Rightwing Film Geek

Super Tuesday Podcast

I can only blame myself for this delay, but I was interviewed late Thursday night by Pete Vere of the SooToday, the Web-only daily newspaper of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, about Super Tuesday — explanation, predictions and analysis for a Canadian audience. Pete recorded the interview as a Podcast and put it up here (do a word-search for my name — Apple-F for the cool people — and then download).

Listening to it, it sounds a bit CW now, but it was recorded right after the Thursday night debate, and I was off-deadline and basically finished for the night. I came to these conclusions while watching the debate (which I think Obama clearly won, by matching Clinton’s stature as an equal and letting his superior “candidate” skills shine). And it seems to have played out — the only question being how slight will be Clinton’s delegate lead and with an outside chance existing that Obama might pull off an upset.

And surprisingly, as you can hear, I mostly agree (ideological-religious differences aside) with what Ryan says here.

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February 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Hillary movies

The less said about HILLARY: THE MOVIE the better. The film by Citizens United, directed by Alan Peterson and co-produced with David Bossie, is basically a talking-heads negative campaign ad extended to infomercial length. Just about everything I wrote about CELSIUS 41:11 a couple of years ago applies here too — nothing wrong with it substantively, but really not very good as a movie.

The film is worth noting for one reason, described in a colleague’s Washington Times articles here and here: it illustrates the basic absurdity of so-called “campaign finance reform,” which attempts to ration political speech during elections, i.e., exactly at the time when it is most needed. Judge Lambeth was right to laugh at the claims that the film is not electioneering and thus ads for it would be covered by campaign-finance restrictions.

“Hillary Clinton is a European Socialist,” Bopp replied. “That is an issue.”
“Which has nothing to do with her campaign?” U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth interjected.
“Not specifically, no,” Bopp replied.
“Once you say, ‘Hillary Clinton is a European Socialist,’ aren’t you saying vote against her?”
Bopp disagreed because the movie did not use the word “vote.”
“Oh, that’s ridic…” Lamberth said, trailing off and ending the line of questioning.

But then that’s what absurdities anti-First-Amendment laws from the post-Watergate rules to McCain-Feingold force political speakers to do — mouth patent sophistries in the name of protecting their free speech rights to their megaphone. When you look at an ad, it will never say “vote against Candidate X” or “tell candidate to vote against Bill Y,” it will say “X is a loathesome, child-molesting deadbeat who hates mom and apple pie?” or “call Congress about Bill Y that would end freedom as we know it and make all our pee smell.” And speakers and judges have to pretend there’s some difference between the two sets of statements, inevitably coming across (see the Michael Moore counter-examples) as arbitrarily as the East German judge in Olympics. Determining permissible speech is exactly what the First Amendment says the government should NOT be in the business of doing (other East German judge examples aside).

Besides, the best Hillary Clinton movie already has been made: Alexander Payne’s ELECTION, as re-edited here (thanks Mark … and no, I hadn’t seen it):

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January 23, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Not by Lars von Trier

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THE KINGDOM (Peter Berg, USA, 2007, 7)

I saw this film in the company of a group of counter-terrorism analysts, the majority of whom have at least some facility with Arabic and in whose company I was probably the least knowledgeable person about Arabian and Saudi politics and society. It was a bit of an intimidating experience, albeit one much preferable to seeing it with such deep geopolitical thinkers as Kenneth Turan of the LA Times (“across-the-board portrait of malevolent Arabs [with a] … thematic similarity to those jingoistic World War II-era ‘Yellow Peril’ films”) or Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly (“[the] theft of images forever associated with the hideous killing of journalist Daniel Pearl … a decent person might look away in disgust. The sight of a masked gunman on a balcony evokes the Munich Olympic massacre of 1972, but for no good reason.”)

The film promises to be great in its first two scenes — a historical montage and a terrorist assault on the American section of Riyadh. The former is as swift, direct and accurate as is reasonable to expect of a historical background primer (in this case, the history of US-Saudi ties) with just a couple of minutes to cover about 80 years. The latter shows Berg knows how to milk an action scene for both the suspense of preparation, the chaos of its violence, the swiftness of a suicide bomber, and the ultimate brutality of the whole plan, once revealed.

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Which is a pity, because the rest of the movie is really only OK, with occasional flashes of excellence. Or rather, when THE KINGDOM is about the machinations of doing business in the byzantine political and social worlds of Washington and Riyadh, it is very good. But once those labyrinths has been negotiated, it retreats into familiar police procedural/action film territory. Berg keeps the sequences clear and intelligible, but THE KINGDOM eventually just hunkers down into the kind of routine spolosionfest that Hollywood’s assembly line cranks out like Detroit’s used to. The FBI team is a Benneton ad’s worth of diversity — a black, a woman, a Jew and a redneck — and it’s hard to resist wondering about the smarts of an FBI guy (or a scriptwriter) who would handle such a politically-sensitive mission by assembling such a squad (or rather, two-fourths of it).

Still, there’s a lot to like. Everyone with whom I saw THE KINGDOM agreed is that it gets Saudi society right — an “otherworld” where Americans are always outsiders and never can be certain whom they can trust and whom they cannot trust. There is a scene of a video-game parlor, where the kids play first-person jihad simulators and, upon seeing Jamie Foxx, ask the grandfatherly cafe owner (in unsubtitled Arabic that I still understood and confirmed afterward) whether they should kill the American. Saudi institutions are not the legal-rational secular bureaucracy that America’s are, but those of an honor-based Muslim patriarchy based on loyalty and family — everything depends on who one knows, and all appearances must be upheld, including avoidance of appearing too complicit with the infidels. It looks to us very much like corruption. Before you can do anything, you must negotiate the right to do it, though this is rhymed with similar machinations from head righteous dude Foxx, of the Beltway-Journalism genre, to get the trip in the first place.

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There is also one very strong performance (Chris Cooper is good, but he can play this sort of good-o-bwoy in his sleep) — and that is Ashraf Barhom as the Saudi police minder for the group, the one character who has real depth and an arc. As for the rest of the Saudi police and functionaries and princes: they’re not really evil — just disinterested except when it involves saving face. A State Department functionary played by Jeremy Piven is suitably and realistically unctuous. A couple of people also said at dinner afterwards that the Arabic was correct, although there were some subtitle quibbles and a general consensus that, in the subtleties, it usually more resembled the Arabic of Israel or Lebanon than that of Saudi Arabia. But the greatest proof of this film’s worth and authenticity — Saudi Arabia has forbidden its importation.¹

The KINGDOM’s ending seems to traffic in moral equivalence — it’s revealed that two “death whispers” on opposite sides of the jihad were the same line. But in this context, it’s hardly supportive of the Peace Narrative. At some level, it’s useless to deny, “blowback” [sic] and “cycle of violence” [sic] are true. Or that all actors consider themselves moral superiors to opponents. But understand that this “blowback” and “cycle” are not the product of an optional war, but of a law-enforcement operation that is (or should be) supported by the sort of liberal who says he opposes the Iraq war because it supposedly distracts from the war against Al Qaeda (i.e., this kind of action). There is no getting around the fact that any war, just or unjust, wise or unwise, kills people and will leave behind family members who, cultural prerequisites existing, become bent on vengeance.

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¹ The country has no public movie theaters, but many wealthy Saudis have private screening rooms and films usually can be imported for this purpose. Also, DVD players and discs are as ubiquitous there as in other rich countries.

October 16, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Short news bytes

lenin2.jpgSpeaking of GOOD BYE, LENIN … here’s a real-life example of the situation that the German film mined for comedy gold. A Polish men fell into a coma in 1988 and just now woke up. Instructive comments from him:

“When I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol queues were everywhere,” Mr Grzebski, sitting in a wheelchair while his wife held his hand, told Polish television. “There are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin.” …
“What amazes me today is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and never stop moaning,” Mr. Grzebski said. “I’ve got nothing to complain about.”

That doesn’t stop the Reality-Based Community’s Bright Young Things at Democratic Underground from complaining.
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Sometimes the toughest critic is yourself. At the first stop on their reunion concert, the Police sucked big time.

They quickly recovered, but then Sting got his footwork wrong as he leapt into the air to signal the end to a shambolic version of their rat-race rant “Synchronicity II.”
“The mighty Sting momentarily looks like a petulant pansy instead of the god of rock.”

Sez their drummer.

June 4, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

The more, the better

Let me see if I’ve got this straight:

  • A daily dose of from 0.05 to 0.15 mg of levonorgestrel requires a prescription.
  • Requiring that a 1.5 mg dose of levonorgestrel must have a prescription is patriarchal tyranny over women’s bodies, sexphobic anti-scientism and the precursor to a HANDMAID’S TALE-like theocracy.

That’s the unavoidable conclusion of this atrocious and politicized decision (courtesy of blackmail from “the mom in sneakers and the devil in Prada“) to make available Plan-B “emergency contraception” over the counter. From Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America:

Since birth control pills require a prescription and a doctor’s supervision during use, how can the FDA or the drug manufacturer condone providing Plan B (a mega-dose of the same drugs) over-the-counter? Widespread access to Plan B would expose women to the health risks that here-to-fore were acknowledged by doctors who screened women before prescribing birth control pills and then monitored them for the wide variety of contra-indicators for their use.

To be sure, in the first of the above-mentioned dosages, many forms of the Pill also have estrogen or something that mimics its effects. But it’s not as though progestins like Plan-B don’t pose real health risks quite on their own or that progestin-only oral contraceptives don’t also require prescriptions.

Today’s greatest winner — trial lawyers, who will soon receive a bountiful new field of cases, of people without medical training calibrating their use of drugs several times more powerful than what they need a prescription for when the stated purpose is something else (a fact that is chemically and biologically irrelevant). Mark my words — within the decade, Barr Laboratories will either be hiding behind immunity granted by a Democrat Congress, bankrupt/in receivership, or will have sold Plan-B to the government or some group like Planned Parenthood.

Let’s face it. If you’re not far-sighted enough to avoid an unwanted pregnancy (there are two known methods — one infallible; the other immoral but still mostly effective) … are you fit to be self-medicating? Prescriptions, and the health warnings that accompany them, are required for a reason. I mean, if you get aspirin or cough syrup and take three times the required dose because your headache is THIS BIG or whatever … nothing very terrible will happen. But is saying that messing with body chemistry like some female version of Barry Bonds should not be as easy as buying a pack of Marlboros really so awful?

But then, abortion poisons everything it touches. This is an old story, and it’s hard to avoid the conclusions that feminists want every abortion that could occur to occur. For example, whether it’s the killing of an unborn child or not, abortion is still unquestionably a major surgical procedure, especially later in pregnancy.¹ Yet it’s usually treated like an outpatient or on-demand service, done outside a hospital, with little recovery time, and exempt from a score of other state and local regulations. And most scandalously of all, on a minor without a parent’s consent or foreknowledge.²
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¹ As feminists will argue when it suits them — as when they want all OB/GYNs be certified to perform abortions as a licensing requirement. But not when not — as noted next.
² In case I’m not clear, this is not an argument per se against the morality of contraception or abortion. I’m simply noting that if they are mere medical procedures like any other, then the same regulatory regimes should surely be being applied. And this is not so. Which indicates bad faith.

August 24, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Separating the artist from the art

Oliver Stone’s WORLD TRADE CENTER opened today. And I’ll be honest, when I saw the trailer, I was ready to stick my finger down my throat. The “start of the day” shots felt like the sarcastic BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY overture; slow-motion and heavy scoring is a standard trailer-baiting effect, but it brought to mind that same film’s beginning. It looked like a manipulative soap opera, done by someone I have no reason to think wouldn’t be hiding Conspiracy Theories behind the trailer.

But from conservatives who have seen WORLD TRADE CENTER — the prebuzz was been unanimously favorable — Cliff May, John Miller, and Kathryn Lopez at National Review Online; Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center; Cal Thomas, the former No.2 at the Moral Majority; Jonathan Last at the Weekly Standard; Ivy Sellers at Human Events; and Michael Medved. And the reaction at places such as Free Republic was more positive than negative. But in reviews published today, Peter Suderman at National Review and Christian Toto at the Washington Times were mixed or slightly-negative on WORLD TRADE CENTER.

As of my writing this (I will certainly see WORLD TRADE CENTER, but probably not until the weekend), I think JFK is easily Stone’s best film, because it’s his most paranoid and nonsensical. It’s so bizarre that the text cannot be taken seriously, except as the occasion for Stone’s virtuoso style — which is dazzling (Christian complained in TWT that there wasn’t enough of that in WTC). It’s the film equivalent of coloratura opera, or listening to one of the drug-addled conversations in A SCANNER DARKLY. But I couldn’t persuade conservative friends back in 1991/92 to see it.

But this is the latest example of how political/religious conservatives are so much better at separating our reaction to a work of art from the artist. We have to be. With a handful of notable exceptions — Jane Fonda, Michael Moore and (until now) Stone but no others that immediately come to mind — we generally patronize the films of artists that we despise politically or make fun of. Oh sure, we’ll ridicule Susan Sarandon, Barbra Streisand, Sean Penn and the rest of the Film Actors Guild. But the much common attitude seems to be the line that I started this review of THERESE and CELSIUS 41.11:

In THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS … the French colonel in charge of the anti-terrorism unit is read a Jean-Paul Sartre quote denouncing French rule in Algeria. In response, he asks aloud: “why are all the Sartres on the other side?”

No conservative of my acquaintance seriously doubts that many bone-headed liberals are in fact great actors, singers, etc. In fact, it’s even common for conservatives to see brilliance in works that are unquestionably propaganda for despicable ideas. I could cite my own Top 10 lists, which has THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST below VERA DRAKE¹ and HERO² for 2004, and has annual #1 slots occupied by THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS³ and EARTH⁴.

It’s not just me. At the Washington Times newsroom, I AM CUBA has been a bit of a hit. A few weeks ago, I was speaking to a senior manager at work — a Cuban-born woman — and I said “Soy Cuba” in some context that made the title of Mikhail Kalatozov’s famed 1964 Cuban-Soviet propaganda film a funny punchline. She responded in a way that indicated she knew what I was referring to. I told her that I AM CUBA had recently run on the Sundance Channel and I had burned a Tivo’d DVD of it onto two discs. She said she had never seen it and jumped at the chance to borrow the film. When she returned the discs, she was rapturous about how visually stunning was the style and gorgeous were the images. Her favorite moments included the student on the steps, walking through billows of smoke up to an assassination attempt; images of the farmer burning his cane fields; the famous early swimming-pool shot; long shots of people in the distance marching through streets, and it turns out to be a funeral, which the camera hovers over like an angel.

A couple of days after she returned the disc, the managing editor came to my desk, told me he had heard the Cuban lady rave about I AM CUBA and asked if he could borrow my discs. On returning them, he was just as impressed, calling it “a great propaganda film” (he also noted the involvement of Yevtushenko, who later became a bit of a dissident in the Soviet Union). He noted not just the cinematography but also the faces in the film, and how “great to look at” the film was. “And very timely,” he joked, given Castro’s stepping down just days before. We agreed that the images in the film are so sensual — the high-contrast black-and-white, the lengthy takes, the dramatic compositions, the aura of smoke, the feel of heat — that you just want to caress them.

Perhaps the difference from their own homeland inspired Kalatozov and cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky to capture so completely the “feel” of the sun-soaked tropical country where they were working, making the film a giddy romp on summer holiday.

Though not blind to the Batista regime’s faults, none of the three of us are Fidelistas by any definition (and Castro himself doesn’t appear in the movie, like Lenin used to in the Soviet classics of the 20s). Still, none of the three of us were seriously put off by the Fidelism of I AM CUBA. When a film is this gorgeous, the style makes everything else irrelevant (this is, approximately, how I’d defend the awesomeness of HERO). I’d say the style even makes the film’s points — though I AM CUBA is nobody’s idea of intellectually-subtle or well-acted. But Kalatozov and Urusevsky’s great style, the overwhelming style, stamps itself so firmly onto the sometimes clumsy performances that it turns these “bad” actors into icons or types — persons who stand less for than themselves than for the image of Revolutionary Hero. Like a Communist “Lives of the Saints” picture book.
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¹ about a saintly abortionist, though I think the film ultimately is more complicated than that.
² a full-throated Chinese nationalist apologia for tyranny.
³ I saw ALGIERS just a block from Pennsylvania Avenue and within walking distance of the White House and Congress just as the Iraq insurgency was getting seriously under way.
⁴The Ukrainian Embassy had a ceremonial person introduce EARTH at the National Gallery of Art’s Dovzhenko retro. Another Ukrainian official, a cultural attache (though I wouldn’t swear to that), participated in a post-film roundtable that never, to my recollection, touched on the issue of making a film in Ukraine in 1930 about the peasants’ glorious struggle against the Kulaks.

August 8, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Thank you for mailing

My bud Adam Villani wrote to me, demanding to know why I love THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, which he called

[A]n unfunny, obvious satire that might have been timely about 15-20 years ago but just seems like kicking a man (or an industry) when he’s already beaten now. The only defense of this movie I can think of is that it is “not about smoking.” I mean, yeah, OK, but that is kinda ruined by the fact that it is about smoking and it would be pretty obvious even if it weren’t about smoking…

Well, as Adam hypothesizes, the film fundamentally is not about smoking per se. It’s about politics, about sophists and bullshit artists. About their charm and our regard for them. At the end of the movie, Naylor has a completely different shill job, and it doesn’t feel like anything has changed. Yet, like the greatest intellectual jujitsu artists (I think I am one), not only has he turned on a dime cause-wise, but he’s even turned on a dime argument-wise, by granting that smoking is dangerous and then getting what he wants (on labeling) based on arguments he was denying five minutes ago (that smoking is harmful).

I used the word “bullshit” deliberately — THANK YOU FOR SMOKING is the equivalent of Harry Frankfurt’s short philosophical book “On Bullshit,” which also verges on the edge of self-parody and self-referentiality, but thus is made more effective becuase of the audience’s desire for bullshit and ability to see through it and yet not really care (the difference Frankfurt draws between “bullshit” and “lies”). This is why Aaron Eckhart’s performance is perfect … a word I use rarely .. it’s not simply that he had Nick Naylor’s greasy charm down pat, but that the charm and style and existing persona so utterly defines the performance, an analog to why Naylor only exists because of our love for that charm and our need to be bullshitted. There’s elements of Henry’s interview with “Hillary” near the start of PRIMARY COLORS (and yes, he uses the same b-s word, which is why I was reminded of it):

I was always curious how it would be to work with someone who actually cared about … I mean, it couldn’t have always been the way it is now. It must have been very different when my grandfather was alive. Hey, you were there. You had Kennedy. I didn’t. I’ve never heard a president use words like destiny and sacrifice without thinking, “bullshit.” And, O.K., maybe it was bullshit with Kennedy too, but people believed it. And, I guess, that is what I want. I want to believe it too.

Or … read Michael Gerardi, who did a lot of the heavy lifting a few weeks ago, though I liked the movie more than he did.
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Also, read Adam’s take on why the Democrats have all the secular advantages for the mid-terms including the ability to run against an incumbent president mired in an unpopular war, but still might blow it. They can only talk in “motherhood and apple pie” terms:

[I]f they can’t come up with any more compelling reasons for people to vote for them than this, they aren’t gonna win control of squat … Thanks for taking that bold step to show America that there’s a good reason to vote for the Democrats besides “we’re not George Bush.” Man, that’s sad. Can’t the Democrats find somebody with a modicum of charisma or strong ideas?

What also further resonated with me was Adam’s commenters and the way they called the platform the equivalent of “XXX Against Cancer” or “Children Must Eat” monikers. There was a famous and possibly apocryphal (but nevertheless very revealing) exchange that supposedly occurred between the two greatest silent clowns at the home of one of them, when discoursing on politics (quoting from memory):

Charlie Chaplin: What I want is that every child should have clothes on their backs, enough to eat and a roof over their heads.
Buster Keaton: But Charlie, do you know anybody who doesn’t want that?

Ever since, it’s never mystified me why I preferred Keaton to Chaplin. In college, I saw a flyer for a rally for a group called “Students Against War” and I decided I would never back any group that had a name that you couldn’t imagine a sane person taking the semantically opposing opinion. (I also decided in grad-school that I could never buy Thomism because the first precept of the natural law struck me similarly.)

August 3, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

More searching

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Jim Emerson at the Chicago Sun Times blog rips Stephen Metcalf a new one for his Slate essay on THE SEARCHERS, which I used a jumping-off point for a post of my own the other day. I link in the interests of fairness, of course. Some observations and reactions of my own, as someone who generally would take Metcalf’s side in the dispute over the merits of THE SEARCHERS.

Emerson does make some good points. Metcalf is a bit too reliant on citing Pauline Kael, and a bit unspecific in his complaints. It IS anti-intellectual for Metcalf to point to Ford’s personal inarticulateness or to imply that the formal academic study of film is a joke.

But I don’t really think Emerson quite grapples with what is most offputting in the playing of THE SEARCHERS. Metcalf made that point (though he didn’t go into much specifics), and every example that Emerson cites in specific rebuttal (the paragraph that begins “Like his model Pauline Kael…” ) comes in the film’s main threads and/or the principal characters. But that’s not where the truly thumpingly awful stuff is. I named about a half-dozen shockingly bad or ham-fisted performances — overripe clowns, offensive stereotypes or empty suits. I don’t think Emerson even alludes to one of them (in fairness, he’s not answering me specifically, but I don’t claim any great originality. I’ve never met a SEARCHERS skeptic who didn’t quickly alight on Hank Worden’s Mose or Beulah Archuletta’s Look).

It’s not persuasive to say of the acting in THE SEARCHERS that “it’s impressionistic or balletic.” But these are descriptive terms not evaluative ones. As Leonard Pith-Garnell would say … it’s jolly bad ballet. Nor does pointing to the influence of silent films mean much — THE SEARCHERS is, after all, a sound film, and in the late-20s and early-30s sound film very quickly developed a different, much-lower-keyed acting style than the silent film for some very good and inherent reasons.

Not that it has anything to do with THE SEARCHERS, as Emerson would say, but he simply gets politics all wrong. Shockingly wrong. And he rattles on about Ford, Wayne and politics for long enough to make me think it does matter. It is not true that “a staunch Roosevelt Democrat” as Emerson (correctly) identifies John Ford is, “what Republicans today would call a radical Hollywood liberal” — unless Emerson is simply using “Roosevelt Democrat” as a synonym for “good” or “on the right side of history” (which is not too far from what some ahistoric born-yesterday types do in fact do). If “Roosevelt” refers to the historical person and not an amorphous ideal that shifts with the passing wind, the claim of Emerson’s is indefensible. No debate possible.

  1. In a review of CINDERELLA MAN last year, I touched on a big part of what distinguished Roosevelt from today’s liberals — his attitude toward the welfare state, which Hollywood liberals since the 1960s have believed to be a mean-spirited, blame-the-victim stance.
  2. Roosevelt expanded executive powers during wartime in ways that would make current Hollywood liberals blanche. He authorized military tribunals, and a half-dozen executions took place pursuant to them. He approved and defended a mass ethnic roundup (Michelle Malkin’s calls for racial profiling are nothing compared to what FDR did). Before the US involvement in the war, he subverted and contravened the Neutrality Acts in every way he could and at least one of his orders (a shoot-on-sight order against all German ships) constitutes an act of war under international law. If the Hollywood liberals of today had to deal with Roosevelt, they’d be on their knees in thanksgiving for Dubya.
  3. Roosevelt also didn’t lift a finger over segregation, and not from ignorance, as he wintered in Warm Springs, Ga., and took political support from the Herman Talmadges and Theodore Bilbos of the world. He was the candidate of the guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks, as Howard Dean tried to say he wanted to be before being shouted down by the racialism of today’s Democrats. FDR did not believe that morality on segregation was worth the destruction of the New Deal coalition, as have the Hollywood liberals of the 60s and since, to their subsequent chagrin.
  4. Roosevelt signed and acted on the 1940 Smith Act, which made it a crime to advocate the violent overthrow of the US government. The statute survived almost 20 years and provided the legal basis for much of the anti-Communist witch-hunts [sic] that Emerson so righteously decries.

I could go on — mentioning Roosevelt threat to pack the Supreme Court or his refusal to increase Jewish immigration quotas and turn away the SS St. Louis — but this is more than sufficient for my point, which is that Emerson, like many film critics when they talk politics, is talking out the top of his hat (or the other end, as it were). There is no way that a Roosevelt Democrat is what Republicans today would call a radical Hollywood liberal. None. And what makes Emerson’s political analysis sadder is that Ford is apparently very much the sort of man who serves as an explanatory example of why FDR would be despised by today’s liberals — namely the reaction to the New Left and the student movements of the 60s. Ironically, Emerson himself realizes this, when he (approvingly) cites Joseph McBride’s of Ford as “a longtime progressive, he had turned to the right because of the war and his general unhappiness with the way America had not lived up to his vision of its potential.” Or as Ronald Reagan put it: “I didn’t leave the Democrats; the Democrats left me.” But instead, we get the (absolutely unsupported) assertion that “today, anyone claiming that America has not lived up to its potential is most likely to be accused of being a radical left-winger” — a claim one is not inclined to believe given how superficial Emerson’s knowledge of actual political spectrums seems to be. And it’s a claim which turns Ford into a man fundamentally insane. Because if the right and “reactionaries” are as Emerson describes, why would the war and the 60s generation have caused a man “unhapp[y] with the way America had not lived up to his vision of its potential” turn right, meaning toward those who “defend[] the status quo as evidence of America’s innate greatness, and proof that we do not have to change or become ‘better’.” It’s like deciding your body has not lived up to your vision of its physical potential, and then turning toward the cupcake and potato-chip lobby. (Sorry … a really good analogy escapes me, but hopefully that’ll at least demonstrate how wack Emerson’s theory of Ford’s politics is).

July 19, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Billy Wilder, Centenarian

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Conservative columnist Mark Steyn has a beautiful essay (preserved here) on Billy Wilder, who would have turned 100 last month. (One of my pieces of film criticism of which I’m most proud is an obituary I wrote of Wilder shortly after his 2002 death for a film buff Webzine.) Some of what I like about Steyn’s essay:

  • His analysis of the tone of THE APARTMENT, a film that I’ve been resistant to for a very long time, but which really came together for me when I watched it again a couple of months ago. Steyn notes how the film stays with the “bittersweet” without ever collapsing into “bitter.” And I’m convinced the last line in THE APARTMENT — “shut up and deal” — as good a walk-off line as Wilder ever wrote (and we’re talking the man who wrote, “all right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup” and “well, nobody’s perfect”). It’s weepy high-romance for the stoic and unromantic.
  • His citation of the Jack Lemmon interview at the end, which, as Steyn notes, captures what is missing in today’s comedies without turning either Lemmon or Steyn into the equivalent of some old fart muttering in the corner about the damn-fool younger generation. But Wilder had that craftsmanship. You couldn’t scramble the reels of SOME LIKE IT HOT and have much of it work from the inherent “sketch” funniness. The film is clockwork farce as good as the 20th century produced, and, like other sorts of clocks, can’t be disassembled and still have its “parts” work.

Turner Classic Movies had a mini-retro of Wilder on his birth’s centenary, and I confess I didn’t watch any of the films, as I’d seen them all more than once before, preferring instead to mark the day on TCM by watching BILLY WILDER SPEAKS, the first US presentation of an edited-down interview documentary that German filmmaker Volker Schlondorff made for German TV almost two decades ago. (Schlondorff also wrote a personal memoir on Wilder’s passing for the LA Times last month, which had this priceless gem that explains part of what makes Wilder so congenial to myself and so many other Gen-X cinephiles: “Deflecting every serious moment with a joke, Wilder gained a reputation as a cynic. But for him it was only a question of dignity: The really serious things we should keep to ourselves.”) Wilder comes across as so, no other word for it, lovable in these interviews, like a wise old uncle that you could listen to for hours.

But the specific moment I’ll remember best from BILLY WILDER SPEAKS is a political observation, which I’ll try to quote from memory (for now; will check my DVD-R later)

Here in America, you don’t really worry too much about politics. If the Democrats win, great. But if the Republicans win, that’s not too bad either.

This was a man who lost most of his family in the Holocaust — he knew political extremism from political extremism. He understood, although he might not have been able to put it in the precise terms that this former political-philosophy professor-wannabe will, that America has a political consensus, in which there are two parties that garner 95+ percent of the populace and basically both support the liberal democratic order. Politics operates within the 40-yard lines and isn’t really life-defining. This isn’t to say there are no differences between the two parties or that those differences don’t matter (and Wilder’s sympathies within that order are clear from the quote). But it is to say that revolution or the disruption of the social contract simply is not on the agenda, despite how the Kossacks and Atrioses of the world babble about “Bushitler” and the imminent theocracy. Those idiots have no perspective and deserve no respect (nor do the Birchers et al who claim the Democrats are just closet communists; but they’re not at the center of the “people power” movement that the MSM is telling us is reshaping one of the two major parties). It was good to be reminded of that again.

July 4, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Hollywoof Americana

syriana.jpg

SYRIANA (Stephen Gaghan, USA, 2005, 4)

This is a movie about a country that assassinates Arab leaders with car bombs. Because this movie was called SYRIANA, I assumed it’d be about the similar-sounding country Syria, which has a habit of doing this. But alas, this is Hollywood movie and so having Arabs as the main villains would be unthinkable. Remember when the book of SUM OF ALL FEARS had Muslim terrorists trying to nuke a US city. Hollywood decided that was stupid and so rewrote the movie script with the much more believable, hard-hitting, risk-taking and relevant story line of *neo-Nazis* trying to nuke a city. (Doesn’t everybody go to bed at night worrying about neo-Nazi weapons of mass destruction? I know I sure do.) That rewrite was so awesome that, since the notion of Arab states or Arab terrorists car-bombing each other’s leaders and leaving craters in each other’s highways is obviously equally stupid, the film-makers decide to make a movie in which the *CIA* does such things. And by push-button from an office in Washington, like in a long-distance video game.

If. Only.

The real CIA doesn’t even want to give the rubber-hose treatment to captured terrorists in secret prisons and is far more adept at overthrowing White House policies it doesn’t like (for any number of a-ideological, institutional reasons) than at assassinating foreign princes. But then, SYRIANA also takes place in that weird alternate universe where Arab princes need to be advised by a mid-level 30-ish American bourgeois oil-industry analyst (one who sees Mossadeq as an inspiration, BTW) that they should invest their wealth to create a real economy for when the oil runs out. (Hand slaps forehead.)

And by gum, if Hollywood is gonna show Muslim suicide bombers, then it’s ferdamnsure gonna contextualize and/or minimize them — by (1) making them exploited Pakistanis (not the typical suicide terrorist profile); by (2) making their target an oil industry installation (rather than, say, US jetliners, or European trains, or Iraqi mosques or Israeli pizza parlors or German discotheques or wheelchair-bound American Jews); and by (3) portraying the explosion by turning the screen to white light as the bomber closes his eyes and gets ready for his 72 virgins (rather than say, showing fire, mangled corpses, blown-up pipes, loss of wealth for Matt Damon’s idea of investments).

Actually, ideological beefs aside, SYRIANA has a far far FAR more basic problem — you can’t make nor tail of it while following it. Roger Ebert put SYRIANA #2 on his Ten-Best list (I will not, obviously). But his capsule on that list is actually revealing in ways I don’t think he intended:

Stephen Gaghan’s film doesn’t reveal the plot, but surrounds us with it … no one in this movie understands the big picture.

That about sums it up, I think, and in my book that’s a pretty good definition of bad storytelling. Ebert’s regular review is more of the same, and frankly it’s inconceivable to me that someone could write this way about a movie he liked:

Even then, the studio e-mailed critics a helpful guide to the characters. I didn’t look at it. Didn’t want to. I liked the way I experienced the film: I couldn’t explain the story, but I never felt lost in it … Already I regret listing all of these names. You now have little tic-tac-toe designs on your eyeballs. … The more you describe it, the more you miss the point. It is not a linear progression from problem to solution. It is all problem. The audience enjoys the process, not the progress. We’re like athletes who get so wrapped up in the game we forget about the score.

But the analogy in Ebert’s last sentence, about getting buried in stats and progress presupposes something not the case in SYRIANA — the intelligibility of the game itself. No sport is interesting if you don’t understand how it is played. To remember the score, we, the audience, at least have to know what the game is, what the rules are, how you score, whether high score or low score wins, etc. This movie is such a total mess, its action just tossed in media res in from nowhere — “surrounds us with the plot” — that it’s like PRIMER on a $50 million budget.

One of the all-time great Hollywood movies, and also one of the most popular and beloved, has an unintelligible plot about a man thrown into political and spy intrigue about which he doesn’t have a clue. It’s Alfred Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST — a film that stands in rebuke of SYRIANA as an example of how to make unintelligible intrigue into a coherent, watchable and exciting plot (but try reciting what happens in NORTH BY NORTHWEST off the top of your head).

First — concentrate on a single character with whom the audience identifies and give him a single role and aim (finding George Kaplan). SYRIANA juggles plot threads and has no central character.
Second, make him as clueless as we. SYRIANA is filled with characters who know stuff and withhold it from other characters and thus us.
Third, and this is the most important, don’t get bogged down in the MacGuffin. In Hitchcock’s terms, SYRIANA is a film that is not about the human beings, but only about the MacGuffin(s) they encounter, written by a man who thinks unraveling the MacGuffin matters. Coincidentally (or not), this was a tick Hitchcock, in his book-length interview by Francois Truffaut, said he always had to warn screenwriters off.

In the same interview, Hitchcock said NORTH BY NORTHWEST was his best MacGuffin because it was “nothing at all.” But imagine NORTH BY NORTHWEST if it followed James Mason and Martin Landau from the beginning, had a separate Eva Marie Saint plot thread, and was concerned with the business of every character at the meeting headed by Leo G. Carroll, where it’s decided that there’s nothing that can be done for Cary Grant without blowing Kaplan’s cover. And we could hear Carroll’s explanation of everything to Grant that Hitchcock wisely obscured with a roaring plane engine. That’s SYRIANA, in a nutshell.

I can’t make any reference to Ebert’s Top 10 listing of SYRIANA without noting this … remarkable … quote:

The movie has been called “liberal,” but it is apolitical, suggesting that all of the players in the oil game are corrupt and compromised, and in some bleak sense must be, in order to defend their interests — and ours.

If this act of “suggesting” is Ebert’s idea of “apolitical” … words fail me. As if “Oil = Evil/Oil Causes Evil/We’re Evil Because of Oil” isn’t the quintessential liberal stance on a host of issues (particularly for the Lifestyle Left, as distinct from the union hardhats who once formed the Democrat Party’s base). From climate change to automotive regulations to urban sprawl to Alaskan or offshore drilling to Bush’s personality to war and peace itself (as in “No Blood for —–“) … whatever side “oil” is on, liberals will be on the other as if it were a law of nature.

December 26, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

A compromise on cloning

A three-judge panel in Atlanta Wednesday rejected a court challenge to Florida’s ban on adoption by homosexuals from four gay men, thus spoiling Fox’s sitcom lineup for next year. Here is the nut quote from the Associated Press account of the decision. Keep in mind this is a sitting federal judge talking:

“We exercise great caution when asked to take sides in an ongoing public policy debate,” Judge Stanley Birch wrote in the unanimous decision by the three-judge panel. “Any argument that the Florida Legislature was misguided in its decision is one of legislative policy, not constitutional law.”

What? *A sitting federal judge* says it’s not his role to pass judgment on every legislative judgment. How did this guy get through law school? How did he pass the ABA vetting? How did Charles Schumer and Patrick Leahy let him on the bench? Doesn’t Judge Birch know that letting the people’s legislatures decides moral issues is racist?

I propose therefore the following compromise on the deeply divisive issues of cloning and stem-cell research. Conservatives will drop our objections if we can clone 100 Judge Stanley Birches and put them on the federal bench. And his stem cells should be sold over-the-counter and, if necessary, forcibly implanted into all pregnancies in the Hamptons, Marin County and Malibu.

January 29, 2004 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Howard Dean, theologian

dean.jpgProbably reacting to this article in the New Republic, Howard Dean last week played the God card. And God is not mocked.

  • First of all, he says he leaves the Episcopal Church and becomes a Congregationalist over … I am not kidding … a zoning fight concerning a bike path.
  • Then, the Boston Globe describes him as “a committed believer in Jesus Christ” — a man who married a non-Christian and who let his children choose their religion.
  • Then, he describes Job as his favorite book of the New Testament (really) and also mangles a (perfectly legitimate in itself) issue of Job scholarship in trying to prove how smart he is.
  • Then, when asked again about the New Testament, he says “anything from the Gospels” (like, he couldn’t cite a single verse).
  • Then, he says God couldn’t possibly condemn homosexuality because homosexual persons exist. St. Blog’s parishioner David Morrison deserves time off in Purgatory for taking this on with a straight face.
  • Then, in that selfsame planned interview, he cites God as one of the reasons he signed the Vermont gay-marriage-in-all-but-name bill. And not two days later, hold onto your hat, he attacks George Bush in a spontaneous forum for deciding as he did on stem-cell research for religious reasons.

Dean should just can this God-talk in my opinion. It’s not convincing anybody who’d give two hoots about his religious beliefs, because it’s so obviously a recent addition to his portfolio and the mask slips so easily.

I don’t think someone as obviously secular as Dean should be U.S. president (though my reasons for saying that ), but whatever my objections might be on that as such, last week was just aesthetically pathetic. I’d rather have Dean be Dean and then force a clear choice in November (we’ve had triangulation in the Oval Office for 12 of the last 16 years; clear choices are more aesthetically pleasing and have more civic virtue).

It’s clear that Dean understands religion only as a hobby, like restoring old cars on the weekend. As an interesting character quirk, he gets it. As the center of one’s being, as the defining feature of the universe, as something that might “inform my public policy” (in Dean’s own incredible phrase) or as something really true … you might as well be speaking Latin. But he’s trying so hard and the more he tries, the more pitiful and painful it becomes. It’s like watching the Man in the Grey Flannel Suit try to drag race with the Teddy Boys. Or the professor on the cabaret stage at the end of THE BLUE ANGEL. Or Al Gore trying do Al Sharpton in his 2000 campaign appearances in black churches.

Anybody who’s spent any time in academia, the media, or among blue-state professionals can type Dean in an instant — the secular, progressive, bourgeois man of science (M. Homais in MADAME BOVARY is an early example of the type). But because he has political ambitions in the United States, Dean cannot say what he actually thinks.

In fact, just for aesthetic reasons and basic honesty, he should just say something like:

“y’know, I’m just not a religious man. Belief in the Xtian god makes no more sense to me than belief in the Greek gods. I never think, speak or act with God on my mind. If you think it works for you, fine. And if you think your God is telling you to do something I think is good, I won’t reject your support (unless you have a Confederate flag on your pickup). But I think society is healthier the more secular it becomes, because faith is contrary to reason, and claims of absolute truth are divisive. I think ‘God’ is basically like ‘Santa Claus,’ both as regards individuals and societies. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child.”

I’m not saying this is a theologically-coherent or -correct position mind you. Or that it would matter at the end of DOGVILLE. Or that he would necessarily gain politically (I think it’d be a wash because it would merely confirm what anyone who cares to think about it already knows). Or that he wouldn’t be blazing the trail for, 20 years down the road, a more aggressively atheistic Ayn Rand or Madalyn Murray O’Hair type, as opposed to the basically easygoing secular agnostic I’ve sketched above. But I could retain a minimal amount of respect for the guy. As it is, I’m salivating at pondering whether the landslide will be 40 states or 45.

January 13, 2004 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

The Kazan haters

It’s unfortunately not on the Web site, but the December issue of The Atlantic has a postmortem on Elia Kazan from conservative writer Mark Steyn, in a bit of a reined-in writing persona compared to what he did at, e.g. the American Spectator. Steyn has an interesting take on a film (GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT) that I found pretty weak but Steyn makes me want to see it again. But most importantly, he states bluntly the principle behind supporting Kazan.

kazan.jpgBut the arts have little time for anti-Communists, especially premature anti-Communists, especially as premature as Kazan: he quit the party in 1936, after he’d refused to help it turn the Group Theatre into an actors’ collective …

But if we were to frame Kazan’s testimony to HUAC in terms of personal loyalty, what about his responsibility to, say, Vsevolod Meyerhold? When Kazan joined the Group, straight out of Yale, the company looked to the Russians for inspiration — not just to Stanislavsky, but also to his wayward disciple Meyerhold. The latter was a great mentor to the young Kazan and other Group members. This was a period, remember, when the Group frequently visited Russia; [Waiting For] Lefty, for example, was staged in Moscow. Meyerhold loved the older stylized forms — commedia dell’arte, pantomime — and refused to confine himself to Socialist Realism. So Stalin had him arrested and executed.

Think about that: murdered over a difference of opinion about a directing style. As ‘persecution’ goes, that’s a lot more thorough than forcing some screenwriter to work on a schlock network variety show under a false name.

And that really says it all about why I scorn the professional anti-McCarthyites, and why Kazan’s memory was honored by these rodents’ hate. Any comparison or parallel between McCarthyism, HUAC, loyalty oaths and the rest of it and the *ordinary way of doing business* in the Soviet Union is obscene. Anyone who’d make it has no sense of proportion or a sense of what a monstrous evil Communism was, and therefore thus how derivatively evil supporting it was.

November 24, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

Howard Dean wusses out

howiegrits.jpgAs I predicted, only even faster, Howard Dean was forced back inside the PC box. The Vermont governor’s remarks about the Democrats’ need to appeal to the kind of Southern white who has a Confederate flag on his pickup truck came up in the *very next* debate. During the event itself, Dean gave an admirably peppery defense, and the early versions of the Associated Press account said he refused to apologize.I’ve already said my $.02 about why there is nothing objectionable about Dean’s remarks in the first place and I compared the other candidates’ reactions to Pavlov’s dogs slobbering on cue to a bell, just from habit even though there’s no food there. Dean got “good for him” kudos from such commentators as Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher (these are words to similar effect Rod wrote later, as the original links I used then are dead; VJM 5 Oct. 07).

But in between Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, something happened. Maybe those cajones that Sullivan and Dreher so admired had to be surrendered and put into a blind trust for the duration of the campaign. In Wednesday’s later versions of that AP story, Dean *does* apologize, and a close look at the wording of the story makes it clear just how abject he had become. Here are the money grafs (I can’t find this online now, Lexis could confirm if needed; VJM 5 Oct. 07):

Later, he called the AP to clarify the comments in his speech.
“That was an apology. You heard it from me,” Dean said. “It was a remark that inflicted a lot of pain on people for whom the flag of the Confederacy is a painful symbol of racism and slavery.”
Still defensive, Dean said he stood by his broader point that Democrats must court Southern whites who have voted for Republicans and received nothing in return.
“My remarks were misunderstood, of course, with the help of my colleagues” in the race, he told the AP. Dean called and apologized to rival Al Sharpton, who had challenged Dean on the debate stage.

Note the wording: *he* called the AP. It’s possible there was some maneuvering by handlers beforehand, but front-running candidates just don’t, as a matter of routine, solicit interviews with news outlets, particularly one as ubiquitous and anonymous as the Associated Press. He emphasized that it *was* an apology: “You heard it from me.” This was a major act of damage control.

It’s not from the candidate, but we also get this lovely bit from a South Carolina DNC member: “My God. Couldn’t he have simply said we need to appeal to the ‘Bubba vote’ or ‘good ol’ boy vote’?” But just calling them “Bubbas” or “good ol’ boys” doesn’t change anything about them — they’re presumably the same people who (tend to) put Rebel flags on their pickups.

All right, lemme see if I’ve got this straight: It’s OK to solicit the votes of Southern whites who have Rebel iconography. But it’s not OK to note that they sport such symbols, even for the purposes of saying “back us over other matters and put down your offensive symbol.” It is not OK to use that brandished Confederate flag as a short-hand way of referring to those working-class and poor Southern whites, because that’s hayseed stereotyping, according to Southern Democrats as conservative as Zell Miller or as (relatively) liberal as John Edwards: “Some of the greatest civil-rights leaders, white and black, have come from the South. To assume that southerners who drive trucks would embrace this symbol is offensive,” he said at the weekend. But “Bubba” and “good ol’ boy” are acceptable ways to refer to the *exact* *same* *people* who are sporting those symbols. *Now* their support has been ritually purified, like a Temple priest, I guess. And of course, in today’s apology-sodden climate, you beg forgiveness for your comments, which you maintain are not racist and were “misunderstood, of course, with the help of my colleagues.” But you still must personally solicit pardon from one of those colleagues who distorted your remarks. Is it because that candidate is black (three guesses, “yes” or no”), even though the icon is supposedly offensive to *all*, white and black alike. And actually you only solicit one of the two black candidates — doesn’t Carol Moseley-Braun count as black (like Clarence Thomas)? Doesn’t NOW’s endorsement make her a major player?

I’m confused.

southerncross.jpgActually, I’m not confused about one thing. The way this contretemps played out over the past three days — the innocence of Dean’s original remark, the speed with which the others piled on, and the even greater speed with which Dean then backed off — is one more nail in the Democratic coffin in the South as the party of South-hating liberals. Both an Orlando Sentinel columnist and Sen. Edwards know how this will play out. In Tuesday’s debate, the senator told Dean: “The last thing we need in the South is somebody like you coming down and telling us what we need to do.” Confederate symbology is generally not an issue in Southern politics, but when it gets made into one, Southern whites tend to close ranks. It’s not 6th century Sparta, but the South is as close as America gets to an honor-based culture. Most Southerners (including myself during the 5 years I lived in Georgia) don’t fly the Confederate flag for a variety of reasons, but they have an acute nose for realizing when they are being dissed and held at contemptuous arm’s length over it. That’s all an honor-based culture needs to hear, and no Deanesque talk about health insurance for your kids is gonna matter at that point.

November 6, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

“Look away, look away …”

deanguy.jpg


These are the grafs that started a weekend of posturing … buried in the middle of a Des Moines Register story (no longer even online as itself, best I can tell, in October 2007; here is AP story from later) about the gun issue.

“Dean has said 2000 Democratic nominee Al Gore lost the election because he failed to win Southern states, where disaffected Democrats who favor gun owners’ rights were reluctant to support him.
” ‘I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,’ Dean said Friday in a telephone interview from New Hampshire. ‘We can’t beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats’.”

From the reaction to this quote, you’d think Howard Dean had called for the return of slavery or at least the repeal of the University of Michigan’s affirmative-action program. These are the reaction comments from the other candidates Saturday:

Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri: This is a blatant move to win the votes of people “who disagree with us on bedrock Democratic values like civil rights” and “I don’t want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks. I will win the Democratic nomination because I will be the candidate for guys with American flags in their pickup trucks.”

kerrysnob.jpgSen. John Kerry of Massachusetts: Dean’s “pandering” to the National Rifle Association gave him an inroad to “pander to lovers of the Confederate flag” and “I would rather be the candidate of the NAACP than the NRA.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton of New York: he was “surprised and disturbed” by the remark. “If I said I wanted to be the candidate for people that ride around with helmets and swastikas, I would be asked to leave.”

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards: “Some of the greatest civil rights leaders, white and black, have come from the South. To assume that southerners who drive trucks would embrace this symbol is offensive.”

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas: “Every Democratic candidate for president needs to condemn the divisiveness the Confederate flag represents.”

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman’s campaign director: “Governor Dean ought to be more careful about what he says. It is irresponsible and reckless to loosely talk about one of the most divisive, hurtful symbols in American history.” Lieberman himself said Sunday while campaigning in South Carolina: “The way he said it was just plain wrong, divisive, hurtful. I’m troubled that he didn’t just admit he made a mistake in his follow-up statement.”

Leaving aside the even-more-incoherent-than-usual Sharpton, the two comments that were absolutely the weakest were those by Clark and Gephardt. Contra the general, Dean said nothing about the Confederate flag’s divisiveness (rather it was, at a bare minimum “I want those people’s votes,” the thing one would think politicians seek). And Gephardt is just being a snob (more anon). The rest is just silly. It’s like these Democrats are hearing the words “Confederate flag” and slobbering on cue like Pavlov’s dogs.

Dean didn’t back off in a statement Saturday, when everybody was piling on, but added context, and the point he was making is exactly what I took him to have been saying all along:

roosevelt.jpg“I want people with Confederate flags on their trucks to put down those flags and vote Democratic – because the need for quality health care, jobs and a good education knows no racial boundaries. We have working white families in the south voting for tax cuts for the richest 1 percent while their children remain with no health care. The dividing of working people by race has been a cornerstone of Republican politics for the last three decades – starting with Richard Nixon. … The only way we’re going to beat George Bush is if southern white working families and African-American working families come together under the Democratic tent, as they did under FDR.”

How is what Dean is saying anything different from the standard Democratic narrative and critique of the Republican “Southern strategy” — meaning the GOP use of race and cultural issues such as prayer, busing and gun rights to wean Southern whites away from their historic allegiance to the Democrats? The liberal, and even radical, pedigree of the idea is impeccable. It’s what Lyndon Johnson meant by saying that by signing the civil rights acts he had handed the South to the GOP for decades. It’s what Marxists mean when they say that racial division is a ruling class tool designed to divert people’s attention away from their class interests. The only apparent difference is that Dean thinks that he can *do something* about that loss of voters — again, one would think most politicians would desire the votes of as many people as possible, rather than write off a priori a large segment of the populace out of moral condescension. And that is what makes the other candidates’ reactions so interesting to me.

sticker.jpgIt’s one thing to say displaying the Confederate flag is racist or offensive and we (Democrats) oppose that. It’s another thing altogether to say, “we don’t want the votes of people who display it, *even when* based on appeals to and common ground on other issues.” And that’s unmistakably what the other candidates’ knee-jerkings are. Reasonable people can disagree about whether Dean is right that Democrats can win the votes of the Southern white working class on the basis of economic populism (I think he’s wrong). But to say that no such effort should be made, or that such an effort to woo those voters is offensive or racist in itself is crazy. Nuts. Self-destructive. Politics as exclusionary snobbery. Politics as running against a certain segment of the populace constructed as demon Other (which in a certain sense is inevitable, but it’s hard in a stable democracy to win when running against one-third of the country). Dean was making the sensible point that Democrats seeking the White House can’t afford to write off the Southern states … heck, if Al Gore could have won his Southern home state (or his boss Bill Clinton’s for that matter), we’d all have been spared the Long Election of 2000 because Florida’s electoral votes wouldn’t have affected the outcome.

I carry no brief for Confederate nostalgia, which for some people (though not all) is clearly just sublimated racism or an excuse for prettifying or intellectualizing a prejudice. Still, though it probably ranks about 165th in my political priorities, I don’t care for PC attempts to erase honors, memorials and namings of All Things Confederate from the public sphere. And as a Republican, I have to admit that I probably want Dean to win the Democratic nomination because I think Bush-Dean would be a rerun of Nixon-McGovern and Reagan-Mondale (actually in that sense, the Democrat I’d *most* like to win would be Al Sharpton, but I realize that’s not in the cards). All that said though, I’d really hate for the front-runner for one of the two major parties to suffer badly and have his chances for the nomination hurt over this. It’s discouraging that the other candidates (one of whom I guarantee is gonna say during one of the debates before a black audience “Dean praised the Confederate flag”) are so eager to pander, and have constituencies so used to being pandered to, that they can say things so manifestly stupid merely on the basis of a knee-jerk, “stop all rational thought” association with three words “the Confederate flag.”

November 3, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

This week, I prefer Roeper

It has long been obvious to all who cared that Roger Ebert was a liberal Democrat with radical and counterculture sympathies (yet somehow in the pay of Vast Right-Wing Conspirator Conrad Black and the evil Disney Cultural Megamonster). His reviews of the films of Spike Lee, Oliver Stone and Michael Moore came laced with asides and whole paragraphs that made it clear to anyone with the eyes to see. Fine, whatever.

But the subject of President Bush in the past couple of years has pushed him out of the closet, and his own doors have come a bit unhinged in the process. His review of LUMUMBA, a biopic of the 1960s Congolese radical, began with a rant about Bush’s missile-defense plan. And in his post-September 11 review of ZOOLANDER, he more-or-less said the film could cause Malaysians to kill Americans by the thousands. Or something like that.

Now, that kind of stuff is just funny. And Ebert, the most influential film critic of his era, the man who first lit the fire under practically every film geek of my generation, isn’t even the lefty critic most worth laughing at for that sort of thing. (There’s a whole gaggle at the Village Voice). But he crossed the line in an interview in the latest issue of the Progressive.

Much of it was fine and par for the course, until he began exhibiting a generational and intellectual arrogance that I find utterly breathtaking, but entirely typical for Ebert’s kind of culture snob. I suppose there isn’t really any point in my saying anything since I’m a generation younger than Ebert and therefore never took a civics class. And this is all obviously the same “Limbaugh rhetoric” from “parrots” who “don’t have any ideas of their own.” But reading tripe like that makes me think I was in the first generation that ever took a logic class.

The double standards are appalling and legion. Sean Penn is “probably not dumb” because he’s the greatest actor of his generation. Um, OK. About anyone who would make that argument — who thinks there’s a greater correlation between intellect and acting ability than between intellect and thinking you’d learn the truth about Iraq from Saddam Hussein and Baghdad Bob — that person probably *is* dumb. But let that go. How does this “probability” sit alongside Ebert’s repeated and open contempt for Dubya as stupid? The man has degrees from Harvard and Yale. Yes, he had all sorts of connections and advantages that middle- and lower-class people didn’t, but Harvard and Yale don’t just hand out degrees, even to their legacies, and they don’t graduate dummies. Yes, Bush is not philosophically sophisticated or reflective (very, very few people are), but that’s not the same thing as being dumb, as in the caricature Ebert and the his SDS pals draw. And Ivy League degrees have a far greater “probably” relationship to intellect than acting ability (which is essentially the ability to convincingly pretend, a skill that the uncharitable might note is much closer to self-delusion than to knowledge).

And what’s this born-yesterday piffle about religion and politics? “Religion in the White House has crossed the line between church and state … we finally get a religion in the White House” in the form of Bush? Was Ebert taking so many civics classes that he skipped history classes? In fact, if anything Ebert’s generation, far from being the last to have a civics class, was the first to decide on a new, secular sense of “civitas.” Prior to approximately the time of Kennedy, religion had proudly never left the White House or American politics — the only questions had been what religion and to what ends. Does Ebert think the Puritans were people with funny hats and turkeys who came to America to set up the “shining city on a hill” as a secular republic? Has he read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, in which he explicitly interprets the Civil War in providential and salvific terms? Or anything by the civil rights movement from *Reverend* King or Fanny Lou Hamer? Or does he know about the Calvinist Woodrow Wilson, who justified U.S. imperialism as God’s civilizing hand (and was far from alone in so doing)? Or Teddy Roosevelt, who justified same as a form of muscular Christianity (James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was of that school of religion)? Or the Abolitionist movement, which was a product of the Second Great Awakening? Where was he when Jimmy-fricking-Carter was in the White House? Or when Bill Clinton publically set up a counsel of religious elders to look after his soul during the Year of Monica? Or … I could go on and on, but why bother? It’s obvious Ebert is just parroting a set of ACLU talking points because he’s never had an original thought of his own. Doesn’t he even remember from 1959-1960 that the wider-shared objection to Kennedy wasn’t that he’d bring *religion* into the White House, but that he’d bring in the *wrong religion* — Catholicism, the foreign tyranny of the Pope of Rome and all that. Again, prior to Kennedy, it always had been assumed that the president and Congress would come from one or another strain of mainline Protestantism and govern accordingly. Maybe little Rog skipped that day in civics class. Or maybe he was busy praying for the election of Harry Truman (no church-state separation issues or cause for thoughts about the stupidity of a man who thinks God takes sides in politics there of course).

The “civics class” comment is self-righteous demogoguery. And wholly unjustified as an opinion for Ebert to have about his own intellect as demonstrated here. To avoid being one of those who “don’t understand the First Amendment,” one must first have read it, and what it says is “Congress shall make no law …” (This prohibition was later extended to state and local government through the 14th Amendment.) What it says absolutely nothing about, what no court has ever construed it to say, is private action, private criticism, private open-mindedness or anything else private. It’s a restriction on government. The only offenses cited are Fox being a meanie to the brilliant Sean Penn, the refusal of some stations to play the Dixie Chicks and right-wingers’ dismissal of his own political columns as worthless (an entirely justified one; the Florida recount columns are comedies of forensic errors, not excluding lies). Oh … and some people on the Internet keep a list of who they see as U.S. enemies. Big fat hairy deal. What does any of this have to do with government action, the only thing the First Amendment speaks about? Maybe little Rog skipped that day in civics class too.

If you want to argue a policy, you first have to understand and talk specifically about what is happening. And on the most basic of economic concepts, Ebert is just plain all thumbs. Now it could be, in principle, a perfectly reasonable complaint that the tax system is insufficiently progressive or the welfare state insufficiently generous. Or that certain politicians have made it thus and that’s bad. But what is this Ebertish babble about “their money is being stolen” and “a concerted policy of taking money away from the poor and giving it to the rich”? The poor have little or nothing *to* take away or call “theirs” to be stolen … that is why they are called “poor.” What is this “concerted policy” that Ebert is talking about? Tax cuts? All they can do, by definition, is let people keep more of what they have earned in the first place. To the contrary, the Earned Income Tax Credit actually “gives” money (there is no “Negative Income Tax”) to people … but only the working poor. Further, the share of people near the bottom who pay no federal income tax at all has grown in recent years, and will continue to expand under Dubya’s tax cuts. Government spending programs? Leave aside the empirical (and therefore far too complex for Ebert’s posturing) question of whether they have in fact been cut (they have not … nondefense government spending under Dubya is as high as it has ever been). Just think conceptually about what Ebert is saying. Government spending programs give some people money or benefits they didn’t have before. A government might cut such programs, but that could only give the beneficiaries less, and that’s just not the same thing. This might sound like a Jesuitical distinction, but Ebert was too specific and too repetitive in his usage to think he was speaking loosely. Besides, he took all those civics classes that gave him a corner on reason against those who parrot Limbaugh rhetoric and have never had a thought of their own. He genuinely seems to live in a world where the government robs from the poor to give to the rich. And that is just plain nuts, except under some Brezhnev Doctrine of permanent entitlement growth or some absolute objection to any and all private property.

Speaking of Marxism, I also loved the way this millionaire presumes to speak for the poor. Remember how the Progressive’s writer mentioned Ebert’s car license plate, but didn’t say what kind of car it was? That was awesome. He complains that so many “ordinary people” are “voting conservative and thinking that the conservatives represent them” and then haughtily says “they don’t.” Has it ever dawned on this guy that other people might be at least as decent (maybe better) judges of their own interests and who represents them as he is? Or that people’s interests might be broader than economics (e.g., the culture war or foreign policy)? Or that, heaven forfend, he might be wrong about economics. No, Ebert is just so sure, so sure. His certainty doesn’t come from political or economic realities; it comes from apparently on high.

These are acute distinctions, I realize, but I have no patience with them or tolerance for them when they come from someone who so pointedly looks down on other people’s intellects, say they parroting Limbaugh’s talking points because they never took a civics class and have no thoughts of their own and all that rubbish. The reason I suspect that Ebert only gets rude dismissals from conservatives is simply that when he talks politics, he isn’t worth engaging. In fact, as a general rule, the more profound somebody’s distaste for a political view, the less likely he is to address it.

Ebert plays like he wants a civil discussion, why can’t we celebrate people with different opinions and argue with them, etc., but how can one have a civil discussion with someone who wrote a snob-act-masquerading-as-a-column on the presidential daughter’s wardrobe choices, calling her “uncouth” and a “yob,” but exactly what you’d expect from such dumb family stock? How can one have a civil discussion with someone who compared Florida Secretary of State Katharine Harris to Bill the Butcher from GANGS OF NEW YORK? How can one have a civil discussion with someone who says Bush getting caught in the London rain proves that missile-defense is a bad idea [I am not making that up]? How can one have a civil discussion with someone who defends the Florida Supreme Court’s conduct with “I trust that if any of those justices believed in their hearts that their decision was wrong, they would have said so” and yet has no problem with calling the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision a “federal coup” [the double standard stinks to high heaven]?

And why would one want to?

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Ebert icon from Rentertainment.

August 22, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberalism as product placement

(Putting on my best Anne Robinson voice…)

Reese Witherspoon’s ensemble isn’t the only thing “pink” about LEGALLY BLONDE 2.

Actually, that’s a gross exaggeration. LEGALLY BLONDE 2 is a not politically radical at all (or even politically very deep, more anon), but that’s what makes it annoying. It’s just a not-very-successful retread of a concept that was a delightful comic gem when it was fresh a couple of years ago — innocently cartoonish kewpie doll shows how smart and effectual she really is when Harvard/Washington look down their noses at her. The half-life of this formula is pretty short — and BLONDE 2 lost two-year’s worth of energy and originality. Everything (with one exception) is a rehash. A genuinely great scene of Witherspoon’s innocently-truthful video application to Harvard Law gets put through the motions here as a Power Point presentation on the life of her pet chihuahua Bruiser that had material obviously calculated (in the character’s mind, I mean) to make a point.

The film wouldn’t be worth chewing over if it weren’t for that one new element — the switch in venue from Boston/Harvard to Washington/Congress. Now, I’m not one of those conspiracymongers who believe “Hollywood” is a singular noun that wakes up in the morning and asks itself over its first latte “what can we put into movies to help the left.” LEGALLY BLONDE 2, for all its surface political subject matter, is primarily a money-spinning frothy comedy — so featherweight that you can’t hold seriously against it the details it gets wrong. It concludes with a staff member giving a speech to a joint session of Congress; it occurs in that alternate political universe where Big Tobacco/Big Oil/Big Lipstick/Big Whatever, can defeat an incumbent congressman on demand merely by giving money to his opponent. That kinda stuff.

But this very fact about it (it’s neither a prestige, “adult” political film like THE CONTENDER nor an indie polemic like BOB ROBERTS) is precisely what makes LEGALLY BLONDE 2 revelatory. Just as “virtue is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking” or “a lord’s character is determined by how he deals with his slaves rather than his king,” the very fact that the film isn’t a seriously political film means that the unstated assumptions, the “of courses” of the world of entertainment show up in sharper relief. LEGALLY BLONDE 2’s understanding of political psychology says a great deal about the climate of political orthodoxy in the entertainment industry and the precise way that its liberal consensus finds its way into films. The film’s basic plot device is that Elle finds out about Bruiser’s mother being used for testing cosmetics. So, just like she went to Harvard Law just to be near her boyfriend, she goes to Washington to pass a law outlawing animal testing and free Bruiser’s mom. Once there, she undergoes the same “airhead fish out of water” humiliations she did at Harvard, but gradually wins everyone over to her team through her pluck and self-assurance and graduates/gets her bill passed.

OK, no problem in principle. But comically speaking, there is absolutely no reason why animal rights has to be the cause (a few easily rewriteable detail jokes aside) — all that’s necessary for the film is that Elle have one. It’s the comic version of a Hitchcockian MacGuffin — she could have gone to Washington to pass a bill to save her family from having to sell their homestead because of the estate tax (first example to pop into my head). Yet when the writers of this film needed a political MacGuffin, they (and, the key point, as in *every other recent commercial, apolitical Hollywood film*) came up with a liberal or left example. The last time I recall a conservative cause at the moral center of a Hollywood entertainment was the risible LISTEN TO ME, where Debate Stud Kirk Cameron persuades the Supreme Court to outlaw abortion. In 1989. But after all, as the head writer on MURPHY BROWN once said, “you write what you know.” And as has been copiously documented (and collected by Michael Medved), the entertainment industry is too well-marinated in liberal orthodoxy to “know” conservatives except as demon Other.

This shouldn’t be taken as too harsh a judgment on any individual film, except that since this sort of political product placement entirely goes one way, you can’t not notice it after a while. Apolitical films in Hollywood today will show only liberals or the left in this sort of neutral or indifferently-positive manner, as a way to fill out the movie. There’s no more reason, for a comedy like LB2, that the cause has to be animal rights rather than abortion, any more than a character has to drink Coke rather than Pepsi. At least with real product placement, the filmmakers are paid to make a choice that is dramatically indifferent. Liberalism gets it for free. And once you start to see it, it begins to work against the movie in question in precisely the same way product placement does — by calling attention to itself and highlighting its selectedness. You see Danny Glover’s daughter at the dinner table in a routine sequence in one of the LETHAL WEAPON sequels wearing a “Save the Whales” T-shirt and your mind wanders to think whose idea it was to pick *that* cause. And why it’s always Coke, Coke, Coke. It becomes the elephant … er, donkey, I guess … in the room.

Not that LEGALLY BLONDE 2 is very much better when politics, primarily animal testing, is explicitly on its mind. Very early on, Elle finds out about Bruiser’s mom and so goes to her law firm and says they should crusade against animal testing because “it’s wrong to harm any living thing merely for profit,” and when the other members of the firm protest, she says “doing the right thing profits everybody in the long run.” As a former grader of undergraduate political philosophy essays filled with unwarranted leaps of reasoning, I just wanted to wince at the former … “and that is the moral standard because …?” and at the latter … “is that really so …?” It’s not that an animal-rights backer could not potentially answer these questions, it’s rather that the film doesn’t see that an animal-rights opponent potentially could deny them. But Elle states the insight as if it were self-evident and it’s never challenged in the movie, except on role-playing terms (“they’re our clients”), legislative flim-flam (Sally Field’s character), personal venality (the chief of staff). Never does the film think to ask why cosmetic firms test the safety of their products — is it really because executives get pleasure or profit *from* torturing bunnies? There’s a throwaway line where Elle says that banning animal testing would provide jobs for “thousands of scientists” to develop alternative methods of determining cosmetic safety. Does one laugh or cry? Do the letters o-p-p-o-r-t-u-n-i-t-y c-o-s-t-s spell anything meaningful? Yet LEGALLY BLONDE 2 continues to move blithely on ahead as if showing gory pictures of animals were some miraculous persuader, before which all opposition crumbles (why hasn’t PETA succeeded yet, if the matter were that simple). As the Washington City Paper complained, the film looks down on characters for treating Elle as a stereotype, but does so by turning everyone else into other sorts of cartoons. This betrays the film’s real conception — essentially it’s a form of wish-fulfillment for its makers and their animal-rights-backing soulmates in the audience. Which is everybody, right? After all, they write what they know.

What made LEGALLY BLONDE 2 especially sad is that the glorious Reese Witherspoon, one of the era’s best actresses, has made an infinitely better political movie. In fact ELECTION is just plain one of the best movies of recent years. After coming home from LB2, I popped in my DVD and watched some of its best scenes — the campaign speeches, Tracy Flick’s self-introduction, Mr. McAllister explaining democracy to Paul — just to reassure myself that smart, serious political satire with noncartoon characters really can be made in this day and age. There is hardly a topical reference in the film, but it explains, just to name one aside, the force behind Clinton’s driven personality in the look on Tracy’s face and her voiceover as she looks out the school bus window. And Paul’s foreshadowing of Dubya in some ways is so funny precisely because it couldn’t have been intentional — the film was released in spring 1999.

August 20, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hasta la vista, Gray Davis

It’s too bad that the Article 2, Section 1, Paragraph 5 of the U.S. Constitution prevents not just me from becoming president, but also bars Arnold Schwarzenegger from following the career trajectory of Ronald Reagan. Think about it — from looked-down-on actor to Republican activist to governor of California to …

But I can dream. If you’re Kim Jong-il, who’s gonna intimidate you more — Howard Dean or The Terminator? Visualize the Iranian mullahs quaking in their boots at the prospect of having to deal with John Kerry (stop laughing).

August 7, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Gone With The Wind, Michael Moore style

I cannot recommend this article in City Journal strongly enough (thanks Adam, Stacy). I don’t hate Michael Moore nearly as comprehensively as some might expect, and as a Roman Catholic, I am no champion of libertarian market-worship.

But Kay Hymowitz nails down how Moore’s economic vision and his animus toward “Corporate America” is, among much else [none of it pretty], basically a form of childhood nostalgia. He romanticizes, particularly in ROGER & ME (a great film though it is) America’s post-WWII industrial heyday, and blames “corporate greed” for its disappearance. But Moore never acknowledges that the job security and relative affluence his father enjoyed four decades ago at the GM plant in Flint was the result of specific historical circumstances. WWII had bankrupted or destroyed the infrastructure and economies of the other great industrial powers, and the 1973 Arab oil embargo had not yet sunk Detroit’s model for success.

Greedy CEOs didn’t turn the industrial Midwest into the Rust Belt. It was basic economics. All was not sunshine and light in the postwar boom. Factory floor jobs were stressful, repetitive and at times dangerous, while the Flint, Mich., of 1959 can no more be an economic model than can the plantation South of 1859. Both are gone with the wind, and sit-down strikes and assembly lines are not a useful economic agenda any more than moonlight and magnolias.

August 7, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Drugstore Cowboy

bubba.jpgA recent White House occupant fancies himself as a cowboy, only it’s not Dubya, but, according to the London Daily Telegraph (this is where it’s available in September 2007) it’s the Sensitive-90s-Dad-In-Chief.

I loathe armchair psychology, but seeing a single movie 30 times in eight years is *so* unnatural that it’s hard not to speculate. Eisenhower and Bush 2.0 have each seen HIGH NOON also, but only three times and once respectively (and Ike was president when the movie was new fercryinoutloud). It’s not unusual for a professional critic or a really hard-core CINEMANIA-caliber film geek to see a film that often — my records are seeing THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER 12 times in two years (but then none in the next eight) and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS 22 times (but over almost 15 years). But this is the guy so intent on saving the world from The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and getting Osama bin Laden in December 2000 that he didn’t have time to notice the Rose Law Firm billing records, the raw FBI files on Washington’s top Republicans or any of that. And he was so focused lake a laser beam on the economy and Bosnia that he vulnerable to the stalking of cigar-wielding interns (especially while discussing Bosnia). How did he find the time to see a movie 30 times?

Numerous critics have long noted how HIGH NOON is “really” an anti-McCarthy allegory of the lone man abandoned by others’ cowardice in the fight against evil. Does it not seem typical of Clinton that he would see HIGH NOON 30 times? Maybe he just loves the movie, but it would be entirely consistent with what we know of Clinton’s self-dramatizing and narcissistic personality that he’d see himself as a lone defender of right, a modern-day Gary Cooper headed for a showdown with the black-hatted trio of Gingrich, Hyde and Starr. To give another example of the same phenomenon, he once explained some stretch of ineffectuality in an interview with The Washington Post by quoting from Chapter 6 of Macchiavelli’s THE PRINCE about the difficulties of “founding a new order of things,” thereby implicitly comparing Hillarycare, the moter-voter bill, gays in the military and Midnight basketball to (some of the examples Macchiavelli uses) Romulus founding Rome and Moses leading the Israelites into the Holy Land. The good St. Nick has a lot to teach us about politics, but that be wack.

Further, the choice of *that* Western, as opposed to, say, STAGECOACH or THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE or the Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns, is also instructive in terms of what it says about Clinton’s self-image and that of a significant swatch of Boomer public opinion (and Clinton is nothing if not the blue-state ego-ideal of his generation). When Europeans-in-place and Europeans-in-spirit call Dubya (or America in general) a cowboy, they’re referring, however accurately, to a certain image — an impetuous, dashing, ruthless taste for violence. Yosemite Sam basically. But Will Kane is a different kind of Western hero, one more acceptable to Our Sensitive Era — tortured, alone, only resorting to violence by clear-and-present necessity. And he even gets bailed out at the end by his wife …

August 7, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

Una Giornata Particolare

No, I didn’t just get an Ettore Scola jones, though some friends of mine like him a lot.

This was an e-mail that a friend of mine at work received from Tammy Bruce, a libertarian lesbian and author of “The Death of Right and Wrong:”

“Wow, what a day. Jessica Lynch comes home, we nail [Saddam Hussein’s] two sadistic mutts, and the Eiffel Tower catches fire. I’ve been walking around with the silliest grin on my face all day long. ;-) “

July 22, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment