Tag Archives: Alex Eichler

Dump All Your Stock In Chalkboards Now!

Bill Kristol in The Weekly Standard:

Furthermore, in the last quarter century, there have been transitions from allied dictatorships to allied democracies in Chile, South Korea, the Philippines, and Indonesia, to name only a few. The United States has played a role in helping those transitions turn out (reasonably) well. America needn’t be passive or fretful or defensive. We can help foster one outcome over another. As Krauthammer puts it, “Elections will be held. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.”

Now, people are more than entitled to their own opinions of how best to accomplish that democratic end. And it’s a sign of health that a political and intellectual movement does not respond to a complicated set of developments with one voice.

But hysteria is not a sign of health. When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.

Nor is it a sign of health when other American conservatives are so fearful of a popular awakening that they side with the dictator against the democrats. Rather, it’s a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of short-sightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition.

Rich Lowry at National Review:

Bill Kristol has an editorial on conservatives and Egypt. He takes a well-deserved shot at Glenn Beck’s latest wild theorizing

Alex Eichler at The Atlantic

Robert Stacy McCain:

Generally speaking, I’m a bigger fan of Kristol than of Krauthammer, mainly because Krauthammer is such an anti-Palin snob. In this case, however, I share Krauthammer’s forebodings of an Egyptian revolution and dislike Kristol’s effort to enhance his own Strange New Respect quotient by dissing Beck.

Peter Wehner at Commentary:

Glenn Beck went off on a rather extraordinary monologue last week about a caliphate taking over much of the world. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standardtook exception to what Beck said. And yesterday Beck fired back.

Set aside (if you can) Beck’s childish and churlish attacks on Kristol and focus on the substance of the disagreement.

Beck lectures Kristol on the dangers of “getting into bed with dictators.” It’s “really something the left does and not something the right should do.” But of course Bill’s position on Egypt is that America ought to get out of bed with dictators. That’s the main point of Kristol’s editorial, after all. And whether you agree with Kristol or not, he has been a strong advocate for the so-called Freedom Agenda, which argues that in the past the United States, in opting for “stability” over liberty in the Middle East, has gotten neither.

More important, though, people should simply listen to the original Beck meditation on the coming worldwide caliphate. It is Beck Unplugged, complete with chalkboards and maps; with happy faces and sad ones; with friends, enemies, and “frenemies”; with references to the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers, and Bernardine Dohrn; and of course dire, apocalyptic warnings. The result of the “coming insurrection” will be that the “whole world starts to implode.”

“Play it out with me,” Beck pleads. “The entire Mediterranean is on fire,” he cries out us — but not just the Mediterranean. This all-consuming blaze is spreading to the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Italy, Greece, and Germany; to Russia, Africa, Morocco, and almost every place in between. Beck demonstrates “how this whole thing cascades over to us.” And beware: none of this is happenstance. “This is coordinated,” America’s intrepid truth teller informs us. Pro-democracy talk is part of a “progressive movement.” The masses in Egypt’s Liberty Square are “useful idiots.” And oh-by-the-way, he promises to tell us what the real reason behind the 2003 Iraq war was:

Two wars in Iraq. We said no bombing there. Ancient Babylon. Ancient Babylon. Why? Because the Bible tells us that that is the seat — right here — of power of a global, evil empire. Well, that’s also where the 12th imam from Iran is supposedly going to show up. Everybody on this side wants ancient Babylon for their caliphate.

Leave it to Glenn Beck to sees dots on a map and connect lines invisible to mere mortals, lines that are the result of a massive and astonishingly well-organized conspiracy. It is something out of the twilight zone.

I’ve been warning about Glenn Beck for a couple of years now, concerned about his erratic behavior and conspiracy theories. “My hunch is that he is a comet blazing across the media sky right now — and will soon flame out,” I wrote in 2009. “Whether he does or not, he isn’t the face or disposition that should represent modern-day conservatism … he is not the kind of figure conservatives should embrace or cheer on.”

Jeffrey Goldberg:

What about this don’t you understand, Mr. Wehner? Is it not shockingly clear to you? Glenn Beck has performed a great service for us, by highlighting the weakness of the Iberian Peninsula (the foremost challenge facing American policymakers at this moment, obviously)  and the role ancient Babylon will play in the coming campaign for the worldwide imposition of Muslim law. Combine this trenchant analysis of Muslim politics with his recent attempt to highlight the pernicious work of the nine most evil people in world history, eight of whom, entirely coincidentally, are Jewish, and you should begin to get the picture.

Of course, the conspiracy goes deeper than Beck has yet revealed; I’m hoping that, in coming days, if the Freemasons, working in concert with Hezbollah and the Washington Redskins, don’t succeed in suppressing the truth, that Beck will reveal the identities of the most pernicious players in this grotesque campaign to subvert our way of life. I can’t reveal too much here, but I think it’s fair to say that Beck will be paying a lot of attention in the coming weeks to the dastardly, pro-caliphate work of Joy Behar; tthe makers of Little Debbie snack cakes; the 1980s hair band Def Leppard; Omar Sharif; and the Automobile Association of America. And remember, you read it here first.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

And I’ve heard, from more than a couple of conservative sources, that prominent Republicans have approached Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes about the potential embarrassment that the paranoid-messianic rodeo clown may bring upon their brand. The speculation is that Beck is on thin ice. His ratings are dropping, too–which, in the end, is a good part of what this is all about. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a mirror-Olbermann situation soon.

David Corn at Politics Daily:

As Beck becomes increasingly unhinged and lost in conspiracy-land, he may well become a litmus test for the right — and a measure of whether the leaders of Fox News care about any claim to respectability. Should Fox throw him out of the coop, Beck will still have a cult-like following that he can service via his syndicated radio show, website, and books — and still make tens of millions of dollars a year. He won’t crawl off to an undisclosed location. But he will no longer have the imprimatur of the right’s main media outfit. And what better confirmation that the conspiracy is vast, oh so vast.

Jeff Poor at The Daily Caller:

On “Morning Joe” Tuesday, the Weekly Standard editor appeared to promote “The Neoconservative Persuasion,” a collection of essays written by his father, Irving Kristol. During that appearance, New York magazine’s John Heilemann asked Kristol why Republicans were reluctant to challenge Fox News host Glenn Beck, a regular target of MSNBC’s personalities, as Kristol did in a column for the Feb. 14 issue of the Weekly Standard for his claim Islamists and liberal forces were collaborating to orchestrate a caliphate.

Kristol explained MSNBC wasn’t the place for such a “debate” and cited a 2010 Weekly Standard article that praised Beck in some regards for his role in the Tea Party movement, explaining the commentary on Beck goes both ways.

“Well, I’m not going to get into a debate with Glenn Beck here on MSNBC,” Kristol said. “I’ll debate him on Fox where we’re fair and balanced where we have these debates among ourselves. No, I don’t think that’s fair at all. Matt Continetti had a long piece a year ago on — partly on Glenn Beck, on the tea parties, what was healthy and not so admirable in certain strains of thoughts among people like Glenn Beck. So I don’t think it’s fair to say, ‘Oh, you guys should be calling him out and monitoring everyone on your side.’ That’s not — we publish what we believe in the Weekly Standard. I’m happy to defend to defend the Weekly Standard and what I say on Fox News Sunday.”

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The Fox News Option

Alex Eichler at The Atlantic with the round-up

Ben Dimiero at Media Matters:

At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News’ controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network’s journalists not to use the phrase “public option.”

Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox’s reporters should use “government option” and similar phrases — wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats’ reform efforts.

Journalists on the network’s flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier, appear to have followed Sammon’s directive in reporting on health care reform that evening.

Sources familiar with the situation in Fox’s Washington bureau have told Media Matters that Sammon uses his position as managing editor to “slant” Fox’s supposedly neutral news coverage to the right. Sammon’s “government option” email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox’s reporting to the right — in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.

As far back as March 2009, Fox personalities had sporadically referred to the “government option.”

Two months prior to Sammon’s 2009 memo, Republican pollster Frank Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity’s August 18 Fox News program. Luntz scolded Hannity for referring to the “public option” and encouraged Hannity to use “government option” instead.

Luntz argued that “if you call it a ‘public option,’ the American people are split,” but that “if you call it the ‘government option,’ the public is overwhelmingly against it.” Luntz explained that the program would be “sponsored by the government” and falsely claimed that it would also be “paid for by the government.”

“You know what,” Hannity replied, “it’s a great point, and from now on, I’m going to call it the government option.”

On October 26, 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the inclusion of a public insurance option that states could opt out of in the Senate’s health care bill.

That night, Special Report used “public” and “government” interchangeably when describing the public option provision.

Anchor Bret Baier referred to “a so-called public option”; the “public option”; “government-provided insurance coverage”; “this government-run insurance option”; the “healthcare public option”; and “the government-run option, the public option.” Correspondent Shannon Bream referred to “a government-run public option”; “a public option”; “a government-run option”; and “the public option.”

The next morning, October 27, Sammon sent an email to the staffs of Special Report, Fox News Sunday, and FoxNews.com, as well as to other reporters and producers at the network. The subject line read: “friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option.’ ”

Sammon instructed staff to refer on air to “government-run health insurance,” the “government option,” “the public option, which is the government-run plan,” or — when “necessary” — “the so-called public option”:

From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the “public option”

1)      Please use the term “government-run health insurance” or, when brevity is a concern, “government option,” whenever possible.

2)      When it is necessary to use the term “public option” (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.”

3)      Here’s another way to phrase it: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”

4)      When newsmakers and sources use the term “public option” in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.

Fox’s senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, soon replied. He thanked Sammon for his email and said that he preferred Fox staffers use Sammon’s third phrasing: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”

From: Clemente, Michael
To: Sammon, Bill; 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Sent: Tue Oct 27 08:45:29 2009
Subject: RE: friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the “public option”

Thank you Bill

#3 on your list is the preferred way to say it, write it, use it.

Michael Clemente

SVP-News

212.XXX.XXXX

Sammon’s email appears to have had an impact. On the October 27 Special Report — unlike on the previous night’s broadcast — Fox journalists made no references to the “public option” without using versions of the pre-approved qualifiers outlined in Sammon’s and Clemente’s emails.

Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast:

Sammon said in an interview that the term “public option” “is a vague, bland, undescriptive phrase,” and that after all, “who would be against a public park?” The phrase “government-run plan,” he said, is “a more neutral term,” and was used just last week by a New York Times columnist.

“I have no idea what the Republicans were pushing or not. It’s simply an accurate, fair, objective term.”

Other news organizations periodically described the plan as government-run or used the terms interchangeably, but not as part of any edict. While news executives routinely offer guidance about proper wording in news stories, the semantics in this case were clearly favored by the Republicans.

Sammon’s message was received. On that night’s Special Report, the Washington newscast, anchor Bret Baier began by teasing “a look at the fight over government-run health insurance in the Senate reform bill.” Chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle referred to “a government insurance plan, the so-called public option.”

On the previous night’s program, Baier had repeatedly referred to the “public option,” as did conservative panelist Charles Krauthammer.

Anchor Neil Cavuto, a pro-business commentator, teed up an interview that day with House Republican Leader John Boehner by saying: “My next guest says name it what you want; it is still government-run.”

After hearing a clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling the provision the “consumer option,” Boehner said: “They are worried about it because whether you call it the government option; whether you call it the consumer option; whether you call it a co-op or an opt-out or an opt-in, these are all just terms about their big government takeover of our health-care system.”

Colby Hall at Mediaite:

Sammon is a former reporter for the right-of-center Washington Times and replaced the well respected Brit Hume as Managing Editor of Fox News’ Washington bureau. He’s fairly portrayed in Kurtz’ article as someone who has consistently espoused a conservative point-of-view, so the points in his memo should not surprise anyone that Sammon directed a more right of center bent.

The larger issue raised, however, is the question of whether Sammon’s direction of referencing the “public option” as the “government option” crossed the sometimes blurry line that separates the opinion programming with the news programming on Fox News. Kurtz lays out a number of examples when news personalities appear to a have changed their words, namely Bret Baier and Jim Angle, who are both based in Sammon’s Washington bureau.

Anyone who watched Fox News coverage of the health care debate at this time could see that most of the personalities on the channel were not fans of the White House efforts to pass the bill. At the time, I wrote a post titled “The REAL Health Care Debate: The Obama Administration Vs Fox News” that opened:

Watching a few hours of Fox News these days amounts to a non-stop infomercial opposing the Obama Administration’s effort to reform Health Care. While there is always room for a healthy debate on the issues, please don’t look to Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck for a measured discourse – they rarely, if ever, present a constructive solution to the current health care problems (though there is the occasional admission that there is need for reform.) No single entity seems more entrenched in the opposition to the health care reform than Fox News.

It is important to note that the examples set forth above are all right-of-center or “traditionalist” opinion media personalities who were opposed to what they now call “Obamacare.” In Kurtz’ piece Sammon defends his choice of words claiming that “government option” was more neutral, though that appears to be a simple game of semantics.

To paraphrase a well-worn cliche: semantics, the last vestige of a scoundrel.

Digby:

Now everyone has known forever that Bill Sammon is a rightwing hack of epic proportions. But the Network has defended Sammon as a straight reporter and the Villagers have had fits if anyone suggested otherwise. So this just proves something that was already obvious. What’s interesting about it is that FOX employees have had enough and are leaking the secrets.

The Wikileaks issue is fascinating, for sure, especially the idea that they can use the internet to disseminate information beyond a chosen few who are allowed to see it. But this is about the failure of our leadership and institutions over a long period of time and the culture of secrecy and corruption that’s brought us to this point. The system itself is leaking because its been compromised so badly. They can shut off the flow at any point and it will just leak elsewhere.

Jack Shafer at Slate:

The call to refer to the program as the government option instead of the public option came from Republican pollster Frank Luntz, Media Matters and Kurtz report. But this shouldn’t disqualify the new term from the Fox News stylebook. Government option is superior to public option in that it emphasizes that the government—and thus the taxpayers—will be footing the bill. As a modifier, public has many nongovernmental uses, as in public appearance, public figure, public display, public-key cryptography, public editor, public enemy, public storage, and public opinion.

But when government is used as an adjective, there is no such confusion. Does that make Fox News’ semantic solution superior? I’ve always thought that Social Security should be renamed Government Ponzi Scheme. I’d also like the Export-Import Bank to be renamed the Government Subsidy Depot—but that’s another column.

That Sammon issued a memo directing Fox News reporters to use a phrase he considers more accurate hardly constitutes “spin,” as the headline to Kurtz’s piece has it. If government option is spin, isn’t public option spin, too?

Usage cops walk the beat at every large news organization, commanding reporters to obey the ruling stylebook. For instance, some newspapers used pro-life and pro-choice in their abortion coverage until somebody pointed out that being anti-pro-life wasn’t the same thing as being pro-death—and that pro-choice was closer to meaning pro-abortion, although that gets slippery, too, since you can be against the pro-lifers and not want to have an abortion yourself.

Peter Suderman at Reason:

You can quit worrying already. Opinion doesn’t have anything to do with Sammon’s memo. Indeed, Media Matters doesn’t even make any attempt to prove that Sammon’s preferred label is inaccurate. Granted, that would be hard to do, because in fact the public option is a form of government-run insurance. But obviously we can’t let anyone in the media actually say this.

Allah Pundit

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

I suppose that might be a reasonable defense in a world where news organizations scrutinize every phrase for maximal accuracy. That, however, is not the practice at Fox News, or anywhere. Standard news practice is to simply keep using terms that have come into the public discourse and gained wide usage even if it is not the most technically accurate or neutral term. If you had a left-wing news network that decided it can no longer refer to military spending as “defense” because that presumes it is never used in an aggressive way, that would be an act of bias, regardless of the philosophical merits.

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The Blogosphere Wrestles With The Confederacy Again

Katharine Q. Seelye at NYT:

The Civil War, the most wrenching and bloody episode in American history, may not seem like much of a cause for celebration, especially in the South.

And yet, as the 150th anniversary of the four-year conflict gets under way, some groups in the old Confederacy are planning at least a certain amount of hoopla, chiefly around the glory days of secession, when 11 states declared their sovereignty under a banner of states’ rights and broke from the union.

The events include a “secession ball” in the former slave port of Charleston (“a joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink,” says the invitation), which will be replicated on a smaller scale in other cities. A parade is being planned in Montgomery, Ala., along with a mock swearing-in of Jefferson Davis as president of the Confederacy.

In addition, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and some of its local chapters are preparing various television commercials that they hope to show next year. “All we wanted was to be left alone to govern ourselves,” says one ad from the group’s Georgia Division.

That some — even now — are honoring secession, with barely a nod to the role of slavery, underscores how divisive a topic the war remains, with Americans continuing to debate its causes, its meaning and its legacy.

“We in the South, who have been kicked around for an awfully long time and are accused of being racist, we would just like the truth to be known,” said Michael Givens, commander-in-chief of the Sons, explaining the reason for the television ads. While there were many causes of the war, he said, “our people were only fighting to protect themselves from an invasion and for their independence.”

Not everyone is on board with this program, of course. The N.A.A.C.P., for one, plans to protest some of these events, saying that celebrating secession is tantamount to celebrating slavery.

“I can only imagine what kind of celebration they would have if they had won,” said Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina N.A.A.C.P.

He said he was dumbfounded by “all of this glamorization and sanitization of what really happened.” When Southerners refer to states’ rights, he said, “they are really talking about their idea of one right — to buy and sell human beings.”

Oliver Willis:

God, these people are absolute morons. The Confederacy was an act of war against America, no better than Al Qaeda – probably worse because these people were American citizens. There are those who wish for the history books to expunge their vile legacy, for future generations to lose the collective memory of the people who ripped America apart. They want the future to be ignorant of the confederacy’s love of free labor on the backs of enslaved blacks.

We can’t let that happen.

Jamelle Bouie at Tapped:

In Montgomery, Alabama — at one time, a hotbed of violence in defense of apartheid — neo-Confederate sympathizers are celebrating the anniversary with a parade, as well as a “mock swearing-in” of Jefferson Davis, the sole president of the Confederacy. Incidentally, this is what Davis — senator from Mississippi — had to say about the prospect of secession, in the final months of 1860, shortly before his state left the Union in rebellion:

“The recent declaration of the candidate and leaders of the Black Republican Party must suffice to convince many who have formerly doubted the purpose to attack the institution of slavery in the states. The undying opposition to slavery in the United States means war upon it, where it is, not where it is not.”

A few weeks later, on January 9, 1861, Mississippi issued its ordinance of secession:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

t really annoys me the that Times used someone who they felt they had to ID as a “liberal sociologist” to counter Antley. Far better to simply quote from the founding documents which those 170 people authored. In that way we can get some sense of precisely what they were risking their lives for, and the exact nature of the fortune they were protecting:

We assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused, for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and we refer to their own Statutes for the proof. The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: “No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”
This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.
The same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other States. The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.
The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution.
The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions.

The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor. We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States.
Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself.
A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.
This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety. On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.
I think we need to be absolutely clear that 150 years after the defeat of one of the Confederacy, there are still creationists who seek to celebrate the treasonous attempt to raise an entire country based on the ownership of people.

Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

On one level, however, the people who say that the war was about “states’ rights” are correct, if we use revealed preferences to define “states’ rights” as “federal enforcement of the rights of racial minorities is illegitimate, while federal powers that might serve or protect the interests of wealthy southern whites should be interpreted as expansively as possible.” I think Ulysses S. Grant’s acid response to the idea that Southern opposition to Reconstruction reflected a principled resistance to the use of federal military authority characterizes actually existing doctrines of “states’ rights” nicely:

During my two terms of office the whole Democratic press, and the morbidly honest and “reformatory” portion of the Republican press, thought it horrible to keep U.S. troops stationed in the Southern States, and when they were called upon to protect the lives of negroes — as much citizens under the Constitution as if their skins were white — the country was scarcely large enough to hold the sound of indignation belched forth by them for some years. Now, however, there is no hesitation about exhausting the whole power of the government to suppress a strike on the slightest intimation that danger threatens.

Lizardbreath:

I think what gets to me is the Orwellian nature of it all; that it’s a power play. If Confederate-worshippers can make it seem aggressively impolite to insist on straightforwardly, obviously true historical facts, then we can’t rely on facts to establish anything, which is exactly how politics has been feeling lately. Not, of course, that stamping out Civil War revisionism solves anything, but it’d make me feel better.

Steven L. Taylor:

I can’t imagine that most people, in the south or not, will be commemorating secession.  I will, however, state that many of these sentiments are held in at least a vague way by a lot of people in the Deep South.  To wit:   the notion that the war was about “states rights” and self-defense.  I, for one, think that that is a lie that many Americans tell themselves* about the war because they don’t want to fully face up to the notion that the most fundamental right in question was the right for one set of human beings to hold another set of human beings as property.   There is a great deal of pressure to want to find some mental gymnastics to allow for pride about one’s heritage, and it is far easier to cleave to the notion that one’s forbearers were principled about the rights of their states than it is to admit that they were defending a specific political economy that required slave labor.  If anyone has doubts that slavery was central to secession, I would point the reader to a post I wrote on this topic earlier this year:  Confederate Heritage and History Month.  It really is impossible to argue from the facts that the main reason for secession was anything other than slavery.

I will further say this:  there is far too little shame associated with the CSA than there ought to be.  The continued popularity of the Confederate Battle Flag as an adornment on automobiles and clothing attest to that fact.  Or, for that matter, the notion that many politicians still extol things like Confederate Heritage Month and the aforementioned battle flag.**  Certainly I know plenty of people, including students and people I know in various walks of life, who adhere to the notion that there is a “real history of the South” that is not properly taught.

One of the weirder aspects of all of this discussion to me is that the South is also the part of the country that considers itself the most patriotic vis-à-vis the United States of America and which venerates the US flag and the Constitution as near sacred items.  As such, one would think that such deep belief in exceptional nature of the USA would translate into some reevaluation of the meaning of secession and the Civil War.***  Indeed, one would think that any given Southern patriot would look back on the history of 150 years ago and have a profound sense of relief that the entire CSA experiment failed.  And, further, that the notion of dividing the United States was a horrible idea.  And yet, I don’t think much thought goes into it.

Alex Eichler at The Atlantic with more.

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Eighties Nostalgia Almost All Played Out… Cue Up The Stirrings Of Nineties Nostalgia…

Dana Stevens in Slate:

Hanging over any remake, but especially over the remake of a classic, is the question “Why?” Sometimes that syllable is muttered with a shrug of resignation (“The Wicker Man with Nic Cage? Why?”). Sometimes it’s bellowed to the uncaring heavens in agony (“Last Tango in Paris with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes? WHYYY?”).

The notion of remaking The Karate Kid (Sony Pictures) elicits a “why?” of midlevel outrage. The 1984 original, in which Noriyuki “Pat” Morita coaches bullied teenager Ralph Macchio to victory in a karate championship, may have seemed like a standard-issue inspirational sports picture at the time, but (as with another box-office hit of the same year, The Terminator) a generation of remove reveals what a well-crafted movie it actually was. Rewatched today, the original Kid, directed by Rocky‘s John G. Avildsen, feels smart and fresh, with a wealth of small character details and a leisurely middle section that explores the boy’s developing respect for his teacher.

The first job of the new Karate Kid, then, was to not defile the spirit of the original—at that task this version succeeds almost too well. The script, by Christopher Murphey, reproduces the story of the earlier film beat for beat, and, at times, line for line. It’s respectful to the point of reverence, an odd stance to take toward a film that was fun in the first place because of its unpretentious pop schlockiness. To the credit of both Murphey and director Harald Zwart, that unhurried middle act remains intact—instead of using the nearly 2 ½-hour running time to cram in extra fight scenes, they give the mentor/student relationship at the movie’s heart time to unfold. While the fight scenes have been (literally) punched up by the inclusion of more spectacular martial-arts stunts—along with the bonecrunching sound effect now required to accompany all onscreen fisticuffs—this Karate Kid isn’t the rushed, coarsened, CGI-infested ripoff that fans of the original may be dreading. It’s as sweet-natured a movie as you could expect about a 12-year-old learning to beat the crap out of his schoolmates.

Cole Abaius at Film School Rejects:

Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and his mother Sherry (Taraji P. Henson) have been relocated (with no other real financial options) to China, where Sherry will be working in the automobile plant there. When Dre gets his eyes blackened by another boy on playground, he becomes obsessed with learning how to defend himself, and finds an unwilling mentor in maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). Dre falls in puppy love with Meiying (Wenwen Han), but he faces difficult training ahead and the threat of fighting his attacker in an open kung fu tournament.

This movie, directed by Harald Zwart, is about as seriously dramatic as you can aim at a younger audience, only lit occasionally by sparks of humor. For the most part, it weighs just heavily enough to make all of the situations of its story seem intimately dire. The humor comes from a sarcastic young lead and the ubiquitous warmth of character that can be found in just about any movie Jackie Chan sets foot in, but the moments are few, far between, and welcomed not because of the heaviness of the film, but because of its effectiveness in making the audience feel almost as isolated as Dre.

Tonally, it’s a very quiet film that builds to its crescendo steadily. In the beginning, Dre and Sherry are the only characters focused on – they are in a foreign country, don’t speak the language, don’t understand the culture, and Dre is graphically, violently bullied on his first day. The physicality and impact of some of the fighting sequences – especially early on when Dre can’t fight back – are brutal in light of the fact these are 11 and 12 years old fighting.

Finally, a movie with the kind of child-on-child violence America has been demanding.

But it works. The Karate Kid is decidedly un-campy in its attempt to show what it might really be like to be young and forced to move away from the safety of everything you know. This is matched by Mr. Han’s storyline – an ultimately tragic one that explains why he’s so sullen until he finds the small joy of Dre taking to the training. It’s also matched in some small way by every main character. Dre is a stranger in a strange land, his mother Sherry is upbeat but also never shown socializing with anyone but her son, Mr. Han barely speaks or interacts with anyone, and the love interest Meiying is isolated by her parents’ pressure on her to succeed as a violinist which results in her practicing away her childhood for hours on end.

Erik Childress at Cinematical

Marshall Fine at Hollywood & Fine:

Director Harald Zwart’s resume includes such stellar entries as “Agent Cody Banks,” “The Pink Panther 2″ and now this dreary recapitulation of a movie that was tired when it was new, 25 years ago. Plodding doesn’t begin to describe the turgid pace of the film. And limited is a kind description of young Smith’s acting talent.

As for Oscar-nominee Henson, she has no character to play, only a mother figure. Which leaves Chan, who actually rises above the treacle to give a touchingly stolid and subdued performance. But he’s stuck with yet another subplot, one meant to explain why his character has isolated himself from the world – until he takes on Dre as a surrogate son.

Will Smith isn’t in “The Karate Kid” remake but this is a vanity project nonetheless. Kids will lap it up; their parents, however, can only hope to endure it.

And to our other flashback to the 80s, Carl Kozlowski at Big Hollywood:

Movies based on TV shows are often some of the most painful offerings studios have to offer. Whether suffering through the big-screen versions of “The Beverly Hillbillies” or “Car 54, Where Are You?”, “My Favorite Martian” or this summer’s mega-bomb “MacGruber,” the ratio of awful adaptations to successful ones is vastly disproportional.

Of course, once in awhile, some work: “Wayne’s World,” “The Blues Brothers” and (at least financially) the “Mission: Impossible” films come to mind. But with the new film version of “The A-Team,” Fox has concocted a wildly uneven yet (at many moments) even more wildly entertaining edition of the ridiculously fun ‘80s NBC series that manages to both disappoint and enthrall action fans within the span of a rollicking two hours.

Series purists may find plenty to grouse about, as the film kicks off with a somewhat-different take on the group, having Col. Hannibal Smith (played by Liam Neeson here and George Peppard on TV) meet B.A. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson here, and the immortal Mr. T on TV) for the first time, as he forces him to let him hitch a ride en route to saving his friend “Faceman” (Bradley Cooper here, and Dirk Benedict on TV). They are immediately at odds before bonding over their mutual Army Rangers tattoos, a trait they share with Faceman and their final member, an insane chopper pilot named “Howling Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley of “District 9” here, and Dwight Schultz on TV).

The tattoo discovery and subsequent bonding is a bit heavy-handed and produced unintended chuckles from the audience, and the opening action set-piece involving rescuing Faceman from Mexican killers features both underwhelming action and annoying rap-rock on the score. Just when the film seems to be mired in bad writing and an obnoxious sensory overload, however, something starts to click.

Once the storyline jumps ten years from the opening action to the present, where the A-Team is mixed in with US troops in Iraq, it quickly finds its footing. A CIA agent named Lynch (Patrick Wilson) enlists Hannibal to bring the team out on a mission to find and retrieve US currency-making plates stolen by Iraqi soldiers during the first Gulf War, and which are now in danger of falling into even worse hands.

The team pulls off the plate retrieval, only to have a surprise twist occur that results in their being accused of high crimes, put on trial by the military and sent to individual prisons scattered around the planet. When they eventually get a chance to escape and save the day, the resulting four breakouts are again highly entertaining, although nothing tops a sequence in which the guys wind up in an aerial dogfight with two US fighter drone jets with heat-seeking missiles, while flying a tank. Crazier still is the sight of Faceman popping open the tank roof and manning a machine-gun turret against the drones.

Yes, you read right: they fly a tank. The sequence is absurd, over-the-top, and utterly amazing – to my mind one of the best action scenes I’ve ever witnessed, and it’s nearly matched just minutes later with an incredible heist and shootout involving the skyscrapers and streets of Berlin. Director/co-writer Joe Carnahan (the also audaciously entertaining “Smokin’ Aces”) is fast becoming a major force to be reckoned with.

Stephanie Zacharek at Movieline:

The A-Team would be more enjoyable if its stars had any charm, or if, five minutes after leaving the theater, we could remember anything about what their characters were like. Copley (who starred in last year’s low-budget sci-fi hit District 9) is Murdock, the crazy pilot. Cooper is Face, so called because he’s always sucking one. (Jessica Biel wanders through the movie, lost and underused, as one of his old love interests.) B.A. Baracus is played by former UFC light heavyweight champ Jackson, who has almost nothing to do except scowl and look brawny. And Neeson struggles not-so-valiantly in the George Peppard role as the cigar-chomping Hannibal Smith.

I have renewed respect for Neeson since he started taking roles in trashier movies: I loved watching him knock heads in Pierre Morel’s joyously disreputable Taken. Roles like these loosen him up, and in the opening sequence of The A-Team — in which he almost magically dispatches a duo of snarling Rottweilers without harming them — I thought he, and the movie, might be fun.

But he, and the movie, only ground me down. Neeson barely registers as a presence here. (I kind of remember Cooper, because of his radioactive glowing teeth.) The movie is cut in such a way that it doesn’t really contain scenes; it’s more like a bundle of dangling participles. That’s not good for actors, especially a performer like Neeson, who’s at his best, even in a total piece of crap, when he can inject a little soul here and there. There’s no room for soul in The A-Team. Even in the context of junky-fun action adventures, this one hits a new low. It’s a worst-case scenario for the way action movies are headed: It’s all action and no movie.

Andrew O’Hehir at Salon:

For a movie that reportedly required 11 writers and more than 10 years to complete — all without any real reason for existing in the first place — “The A-Team” is reasonably good fun. If you’re a 12-year-old boy riding an intense Cherry Pepsi buzz and totally devoted to destroying some brain cells, that is. But then, I can’t imagine what other demographic could possibly be intended for this carbo-loading action spectacle, which makes only the vaguest gestures at plot or characterization (or the not-so-lamented ’80s TV original) in between its helicopter chases, Frankfurt bank heists, Mexican drug-lord takedowns and other balletic but incoherent production numbers.

OK, I do have two younger colleagues who sheepishly admit that they thought Stephen J. Cannell’s NBC series, which starred George Peppard and Mr. T (he of Nancy Reagan fame) and ran from 1983 to 1987, was “cool.” They were little kids at the time; I suppose it’s forgivable. So there must exist a micro-generation of youngish adults for whom this title exerts a nostalgic pull. Well, you can keep your hoard of Pop Rocks and Ninja Turtles in storage a while longer, because “A-Team” director Joe Carnahan (a Tarantino or Guy Ritchie wannabe who’s been kicking around the film world for a generation) and his bevy of writers make no effort to create some clever retro-camp lovefest.

Which is just fine with me; we’ve seen quite enough resuscitated mid-’80s pop-culture mediocrity, thank you, and the TV “A-Team” didn’t even rise to that level. (I’m sorry, Flock of Seagulls and Tears for Fears fans. The time has come to move on.) What Carnahan and company have done instead is attempt to launch a new megabucks action franchise, aimed at younger viewers for whom the original “A-Team” is a misty fragment of cultural prehistory, perhaps referenced by their drunken hipster uncles at Fourth of July barbecues: “I pity the fool who gets between me and my Pabst Blue Ribbon!”

Alex Eichler at The Atlantic

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Zelig With A Scotch And Perrier

Christopher Hitchens memoir, Hitch-22

Alex Eichler at The Atlantic with the round-up

Michael Totten at Instapundit’s place:

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS’ new book Hitch-22: A Memoir wasn’t supposed to be released until June, but my copy from Amazon.com arrived today. He sent me an uncorrected advance reader copy a few weeks ago, and it’s terrific.

Excerpt in Vanity Fair

Excerpt from Hitchens in Slate:

The fictions and cartoons of Nigel Molesworth, of Paul Pennyfeather in Waugh’s Decline and Fall, and numberless other chapters of English literary folklore have somehow made all this mania and ritual appear “normal,” even praiseworthy. Did we suspect our schoolmasters—​not to mention their weirdly etiolated female companions or “wives,” when they had any—​of being in any way “odd,” not to say queer? We had scarcely the equipment with which to express the idea, and anyway what would this awful thought make of our parents, who were paying—​as we were so often reminded—​a princely sum for our privileged existences? The word “privilege” was indeed employed without stint. Yes, I think that must have been it. If we had not been certain that we were better off than the oafs and jerks who lived on housing estates and went to state-run day schools, we might have asked more questions about being robbed of all privacy, encouraged to inform on one another, taught how to fawn upon authority and turn upon the vulnerable outsider, and subjected at all times to rules which it was not always possible to understand, let alone to obey.

I think it was that last point which impressed itself upon me most, and which made me shudder with recognition when I read Auden’s otherwise overwrought comparison of the English boarding school to a totalitarian regime. The conventional word that is employed to describe tyranny is “systematic.” The true essence of a dictatorship is in fact not its regularity but its unpredictability and caprice; those who live under it must never be able to relax, must never be quite sure if they have followed the rules correctly or not. (The only rule of thumb was: whatever is not compulsory is forbidden.) Thus, the ruled can always be found to be in the wrong. The ability to run such a “system” is among the greatest pleasures of arbitrary authority, and I count myself lucky, if that’s the word, to have worked this out by the time I was ten. Later in life I came up with the term “micro-megalomaniac” to describe those who are content to maintain absolute domination of a small sphere. I know what the germ of the idea was, all right. “Hitchens, take that look off your face!” Near-instant panic. I hadn’t realized I was wearing a “look.” (Face-crime!) “Hitchens, report yourself at once to the study!” “Report myself for what, sir?” “Don’t make it worse for yourself, Hitchens, you know perfectly well.” But I didn’t. And then: “Hitchens, it’s not just that you have let the whole school down. You have let yourself down.” To myself I was frantically muttering: Now what? It turned out to be some dormitory sex-game from which—​though the fools in charge didn’t know it—​I had in fact been excluded. But a protestation of my innocence would have been, as in any inquisition, an additional proof of guilt.

There were other manifestations, too. There was nowhere to hide. The lavatory doors sometimes had no bolts. One was always subject to invigilation, waking and sleeping. Collective punishment was something I learned about swiftly: “Until the offender confesses in public,” a giant voice would intone, “all your ‘privileges’ will be withdrawn.” There were curfews, where we were kept at our desks or in our dormitories under a cloud of threats while officialdom prowled the corridors in search of unspecified crimes and criminals. Again I stress the matter of sheer scale: the teachers were enormous compared to us and this lent a Brobdingnagian aspect to the scene. In seeming contrast, but in fact as reinforcement, there would be long and “jolly” periods where masters and boys would join in scenes of compulsory enthusiasm—​usually over the achievements of a sports team—​and would celebrate great moments of victory over lesser and smaller schools. I remember years later reading about Stalin that the intimates of his inner circle were always at their most nervous when he was in a “good” mood, and understanding instantly what was meant by that.

Diana McLellan at WaPo:

Hitch-22” (ghastly title) is a fat and juicy memoir of a fat and juicy life, topping 400 pages. As you plunge in for your Zelig-like wallow in the past century’s zeitgeist, you begin to shiver: My God, didn’t this guy leave anything out? Here’s the terrible and tragic 1973 suicide of his beloved Mummy, via pills, in an Athens hotel room with her dreary defrocked-vicar lover, violently dead by his own hand. Here’s a cuddle with a beau at boarding school. Here’s a dab of introspection on what some call his “bromance” with Amis. (Of course, he began to hate Martin’s father, the great author Kingsley Amis, when Kingsley got old and boring. Good thing that won’t happen to him!) Here’s his charmless admission that he prefers American girls to English ones because they put out without a lot of upfront argle-bargle. Here are the sophomoric word games played with his very highest-brow cronies, such as substituting the f-word for “love” in song titles.

His artless self-revelations convey a certain careless elan: “I find now that I can more or less acquit myself on any charge of having desired Martin [Amis] carnally. (My looks by then had in any case declined to the point where only women would go to bed with me.)”

But the truth is, for the memoir of a Trotskyite George Orwell worshiper, “Hitch-22” (ugh) has a humongous memory hole. Where’s his wife of eight years, Eleni Meleagrou? He dumped her in 1989, when she was pregnant with their second child, for the elegant Carol Blue, whom he’d met at an airport. Where’s his old Washington soulmate, former New Yorker writer and Clinton confidante “Cousin” Sidney Blumenthal, whom he accused of lying during the Clinton impeachment trial?

It’s been said by unkind people that an honest politician is one who, once bought, stays bought. So is an honest journalist one who, once bamboozled, stays bamboozled? Call me naive — please! — but I’m floored that the great dirt-digger still clings to the certainty, peddled by Paul Wolfowitz and Ahmed Chalabi and long since discredited, that the late Saddam Hussein was unseated for his tyranny and his possession of weapons of mass destruction. Tyranny? Has Hitchens seen what we’re still sucking up to? Most tyrants, of course, aren’t squatting atop a quarter of the world’s known oil reserves. Even Alan Greenspan wrote in his 2007 memoir that it was “politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war is largely about oil.”

Maybe now that Hitchens is 60-something and says he drinks “relatively carefully,” he’ll run this one through his little gray cells one more time. By the way, “relatively carefully” to him is terribly spartan: just a Scotch and Perrier at lunchtime, followed by half a bottle of wine, and then the same again every evening.

“Alcohol makes other people less tedious,” he observes. It does. Pour yourself a stiff one, fasten your seat belt and enjoy this bumpy but never boring ride.

Andrew Sullivan at The Times:

In fact, the blunt Brit is now almost a stock figure. Last week saw the final American Idol featuring Simon Cowell as a judge. Cowell is better known in America than, say, the Supreme Court’s chief justice or three-quarters of Barack Obama’s cabinet. At some point in a distant Wildean past, a British musical judge might be expected to be wittier than his peers. Cowell is witless, inexpert, inarticulate and touchy. He just possesses a series of ugly prejudices and crude hunches and the ability to tell someone to their face that they’re rubbish. In Britain, who really cares? In America he’s a legend.

Or contrast Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant reality show in America with the British version. In the US, he’s far ruder and the recipients of his bile much less socially prepared for it. And so the Brits have found a niche in fostering embarrassment among Americans by saying things Americans in general are far too polite to bring up.

Christopher Hitchens cannot be reduced to this. His first common identity in America was leftism, just as mine was conservatism. He seems to have read everything and met everyone, as his addictive new memoir, Hitch-22, proves. His prose is almost as enjoyable as his company. But he only reached his apotheosis in American culture by attacking the one thing Americans have historically shied from attacking: God. Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Princess Diana were not enough. He needed the Big One to become the Loved One.

The best in this genre occurs when the sentiment is genuine. Hitch really does believe that religion poisons everything. It’s not an act. His visceral, furious response to 9/11, like my own, had not a scintilla of inauthenticity about it. What he has, apart from real skill and extraordinary discipline (drink only makes him work harder), is the courage of his own curiosity.

The Economist:

The nostalgia is sometimes fetid. On his favourite high horse, Mr Hitchens might dismiss another writer’s coy tales of long- ago gay flings at Oxford with future Conservative cabinet ministers as “kiss and hint” writing. The boozy Friday lunches in London with his clever friends, and their shared fondness for puerile, obscene word games, will leave most readers bored and mystified. Mr Hitchens admits that it was funnier at the time (and probably funnier still for those robbed of their critical faculties by copious amounts of alcohol).

But amid the dregs are shards of brilliant, piercing writing. The account of his uncovered Jewish ancestry (concealed by his lively, miserable mother, who killed herself in a hotel room in Athens, with her lover) is more than poignant. His willingness to go to the barricades to defend his friend Salman Rushdie after the fatwa in 1989, and his beloved America after September 11th 2001, is unaffected and appealing. Having lambasted bourgeois values such as freedom and tolerance, Hitch now (a bit late in the day, some might think) understands why they matter.

The ardour is not always matched by insight. In particular, the smoke of incinerated straw men obscures any serious discussion of religion (superstition practised by hypocrites, in his view). And for what is meant to be a no-holds-barred memoir, the author goes lightly on some of his failings. Broken ideals get plenty of self-satisfied scrutiny; broken hearts and marriages rate barely a mention. The impression left is of a writer frozen in a precocious teenagery, whose ability to tease and provoke the grown-ups is entertaining but ultimately tiresome. If Mr Hitchens can stay off the booze and do some serious thinking, his real autobiography, in 20 years’ time or so, should be a corker.

Allen Barra at Salon:

In place of revelation, there is lots and lots of gossip. Hitchens, to take him by his own accounts, is the Zelig of modern Anglo-American letters; he seems to have been everywhere, talked to everyone and made friends in every corner of the world, whether or not anyone else was there to record the conversation.

People seem to want to tell Christopher Hitchens their secrets; like Nick Carraway, he is “privy to the secret of wild, unknown men.” Also some that are very well known: Gore Vidal, we learn, would take “rugged young men recruited from the Via Veneto … from the rear” where they were then taken into the next room where “Tom [Driberg, the journalist] would suck them dry.” (We are not told whether this occurred while Hitchens was still in his Oxford phase.)

Name-dropping, which has become a distressing trait in Hitchens’ work in recent years, is now approaching critical mass. Long stretches of “Hitch-22” read like literary bouquets to Hitch gathered by himself. He names and quotes the usual suspects — Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan, long ago identified by Hitchens as partisans. Joining their ranks are “my Argentine anti-fascist friend, Jacobo Timerman,” “my Kurdish friends,” Susan Sontag’s son “my dear friend David,” “my dear friend and colleague Jeff Goldberg [who] said to my face over a table at La Tomate …,” “my friend and ally Richard Dawkins,” “my beloved friend James Fenton,” and “my then friend Noam Chomsky” (even former friends with well-known names make Hitch’s cut). Regrettably, the late great Trinidadian writer C.L.R. James didn’t quite make the list; he passed shortly after Hitchens arrived at his deathbed.

When he isn’t writing about his friends in “Hitch-22,” he is usually writing about how proud he is to have such friends. He was “proud” to be mentioned several times in Martin Amis’ memoir and “absurdly proud” to have a poem by James Fenton dedicated to him. He is, however, “offended” at the idea that he might have been Tom Wolfe’s model for the English journalist in “Bonfire of the Vanities” — in which case he shouldn’t have mentioned it or I would never have known there was such a rumor.

Willa Paskin at New York Magazine:

Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens have been close friends since the seventies, but their relationship is having a moment, thanks to both simultaneously publishing work celebrating the other. Amis’s novel The Pregnant Widow contains a big-brother character modeled on Hitchens; the Hitch’s memoir, Hitch-22, contains a chapter about Amis. This long-term bromance has been fruitful for both men, emotionally and intellectually — but not, perhaps, comedically! Both books refer to a game Amis and Hitch play “that involves substituting phrases like ‘hysterical sex’ for ‘love’ in the titles of movies, songs, and novels.” Some of the results of this word game include “Stop in the Name of Hysterical Sex,” Hysterical Sex Story, and A Fool for Hysterical Sex — exactly the type of not-very-funny pun that might make you laugh hard, but only if “you’d been there.” Amis and Hitchens, hugely accomplished authors, but, also, just like us!

David Frum and Hitchens do a podcast at FrumForum

UPDATE: Hitchens announces that he has cancer at Vanity Fair

Allah Pundit

UPDATE #2: David Brooks in NYT

Andrew Sullivan

UPDATE #3: Hugh Hewitt

Ross Douthat

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The Insecure, In Their Cars, And A Mural Of Children

Alex Eichler at The Atlantic

Matt Welch at Reason:

Well, here’s an ugly story

Wonkette:

Hard to find even the Gallows Humor in this story, so maybe we won’t even try. Maybe it’s time to admit that large chunks of America are in the hands of unreconstructed racists and vulgar idiots, and that the popular election of a black man as president just might’ve pushed these furious, economically doomed old white people into a final rage that is going to end very, very badly. Ready? Here you go: An Arizona elementary school mural featuring the faces of kids who attend the school has been the subject of constant daytime drive-by racist screaming, from adults, as well as a radio talk-show campaign (by an actual city councilman, who has an AM talk-radio show) to remove the black student’s face from the mural, and now the school principal has ordered the faces of the Latino and Black students pictured on the school wall to be repainted as light-skinned children.This is America, in 2010, and there’s a dozen more states and endless white-trash municipalities ready to Officially Adopt this same Official Racist Insanity.

John Cole:

Seriously, Arizona. Fuck off and die.

Adam Serwer at Tapped:

This is another good example of how colorblind racism works. Colorblind racism, as a principle, works not to end racism but rather to render people of color invisible and discussions of racism beyond the pale in order to maintain white racial hegemony. Which is why in Blair’s mind, there would be no racial controversy if there were no people of color. By acknowledging that people of color exist, one “creates racial controversy.” The only way to end racial controversy, therefore, is for white people to be dominant and people of color to be invisible, only then can we be judged by the content of our character.

Roger Ebert:

How would I feel if I were a brown student at Miller Valley Elementary School in Prescott, Arizona? A mural was created to depict some of the actual students in the school.
Let’s say I was one of the lucky ones. The mural took shape, and as my face became recognizable, I took some kidding from my classmates and a smile from a pretty girl I liked.

My parents even came over one day to have a look and take some photos to e-mail to the family. The mural was shown on TV, and everybody could see that it was me.

Then a City Councilman named Steve Blair went on his local radio talk show and made some comments about the mural. I didn’t hear him, but I can guess what he said. My dad says it’s open season on brown people in this state. Anyway, for two months white people drove past in their cars and screamed angry words out the window before hurrying away. And the artists got back up on their scaffold and started making my face whiter.
We went over to my grandparent’s house, and my grandmother cried and told me, “I prayed that was ending in my lifetime.” Then there was more news: The City Councilman was fired from his radio show, the Superintendent of Schools climbed up on the scaffold with a bullhorn and apologized for the bad decision, and I guess the artists went back up and started making my skin darker again, but I didn’t go to see, because I never wanted to go near that bullshit mural again.

[…]

I began up above by imagining I was a student in Prescott, Arizona, with my face being painted over. That was easy for me. What I cannot imagine is what it would be like to be one of those people driving past in their cars day after day and screaming hateful things out of the window. How do you get to that place in your life? Were you raised as a racist, or become one on your own? Yes, there was racism involved as my mother let the driver wait outside in the car, but my mother had not evolved past that point at that time. The hard-won social struggles of the 1960s and before have fundamentally altered the feelings most of us breathe, and we have evolved, and that is how America will survive. We are all in this together.

But what about the people in those cars? They don’t breathe that air. They don’t think of the feelings of the kids on the mural. They don’t like those kids in the school. It’s not as if they have reasons. They simply hate. Why would they do that? What have they shut down inside? Why do they resent the rights of others? Our rights must come first before our fears. And our rights are their rights, whoever “they” are.
Not along ago I read this observation by Clint Eastwood: “The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice.” Do the drive-by haters feel insecure? How are they threatened? What have they talked themselves into? Who benefits by feeding off their fear? We have a black man in the White House, and I suspect they don’t like that very much. They don’t want to accept the reality that other races live here right along with them, and are doing just fine and making a contribution and the same sun rises and sets on us all. Do they fear their own adequacy? Do they grasp for assurance that they’re “better”–which means, not worse? Those poor people. It must be agony to live with such hate, and to seek the company of others so damaged.

Doug Mataconis:

You know, Arizona stuff like this isn’t going to help convince people that there isn’t some weird racial thing going on in your state.

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post:

What can I say about this? We are talking about a bunch of mentally deranged adults, who have terrorized an elementary school, for daring to paint a mural featuring the faces of black and Latino children — actual black and Latino children who live in Arizona. And we’re also talking about a group of adults who have decided to send a stirring message to their students and the world: when a bunch of mentally deranged adults — and we are not talking about people who are particularly threatening, this is a bunch of utterly gutless mopes, yelling racial slurs from their cars, egged on by some pinhead city councilman cowering behind a radio microphone — threaten a bunch of children, the best thing to do is to accede to their psychotic, racist “demands.”

Seriously, educators of Prescott, Arizona, when some creep demands you whiten the faces of your own students on a mural, the correct response is to say, “No, we will not be doing anything of the sort.”

This story really should be blasted, far and wide. You cable news producers need to get this story in the mix with a quickness. And let me be clear to you all: there are no “two sides to this story.” This is not something you need to have a panel discussion about. CNN, I don’t want to see you plumbing the depths of your counterintuition on your website, or lending credence to the notion that the gutless mopes in their cars, shrieking racial slurs at the images of children have an interesting point of view that we should “hear out” because of the need to be “balanced.” This is your moment to decry, condemn, and brutalize these evil people.

Blast them to hell, or go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.

UPDATE: Good news. The gutless, carbound racists lost, and the mural is being restored to its “original theme.” Jeff Lane, the principal of Miller Valley Elementary School, and Kevin Kapp, the school superintendent, showed up at a protest today to apologize for giving in to whims of mentally deranged adults, spewing racial epithets at a painting

Garrett Epps at The Atlantic:

On Saturday, the public rallied at Miller Valley Elementary School in Prescott, Arizona, to save the murals on the wall outside the school.  School officials had asked the artists to “Lighten up the forehead and the cheeks” of one of the students depicted in the mural, and make all the children look more “radiant and happy” — meaning, apparently, less black and Latino.  But at the rally, officials of the school district announced that the murals would be kept as they are.
The crisis at Miller Valley Elementary was brought on largely by the efforts of Steve Blair, a radio host and member of the city council.  Blair objected to the mural’s depictions of black and Latino students.  Blair assured listeners that “I’m not a racist by any stretch of the imagination, but whenever people start talking about diversity, it’s a word I can’t stand.”  Not long after, drivers began shouting racial slurs at the artists working on the murals.  Blair was fired from his radio show on Friday.

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Yes, We Had To Use A Bob Marley YouTube For This Post

Alex Eichler at The Atlantic:

Kingston, Jamaica exploded in violence this week as local police and Jamaican soldiers tried to locate and apprehend Christopher Coke, an alleged drug lord wanted for trial in the United States. Coke, whom the U.S. considers one of the world’s most dangerous drug traffickers, is thought to be walled up in a housing complex in West Kingston. More than 1,000 soldiers and police officers have been deployed to the area in recent days, but Coke’s gunmen have returned fire, killing at least three. Violence has spread to other parts of the city, more than two dozen civilians have died, and the government has declared a state of emergency in Kingston. Meanwhile, the bloodshed has occasioned a number of observations about the role of the drug trade in Jamaican society.

Robert Mackey at NYT:

Before she left for work on Tuesday, Laura Redpath, a reporter for The Jamaica Gleaner, a Kingston newspaper, gave this summary of the latest reports from Television Jamaica on her Twitter feed:

Weapons have been confiscated and security personnel are going door-to-door to “flush out the gunmen”: TVJ

5 persons shot in ‘Monkey Town’ in Spanish Town #Jamaica: TVJ

Another Twitter user aggregating news reports is Chris Mills, the chief executive of Chrysalis Communications, a new media firm based in Jamaica. On his feed, Mr. Mills noted two hours ago that a local television journalist said some of those killed had been taken to a hospital in the capital:

Reporter on @CVMTV reports seeing a truck with human bodies parked outside/near the Kingston Public Hospital, Downtown Kingston

Within the past hour Mr. Mills posted a link to a graphic image uploaded to TwitPic this morning, which is said to show the bodies of three people killed in the violence.

As Janine Mendes-Franco of Global Voices Online pointed out in a post on Jamaican bloggers on Monday, Annie Paul, a Jamaican writer and critic, is also using her Twitter feed to aggregate reports and comment on the siege, although she is following events from outside the country while attending a conference in Barbados. On Monday, among snatches of information derived from online news sources, she posted this observation on what the chaos in the prime minister’s district of west Kingston means:

The pact between the criminals and the state has been broken, we are being shown the consequences of that rupture…

My colleague Marc Lacey explains that the criminal gangs are so powerful that “Jamaican politicians, no matter their party, know that their political survival often depends on the men Jamaicans call ‘dons,’ inner-city emperors who hold enormous sway over their communities and pull in huge sums from both legitimate and illegitimate means.”

Steven Taylor at PoliBlog:

First off, this is from the “You Can’t Make this Stuff Up” File:  a drug boss named Christopher Coke.

Second, the above would be more amusing if the current situation wasn’t so violent:

As hundreds of troops and police officers close in on alleged drug lord Christopher Coke, explosions and steady gun fire can be heard throughout the Tivoli Gardens neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica. Plumes of smoke are rising from the barricaded community and journalists are hearing reports of as many as 15 dead, but caution that at this time they are unable to confirm that tally.

[…]

As many as 700 troops from the Jamaica Defence Force have been deployed in West Kingston, with 200 or more at the barricaded community, and according to authorities as many as 1000 police officers are also mobilized.

The goal of the operation is Coke’s arrest so that he can be extradited to the United States.  He has vowed that he will not surrender.

The Economist:

The risk of such mayhem is precisely why the prime minister had stalled on Mr Coke’s case, ever since the United States filed its extradition request last August. He only acted after being caught in a flip-flop over the hiring of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, an American law firm, in the case. Mr Golding initially denied retaining the firm and subsequently admitted doing so, albeit using funds from his political party rather than the taxpayer. Facing calls to resign, he announced the government would comply with the order. Mr Coke laid low at first. But seemingly with an eye to the history books, he went for broke on Sunday: Labour Day commemorates the start of strikes and unrest in 1938, which left 46 dead and 429 injured.

The standoff could be resolved peacefully, as some reports claim Mr Coke’s lawyers are talking to American officials. He might feel safer in American hands than in the local prison where his father, from whom he is believed to have inherited control of the Shower Posse gang, burnt to death in 1992 while awaiting his own extradition. If he doesn’t surrender, however, more bloodshed is likely to ensue. Mr Coke could escalate the conflict by calling on armed backers elsewhere in the country, like the Stone Crusher gang in Montego Bay, a tourist haven, to stage further attacks.

The only other way for Mr Golding to restore calm without Mr Coke’s consent is legal acrobatics. The courts will hear a challenge to the extradition will be heard on May 31st. Before acceding to the request, the prime minister had contended that the wiretapping evidence on which it was based was illegal. Peter Phillips, a leading opposition member, said last Thursday that Mr Golding’s about-face could “by chance or design” undermine the legal case for sending Mr Coke to America—thus letting the prime minister off the hook.

Jane Engle at The LA Times:

The U.S. State Department is warning Americans against travel to Kingston, Jamaica, and surrounding areas “because of escalating violence, shootings and unrest” related to attempts to arrest Christopher “Dudus” Coke, an alleged trafficker of drugs and weapons.

On Tuesday, thousands of police and soldiers in the capital clashed with Coke’s defenders, and at least 30 people were reported killed, according to the Associated Press.

The State Department’s travel alert, issued Monday as an update to its May 21 alert, states that access to Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport (KIN) “has been blocked on an intermittent basis by gun battles between criminal elements and police” and that some flights have been canceled.

UPDATE: Bob Mackey at NYT

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Filed under Foreign Affairs, Global Hot Spots, War On Drugs