dog wearing a bandanna and cowboy hat limped into a saloon in the Old West. He sidled up to the bar and growled: "I'm looking for the man who shot my paw."
This guy goes into a restaurant for a Christmas breakfast while in his hometown for the holidays. After looking over the menu he says, "I'll just have the eggs benedict." His order comes a while later and it's served on a big, shiny hubcap. He asks the waiter, "What's with the hubcap?" The waiter sings, "There's no plate like chrome for the hollandaise!"
A neutron goes into a bar and asks the bartender, "How much for a beer?" The bartender replies, "For you, no charge."
Two atoms are walking down the street and they run into each other. One says to the other, "Are you all right?" "No, I lost an electron!" "Are you sure?" The second atom replies, "Yeah, I'm positive!"
A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. But why?, they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."
A doctor made it his regular habit to stop off at a bar for a hazelnut daiquiri on his way home. The bartender knew of his habit, and would always have the drink waiting at precisely 5:03 p.m. One afternoon, as the end of the work day approached, the bartender was dismayed to find that he was out of hazelnut extract. Thinking quickly, he threw together a daiquiri made with hickory nuts and set it on the bar. The doctor came in at his regular time, took one sip of the drink and exclaimed, "This isn't a hazelnut daiquiri!" "No, I'm sorry," replied the bartender, "it's a hickory daiquiri, doc."
There was a man who entered a local paper's pun contest. He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.
A guy goes to a psychiatrist. "Doc, I keep having these alternating recurring dreams. First I'm a teepee; then I'm a wigwam; then I'm a teepee; then I'm a wigwam. It's driving me crazy. What's wrong with me?" The doctor replies, "It's very simple. You're two tents.
A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to family in Egypt and is named Amal. The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him Juan. Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his mom. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Amal. Her husband responds... "But they're twins; if you've seen Juan, you've seen Amal."
When she told me I was average, I replied, "That's a mean thing to say."
Did you hear about the yogi who refused his dentist's Novocaine during root canal work? He wanted to transcend dental medication.
A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree and reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter. The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. Even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.
It is a closely-held secret that Clark Kent was a cat fancier, but being a Man of Steel, didn't mess around with pussy cats, even resisting the blandishments of Lois Lane for years.
His inseparable home companion was an African lion, which in Metropolis beats a wimpy watchdog any day. When he wasn't busy reporting or saving the world, Clark spent every waking moment and more with Leo, confiding all his innermost feelings and secrets, taking him on long walks through the nearest jungles, pulling thorns from his paws, feeding him gazelles and the occasional Christian, buying kitty litter at Costco and sifting out spoor with a pitchfork.
Every Friday after work Clark & Leo padded down together to the neighborhood bar for the happy hour. It soon got around that Leo used to work for MGM, and the bartender -- a real movie fan -- never tired of Clark's stories about the old days when he was lionized by the whole Hollywood community.
But one Friday as Clark and Leo left the bar together, somewhat wobbly, they swerved into the path of an oncoming double-trailer rig, which hit Leo first and then smashed into Clark, totaling the truck. Clark of course escaped without a scratch but there wasn't enough of Leo left to mount.
The following Friday Clark cruised into the bar with Lois Lane on his arm and happily set about seeing how happy they could get in an hour. The bartender, a bit surprised at Clark's apparent good cheer, murmured condolences about Leo's passing. Clark just shrugged.
"Don't you even miss him?" the bartender asked in amazement.
"Naaah!" Clark sneered, tossing off another. "A good reporter never misses dead lions..."
Letters and Movies
Last week's mention of Nelson Rockefeller's nephew brought this from Neal Macklin:
Thanks for the note about Nelson Rockefeller. Growing up in NY I remember his era well.
Those of you too young to remember Nelson Rockefeller, or how he died (and under what circumstances), of course, won't understand this. Too bad. Explanation available on request.
From the I'll be damned department comes this note dashed off by San Diego's own Philip Gill:
Hey, Paul, I haven't verified these facts, but a lawyer/historian friend of mine brought up the fact that in the more than 200 years of our republic, the Republican party has been in control of both houses of Congress for only 40 out of those more than 200 years. And, guess what, both impeachments happened while in those 40 years. One could interpret this as that Republicans don't accept as valid any election they don't win! Hmmmmm. So much for being upholders of tradition and the law. What the Republicans don't realize is that in a democracy, even a victory by just one vote is a legitimate one.
Could be true. The Republican party was founded in 1856, when it ran John C. Fremont for president. It controlled both houses for only four years from 1932-1992. I'm a little dim on the period from the end of reconstruction to 1932, but it could have been as few as 40 years that we had two GOP houses, in part because of the once-Democratic "solid South." After seeing, during the Impeachment process, what Southern White Guys are capable of, the GOP can have them. We, the Democratic party, chose principal over expediency (a century late, but better late then never) when we gave up the South in exchange for civil rights. It's a decision I'm still proud of.
Now then, as many of you know, I was a movie reviewer in college. It was my favorite job of all times. I gave a few capsule reviews last week and no one objected, so I am going to keep it up.
The average American sees 3 movies a year in theaters. I find that hard to believe, but there you are. I see between 40 and 50 a year, and saw more than that between 1970 and 1974 when I reviewed movies for The Tech at MIT. I won't bore you with that background again. A quick note from those of you who remember those days: I have seen films I didn't like, and when I see them, I'll share that distaste with all of you.
Blast from the Past is a cute sweet little confection with several surprises. Alicia Silverstone can almost act and may recover from her disastrous decision to play Batgirl. Brendan Fraser proved again that he can act as well, and may recover from his disastrous decision to play George of the Jungle. I'm wagering this move will show that he can carry a film without taking his shirt off. And Fraser and Silverstone strike some genuine sparks on screen. The plot is the height of silliness. Christopher Walken is a CalTech genius with a huge fallout shelter who scurries into it during the Cuban Missile Crisis, then spends 35 years below ground waiting for the radiation to dissipate and raising his son, who has never seen the sky... or a woman. The family goes to the surface, and then the fun begins. [Note: my use of "then the fun begins" is always self-aware and semi-ironic]. It's an enjoyable, shallow little film. I'd put the bottom age for this one at about 10 years old.
Rushmore proves yet again that Hollywood has no idea how to market small, off-beat films (didn't I say that just last week). This is the one with Bill Murray, and a young actor who is destined to be known, for a while at least, as Francis Ford Coppola's nephew. It won't take him long to make a name for himself, however, because he is already such a master of deadpan subtle onscreen humor that he held his own with Bill Murray. Now, what I mean about Hollywood and deceptive/stupid marketing is that this is marketed as a Bill Murray film. I should have known his role was small because he was up for best supporting actor. The film is good when Bill Murray isn't on the screen. It is great when he is. The plot: Max Fischer is the most active student at Rushmore Academy outside the classroom. But he's a terrible student. He falls in love with a third-grade teacher about a decade his elder. Bill Murray, a decade or two older than her, falls in love as well. The two fight over her. And then the fun begins. As the father of a high school senior, I found the line, "Harvard? That's my backup school," one of the funniest in the film. This is not a bloated piece; in fact it runs just over 90 minutes. Remarkably, the filmmaker manages to squeeze at least two and possibly three false endings into this short film. And, in fact, it seems longer, not in the sense of being boring, but because so much happens so quickly. This film is all muscle and no fat. It is very weird, but in terms of sex, language and violence, you could take any reasonably well adjusted high school stsudent to see it. They might be bored and baffled in parts (especially if they don't know what a hand job is--you don't see one, you just hear it talked about), but it has its hysterically funny moments.
By the way, I'm an old-school guy, who believes you say a lot about yourself by the film you identify as your favorite. For years, I went with the trite (and Pauline Kael) and said Citizen Kane. Now, Citizen Kane is a very good film. But a few years back I sat down and asked myself, "What film has brought me more consistent entertainment than any other I have seen in recent years? If it's a comedy, is it chock-full of real laughs that last? If it is a drama, does it move me?" And the answer was: Groundhog Day with Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. If you haven't seen it, rent it (or buy it) and watch it. If you have seen it before, see it again. It is a comic masterpiece. I laugh out loud every time I see it.
Oscar Picks: Once again this year, I am proud to say I have seen all five best picture nominees. Shakespeare in Love should win (great film, I am a huge Tom Stoppard fan), but Elizabeth or Life is Beautiful will win because the Academy hates comedy. I have seen 80% of the nominees in the other categories. I will do an Oscar column when the voting is over, but here are my picks--not necessarily my favorites, but the ones I think will win: Nolte for actor, Paltrow for Actress, Thornton for supporting actor, Bates for supporting actress, Madden (Shakespeare) for director, Norman and Stoppard for original screenplay. I predict Shakespeare will win 6 Oscars for its 13 nominations, but that best picture will elude it. Check back with me in a a month or so and we'll see how I did.
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