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Ed Driscoll

Three Days of the Captain

April 12th, 2014 - 12:46 pm

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is reviewed by John Podhoretz in the Weekly Standard:

Captain America, newly freed from the block of ice in which he has been frozen since the end of the war, must now deal with his failure to rid the world of the Nazi threat. As one character asks him, “How does it feel to know you died for nothing?”

That’s quite an interesting message for a superhero movie. Since coming into existence as a genre of its own with Superman in 1978, the comic-book movie has served as the successor to the classic Western—a moral pageant in which a classic white-hatted hero faces off against a black-hatted villain who has upset the moral order. The white hat sets things right and then rides off to do more good deeds.

In the late 1940s, after a generation in which more westerns were made than any other kind of movie in Hollywood by a factor of two, directors and writers began to tire of the formula and looked to broaden it. They made villains out of characters who would have once been heroes, like Henry Fonda’s martinet officer in Fort Apache (1948). And they made heroes out of former villains, like the Indian warrior Cochise in Broken Arrow (1950).

The superhero movie is Hollywood’s dominant fare. And now its makers—in this case, the gentlemen behind Marvel Studios, the Disney-owned behemoth—have had enough, in the same way that John Ford and Howard Hawks and other western-makers had had enough by the late 1940s. Those men incorporated liberal themes like tolerance and a more complex view of the uses of violence. In keeping with the more radical tenor of our times, Marvel Studios has bypassed that kind of mushy liberalism and gone straight to far-left radicalism.

Meanwhile at National Review, Armond White notes that the film’s title isn’t likely a coincidence, given that “in today’s Hollywood the idea of an honest, uncomplicated fighting soldier is more foreign than a Prius:”

This fact makes the latest installment of Marvel’s Captain America franchise oddly insincere and unconvincing. It vitiates that sometimes disingenuous phrase “I support the troops.” Instead, the film’s subtitle recalls the 1972 documentary Winter Soldier, in which Vietnam veterans repented their battlefield violence. Such disillusionment now infects even a comic-book franchise, so that the Captain America idea stops short of nationalist fervor. As Rogers takes his daily superhuman run around the basin of Washington, D.C., he introduces himself to another morning runner (and us) with the repeated look-out phrase “On your left . . .” Not a coincidence.

Through modish reinvention, Captain America — a dated, sanctimonious brawler-innocent — represents the undeniable fantasy of a particular political perspective. Leaning to the left, he prevails over internal threats to U.S. security (in the form of a neo-Nazi underground called Hydra, whose members include a senator and a State Department honcho played by Robert Redford). Yet the motivation for his intrepidness isn’t deep; it lacks a certain conviction. The fanboy audience (including adults), which has more dedication to the comic-book genre than to the Selective Service, may cheer him on with hollow enthusiasm while falling for Hollywood’s imaginary patriotism. Ignoring the complexities of realpolitik, moviegoers respond to formulaic CGI action scenes as if saluting the flag.

Whenever I hear the words “Winter Soldier,” I immediately think of the 2004-era Website that illustrated the radical timeline of John Kerry in the 1970s; and to add to the ’70s paranoia atmosphere of the film, Robert Redford, matinee idol turned star of such paranoid ’70s potboilers such as Three Days of the Condor and All the President’s Men has a supporting role.

Which also reflects Podhoretz’s take that the superhero movie has become “Hollywood’s dominant fare” in much the same way that westerns were in the 1940s and ’50s. Marvel gets a name that adds cache on the film poster; Redford gets a pop culture boost in the wintery twilight of his own career. It’s a well-timed one to boot, after The Company You Keep, his disastrous brush with radical chic last year, which in the same sort of macabre synchronicity that Bill Ayers could appreciate, promoted the Pentagon-bombing Weathermen just in time to coincide with the Boston Marathon bombing Tsarnaev brothers.

By the way, the question asked of the Captain regarding his service in World War II, “How does it feel to know you died for nothing?” also seems like yet another attempt by Hollywood to reduce World War II down to meaningless nihilism.

Which seems a particularly odd and depressing turn for the Hollywood superhero genre.

For a more positive take on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, check out the latest edition of PJTVs Trifecta, with my friends Steve Green, Bill Whittle, and Scott Ott:

Jay Carney Comes Full Circle

April 11th, 2014 - 3:58 pm

Hey, give Carney credit for pro-Communist consistency.

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

“In towns like Pushkino (pop. 90,000), many Russians view the tumult sweeping Moscow with more anxiety and skepticism than do their big-city compatriots…they wonder if the destruction of Soviet communism will bring them anything more than uncertainty and hardship.”

—Jay Carney, cub reporter at Time magazine, September 9, 1991.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and his family are featured in a worshipful profile in this month’s Washingtonian magazine.

It’s the sort of adoring journalistic exercise reserved for only the most handsome of the power elite. In it you can find out details about the Carney dog (a cousin to presidential pooch Sonny!), and how much the press secretary’s tie costs ($135).

But keen observers may notice the kitchen decor in the photo: Soviet propaganda posters. They really are the perfect pop of color whether you are the dour and sincere Nikita Khrushchev or the cheeky press-wrangler for a president who is constantly accused of being a socialist himself.

“Obama’s press secretary decorates home with Soviet propaganda,” The Week, today.

And do not miss Noah Rothman at Mediaite, who spots the Washingtonian doing some sort of Photoshopping on the books on Carney’s bookshelves: “Carney is surrounded by shelves and shelves of the same books. The photo-shopping was so hurried, in fact, that Carney’s son’s finger was never removed:”

And the same photo “updated with more duplicated books.”

Not surprisingly, Twitter is having a field day with the Washingtonian’s Photoshop meltdown.

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Meeting of the President’s Elite Palace Guard.

We’ll get to CBS’s decision to replace David Letterman with Stephen Colbert in a couple of minutes, but first, some backstory, as they say in Hollywood, for why this all has a feeling of deja vu about it.

After an article at Vulture.com last week on David Letterman’s retirement mentioned HBO’s 1996 TV movie The Late Shift, based on the best-selling book by the New York Times’ Bill Carter, I rented the movie from Netflix (on DVD, not streaming, alas.) As Matt Zoller Seitz of Vulture writes, “I know showbiz journalists and a good many regular viewers who can recite every twist in Carter’s narrative the way Greek children used to be able to recite the highlights of the Peloponnesian war. (Remember when Leno hid in a closet and eavesdropped on his bosses?)”

It’s a fascinating curio of a (made for TV) movie, once you get through the uncanny valley effect of the actors playing Letterman, Leno, and Johnny Carson. Physically, John Michael Higgins, who plays Letterman is actually pretty spot on, but you’re always aware it’s an actor in a Letterman toupee imitating Dave’s many tics and neuroses. Daniel Roebuck, playing Jay Leno is as stiff as plywood, and wears what looks like the prow of the Titanic as prosthetic fake chin covered in a layer of smeared-on make-up, phony looking even in the standard definition video I watched. And appearing at strategic times in the films, Rich Little plays Rich Little playing Johnny Carson. (Which must have been loads of fun for Little as payback: he was performer non gratis in the last years of the Carson Tonight Show for reasons never explained to him, despite his many appearances on the show in the ‘60s and ‘70s.)

But that’s the challenge when making any film about real-life celebrities known by millions. For the audience, if you can suspend disbelief and get past the waxworks leads, behind them are arguably the real stars of the film. These are the performers playing the behind the scenes chessboard manipulators, including Kathy Bates as Leno’s ball-breaking first manager, Helen Kushnick*, Bob Balaban as NBC executive Warren Littlefield, and Treat Williams as then-Hollywood power broker Mike Ovitz. (Who has since, as John Nolte of Big Hollywood writes, run afoul of what Ovitz called “the Gay Mafia,” in a very different cautionary tale than the main topic of our post.)

Of course, what ultimately makes The Late Shift work as a TV movie is the taut script, based on Bill Carter’s source material, which runs from a discussion between two CBS executives who want to steal Johnny Carson’s thunder by stealing away Jay Leno from the network, followed by Kushnick planting a “tip” in the New York Post that NBC was planning to replace Carson with Leno, followed by an aging, peeved Rich Little playing an aging, peeved Johnny choosing to retire at the top rather than face a bruising power struggle with NBC. NBC’s executives, Warren Littlefield, played by Balaban and Reni Santoni (“Poppy” the restaurant owner on Seinfeld) as his lieutenant, John Agoglia, both like Leno because he’s an easygoing team player, and not a petulant head case like Letterman. Once Letterman knows he won’t get the Tonight Show, he turns to Ovitz, who first helps him to break his contract with NBC, then lands him his deal with CBS, and a boxcar-sized payout.

What particularly makes The Late Shift such an interesting film is that when it was originally shot, it looked like CBS got the better of the deal, with Letterman dominating the ratings. As it turns out, according to the Internet Database:

Subsequent airings after the initial release have added an additional epilogue on how the Hugh Grant interview boosted Jay Leno’s ratings past David Letterman’s.

Thus Littlefield and Agoglia, despite being portrayed as Machiavellian manipulators on massive scale, end up looking like rather smart guys, in spite of themselves. Perhaps unintentionally, the film contrasts the difference between Letterman and Leno in the way they treat their production crews. Letterman, as big a neurotic backstage as in front of the cameras, barks at his staff after what he thinks was a bad show. An hour into the film later, when NBC decides to fire the bruising Kushnick as executive producer of the Tonight Show, Leno issues a “we’ll be OK gang, we’ll all get through this together” speech to console the troops.

As portrayed in The Late Shift, the young Leno appears fairly comfortable in his skin — offscreen, he’s a shier, more puppy dog like version of his stand-up comic persona. Letterman, as numerous critics wrote in the 1980s, is essentially an actor portraying a talk show host, trapped in the middle of the goofy whirling vortex of the first postmodern talk show that poked fun at all of the  gimmicks of Big Time Network TV at its hokiest polyester worst. Late Night picked up the baton from the recently-concluded original Lorne Michaels-era of Saturday Night Live (hence the appearance of Bill Murray on Letterman’s first show). It was new and fresh and plenty of fun at 12:30 at night in the mid-’80s, particularly as a contrast to the phone-it-in final years of the much more staid Carson-era Tonight Show.

But by the 21st century, Letterman appeared to be continually bitter at first George W. Bush, then Sarah Palin, then the Tea Party, then Mitt Romney. Concurrently, since 2008, Letterman has played supine Palace Guard to Barack Obama — a kindred spirit; another postmodern impressionist of a sort. As a result, Letterman’s shtick eventually became as freeze-dried as the talk shows of the ‘60s and ‘70s he used to parody. While Letterman was born in Indianapolis, in escaping flyover country for a career in New York and Los Angeles, the hungry young comedian turned surly old man lived out a variation of the warning voiced a decade ago by Christopher Caldwell of the Weekly Standard: “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.”

Leno, taking his cue from Johnny Carson, while very much a “Progressive” himself, is smart enough not alienate his core audience, and departed with enormous goodwill when he was pushed out by NBC this past February.

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“Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you,” Flannery O’Connor famously said was her motto, and certainly Kathy Shaidle’s writing lives up to that ideal. As she told me during our new interview, “I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, being born in the ‘60s, and in those days, it was all about free love and women should be able to have sex just like men and casual sex is great.  And let’s all read Cosmo’s sex tips and ‑‑ and sort of recreate Sex and the City in our actual lives,” the author of the popular Five Feet of Fury Blog, and a frequent contributor to PJ Media, Taki’s Magazine, and other Websites says.

Kathy’s new book, Confessions of A Failed Slut, an anthology of several of her related articles, “is my story of having tried and failed to live up to these social messages that were just everywhere when I was growing up, and finding that deep down, I wasn’t really temperamentally or morally, shall we say, cut out for a life of nonstop, no-fault, casual sex, and just sleeping around and pretending not to care, and doing the walk of shame and all that stuff.”

During our 29-minute interview, Kathy will explore:

● How the Love Boat, that weekly video voyage of the Hollywood damned, caused Kathy to begin seeing the world is “though a Gen-X filter of self-defensive snark.”

● Why Glen Close’s character in Fatal Attraction is “one of the most misunderstood females on film.”

● Why today’s women in rock and pop make the first generation of women in punk rock seem positively chaste by comparison.

● How TV’s Dr. Phil caused a Twitter storm when his show tweeted, “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her?”

● In a pop culture obsessed with sex, why does it seem like the male metrosexual is so…asexual?

● Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean somebody of the opposite sex isn’t out to meet you: Going undercover in the 9/11-“Truther”-themed InfoWars Internet dating site.

● How to break free of the Nanny State’s crushing group hug.

And much more. Click here to listen:

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(29 minutes and 7 seconds long; 26.6 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this interview to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 8.32 MB lo-fi edition.)

If the above Flash audio player is not be compatible with your browser, click on the video player below, or click here to be taken directly to YouTube, for an audio-only YouTube clip. Between one of those versions, you should find a format that plays on your system.

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

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“Health Secretary Resigns After Woes of HealthCare.gov,” Obama house organ the New York Times reports in a breaking story

Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said.

The departure comes as the Obama administration tries to move beyond its early stumbles in carrying out the law, persuade a still-skeptical public of its lasting benefits, and help Democratic incumbents, who face blistering attack ads after supporting the legislation, survive the midterm elections this fall.

Officials said Ms. Sebelius, 65, made the decision to resign and was not forced out. But the frustration at the White House over her performance had become increasingly clear, as administration aides worried that the crippling problems at HealthCare.gov, the website set up to enroll Americans in insurance exchanges, would result in lasting damage to the president’s legacy.

I’ll always remember her for the stellar moment from November pictured above, in which the administration that lives by Alinsky for once got played by it as well.

What’s your take on Sebelius’s resignation? Let me know in the comments below.

Update: Eric Cantor sticks the rhetorical scalpel in:

“The confirmation hearings will, I trust, be zesty,” for Sylvia Mathews Burwell, whom Obama has tapped as the successor to “the now departing supervisor of the Healthcare.gov Chernobyl,” as Allahpundit writes at Hot Air.

Related: Bryan Preston at the PJ Tatler has an initial take on her resignation as well.

“MSNBC panel wonders: Just what is Hillary Clinton’s unique qualification for President?”, as spotted by Ed Morrissey at Hot Air:

No, seriously, Bill Kristol asked on Morning Joe today: What makes Hillary Clinton the most well-qualified woman for the presidency? Kristol argues that Claire McCaskill has more accomplishments in the Senate, and that can also be said for other “governors and Senators” in the Democratic Party, “that made it on their own, I would add.” The panel, which initially scoffed at Kristol’s question, cannot name any accomplishment at all, and Chuck Todd ends up talking about how much she traveled as Secretary of State.

As John Ekdahl writes at AoSHQ, “this is just a great clip all around”:

And it comes with an enormous sense of deja vu, doesn’t it? Let’s flashback to February 19th 2008, when Chris Matthews(!) asked State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-TX), an even more than unusually rabid Obama supporter among the left in early 2008, what exactly were the tyro senator’s legislative accomplishments that qualified him to be the next president of the United States?

As Jonah Goldberg once wrote, “In the movie Animal House, the Deltas are put on trial for their antics. When offered a chance to defend themselves, the best argument the fraternity’s president can come up with is, ‘But sir, Delta Tau Chi has a long tradition of existence both to its members and the community at large.’”

Hillary Clinton has a much longer tradition of existence within the Democrat party than Obama did in 2008; does that alone, coupled with household name recognition qualify her to be president? Based on Obama’s supporters in 2008 (the same Obama supporters who were busy trashing Hillary and Bill as crypto-racists that year), the answer, sadly is yes.

Unless the GOP actually decides to play to win for a change, of course.

Update: We are the Manolo Blahniks we have been waiting for! A woman protesting Hillary’s speech today in Las Vegas threw an object at the former first lady, which was reported to be a shoe.

It’s  not the first time Hillary has dodged a projectile pump, either.

Strike Out

April 9th, 2014 - 4:37 pm

“Hank Aaron Compares Republicans That Oppose Obama To KKK,” CBS’s Atlanta affiliate reports, in which a legendary athlete taints his later years via an ugly political slur, and declares half his fans racist:

Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron compared Republicans that oppose President Barack Obama to the Ku Klux Klan.

Speaking to USA Today Tuesday on the 40th anniversary of his then record-breaking 715th home run, the 80-year-old Aaron said that Republicans are hindering Obama’s job performance.

“Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated,” Aaron told USA Today Sports.

Aaron continued: “The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

Aaron stated that there is still room for improvement for race relations in the U.S.

Hammer, heal thyself:

Similarly, Democrat President Woodrow Wilson could not be reached for comment.

Update: “I idolized @HenryLouisAaron as a kid, but sir, I’d like to chat with you re: history, Democrats & the KKK,” tweets Allen West. Much more at Twitchy.

My Back Pages

April 9th, 2014 - 1:47 pm

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common…Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Armey, who explains that the problem with “people who do not cherish America the way we do” is that “they did not read the Federalist Papers.”)

Rolling Stone, “The Truth About the Tea Party,” September 28, 2010.

Flash-forward to today:

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“Rolling Stone Mistakenly Plants John Hancock on Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Back,” Josh Encinias, at the NRO Corner today. As Justin Green of the Washington Examiner tweets, “Pro tip: John Hancock didn’t sign the Constitution.”

But it’s a nice bit of karmic blowback against a magazine, which in addition to despising anyone to the right of Pete Seeger, last year thought Boston bomber Dzohkar Tsarnaev was so totally cool and early Jim Morrison dreamy that he was worth featuring on their cover. In his terrific new book Not Cool, Greg Gutfeld describes that gesture as the end product of a sclerotic leftwing magazine on life support, asking, “If the Rolling Stone offices had been the target of bombing, would they have put such an adoring photo on their cover?”

Actually, maybe they would. Think back to Robert Fisk, the leftwing British journalist and namesake of the popular Blogosphere technique of fisking, who famously wrote after being attacked while covering the war in Afghanistan in late 2001, “My Beating is a Symbol of this Filthy War.” Fisk added, “In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.” In other words, In other words, ‘I totally had it coming.’

Or as Gutfeld himself quips, “If only bin Laden had been younger and hotter. If only he’d had abs. Then Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone, who put the Boston Bomber on the cover of his rag, might have done him first.”

“We don’t have a ‘gay mafia,’ we have a ‘gay Soviet,’” Bookworm Room recently noted. If so, then Mollie Hemingway’s latest article at the Federalist on “The Rise Of The Same-Sex Marriage Dissidents” dovetails rather well.

“Eich broke the rules of the game. Suddenly everything appears in another light,” Hemingway writes, along the way quoting from Vaclav Havel’s 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless,” and updating it for another era of totalitarians searching for thoughtcrime and heretics:

In the greengrocer scenario, Havel notes that if the text of the sign read “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient,” he might be embarrassed and ashamed to put it up. The dissidents are the ones who, by refusing to put the sign up, or refusing to recant, shine a huge light on the system, including the ones who go along to get along. All of a sudden those Facebook signs, those reflexive statements, those cries of “Bigot!” look less like shows of strength and more like shows of weakness.

Why was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn driven out of his own country, asks Havel. It wasn’t because he had political power:

Solzhenitsyn’s expulsion was something else: a desperate attempt to plug up the dreadful wellspring of truth, a truth which might cause incalculable transformations in social consciousness, which in turn might one day produce political debacles unpredictable in their consequences. And so the post-totalitarian system behaved in a characteristic way: it defended the integrity of the world of appearances in order to defend itself. For the crust presented by the life of lies is made of strange stuff. As long as it seals off hermetically the entire society, it appears to be made of stone. But the moment someone breaks through in one place, when one person cries out, “The emperor is naked!”—when a single person breaks the rules of the game, thus exposing it as a game—everything suddenly appears in another light and the whole crust seems then to be made of a tissue on the point of tearing and disintegrating uncontrollably.

Whether Eich and other dissidents will crack our thick, hardened crust remains to be seen. Perhaps there will need to be dozens, hundreds, thousands more dissidents losing their livelihoods, facing court cases, and dealing with social media rage mobs. But all of a sudden, the crust doesn’t seem nearly as impenetrable as it did last week.

Read the whole thing.

A Degree Too Far

April 9th, 2014 - 10:52 am

Brandeis disinvites Ayaan Hirsi Ali from receiving an honorary doctorate; Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard is not amused. In “A Note to Supporters of Brandeis,” Kristol writes:

As Lori Lowenthal Marcus notes, Brandeis University has in recent years bestowed an honorary degree on Tony Kushner, who called the creation of Israel as a Jewish state “a mistake” and who attacked Israel for ethnic cleansing and for causing “terrible peril in the world.” Brandeis has also honored Desmond Tutu, who compared Israel to Hitler, attacked the “Jewish lobby” as too “powerful” and “scary,” and complained of the “Jewish monopoly of the Holocaust.”

Unfortunately, that’s business as usual in the modern academy, including at an academic institution founded out of a special concern for the well-being of Jews in America and elsewhere.

But when it comes to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a courageous woman who has fought for human rights around the world—and who may actually like the state Israel—well, that’s a bridge too far. In recent weeks, Brandeis president Fred Lawrence came under “pressure”—i.e., received complaints from some students and whining from some faculty—and promptly caved. He has disinvited Ayaan Hirsi Ali from receiving an honorary doctorate this year.

His justification for caving was pathetic. Lawrence announced that “we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.”

“Did no one at Brandeis bother to Google Ali before offering her the degree?”, Ed Morrissey asks:

Her speeches don’t pull punches about her perspectives on Islam and its practices. It’s a little late in 2014 for President Lawrence to be shocked, shocked at “certain of her past statements” in relation to the work that they apparently wanted to honor.

To answer the second question — because so far, questions one and three don’t lend themselves to answers other than incompetence – what changed is that the faculty erupted in outrage when it saw Ali on the list. Out of 350 faculty, “more than 85″ signed a petition demanding her removal from the honors list. The petition was started by the Muslim Students Association, which should have been easily foreseen by Brandeis in the first place. If popular opposition was enough to cancel the offer, then Brandeis shouldn’t have made it in the first place. Now, they look both incompetent and pusillanimous.

I wonder what the University’s namesake would have thought about the school that bears his name surrendering to the will of the Muslim Students Association?

The Rise of the Anti-Tech California Left

April 8th, 2014 - 3:37 pm

When I moved out to Silicon Valley from New Jersey in 1997, Internet fever was just about to peak (literally so, in the form of the bursting tech bubble that decimated the NASDAQ three years later). Silicon Valley was seen as the next big thing, ushering America into the wonders of the 21st century — and possibly saving the increasing bloated state government of California in the process. Wired magazine, based in San Francisco, was still owned by founder Louis Rossetto, and maintained its quirky but libertarian vibe, before Rosetto sold the magazine to the mammoth reactionary left Conde Nast publishing empire four year later. For those of us who had started computing on Altair 8800s and TRS-80s twenty years earlier, the mid-to-late 1990s was quite a ride.

It was fun while it lasted.

In his latest USA Today column, Glenn Reynolds writes that these days, “Silicon Valley Scares Americans:”

Silicon Valley has a trust problem, and it’s growing. Some of this is the result of National Security Agency spying — and the tech community’s cooperation with same — and some of it is based on other things tech leaders are doing. But the worst of it is based on who our tech overlords have become.

The NSA spying has already done harm enough. As Glenn Derene warned in Popular Mechanics when the story first broke, fear of NSA spying is giving a boost to offshore competitors, as companies and users seek hardware and software without back doors and compromised security standards. Some foreign customers feel betrayed by Google, Facebook, and other tech giants.

But even at home, the tech community is hurting. According to a study by Harris Interactive last week, people are actually reducing their Internet usage because of the Edward Snowden revelations and general fears about privacy. The study found that 47% say they have changed their behavior online, and 26% say they’re doing less online shopping. Among younger users, aged 18 to 34, the online shopping number was 33%. The Wall Street Journal quotes Stephen Cobb of information security company ESET: “In the technology industry, companies are finding that the sales cycle is getting longer, as customers ask questions such as whether an Internet router is NSA proof. ‘People are asking questions they didn’t ask before. To be in this place now, given the history of this industry, is just amazing. There is a level of suspicion and confusion we haven’t had before.’”

The California far left has always been confused — but their suspicion regarding their fellow high-tech mavens in Northern California is reaching new and paranoid heights, which Richard Fernandez explores in his latest Belmont Club post here at PJ Media, titled “Vanishing Point:”

There was an interesting postscript to the Eich saga in the bizarre protest held against Internet entreprenuer Kevin Rose.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports that protesters stood with signs and flyers outside of the Google Ventures partner and entrepreneur’s home in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood Sunday, calling him a ‘parasite’ and a ‘leech.’  Techcrunch has a copy of the flyer:

‘As a partner venture capitalist at Google Ventures, Kevin directs the flow of capital from Google into the tech startup bubble that is destroying San Francisco. The start-ups that he funds bring the swarms of young entrepreneurs that have ravaged the landscapes of San Francisco and Oakland.’

The flyer claims to speak for the service workers who “serve them coffee, deliver them food, suck their c***s [?], watch their kids, and mop their floors” and goes on to complain that most techies are “just like Kevin Rose,” though again, it’s short on specific criticisms, aside from pointing out that techies make a lot of money.

A supposed manifesto from an organization called “The Counterforce” makes demands believed to be related to the protest.

To this end, we now make our first clear demand of Google. We demand that Google give three billion dollars to an anarchist organization of our choosing. This money will then be used to create autonomous, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist communities throughout the Bay Area and Northern California. In these communities, whether in San Francisco or in the woods, no one will ever have to pay rent and housing will be free. With this three billion from Google, we will solve the housing crisis in the Bay Area and prove to the world that an anarchist world is not only possible but in fact irrepressible. If given the chance, most humans will pursue a course towards increased freedom and greater liberty. As it stands, only people like Kevin Rose are given the opportunity to reshape their world, and look at what they do with those opportunities.

There is no direct relationship between the Eich and Rose incidents, besides the sheer outré character of the events, but one can’t help get the feeling that they emanate from the same strange universe, whatever universe that might be.  But it’s all shadows with nothing besides fantastic flashbacks of “Scorpio” from Dirty Harry and the People’s Temple crowds bellowing for an airlift to Russia to lend it shape.

Business Insider suggests the protests were something more prosaic. It’s social unrest. It’s poor people fighting for their share of the hipster pie outraged at the high rents in the Bay Area and the outrageous pricing of goodies beyond their reach. It’s the rebellion of “social equals” who find they are financial inferiors. It’s the outcry of people who thought they were part of a great movement who discover they are, after all, only menials. That makes it all the more pathetic.

Transportation seems to be a curious obsession with the anti-tech California left. For several months, they’ve been fixated upon the so-called “Google Busses,” corporate busses which transport Google and Yahoo employees around the Bay Area. It’s an interesting equation — mass transit, which the left once viewed as an unalloyed good, versus a comfortable vehicle (well, relatively comfortable: at 6’2″ and all legs, I have to scrunch to fit into most bus or coach airline seats) used solely by corporate employees.

Which the San Francisco left view as bad. Very Bad. So Incredibly, Stupendously, Intolerably Bad, it can make you throw up:

A protester so aghast with Silicon Valley’s impact on the Bay Area has gone as far as to vomit on a Yahoo shuttle bus.

The mystery demonstrator was among a group of protesters picketing the buses that ferry employees of the big tech corporations to work, deeming them indicative of everything wrong with the hyper-gentrified Silicon Valley.

On Tuesday, the group blocked an intersection in San Francisco’s Mission area, and protestors consisted of dancers in clown suit onesies.

But Valleywag.com reported that in Oakland, almost 50 ‘rebels’ blocked a pick up zone for tech buses and one apparently vomited on the windshield of a Yahoo bus from its roof.

I guess there weren’t any police cars around to poop on.

As we’ll explore after the page break, the Google Bus’s polar opposite vehicle, the tiny Weeble-sized Smart Car, is also under attack in San Francisco.

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ATTENTION INTERNET: THIS IS A QUADRUPLE FACEPALM ALERT. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL — assuming Mother Jones’ story is accurate, of course:

Last week, the online dating site OkCupid switched up its homepage for Mozilla Firefox users. Upon opening the site, a message appeared encouraging members to curb their use of Firefox because the company’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, allegedly opposes equality for gay couples—specifically, he donated $1000 to the campaign for the anti-gay Proposition 8 in 2008. “We’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together,” the message read. “If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal.” The company’s action went viral, and within a few days, Eich had resigned as CEO of Mozilla only weeks after taking up the post. On Thursday, OkCupid released a statement saying “We are pleased that OkCupid’s boycott has brought tremendous awareness to the critical matter of equal rights for all individuals and partnerships.”

But there’s a hitch: OkCupid’s co-founder and CEO Sam Yagan once donated to an anti-gay candidate. (Yagan is also CEO of Match.com.) Specifically, Yagan donated $500 to Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) in 2004, reports Uncrunched. During his time as congressman from 1997 to 2009, Cannon voted for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, against a ban on sexual-orientation based job discrimination, and for prohibition of gay adoptions.

William A. Jacobson of the popular Legal Insurrection blog notes that Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller was the first to report on Yagan’s donations (Ross’s article is date-stamped last Thursday), and that Mother Jones failed to credit Ross for his detective work. In any case, as Jacobson adds, “So when does the boycott of OKCupid start?  After all, the people who took down Eich did so based on the, ahem, purest of principled judgments.”

See, that’s problem with breaking out the torches and attempting to imitate the crowd in a 1930s Universal horror film: you can very easily get scarred yourself by the blowback. It will quite interesting to see where both Firefox and OKCupid go from here, having both jumped off the cliff in short succession.

Exit quote:

Although the source of the quote is pretty rich, as that great philosopher Murray Slaughter once said of another journalist who frequently descended into madness, when an elephant flies, you don’t complain about how short the flight is.

Oh, and heh.

Related: The Rise of the Anti-Tech California Left.

Don’t Ever Change, CBS

April 7th, 2014 - 7:34 pm

“CBS’ ’60 Minutes’ admits to faking Tesla car noise,” USA Today reports:

What is it about Tesla and its ability to make major media outlets look like fools?

The latest example came a week ago today when CBS’ 60 Minutes aired a report on Tesla and its amazing electric car. It was basically the kind of coverage that any automaker would kill to have (and must have left flummoxed General Motors executives wondering why they never got it for the plug-in Chevrolet Volt).

Just one problem: As the Associated Press reported, a CBS editor made what is being called an “audio error” in dubbing the sound of a loud traditional car engine over footage of the much quieter Tesla electric car. The Model is whisper quiet, no matter how hard you push it.

Auto website Jalopnik broke the story of the fake sound and CBS was in retreat all week.

Unlike NBC’s malicious edit of the audio of the transcript of George Zimmerman’s 911 call, this sounds like awfully small beer, other than it’s a reminder that even in a news report (or news-ish, given the editorializing that 60 Minutes is notorious for), that plenty of sound effects are added in post production. CBS’s backroom audio boffin likely watched raw footage of cars zooming past and simply reached for the nearest collection of sexy race car sound effects, forgetting that coal-powered (heh) electric-powered cars sound very different than their internal-combustion equivalents. Or often, they don’t make much of a sound at all; Glenn Reynolds recently suggested adding “a Jetsons-style bleebing sound” to offset their silent acoustic signature.

And actually, audio sweetening of TV news and documentaries dates back to the Jetsons-era of Jurassic television. If you watch the DVD collection of Thames’ World at War series from the early 1970s, you’ll hear the same squeaky sound effect pasted under numerous tanks from all of the armies as they rumble past the (silent) newsreel cameras, and many of the same gun and rifle sound effects used over and over again as well. (I believe that many, if not all of them came from the British film industry’s legendary Cinesound sound effects collection, which were also used extensively in mid’60s and early 1970s UK-based productions, including Gerry Anderson’s shows such as Capt. Scarlet and UFO, as well as the original James Bond films. I used a few of these sound effects as well in some of my later Silicon Graffiti segments as a subtle homage.)

In recent years, the backroom technicians at all of the networks have been caught making mistakes on Chryons and the like, a combination of likely poor training these days in college, better scrutiny from the Blogosphere, and the sheer amount of programming television is required to crank out to meet the ravenous demands of the 500 channel cable and satellite set-top box. But CBS, the home of Rathergate, which caused Dan Rather his job, and helped supply the original name of our humble little outpost on the Internet, has to be extra careful out there.
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Don’t Ever Change, New York Times

April 7th, 2014 - 4:59 pm

“‘NYT’ Alters Ezra Klein Quote from ‘WaPo’ Criticism to Slam on Industry,” Warner Tood Huston notes at Big Journalism:

On Sunday evening, the NYT published a piece about Klein’s jump from the Post to his new Vox.com’s “explanatory journalism” news site. In the first piece, writer Leslie Kaufman quoted Klein as saying that the Post was somehow keeping him from doing journalism correctly, which was one reason he left print media:

“We were badly held back not just by the technology, but by the culture of journalism there,” he said of the Post, as he offered a preview of his new site, Vox.com, which was scheduled to launch Sunday night.

But by Monday morning, that quote slamming the Post was softened considerably and given a new direction:

“We were badly held back not just by the technology, but by the culture of journalism,” he said of daily newspapers, as he offered a preview of his new site, Vox.com, which was scheduled to be introduced Sunday night.

Clearly, the quote morphed from one specifically faulting The Washington Post for its policies to a more general criticism of the newspaper industry as a whole.

There is no way to tell, of course, but either the The New York Times misquoted Ezra Klein in the first place on being “badly held back” at The Washington Post, or Klein changed his mind and wanted his quote to be read as a broad critique of the whole newspaper industry, instead of one solely directed at the Post, and the Times bent to his will after the fact.

Whatever happened, readers got the changed quote, with no explanation of why the change was made at the Times website.

Ever since current editor Jill Abramson famously said in 2011, “In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion. If The Times said it, it was the absolute truth.” — only to have that quote airbrushed out hours later, it seems like the Times’ touch-up artists have gone into overdrive, removing doubleplusungood crimethink remarks, even after they’ve been quoted by dozens of blogs and Websites before the Gray Lady has tossed the original quote down the Memory Hole:

But then, with the second PJM/New Criterion Duranty Awards coming up next month in New York, perhaps the Times simply wants to relive the good old days when they could airbrush with impunity.

Don’t Ever Change, ABC

April 7th, 2014 - 4:30 pm

Give that man an Emmy — Dan Harris, smart enough to claw his way through ABC’s corporate structure and replace Ted Koppel as host of Nightline sure knows how to play dumb when asked about ABC’s leftwing slant. As Tim Graham writes at Newsbusters, Harris appeared on the Steve Malzberg Show on Newsmax TV, where based on the transcript, Malzberg gave Harris a pretty good grilling over ABC’s biases, before Malzberg asked him isn’t water wet don’t most journalists at ABC lean left?

HARRIS: I don’t know, liberal might be overly strong. We actually have some very, very powerful voices, and I’m not going to say who, within our building, who are conservative. Very, very powerful….

MALZBERG: On air?

HARRIS: Yes. So –

MALZBERG: Name one?

HARRIS: No. But I wouldn’t name one I thought was liberal either.* So I’m just being fair. Having said that, I’m open to the possibility – very much open to the possibility that there is absolutely a subconscious bias that manifests in just exactly the thing you’re talking about. But in my time there, I’ve never heard someone say ‘We’re gonna go get this guy because he’s a Republican.”

* Not even former Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos? (And as Graham adds, “Please see our list of the five worst Dan Harris media-bias outrages. I vote for his silliness about Saddam Hussein getting 100 percent of the vote!”)

It took a few years, but with Harris’s non-denial denial, the dinosaur media troika is complete: In 2007, Andrea Mitchell appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show and much to her chagrin, was asked about bias at NBC. Mitchell’s response?

Mitchell on Chris Matthews: “I don’t think he’s a liberal thinker.”

And later: “I don’t feel there is bias in what we do at NBC News. And I don’t think there’s bias in CBS or ABC.”

In 2003, one year before Dan hit the fan at CBS, Lesley Stahl sounded virtually identical to ABC’s Dan Harris, when asked about the bias at CBS by Fox’s Cal Thomas:

[Stahl:] I’m going to attack your premise and say that I think the voices that are being heard in broadcast media today, are far more — the ones who are being heard, are far more likely to be on the right and avowedly so, and therefore, more — almost stridently so, than what you’re talking about.”

Thomas pounced: “Can you name a conservative journalist at CBS News?”

Stahl was flummoxed and denied that anyone at CBS is biased in any way: “Well I don’t know of anybody’s political bias at CBS News. I really think we try very hard to get any opinion that we have out of our stories. And most of our stories are balanced, and there are standards that say they need to be balanced. So if you have one side, you try to get the other side. And I’m not saying we don’t have opinions, but I’m saying we try to cleanse our stories of them.”

Lucy Ramirez could not be reached for comment.

Don’t Ever Change, CNN

April 7th, 2014 - 3:19 pm


CNN redlines the irony meter — if only there was a big sexy story involving politicians allegedly gun-running with mobsters just begging to be covered as a change of pace.

Meet Al Sharpton, “former paid FBI informant,” Jessica Chasmar writes at the Washington Times, linking to a report from the Smoking Gun. It’s currently the lead headline atop the Drudge Report, written in the classic Drudge all caps smashmouth style“SHARPTON WAS FBI MOB RAT:”

The report published Monday claims that Mr. Sharpton regularly interacted with members of four of New York City’s five organized crime families, specifically leaders of the Genovese family, and he secretly recorded their conversations.

Mr. Sharpton was known by the FBI as “CI-7” — short for confidential informant No. 7 — and began working for the agency in the mid-1980s, the report said.

From the report: “[The Smoking Gun’s] account of Sharpton’s secret life as ‘CI-7’ is based on hundreds of pages of confidential FBI affidavits, documents released by the bureau in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, court records and extensive interviews with six members of the Genovese squad, as well as other law enforcement officials to whom the activist provided assistance.

In 2011, MSNBC’s Phil Griffin told NPR, “I’m a big fan of the Reverend Sharpton. I’ve known him quite a bit. he’s smart. He’s entertaining. He’s experienced. He’s thoughtful. He’s provocative, all the things I think that MSNBC is.”

And how.

“Resist we much,” Sharpton would likely implore them, but the Smoking Gun itself is of course having lots of fun with its discovery:

The former mob snitch has become a regular in the White House, where he has met with the 44th president in the East Room, the Roosevelt Room, and the Oval Office. He has also attended Obama Christmas parties, speeches, policy announcements, and even watched a Super Bowl with the First Family (an evening the man has called “one of the highlights of my life”). During these gatherings, he has mingled with cabinet members, top Obama aides, military leaders, business executives, and members of Congress. His former confederates were a decidedly dicier lot: ex-convicts, extortionists, heroin traffickers, and mob henchmen. The man’s surreptitious recordings, FBI records show, aided his government handlers in the successful targeting of powerful Mafia figures with nicknames like Benny Eggs, Chin, Fritzy, Corky, and Baldy Dom.

This is still not computing. Al Sharpton: G-Man? Next you’re going to be telling me that ultra-conservative poseur Morton Downey Jr., who hosted the show that first brought Sharpton to nation attention was secretly a Democrat who was play-acting.

Oh wait.

Invariably clad in a velor tracksuit, Sharpton and Downey, or Sharpton and a fellow guest would comes to blows by the end of seemingly every appearance.  Sharpton is on video smearing a fellow guest by bellowing, “You ain’t nothing! You a punk faggot!”, which, like much of Sharpton’s then-publicly-known past, was “unexpectedly” forgotten when he won his recent gig at NBC’s spin-off cable channel. (Perhaps he uttered the quote in character as part of his undercover work.)

All-in-all, as Kate of Small Dead Animals deadpans, “This is Awkward.” And as Larry Elder speculates:

As I was writing this post, I was wondering what J. Edgar Hoover would think about Sharpton working for the FBI. Then I started wondering, forget Hoover — what would Woody Allen say?

dave_barry_cover_4-4-14-1

“One day at 4:30 in the afternoon,” Dave Barry writes in his latest book, his 13-year old daughter Sophie, “went into her bathroom, which is pink, and WHOOM!, some kind of massive hormone bomb went off there.”

The result has been utter chaos, both for Sophie, and especially for Dave himself, who’s having to deal with a massive influx of boys visiting his house. “They come around.  They come around all the time now.  There didn’t used to be boys in our life.  And now there are boys on the lawn, on the roof, in the trees.  They’re like squirrels; they’re just boys coming around.”

“And I don’t like it, Ed,” he insists. “ I used to be a boy.  I’ve been a male my entire life.  And let’s be honest.  We’re scum.  Of all the genders, we’re the worst one.  And that’s exactly the gender that is showing up now around our house.  And I Don’t. Like. It.”

Which is why the title of Dave’s latest book is based on reading the Riot Act to his daughter: You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About.

Perhaps Barry is overreacting just a minuscule amount to the situation. On the other hand, you’d be feeling a bit harried too, if you recently returned from the following nightmare scenarios:

  • Going to your first Justin Bieber concert and listening to a stadium full of teenage girls shouting “I loooooove you!!!! I loooooove you, Justin!!!!!!”  into your ear all night long.
  • Paying a fortune for tickets to take your daughter to said Justin Beiber concert, only for her to eventually discover that the Bieb is an idiot. Which Barry had pointed out to her before plunking out money for the concert.
  • Pondering what women see in 50 Shades of Grey, and asking your wife if she wants to try out the book’s scenario.
  • Visiting Israel on a quest for free Wi-Fi throughout the Holy Land.
  • Rappelling down an Israeli desert cliff and risking pooping on a rabbi due to total loss of sphincter control.
  • Having people approach you constantly to praise your article on the importance of colonoscopies.
  • The easy way for first time authors to promote their works by get booked on nationally-watched network talk shows by showing up at the studio door unannounced 15 minutes before airtime.

All of which we’ll discuss in our latest interview, and more. Click here to listen:

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(19 minutes and 55 seconds long; 18.2 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this interview to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 5.69 MB lo-fi edition.)

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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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What Could Go Wrong?

April 6th, 2014 - 6:32 pm

“US gives Boeing green light to sell plane parts to Iran,” according to German Website Deutsche Welle:

Boeing, the world’s biggest plane manufacturer, said late Friday the US Treasury Department issued it with a license allowing the airline to do business with Iran for the first time since 1979.

A Boeing spokesman said the company would now be allowed to export certain spare parts for commercial planes that were needed to ensure older aircraft could fly safely. The license covers a limited period of time and does not allow Boeing to sell new planes to Iran.

The company will contact officials in Iran to determine which specific parts are needed. Boeing’s last delivery to Iran was a 747-100 jumbo jet in August 1979, three months before US hostages were seized at the Tehran embassy.

The Islamic Revolution that year led to US sanctions that were later broadened over a dispute from Iran’s nuclear activities.

Last year, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear operations in exchange for a temporary easing of severe economic sanctions from Britian [sic], China, France, Germany, Russia and the US. A permanent agreement is currently being negotiated.

Found via the Brothers Judd; one of their commenters adds that he’s sure the Iranians will give the aircraft parts back to us eventually, which takes the wartime phrase “never been fired and only dropped once” to spectacular new heights.

Last week I interviewed PJM contributor Andrew Bostom about his new book, ominously titled, Iran’s Final Solution for Israel. Oddly, Andrew’s thesis leaves me less than reassured by that last paragraph quoted above. How ’bout you?

Tweet of the Day

April 6th, 2014 - 5:02 pm


Found via Twitchy. Not to be confused with the Broken Windows theory of Fighting Crime, which works, and therefore, the left abhors.