Archive for January 19th, 2009

January 19, 2009

Another invitation I missed

The “star-studded” Slate soiree at Chez Hitch:

Hitchens opined on whether the Obama administration should answers calls from the left to prosecute Bush administration officials for illegal interrogation of prisoners: “As long as it’s agreed that these steps were taken in response to public demand,” he began, only to be interrupted by Andrew Sullivan, who greeted him with a hug and a kiss. “I want tongue. Give me tongue,” Hitchens implored, to no avail. “No, I’m not giving you tongue,” Sullivan replied, feigning astonishment. “Let the record show: Sullivan wouldn’t give tongue,” Hitchens replied. (“He’s gayer than I am!” Sullivan later told us.)

Oh, no. Nobody could be that gay, could they? But back to Hitchens’ actual argument about allegedly “illegal” interrogations:

“What everyone wants to say is this came from a small clique around the vice-president. . . . This is our society wanting and demanding harsh measures.”

Exactly so. Ask the ordinary American, “If we catch al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, should we (a) read them a Miranda warning and hand them over to the ACLU, or (b) expect them to inform on their fellow jihadis, with the possibility of rough treatment if they don’t cooperate? I think your average swing voter in Pennsylvania would reply, “Terrorists? String ’em up by their scrotums for all I care!”

I mean, really, did anybody suggest prosecution for the Italian partisans who killed Mussolini? Why are al-Qaeda terrorists accorded such tender-hearted consideration for their alleged “rights”? American as a democratic polity wholeheartedly supported the “harsh measures” approach to terrorism, and Hitchens is correct that it would be undemocratic to single out Bush administration appointees for prosecution in the manner that the Left now demands.

January 19, 2009

Creators vs. ‘The Suits’

TV executives who don’t know the first thing about show business? Dirk Benedict, who starred in the original Battlestar Galactica, explains at Big Hollywood:

Every character trait I struggled to give him was met with vigorous resistance. A charming womanizer? The “Suits” (Network Executives) hated it. A cigar (fumerello) smoker? The Suits hated it. A reluctant hero who found humor in the bleakest of situations? The Suits hated it. All this negative feedback convinced me I was on the right track.
Starbuck was meant to be a lovable rogue. It was best for the show, best for the character and the best that I could do. The Suits didn’t think so. “One more cigar and he’s fired,” they told Glen Larson, the creator of the show. “We want Starbuck to appeal to the female audience for crying out loud.” You see, the Suits knew women were turned off by men who smoked cigars, especially young men. How they “knew” this was never revealed. And they didn’t stop there. “If Dirk doesn’t quit playing every scene with a girl like he wants to get her in bed, he’s fired.” This was, well, it was blatant heterosexuality, treating women like “sex objects.” I thought it was flirting.

You should read the rest, and bookmark Big Hollywood, which is becoming one of my favorite stops on the Internet.

As to the point of Benedict’s column, it is amazing how people are able to gain positions of influence in show business without having the slightest instinct for show business. The music industry is notoriously run by executives with no appreciation for originality and creativity, but whose idea is always to find “new” acts that are imitative of whatever is currently popular, or who chase after trends that weren’t really popular. Beatles manager Brian Epstein was told by one record-company executive in 1962 that “guitar groups are on the way out,” and within two years, his guitar group had conquered the world.

Every year, the TV networks serve up idiotic new flops that were greenlighted by executives who, simultaneously, turn down scores of proposals that are certainly not less commercially viable than the flops that do get produced. And so you have the phenomenon of the “surprise hit” — the unheralded show that suddenly catches on — as well as the obverse phenomenon of the massively-promoted new show that executives imagine to be a surefire hit, but which is gone in 13 weeks. What this tells you is that there is some systemic flaw in the process by which TV executives are hired and promoted, so that basic aptitude at the essential task — developing popular shows — is a secondary consideration in the process.

And, really, the same thing is true in politics: How was it that Bob Shrum, with an 0-for-eternity record as a campaign strategist, kept getting hired to run Democratic Party campaigns? There was a systemic problem and, whatever you say about, DKos and the Netroots, it was a grassroots online uprising by the Democratic Party’s liberal base that finally forced the Shrum-type consultant class out of power.

January 19, 2009

CSI: Blonde

I’m not so much about the blondes, but a blogger who is to remain nameless suggested you might be interested in CSI: Miami star Emily Proctor:

We now return you to the regularly scheduled Christina Hendricks obsession.

January 19, 2009

Geithner and his Republican friends

James Crumley catches Charles Krauthammer defending tax cheat Tim Geithner:

“We have in Geithner a guy with amazing experience, extremely smart, who has been in every crisis over the weakness in 2008, all the rescues. He is a man who inspires confidence in our economy, which is what it is really lacking.
“And to sink his nomination over what I think is a triviality is simply unserious. Our crisis is too strong, too big, and his is too much of an asset to deny him office over unpaid taxes, which in the end he refunded and repented.”

Uh, excuse me? How is Geithner’s “amazing experience” — up to his eyeballs in the mess at Citigroup — an argument in his favor? In what sense does Geithner’s status as a protege of Robert Rubin “inspire confidence in our economy”?

Take a poll and tell me what percentage of the American people can correctly identify Geithner before you credit him with such inspirational powers. And I think that “confidence” isn’t the only thing our economy is “really lacking”; it also lacks a couple trillion dollars of asset value destroyed by the collapse of the housing bubble, which even the inspirational magic (?) of Geithner cannot restore. But Krauthammer’s degree is in psychiatry, not economics, so I suppose he’s an expert in the effect of inspirational confidence.

Krauthammer makes a very interesting argument. Only people from Bob Rubin’s coterie of former Goldman Sachs operatives can be allowed to run Treasury because, well, they’ve been running it so long and therefore they’re the only ones who know how to run it. So when Geithner is nominated, any objection to the nomination is “a triviality . . . simply unserious.”

This fetish of expertise, this belief that only the anointed disciple of Bob Rubin could possibly be acceptable as Treasury secretary — am I the only one who detects the whiff of bovine excrement here? And why is Krauthammer peddling this excrement? Did he enter into some secret pact during that dinner with Obama at George Will’s house?

January 19, 2009

Olympic bailout?

Carleton Bryant reports:

The global recession is endangering the construction of the athletes’ village for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Globe and Mail is reporting.
British Columbia’s parliament approved an emergency bill that allows Vancouver to borrow up to $369 million to get the athletes’ village in shape. The host city’s original lender cut off funding late last year, and Vancouver had been getting by on high-interest bridge loans.

Thank God, this only affects Canadians and curling fans, rather than actual human beings for whom we might otherwise feel pity. Cue the official theme song:

South Park – Blame Canada – video powered by Metacafe

January 19, 2009

Ramos and Compean to go free!

Flaming skull at AOSHQ for this news:

President George W. Bush has commuted the prison sentences of two former Border Patrol guards whose convictions for shooting a Mexican drug dealer ignited debate about illegal immigration.

Of course, this being the Associated Press, their characterization of the story is false. The “debate about illegal immigration” — Sonny Bono: “What’s to debate? It’s illegal!” — had been “ignited” long before that drug dealer was shot. But we’ll discuss that in the updates.

UPDATE I: The two martyrs to Bush’s open-borders monomania will be released March 20, Michelle Malkin reports.

UPDATE II: Fox News:

The imprisonment of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean had sparked outcry from critics who said the men were just doing their jobs and were punished too harshly. They had been sentenced to 11- and 12-year sentences, respectively.
Ramos and Compean were sentenced in connection with the shooting of Osvaldo Aldrete Davila, who was shot in the buttocks while trying to flee along the Texas border. He admitted smuggling several hundred pounds of marijuana on the day he was shot and pleaded guilty last year to drug charges related to two other smuggling attempts.
Nearly the entire congressional delegation from Texas and other lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle pleaded with Bush to grant them clemency.

Apparently, Bush was afraid that granting clemency might dampen Republican support among the party’s all-important Mexican drug smuggler constituency. Anyone who wishes to assert that Bush was America’s worst president ever will probably get little argument from these two Border Patrol agents.

UPDATE III: Via Hot Air, the senior administration official:

Bush didn’t pardon the men for their crimes, but decided instead to commute their sentences because he believed they were excessive and that they had already suffered the loss of their jobs, freedom and reputations, a senior administration official said.
The action by the president, who believes the border agents received fair trials and that the verdicts were just, does not diminish the seriousness of their crimes, the official said.

Fuck you, senior administration official! Their “crimes” were what most Americans would call “doing their jobs,” to protect our nation against invasion by foreign drug smugglers. And if your boss had been true to his oath to uphold our nation’s laws, maybe vile scum like Osvaldo Aldrete Davila wouldn’t have had the idea they had a green light at the border.

UPDATE II: Linked by Dave C at Minority Leader.

UPDATE III: Linked at MacsMind.

January 19, 2009

Media believing their own hype

Can anyone recall an inauguration that was more relentlessly hyped? Having hyped it up to the status of a world-historical event — the French Revolution can’t hold a candle to it — now the media have begun inhaling their own inaugural hype:

CNN’s Washington bureau chief David Bohrman, for one, issued a “news emergency” of his own. While Bush freed up federal funds, Bohrman made available satellite phones in the event of rolling cell phone blackouts. There will be cots and air mattresses for staffers camping out in the newsroom on Monday night, along with shower arrangements at a nearby health club. Staffers will be treated to a pancake breakfast prior to braving the bitter cold and bulging crowds. “It’s the biggest event any of us have ever had to cover,” Bohrman said.

Biggest. Event. Ever.

War in Iraq, tsumani in Indonesia, space shuttle explosions, the fall of the Berlin Wall — all child’s play, compared to orchestrating the thoroughly scripted coverage of a thoroughly scripted ceremonial pageant.

Excuse any typos. I’m writing this blind, my eyes having rolled out of my head about 10 minutes ago.

UPDATE: In an unusual variation on the theme, columnist Leonard Pitts writes:

[W]hen Obama was elected in November, every third political cartoonist seemed to use an image of a celebrating Lincoln to comment upon the milestone that had occurred. Lincoln, they told us, would have been overjoyed.
Actually, Lincoln likely would have been appalled. How could he not? He was a 19th century white man who famously said in 1858 that “there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which . . . will forever forbid the two races living together upon terms of social and political equality.”
How do you reconcile that with all those cartoons of Lincoln congratulating Obama? You don’t. You simply recognize it for what it is: yet another illustration of how shallow our comprehension of history is, yet another instance where myth supersedes reality.

Of course, were I to make an issue of the contradictions between the historical reality and the posthumous legend of Lincoln, this would be met with denunciation of “neo-Confederate racism.” Leonard Pitts points out the same contradictions without fear of denunciation. In fact, anyone who criticizes Leonard Pitts risks denunciation as a neo-Confederate racist. Sigh . . .

January 19, 2009

Buckley and Reagan

Ross Douthat reviews The Reagan I Knew — William F. Buckley’s last book — for the New York Times, and tries to address the arguments that Buckley would abhor contemporary populist conservatism:

Buckley began his writing life . . . as a quasi-apologist for Joe McCarthy and ended his career as a great friend to Rush Limbaugh. And he spent most of the intervening decades championing Reagan, the greatest right-wing populist of all — more authentically middle-American than Bush, a cannier player of the “jes’ folks” card than Palin, and as roundly disliked and disdained by the liberal commentariat as either one of them.

That’s about right, except there was nothing “quasi” about Buckley’s defense of McCarthy. But why quibble? I’ve read the book — it’s sitting on my desk right now — and I heartily recommend it. The witty repartee and occasional disagreements between two giants of 20th-century American conservatism are well worth remembering.

I had to study up on Reagan to write the feature obituary for the Washington Times, and in the years since, I’ve read several books on various aspects of his career. One thing that seems to get overlooked in the hagiographic retrospective view is the extent to which Reagan was a man of his time. He had been an FDR Democrat, a self-described “bleeding heart” whose liberalism led him to join (unwittingly) two Communist Party “front groups” in the early 1940s. So Reagan very much understood, at a deeply personal level, how humanitarian sympathies and naivete about communism could lead someone to become a “dupe” or a “fellow traveler.”

The pivotal moment for Reagan was during the Hollywood labor wars of 1946-47, when communist union organizers tried to shut down the film industry, at a time when Reagan was a leader of the Screen Actors Guild. The dishonest tactics of the communists awoke in Reagan the understanding that communism was a totalitarian menace no less dangerously evil than the Nazi menace.

Over the next 15-20 years, this revelation ripened into a deep and mature insight into the nature of the communist threat. Reagan’s job as a GE spokesman gave him the opportunity to hone to perfection a standard speech extolling America’s system of democracy and free enterprise, which he would contrast against the stifling forces of government bureaucracy, as well as against the totalitarian threat of communism.

These speeches were given to very diverse audiences — executives and plant workers, Chamber of Commerce types, etc. — whose political orientations were mixed and unknown. So Reagan struck patriotic themes in a way that wasn’t overtly political, and he aimed his rhetoric directly at the common sense of common people. His speeches weren’t a discourse intended for intellectuals, nor were they fire-and-brimstone partisan sermons. Rather, they were decent and respectable and generous, with a general tone of suggesting that all good people should be willing to fight for the basic ideals of American civilization.

American adults of the 1950s and early ’60s had been through common experiences — the Depression and World War II — and most of all they shared the patriotic sensibilities imparted by the public school system in the decades before historic iconoclasm came into vogue. There was a common cultural understanding about the heroes of Valley Forge, etc., and a near-universal antagonism to Soviet tyranny to which Reagan could appeal without being accused of jingoism or partisanship.

So when you see Reagan in his famous 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing,” you’re watching a man who had spent more than a decade striking those same basic themes in dozens of speeches annually. He adapted these themes to the occasion, and the speech he gave was a humdinger. You want some Reagan populism?

This is the issue of this election. Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

David Brooks would faint dead away, for certainly the advocate of “national greatness” has no faith in the ordinary American’s capacity for self-government, consistently siding with that “little intellectual elite” against the common sense of common people. Reagan never saw himself as part of that “elite,” and never had a good thing to say about it. And if you study Buckley’s early works — especially God and Man at Yale and Up From Liberalism — you know that for all his erudition, Buckley saw himself as an opponent of that elite (and vice-versa).

Reagan and Buckley respected and admired one another as equals, each independently seeking a common goal. What has changed in the relationship between conservative politicians and conservative intellectuals in the contemporary era, it seems to me, is that the intellectuals think themselves so infinitely superior to the politicians — and with good reason, generally, since few Republican politicians today show the kind of curiosity about ideas that Reagan so clearly had.

The real trouble is that this contempt for GOP politicians tends to fester into a contempt for GOP voters. This is where the David Brooks type so grievously goes astray, in smug condescension toward the typical Republican voter in Pennsylvania or Indiana or Ohio. The very fact that your average rank-and-file Republican likes Sarah Palin is, in the eyes of the Brooksian intellectual, reason enough to conclude that Palin is an unworthy idiot. By the same token, the fact that your average Republican likes Rush Limbaugh is sufficient cause to conclude that Limbaugh is harmful to the cause of “meritocratic aspiration” that a Brooksian considers “true conservatism.”

Reagan and Buckley were both populists in the sense that they believed that the ordinary American possessed basic common sense, and could do without the meddlesome superintendence of their everyday lives by Washington.

Buckley’s brobdingnagian vocabulary and his arch hyperintellectualism was meant as a challenge to the imagined superiority of mid-2oth-century liberalism, conveying to his reader the idea that one could be both intellectually sound and conservative (something the liberals of that era furiously denied). Reagan, on the other hand, spoke to people in a way that was simultaneously down-to-earth and inspirational — mixing the homey anecdote with the oratorical firepower of a latter-day Patrick Henry. Their methods were different, but their objective was the same.

Of course, it is grossly unfair to Sarah Palin to compare her to Ronald Reagan (though perhaps not as grossly unfair to Bill Buckley as comparing him to David Brooks). Palin has not had the advantages of Reagan’s experiences, having been so busy as a mother, a mayor and a governor that she surely has spent little time reading Friedrich Hayek or Whittaker Chambers. Yet she does seem to have a basic belief in the ordinary American’s aptitude for self-governance, and that strikes me as the right place to start.

UPDATE: JR at Conservatives4Palin has written two posts about The Reagan I Knew. One refers to this quote from Reagan:

For every problem, there are ten people waiting to volunteer if someone will give them a lead and show them where they can be useful.

Of which JR says:

This quote is great because it applies to the current state of the Republican party. We have a great “base” and grassroots network, from the fiscal conservatives to the defense hawks but we lack a competent leader, we lack what Reagan calls, “someone who can show us where we can be useful.”

You could relate this to Reagan’s famous maxim that you can accomplish anything, as long as you don’t care who gets the credit. The conservative movement today suffers from the “too many chiefs, not enough Indians” problem — it’s very hard to find capable, dependable team players who are content to labor in obscurity, as most political activists inevitably must.

In another post, JR quotes a letter from 1973 in which Buckley passes on advice from a “well-wisher” who says Reagan “refuse[s] to wrap [his] mind around foreign policy.” Here you see the vast gap between reality and perception. Reagan was keenly interested in foreign policy, especially the major issues of the Cold War, but because he was at that time busy with being governor of California, it was perceived that he didn’t “wrap his mind around” the issues. And here, I think, you see a parallel to Palin — the Katie Couric “gotcha” of what newspapers she read daily, as if the governor of Alaska should spend her mornings leafing through the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal (are those even available in Anchorage?).

January 19, 2009

Young love is bad for you

If you’re unable to find romantic happiness, maybe it’s because of that eighth-grade crush:

“Remarkably, it seems that the secret to long-term happiness in a relationship is to skip a first relationship. In an ideal world you would wake up already in your second relationship. If you had a passionate first relationship and allow that feeling to become your benchmark, it becomes inevitable that future, more adult partnerships will seem boring and a disappointment.”

The research indicates that many adults ruin their love lives by comparing their relationships to the starry-eyed dream state they felt as teenagers. This is utterly unrealistic, since adults are burdened with so many responsibilities and hassles that you don’t have when your biggest worry is passing a math test.

Perhaps a better way of summarizing the research is to say that the secret of happiness is low expectations. Or, put another way, once you’ve had Justin Timberlake, it’s hard to be satisfied with Kevin Federline.

January 19, 2009

Media hypes assassination fears

Apparently undeterred by the frightening phrase “President Biden,” some idiots just don’t get it:

A Wisconsin man was arrested Friday in Mississippi after authorities said he threatened on the Internet to kill Mr. Obama.
Steven Joseph Christopher, 42, was arrested by the Secret Service in Brookhaven, Miss., and charged with threatening to assassinate Mr. Obama for what he claimed was “the country’s own good,” federal prosecutors said. Authorities said Mr. Christopher made the threats Jan. 11 and 15.

This is something that you shouldn’t really have to explain, but nonetheless, you do: The Secret Service doesn’t kid around, OK?

One of the things about covering a presidential campaign is that when you go out to these events, you have to pass through heavy-duty Secret Service security — first the metal detectors, then you get “wanded,” and if you’re carrying a bag (as any reporter must) this must be inspected by bomb-sniffing dogs. It’s a tremendous hassle, and then there’s all those guys with the wires in their ears. Gives me the heeby-jeebies.

Under no circumstances do you even joke about something like a threat against a candidate. Ever. People who do idiot stuff like that are the ones who cause all this security hassle. Squeaky Fromme, John Hinckley, and all those hundreds of crackpots you never hear about because their threats get reported and they find themselves visited by clean-cut, well-dressed men who are extremely serious about their jobs.

Most of these nuts are utterly harmless — you can bet this Brookhaven guy is a pathetic loser — but every threat has to be investigated. However, this doesn’t begin to justify all these idiotic media stories hyping the threats. D.C. will be in such an extreme stage of security alert on Tuesday that there won’t be the slightest danger to the new president, and the media is only feeding needless fears.

But, of course, nobody blinks an eye when an inaugural speaker has connections to Hamas.