SciFi Friday: A Week of Harry Potter (Movie 5 and Book 7)

In just a few hours we’ll be in line to pick up a few copies of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows and at the moment all the non-Harry Potter news can wait until next week. The whole week has been dominated by Harry Potter, even with the avoidance of all the supposed spoilers on line. Last weekend I saw the movie version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry Potter was already the topic of one blog post this week. Those who need a quick refresher on the novels so far might check this one from BBC News.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix received mixed reviews, but I did enjoy it. The movies have become more difficult to film as they can no longer get by simply by showing special effects of magic around Hogwarts. David Letterman even quipped that the only magic in the movie was some card tricks. The movies, like the books, are also getting darker as they approach the finale, making them less fun for those looking for an escapist movie. The movies also increasingly suffer from the problem of middle chapters in a long story in that they can never provide a full ending.

The other problem faced by the movies is that it is impossible to show everything which occurs in the book as the books have become extremely long. Some reviewers felt the movie left out too much, but there were really only two items which I missed. The first element of the book which I missed was the total absence of Quiddiitch in the movie. This was especially significant as one of Umbridge’s punishments (which occurred more frequently in the books than the movie) was to ban Harry from playing. The more significant absence was the explanation for why Harry survived and must return to his aunt’s home every summer. Harry survived due to his mother’s love, and the protection she provided him continues as long as he sees his mother’s blood relation at least once per year.

While there is yet one more book between Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows, the movie still acts as a good reintroduction for those whose memory has become foggy as to the details leading into the final novel. The movie prepares us for the inevitable final battle between Harry and Voldemort and reminds us of the prophecy that one of them must die.

In recent weeks it seemed like most have predicted that the series ends with Harry’s death. I have avoided all the spoilers and am just guessing, but my prediction is that Harry will live (but someone close to him such as Ron will die). The fateful prediction is that one will die, implying that the victor does live. While it might have been possible to envision an ending in which Harry sacrifices his life to destroy Voldemort, I cannot imagine that the series would end with Voldemort killing Harry and surviving. If we can rely on the prophecy, Harry must be the one who survives.

Such an ending would also fit into the formula we have seen, keeping in mind that ultimately this is a children’s series which follows a definite formula. If this books follows what we have been led to expect, Harry and friends will search out some McGuffins, or in this case the remaining Horcruxes. This will set up the final battle scene, in which once again Harry will win, the school year ends, and things are calm once again. The difference is that this will be the final battle, and instead of going home for the summer Harry will graduate, and hopefully we will learn about his future Iand if it includes Ginny Weasley).

There are also other questions beyond the battle between Harry and Voldemort. I’m especially interested to find the full story on Snape. I suspect we’ll find out that he’s not as evil as portrayed. However, if that is the case, it might also lead to finding that Dumbledore might not be as good as we believe. There also remain many mysteries going back to the start of the series, such as how the Weasleys can be so poor that they have difficulty obtaining clothing and books when they can do magic. It’s not like they have a Darrin Stevens ordering them to do everything the mortal, or muggle, way.

Even if my predictions about the book are incorrect, I believe we will receive a clear ending. Fans would be extremely disappointed if the book ends abruptly with Harry and Ron having a meal at the Hog’s Head pub in Hogsmeade while Hermione is outside trying to parallel park her broomstick, and then…

(SciFi Friday is a weekly feature of Liberal Values. If my predictions about Harry Potter are correct, you’ll hear about it next week.)

Hillary Clinton’s Cleavage

When I first saw this story in The Washington Post on Hillary Clinton’s neckline I ignored it. My standards for what is trivial as opposed to a true political story are different for the fashion section, where this appeared, as opposed to the news sections. I see from Memeorandum that this has become a big topic of discussion in the blogosphere. Yellow Is The Color even linked to a previous post here when Ann Althouse became involved, in light of her previous confusion between discussing breasts and topics of substance. I’ll return the favor and link back to Yellow Is The Color for those who really want to read more on this topic.

Update: Hillary Clinton has responded. I can’t believe people are still paying attention to this story.

Update II: The Hillary Clinton Cleavage Controversy

Update III: Clinton Finds Solution To Cleavage Controversy

In Search of Bush’s Brain

Sometimes it is just too easy. AP reports, “President Bush will have a routine colonoscopy Saturday and temporarily hand presidential powers to Vice President Dick Cheney, the White House said.”

I wonder if they will find Bush’s brain. I assume that the purpose of the procedure is to accurately stage his advanced case of cranial rectal insertion.

There was a time in which the news that Dick Cheney was to be in charge would raise the question of how that makes the day different from any other day. Cheney’s influence does appeared to have declined from those days, but there must be some meaning to the fact that Dick Cheney will be in charge on the day in which most of the world is reading about the final battle against the evil Voldemort.

Walter Shapiro Interviews Bill Richardson

Walter Shapiro interviewed Bill Richardson for Salon. I’ll ignore the many horse race questions and post some of the questions on matter of substance:

Now to violate the rules of politics, I’m going to ask you a substantive question. You talk about wanting as president to leave no residual troops in Iraq and then you say, “But we will have to protect the embassy.” How many Marines are you envisioning for that job?

First of all, a residual force is not the same as Marines.

Let me rephrase it. You said no residual forces in Iraq. But we will have Marines there to protect the embassy?

Yes, the existing Marine detachment. You have to keep that. Because that’s where our personnel is.

But Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that he has talked to people who say that it will take as many as 5,000 to 10,000 Marines to protect the embassy.

No, I think that’s excessive. I would listen to a military argument. But where I object to the Biden and Clinton and other positions is that if you look at the Reid-Feingold [redeployment] legislation [currently before the Senate], it does not specify how many [troops would remain]. In fact, there is a [potential] number that is close to 50,000. And it says for the following purposes — which I believe leaves a huge, gaping hole in the residual forces issue. It talks about to train Iraqis. To protect against terrorism. That’s the same mission. You’re either in or you’re out.

But if it said 1,000 [troops] to protect the American embassy, that’s fine with me. It’s a Marine detachment. It’s part of our diplomatic corps. I wouldn’t even consider that a residual force. Of course I would permit that. But residual forces — 5,000 to guard an embassy — that means that the embassy is not safe. I would pull the embassy if it is not safe. (more…)

Ted Sorensen: Is Barack Obama the Next JFK?

As Ted Sorensen has already endorsed Barack Obama, we can guess how he answers the question he poses in the current issue of The New Republic. Sorensen begins by comparing the obstacles they faced, with Kennedy becoming the first Catholic President and Obama running to become the first black President. From there, he finds more similarities:

In addition to their similar handicaps, Kennedy and Obama share an extraordinary number of parallels. Both men were Harvard-educated. Both rose to national attention almost overnight as the result of starring roles at the nationally televised Democratic convention preceding their respective candidacies: Kennedy in 1956, when he delivered the speech nominating Stevenson and subsequently came close to winning an open-floor struggle for the vice presidential nomination with Estes Kefauver; Obama in 2004, by virtue of his brilliant speech to the convention that year in Boston.

Both also gained national acclaim through their best-selling inspirational books–Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, published in 1956, and Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, published in 2006. Both men immediately stood out as young, handsome, and eloquent new faces who attracted and excited ever larger and younger crowds at the grassroots level, a phenomenon that initially went almost unnoticed by Washington leaders and experts too busy interviewing themselves.

Kennedy’s speeches in early 1960 and even earlier, like Obama’s in early 2007, were not notable for their five-point legislative plans. Rather, they focused on several common themes: hope, a determination to succeed despite the odds, dissatisfaction with the status quo, and confidence in the judgment of the American people. In sprinkling their remarks with allusions to history and poetry, neither talked down to the American people. JFK was so frank about his disagreements with the leadership of his Catholic “base” that one Catholic journal editorialized against him; Obama was equally frank and courageous with the Democrats’ organized labor base in assessing the competitive prospects of the American auto industry in Detroit. Both were unsparing in their references to the “revolving door” culture in Washington.

On foreign policy, both emphasized the importance of multilateral demo- cracy, national strength as a guardian of peace, and the need to restore America’s global standing, moral authority, and leadership. Both warned of the dangers of war: Kennedy motivated by his own harsh experience in World War II, Obama by his familiarity with suffering in all parts of the world. Both were cerebral rather than emotional speakers, relying on the communication of values and hope rather than cheap applause lines.

Perhaps most tellingly, both preached (and personified) the politics of hope in contrast to the politics of fear, which characterized Republican speeches during their respective eras. In 1960 and earlier, cynics and pessimists accepted the ultimate inevitability of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, much as today they assume a fruitless and unending war against terrorism. Hope trumped fear in 1960, and I have no doubt that it will again in 2008.

Sorensen believes there is another important similarity–the abilitiy to win:

Above all, after eight years out of power and two bitter defeats, Democrats in 1960, like today, wanted a winner–and Kennedy, despite his supposed handicaps, was a winner. On civil rights, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the race to the moon, and other issues, President Kennedy succeeded by demonstrating the same courage, imagination, compassion, judgment, and ability to lead and unite a troubled country that he had shown during his presidential campaign. I believe Obama will do the same.

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment: Go to Iraq and Fight, Mr. President


Video of Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment above, with transcript under the fold. The previous post contains a discussion with John Kerry of Bush playing the blame game. (more…)

Keith Olbermann Interviews John Kerry on the Bush Blame Game


This interview with John Kerry took place after Keith Olbermann delivered his Special Comment (posted here above) in response to the Bush administration’s attack on Hillary Clinton.

Paul Krugman on Bush’s Enablers

While George Bush’s approval is in free fall as a consequence of all the harm he has caused to this country, there continue to be people who enable him. Paul Krugman writes:

People who worried that the administration was living in a fantasy world used to be dismissed as victims of “Bush derangement syndrome,” liberals driven mad by Mr. Bush’s success. Now, however, it’s a syndrome that has spread even to former loyal Bushies.

Yet while Mr. Bush no longer has many true believers, he still has plenty of enablers — people who understand the folly of his actions, but refuse to do anything to stop him.

This week’s prime example is Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, who made headlines a few weeks ago with a speech declaring that “our course in Iraq has lost contact with our vital national security interests.” Mr. Lugar is a smart, sensible man. He once acted courageously to head off another foreign policy disaster, persuading a reluctant Ronald Reagan to stop supporting Ferdinand Marcos, the corrupt leader of the Philippines, after a stolen election.

Yet that political courage was nowhere in evidence when Senate Democrats tried to get a vote on a measure that would have forced a course change in Iraq, and Republicans responded by threatening a filibuster. Mr. Lugar, along with several other Republicans who have expressed doubts about the war, voted against cutting off debate, thereby helping ensure that the folly he described so accurately in his Iraq speech will go on.

Krugman places the blame on those who have enabled him:

You know, at this point I think we need to stop blaming Mr. Bush for the mess we’re in. He is what he always was, and everyone except a hard core of equally delusional loyalists knows it.

Yet Mr. Bush keeps doing damage because many people who understand how his folly is endangering the nation’s security still refuse, out of political caution and careerism, to do anything about it.