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PLAY REVIEW: Barton Disconnects

January 25th, 2015 - 6:00 pm

The  controversial Church of Scientology has been in the crosshairs of the media of late, notably with Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright’s excellent journalistic study Going Clear and Paul Thomas Anderson’s  film The Master.  Now comes Allen Barton’s play Disconnection, which opened Saturday at the Beverly Hills Playhouse venue of the Skylight Theatre Company in Los Angeles.

Like The Master, Disconnection does not mention the “S”-word but it is more than obvious the  celebrity-driven religion famed for almost imprisoning its gullible and needy adherents is the subject here.  The play, however, is considerably more potent and provocative than the Anderson movie, which is surprisingly ponderous given its dramatic subject.

Barton, who extricated himself from Scientology some years ago, tells the story of the apostasy of two members of the church, a father and a daughter, who have themselves been estranged from each other.  The two are trying to disconnect from the religion and reconnect with each other – and it isn’t easy.  The father (Jay Hugely), a lawyer, is struggling with his aging piano teacher (Dennis Nollette), himself a reluctant member of the church and onetime friend of its mercurial L. Ron Hubbard-like founder, Oldman.  The daughter (Carter Scott), herself now a high ranking church official, is trapped in a nightmare with Oldman’s successor, a junior Gestapo-type named The Chairman.

Indeed Disconnection often puts you in mind of other totalitarianisms, including today’s radical Islamic versions where apostasy is, of course, penalized in even more draconian manners than in Scientology, although there are imputations, both in and out of Barton’s play, of  brutal, even homicidal, behavior for the more modern religion.

The play is unconventional in its form, at times breaking the fourth wall, and includes, in one of its best moments, a soliloquy by Oldman (well played by Robert L. Hughes) justifying why he has created this bizarre monstrosity.  It almost had me taking the plunge to get an e-meter reading. (I didn’t.)

The production was skillfully directed by Joel Polis and produced by Gary Grossman for Skylight. Barton’s previous work Years to the Day was highly acclaimed and was performed in Paris, New York, Kansas City and at the Edinburgh Festival.  The superb Disconnection seems destined to follow in its footsteps.  If you’re in the SoCal area, see it.

 

Obama, the Shiite, Goes to Riyadh

January 24th, 2015 - 12:23 pm

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Remember how Richard Nixon told us to watch what he does, not what he says?  Good advice.  Well, Barack Obama — our POTUS who makes Nixon and Clinton seem like Diogenes — thinks like a postmodern agnostic, professes to be a Christian, but acts like a Shiite.

During Obama’s presidency the influence of Ayatollah Khamenei’s Iranian Shiite regime has spread across the world like the proverbial wildfire, reaching from North Africa into Iraq, Lebanon (via Hezbollah), Syria (via Assad whose red line on chemical weapons famously faded into invisibility), Gaza (via improved relations with Hamas) and now into Yemen (via the Houthis) and undoubtedly a number of other places, including Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba.  And our president, consciously or unconsciously or both, has had as much to do as anyone with the creation of this nascent, soon-to-be nuclear armed and missile-ready  fundamentalist “Greater Persia.”  No wonder the Sunni Saudis are alarmed — they have been for a long time — and no wonder Obama suddenly decided to replace Biden in paying a condolence visit to Riyadh for the death of King Abdullah.  He has some powerful fence-mending to do that pretend bowing and scraping may not so easily solve.

Much of this Iran-coddling began back when the Green Movement was in the streets of Tehran seeking the overthrow of the ayatollahs and chanting “Obama, Obama… Are you with us or are you with them?” Our president did not respond.  He was already in private communication with the bizarre Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  Obama wanted to be the one who got credit for reining in the excesses of the Islamic Republic, not those unruly student demonstrators who were the ones suffering from the regime in the first place, being murdered, tortured and raped in Evin Prison, often in reverse order.

Indeed, this unconscionable and out-of-control narcissism has been the key to Obama’s foreign policy throughout and accounts for the catastrophic global results we see in front of us now.  The “leading from behind” mantra has always been a fraud, masking what it really means: “I, Barack, know best and manipulate affairs from behind.”  It’s all about me.  (Is it ever!)

Now I realize Obama is not really a Shiite.  He was raised in Sunni Indonesia. And, yes, Sunnis — notably ISIS, Boko Haram and AQAP — are leading the way in the public butchery department for the moment and need to be opposed with all our might.  But that doesn’t mean Shiites are not active.  Just the other day we had the mysterious Buenos Aires death of Alberto Nisman, who was about to reveal truths about the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in that city in which 85 were killed — a kind of simultaneous beheading in which Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah are said to be the culprits. Almost anyone honest and awake knows the Islamic Republic is and has been the primary state sponsor of terrorism worldwide for decades.

Yet Obama persists in playing sides in a literally insane Shiite-Sunni religious conflict that has gone on so long it makes the Hundred Years’ War seem like the three-week invasion of Grenada. (Interestingly, in a January 20 column, “Say It Like It Is,” Thomas Friedman finally breaks the New York Times omertà on radical Islam, saying the president is wrong for not naming the enemy. But in doing so, Friedman isolates the violence as almost all coming from Arab and Pakistani Sunnis, giving the president continued cover to appease Iran.)  The reason for Obama’s persistence is not religious, but the aforementioned narcissism. He had already plighted his troth on a pax Iranian.  Making it easier was his longtime conviction that Western imperialism was the root cause of most evil on the planet anyway.  The president now has an Iran deal so tied up in his mind with his legacy that the appearance of Netanyahu in front of Congress opens a psychological wound so large Obama is likely to do almost anything.  The world — not just Saudi Arabia and Israel — had better beware.

The Rebuttal: Did Joni Play Too Nice?

January 20th, 2015 - 10:09 pm

After recent missteps from Marco Rubio (water bottle) and Bobby Jindal (tension),  Joni Ernst was probably under strict orders to channel Hippocrates’  famous dictum about doing no harm for her rebuttal to Obama’s SOTU Tuesday night.  And the new Iowa senator clearly did no harm, delivering a workmanlike though relatively bland speech that gave no particular opportunity for media vampires to pick over her remains.

And she did at least mention the A-word (al-Qaeda) that was curiously missing from the president’s address even though AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) has been a little bit active in France lately, not to mention Brussels.  And speaking of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen inconveniently seems to have had a Shiite (pro-Iranian) coup on the very day the president was acting as if the War on Terror [sic] was over.  But none of this passes the lips of Barack Obama, for whom the I-word in any of its forms (Islam, Islamist, radical Islam, etc., etc.) is  as off-limits as a Mohammed cartoon on the front page of the New York Times — unless it’s to insist any act of violence could have nothing to do with a religion that so closely resembles Quakerism.

Still Joni missed an opportunity, not specifying radical Islam as our (and modern civilization’s) enemy in her speech, because I strongly suspect America is ready for our politicians to star telling the obvious truth, the omission seeming chicken-hearted and stupid. In fact, when Frank Luntz polled his post-SOTU focus group on the Kelly File on the topic, the group was almost unanimous in wanting radical Islam named, even though half of them had been Obama voters.  People are fed up — and they should be.

Another subject Ernst, a veteran, might have brought up — yes, I know she only had seven minutes — was Gitmo.  Obama is obviously doubling down on it, again at odds with the public.  Almost any normal person — Republican or Democrat — sees extraordinary risk in this, letting potential mass murderers free.

And a third issue Ernst should have dealt with is of course the aforementioned Iran.  This is the subject of Obama’s biggest and most dangerous lie — that Iran has been in any real sense held back in its nuclear ambitions, also his most dangerous veto threat to the safety of the world.

All these issues — foreign policy in general — are a huge vulnerability for the Democrats this year, perhaps their biggest vulnerability. I think it should be seized upon at any time, for the good of the Republicans, but even more, at this point, for the sake of humanity. But perhaps I’m too aggressive.  Joni did no harm.  And I liked her shoes.

Oscar Report: Al Sharpton Calls Me a Racist!

January 15th, 2015 - 9:48 pm
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The central scrutinizer on the set.

Maybe it’s actually a badge of honor — after all Sharpton himself makes Bull Connor seem like Martin Luther King — but the Rev Al has called me a racist because I am one of those (white!) Academy members who did not vote for Selma as an Oscar nominee.  I cannot tell a lie.  He’s right.  Not only that, I did not vote for the movie for screenplay either, the only other category for which I can nominate, since I am in the writers branch.

Of course, it was a group accusation.  Al didn’t come to my house or anything, not that I would have let him in.  But I do acknowledge my vote publicly, although it’s a secret ballot taken online, known only to the Academy and fifty thousand North Korean hackers.  On my behalf,  I will say I only nominated three films (Birdman, Boyhood and The Imitation Game) instead of the permissible ten.  I’m one of those elite snobs who thinks nominating ten films for best picture is the cinematic equivalent of grade inflation. (Also, I’m easily bored.)

Nevertheless, it was a bit depressing to wake up this morning to find myself accused of racism on the top of Drudge.  I tried to tweet Matt the truth that I voted for Twelve Years a Slave last year — I thought maybe he’d put something up — but didn’t get an answer. So I’m stuck.

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What Romney Can Do

January 14th, 2015 - 9:34 pm
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Romney on the stump in 2012. (Photo by American Spirit / Shutterstock.com.)

Mitt Romney got it on the chin in a well-written Wall Street Journal editorial Wednesday morning — “Romney Recycled.” I won’t rehash it all here, you can read it, but it comes down to this — oh, again???  (Rand Paul also took some shots at Romney, but he’d be better off keeping his eye on his father, the way things are going.)

The WSJ might have been a bit harsh but they were just expressing what everybody thinks.  Even Mitt’s supporters harbor those worries.  But I have a solution for Romney.  He should throw caution to winds — BE THE PRESIDENT NOW (caps definitely mine — yes, I’m shouting)!!!

Why do I say that?  Because America doesn’t have a real president at the moment and we are at war with radical Islam. ( I should add a “duh” in there.) The reactionary creep in the White House won’t even name it, let alone fight it. And we don’t have time to wait until 2017 to turn this around, as Jay Sekulow pointed out on Hannity.  In a couple of months things could be spinning out of control, so many jihadists popping up in Europe, here, Australia, and everywhere else, we won’t know how to count them.  And that’s not even including all the cyber war that’s going to be waged against us and already is.

Romney should put all the traditional election nonsense on the back burner, forget the fundraising and the tedious position papers on the various issues. That stuff can wait, if it’s even important.  He should take the bully pulpit for himself now and tell America and the world what we should do about radical Islam.  Nobody else is doing it and we’ve been fighting this undeclared war for 14 years.  And the bad guys are ahead and growing   It’s not just the major issue.  It’s the only issue, if we don’t win.  Who cares if we do or don’t have Obamacare, if we’re living under Shari’ah law?

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Is the White House a ‘Sleeper Cell’?

January 12th, 2015 - 11:11 pm

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I’m still trying to figure out why Obama — or any high-level U. S.  government official other than Eric Holder, who was in Paris but evidently had better things to do — didn’t join the nearly 4 million people who marched throughout France protesting the terror killings at #CharlieHebdo and the Hyper Cacher market.  White House press secretary Josh Earnest has admitted the mistake and apologized (perhaps a little wishy-washily, but we’ll give him a pass), informing us that, unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough time to arrange presidential security for the trip.

That’s interesting.  Somehow there was time for security for 40 or so other world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel (arguably the most highly regarded politician on the planet at the moment and the de facto president of the EU), the UK’s David Cameron, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy and even Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu (probably a considerably bigger target than Obama these days and not exactly welcomed by France’s President Hollande, if reports are correct).  Of course, the “American president” is supposedly more important but — correct me if I’m wrong — Obama was not originally so gung-ho on American exceptionalism, equating it with British exceptionalism and Greek exceptionalism, etc., etc.  All countries, after all, feel they are exceptional.

Well, he’s changed his mind on this several times, so who’s to say? And there was a game on. I’m a sports fan, too, tennis more than football (wimpy, huh?), so I understand.  You’d have trouble prying me away from the Australian Open when it starts next week. (Djokovic and Nadal ain’t so wimpy.) But still, in the event of one of the biggest and ugliest terror events in recent years, if I were president,  I hope I’d TiVo a couple of rounds.

Just yesterday I theorized the real reason Obama didn’t go is he just couldn’t put the words “Islamic” and “terrorism” together in one sentence even if, forgive the tired image, it hit him in the face. (The exception of course being when insisting that something is NOT Islam.)  He just can’t handle it after nearly fifty years of virtually non-stop anti-imperialist programming.  His mind would fly apart if he had to utter the words “radical Islamic terrorism,” which French PM Valls, and any honest person, was quite willing to do.

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It’s sounds like one of Kipling’s “Just So” stories — “Why Didn’t Obama Go to Paris?” … for the #JeSuisCharlie march that brought out millions, including many world leaders, in an attempt to unify all against terrorism.  None of his high-level associates went either – no vice-president, no secretary of State (although John Kerry did express condolences in his supposedly fluent French. Je me demande….).  AG Eric Holder was in Paris and reported to be attending  but at the last moment demurred. He was in a “meeting” — with whom was never specified because most of the world’s leadership was marching in the streets.

So why didn’t POTUS show up?  A liberal friend emailed me that it was admittedly a “political mistake.”  ”Political,” yes, but “mistake”?  I doubt the decision was made innocently or even faintly by mistake.   Obama is a man known for his political expediency more than anything, indeed above anything, and also for being a constant campaigner.  It was obvious that going to Paris would have been good public relations and that therefore not attending was a deliberate choice.

There had to have been a reason for his non-attendance and the bizarre dissing of this event by his administration. I believe it stems from this: There are two words our president seems constitutionally unable to put together — “Islamic” and “terrorism.”  For Obama (and, as a sideshow, the zany Howard Dean), these terms are mutually exclusive, an oxymoron.  Appearing in Paris, Obama might be put in the unusual position of having to link them, our complaisant press rarely having the nerve to ask such an impertinent question.  Holder, in a television interview from Paris (I think it was CNN — there have been so many), danced around the question, hemming and hawing as if he couldn’t quite make out what was being said or had been asked an embarrassing question about  IRS emails.

This situation had already been amplified by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls doing something completely outrageous and unjustified, indeed anathema, in the Obama worldview.  He declared war on radical Islam.  From the NYT (who were probably equally mortified):

Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared Saturday that France was at war with radical Islam after the harrowing sieges that led to the deaths of three gunmen and four hostages the day before. New details emerged about the bloody final confrontations, and security forces remained on high alert.

“It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity,” Mr. Valls said during a speech in Évry, south of Paris.

Imagine, the nerve!

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2016 and Paris: It’s the Jihad, Stupid!

January 9th, 2015 - 6:40 pm
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March against Charlie Hebdo magazine terrorism attack, on January 7th, 2015, in front of French Embassy in Berlin, Germany. (Photo conejota/Shutterstock.com)

Forget the economy, forget education, forget even Obamacare. All politics is local, as Tip O’Neill famously said. And there’s nothing more local than a crazed jihadi aiming an AK-47 at your head and splattering said head against the wall and through the window.

The last few days should remind us of that. And if you don’t think what happened in Paris can happen here, you’re out of your bloomin’ mind. It already has, as everybody knows, and the chances are about 99.9999% it will again. (We could be hit by an asteroid instead, saving us from the jihadis.)

Meanwhile, under the watch of the man who masquerades under the moniker of president of the United States, someone who can barely muster a dopey three-minute speech filled with banalities about the killings in France, radical Islam has metastasized across the world in a manner only dreamed of on 9/11. A map on Gretawire shows terror networks cutting a wide swathe across the planet, from South America through North Africa on to the Indian subcontinent and then into South-East Asia. In a sense the map should already include Western Europe, the way things are going.

And most likely things are going to get worse. Al Qaeda (operating with impunity in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere) and ISIS (with a state of its own the size of Indiana) are in a pissing contest for terrorist maniacs of the year while Boko Haram is doing its best to exterminate everyone in Nigeria, and apparently succeeding – all in the name of Allah. And our president never uses the word “Islamic” or acknowledges that we are at war — even though, quite obviously, the Islamists are at war with us and with Western civilization. And they seem just to be getting started. Only the morally narcissistic buffoons at the New York Times would think otherwise.

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Of all the lies Barack Obama has told — and they are almost uncountable, in the thirties on Obamacare alone — by far the most dangerous for you, dear reader, and for almost anyone in the Western world, are the statements he has made about Islamic terror (when he has even admitted it existed). How many times has he told us that al-Qaeda was defeated or on the run? Or that ISIS — now in control of territory the size of Indiana and initiating educational systems for six year olds while turning scores of women into sex slaves — is the jayvee team?

How ridiculous, even obscene, that seems after Tuesday’s events in Paris — especially since the terrorists were evidently trained Islamists, one of them, Cherif Kouachi, having been convicted of terrorism in 2008 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. He emerged to murder a dozen people and maim a dozen more, some of them evidently seriously.

Nevertheless, Obama’s own house organ, the New York Times, tells us that POTUS is working overtime (and secretly) to close the military prison in Guantanamo:

In a series of secret nighttime flights in the last two months, the Obama administration made more progress toward the president’s goal of emptying the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, than it had since 2009. The accelerated pace came after an era of political infighting and long bureaucratic delays.

Now 127 prisoners remain at Guantánamo, down from 680 in 2003, and the Pentagon is ready to release two more groups of prisoners in the next two weeks; officials will not provide a specific number. President Obama’s goal in the last two years of his presidency is to deplete the Guantánamo prison to the point where it houses 60 to 80 people and keeping it open no longer makes economic sense.

Economic sense? Another lie. When did Obama care about that? But more importantly, just who is being released here? Another Cherif Kouachi?

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Paris: Islam Strikes Again

January 7th, 2015 - 9:13 am

After the brutal mass murders at the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, the airwaves and  the Internet are filled with pundits and “experts” wondering whether this horrendous act is the work of al-Qaeda, ISIS or were these evil maniacs “self-radicalized,” as the new phrase goes.

I have news for them – there is no difference!  Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Muslim man on the street all work from the same play books; they need no outside advice.  And those play books are the holy texts of Islam, the Koran and the Hadith.  All you need to know is there.

Egypt’s el-Sisi is right.  Islam is in desperate need of a reformation, because right now it is not even a religion.  It is a virus.

What the world should do now is nothing short of an intervention, just how we would treat a drug addicted or alcoholic relative.  Unfortunately, given the terrified international leadership, that isn’t in the offing.  They are more likely to call the murder at Charlie Hebdo “workplace violence,” as ludicrous as that sounds and is.

Meanwhile, one of the terms that should have been shot dead with these is murders as well is “Islamophobia.”  From Hamas to ISIS to the Paris psychopaths, anyone who does not fear Islam is irrational, not the other way around.  I fear Islam because I criticize it frequently.  Some religious nutcase could run through my door and shoot me and my family at any time. It’s the simple truth.  The folks at Charlie Hebdo are my brothers and sisters and I grieve for them.

I am reminded of a trip I took to Paris not long ago when I visited the Islamic communities in the bainlieu (suburbs) of that city.   It was as if I were in another country.  Most of the women were in purdah.  Not a French policeman was in sight.  I was instructed by my companions not to speak English but to speak French.

Who knows where this will all lead, but is undoubtedly no place good.  If the world doesn’t take the reformation of Islam seriously, we will back to the Middle Ages — fast.

There is no “War on Terror.”  That’s the silliest term to come down the pike in a long time, completely nonsensical.  We are in a war of civilizations — plain and simple.