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Ed Driscoll

Bobos In Paradise

Oh That Return of the Primitive

April 14th, 2014 - 3:38 pm

“US Airways tweets graphic photo of nude woman to customers, then apologizes,” the New York Daily News reports:

“Inappropriate” doesn’t begin to cover it.

A shockingly graphic tweet by U.S. Airways featuring a woman and an airplane has led to an investigation and red-faced apology by the airline.

A photo of a naked woman lying exposed on a bed with a toy plane between her legs was publicly shared by the airline late Monday afternoon while responding to disgruntled customers who were angry about a recent flight delay.

The extremely graphic image sent to one Twitter user came with the caption: “We welcome feedback, Elle. If your travel is complete, you can detail it here for review and follow-up.”

Instead of a link matching that description, however, it was a link to the photo.

Twitchy of course has a round-up of reactions to US Airways’ disastrous tweet, and a blacked-out version of the photo itself. And note the airline’s gobbledygook response:

As author Kim Harrington tweets, “No matter how bad of a day at work you’re having, at least you don’t run the US Airways twitter account. That person is having a worse day.”

Update: NSFW version online at the Frisky.com. Repeat: Not. Safe. For. Work. Click at your own risk to employment and/or sanity.

Then Came Dave

April 13th, 2014 - 7:13 pm

“Letterman was a turning point in American cultural history,” Michael Long writes at NRO. His article went online after I wrote my piece on Letterman, Leno, Colbert, and HBO’s Late Shift, or I would have certainly excerpted it there. But it’s worth reading the piece in full, for a reminder of how Letterman’s original late night show at NBC in the early to mid-’80s was the beginning of Weimar-esque irony absolutely permeating the American media’s overculture. To the point where even the New York Times published a piece late 2012 titled “How to Live Without Irony.” For which they found themselves pilloried for even suggesting the idea, by leftwing Websites who wish to remain permanently trapped behind the Irony Curtain.

OK, sorry about that last pun; here’s how Long’s piece concludes:

Before Dave, irony was like that little jar of allspice your mom got out once a year for Thanksgiving. Dave decided it would go well with everything, and it turns out we agreed. We live in Dave’s world now, communicating by sarcasm, and not liking him doesn’t make it any less true. Dave dragged a narrow, curmudgeonly worldview from obscurity to majority. Not even Carson pulled off anything that big.

Unless you have seen Letterman in his most amazing, early days — those desperate, late-night NBC shows where he built on Ernie Kovacs and Steve Allen by narrating the sidewalk traffic as a passing parade, or broadcasting his program in Spanish, or pestering people just to ask “What’s in your bag?” — he’s just a grumpy old man to you now, in the same way that Leno’s early (lantern-)jaw-dropping talents are forgotten in favor of his later vanilla appeal. (Another lost fact: It was Letterman who made Leno a star, and together they defined the cutting edge of comedy in the 1980s.) But Dave was a giant, bigger than even Jolson and Hope, whose achievements were, relative to Dave’s, parochial and of their time. Letterman’s mark is on culture and language, and is so ubiquitous that few even know we used to speak and act some other way. But that’s how giants do it.

But as the policeman who found Lenny Bruce immediately after he shuffled off to the great night club in the sky was quoted as saying, “There is nothing sadder than an aging hipster.” Though perhaps even more pathetic are aging ironists, as their worldview becomes insular and reactionary, and their performance becomes freeze-dried and formulaic.

Of course, as far as formulaic at 11:30 PM at CBS, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Why Not Try for the Popularity Contest?

February 26th, 2014 - 3:52 pm

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“Alec Baldwin, Drama Queen,” writes Michelle Malkin in her latest column, quoting from Baldwin’s train wreck New York magazine column, adding that Baldwin is “especially mad, mad, mad about how angry and hateful the rest of America has become:”

“The heart, the arteries of the country are now clogged with hate. The fuel of American political life is hatred,” he fumes. It’s all the fault, he fulminates, of Roger Ailes, Fox News, and Andrew Breitbart.

Funny guy. These complaints are coming, after all, from the hate-clogged hate-monger who called Breitbart “a festering boil on the anus of public discourse” for exposing rapes and violence at Occupy Wall Street camps — and who taunted Breitbart’s friends after the father of four’s tragic death in 2012 by gleefully floating conspiracy theories on Twitter.

Bawling Baldwin can’t take it anymore, America, but he sure loves to dish it out.

Remember: Our born-again champion of civility and tolerance is the same rageball who attacked a Starbucks barista he didn’t like as a “queen,” derided conservative women who identity themselves as “moms,” mocked Filipina women as mail-order brides, smeared the entire state of Florida as a “f***ed up parallel universe,” and savaged an American Airlines stewardess who told him to put his iPad away before takeoff. “Last flight (with) American,” he sneered. “Where retired Catholic school gym teachers from the 1950s find jobs as flight attendants.”

One of the most interesting segments of the otherwise fluffy Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee series of Web videos from Jerry Seinfeld was the episode in which Baldwin was Seinfeld’s guest. It reminded me in a way of the hermetically‎-sealed insularity of the first Godfather movie. As long as it’s just Jerry and Alec, hangin’ out, toolin’ around town in a boss 1969 Mercedes roadster, slingin’ the hash, sippin’ the coffee, it’s sort of fun watching the banter between these two very different television veterans each made very wealthy from the largesse of NBC. But the segment becomes hypnotic each time the waitress — the “civilian” amongst these two showbiz Godfathers — approaches to deliver their food or refill their coffee mugs, and you’re waiting for Baldwin to switch into HULK SMASH!!!! mode if she says the wrong thing or simply looks at him funny.

Perhaps that’s totally unfair, but Baldwin has done quite a job over the years crafting a very toxic image for himself. As the late Cathy Seipp wrote a decade ago in a piece on show biz anger titled “California Screaming:”

Some screamers can hardly utter a sentence that doesn’t contain the f-word. The syllable almost seems to function as their sound, signifying only that they are in the room. Others are more careful with their language, because being sworn at is the point where many screamees stop listening and may even quit. So bland, schoolmarmish words of displeasure are amplified to ear-splitting volume. A vein-popping “Un-ACC-EPT-able!” is a great favorite. Also, a drawn out “DIS…A…PPOINTED!!!”

When in full throttle, the classic Hollywood screamer cannot be neither stopped nor shamed. I once heard a story about a studio executive who screamed at someone’s assistant for a good five minutes before realizing he was in the wrong office — possibly even on the wrong floor. “Well, if you see her,” he yelled before stomping out, “tell her what I said!”

Screaming actors, it seems, can be easier to deal with, perhaps because they are not always famous for their brains. Many years ago, I read a story about how Roger Moore (a nonscreamer) took a younger actor aside and suggested he stop attacking everyone on the set. “I’m not in this business to win a popularity contest,” the screamer fumed. “I just want to be a good actor.”

“Well, you’ve failed at being a good actor,” Moore replied reasonably. “Why not try for the popularity contest?”

Sounds like good advice – I wonder if anyone ever suggested something similar to Baldwin early in his career?

Sex and the Stasism: A Century of Standing Still

February 17th, 2014 - 4:39 pm

“‘The Revolt Against the Masses’ reveals liberalism’s elitist roots,” Michael Goodwin writes in the New York Post:

Ever wonder why Barack Obama seems more suited for a European coffee shop than the Oval Office?

Wonder no more. Fred Siegel’s new book explains all you need to know about liberalism, a political philosophy that, despite good intentions, careened off track after World War I and hasn’t found its way back yet.

“The Revolt Against the Masses” is a brilliantly argued, well-timed case against reactionary snobs who were and remain disgusted with American society. Under the subtitle “How Liberalism has Undermined the Middle Class,” Siegel documents with scholarly detail the arrogance of elites who launched a movement that romanticizes the poor while trying, with distressing success, to dismantle the democratic, capitalist traditions that helped establish the middle class.

“The aim of liberalism’s founding writers and thinkers — such as Herbert Croly, Randolph Bourne, H.G. Wells, Sinclair Lewis and H.L. Mencken — was to create an American aristocracy of sorts, to provide the same sense of hierarchy and ­order long associated with European statism,” he writes.

A century after the ideology’s birth, how’s it working out for both self-styled “Progressives” and for the rest of us? Look no further than a pair of shows produced by the very fountainhead of “Progressivism” itself, Time-Warner-CNN-HBO for some hints, as Peggy Noonan writes at the Wall Street Journal, comparing and contrasting HBO’s 1990s-era series Sex and the City, with its successor, Girls, starring that tattooed Obama postergirl herself, Lena Dunham:

On “Sex and the City” they had careers but were not precisely careerist. On “Girls” they want careers but have no demonstrated capabilities.

On “Sex and the City” the subtext was friendship. In “Girls” the subtext is competition. It is a truer show in a material sense, but a colder one. People aren’t really nice to each other. There’s a sense of grieving over something that isn’t quite named. There’s little emphasis on glamour.

The differences in the tone and mood of the two shows is explainable in part by the fact that the characters in “Sex” were in their 30s and the characters in “Girls” are in their 20s and just out of school. They’re more lost, less fully formed. They’re trying to get a start on who they will become but can’t gain purchase because they don’t yet know who they are.

But watching, I thought the show’s creators were saying, or simply reflecting in their work, that young and academically credentialed girls now are a little more lost, a lot less fully formed than young women in past eras. The great recession is a quiet presence. It’s hard to get a job; sometimes Hannah acts as if she’s scrounging for food. The parents of the characters are mostly affluent flakes who wouldn’t have taught their kids much beyond the idea of rising.

“Sex and the City” had an air of rebellion. “Girls” is living in the middle of what the rebellion wrought.

Back in 2008, a few critics described the crazed fans of Sex and City as the distaff equivalent of  Trekkies and equally obsessive Star Wars fanatics. And since Barack Obama been endlessly compared — even before taking office — to FDR, numerous pundits have referred to 21st century “Progressivism” itself as a cargo cult beholden to the days of FDR. So with all of those holographic reflections in mind, how’s all that hopeychangey stuff working out for them?

‘Fast Times at Eighth Avenue High’

February 7th, 2014 - 4:57 pm

The New York Times and “our adolescent media” are dissected today by Matthew Continetti at the Washington Free Beacon. Continetti notes that the recent article “The Tyranny and Lethargy of the Times Editorial Page,” by Ken Kurson, at the New York Observer, uses as one of its sources of information regarding the dysfunctional world of the New York Times, an unnamed journalist, who as Continetti notes, “is so upset at editorial and op-ed page editor Andrew Rosenthal that “he will literally not allow Mr. Rosenthal to join their lunch table in the cafeteria:”

On the most superficial level, the article is a delight. The experience of reading it is like watching a colony of red ants turn against each other—a violent and morbidly fascinating event towards which one is completely apathetic. It reminded me of the practice of some high school teachers who, having intercepted gossipy notes passed between students, read the messages aloud to the entire class. Except in this case the students gave their teacher the notes.

High school is an apt metaphor for the shenanigans inside the Times’ $850 million skyscraper at the corner of Fortieth Street and Eighth Avenue. The Times portrayed in Kurson’s article is not the established, serious, and competent institution of the liberal imagination. It is the Beverly Hills High School in Clueless, a cliquey and catty war of all against all, where the self-importance of the occupants masks deep insecurities. The next time our reporters and producers and anchors and bloggers affect an air of moral or social superiority, the next time they pretend to know the answers to every political and economic and cultural question, remember this: They are basically teenagers.

But essentially, the same could be said of their publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. aka “Pinch,” as William McGowan noted in his 2010 book, Gray Lady Down:

It was fortunate for Sulzberger that he was arriving at the Times as the influence of Abe Rosenthal was beginning to ebb. Rosenthal was an up-by-the-bootstraps hardscrabbler who clawed his way to the top of the Times. Arthur Jr. was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and grew up as the presumed heir to one of the country’s most important and richest media families. Rosenthal was deeply patriotic and temperamentally, culturally and socioeconomically allergic to the Woodstock Generation. Sulzberger was proud to the point of vanity to be part of the sixties and its emancipatory spirit. [Of course, Sulzberger didn't want everyone to emancipated back then -- Ed] Nor had his efforts to submerge his sense of entitlement, successful on some people, worked with Rosenthal. According to some reports, Rosenthal had little regard for Sulzberger’s talents and informal affectations. Once, barely containing his fury, Rosenthal grabbed a shoeless Sulzberger by the arm and told him never to come into an editorial meeting in his office that way. At another point, Rosenthal’s secretary caught Arthur Jr. reading her boss’s messages outside his office. “Who do you think you are?” she snapped. Sulzberger contritely apologized. “I’m a reporter. I’ve got all the instincts. I can’t help it,” he supposedly replied.

Years later, in 1999, when he had been firmly established as publisher since 1991, Sulzberger finally got his delayed revenge on Rosenthal when he called the older man into his office to tell him that he would no longer be writing his op-ed column. “It’s time,” Sulzberger said, giving little other explanation. After having given his life to the paper, Rosenthal felt betrayed and heartbroken. “I didn’t expect it at all,” he reportedly told his good friend William F. Buckley.

One need only compare the shenanigans described in McGowan’s recent book with the infinitely more sober — not to mention patriotic — Timesmen in Gay Talese’s mammoth 1969 tome The Kingdom and the Power, to understand what has befallen the paper.

There is daily newspaper that’s called the New York Times. It shares the same masthead and slogan, and for those who pick it up in dead-tree form on a newsstand or vending machine, the same form it has always had. However, the similarities end there, if only because the people who now produce the paper share a radically different worldview than the people who originally established the modern form of the New York Times in the first half of the 20th century. But then, the same could be said about much of the elites running the country, and shaping its minds via academia and the rest of the media as well.

Interview: P.J. O’Rourke on The Baby Boom

February 5th, 2014 - 10:52 pm

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If anybody deserves an interview with PJ Media, it’s certainly P.J. O’Rourke — although as I explained to him before we began rolling, while many of us have been inspired by his writing, our Website’s name of course derives from a scandal involving a very different journalist.

O’Rourke has made a career of puncturing the excesses and pretensions of tyrants both domestic and abroad, and anyone who wishes to impose big government statism on others. And since that’s been the goal of the Baby Boom since Tom Hayden wrote the Port Huron Statement in 1962, it’s no surprise that O’Rourke would eventually devote a book to his own generation’s myriad excesses.

During our interview, he’ll discuss:

● Did an AARP membership card lead to Osama bin Laden’s death?

● Were the radical shifts in culture in the 1960s foreshadowed by any previous decades?

● How do the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes of the boomers differ from each other?

● Did the younger boomers learn anything from their older classmates?

● How did growing up as a boomer make P.J., in his college days, a man of the left, and how did he eventually join the vast right-wing conspiracy?

● The secret Hillary Clinton, Cheech & Chong connection, revealed at last!

● Does hashish and dynamite mix?

And much more. Click here to listen:

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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.

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Pinch’s Poverty Chic

January 12th, 2014 - 2:40 pm

“Poverty,” the New York Times declared this past week, “is suddenly the subject of bipartisan embrace,”  Matthew Continetti notes at the Washington Free Beacon. Continetti adds that he’s spent “a lot of time parsing that sentence:”

There is, for example, the adverb: “suddenly” does a lot of work; it carries the weight of the entire piece on its eight letters. The condition of the working poor, after all, has been a subject of political dispute since, oh, the Industrial Revolution. The author of the Times article, Jeremy W. Peters, seems to recognize the Groundhog Day aspect of his argument when he writes, in a fine example of mixed metaphor, “To read the flurry of fundraising solicitations that flood email inboxes can, in fact, seem a lot like a rerun of the last presidential election.” Jeremy has a short memory.

There is also the matter of subject-verb agreement. Isn’t the subject of an embrace the one doing the embracing? That would make poverty the object, not the subject, of the sentence. Or does “subject” in this case mean a topic of discussion? And wouldn’t a “bipartisan” embrace be between a Republican and a Democrat, leaving poverty in the cold? How does one embrace a concept or state of being? Is poverty really a condition anyone would like to embrace—to welcome, to envelop, to receive cheerfully—in the first place? You don’t “embrace” poverty. You escape it.

The unintelligibility of the Times pronouncement does not diminish its significance, however. Mike Allen of Politico had good reason to call it the “sentence du jour”: The eight words capture, however badly, the mood in Washington, the character of recent debate. A less hurried or less pretentious writer might have said, “Poverty has of late become a subject of concern in both political parties.” The inequality business is booming. Obscene wealth is unfashionable. Poverty is “in.”

Meanwhile, the Dinocrat.com blog spots the Times transforming itself into the Onion more and more every day:

“Fast-Food Purchase Seething With Unspoken Class Conflict.”

– Headline at the Onion, August 1st, 2001.

“As Shop Owner, Woman Sees Troubling Sides of Herself.”

– Headline, the New York Times, this past Friday.

The article itself actually does read like a bad Onion parody, beginning with its opening:

Living in New York can curiously and frequently feel like an exercise played out on a narrow emotional field, a continual toggle between envy and guilt. You wish for more; so many others seem to have it, after all — more space, nicer furniture, a greater number of things from Lululemon. But you also harbor a discomfort at possessing plenty while legions haven’t nearly enough. In any given hour you might veer from feeling unduly blessed to woefully disadvantaged. It is not the job of politics to solve the problem of this kind of split perspective, but it remains one of the chief psychological byproducts of inequality for those who occupy a place in the city’s vast and steeply tiered middle class.

Read the whole thing, which really puts the rococo back into Tom Wolfe’s essay from the dawn of the new millennium, “In the Land of the Rococo Marxists.”

And speaking of which, what’s the deal with the Times’ italicized headlines, which just look extra silly and too cute for words pretentious?

Deconstructing Manhattan

January 11th, 2014 - 2:02 pm

Movies have long had flashy and impressive opening title sequences. In the 1950s, graphic designer Saul Bass lashed up motion graphics and modernist stylings to movie credits for such classic Alfred Hitchcock films as Northwest by Northwest and Psycho and revolutionized the industry. Following his lead, Maurice Binder made the opening titles of the James Bond movies into their own miniature productions, filled with silhouetted scantily-clad girls moving in hypnotic slow motion across the giant Panavision screen. And Star Wars’ opening crawl, inspired by the Flash Gordon serials of a generation earlier, but  created using then-bleeding-edge Industrial Light & Magic technology, combined with John Williams’ stirring music and ending with a giant Star Destroyer spacecraft swooping in from atop the screen blew audiences out of their seats, and raised the bar for a generation of movie makers and completely upended late-‘70s-era Hollywood.

But is it possible for an opening title sequence to be so powerful, it completely distorts the meaning of the film that follows? The opening sequence of Woody Allen’s Manhattan certainly qualifies, mixing Woody’s very funny opening narration, (“Chapter One, he adored New York”), George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” Gordon Willis’ knockout black and white cinematography, and, of course, the carefully selected and rhythmically edited underlying images of New York itself. It’s absolutely stirring stuff, which must have been doubly so seen on the big screen, and I suspect that sequence alone left a lot of 1979-era moviegoers thinking Manhattan would be like the sequel to 1977’s warm, ingratiating Annie Hall.

Beyond the title sequence, in a way, the rest of Allen’s Manhattan is as much of a triumph of production design and background music as such stylized high-‘80s movies as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, or Tim Burton’s Batman movies. With the exception of Jack Nicholson as the Joker, who’s clearly having lots of fun receiving an six million dollar paycheck (ultimately at least $60 mil once ticket grosses were counted) for rehashing his deranged but beloved Jack Torrance character from The Shining, these films are stuffed with dark, unsympathetic characters, behaving immorally, but surrounded by brilliant music and production design.

Similarly, Manhattan is no Annie Hall. Manhattan’s characters are much crueler than Alvy Singer and the eponymous Annie. Michael Murphy’s sidekick character in Manhattan is cheating on his wife with Diane Keaton’s coarse f-bomb-dropping wannabe critic. There’s a cameo appearance from Michael O’Donoghue, at the height of his lecherous “Mr. Mike” phase on the first iteration of Saturday Night Live. And of course, Woody’s 42-year old character is dating a 17-year old student played by Mariel Hemingway, foreshadowing Woody’s own fall from grace a decade later with Soon Yi; and then goes on to betray his best friend by cheating on the teenager with the best friend’s cheatee/mistress. His character has a young son being raised by his passive-aggressive and vindictive divorced wife (played by Meryl Streep in an early role) and her lesbian partner. For a film in which Woody’s character says he’s writing a novel “about decaying values,” the characters in his film seem to display them in Weimer-sized abundance.

Perhaps the best example occurs near the climax of the film, when Woody’s character, dictating ideas for his novel into a tape recorder, asks “what makes life worth living?”

Notice who’s missing? Merely his son.

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David Brooks: Choom Leader

January 3rd, 2014 - 1:30 pm

“Weed: Been There. Done That,” exclaims…the New York Times’ David Brooks? No, really!

For a little while in my teenage years, my friends and I smoked marijuana. It was fun. I have some fond memories of us all being silly together. I think those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships.

But then we all sort of moved away from it. I don’t remember any big group decision that we should give up weed. It just sort of petered out, and, before long, we were scarcely using it.

We didn’t give it up for the obvious health reasons: that it is addictive in about one in six teenagers; that smoking and driving is a good way to get yourself killed; that young people who smoke go on to suffer I.Q. loss and perform worse on other cognitive tests.

I think we gave it up, first, because we each had had a few embarrassing incidents. Stoned people do stupid things (that’s basically the point).

Suddenly, Brooks admiring then-rookie Sen. Barack Obama’s pants crease, and extrapolating from its sharpness that his trousers’ manifest destiny would be to take the man inside of them all the way to the White House three years later starts to make perfect sense. But only if can you picture the conversation occurring at 4:20 PM, with both legendary tokers higher than Air Force One while engaging in the conversation.

I don’t know about you, but once I acquired my first cable modem a decade and a half ago, I’ve watched a steadily-dwindling amount of television. What’s happening on the ‘Net just seems so much more interesting than 99 percent of what’s happening on the networks. One would assume that for the president of the United States, who has been entrusted by the American people to, you know, keep the nation out of harm’s way, and as the quaint phrase goes, run the government, he’d have far less time to watch TV than you or I.

Our current President Potemkin evidently has very different priorities. Or as Howard Portney asks at Newsbusters, pondering the difficult questions, “Where Is Obama Finding the Time to Watch So Much Television?”

Take a story from Sunday’s New York Times that addresses his TV viewing preferences:

These days, when Mr. Obama retreats to the White House residence after a long day on the other end of the colonnade, he is working his way through the DVD box set of AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad’….

Friends say Mr. Obama is also keenly awaiting the new season of the Netflix show ‘House of Cards.’…

Mr. Obama is also a devotee of Showtime’s ‘Homeland.’…

And the list of heavies continues. Mr. Obama has told people he is a big fan of ‘Game of Thrones.’… He has raved about ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and the BBC’s ‘Downton Abbey.’… And he has worked his way through the DVDs of AMC’s smoldering ‘Mad Men’ series.

Obama is also enamored, Times writer Michael Shear adds, of HBO’s ‘The Wire,’ ‘Real Housewives,’ ‘Glee’ ABC’s ‘Modern Family’ and NBC’s ‘Parks and Recreation’ and ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter.’

Meanwhile, with John Kerry chumming around with Snoop Doggy Dogg, one can assume the Middle East’s once-intractable squabbles will soon be solved forevermore. Poor New York magazine, tasked with having to defend their maladroit fellow Democrat, actually ran the headline,”John Kerry Fist-Bumping Snoop Dogg Is Somehow Not That Awkward” on Monday.

No actually, it’s all extremely awkward watching a 70 year old radical chic Boston Brahmin underneath his helmet-like Shatner Turbo 2000 declaring his love for rap music. A decade ago, the would-be presidential candidate Kerry publicly declared, “I’m fascinated by rap and by hip-hop. I think there’s a lot of poetry in it. There’s a lot of anger, a lot of social energy in it. And I think you’d better listen to it pretty carefully, ’cause it’s important.” In response, in his classic column back then dubbing Kerry “America’s first flip-flopper hip-hopper,” Mark Steyn compared one of the key differences between the two parties:

By comparison, here’s Gov. Bush four years ago being given a ”verbal Rorschach” test on American pop culture by Glamour magazine: What comes to mind, David France wanted to know, when you think of Madonna?

”I’m not into pop music,” replied Bush.

Boy, that MTV special would have been a short one. Stunned by the candidate’s ignorance, Maureen Dowd, the New York Times’ elderly schoolgirl, wrote a column mocking him for never having heard of ”Sex and the City,” beginning as follows:

”W. may have gone too far this time.

”Americans can forgive him not knowing that Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized power in Pakistan.

”But can we forgive him not knowing that Sarah Jessica Parker quaffs Cosmopolitans in Manhattan?”

Answer: Yes. Unlike Dowd, Americans are apparently willing to cut him some slack on this vital question. Some may even feel that his cheerful admission that ”I’m not into pop music” is the sign of a man secure in his sense of himself.

This isn’t entirely a matter of trivialities. The fads and fashions of the world aren’t confined to the Billboard Hot 100. All over the planet, men in late middle age are pretending to like stuff just ’cause it’s what the likes of Maureen Dowd tell them people want to hear. John Kerry pretends to like gangsta rap. Russia pretends it supports the Kyoto Accord. The European Union pretends Yasser Arafat is committed to peace with Israel. The Security Council pretends its resolutions mean something. Kofi Annan pretends the Oil-for-Fraud program is a humanitarian aid effort for the Iraqi people. The International Atomic Energy Authority pretends the mullahs in Tehran are good-faith negotiators on the matter of Iranian nukes.

While the Palestinian and UN figureheads have changed place-card settings, that last paragraph sounds remarkably timely right now, as does the reminder that a man who isn’t trying to embrace every current pop culture trend is indeed “the sign of a man secure in his sense of himself,” as Steyn wrote almost a decade ago.

Early last month, Peggy Noonan perceptively wrote that Mr. Obama’s administration is staffed with people “who’ve seen the movie but not read the book,” a phrase that takes on additional nuances, given the couch-potato like viewing habits of their boss. And even beyond Mr. Obama’s obvious pop cultural insecurities, there’s an even greater question, as Portney asks, at the conclusion of his column. The president’s television habits, “or at least the number of series, most with running times of one hour, that he professes to watch — do raise a question: When does he find time to play golf?”

Hey, the left didn’t dub the man the “Lightworker” back in 2008 for nothing.

Reality…What a Concept

December 16th, 2013 - 7:32 pm

By now, we’ve all read the New York Times article that first made the rounds on Friday featuring multiple cri de coeurs from wealthy limousine leftists who are shocked to be losing their health insurance. Here’s the ending:

It is an uncomfortable position for many members of the creative classes to be in.

“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.

“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”

At the Corner, Yuval Levin makes a great observation about that classic facepalm-inducing last paragraph: “Answer first, question second. This would be funny if it weren’t so sad and serious.”

Responding to another member of the Manhattan “Obama people” quoted by the Times who’s shocked — unexpectedly! — by the loss of her insurance, Richard Fernandez adds, “If I Can Fake It There, I’ll Fake It Anywhere:”

When Obama announced he was inviting people who could not or would not pay for healthcare to the feast, that necessarily meant the bill would have to be stretched over those with money in their pockets.  And the NYC elite made the cardinal mistake of having some jake in the first place. The fact that they were successful doomed them. It meant that their fund — and all other well-managed enterprises — would have to be raided to subsidize the failures.

This is called a transfer payment. This is called redistribution. You may want or not want it, but you cannot pretend that redistribution does not redistribute.

If Ms. Meinwald wanted to avoid getting slugged, her group should have imitated Detroit. When you’re bust, you’re off the hook. No stash, no tab. Or, as classic Marxian theory puts it, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.  Of course the modern Democratic Party has rewritten the slogan slightly to “from each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed,” but that’s a mere detail; that’s progress for you.

What Meinwald may get is intangible. She’ll get first-class illusion. Illusion, Nathan Glazer once wrote, is sometimes a damned fine thing. Responding to Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s argument that humans are unequal in The Bell Curve, the Harvard sociologist argued in the New Republic that “some truths may not be worth knowing. Our society, our polity, our elites, according to Herrnstein and Murray, live with an untruth. I ask myself whether this untruth is not better for American society than the truth.”

So much for “the reality-based community.”

At the Federalist today, Mollie Hemingway also riffs on the wistful last words quoted by the Times in the title of her new article:

Maybe our fellow Americans disagree with every aspect of a piece of legislation, maybe they just disagree with a few particulars. But responsible adults must always ask about the consequences of legislative action. This may seem radical in an era of “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” but it’s really just a smart way for us all to come together to discuss reality before it’s too late.

So much of the increase in the size and scope of government happens because of Affordable Care Act approaches. As Rich Lowry put it, this involves “hiding and never acknowledging the costs of a given policy; giving legislation a warm and fuzzy name on the assumption that its results will live up to that label; and moralistic attacks on people who resist as fools and ogres.” Politicians and pundits are particularly good at refusing to acknowledge the tremendous downsides, unintended consequences and painful trade-offs of major government action.

But if Americans who are “for it” could work a bit more with the Americans who are asking “what is the reality of it?” we might be able to avoid some of the major mistakes we’ve made in recent years.

Given that a major component of leftism is the belief in your own superiority through demonization of your neighbors as heretics and non-believers,  it will take a major amount of rethinking and reformulating of the leftist belief system for the “If Obama wants it, I’m for it” gang and the “What is the reality of it?” crowd to begin speaking with each other again.

Don’t look to old media — which did everything it could to both amplify Mr. Obama’s message and to demonize everyone who dissented from it from 2007 through October of this year to begin bridging the gap anytime soon.

QED: “Christmas In The Tank: [NBC-Universal employee] Steve Harvey Says There Are Relentless Obama Critics, and ‘Those Of Us Who Get It,’” as spotted by Tim Graham of Newsbusters.

While I’m a confirmed Oba-skeptic, I know how comforting it must be to have that degree of religious faith in a higher power.

“Guys Prank Friend Into Thinking He’s Been In A Coma For 10 Years,” claims the Huffington Post:

Thought the government’s ‘don’t drink and drive’ campaigns have been hard-hitting over the years? Try this video.

Tom Mabe’s friend here had already been arrested five times for drink driving. So after passing out once more after a drinking session, his family decided to let Mabe and others teach him a lesson.

They put him in an office mocked up as hospital room – and when he woke up, told him he’d been in a coma for 10 years.

The prank included fake medical staff and even fake TV news reports – and if it wasn’t making a serious point it would, of course, just be downright cruel. Check out how it played out above. And remember: don’t drink and drive, kids. Hopefully this video will be enough to persuade you of that…

I’m getting a major “this video is faked” vibe from the clip, but either way, its makers knowingly or unknowingly imitated the exact plot of a 1968 Mission: Impossible episode:

The plan is to convince Barrett that he has a terminal illness, and at the same time have him happen to discover that a local doctor (Jim) is working on a cryogenic process to freeze people until cures can be found for their diseases (yup, that concept was already around by 1968).  Dr. Jim pretends to be reluctant because it’s illegal to freeze him while he’s still alive (he can’t wait because his imaginary disease is progressive and would be incurable if he waited), but Barrett is allowed to find out that Dr. Jim”s being “blackmailed” by Willy because he illegally froze his terminally ill wife (good grief, he’s Mr. Freeze!), so that gives Barrett leverage to force him to do the procedure.  It’s one of those episodes where the team goes to great lengths to appear to be discouraging the mark from doing what they want him to do, on the assumption that he’d get suspicious if they pushed him toward it too obviously.  But this guy’s no great brain, and he’s not at all suspicious about being told he has a terminal illness just after he encounters the cryonics doctor.  They didn’t have to go to so much trouble to avoid tipping him off.  (And I’m positive I’ve seen the cryogenic chamber in some other show, though I’m not sure if it was in Star Trek.)

Anyway, Barrett wakes up to find himself in the fabulous future world of… 1980!  There are futuristic concept cars in the parking lot, and his hospital room is dominated by what looks uncannily like a modern flatscreen TV.  There’s a bank of small cartridges that contain video recordings that play on the screen.  It’s kind of striking how prophetic it is.  But then Rollin and Cinnamon come in wearing clear plastic raincoats over their hospital scrubs, and suddenly prophetic gives way to B-movie hokey.  But the sequence redeemed itself when Rollin told Nurse Cinnamon to administer “5 ccs of cordrazine.”  Rollin’s a Trekkie!

These things always run much more smoothly when you’ve got Jim Phelps, Rollin Hand and Barney Collier on your team — but if you have to go to nearly as much trouble to convince someone not to drink and drive, it may be too late to save him already.


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(Via the London Daily Mail, which also appears to assume the clip is real.)

Update: Too bad the London Daily Mail and the Huffington Post didn’t bother to look up who Tom Mabe was before going with that story, a reader emails.

The Escape Into Fantasyland

December 5th, 2013 - 11:20 am

MSNBC-parody-10-4-10

“Snap: House Dem uses New Yorker satire blog as news source to hit Obamacare critics,” Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reports today. (H/T: JWF):

There was an awkward moment at today’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Obamacare when a New York Democrat rapped GOP critics with quotes from a satirical New Yorker feature, The Borowitz Report.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, while calling it her own “distinguished comedic think tank,” quoted from several stories in the Borowitz satire blog as if they were accurate, most notably one in which author Andy Borowitz joked that Republicans are complaining that the problem-plagued Obamacare website is working too fast.

It’s tempting to allow your mind to drift into fantasy when all appears to be lost. In the past, beleaguered members of the far left have retreated deep into the bunker, and dreamed of the collapsing empire whose fate was doomed through mismanagement and extreme overreach, and how — even as the walls are caving in — it could still, somehow, be rebuilt again.

A scene from Downfall? No actually, I was thinking of when Stephen Colbert dropped by the Democrat-led (specifically, Nancy Pelosi-led) 111th Congress in late September of 2010, despite — or maybe because of — their knowledge that virtually all polls indicated that the deluge was on its way in November. As John Podhoretz wrote at the time:

This may have been the single biggest pointless blunder in American political history, and I am not kidding. With an election only five weeks from now in which Democrats are poised for major losses, this morning’s depiction of Congress as ludicrous dupes of a TV personality — which will be replayed for weeks — will make the analogistic point that the majority is unfit to be running things. How exactly will they argue otherwise?

Did Colbert himself understand the damage he was going to do to the political and ideological forces he clearly supports by mocking the political process they control in this way? Is he, secretly, more O’Reilly than O’Reilly? Whatever is the case, the disaster was predictable and could have been avoided. I know, because I predicted it. What I didn’t predict is that the House leadership and the Democratic leadership generally are in such a state of degeneration that they didn’t know, or didn’t try, to intervene before this political Jonestown.

UPDATE: Oh my Lord. Speaker of the House Margaret Dumont Nancy Pelosi has defended Colbert’s appearance: “He’s an American. He has a point of view.”

And Andy Borowitz has a point of view as well. Like Colbert’s, it’s not based on reality, but you can’t have everything in the Obama era, especially when you’re toiling on his behalf.

(Which isn’t to say that the GOP isn’t debating its own retreat into fantasyland as well…)

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I await GQ declaring themselves racist, as that’s what Condé Nast’s reactionary left palace guard publication would have said about anyone with the temerity to make such a charge about Mr. Obama from 2008 through the first half of this year.

At Newsbusters, Noel Sheppard spots the magazine placing the president on their “Least Influential List” for 2013 and declaring him to be “a very eloquent hat stand”:

He can blame Republicans in Congress all he likes and get away with it because congressional Republicans are the worst. But the fact remains that I have spent the majority of this man’s presidency watching bad things happen, then hearing a thoughtful speech about how we gotta make sure the bad things never happen again, and then watching as nothing gets done. Next time there’s an election, I want Nate Silver to analyze the data and tell me who to vote for so that I don’t end up casting my ballot for a very eloquent hat stand.

Gee champ, we were warning you that the bespoke clothing had no emperor inside way back in 2008. But Condé Nast (which includes amongst its roster of publications Vogue, edited by Assad-worshiping Obama bundler and would-be ambassador Anna Wintour) was hellbent on convincing the American public that a former community organizer turned tyro senator was “Man of the Year,” as GQ described him back then, along with a tribute written by — of course — the late Ted Kennedy. (That era must particularly seem like the last days of Pompeii for the increasingly beleaguered publishing house.)

Having had, temporarily at least, the scales lifted from their eyes, and given their furniture-based reference, isn’t GQ’s description of the president simply a recombinant version of Clint Eastwood’s Empty Chair routine — which itself was (of course) declared racist by half the left last year? (And yet continues to resonate as a metaphor.)

As John Podhoretz wrote yesterday in the New York Post, “The media shielded the president from every criticism — until he betrayed a liberal cause,” with the stillborn birth of Obamacare last month, which helps to explain the sudden viciousness they’re now displaying on the small man with the giant ego that they inflated to godlike proportions in 2007 and 2008.

Related: At Big Hollywood, Christian Toto also notes that “it’s not 2008 anymore,” and explores “Why GQ’s Inclusion of Obama, Miley Cyrus on Least Influential List Matters.”

(Parody GQ cover created using a modified Shutterstock.com photo. And yes, the choice of a hatstand holding Neville Chamberlain’s umbrella was deliberate.)

Quote of the Day

November 19th, 2013 - 10:46 pm

“I am good! Love me!” Young Master McAuley’s op-ed [in the New York Times, blaming JFK's assassination once again on Dallas] plaintively cries. “Look at how much I hate the people who raised me, the people whose position in life enabled me to attend Harvard and Oxford and turn my back on them.”

This is, of course, nothing new. As Christopher Caldwell noted a decade ago in the Weekly Standard, even otherwise thoughtful liberals who hail originally from flyover country are driven kind of nutty by their ignorant kin* when it comes to politics. You should really read the whole thing—it’s extremely brief, and the bile so-called liberals** direct at their families is something to behold—but here are Caldwell’s concluding paragraphs:

At some point, Democrats became the party of small-town people who think they’re too big for their small towns***. It is hard to say how it happened: Perhaps it is that Republicans’ primary appeal is to something small-towners take for granted (tradition), while Democrats’ is to something that small-towners are condemned for lacking (diversity). Both appeals can be effective, but it is only the latter that incites people to repudiate the culture in which they grew up. Perhaps it is that at universities–through which pass all small-town people aiming to climb to a higher social class–Democratic party affiliation is the sine qua non of being taken for a serious, non-hayseed human being.

For these people, liberalism is not a belief at all. No, it’s something more important: a badge of certain social aspirations. That is why the laments of the small-town leftists get voiced with such intemperance and desperation. As if those who voice them are fighting off the nagging thought: If the Republicans aren’t particularly evil, then maybe I’m not particularly special.

“A badge of certain social aspirations,” yes, but something else too. Liberalism and affiliation with the Democratic Party, for these people, is less a series of policy ideas than an almost-religious belief system****. Distancing oneself from heretics thus takes on special importance. And how better to show your fellow believers that you are Good than to use the most important news outlet in the entire world to run down your relatives who believed Bad things?

“Op-Eds as Social Positioning: or, I’m Better than Those Hicks!”, Sonny Bunch in the Washington Free Beacon. Read the whole thing.™

* Speaking of the New York Times

** We’ll likely hear reports of this en masse immediately after Thanksgiving, when leftists depressed over the Obamacare debacle meet their Tea Party-friendly relatives who say, “See, I told you so.”  Hopefully no duels will be reported when the carving knives come out.

*** Why be a 21st century American, when you can be a fin de siècle Euro-wannabe like me — Otto von Bismarck was God, dude!

**** A holistic belief system that supports multiple sub-religions as well, of course.

Related: Charlie Cook on the left’s “Revolution in Dotage.”

(Via Ace of Spades.)

How Glamour Shapes Our Lives

November 17th, 2013 - 7:43 pm

On Thursday, I attended the San Francisco launch party for Virginia Postrel’s new book, The Power of Glamour; the following day, Reason TV released their latest video, an hour-long video featuring past and current Reason magazine editors, as Postrel was interviewed by Nick Gillespie:

Gillespie and Postrel discuss the glamour of the Tuskegee airmen (6:45); the glamour of California (9:30); the distinction between glamour and charisma (14:45); Obama’s glamour vs. Bill Clinton’s charisma (16:45); Marxist art critic John Berger’s “desiccated” take on glamour (20:30); Joan Crawford role in “defining the modern woman to the general public” (25:20); how a “ridiculously glamorous” image inspired dancer Michaela DePrince (27:30); how Naomi Wolfe’s projected her “single mother chic” image on Angelina Jolie (30:45); Oprah Winfrey’s infatuation with the Mary Tyler Moore Show (32:15); David Bowie’s ever-changing personas (36:30); how glamour “tells the truth about desire” (38:45); the democratization of glamour (40:45); the proliferation of glamour in a capitalist society (45:20); how Postrel’s libertarianism informs her work (48:30); the “intense glamour” of planning in the early twentieth century (51:20); how understanding glamour provides insights into human behavior (56:15); and how the breast cancer drug Herceptin saved Postrel’s life (57:30).

For my own interview with Postrel on the Power of Glamour, click here to listen.

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While it ranks pretty low on the list of the many mistakes made during my misspent youth, more and more I regret being a part of the “disco sucks” movement of the late 1970s. Back then, I was an aficionado of the Beatles and their various British spawn — the Stones, the Who, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, honorary-Brit Jimi Hendrix, et al. And a lot of the new wave music of the era, such as the Cars and the Pretenders. In contrast, a lot of disco music did sound awfully slick and plastic. On the dance floor, I’ve always had Stephen Hawkings’ moves, and that’s putting it charitably. So it was easy to hop on the bandwagon and attack disco. But had I known that disco’s successor would be atonal rap music that replaced real musicianship with drum machines, samples, grunting vocals, and scratching turntables, I would have luxuriated in the disco era forever. Come back Tony Manero, all is forgiven!

In 1998, Whit Stillman directed a film brilliantly titled The Last Days of Disco. At first glance, the director, invariably described as the WASP Woody Allen, seems to be an odd choice to direct such a movie. But while I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, Stillman’s films invariably end up documenting the transition between one era of American pop culture and the next. His first film, Metropolitan, made on a shoestring, funded in part by Stillman selling his apartment for $50,000, and released in 1990, documented the last days of the preppie era (or “the urban haute bourgeoisie,” as a character in the film refers to his caste) and debutante balls, and the transition into the multicultural, politically correct “America-Lite” Clinton-era 1990s.

His next film, arguably his best and most popular, was 1994′s Barcelona, which focused on the hatred of the European left of American servicemen and business executives shortly before the end of the Cold War. His most recent film, 2012’s whimsical Damsels in Distress, featured as its subplot the last college in America to go co-ed. (I interviewed Stillman back then; click here to listen.)

But in between those two films was 1998’s  Last Days of Disco, set at the dawn of the 1980s, which featured Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale as a pair of up-and-coming junior editors at a fictional Manhattan publishing house who spend their nights at a disco inspired by a combination of the anecdotes described in Anthony Haden-Guest’s 1997 book The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night, and Stillman’s own disco nights during that period. (Haden-Guest appears in a cameo, along with the ubiquitous late George Plimpton, as one of the nightclub guests in The Last Days of Disco.)

Non-Charismatic Leads Hamstring Film, Though Not Fatally

On the commentary track for the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray edition of The Last Days of Disco, Stillman says he prefers writing roles for women over men. However, compared to Taylor Nichols and frequent Stillman stand-in Chris Eigeman in Barcelona, Sevigny and Beckinsale lack their chemistry and charisma. As physically attractive as they are, at least in The Last Days of Disco, they’re simply not all that exciting as leads to front a comedy-drama.

Perhaps Stillman knew it — Damsels in Distress, his most recent film, which also ends with a big dance number, appears to function on one level as a knowing pastiche of the two leads in The Last Days of Disco. Greta Gerwig seems to be a more charismatic version of Chloë Sevigny, and Megalyn Echikunwoke reverses the formula of Kate Beckinsale — she’s an American actress affecting a posh British accent.

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Whit Stillman’s very funny 1994 film Barcelona concerns an American Navy officer in port to visit his brother, a mid-level business executive working in the Barcelona branch of a large American-based corporation. The navy man tells the local girls they meet at night in the discotheques that under the normal clothes his brother wears, “are narrow leather straps, drawn taut, so when he dances…” and other gags hinting at what one of the Spanish women calls “sadomasoquismo.”

At one point early on in the film,  the American businessman hits it off with one of the local girls and the following conversation ensues with her friend:

Montserrat Raventos: Apparently, you are just the sort of dangerous, foreign man she likes.

Ted Boynton: What do you mean?

Montserrat: Your brother told her about your interests.

Ted: What?

Montserrat: You know.

Ted: No.

Montserrat: The Marquis de Sade, games of leather, weekends of fun. The straps under your clothes.

Ted: He said that?! That's completely untrue. He promised he wouldn't say that anymore. He's not my brother.

Montserrat: You don't know anything about the Marquis de Sade?

Ted: No!

Montserrat: I don't believe you. So you're not wearing them tonight. That doesn't prove anything. Maybe they're at the cleaners.

Telling Ellen DeGeneres and her audience that he was trussed up by NBC’s makeup department in a “testicle vice”* for Halloween, apparently NBC’s Matt Lauer has taken the above scene to heart…and/or elsewhere:

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Sarnoff weeps: NBC at its peak meant Miami Vice. Today, NBC at its nadir equals the Testicle Vice. And the following week, Lauer and sidekick Al Roker would double-down on the “fun,” having on-air prostate exams:

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And for the rest of this month, it’s “No Shave November:”**

Lauer and Roker have also been growing beards since the start of the month for ‘No Shave November’ — joining other men across the country in a bid to raise awareness of male cancers.

Before the check, the hosts said they were undergoing the procedure to dispel the myths around it and to show just how easy it is.

‘We’re trying to raise awareness, trying to get men of a certain age to go to the doctors to raise some of these issues,’ Lauer said. ‘A lot of people have fears or concerns. We’re going to show you just how quick this procedure is.’

Say what you will about the earlier leftism of Walter Cronkite; he had enough common sense to keep his dignity intact on the air.

But then, so did most earlier hosts of the Today Show, including J. Fred Muggs.

NBC has spent much of the past ten years “raising awareness” about this topic or that.  But in the attempt to constantly “raise awareness,” does it profit a network to lose all of its viewers in the process? Or to put it another way:

* Not to be confused with the Hillary lockbox, with all of the broadcast network anchors will be wearing between now and 2016.

** Just when you think you’ve gotten past pink shoes October in the “awareness raising” National Football League.

Update 11/20/13: The original clip of Matt Lauer was pulled from YouTube; it’s now replaced.

The Accidental Tourist

November 13th, 2013 - 11:04 am

“Obama’s serial dishonesty is at least assisted by the fact that he doesn’t often encounter people who disagree with him, and doesn’t appear to have much patience or interest in having his ideas challenged,” Jim Geraghty writes in a new, must-read “Morning Jolt” column. “It is increasingly clear Obama has no idea how the project is actually progressing; he’s walking around in his own mobile bubble of happy talk. And this explains a lot about Obama’s presidency.”

After mentioning Chuck Todd of NBC noted on Friday that the president doesn’t believe he’s a serial liar when it comes to promising the American voters that they could keep their healthcare insurance, Jim runs down the number of times the man sold to the American public as “no drama Obama” (ahh, good times, good times) is a perpetually surprised president surrounded by yes men feeding him nothing but happy talk. At least until recent weeks, when they’ve likely been feeding him carton after carton of Marlboro 100s to get him through so much bad news about Obamacare, it has to finally be breaking through the otherwise impenetrable forcefield that keeps reality out of Obama’s oval office:

Gene Healy points out that we’re getting another wave of “Obama’s problem is that he’s an introvert and not a good schmoozer” columns and essays, and concludes, “Introverts — present company excepted — can make good presidents. Obama’s current predicament stems in large part from his flexible relationship with the truth — a personality flaw that has nothing to do with his sometimes solitary nature.”

Actually, Obama’s serial dishonesty is at least assisted by the fact that he doesn’t often encounter people who disagree with him, and doesn’t appear to have much patience or interest in having his ideas challenged.

Dana Milbank noticed this after his disastrous first debate performance:

In the hours after the Republican challenger Mitt Romney embarrassed the incumbent in their first meeting, Obama loyalists expressed puzzlement that the incumbent had done badly. But Obama has only himself to blame, because he set himself up for Wednesday’s emperor-has-no-clothes moment. For the past four years, he has worked assiduously to avoid being questioned, maintaining a regal detachment from the media and other sources of dissent and skeptical inquiry.

… In lieu of taking hard questions, Obama has opted for gauzy, soft-focus interviews with the likes of “Entertainment Tonight,” gentle appearances on late-night comedy shows, kid-glove satellite hits with regional TV stations, and joint appearances with the first lady where questions are certain to be gentle. Tough questions are rare in one-on-one interviews, because Obama has more control over the topic — and the interviewer wants to be invited back.

And again on Syria:

As Obama staffed the White House for his second term, there was criticism that he was isolating himself by promoting loyal aides who lacked the independent standing to tell him when he was making a mistake. Now, regarding Syria, we see the consequences.

As a result of that, Obama gets blindsided on a regular basis. George Will summarized the highest-profile examples

“He seems to think that his job as chief executive is not to be the executive but to be angry at his own administration when it doesn’t perform well,” said the syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor. “Fast and Furious, the IRS, Benghazi, NSA, investigation of our Mr. Rosen, there’s just a list of things that surprise him.”

But there are plenty of other times Obama’s been surprised by the result of his own policies. He seemed to think that reaching out to the Iranians would lead to a change in the regime’s behavior and attitudes. Then he thought they would appreciate him not calling them out on their atrocities; he later regretted his “muted” stance during the regime’s bloody crackdown in 2009.

He was surprised to learn that shovel-ready projects were not, in fact, shovel-ready.

He was surprised to learn that large-scale investment in infrastructure and clean-energy projects wouldn’t create enormous numbers of new jobs.

He was surprised that his past housing policies hadn’t helped struggling homeowners as he had promised.

The “recession turned out to be a lot deeper than any of us realized.”

When a woman says her semiconductor-engineer husband can’t find a job, Obama said he was surprised to hear it, because “he often hears business leaders in that field talk of a scarcity of skilled workers.”

As I wrote in a previous Jolt, some cynics might look at this pattern and conclude that Obama isn’t as smart as he thinks he is — or as his fans think he is. But it’s probably more accurate to offer some variation of the Reagan line, that the problem with Obama isn’t that he’s ignorant; it’s just that he knows so much that isn’t so.

Also from Jim: “Democrats Must Now Fight to Make Sure You Can’t Get Your Old Health Insurance Plan Back.”

Taken together, and it’s almost as if Obama the perpetual grad student would have made a much better professor of Marxist post-colonial deconstructionist studies at a Chicago university rather than advancing from having a cup of coffee in the Senate to becoming president. Other than half the country, who knew?

The Wrong Stuff

November 12th, 2013 - 12:44 pm

When the tech geeks raised concerns about their ability to deliver the website on time, they are reported to have been told “Failure is not an option.” Unfortunately, this is what happens when you say “failure is not an option”: You don’t develop backup plans, which means that your failure may turn into a disaster.

One more piece of follow-up on the above passage from Megan McArdle’s news of fresh Obamacare disaster — if the administration is going to use “Failure is not an option” riffs to describe Obamacare, and Obama himself is going to randomly blurt out “we need more moon shot!” to his writers, let’s compare its Website to the actual Apollo program, shall we?

CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson reported yesterday, “Memo warned of ‘limitless’ security risks for HealthCare.gov:”

It was [Henry Chao, HealthCare.gov's chief project manager at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] who recommended it was safe to launch the website Oct. 1. When shown the security risk memo, Chao said, “I just want to say that I haven’t seen this before.”

A Republican staff lawyer asked, “Do you find it surprising that you haven’t seen this before?”

Chao replied, “Yeah … I mean, wouldn’t you be surprised if you were me?” He later added: “It is disturbing. I mean, I don’t deny that this is … a fairly nonstandard way” to proceed.

Late Monday, Health and Human Services told CBS News the privacy and security of consumers’ personal information are at op priority, and consumers can trust their information is protected by stringent security standards. The author of the security memo, Tony Trenkle, retired from CMS last week; no reason was given.

As Moe Lane writes in response:

If this is true – and I can’t imagine how it’s not – then we are in a Madness Place. I don’t want to start throwing the word conspiracy around; but only because people get justifiably antsy when you start making that charge.  But this looks very much like somebody deciding to compartmentalize the people handling the rollout into those who would be spared, and those who would be deemed as being acceptable sacrifices to Moloch.  Guess which category Henry Chao ended up in?

Yeah, it was a surprise to him, too.

Contrast the above, along with the video making the rounds by James O’Keefe, which features ObamaCare exchange “navigators” lying and instructing the customer on the phone to lie, with this passage from Catherine Bly Cox and Charles Murray’s magisterial 1989 book, Apollo. That book focused not on the astronauts, but on the engineers, technicians, and the staffers who manned Mission Control and made Kennedy’s vision of landing a man on the moon before the 1960s were out a reality, not the least of which was NASA flight director Chris Kraft:

Give a lot, expect a lot: That was the credo Kraft left for the other flight directors. “Chris Kraft was the kind of guy who would leave you alone, and let you do your job,” FIDO Jerry Bostick said. “But without him ever saying anything, you knew you’d better not screw up. You’d better get it right. Don’t try to fake it. Because he didn’t give people a second chance.” The key was not so much being perfect—the nature of the controller’s job meant that sometimes he was going to make a mistake. The key was being smart enough to recognize the mistake, correct it, and then never repeat it. (“To err is human, but to do so more than once is contrary to Flight Operations Directorate policy,” was another of Kraft’s sayings.) And above all else, when you found out you had made a mistake you had to admit it immediately. “The flight director’s looking at a lot of data, and sometimes the information [to be inferred from the data] is not clear,” an EECOM once explained. “Your data are one thing, information is another. So if you were trying to tell Kraft something that he might use to make a critical decision, like reenter the spacecraft, you had to give him very tailored, specific information. One day I saw a guy actually give him some bad data. He just tried to bullshit his way around a problem. And Kraft knew. Kraft went down and put his hand on the back of this guy’s neck and told him to leave the Control Center. That was it, for that guy.”

You can argue with both “Progressive” (read: century-old) Moral Equivalent of War reasons behind the enormously expensive Apollo program of the 1960s, and certainly JFK himself was a plethora of character flaws. But the men who made the program work, as least as portrayed by Cox and Murray, demonstrate uniformly remarkable character, particularly when compared with our current administration. But then, a presidential administration is only as good as the people who elect it:

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Update: Obama’s NASA can’t actually send anyone into space (they’ve got more important things to do these days, such as making Muslims and LGBT proponents simultaneously feel better, a combined task that makes the moon landing seem like child’s play). So in order to keep White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park from testifying to Congress, the Obama administration is reduced to launching him on a mission to explore the ultimate final frontier instead — Detroit.

Oh, and while failure may not be an option, functioning at a “subeffective level” certainly is pretty cool from the administration’s perspective:

I’m tempted to joke that while Obama “needs more moon shot,” he’s wound up with Skylab instead, but that would be insult to America’s first space station, which while heavily damaged during launch, was repairable enough to actually work reasonably well for a time, before it performed the ultimate 404 error.