“… the air of dignity with which these lauded men carried themselves.”
Editor’s Note: Click here for Part 1 in Becky Graebner’s dissection of how Netflix’s House of Cards series compares with real life in the political jungle of Washington D.C. And drop by PJ Lifestyle each Wednesday for new installments in the series.
The topic of infidelity isn’t exactly funny—or a subject that many T.V. producers and writers can write into their plots without making the audience completely hate the characters engaged. House of Cards’ writing involving the marriage and unfaithfulness of Frank and Claire is subtly genius and creepy–because the audience doesn’t necessarily come to completely dislike either characters for their moral derailment. This might mean that the writing is so genius, the audience is tricked into not judging the cheating characters, or it might simply shed some light on the moral condition of D.C. and greater society. I think it is a little bit of both.
When people gain power, they start to feel untouchable. And when they think they are untouchable, they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors. They are also more likely to become a target for those who also seek fame, power, and wealth. Celebrities and politicians frequently fall prey to a false sense of indestructibility, as well as to power-hungry, attention gremlins…and some are lead astray from their marriages.
Infidelity is not a phenomenon specific to Washington, D.C.—it occurs from sea to shining sea–but the sinful game has higher stakes in The District. Due to the nature of the cheating players’ jobs, their environment, and media coverage, unfaithfulness seems to be both concentrated and magnified in D.C. History is full of famous “D.C. wanderings.” It’s pathetic that I have so many to choose from. Let’s start at the top…
“Mistah Kurtz – he dead.”
Oh, come on, you know:
The novel, and the poem, about the terminal termitic decay of what we laughingly call “civilization,” and the “hollow men” who (barely) populate Western society?
With all that scarecrow and “straw men” and trophy-heads-on-pikes imagery?
“This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a wimper” and all that?
Or maybe you don’t.
And you don’t want to know, either. Not anything.
In a world where “Benghazi was a long time ago,” expressing what used to be called “common knowledge,” or asking what once was considered “a normal question,” is verboten.
Jason Collins is gay, therefore Jason Collins has always been gay.
That he’s gay is everybody’s business, but it’s nobody’s business that John Maynard Keynes was.
According to Virginia historian Matthew Page Andrews, “As soon as the settlers were thrown upon their own resources, and each freeman had acquired the right of owning property, the colonists quickly developed what became the distinguishing characteristic of Americans — an aptitude for all kinds of craftsmanship coupled with an innate genius for experimentation and invention.”
American exceptionalism — to the extent it remains — is not the product of some sort of genetic superiority. The settlers who made something of Jamestown after Dale’s reforms were the same ones who were bowling in the streets instead of working when he arrived.
What is exceptional about America — at least, what’s been exceptional up to now — is the extent to which individuals were allowed to keep the fruits of their own labor instead of having them seized by people in power for their own purposes. The insight behind American exceptionalism is that people work harder and better for themselves, as free people, than they do as servants for some alleged communal good.
Baz Luhrmann’s splashy, extravagant, highly watchable 3-D remake of The Great Gatsby is certainly a vast improvement on the lackluster 1974 Robert Redford movie, but those hoping for a classic adaptation worthy of the Great American Novel are going to be disappointed. Here are five ways Luhrmann’s Gatsby could have been great.
5. A Better Lead Actor.
Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t an accomplished performer and his screen magnetism was largely linked to his boyish appeal. Now that’s gone, and nothing more interesting has come along to take its place. DiCaprio can’t convincingly play anguish, nor can he seem physically threatening (a scene in which he nearly comes to blows with Joel Edgerton, who plays his romantic rival Tom Buchanan, is almost laughable; Edgerton could flatten DiCaprio without even trying).
A better choice would have been Johnny Depp, who, like Gatsby, came from nowhere (Kentucky in the case of the actor, North Dakota in the case of the screen character) or Christian Bale, who has already showcased his ability to play the charming playboy in the Batman movies. It would have been a natural fit: Batman is basically Gatsby with a cape.
How Did the Theological Fight Between Protestants and Catholics Fuel the Colonization of North America?
Shepard Fairey, the creator of the famous Obama “Hope” poster, made news recently with another piece of bizarre visual propaganda, this time denouncing America’s habit of clinging to guns and religion.
He produced the poster last month in support of the failing anti-gun legislation, and most recently had it printed on hundreds of protest signs in anticipation of a massive anti-gun rally in Washington. From sympathetic Buzzfeed.com: “Artist Shepard Fairey will paper downtown D.C. Thursday with copies of a new work aimed at reigniting the push for gun control.” Reality check: the advertised Occupy The NRA rally attracted only about 60 participants.
That the anti-NRA poster looks Orwellian is not a coincidence. Fairey probably believes he has a spiritual channel directly to George Orwell: after all, he had designed book covers for Penguin’s Animal Farm and 1984, in addition to a series of nightmarish posters collectively titled Nineteeneightyfouria. His Orwellian connection, however, is very unflattering. Lacking the depth and, apparently, the slightest understanding of Orwell’s actual message, Fairey rather channels some mind-numb Party functionary out of George Orwell’s novel as he manufactures establishment propaganda that facilitates the takeover of the individual by the all-powerful state.
The gallery page gives this blurb about Nineteeneightyfouria, likely written from the artist’s own words:
Shepard’s artwork both scrutinizes and distorts the narrative of the modern American Dream. Commenting on underpinnings of what Shepard terms the ‘capitalist machine’, it aims to critique those who support blind nationalism and war. Fairey addresses monolithic institutional authority, the role of counter culture, and independent individuals who question the cultural paradigm.
Leave it to Salman Rushdie to bring back the Left’s favorite stratagem: moral equivalence. During the Cold War, leftists used to say the following: “Sure, the Soviets are doing bad things, but so is the United States.” Those a bit more to the left would advance the argument, and say: “The Soviets do terrible things, but the U.S. is responsible, since its leaders view them, as Reagan did, as ‘the evil empire.’ Since we won’t accommodate their just demands, they have to respond to us with hostility.” Those even further to the left would push the analogy even further, arguing: “The Soviets may do some bad things, but at least they stand on the side of progressive change. The U.S., on the other hand, oppresses Third World peoples and supports right-wing reactionary regimes all over the world.”
A good example of the old moral equivalence was to equate the Gulag in the Soviet Union, in which hundreds of thousands were imprisoned, starved to death and executed in massive frame-ups, with McCarthyism in the United States. During the so-called McCarthy era, relatively few were imprisoned or lost their livelihoods, and many actually guilty of being actual Soviet agents portrayed themselves as innocents accused because of their political views. Yet the Left in America argued both were the same.
Now Salman Rushdie has a lot to be wary of. After the Iranian revolution, the late Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa along with a reward for anyone who murdered him. Because of his novel The Satanic Verses, Rushdie had to go into hiding in different safe houses for a number of years, while under the protection of the British government. Intellectuals and writers in the West rallied to his defense. Eventually, Rushdie came into the open, moved to the United States, and became a favorite in the celebrity world, as well as a best-selling novelist.
Additional Books mentioned in post:
Jazz and Islam, Part 9
Jazz was more popular than ever in the early ’60s. Then the Beatles exploded onto the American pop music scene, and that was the end of that. Jazz artists who had begun the decade engaging in innovative and enthusiastically received explorations of harmony and rhythm finished it by offering up tired, pale instrumental covers of psychedelic Top 40 hits. Ever since then, many of jazz’s fiercest partisans have spent an inordinate amount of time insisting that jazz is not dead — which, like the claim that “Islam is a religion of peace,” wouldn’t have to be endlessly repeated if it were obviously true.
If jazz is dead, two suspects who should be brought in for some intense questioning are two of the unlikeliest people ever to be thought of as the ones to have administered the coup de grace to America’s foremost native art form: Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
Now don’t get me wrong: I am one of the most ardent fans either one of them could possibly have ever had. On my shelves are easily two hundred discs featuring one or (better yet) both of them. Their historical role as towering musical pioneers and composers, improvisers, and virtuosos of the first order is unshakeable. Yet in their own ways, where the vibrant and popular jazz of the 1960s is concerned, they became death, the destroyer of worlds.
John Coltrane took the road less traveled. He became enamored of Ornette Coleman, the great innovator of “free jazz” — and with good reason. Coltrane liberated his sound from the dense chordally based improvisations he pursued with characteristic passion in the late ’50s and early ’60s — first adopting Davis’s modal approach, and then emulating Coleman in exploring improvisations free from harmonic structures altogether.
The stirring new movie 42 tells the story of how, in 1947 America, Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford) broke the unwritten rule about hiring black players and called up Negro League superstar Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to join his team. Robinson would go on to win the Rookie of the Year award and later the Most Valuable Player honors on the way to a Hall of Fame career.
What are the conservative lessons about Jackie Robinson’s life to be learned from 42?
1) Merit is colorblind.
Rickey (a lifelong Republican) tells Robinson he is hiring him for one reason: Robinson (who then played for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League) was a baseball phenom and Rickey wants to win the World Series. This is Moneyball before Moneyball: Finding untapped talent others are ignoring. Rickey had in mind not only Robinson but Roy Campanella, the black catcher who would soon follow Robinson into the big leagues, as players who could help him win the Series and make money in the process. Rickey says there’s no black or white in sports, just green. Manager Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni) tells the team, “I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays.
One of the most widely-held views about 20th Century America is that FDR’s policies brought the country out of the Depression. But according to my research, FDR’s industrial and labor policies actually prolonged the Depression for several years by subverting the normal process of competition, supply, and demand, and creating industrial and labor cartels that artificially raised wages and prices and substantially impeded job creation. In fact, the total number of hours worked relative to the working age population recovered only slightly as late as 1939. By the late 1930s, FDR realized that these policies were damaging the economy, and economic policies shifted significantly at this time, which made the economy more competitive and which began to reduce artificially high prices and wages. This policy shift resulted in higher rates of economic growth and job creation and set the stage for the World War II economic boom.
Did you happen to catch “Occupy the D.O.E. 2.0” at the Department of Education over the weekend? If you missed it, you’re not alone. It didn’t receive quite the attention some of the other Occupy events have received and it was only an “Occupy” event if by “Occupy” you mean people congregating in soccer-mom chairs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (with an hour break for lunch) and evening entertainment at Busboys & Poets at 5th and K Street. And hotels at night.
The Thursday-Sunday event was sponsored by United Opt Out, a group whose main mission is to convince teachers and families to opt out of high-stakes testing and to “resist all market-based reforms that seek to privatize and destroy public education.” The lineup of speakers included a collection of academic elites, union leaders, community organizers, teachers, and students. They only managed to attract a few dozen activists, which is why you probably didn’t see much about it on the news. But it’s important to hear what they had to say because these leaders in the education movement will have an important voice in shaping the schools many of our children and grandchildren will attend in the future.
While the speakers who were associated with United Opt Out were on-message, documenting their complaints about standardized testing and the corporate interests pushing the Common Core, other speakers attempted to work this message into their standard stump speeches and this is where it seemed to merge with your typical Occupy rally: There were dozens of different complaints and few (if any) solutions proposed.
As you might expect at a faculty lounge Occupation, there was plenty of radical rhetoric and Utopian vision-casting. (Most of the livestreamed videos are archived here, and you can read the speaker bios here.)
Shaun Johnson is a former public school teacher and online radio show host at the Chalk Face. He thinks teachers are too “meek” and need to get angry:
It’s finally about time that we start getting pissed off and angry…Nothing’s going to change unless people start cracking some skulls. I’m sorry, so, if you don’t get angry and go out there and start speaking out and not be so afraid, then nothing’s going to change. Because there’s a lot of money out there working against us. And we don’t have that kind of money. We don’t have that kind of political power. So we’ve gotta do something. Throw our bodies on the machine. But something’s gotta change. Something’s gotta give. And like I said, we’ve gotta start cracking some skulls.
It might be a good time to point out that they actually do have “that kind of money.” The NEA was the top contributor to state and federal races in 2008, with $45 million, more than 90% going to Democrats. And that doesn’t include tens of millions the teachers’ unions spend on political activity that is reported to the Department of Labor and doesn’t show up on campaign finance reports.
Johnson also led the crowd in a profanity-laced guessing game about the names of charter schools. He implied that kids using at-home charter schools are spending their days engaged in cybersex. “What are you doing with your hands?”
From Richard Metzger, publisher and lead blogger at Dangerous Minds:
I’ve written in the past about the big impact Metzger had in introducing me to counterculture and my disappointment following his embrace of Orthodox Marxism in 2009 — the same year that I started working full time as a conservative new-media troublemaker in the Breitbart tradition. I’m not offended by Metzger’s poor taste, rather just at how predictable and nonsensical it is. Two observations of the paradoxes inherent in the strange tradition that has emerged of using social media to emotionally unload on recently deceased public figures:
1. It’s sort of strange the way that atheist Marxists are so happy to declare belief in an afterlife childish except when they feel a need for a hell to stick in everyone they hate.
2. It’s even stranger the way people who normally roll around in moral relativism all of a sudden gain the confidence to label the most effective opponents of Communism as not just evil, but “pure evil.”
In The Company You Keep, Robert Redford stars in as well as directs a story of an ex-Weather Underground radical who has been living quietly as a public-interest lawyer in upstate New York for more than 30 years. His true identity is discovered by an annoying reporter (Shia LaBeouf) after the apprehension of one of his co-conspirators (Susan Sarandon), who was one of four terrorists who robbed a bank and murdered several security guards in the process.
Redford, that noted “liberal activist,” shows where his sympathies truly are. This is a movie that argues:
1. The Weathermen were fighting for peace.
The Company You Keep begins with a montage of real news clips (and a fake one) edited together to tell the story that the Weather Underground grew out of the antiwar group Students for a Democratic Society and that its activities were meant to end the Vietnam War by “bringing the war home.” Nonsense. The Weathermen loved war and wanted more of it. They were a murderous group of Black Power and Marxist revolutionaries bent on the violent overthrow of the United States. After the 1970 accidental explosion that killed several terrorists who blew themselves up with their own bombs in a downtown New York City townhouse, the true intent of the bombs was revealed: They were meant to be used to blow up a library on the campus of Columbia University. Not exactly a military target.
This week, the rehabilitation of the most extreme of the New Left groups — the Weather Underground — entered a new stage.
Yesterday, the New York Post revealed that convicted felon Kathy Boudin — who was released from jail a decade ago after serving 22 years for her role as getaway driver in a deadly 1981 Brinks truck robbery — was given the position of adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of Social Work.
At the same time, Boudin was also(!) given a position held concurrently at New York University, where she was appointed Sheinberg Scholar-in-Residence. She recently gave a lecture for that program on “the politics of parole and re-entry,” something which she obviously knows about.
There are, of course, many other candidates who could have been given both positions, and none of them were part of a leftist terrorist group whose action resulted in the death of the first African-American police officer in that area, and two other police officers. Two of the three had families; children grew up without their fathers.
When she was pulled over, Boudin shouted to the officers whose guns were drawn: “Put the gun back.” They put their revolvers in their holsters.
At that point — as the officers went to inspect the back of the van she was driving — her cohorts came out with weapons blazing, killing the two policemen and one other who had joined in pursuit.
Boudin was never repentant.
As David Horowitz points out today at NRO:
[Boudin is a] murderess who betted the cold-blooded massacre of three law-enforcement officers, including the first African-American on the Nyack police force; a woman whose actions left nine children fatherless and who has shown no genuine remorse for that.
I’ve asked movie and music industry insiders to explain their respective businesses to me, and never end up any smarter than I start out.
How can Lyle Lovett’s album sales amount to $0.00?
How can Return of the Jedi still be in the red?
Or take Ed Driscoll’s post last week called “Hollywood’s Special Effects Industry is in Crisis”:
As Life of Pi won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, the venerable facility that created those effects – Rhythm & Hues – declared bankruptcy, and they’re hardly the first to close their doors due to financial problems. Debra Kaufman pulls from her 25 years of experience covering the industry to take a close look at how the creators of some of cinema’s indelible images are falling prey to dysfunctional business models.
As you’ve likely guessed, the bloated, ever-evolving technology required to bring those Jurassic Park raptors to virtual life is so costly, it burdens production companies with insurmountable debt.
We often read about how many weeks or months — or even years — it takes to create glossy special effects that last only seconds on screen.
Is that really a sound business model or a smart, efficient way to make anything?
I hear Buddhism is big in Hollywood, but surely they’re not basing their creative process on the making of sand mandalas – are they?
It wasn’t always like this…
There was a time when Opening Day of the baseball season was one of the most anticipated annual events in America. For most Americans, the significance of the day transcended sport, marking the welcome change of season, and the arrival of warm weather and an alteration in the landscape from burnt umber to a glorious green. The day also rekindled hope in the breasts of baseball fans everywhere. Everyone had a favorite team whether you lived in a city with a pro franchise or not, and before any wins or losses were tallied, the dream of post-season glory was alive in every beating heart.
For those born after 1970, it is difficult to describe the hold that baseball had on the national consciousness. Today, despite record-setting attendance at ballparks, gigantic television contracts, and four 24-hour sports networks, Major League Baseball has fallen from its perch as the most dominant game in America, replaced by football in the hearts and minds of sports fans.
There are a plethora of reasons why this is so. Overexposure is a big one. When baseball was king, there were only one or two nationally televised games a week. Even if you were lucky enough to live in a city with a pro franchise, roughly half the games would be televised. I have fond memories of taking a transistor radio to bed, hiding under the covers to listen to Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Elson call a West Coast game, or sitting on the back porch on a Sunday afternoon with the game on the radio and the family gathered around.
Today, every single game is televised, with the all-sports cable networks broadcasting replays and highlights all day long. Something special went out of the game when baseball became so ubiquitous. It lost some of its mystique, its perception as a special event.
I wrote this back in 2005, while the White Sox were making their magical run to a World Series crown:
While there are many that bemoan the fall of baseball from its preeminent position as the number one sport in America, you cannot escape the fact that the game has fallen victim to what is the essence of America itself: an unalterable and inexorable fact of life in this country that things do not remain the same, that society and culture are in a constant state of motion.
America has changed. Baseball hasn’t.
Baseball couldn’t change. The game itself is draped in tradition, in memory. There is no other game seen through the prism of remembrance quite like baseball. Sitting on the back porch in 1950s and ’60s suburbia listening to the hissing, static filled play-by-play on radio while the fireflies blinked to announce their presence and the sweet smell of Jasmine filled the nostrils with the scent of summer, of family, of a shared passion. Or perhaps in the city you sat on the front stoop with every other house on the block blaring out the call of the game, a broadcast legend conducting a city wide symphony of sound, mothers with babies, fathers with sons, and the young, the old, laughing, talking, arguing, loving. A neighborhood, a community united around a passion so intense that enmities were temporarily forgotten as “the boys” or “the bums” performed extraordinary feats of effortless athleticism with both the workmanlike attitude of the blue collar hero and the pizazz of a circus performer.
Yes, that America existed at one time. And while memory may skew some of the details and gloss over much of the unseemly realities from those times, there is no doubt that baseball for much of the country occupied a privileged position in the hearts and minds of the people. In a time before the total saturation of sports, before ubiquitous replays, before free agency made players into hobos, before steroids turned the players into Frankenstein monsters, before rape trials and murder trials and divorces and scandal after scandal there was the pitcher, the batter, and the lovely dance of strategy and possibility. To bunt or not to bunt. To swing away or hit and run. To pitch out, or put the rotation” play on, or simply to play “straight up.” This was actually part of the national conversation when baseball was king.