Thursday, December 16, 2010
Friday, December 03, 2010
It's nice that
First, before diving into that soup, let me be very frank about the WikiLeaks affair - from the mouth of Bing West, who is always there to put things in context when my eloquence eludes me;
"Placing hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables on the Internet constitutes a massive betrayal of America. A nation must safeguard its military and diplomatic secrets if it is to be trusted in the international system. Whoever provided the material to WikiLeaks should be prosecuted under the ...death sentence, regardless (of their) alleged motivations. Traitors always feel aggrieved."
This situation has gone far beyond the farce as the media has been portraying it. This is not about the media created fiction of "the people's right to know", which is just a euphemism the media uses for being intrusive and reckless. This is sedition at the very least, and treason at the worst, and I would be hard-pressed to find a way to reduce the gravity of this to fit the parameters of sedition in a legal context.
The always brilliant and insightful James Bowman, in his diary entry of Nov 15th, rhetorically mused "Why do the best and the brightest hate us simple folk as they do?" It's a fair enough question, and Bowman dissects it in a way that only a man of his remarkable talents can. Why do people like the G-20 protesters - who bombed a bank, chased and harassed the adolescent son of a hapless bank executive, and went on to cause millions of dollars in property damage to the city of Toronto - get a free pass from the media, while the peaceful tea party protesters incur the full wrath and scorn of every news organization (barring perhaps Fox)? Curious still is why the violent G-20 protesters were given an undeserved level of legitimacy from the media.
Anyone who's read Bowman's "Media Madness" or anything by Bernie Goldberg already knows the answer to that question, but let's take it a step further and ask the question "why do they keep getting away with it?"
The thing about Washington intellectuals, both inside and outside of the beltway, is that they have an uncanny knack for being wrong, and the good fortune of rarely being held accountable for it - with the exception of folks like Bowman, who have a singular talent for what the kids say in their post-modern vernacular "calling out" the David Gergen's and Michael Tomasky's of the world.
Gergen's been around Washington for a long time and would probably have lots of interesting anecdotes were he not constantly playing the role of Monday morning quarterback for his own cult of personality. It's a role he's been playing for almost 40 years. Gergen was one of the coveted few who fed Bob Woodword and Carl Bernstein information for their 1976 tell-all book about the final days of the Nixon administration. Gergen, a peripheral figure (at best) in the Nixon administration, paints himself as the quiet voice of modulated reason. Gergen is a buffoon, but he has cemented a place for himself both in the media and academia, making rounds at Harvard, Elon, Duke, and The Ford Foundation.
But every so often, we poor peasants don't like to play along to the media narrative set by these much coveted eggheads. Every once and a while, when they least expect it, we break from the story line and "go rogue", so to speak.
Remember the Jan 11th debate moderated by Gergen, when the plain spoken dark horse candidate Scott Brown laid him out for asking if he'd be
"...willing to sit in Teddy Kennedy's seat and say I'm going to be the person who's going to block liberal health care policy for another 15 years",
To which Brown responded;
"It's not the Kennedy's seat, it's not the democrats seat....it's the people's seat."
Few can forget that moment, but fewer remember Gergen's smug prediction, when he admitted to National Review that he had been taken off guard by the quick witted Scott, but that the voters
"...want to show their frustration, but they aren’t willing or ready, yet, to send a Republican to the Senate."
Brown went on to handily win the "people's seat", and Gergen added yet another failed prediction to his extensive collection without ever being reminded of it. Does anyone still listen to this guy?
Since the November GOP sweep, it's become fashionable for beltway intellectuals holding court in the lofty pundit corners provided by their all too willing media sycophants to wax philosophically about the how the GOP won by scaring the elderly about health care. Funny, considering the left has made a cottage industry of telling Americans that the GOP were coming to end school lunch programs, drag seniors out of nursing homes, and drown every last kitten in the lower 48.
In fact, the Democrats went so overboard in 1994 with scare tactics and nasty campaigning it cost them both the House and the Senate.
Republicans warned that Obamacare would give less coverage to more seniors - and that's exactly what happened. Last month, seniors saw a remarkable 8% increase in their out of pocket expenses, and we're not just talking about the older folks living the good life in Florida, God's waiting room. It's the poor that have been hit the hardest, and irony of ironies to those who demonize the corporate world, it's been the drug companies that have stepped up to the plate to help those who have also lost their jobs due to the inept and reckless spending of President Obama. It has been the "evil drug companies" that have provided drugs to those hit the hardest at little or no cost to them.
Last week, at the end of a fascinating presentation by the wonderful (and very human) execs of a major drug company, a dear friend, whose firm did some PR work for President Clinton, said; "The GOP have only got two years left." He's made a few bad predictions in the past (though he's reluctant to admit it), so I made him repeat it twice, saying
"Remember this moment and what you've just said standing right here in the lobby of this nice hotel - I'm going to hold you to it, and there's no squirming out of it this time when you end up being wrong."
I suggest you get yourself a score card for the next time one of the great intellectual overlords looks down their nose at you and explains the way things are and how they're going to be. Hold on to that score card and swack them over the head with it like a frozen salmon after the next election.
Perhaps over time, if we conservatives devote ourselves to this practice, intellectuals will have to trade in their label for the one that once was reserved for them - Eggheads.
Friday, November 05, 2010
On Friday, MSNBC announced that it has suspended prime-time host Keith Olbermann indefinitely and without pay for making political contributions to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates. What is most curious about this, as Jonah Goldberg has pointed out, is that the network is doing this under the guise of ethics. Did anyone think that MSNBC had ethics to begin with? Does anyone really buy that network president Phil Griffin gives a damn about the appearance of bias and integrity? This is the same network that ran ads weeks before the last election with all its major players standing in front of an Obama style banner that read "The Network of Change."
Olby's temporary replacement, Chris Hayes of The Nation, also gave close to $2000 to various Democratic candidates - a violation of the same rule that was used to kick Olbermann to the curb.
So what's really going on?
MSNBC is a sinking ship. It is hemorrhaging money, and while that ass monkey Olbermann hosted the network's only popular program, his salary is probably more than the station makes in advertising revenue in a year.
But most of all, Olbermann is known to be an insufferable boor. He has repeatedly belittled and terrorized staffers and interns. He throws legendary temper tantrums at anyone who dares look at him sideways, and has even come close to starting on-air fist fights with colleagues like Chris Matthews during the 2008 elections coverage. Olbermann's ego has gone from being an annoyance to an open sore that's oozing puss.
AHHHH - but the schadenfreude! Olbermann's suspension is the icing on the cake after the GOP literally and figuratively cleaned "House." Even after holding almost absolute power in every branch of government, the Democrats still had to fight and bend the rules to pass every piece of legislation they rammed down the public's throat - and, like Olbermann, they got the boot.
America has opened the first page in a new chapter of a very old book called market driven constitutional republicanism. The supposed "racist" Tea Party movement managed to elect the most ethnically diverse candidates in the nation's history, and they have a lot of work to do. Reversing the damage done in 2 short years of reckless big government taxing and spending will be a daunting task.
Reports today indicate that instead of helping seniors, Obamacare has increased their out of pocket expenses by up to 8%, and companies such as John Deere have reported that co-pays will rise by 40%, increasing their expenditures by millions. The President's stimulus bill has created an unemployment rate just shy of 10%, and in September, almost 4 million Americans joined the ranks of the poor. How are you liking that "change?"
There will be no overnight magic, and Republicans would be well served to be cautious in promising too much. Over the summer I asked Jonah Goldberg if a Silent Cal, hands-off President would be what the nation needed. Goldberg confided that even under the most optimistic of conditions, the GOP would have to do some degree of legislating for at least 8 years to begin to reverse the damage the boy president has caused.
Republicans have been gracious in their victory, and they must never forget that they have not been given a mandate to return to business as usual - they have been given another chance to restore order and good government to the greatest nation on earth. The Tea Partiers should remain vigilant to ensure the folks up on the hill keep their noses out of the pork barrel, and their hands out of the pockets of hard working Americans.
Thank you all for your patience while we dealt with a very personal loss. It's good to be back.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
1 - I may not have a movie review for this week, but I do have a movie recommendation. Vigilante movies are a staple of American cinema, but as iconic as many of them have become - think Taxi Driver and Falling Down, for example - their heroes are usually a tad unstable.
Gran Torino was a satisfying film in many respects, but Eastwood can never divorce himself from his trademark tortured "victim hero", like he played in Unforgiven or Million Dollar Baby - oh yeah, did it ever occur to anyone that once those gang members posted bail, they or their friends were probably going to massacre the entire neighborhood? Kind of a huge plot hole, one would think.
Anyway, I think that up-and-coming director Daniel Barber may have given us the best movie in the genre to date with his first feature length film, Harry Brown.
Harry Brown stars the ever brilliant Michael Caine as a recently widowed ex-marine living in London's south end, an area being terrorized by gangs of violent young thugs. After Brown's friend is murdered trying to fend off local hoods, he finds the police sympathetic but unable to exact any real justice under Britain's bureaucracy-laden justice system. Harry, of course, takes matters into his own hands.
What sets Harry Brown apart from other vigilante films is that Brown is not a wise-cracking Hollywood bad ass. The movie has wonderfully suspenseful moments, but Harry's body count is modest and not sensationalized. What keeps the film grounded is that the young punks who harass and terrorize the neighborhood are frightening and believable. The other well played card is the frustration of the movie's detectives, Hickock and Frampton, whose hands are tied by a PR obsessed upper brass more concerned with public opinion and press conferences than actually tackling crime.
Harry Brown is well acted, well paced, and succeeds were it's predecessors have failed. Go see it.
2 - The Ground Zero Mosque debate is taking on the same tone I witnessed during theTea Party movement's early days, and as I discussed in the last blog, it's a tone intentionally set by the media. The MSM has decided to frame the debate as the forces of the crazed, Muslim hating "Christian Right" vs the sober-minded liberal voices of tolerance and understanding. Unlike the smear campaign the media launched on Tea Partiers, they are having less success painting the Mosque's detractors as crazed lunatics - but they sure are trying. A recent protest against the Mosque was widely dubbed as an "anti-Muslim rally." Strange, considering many of the people at the protest were Muslims. Rima Fakih, the first Muslim to wear the Miss USA crown (bestowed upon her by those intolerant Americans!!), has spoken out against the building of the Mosque. Hell, even Howard Dean has come to the defense of the protesters.
Those of us who oppose the building of the Mosque are opposed to it because it is in poor taste. The first amendment issues are utter hog wash and the so-called "Cordoba Center" has no more business being there than a Confederate flag would on a former slave plantation, or a Christian church would on the grounds of Auschwitz (yes, I do recall the "Cross Shadow" incident).
Putting aside the utter and complete disrespect the Mosque represents to the victims of 9/11, one must also question the motives of its supporters. Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the Mosque’s principal backer and an outspoken ally of Iran's brutal theocracy, has previously blamed 9/11 on American foreign policy, claiming "America has blood on it's hands." How can anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty look at Imam Rauf's history of notoriously anti-American utterings and believe in the purity of his motives?
The Ground Zero Mosque is a mockery to the memory of those who died there almost 10 years ago. We are not anti-Muslim, we are pro-respect.
3 - Please email any tips on the types of food that helped you with nausea during your first trimester of pregnancy. My editor/incubator the lovely Mrs. Claire is re-enacting the ipecac scene from Family Guy every 2 hours and we welcome any suggestions that might help to ease the stomach of my dear wife. I know most writers wish this sort of thing on their editor, but I can't in good conscience allow this to continue.
4 - Speaking of editors, my precious wife is quite sick, so if you notice that my articles are full of mixed metaphors, egregious punctuation and split infinitives, it's because she's too ill to edit my pieces at the moment. Any sloppiness is entirely of my own hand and not that of my talented editor.
5 - Oh the joy!! Oh the schadenfreude!! It's rare that an arrogant Hollywood liberal actually gets humiliated in public for his outspoken political beliefs, but James "the bully" Cameron finally shot his mouth off one too many times and got slammed for it. Now, there's nothing wrong with being a Hollywood liberal. Ben Affleck is surprisingly courteous and well informed, and people like Brad Pitt put their money where their mouth is and actually do some good in the world. I don't agree with most of their beliefs, but they're not pompous little dilettantes. James Cameron, on the other hand, has encouraged enviro-terrorism and has called people who question climate change "swine." Cameron decided to "call out the deniers" by challenging them to a debate, and here's what happened;
"... as soon as everything was organized, Cameron began changing the rules. First, he wanted to change his team. Then he wanted the format to be changed from a debate to a roundtable discussion. Then he wanted to ban the opposing side's cameras. Then he wanted to completely get rid of all cameras, stating that audio should only be recorded.
Breitbart, Morano and McElhinney agreed to all the unexpected changes, but Cameron kept going. He next said that he wanted all media to be banned and to make the roundtable open only to those attending the conference. He then decided against streaming the discussion on the internet and then concluded with a rule that no recording of any kind would be allowed.
The three men once again agreed. And finally, on the day before the event, Cameron withdrew, claiming that he no longer wanted to take part. According to Cameron's spokesman, the director did not want to participate because "Morano is not at James Cameron's level to debate. Cameron should be debating someone who is similar to his stature in our society."
Cameron is a coward and a liar and he knows he would have been laughed off the stage. Maybe now you'll shut your gd mouth, James.
6 - Have a good weekend!!
Monday, August 16, 2010
Lots of readers have been lobbing ideas across the court for me to blog about, and I'll touch on all of them in the next blogging by numbers. What I'm itching to address is
The left is acutely aware of two things - If you control the language, you control the debate, and once you control the debate you can set the parameters of that debate in the media. If you're not quite sure where I'm going with this, why is the opposing conservative viewpoint always considered "anti?" We're never "pro-life", we're "anti-abortion." We're never "pro-border enforcement", we're "anti-immigration." We're never "pro-second amendment" we're "anti-gun control." We never think to question these labels because they've become so embedded in the national psyche we take them for granted. A colleague of mine was gently chiding me for being critical of my company's carbon emission reduction program.
"Oh. You're an anti- environmentalist?" she asked.
I grinned and responded, "No. I'm pro-common sense."
As the Democratic party continues to implode and the President's approval ratings dip to all time lows, conservatives are asking some tough questions:
Why did an obscure financial institution called ShoreBank got a 20 million dollar Tarp bailout from the Administration, and why does the President appear in a video on their website talking about overseas micro-management?
How could a judge rule on in favour of the DOJ on a facial case regarding Arizona's immigration law when she opened her judgement by conceding it was impossible for the Administration to meet the standard required? The administration had to prove that the law could never be carried out in accordance with the Constitution. Judge Bolton admitted that standard of proof could never be met, but ruled in favour of the Feds anyway.
If Republicans are the so-called "party of the rich", why are career Democratic politicians like Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters facing numerous ethics violations over tax evasion and financial fraud? Why is big business sharing so much pillow space with the left?
But most troubling of all, why is so little attention being paid to the "Amnesty Memo" which states in no uncertain terms that the Administration will simply skip over the legislative branch altogether if they can't get satisfaction from an activist judiciary? These are all hot button issues, but if you try and engage in a scholarly debate about any of these things in the MSM or the blogosphere, you will either
A - Be accused of calling members of the adminstration communists;
B - Be ridiculed about the tea parties while being peppered with sexual inuendo about tea bagging.
The other day I read a column by some obscure left wing New England blogger who rambled on in pitch perfect 'above the fray' sanctimony about how conservatives were debasing the political discourse by "listening to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck" and actively accusing members of the administration of clandestine meetings with communists. He wrote that the right needed to act like adults and talk about issues instead of hurling insults. Funny thing is, about an hour after he had posted his self righteous sermon about maturity, I peeked over at his Facebook wall, and he was posting comment after comment laced with X-rated tea bagging jokes and mocking Sarah Palin's down syndrome child. Class act, this guy.
I don't know what the tea party has to do with the 13 ethics charges that have effectively put an end to Charlie Rangel's career. I also don't know what tea-bagging has to do with the Harlem Urban Development Corporation, a corporation Rangel set up under the guise of helping the community that turned out to be nothing but a slush fund to line his pockets and evade taxes.
I don't know what communism has to do Judge Bolton's brazen disregard for Federal law when the Justice Department succeeded in mounting a bogus and weak challenge to Arizona's proposed immigration law. I don't watch much Glenn Beck or listen to Rush Limbaugh, but I do read enough National Review and James Bowman to know that Judge Bolton stacked the deck to deliver a predetermined decision.
There's nothing wrong with Glenn Beck or Limbaugh, I find them entertaining and very good at what they do - but why do conservative pundits constantly have to defend something Beck said 3 weeks ago when they were called on a cable news show to talk about Federal preemption?
They have to because the media and the left are engaging in political misdirection. Ask a conservative like Andy McCarthy about SB 1070 and you'll get an air tight argument about the multiple errors in judge Bolton's decision. If you head over to NRO's "The Corner", you'll see a variety of conservative opinions about immigration law, both pro and con.
The right is not some monolithic, glassy eyed cabal of like-minded people. It's a vibrant intellectual movement that spends very little time engaging in conspiracy theories about the President's birth certificate, but click on any cable news network and you're led to believe we're all a bunch of yokels with a mouth full of rotting teeth screaming about how "Dem Eemeegrints needs to git back to Mexico!"
Since this morning, conservatives have been talking about reforming rule 501 and the so-called "Stealth Energy Tax". No one is talking about communists or dubious birth certificates - but if you turn on MSNBC or CNN, you would think the only thing we're discussing is building up a network of state militias to overthrow the government.
Again, I hate seeing my conservative colleagues appear on cable news programs only to spend 10 minutes defending talk radio hosts when they were asked on air to discuss different demographics and how they might affect incumbent Senate seats.
The media doesn't want you to see the real conservative movement, the one William F Buckley started 50 years ago - and the media doesn't get the intellectual conservative movement. They know it's not to their benefit to try to understand it.
Remember that CNN video that went viral showing disgraced reporter Susan Roesgen getting lippy with peaceful tea party protesters? What struck me the most was not the exchange between Rosengen and the protesters. It was her smug, condescending attitude, going as far as to openly suggest they didn't undertand the historical impact of the Lincoln adminstration, or the American constitution itself. It's the type of pinched nose, intellectual elitism that's rampant in the media and within the current Adminstration that says "we know what's best for you, you ignorant peasants."
So the next time someone starts laughing at you about being a stupid tea bagger, just smile right back and ask;
"That's funny, but all jokes asside, don't you feel that a facial challenge in a constitutional case can't be satisfied by using anectdotal evidence?"
You'll quickly find out that their liberal intellectual chest puffing is just a lot of hot air and insults with little substance beyond blaming everything on George Bush.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Anyway, a couple of things to touch on before I post the new article.
Ever feel fatigued and stressed? Ever feel like everything aches or find yourself constantly reaching for the Tylenol and you have to pop a couple of Adderall to get that "ready to go" buzz in the morning? Did you ever wish there was some kind of profession that specialized in alleviating pain, the inducement of relaxation and the promotion of good health? Well hey! Turns out there is! It's called massage therapy, and you can't be callin' it a massage unless it's done by a licensed, certified professional with years of experience.
Just like you you wouldn't go anywhere else but TSH for the latest in razor sharp, political commentary, I wouldn't go anywhere else for a massage unless it was done by Amanda at Scroll Tree Massage and Bodyworks. Scroll Tree promotes; "...a holistic approach to health care that's aimed at treating physical ailments and maintaining a pain-free lifestyle." So click on the link above, check out their website and book an appointment today! For the record, though TSH fully endorses Scroll Tree, neither Amanda or Scroll tree necessarily endorse this blog or the views expressed here.
On to other business....
Since the blog went live again, lots of people have been asking why there hasn't been as many updates as in the past. Well, first off,
I mentioned several months ago that my mother has been battling an aggressive cancer in an advanced stage. This has been a very trying time for my family with lots of oncologist appointments, rounds of chemo, and watching my brave mom battling the unpleasant side effects that come with all of the above.
I'm happy to report that we recently received news that her chemotherapy, against all odds, is working. Mom is getting healthier, and my family thanks all of you for your prayers and kind words and we ask that you continue praying. This is a miracle that would not have been possible without the wonders of modern medicine and the power of so much prayer and love. Thank you to everyone.
New blog will be up soon! Hang tight!
Saturday, August 07, 2010
During it's original release date The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford made many movie critics' top ten list and with good reason. The film, adapted from the novel of the same name by Robert Hanson was the first major directorial debut by Aussie filmmaker Andrew Dominik. It is a sweeping epic with a pitch perfect score by Nick Cave, magnificent cinematography, and brilliant performances by Brad Pitt as James and Cassey Affleck as the star struck, and ultimately spurned, Robert Ford.
Those who praised the movie unanimously echoed that it was the best western since "Unforgiven", which, it would seem to me, is setting the bar rather low. What makes the movie so appealing is the absence of a Clint Eastwood, Byron-esque hero running recklessly towards his own damnation. A thematic hero Eastwood has been unable to break with since "Unforgiven" swept the Oscars in 1993.
Conservative critics, most notably James Bowman, praised the film's score and cinematography, but accused it of being little more than a post modernist study in celebrity worship. While it's difficult to dispute that Affleck's Ford is a sycophantic admirer of James, I doubt the film is in any way meant to be allegorical.
The film has many flaws, the most glaring being it's 160 minute running time whittled down from it's original span of well over 3 hours. When a movie, especially a Western, asks it's audience to sit for over 2 hours one would expect a little more red meat than the movie provides. The only heist scene we are let in on, the Blue Cut Train Robbery, serves as the opening sequence of the film. Also, precious little is seen of the supporting cast, most notably the talented Sam Shepard (Frank James) and the always wonderful Sam Rockwell
The movie centers around Jesse as a man living on borrowed time. James takes into his confidence the star struck Robert Ford, who he misjudges as being too simple minded or spell bound by his own cult of persona that he feels no real threat from him until it is much too late.
Jesse's brutality is slow and methodical, and for the most part unseen as he systematically hunts down the remaining members of the Blue Cut Train Robbery gang. What's brilliant about Pitt's performance is that his obsessive paranoia is always masked behind a facade of cordiality and stoicism. His piercing blue eyes miss nothing as he casually makes house calls to those who have betrayed him. Not to discover where the chess pieces are falling, but to confirm what he already knows by peppering casual conversation with seemingly benign questions.
Pitt allows us brief opportunities to witness the cracks in his veneer, the first being the furious beating of a gang member's young nephews to give up the location of his uncle. James must be forcibly subdued before he risks killing the boy in a frenzy. After leaving the barn, Pitt is seen sobbing uncontrollably, his arms wrapped around the neck of his horse. It is one of many great moments in an imperfect film - Is his grief the product of self-pity or is he weeping in disgust at his own brutality wrought upon a child similar in age to his own children?
The ambiguity of his inner torment and the cause of it are left for the audience to ponder. The only insight into the true motives - or competing motives are given in scattered piecemeal throughout the film. In one scene, as the gang awaits the coming of the train in Blue Cut, Missouri, one of the bandits is heard singing an anti-union hymn about "that bastard Lincoln". Earlier on, the robbers engage in a conversation about the virility of General Lee. There is no doubt James has become a folk hero to buoy the spirits of the South after the humiliation of reconstruction, as is well evidenced by the penny books Ford lovingly collects in a box underneath his bed extolling and exaggerating the exploits of the James gang as redeemers of the South's honor. Is James the avenger of the South, or a common thug with a serpentine charm? The movie seems uninterested in answering this question, though it has close to 3 hours to do so.
Ford eventually becomes little more than an errand boy to James, fueling his rage and ultimately leading him to accept the $10,000 bounty for shooting James dead at the request of Missouri's Governor Crittenden.
James' demise is a classic reworking of the tale that has been retold countless times in movies, books, and oral tradition. It involves being shot in the back while fixing a picture - expect in this case, James is seen dusting the picture on a stool, after leaving his sidearms on the love seat. I had wrestled for some time with whether the scene is meant to show James as being careless, or whether it is an explicit act of resignation. The answer is no doubt the latter; James is clearly aware that Ford is simply biding his time, waiting for the opportune monent to dispatch of him.
The fact that James removes his guns and turns his back to Ford is his way of removing any glory Ford hopes to gain for his treachery. As Jesse watches Ford aim the revolver at him through the reflection of the picture, Ford also sees the condescension on James' face reflected back, as if to say "There will be no parades for a coward who shoots an unarmed man in the back".
There are indeed no parades for Robert Ford. Though the act has brings him wealth, he is ridiculed, beaten, spit on and ultimately assassinated himself.
If you're a fan of Tombstone or The Quick and The Dead, this movie will probably bore you to tears. If you fancy yourself a cinematic intellectual of sorts, you won't find the character's rambling on in any post modern soliloquies either. This movie is a visual feast and as mentioned earlier, Nick Cave's subdued but haunting score is complimented beautifully by the pitch perfect narration of Hugh Ross. Pitt and Affleck are spellbinding, and the supporting cast are flawless.
This movie is far from a masterpiece, but when set beside the endless junk being spit out of Hollywood, I still strongly recommend it to my readers.
INTERESTING TRIVIA NOTE!!
The movie was co-produced by Ridley Scott, director of Gladiator. In a salute to his fans, there is a scene in the early moments of the film where Jesse's hand is seen gliding over the top of a field of wheat - an almost identical shot that Ridley used at the beginning of Gladiator.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I remember a great article by Jonah Goldberg in which he recounts being called "an idiot" by George Will during a lecture at Groucher College. Regrettably, being called "idiotic" and a "neo-con" by a buffoon with a liberal pedigree that dates back to his days as a left wing activist at Queen's will probably not bring on a case of the warm and fuzzies 20 years later.
Well, at least he's a snappy dresser - Let the blogging by numbers begin!!!
1 - The Administration's decision to drag Arizona's new immigration law before the courts was problematic on several fronts. At it's core, S.B. 1070 simply re-asserts the authority of law enforcement officials to ask citizens to provide proof of their immigration status during the course of conducting their duties, such as traffic stops or investigating criminal complaints if there's a reasonable suspicion they're in the U.S. illegally.
Note "re-asserts". Most people forget that it's been a Federal law since 1940 that ALL citizens are required to carry proof of citizenship. Over at NRO, Mark Levin joins a growing list of legal scholars gob-smacked by Judge Bolton's Decision;
"This is a typical example of a judge stating the correct legal standard, but then ignoring it and applying the test in a fashion completely divorced from the facts of the case in order to reach a predetermined decision.
First, the court states correctly that the sort of constitutional challenge brought here — a facial challenge — is the most difficult challenge to mount successfully. It requires that the plaintiff (here the federal government) must demonstrate that the law can never be applied in a constitutional fashion. The test cannot be met with hypothetical arguments — yet that is exactly what the court relies on in its ruling: the assertion that the AZ law will impose an impermissible burden on law enforcement, which is to determine the legal status of a person detained pursuant to the AZ law on the reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally. The court does not provide any empirical basis to support its conclusion. It’s pure supposition."
This was sloppy jurisprudence and this matter is far from over. While the administration and their msm counterparts celebrate this short term victory, they should remember this will have ramifications that go beyond the Democratic wipe-out sure to occur this November. Americans have had Obamacare and financial reform rammed down their throats, and now the President has thumbed his nose in the eye of a State's right to enforce existing Federal laws. President Obama will soon join the list of one term Presidents. Let's just hope a new Republican Congress can help mitigate the damage in the interim.
2 - I know it's summer but before you slap on the sandals, make sure your toenails don't look like the Lamisil Monsters are about to jump out of your feet.
3 - Adam Liptak has written another one of those irritating New Time's Articles (are there any other kind?) that comes right out of the media's David Gergen-style, "Gee I'm so clever" school of punditry. The article tries to make the tenuous case that the Supreme Court under Justice Roberts is the most conservative in history. Seriously?
Mr. Liptak takes a widely discredited political science study that crudely separates Supreme Court cases and litigants into highly subjective categories then, using a magic formula plops them into a "liberal" or "conservative" bucket and assigns them a score. Even the author acknowledges how flawed the study is admitting it probably throws off the results of a few cases, but trudges full speed ahead anyway.
The study casually skips over the numerous cases where this clever equation doesn't apply. For example, the casually dubbed "conservative" justices almost always side with criminal defendants in cases where the constitutional protection of these defendants is in question.
Is Justice Kennedy more conservative than Powell? Powell voted to uphold Georgia's laws prohibiting sodomy and oral sex. Kennedy reversed that decision. Dozens of law scholars have been inundating the web with numerous examples that sweep away Liptak's knee jerk conclusions.
I wish this study had been correct. Some day Americans would be well served if they could call the SCOTUS a "Roberts' Court."
4 - Last month Muhammad and Waqas Parvez were convicted of the murder of Asqa Parvez and sentenced to life in prison. She was the victim of a violent death springing from a medieval and barbaric practice that takes the lives of over 5000 woman each year. This crime did not occur in the brutal theocratic dictatorship of Iran where adulterous women are stoned to death, minors are executed for the most fleeting of infractions, and religious and ethnic minorities are murdered and jailed without trial. This did not happen in the tribal regions of Pakistan where ad hoq Sharia law is still practiced and tolerated by local authorities. This happened in a quiet suburb of Mississauga, Ontario. She is estimated to be the 12th young woman to be the victim of an honor killing in Canada in less than a decade.
Dr. Amin Muhammad, a professor of psychiatry at Memorial University of Newfoundland who specializes in honor killings and cultural psychology predicts that; "...the cases are increasing, and very soon we'll have a problem in Canada."
The media barely devoted a day to the short life of Asqa Parvez - rest in peace.
5 - Have a good week and a warm welcome to all of our new readers. You can get updates from TSH by becoming a member of our fan club on Facebook.
6 - Take care!
Friday, July 23, 2010
"400 Million people were waiting for the truth - Their legendary confrontation would revolutionize the art of the confessional interview, change the face of politics and capture an admission from the former president that startled people all over the world . . . possible even including Nixon himself".
Well, not exactly. After the first of four segments, viewers were bored to tears, and tuned out for the rest of the interviews. The climactic scene of the movie - when the intrepid Frost (Michael Sheen) pins Nixon (Frank Langella) in a corner, causing the disgraced former President to fall into an endless moment of reflective silence followed by a semi-confession of sorts - is utter hog wash. Nixon revealed nothing new in the interviews, and virtually all major news networks were unanimous in their opinion that Nixon had bested the ill prepared, and at times star-struck, Frost. If you're doubting this, here's some excerpts from the major newspapers the day after the supposedly historic "gotcha!" moment:
What did Watergate super-sleuth Bob Woodward think?
“a much-touted television interview which shed little new light on the scandal.”
Hmm. What about Haynes Johnson, a colleague of Woodward's at the Washington Post?
“Last night’s program was billed as a dramatic and historic encounter between Nixon and his opponent, the relentless David Frost. It was nothing of the sort. . . . By the very end of the program, Frost looks as though he’s swept up by the Nixon responses. . . . The tables have been turned. Frost had met his match.”
What about you the supposedly exotic liberal foreign intellectual papers? Surely the Times of London must have seen the interview through different eyes? Nope.
“It was clear that David Frost let Mr Nixon escape in the interrogation . . . Frost finds less adulatory coverage this morning than his advance men expected. . . . whenever the matter strayed from his clip-board of notes he was not informed enough to counter some of Mr Nixon’s most brazen revisions. The main mysteries of Watergate are still intact.”
Public sympathy for Nixon actually increased after the interviews. Americans were somewhat more forgiving when they discovered that the President's chief motivation for lying about when he actually found out about the break-in was more out of loyalty for his friends than it was to protect his office at any cost. Some may justifiably find this behaviour inexcusable regardless of the motivation, but why doesn't anyone direct the same outrage at President Kennedy, who we now know ordered his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to bug the offices of Martin Luther King Jr?
So why did Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind/Angels and Demons), in tandem with one of the sharpest screen writers in the business, Peter Morgan (The Queen, Last King of Scotland), fudge the ending on what was otherwise the first refreshing look at Nixon in over a quarter of a century? The kindest explanation is that the building tension throughout the movie needed a dramatic climax - the so-called "money shot". A more plausible explanation is that Hollywood liberals can't refrain from the annoying tendency to be gripped by media hubris, or what James Bowman called "the saga of media triumphalism".
The good news is that movie breaks ground that no other Hollywood director - let alone media personality - dared to break before.
President Nixon was a kind, loyal, intelligent, witty and wonderfully eccentric - if somewhat insecure - man. To it's credit, Peter Morgan and the hypnotic Frank Langella capture all of these traits beautifully. This is the first movie in which Nixon is not a villainous cartoon caricature. Nixon is portrayed much like every aide and advisor who worked with him described - the kind of guy who despised the snobbery and intellectual elitism of what Jefferson called the "natural aristocracy", and who treated everyone from Henry Kissinger to the guy who washed the windows with respect. A White House janitor recalls that Nixon always remembered his name and the birthdays of his children. Nixon showed an interest in everyone. He found the tiniest details of people's lives fascinating. He inspired a unique and heart-felt loyalty from his staff and advisers, a quality that Kevin Bacon portrays with wonderful sincerity.
The movie partially redeems itself at the end when Frost pays Nixon a farewell visit at his villa:
"Those parties of yours. The ones I read about in the papers. Tell me, do you actually enjoy them?", asks Nixon.
"Yes, of course," replies a befuddled Frost.
"Really?", wonders Nixon. "You have no idea how fortunate that makes you. Liking people. And being liked. That facility you have with people. That lightness. That charm. I don’t have it. Never have. Makes you wonder why I chose a life which hinged on being liked. I’m better suited to a life of thought. Debate. Intellectual discipline. Say, maybe we got it wrong. Maybe you should have been the politician. And I the rigorous interviewer."
For all of what the movie gets all wrong, it's more than made up for with what the movie gets completely correct - and it's a must see for that reason alone.
(Quotes from Bob Woodward, The Washington Post, and The Times of London were researched by National Review Online's Fred Schwarz)
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Stanger still is that NAACP CEO, Benjamin Todd Jealous, also wanted her head on a platter claiming the group was "appalled by her actions." The NAACP'S initial reaction was curious in light of the fact that Mr. Jealous loves to play the race game himself. Why should the NAACP, the MSM, and the administration get themselves in a twist over comments from some obscure government bureaucrat when other higher profile officials have done or said things far worse?
Sherrod is claiming that the administration was spooked after hearing she was going to appear on Glenn Beck to clear her name - the full speech is actually quite moving as she speaks from the heart about how she, an African American, overcame her own personal prejudices towards white farmers and became a colorblind advocate for all those who toil the land.
So, Vilsack is falling on his sword claiming there was no contact with the White House, and the media has moved on to playing a disingenuous game of self flagellation - chattering about their "rush to judgement" and how this is "a teaching moment." We've seen this act before. Remember Dan Rather, the 2000 election, Richard Jewell...?
Something isn't sitting right, and I just can't put my finger on it. Gibbs was walking on egg shells over the whole affair, and Gibbs is usually a smug little jerk. I don't believe for a second that the administration was in the dark about this. It is impossible that as this story exploded in the media, the White House had absolutely no contact with the department. Gibbs was lying, and to quote a famous movie - "I can't think of one reason big enough for him to lie about, that's small enough not to matter."
Sunday, July 04, 2010
Anyway, I better get to some actual punditry or my Editor, The Lovely Mrs. Leger, will discover a provision in the 25th Amendment for dealing with delinquent writers. Let the blogging by numbers begin!!
It's about to get judicial up in this mug.
1 - Justin Bieber has nothing to do with Blick v. Connecticut but I had to rope you in somehow.
2 - Speaking of Blick v. Connecticut, June was a month of surprising victories for conservatives in the courts. On June 21st, a Connecticut trial court soundly rejected a petition by two doctors seeking to legalize physician assisted suicide. What is significant about the Blick decision is that firmly quashed the game of punting legal euphemisms about in an attempt to try and circumvent the state's manslaughter laws . The court clearly asserted that using the term “aid in dying” to describe what the doctor's claim is “the choice of a mentally competent terminally ill individual” still constitutes suicide. As William Saunders & Mailee Smith of Bench Memos noted;
"Looking back at the history of the Connecticut manslaughter statute, the court found that official comments by the statute’s drafters “make it quite clear” that the prohibition was intended to include physician-assisted suicide. This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that suicide advocates have tried and repeatedly failed to amend the statute."
- and for all of you anarchists, I mean, libertarians and RINOS out there the court also held that such matters are best left in the hands of the legislature, not the courts, providing that such laws do not jeopardize the rights of the elderly, mentally challenged or other vulnerable persons.
3 - Speaking of "would you like some hemlock with your Geritol?" the Supreme Court in Montana overturned Baxter VS Montana, a lower court ruling that stated physician assisted suicide was "a right" and not subject to the state's homicide laws. While the decision was a victory for conservatives, it shied away from explicitly outlining any boundaries protecting those most vulnerable should the Montana legislature decide they want to be the next Switzerland where you can take your elderly mother skiing before strapping her to a bed with a glass full of Nembutal.
4 - It's really creepy that Microsoft Office knows how to spell check "Nembutal".
5 - If you've ever pondered whether Gonzalo Higuain, Thomas Mueller, or Mesut Ozil is the most impressive rookie, chances are you're a pretentious douchebag who should have a vevuzela rammed up your a%*.
6 - While Elena Kagan tried to explain away the astoundingly stupid White House memo in which she compared the NRA to the KKK during her SCOTUS confirmation hearings, the very same bench she is aspiring to sit on handed down the most resounding and definitive ruling on the 2nd amendment in the court's recent history. In a landmark ruling in the case of in McDonald vs. City of Chicago, the court declared that the second amendment applies to federal and state governments. David Rittger`s opined that;
The McDonald decision is a harbinger for the end of gun prohibition as an idea. The simple, undeniable truth is that gun control does not work. McDonald brings the law up to speed with reality, where advocates of gun control have been wrong since the issue became a national discussion.
A generation from now, legal and policy discussions will look back and see gun control for the sham that it has always been. The real shame is that it took decades of political action, millions of dollars in litigation, and thousands of lives lost to end the preposterous idea that governments can reduce the number of victims of violent crime by first taking away their means of resistance.
I couldn't have said it better myself - so I won't.
7 - Anyway, for those who haven't left to do whatever it is people do in "Café World", reason scored yet another victory in June when U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman overturned President Obama's 6 month moratorium on drilling. The MSM briefly acknowledged the ruling to allow for the perquisite feigned outrage, then quickly went back to the business of pretending it never happened. Judge Martin's ruling may well be overturned but we would well served to remember that the executive, or legislative branches for that matter should not as a rule, engage in reactionary legislation. Government mechanisms should jump into action to stem the bleeding from acts of God or man-made mishaps, but politicians should resist the urge to "do something" in the way of legislation, bans or massive government spending every time the wind blows a tent over. The President assured the American people that the moratorium would last no longer than 6 months, but as the lovely Mrs. Leger loves to remind me;
"There's nothing as permanent as a temporary government solution".
Take us out Hugh!
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I've often said that the Washington Post bares the brunt of the blame for the sub-standard level of journalism we see today in the form of cable news networks. Were it not for the relentless and vengeful glory-seeking attack on President Nixon by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein - the douchebags that launched a thousand careers - perhaps the news would contain more reporting and less smug editorializing by the likes of Rick Sanchez and Solodad O'Brien. Sanchez's endless self-aggrandizing - like using twitter and Myspace to generate publicity for his frequent appearances on CNN - would almost be comic, were he not spinning in a constant state of self-righteousness. You would think that someone who not only hit and killed a pedestrian while driving intoxicated, but also fled the scene of the accident, would have some semblance of humility. You would be wrong.
In an industry that loves to shout "HYPOCRISY" at any conservative politician who so much as jaywalks, it was almost surreal to watch Sanchez endlessly replay footage of the day he chased down a Georgia State Legislator who refused to overturn a 2006 prohibition that would have reduced the prison sentence of Genarlow Wilson. The legislator - who worried that changes to the law could possibly allow convicted sex offenders back on the streets - was relentlessly badgered by a sanctimonious Sanchez, whose usual tunnel vision blinded him from appreciating the difficult situation the man was in. Maybe someone should have played the tape from the mid-eighties that forced Sanchez to resign from his job as a Miami TV anchor when he was unexpectedly caught accepting favours from a corrupt political operative during a police sting.
I'm picking on Rick because he is perhaps the best example of how low the bar has dropped since the age of "Gotcha!" journalism erupted. In the post-Watergate cable news world, he proves that as long you are in constant attack mode, your own credibility - or past criminal conduct for that matter - is of trifling importance. Stranger still is that Sanchez lacks even the respect of his own peers. After a recent "tweet" claiming he could easily get a job at Fox News as a Latino "sellout", the industry erupted in a cacophony of laughter, and prompted a Fox News' spokesman to wryly reply "Everyone knows that Rick is a joke, he shows that he's a hack everyday. And he doesn't have to worry about working at FOX because we only hire talent who have the ability to generate ratings."
Perhaps Ace Smith and James Bowman were right to lament about how our society has abandoned the quaint notion of shame.
But what about the OJ Effect? I'm not talking about the popular urban usage of the term, which implies money buys justice. I'm talking about the birth of modern media-created spectacles that turn virtually unknown and unexceptional people into overnight celebrities. What brought this to mind was Jeffrey Toobin's rather odd "brief" that appeared in the New Yorker magazine critiquing the Stupak amendment. Not only did the article skirt the boundaries of outright plagiarism, it was plagiarized from a 1989 Supreme Court briefing, whose contents were later proven to be entirely fraudulent. It appears that Toobin has been a "legal analyst" for so long he's forgotten he's an actual lawyer.
Shortly after former Heisman trophy winner OJ Simpson was arrested for the double murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, murder became not just news, but entertainment, and CNN needed a ready slew of "legal experts" to keep up appearances. Suddenly an adjunct faculty member from Georgetown Law of no particular distinction named Greta Van Susteren became a household name; OJ's freeloading house guest, Kato Kaelin, is now a regular fixture in a variety of TV and radio shows, resulting from nothing more than hearing a bump in the alley below his window; A Los Angeles prosecuting attorney named Roger Cossack is now enjoying a cushy job as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, as well a good paying gig at ESPN. As for Toobin, he has the distinction of being the "First TV Legal Analyst" at ABC - all a direct result of being plucked from virtual obscurity to provide commentary during the OJ trial (as a matter of fairness, I must admit I've always had a grudging fondness for Cossack).
There seem to be more self-professed analysts making the daily rounds of cable news stations than there are actual journalists. One hour of watching CNN produced commentary by a "Gaming Analyst", a "Fashion Analyst", and even a "self esteem expert", whatever the hell that is. There was a time when the only kind of analyst who had any business being anywhere near an anchor desk was a "Financial Analyst" or a "Political Analyst", and even the latter have been wearing out their welcome as of late.
Could anyone have envisioned a world, even years after Ted Turner cut the ribbon on CNN in 1980, where people would tune in every night to watch disgraced former prosecutor Nancy Grace speculating on the contents of bottles seen in grainy pictures of the inside Anna Nicole Smith's fridge?
The "news as entertainment" shtick is an old hobbyhorse of writers who fancy themselves a cut above the pack for making such a painfully obvious observation. What I'm really driving at is why a news anchor like Rick Sanchez sometimes doubles as a financial commentator on CNN's "Your Money". Why does Jeff Toobin sit in every election night as a political commentator, when he can't even avoid being duped by a dubious Supreme Court briefing? Everyday we watch the village idiots act like interchangeable polymath titans playing a bizarre game of musical chairs.
As I write this, Rick Sanchez is reminding us that using words is much better than settling disagreements with bats and clubs (I had no idea), after quite deliberately referring to a band of thugs who are on rampage in Mumbai as "conservatives" because they are "anti-Muslim". He's making sure to repeat the dishonest conservative angle, and has it blazed across the screen, just in case someone's not listening. Really Rick, how do you know they aren't liberals? Did you interview any of the looters to find out if they thought free markets, limited government, personal responsibility, and fiscal restraint was the answer to India's third world conditions?
My wife, a graduate of a grueling 2 year massage therapy course, said that when we hear that an elderly person fell and broke their hip, it didn't really happen that way - their hip broke first, causing the fall. Her comment reminded me of a buffoonish Rick Sanchez, clumsily trotting about in a post-Watergate post-OJ news world. Sanchez's daily rantings and Toobin's half-baked legal ramblings aren't what caused the media to break, it was broken long before they got there.
Monday, April 26, 2010
"What else was Christopher Alden doing by taking away Don Giovanni’s tragedy and terror and making him into a rock star avant la lettre? What else was what Maria Aitken doing with As You Like It but converting Shakespeare into an extended essay in celebrity-worship? The idea in both cases was to make the works "accessible" to modern audiences — which sounds like a good idea until you reflect on what it takes to make something accessible to those with no interest in history."
I like fart jokes and making armpit zerberts by flapping my arms like an epileptic duck as much as the next guy, but I've often noted the weird trend of people using texting acronyms in conversation. OMG's were bad enough, but over the weekend Claire and I overheard people loudly exclaiming "Question Mark!" in the place simply saying (or asking) "pardon?" I don't even know where to begin with the myriad of problems I have with this, or the overarching implications of such a thing for our society in general.
Let the blogging by numbers begin.
1 - Alicia Lewis and Ashli Briggs like to dig through the trash. Around these parts we call them hobos, but over at the Huffpo and The New York Times they're the next Woodward and Bernstein. Lewis and Briggs, students at California State University, brought two bags of garbage to Attorney General Jerry Brown in a pathetic attempt to bring trumped up ethics violation charges against the university administrators under a vague public disclosure law. The students claim to have found five pages of a contract for an upcoming speaking engagement featuring Sarah Palin stuffed within 2 massive garbage bags of shredded paper.
The university has shot back, claiming (correctly) that they are "...protected by both a privacy clause in her contract and a state law that shields public university foundations from the Public Records Act."
2 - The Hype will be updated less frequently in the coming months. My mother is battling cancer, and I'm sure you can appreciate that family concerns are my immediate priority. Mom is doing well and asks for your prayers. Well wishes and emails of support for her can be sent directly to TSH's mailbox at firstname.lastname@example.org .
3 - Mark Steyn proposed an interesting scenario for contemplation on National Review last week;
"...imagine Neville Chamberlain in 1938 hosting a conference on the dangers of rearmament, and inviting America, France, Brazil, Liberia, and Thailand . . . but not even mentioning Germany."
True enough. If the president was truly committed to non-proliferation, he would have made actual global threats such as Iran, North Korea, and Syria the focus of the summit. That sort of bold action would have been, to quote the President, “what this moment in history demands".
4 - Our good friend Jonah Goldberg managed to finagle a sweet gig over at the American Enterprise Institute as a visiting fellow. I guess they figured he can't screw it up any worse than David Frum...At the very least, he'll show up. He may show up drunk, but he'll show up. I joke of course. Jonah Goldberg has not only become the face of National Review, he has repackaged conservatism to a new audience without compromising any of the core principals of our ideology - though I've always suspected he's reluctant to define conservatism as an ideology (see H Stuart Hughes). We wish Jonah nothing but the best in his endeavours to protect us all from a fiery death by being a staunch advocate for the latest in volcano lancing technology.
5 - Have you not heard?
6 - That is all.
Friday, April 02, 2010
I joke of course. The Easter weekend is a very integral part of the Catholic faith, as it is for those of other Christian churches and faith traditions. At one time, even those of a more agnostic mindset still used the occasion as a time to be with family and partake in the more secular traditions of the holiday - some universal, some long-standing and personal to the family. Observing tradition (my editor, the lovely Mrs. Leger, hates it when I repeat the same word too many times) is one of the cornerstones of preserving culture and heritage in our society. Leonard Cohen (a man who holds tradition with the greatest of reverence) foresaw almost 2 decades ago that we would one day be compensating for "the hole in our culture" with all sorts of superficial banalities.
I remember when we used to bemoan the commercialization of this or that holiday years ago. If only we could have flashed forward to the present day, to watch as 12 year-olds receive Ipods and X-Box's for Easter while their parents dismissively quip "It's just another weekend to me". In the blink of an eye, generations of a family's cultural identity - of joyous dinners, Easter Egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, and watching the Ten Commandments - is gone. They remain only as curious and dusty artifacts from an age that seems alien to us.
It reminds me of a scene from the brilliant, funny, and touching Canadian movie The Barbarian Invasions (if you've never seen it, leave work and rent it today to see what Obamacare has in store for you). The scene shows a melancholic Catholic priest walking though a basement filled with discarded statuary and relics, remnants of an odd phenomenon that occurred in Quebec in 1966 when, as the priest explains, "...everyone stopped coming to church, and they never came back."
And so it goes with our once-cherished holidays like Easter. Once upon a time kids got dressed up in their new Easter clothes, went to mass, came back and gorged liked Romans on ham (yeah, I get the unfortunate irony of that metaphor) or turkey if you're french, then ate chocolate until they went Linda Blair all over the kitchen floor.Last year I took some comfort in watching parents and relatives scrambling to get the few remaining chocolate items at a local pharmacy on Easter eve, whispering into their cell phones like cold war double agents when they overheard there were still a few hollow chocolate hens to be had at Walmart. This year the shelves were still looking healthy by Easter Monday. The jerks haven't even discounted the Lindt gold wrapped bunnies yet - and I like my Lindt gold wrapped bunnies.
Let me indulge in an analogy (one my editor isn't completely buying into). There's an entire line of study dedicated to the year 1948. Much of it is left-wing academic nonsense that focuses primarily on the cottage industry of postwar victimization. You've probably heard the old mantra that 20- something year old alternative rock singers like to put into their songs to showcase their vapid intellect about how "They made it past the enemy lines, just to become enslaved on the assembly lines". This irritates me, because it blindly skips over millions of "The Greatest Generation" who took advantage of the GI Bill and forged a nation. But underneath the intellectual bravado lies a certain longing for a time gone by, a faded snapshot of a past that's but a fleeting memory.
We can't stop the march of time, but if we are to jettison tradition, it should be for a better reason than the misguided belief that any Sunday is just another Sunday.
Easter is important to me as a Catholic. I don't preach on this blog, nor do I preach in my personal life. I will admit the secularization of religious days of observance is a sad thing, but to see even the secular remnants be tossed away so easily is all the more tragic. We once watched Charlton Heston part the waves as Mom cooked turkey - or ham for you weird english people. Now moms and dads watch "Jersey Shore" as little Sally downloads the latest Lady Gaga tune to upload into the latest gadget she will soon discard. After all, it's just another Sunday, except with presents.
(Oh - Happy Passover to all our Jewish friends. The Obama administration has abandoned you, but this blog will forever be a steadfast ally.)
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Hey, remember last week when we talked about how the President created another housing bubble that's going to burst? Well the bubble is a-burstin' (again) and the Treasury is deciding where 50 billion dollars of your tax money under TARP should go. On Friday, the US Treasury announced they want to "modify" the existing plan - that's Washington speak for "take out your wallet". What the President and the Treasury want to do is so monumentally stupid it defies reason. Let me break it down for you.
In the waning years of the Clinton administration, the government decided that banks should grant home loans to people who couldn't afford them, or who had such bad credit not even my cousin Knuckles the loan shark would give them $20. Doesn't make much sense, does it? If you have bad credit and your monthly income is lower than what your monthly loan payments are, you can't afford a loan, and you're going to lose your home while the bank gets stiffed. Still with me? People like President Clinton and Congressman Barney Frank didn't seem too bothered by this, and pressured banks to hand out loans to people who didn't have the money to pay the loans back.They even pressured banks to allow people who had already defaulted on their loans a chance to renegotiate the terms of their mortgage - kind of like a do-over for grown-ups. If you don't eat things off the floor of public washrooms, you probably have trouble imagining how anyone could be so stupid. Well, never underestimate the power of government when it comes to being moronic.
The government felt that owning a home was a right - a right that banks were obliged to provide to poor people and those with bad credit. That sounds nice. Most people like the idea of a poor family having a nice roof over their heads instead of an apartment in a bad part of town. The problem is that by dangling a magic carrot in front of them, you are dooming them to financial ruin, and putting them on the road to homelessness - and that's exactly what happened. People envision fat cat banks preying on struggling low income families, but a closer examination can be very revealing. My friend and fellow blogger, the talented Ace Smith, discovered just such a case in his own backyard in June of 2008. A lady living across the street was regaling the neighbourhood with tales of the predatory bank coming to take her house. When Ace dug a little deeper, this is what he discovered:
"Two months after closing on the mortgage, she secured a $20,000 home equity line of credit on the home. A month after that, she somehow was able to get another line of credit for an additional $30,000. Based on my recollection, this is roughly around the same time she started driving a spiffy, new BMW 335. Retail price: $40,000. I also noticed several big ticket items appeared around this time, including a top-of-the-line 56” television that was clearly visible through the living room window from the street, and the delivery of various furniture and new appliances."
To top it off, during the same time, the average American household owned 13 credit cards. By October of that year, 936 439 American homes had completed forecloser, and the housing "crisis" began (I've quibbled over how much of an actual crisis this was in the past, but that's a debate for bean counters much smarter than I).
You would think that everyone would have learned their lesson by now, but you'd be wrong. What the government had once considered a fair shake for every American to own a home was now being referred to as "predatory loan practices". The same banks that had been pressured by the government to "help" the poor were now being accused of taking advantage of them. Let's ignore the fact that most of the so-called "poor" had stacks of plastic credit the size of a deck of cards and some snazzy wheels in the driveway and entertain the false notion that the banks were the sole culprits in the bubble burst. Logic would dictate that this was a bad idea, that the government had made a terrible mistake, and we should never allow banks to engage in this sort of tomfoolery again. You would think that government had learned their lesson. Again, you would be wrong.
President Obama rolled out his massive TARP scheme, thinking he could do the same thing all over again and expect different results. Despite a projected foreclosure rate of over 60%, the administration decided to throw billions of dollars of your tax money into the exact same scheme, only this time they allowed even more people to make the same mistake, and gave yet another chance to the idiots that had already screwed up under the provisions from over a decade ago the opportunity to screw up again. The gas was thrown onto the fire, and we're still smelling the smoke.
Which brings me back to the Treasury's announcement, if you're still with me and haven't surfed over to Youtube to watch "epic fail" videos - The President wants to "restructure" the TARP bailout to decide which of the 4 million Americans currently on the rocks with their mortgages (again) qualify for help. The Treasury says they're not going to give any of the 50 billion smackaroos to those who have been irresponsible, but this is the exact wording of the what the guidelines are:
"Homeowners must live in an owner occupied principal residence, have a mortgage balance less than $729,750, owe monthly mortgage payments that are not affordable (greater than 31 percent of their income) and demonstrate a financial hardship.”
That sounds like the definition of irresponsibility to me. If someone bought a 3/4 of a million dollar house, with mortgage payments equaling about a third of their income, and they can demonstrate the vague provision of having "financial hardship", everyone else (that's you, by the way) has to fork out 50 billion dollars of tax money to let some idiot keep his sweet pad. The talk about 'modification' is troubling because many suspect the Treasury intends to allow those who bought even more expensive houses and can't afford them to be able to put their snouts in the trough as well.
Hollywood likes to portray the banks as heartless scrooges and the families an inch from losing their homes as victimized saints. In the recent movie "Armored" the main character is trying to take care of his younger brother after the death of their parents, begging for double shifts from his boss and bumming rides to work to keep his no-frills home. It tugs at your heart strings, because we like to romanticize those in need as being victims of forces beyond their control. This is because Americans are good people. They see the best in everything and everyone. It's why I think the United States is so wonderful, but if you stop the movie projectors and take a closer look at reality you'll discover that the supposed "down and out" are living beyond their means, drowning in credit card debt, and buying flat screen TV's, IPOD's and big shiny trucks.
As hard as it may be, and as counter-intuitive as it is to our nature, we have to let people be idiots and suffer the consequences, or they keep on being idiots. President Obama - health care aside - is on the verge of creating another crisis, only this time he's making the people who aren't wearing dunce caps pay a stupidity tax.
No matter how hard it tries, government can't magically make the house you can't afford available to you by strong-arming the bank into giving you a loan you can't repay. The problem trickles down to responsible citizens because the money has to come from somewhere to make all this magic happen - and magic is just an illusion pulled off by a clever slight of hand.