Saturday, June 09, 2012

Obama redefines 'Green Zone'

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
http://www.ocregister.com/
June 8, 2012


US President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on June 6, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee a few days ago – that's 60 years on the throne. Just to put it in perspective, she's been queen since Harry S. Truman was president. At any rate, her jubilee has been a huge success, save for a few churlish republicans in various corners of Her Majesty's realms from London to Toronto to Sydney pointing out how absurd it is for grown citizens to be fawning over a distant head of state who lives in a fabulous, glittering cocoon entirely disconnected from ordinary life.

Which brings us to President Obama.

Last week, the republic's citizen-president passed among his fellow Americans. Where? Cleveland? Dubuque? Presque Isle, Maine? No, Beverly Hills. These days, it's pretty much always Beverly Hills or Manhattan, because that's where the money is. That's the Green Zone, and you losers are outside it. Appearing at an Obama fundraiser at the home of "Glee" creator Ryan Murphy and his fiancé David Miller, the president, reasonably enough, had difficulty distinguishing one A-list Hollywood summit from another. "I just came from a wonderful event over at the Wilshire or the Hilton – I'm not sure which," said Obama, "because you go through the kitchens of all these places, and so you never are quite sure where you are."

Ah, the burdens of stardom. The old celebrities-have-to-enter-through-the-kitchen line. The last time I heard that was a couple of decades back in London when someone was commiserating with Sinatra on having to be ushered in through the back. Frank brushed it aside. We were at the Savoy, or maybe the Waldorf. I can't remember, and I came in through the front door. Oddly enough, the Queen enters hotels through the lobby. So do Prince William and his lovely bride. A month ago, they stayed at a pub in Suffolk for a friend's wedding, and came in through the same door as mere mortals. Imagine that!

So far this year, President Obama has been to three times as many fundraisers as President George W. Bush had attended by this point in the 2004 campaign. This is what the New York Post calls his "torrid pace," although judging from those remarks in California he's about as torrid as an overworked gigolo staggering punchily through the last mambo of the evening. According to Brendan J. Doherty's forthcoming book, "The Rise of the President's Permanent Campaign," Obama has held more fundraisers than the previous five presidents' re-election campaigns combined.

This is all he does now. But, hey, unlike those inbred monarchies with their dukes and marquesses and whatnot, at least he gets out among the masses. Why, in a typical week, you'll find him at a fundraiser at George Clooney's home in Los Angeles with Barbra Streisand and Salma Hayek. These are people who are in touch with the needs of ordinary Americans because they have played ordinary Americans in several of their movies. And then only four days later the president was in New York for a fundraiser hosted by Ricky Martin, the only man on the planet whose evolution on gayness took longer than Obama's. It's true that moneyed celebrities in, say, Pocatello or Tuscaloosa have not been able to tempt the president to hold a lavish fundraiser in Idaho or Alabama, but he does fly over them once in a while. Why, only a week ago, he was on Air Force One accompanied by Jon Bon Jovi en route to a fundraiser called Barack On Broadway.

Any American can attend an Obama event for a donation of a mere $35,800 – the cost of the fundraiser hosted by Dreamworks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg, and the one hosted by Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, and the one hosted by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, and the one hosted by Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, and the one hosted by Crosby, Stills and Nash. $35,800 is a curiously nonround figure. Perhaps the ticket cost is $36,000, but under Obamacare there's a $200 co-pay. Those of us who grew up in hidebound, class-ridden monarchies are familiar with the old proverb that a cat can look at a king. But in America only a cool cat can look at the king.

However, there are some cheap seats available. A year and a half ago, big-money Democrats in Rhode Island paid $7,500 per person for the privilege of having dinner with President Obama at a private home in Providence. He showed up for 20 minutes and then said he couldn't stay for dinner. "I've got to go home to walk the dog and scoop the poop," he told them, because when you've paid seven-and-a half grand for dinner nothing puts you in the mood to eat like a guy talking about canine fecal matter. And, having done the poop gag, the president upped and exited, and left big-shot Dems to pass the evening talking to the guy from across the street. But you've got to admit that's a memorable night out: $7,500 for Dinner With Obama* (*dinner with Obama not included).

And here's an even better deal, for those who, despite the roaring economy, can't afford even $7,500 for non-dinner with Obama: The president of the United States is raffling himself off! For the cost of a $3 nonrefundable online-application processing fee, you and your loved one can have your names put in a large presidential hat from which the FBI background-check team will pluck two to be ushered into the presence of their humble citizen-executive. That's to say, somewhere across the fruited plain, a common-or-garden non-celebrity will win the opportunity to attend an Obama fundraiser at the home of "Sex And The City" star Sarah Jessica Parker, co-hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, the British-born inspiration for the movie "The Devil Wears Prada." I wish this were a parody, but I'm not that good. But I'm sure Sarah-Jessica and Anna will treat you just like any other minor celebrity they've accidentally been seated next to due to a hideous faux pas in placement, even if you do dip the wrong end of the arugula in the amuse-bouche.

If you're wondering who Anna Wintour is, boy, what a schlub you are: She's renowned throughout the fashion world for her scary bangs. I'm referring to her hair, not to the last sound Osama bin Laden heard as the bullet headed toward his eye socket on the personal orders of the president, in case you've forgotten. But that's the kind of inside tidbit you'll be getting, as the Commander-in-Chief leaks highly classified national-security details to you over the zebra mussel in a Eurasian-milfoil coulis. For a donation of $35,800, he'll pose with you in a Seal Team Six uniform with one foot on Osama's corpse (played by Harry Reid). For a donation of $46,800, he'll send an unmanned drone to hover amusingly over your sister-in-law's house. For a donation of $77,800, he'll install you as the next president-for-life of Syria (liability waiver required). For a donation of $159,800, he'll take you into Sarah Jessica's guest bedroom and give you the full 007 while Carly Simon sings "Nobody Does It Better."

There are monarchies and republics a-plenty, but there's only one 24/7 celebrity fund-raising presidency. If it's Tuesday, it must be Kim Cattrall, or Hootie and the Blowfish, or Laverne and Shirley, or the ShamWow guy ... .

I wonder if the Queen ever marvels at the transformation of the American presidency since her time with Truman. Ah, well. If you can't stand the klieg-light heat of Obama's celebrity, stay out of the Beverly Wilshire kitchen.

©MARK STEYN

Subprime college educations

By
The Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com
June 8, 2012



Many parents and the children they send to college are paying rapidly rising prices for something of declining quality. This is because “quality” is not synonymous with “value.”

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, believes that college has become, for many, merely a “status marker,” signaling membership in the educated caste, and a place to meet spouses of similar status — “associative mating.” Since 1961, the time students spend reading, writing and otherwise studying has fallen from 24 hours a week to about 15 — enough for a degree often desired only as an expensive signifier of rudimentary qualities (e.g., the ability to follow instructions). Employers value this signifier as an alternative to aptitude tests when evaluating potential employees because such tests can provoke lawsuits by having a “disparate impact” on this or that racial or ethnic group.

In his “The Higher Education Bubble,” Reynolds writes that this bubble exists for the same reasons the housing bubble did. The government decided that too few people owned homes/went to college, so government money was poured into subsidized and sometimes subprime mortgages/student loans, with the predictable result that housing prices/college tuitions soared and many borrowers went bust. Tuitions and fees have risen more than 440 percent in 30 years as schools happily raised prices — and lowered standards — to siphon up federal money. A recent Wall Street Journal headline: “Student Debt Rises by 8% as College Tuitions Climb.”

Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economist, writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that as many people — perhaps more — have student loan debts as have college degrees. Have you seen those T-shirts that proclaim “College: The Best Seven Years of My Life”? Twenty-nine percent of borrowers never graduate, and many who do graduate take decades to repay their loans.

In 2010, the New York Times reported on Cortney Munna, then 26, a New York University graduate with almost $100,000 in debt. If her repayments were not then being deferred because she was enrolled in night school, she would have been paying $700 monthly from her $2,300 monthly after-tax income as a photographer’s assistant. She says she is toiling “to pay for an education I got for four years and would happily give back.” Her degree is in religious and women’s studies.

The budgets of California’s universities are being cut, so recently Cal State Northridge students conducted an almost-hunger strike (sustained by a blend of kale, apple and celery juices) to protest, as usual, tuition increases and, unusually and properly, administrators’ salaries. For example, in 2009 the base salary of UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for equity and inclusion was $194,000, almost four times that of starting assistant professors. And by 2006, academic administrators outnumbered faculty.

The Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald notes that sinecures in academia’s diversity industry are expanding as academic offerings contract. UC San Diego (UCSD), while eliminating master’s programs in electrical and computer engineering and comparative literature, and eliminating courses in French, German, Spanish and English literature, added a diversity requirement for graduation to cultivate “a student’s understanding of her or his identity.” So, rather than study computer science and Cervantes, students can study their identities — themselves. Says Mac Donald, “ ‘Diversity,’ it turns out, is simply a code word for narcissism.”

She reports that UCSD lost three cancer researchers to Rice University, which offered them 40 percent pay increases. But UCSD found money to create a vice chancellorship for equity, diversity and inclusion. UC Davis has a Diversity Trainers Institute under an administrator of diversity education, who presumably coordinates with the Cross-Cultural Center. It also has: a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center; a Sexual Harassment Education Program; a diversity program coordinator; an early resolution discrimination coordinator; a Diversity Education Series that awards Understanding Diversity Certificates in “Unpacking Oppression”; and Cross-Cultural Competency Certificates in “Understanding Diversity and Social Justice.” California’s budget crisis has not prevented UC San Francisco from creating a new vice chancellor for diversity and outreach to supplement its Office of Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity, and the Diversity Learning Center (which teaches how to become “a Diversity Change Agent”), and the Center for LGBT Health and Equity, and the Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention & Resolution, and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committees on Diversity, and on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Issues, and on the Status of Women.

So taxpayers should pay more and parents and students should borrow more to fund administrative sprawl in the service of stale political agendas? Perhaps they will, until “pop!” goes the bubble.

georgewill@washpost.com

Friday, June 08, 2012

What's Changed After Wisconsin

The Obama administration suddenly looks like a house of cards.

By Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/home-page
June 8, 2012


What happened in Wisconsin signals a shift in political mood and assumption. Public employee unions were beaten back and defeated in a state with a long progressive tradition. The unions and their allies put everything they had into "one of their most aggressive grass-roots campaigns ever," as the Washington Post's Paul Whoriskey and Dan Balz reported in a day-after piece. Fifty thousand volunteers made phone calls and knocked on 1.4 million doors to get out the vote against Gov. Scott Walker. Mr. Walker's supporters, less deeply organized on the ground, had a considerable advantage in money.

But organization and money aren't the headline. The shift in mood and assumption is. The vote was a blow to the power and prestige not only of the unions but of the blue-state budgetary model, which for two generations has been: Public-employee unions with their manpower, money and clout, get what they want. If you move against them, you will be crushed.

Mr. Walker was not crushed. He was buoyed, winning by a solid seven points in a high-turnout race.

Governors and local leaders will now have help in controlling budgets. Down the road there will be fewer contracts in which you work for, say, 23 years for a city, then retire with full salary and free health care for the rest of your life—paid for by taxpayers who cannot afford such plans for themselves, and who sometimes have no pension at all. The big meaning of Wisconsin is that a public injustice is in the process of being righted because a public mood is changing.

Political professionals now lay down lines even before a story happens. They used to wait to do the honest, desperate, last-minute spin of yesteryear. Now it's strategized in advance, which makes things tidier but less raggedly fun. The line laid down by the Democrats weeks before the vote was that it's all about money: The Walker forces outspent the unions so they won, end of story.

Money is important, as all but children know. But the line wasn't very flattering to Wisconsin's voters, implying that they were automatons drooling in front of the TV waiting to be told who to back. It was also demonstrably incorrect. Most voters, according to surveys, had made up their minds well before the heavy spending of the closing weeks.

Mr. Walker didn't win because of his charm—he's not charming. It wasn't because he is compelling on the campaign trail—he's not, especially. Even his victory speech on that epic night was, except for its opening sentence—"First of all, I want to thank God for his abundant grace," which, amazingly enough, seemed to be wholly sincere—meandering, unable to name and put forward what had really happened.

But on the big question—getting control of the budget by taking actions resisted by public unions—he was essentially right, and he won.

By the way, the single most interesting number in the whole race was 28,785. That is how many dues-paying members of the American Federation of State, County and Municiple Employees were left in Wisconsin after Mr. Walker allowed them to choose whether union dues would be taken from their paychecks each week. Before that, Afscme had 62,218 dues-paying members in Wisconsin. There is a degree to which public union involvement is, simply, coerced.

People wonder about the implications for the presidential election. They'll wonder for five months, and then they'll know.

President Obama's problem now isn't what Wisconsin did, it's how he looks each day—careening around, always in flight, a superfluous figure. No one even looks to him for leadership now. He doesn't go to Wisconsin, where the fight is. He goes to Sarah Jessica Parker's place, where the money is.

There is, now, a house-of-cards feel about this administration.

It became apparent some weeks ago when the president talked on the stump—where else?—about an essay by a fellow who said spending growth is actually lower than that of previous presidents. This was startling to a lot of people, who looked into it and found the man had left out most spending from 2009, the first year of Mr. Obama's presidency. People sneered: The president was deliberately using a misleading argument to paint a false picture! But you know, why would he go out there waving an article that could immediately be debunked? Maybe because he thought it was true. That's more alarming, isn't it, the idea that he knows so little about the effects of his own economic program that he thinks he really is a low spender.

For more than a month, his people have been laying down the line that America was just about to enter full economic recovery when the European meltdown stopped it. (I guess the slowdown in China didn't poll well.) You'll be hearing more of this—we almost had it, and then Spain, or Italy, messed everything up. What's bothersome is not that it's just a line, but that the White House sees its central economic contribution now as the making up of lines.

Any president will, in a presidential election year, be political. But there is a startling sense with Mr. Obama that that's all he is now, that he and his people are all politics, all the time, undeviatingly, on every issue. He isn't even trying to lead, he's just trying to win.

Most ominously, there are the national-security leaks that are becoming a national scandal—the "avalanche of leaks," according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, that are somehow and for some reason coming out of the administration. A terrorist "kill list," reports of U.S. spies infiltrating Al Qaeda in Yemen, stories about Osama bin Laden's DNA and how America got it, and U.S. involvement in the Stuxnet computer virus, used against Iranian nuclear facilities. These leaks, say the California Democrat, put "American lives in jeopardy," put "our nation's security in jeopardy."

This isn't the usual—this is something different. A special counsel may be appointed.

And where is the president in all this? On his way to Anna Wintour's house. He's busy. He's running for president.

But why? He could be president now if he wanted to be.

It just all increasingly looks like a house of cards. Bill Clinton—that ol' hound dog, that gifted pol who truly loves politics, who always loved figuring out exactly where the people were and then going to exactly that spot and claiming it—Bill Clinton is showing all the signs of someone who is, let us say, essentially unimpressed by the incumbent. He defended Mitt Romney as a businessman—"a sterling record"—said he doesn't like personal attacks in politics, then fulsomely supported the president, and then said that the Bush tax cuts should be extended.

His friends say he can't help himself, that he's getting old and a little more compulsively loquacious. Maybe. But maybe Bubba's looking at the president and seeing what far more than half of Washington sees: a man who is limited, who thinks himself clever, and who doesn't know that clever right now won't cut it.

Because Bill Clinton loves politics, he hates losers. Maybe he just can't resist sticking it to them a little, when he gets a chance.

Holder Claims Emails Using Words ‘Fast and Furious’ Don’t Refer to Operation Fast and Furious

By Matt Cover
http://cnsnews.com/
June 7, 2012


Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 7, 2012, before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Justice Department. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

CNSNews.com) – Attorney General Eric Holder claimed during congressional testimony today that internal Justice Department emails that use the phrase “Fast and Furious” do not refer to the controversial gun-walking operation Fast and Furious.

Under questioning from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who read excerpts of the emails at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Justice Department oversight, Holder claimed that the phrase “Fast and Furious” did not refer to Fast and Furious but instead referred to another gun-walking operation known as “Wide Receiver.”

However, the emails refer to both programs -- "Fast and Furious" and the "Tucson case," from where Wide Receiver was launched -- and reveal Justice Department officials discussing how to handle media scrutiny when both operations become public.

Among three of the emails (see Jason Weinstein Email Fast, Furious.pdf), the second, dated “October 17, 2010 11:07 PM,” was sent by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein to James Trusty and it states: “Do you think we should have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case [Wide Receiver] are unsealed? It’s a tricky case, given the number of guns that have walked, but it is a significant set of prosecutions.”

In the third email, dated Oct. 18, 2010, James Trusty writes back to Weinstein: “I think so, but the timing will be tricky, too. Looks like we’ll be able to unseal the Tucson case sooner than the Fast and Furious (although this may be just the difference between Nov. and Dec).”

“It’s not clear how much we’re involved in the main F and F [Fast and Furious] case,” reads the email, “but we have Tucson [Wide Receiver] and now a new unrelated case with [redacted] targets. It’s not any big surprise that a bunch of US guns are being used in MX [Mexico], so I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.’ It may be more like ‘Finally, they’re going after people who sent guns down there.’” (See Jason Weinstein Email Fast, Furious.pdf)

Operation Wide Receiver was run out of Tucson, Ariz., between 2006 and 2007 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Justice Department.

In his testimony, Holder said that the emails only referred to Operation Wide Receiver.

Holder told the committee: “That refers to Wide Receiver, not to Fast and Furious. The e-mail that you [Rep. Chaffetz] just read [between Trusty and Weinstein] – now this is important – that email referred to Wide Receiver, it did not refer to Fast and Furious. That has to be noted for the record.”
Chaffetz, after a long pause, said, "No, it doesn't. It says Fast and Furious. 'Do you think we should have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case [Wide Receiver] are unsealed?' It's specific to Fast and Furious. That is not true, Mr. Attorney General. I'm happy to share it with you."

Operation Fast and Furious was carried out by the ATF. It began in the fall of 2009 and continued into early 2011, during which time the federal government purposefully allowed known or suspected gun smugglers to purchase guns at federally licensed firearms dealers in Arizona. The government did not seek to abort these gun purchases, intercept the smugglers after the purchases, or recover the guns they had purchased.

In some cases, as the government expected they would, the smugglers delivered the guns to Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Two rifles sold to a smuggler in the course of Operation Fast and Furious in January 2010 ended up at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

Film Review: 'Prometheus'

Something Wicked Their Way Comes, via the Galactic Void

By A. O. Scott
The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com
June 7, 2012


If you grew up in the 1970s, you may have a dim memory of “Chariots of the Gods,” an international best seller by Erich von Däniken full of dubious speculation about extraterrestrial influences on ancient earthling civilizations. The book, a kind of space age “Da Vinci Code,” inspired a goofy German documentary and, if memory serves, some earnest, anxious debates among sixth-grade protogeeks who shall remain nameless.

Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” which arrived at the decade’s end, had a far more durable impact. If you saw it in a theater at an impressionable age you may still be seized by irrational, mortal fear every time you experience a touch of indigestion. A powerful, perfect blend of the space-travel and horror genres, “Alien” tapped into a deep, claustrophobic anxiety and an equally primal sense of adventure, the simultaneous thrill and terror of the unknown. The sinewy resilience of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and the designs of the Swiss graphic artist H. R. Giger — including various horrible manifestations of the alien itself — have been etched into the pop-cultural DNA ever since.
In his new film, “Prometheus,” Mr. Scott, returning to science fiction after a 30-year post-“Blade Runner” absence, entwines the visceral, creatural dread of “Alien” with some of the quasi-mythic grandiosity of “Chariots.” Once again a vessel lumbers through the galactic void, and a diverse crew must contend with menacing weirdness outside the ship and growing paranoia within it. The Giger alien may still be out there. Something wicked lurks in subterranean tunnels, their walls etched in freaky runes. And hovering over all the scary stuff are some big, metaphysical questions about the origin and ultimate fate of humanity.
A lot of the pleasure of “Prometheus” is in that hovering. Once the themes touch down and the arc of the story becomes clear, some disappointment sets in. But Mr. Scott’s sense of visual scale, which has often produced hectic, hectoring grandiosity (are you not entertained?), achieves, especially in the first hour, something like genuine grandeur. Twinned opening scenes — the first involving a giant, alabaster-skinned biped sacrificing himself to propagate life on Earth, and the second, thousands of years later, devoted to scientists’ finding traces of his presences — impart a palpable sense of awe. The music, by Marc Streitenfeld, soars and rumbles toward cosmic significance. And the shudders of sublimity only grow more intense as Mr. Scott elegantly lays out a series of overlapping conceits.
You might also call them science-fiction clichés, but the amazing thing is that, at least for a while, they don’t feel that way. The visual scheme is sufficiently captivating, and most of the performances are subtle enough that whatever skepticism you may arrive with quickly turns into happy disorientation. The 3-D is unusually graceful — your gaze is absorbed rather than assaulted — and you are pulled into a world of lovely and disconcerting strangeness with plenty of time to puzzle over the behavior of its inhabitants.
These include David, an android played with silken wit by Michael Fassbender. The sentient, sensitive, possibly treacherous robot is hardly a novelty in this kind of movie, and David is partly a collage of cinematic allusions. His name and his air of innocence recall the mechanical boy hero of Steven Spielberg’s “A. I.,” but David also has a clear kinship with HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the existentially wounded replicants in “Blade Runner.” His chosen role model, however, is Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia,” whose mannerisms and worldview inform David’s idea of what it is to be human.
The actual humans in his company are the usual motley bunch. The captain of the Prometheus is Idris Elba, who smokes cigarillos and owns an ancient squeezebox and a bewildering accent. His boss, representing obscure but undoubtedly sinister corporate interests, is Charlize Theron, who is doing everything she can (in this movie and in “Snow White & the Huntsman”) to make this an icy June at the movies.
Like John Ford and Shakespeare, Mr. Scott likes to throw a few clownish, expendable rustics into his ensembles, though in this case the designated buffoons are bickering scientists played by Rafe Spall and Sean Harris. Tradition dictates that there also be, among all this compromised, agenda-driven humanity, a paragon of decency and idealism under duress. This would be Elizabeth Shaw — Dr. Who fans take note: Your bases have been covered too — a researcher played by Noomi Rapace. Along with her husband, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), Shaw regards the voyage of the Prometheus as a spiritual quest. The child of missionaries (glimpsed in flashback), she wears a cross and speaks sincerely and literally about going to meet her maker.
Ms. Rapace, the girl with the dragon tattoo in the Swedish film adaptations of the Stieg Larsson trilogy, is a fine heroine, vulnerable and determined. Her physique and features suggest a Hello Kitty version of Ms. Weaver’s Ripley, though, as in the “Dragon Tattoo” movies, her pixieishness is accompanied by superhuman endurance. This is evident, above all, in a scene of self-inflicted surgery capable of reducing a packed, rowdy theater to stunned, appalled, almost reverent silence.
But the virtuosity on display makes the weakness of the story — the screenplay is by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof — all the more frustrating. I’ll avoid spoilers here, but “Prometheus” kind of spoils itself with twists and reversals that pull the movie away from its lofty, mind-blowing potential.

Geeks and dreamers will hold onto scraps of splendor and wish for more. There are no revelations, only what are called, in the cynical jargon of commercial storytelling, “reveals,” bits of momentarily surprising information bereft of meaning or resonance. For example: A sequel is coming.
“Prometheus” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Some gory sights and salty talk.
Prometheus
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Produced and directed by Ridley Scott; written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof; director of photography, Dariusz Wolski; edited by Pietro Scalia; music by Marc Streitenfeld; production design by Arthur Max; costumes by Janty Yates; released by 20th Century Fox. Running time: 2 hours 3 minutes.
WITH: Noomi Rapace (Elizabeth Shaw), Michael Fassbender (David), Guy Pearce (Weyland), Idris Elba (Janek), Logan Marshall-Green (Holloway), Charlize Theron (Vickers), Rafe Spall (Millburn) and Sean Harris (Fifield).
Related:
‘Prometheus’ Returns Ridley Scott to Outer Space
Noomi Rapace Arrives in Hollywood



Thursday, June 07, 2012

Ray Bradbury dies at 91; author lifted fantasy to literary heights

Ray Bradbury's more than 27 novels and 600 short stories helped give stylistic heft to fantasy and science fiction. In 'The Martian Chronicles' and other works, the L.A.-based Bradbury mixed small-town familiarity with otherworldly settings.

By Lynell George, Special to the Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/
June 6, 2012


Ray Bradbury looks at a picture that was part of a school project to illustrate characters in one of his dramas in Los Angeles. Bradbury, who wrote everything from science-fiction and mystery to humor, died Tuesday, June 5, 2012 in Southern California. He was 91. (Dec. 8, 1966, AP)


PHOTOS: Ray Bradbury | 1920 - 2012

Ray Bradbury, the writer whose expansive flights of fantasy and vividly rendered space-scapes have provided the world with one of the most enduring speculative blueprints for the future, has died. He was 91.

Bradbury died Tuesday night in Los Angeles, his agent Michael Congdon confirmed. His family said in a statement that he had suffered from a long illness.

Author of more than 27 novels and story collections—most famously "The Martian Chronicles," "Fahrenheit 451," "Dandelion Wine" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes"—and more than 600 short stories, Bradbury has frequently been credited with elevating the often-maligned reputation of science fiction. Some say he singlehandedly helped to move the genre into the realm of literature.

"The only figure comparable to mention would be [Robert A.] Heinlein and then later [Arthur C.] Clarke," said Gregory Benford, a UC Irvine physics professor who is also a Nebula award-winning science fiction writer. "But Bradbury, in the '40s and '50s, became the name brand."

Much of Bradbury's accessibility and ultimate popularity had to do with his gift as a stylist—his ability to write lyrically and evocatively of lands an imagination away, worlds he anchored in the here and now with a sense of visual clarity and small-town familiarity.

The late Sam Moskowitz, the preeminent historian of science fiction, once offered this assessment: "In style, few match him. And the uniqueness of a story of Mars or Venus told in the contrasting literary rhythms of Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe is enough to fascinate any critic."

As influenced by George Bernard Shaw and William Shakespeare as he was by Jules Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Bradbury was an expert of the taut tale, the last-sentence twist. And he was more celebrated for short fiction than his longer works.

"It's telling that we read Bradbury for his short stories," said Benford. "They are glimpses. The most important thing about writers is how they exist in our memories. Having read Bradbury is like having seen a striking glimpse out of a car window and then being whisked away."

An example is from 1957's "Dandelion Wine":

"The sidewalks were haunted by dust ghosts all night as the furnace wind summoned them up, swung them about and gentled them down in a warm spice on the lawns. Trees, shaken by the footsteps of late-night strollers, sifted avalanches of dust. From midnight on, it seemed a volcano beyond the town was showering red-hot ashes everywhere, crusting slumberless night watchman and irritable dogs. Each house was a yellow attic smoldering with spontaneous combustion at three in the morning."

Bradbury's poetically drawn and atmospheric fictions—horror, fantasy, shadowy American gothics—explored life's secret corners: what was hidden in the margins of the official family narrative, or the white noise whirring uncomfortably just below the placid surface. He offered a set of metaphors and life puzzles to ponder for the rocket age and beyond, and has influenced a wide swath of popular culture--from children's writer R.L. Stine and singer Elton John (who penned his hit "Rocket Man" as an homage), to architect Jon Jerde who enlisted Bradbury to consider and offer suggestions about reimagining public spaces.

Bradbury frequently attempted to shrug out of the narrow "sci-fi" designation, not because he was put off by it, but rather because he believed it was imprecise.

"I'm not a science fiction writer," he was frequently quoted as saying. "I've written only one book of science fiction ["Fahrenheit 451"]. All the others are fantasy. Fantasies are things that can't happen, and science fiction is about things that can happen."

It wasn't merely semantics.

His stories were multi-layered and ambitious. Bradbury was far less concerned with mechanics—how many tanks of fuel it took to get to Mars and with what rocket—than what happened once the crew landed there, or what they would impose on their environment. "He had this flair for getting to really major issues," said Paul Alkon, emeritus professor of English and American literature at USC.

"He wasn't interested in current doctrines of political correctness or particular forms of society. Not what was wrong in '58 or 2001 but the kinds of issues that are with us every year."

Benford said Bradbury "emphasized rhetoric over reason and struck resonant notes with the bulk of the American readership—better than any other science fiction writer. Even [H.G.] Wells ... [Bradbury] anchored everything in relationships. Most science fiction doesn't."

Whether describing a fledgling Earthling colony bullying its way on Mars (" -- And the Moon Be Still as Bright" in 1948) or a virtual-reality baby-sitting tool turned macabre monster ("The Veldt" in 1950), Bradbury wanted his readers to consider the consequences of their actions: "I'm not a futurist. People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it."

He long maligned computers -- stubbornly holding on to his typewriter -- and hated the Internet. He said ebooks "smell like burned fuel" and refused to allow his publishers to release electronic versions of his works until last year, when he finally agreed that Simon & Schuster could release the first digital copy of "Fahrenheit 451."

Ray Douglas Bradbury was born Aug. 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Ill., to Leonard Spaulding Bradbury and the former Esther Marie Moberg. As a child he soaked up the ambience of small-town life — wraparound porches, fireflies and the soft, golden light of late afternoon — that would later become a hallmark of much of his fiction.

"When I was born in 1920," he told the New York Times Magazine in 2000, "the auto was only 20 years old. Radio didn't exist. TV didn't exist. I was born at just the right time to write about all of these things."

The cusp of what was and what would be -- that was Bradbury's perfect perch. "He's a poet of the expanding world view of the 20th century," Benford said. "He coupled the American love of machines to the love of frontiers."

As a child, Bradbury was romanced by fantasy in its many forms— Grimms Fairy Tales and L. Frank Baum(the author of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"), the world's fairs and Lon Chaney Sr., Buck Rogers and "Amazing Stories."

But with the magic came the nightmares. Bradbury spoke often of the night visions that kept him sweating and sleepless in the first decade of his life.
Writing became a release valve of sorts. He often told, and elaborately embroidered, the story of the epiphany that led him to become a writer. A visit to the carnival at 12 brought him face to face with Mr. Electrico, a magician who awakened Bradbury to the notions of reincarnation and immortality.

"He was a miracle of magic, seated at the electric chair, swathed in black velvet robes, his face burning like white phosphor, blue sparks hissing from his fingertips," he recalled in interviews. "He pointed at me, touched me with his electric sword—my hair stood on end—and said, 'Live forever.' " Transfixed, Bradbury returned day after day. "He took me down to the lake shore and talked his small philosophies and I talked my big ones," Bradbury said. "He said we met before. 'You were my best friend. You died in my arms in 1918, in France.' I knew something special had happened in my life. I stood by the carousel and wept."

From then on, he spent at least four hours a day every day, unleashing those night visions in stories he wrote on butcher paper.
After a series of moves, the Bradbury family settled in Los Angeles in 1934. Ray dabbled in drama and journalism, fell in love with the movies and periodically sent jokes to the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio show. He read constantly and his writing output steadily increased and improved. While at Los Angeles High, Bradbury became involved with the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society where he met and got critiques of his work from science fiction writers Heinlein, Henry Kuttner and Jack Williamson.

"It's a wonder that he survived because we were all ready to strangle him," the late Forrest J. Ackerman, a founder of the society, said in a 1988 Times story. "He was such an obnoxious youth -- which he would be the first to admit. He was loud and boisterous and liked to do aW.C. Fieldsact and Hitler imitations. He would pull all sorts of pranks."

Bradbury graduated in 1938, with not enough money for college. Poor eyesight kept him out of the military, but he kept writing.

His stories began to appear in small genre pulps. Among the first was "Hollerbochen's Dilemma," which was published by Imagination! magazine in 1939. That year he also began putting out his own mimeographed fan magazine, Futuria Fantasia. In 1941, Bradbury sold his first story, "Pendulum," a collaboration with Henry Hasse that appeared in Super Science Stories. Soon his solo work found buyers: "The Piper" appeared in 1941 in "Thrilling Wonder Stories," followed by a string of sales to other pulp magazines.

In 1945, "The Big Black and White Game," published in the American Mercury, opened the doors to other mainstream publications including Saturday Evening Post, Vogue and Colliers. "A young assistant [at Mademoiselle] found one of my stories in the 'slush pile.' It was about a family of vampires [and] called 'The Homecoming.' " Bradbury told the Christian Science Monitor in 1991. "He gave it to the story editor and said, 'You must publish this!' " That young assistant was Truman Capote, whose own"Homecoming" brought him renown.

Bradbury married Marguerite McClure in 1947, the same year he published his first collection of short stories — "Dark Carnival" (Arkham House) — a series of vignettes that revisited his childhood hauntings.

His first big break came in 1950, when Doubleday collected some new and previously published Martian stories in a volume titled "The Martian Chronicles." A progression of pieces that were at once adventures and allegories taking on such freighted issues as censorship, racism and technology, the book established him as an author of particular insight and note. And a rave review from novelist Christopher Isherwood in Tomorrow magazine helped Bradbury step over the threshold from genre writer to mainstream visionary.

"The Martian Chronicles" incorporated themes that Bradbury would continue to revisit for the rest of his life. "Lost love. Love interrupted by the vicissitudes of time and space. Human condition in the large perspective and definition of what is human," said Benford. "He saw ... the problems that the new technologies presented — from robots to the super-intelligent house to the time machine -- that called into question our comfy definitions of human."

Bradbury's follow-up bestseller, 1953's "Fahrenheit 451," was based on two earlier short stories and written in the basement of the UCLA library, where he fed the typewriter 10 cents every half-hour. "You'd type like hell," he often recalled. "I spent $9.80 and in nine days I had 'Fahrenheit 451.' "

Books like "Fahrenheit 451," in which interactive TV spans three walls, and "The Illustrated Man" — the 1951 collection in which "The Veldt" appeared — not only became bestsellers and ultimately films but cautionary tales that became part of the American vernacular.

"The whole problem in 'Fahrenheit' centers around the debate whether technology will destroy us," said George Slusser, curator emeritus of the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Utopia at UC Riverside. "But there will always be a spirit that keeps things alive. In the case of 'Fahrenheit,' even though this totalitarian government is destroying the books, the people have memorized them. There are people who love the written word. That is true in most of his stories. He has deep faith in human culture."

Besides books and short stories, Bradbury wrote poetry, plays, teleplays, even songs. In 1956, he was tapped by John Huston to write the screenplay for "Moby Dick." In 1966, the French auteur director Francois Truffaut brought "Fahrenheit 451" to the screen. And in 1969 "The Illustrated Man" became a film starring Rod Steiger.

Bradbury's profile soared.

But as he garnered respect in the mainstream, he lost some standing among science fiction purists. In these circles, Bradbury was often criticized for being "anti-science." Instead of celebrating scientific breakthroughs, he was reserved, even cautious.

Bradbury had very strong opinions about what the future had become. In the drive to make their lives smart and efficient, humans, he feared, had lost touch with their souls. "We've got to dumb America up again," he said.

Over the years he amassed a mantel full of honors. Among them: the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (2000), the Los Angeles Times' Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award (1998), the Nebula Award (1988), the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (1970), O. Henry Memorial Award (1947-48) and a special distinguished-career citation from the Pulitzer Prize board in 2007, which was "an enormous nod of respect from the mainstream media," Lou Anders, editorial director of the science fiction and fantasy imprint PYR, told the New York Times.

Bradbury helped plan the Spaceship Earth at Disney's Epcot Center in Orlando, Fla., as well as projects at Euro Disney in France. He was a creative consultant on architect Jerde's projects, helping to design several Southern California shopping malls including the Glendale Galleria, Horton Plaza in San Diego and the Westside Pavilion in Los Angeles.

Even in his later years, Bradbury kept up his 1,000-words-a-day writing schedule, working on an electric typewriter even when technology had passed it by. "Why do I need a computer ... all a computer is is a typewriter."

Though he didn't drive, Bradbury could often be spotted out and about Los Angeles. A familiar figure with a wind-blown mane of white hair and heavy black-framed glasses, he'd browse the stacks of libraries and bookstores, his bicycle leaning against a store front or pole just outside.

A stroke in late 1999 slowed him but didn't stop him.

He began dictating his work over the phone to one of his daughters, who helped to transcribe and edit. In 2007 he began pulling rare or unfinished pieces from his archives. "Now and Forever," a collection of "Leviathan '99" and "Somewhere a Band Is Playing," was published in 2007 and "We'll Always Have Paris Stories" in 2009.

His 90th birthday, in 2010, was cause for a weeklong celebration in Los Angeles.

"All I can do is teach people to fall in love," Bradbury told Time magazine that year. "My advice to them is, do what you love and love what you do. … If I can teach them that, I've done a great job."

Most Americans make their acquaintance with Bradbury in junior high, and there are many who revisit certain works for a lifetime, his books evoking their own season.

In an interview in the Onion, Bradbury chalked up his stories' relevance and resonance to this: "I deal in metaphors. All my stories are like the Greek and Roman myths, and the Egyptian myths, and the Old and New Testament.... If you write in metaphors, people can remember them.... I think that's why I'm in the schools."

Benford suggests something else—at once simple and seductive.

"Nostalgia is eternal. And Americans are often displaced from their origins and carry an anxious memory of it, of losing their origins. Bradbury reminds us of what we were and of what we could be," Benford said.

"Like most creative people, he was still a child, His stories tell us: Hold on to your childhood. You don't get another one. I don't think he ever put that away."

Bradbury is survived by his daughters Susan Nixon, Ramona Ostergren, Bettina Karapetian and Alexandra Bradbury; and eight grandchildren. His wife, Marguerite, died in 2003.


George is a former Times staff writer.

news.obits@latimes.com

THE RECALL HEARD AROUND THE WORLD

By Ann Coulter
http://www.anncoulter.com/
June 6, 2012


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addresses supporters Tuesday night after winning the Wisconsin recall election, defeating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

I watched the Wisconsin returns on MSNBC Tuesday night, and it came right down to the wire between "the Democrats were outspent 7-to-1" and "Republicans are stripping union rights!" As we go to press it's still too close to call.

President Obama wanted to go to Wisconsin, but he just didn't have time. He's been doing so many campaign fundraisers lately he barely has time to play golf.

The left's "outspent" argument is ridiculous. Unions take money by force from members, hire hundreds of political operatives and give them salaries to work on campaigns, then call them "volunteers" so their work isn't reported as a campaign contribution.

Luckily for them, government employees' non-punishing work schedules leave them plenty of time to be in a constant state of grievance, demanding recalls after any election they lose, and mobilizing voters.

This election had nothing to do with people being paid a fair wage for the work they do. The question is: Do you want a society where the people whose salaries you pay make more than those who pay them?

The Democrats will do anything the government unions ask, because (1) It's not their money they're spending, it's the taxpayers'; and (2) Government unions reciprocate by making sure the Democrats keep getting re-elected.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is about to turn New York into Pottersville from "It's a Wonderful Life" by legalizing gambling so he can keep paying the unions.

All manufacturing has been driven out of the state by high taxes -- and by well-compensated government employees who make it impossible to do business in New York. The state's principal cash cow, New York City, is now entirely composed of a tiny slice of Wall Streeters and the people who serve them –- personal trainers, doormen, maids, doctors, lawyers, restaurateurs and Keith Olbermann's cat groomer.

Outside of New York City, everyone works for the government. But there's no actual industry in the state. People are fleeing New York faster than Democrat legislators fled Wisconsin before a vote they were going to lose.

Soon it will be just another mid-range, dying state. If the financial sector ever leaves, New York City will be Detroit, which itself was once the nation's crown jewel metropolis.

So Cuomo's going to bring in casinos to save public sector salaries, perks and pensions. Democrats don't care that gambling destroys neighborhoods and ruins lives. They will do anything to keep government employees happy. They'll legalize drugs or sell body parts to keep paying off public sector workers.

There's a reason both FDR and labor leader George Meany said it would be insane to ever allow government employees to unionize. People who work for the government don't have a hard-driving capitalist boss on the other side of the bargaining table demanding more work for less pay.

No one is worried about the profit margin because there is no profit -- it's government! Rather, the only people on the other side of the table are the unions' co-conspirators: Democratic politicians willing to spend the public treasury on union members, who will repay the politicians by mobilizing voters.

This is why Walker's victory Tuesday night was an amazing, miraculous, transformative event in the history of the nation.

Even the Terminator couldn't beat the government unions. In the dumbest move ever made by a politician, in 2005, two years into Arnold Schwarzenegger's first term, he called an off-year special election to enact a few minuscule reductions in public-sector union perks, such as making it humanly possible to fire bad teachers.

Even in a normal election year, initiatives curbing government employees' boondoggles are nearly impossible to get past the powerful unions.

But worse -- as in Wisconsin -- this was an off-year election. Unlike Wisconsin, however, it was Schwarzenegger's idea to hold a special election on the advice of his political consultant, Mike Murphy, the Bob Shrum of the Republicans.

Let's see, who would be likely to vote in an off-year election? We're going to cut your exorbitant benefits, require you to work, and make it easier to fire you, public employees. Do you have any interest in voting on that?

Anyone with half a brain could see disaster coming from a mile away. Even with the language barrier, Arnold should have seen it coming.

Within weeks, Tony Quinn, a California Republican consultant, stated categorically: "The governor needs to cancel this special election, regardless of the political cost, because he's headed for a huge political defeat."

But Schwarzenegger's adviser, Murphy, was brimming with confidence, dazzled by the governor's celebrity status. He gloated, "He's still Arnold Schwarzenegger." (Murphy never saw "Twins.")

Public sector unions spent a jaw-dropping $80 million to defeat Schwarzenegger's initiatives, portraying the governor as the enemy of cops, teachers, firefighters and "people like us."

Mike Murphy: "I am confident we will win."

In the end, union members turned out in droves on Election Day, defeating every single initiative. Everyone else in California woke up the next day and said, "Hey, did you know there was an election yesterday?"

The failure of Schwarzenegger's propositions ended his governorship. From that day on, he became the Democrats' plaything.

The 2010 census marks the first time California has lost population since it became a state.

The decision to call an off-year special election to roll back public employees' perks will long be remembered as the all-time stupidest idea in political history. One hundred years from now it will still be studied at the Kennedy School of Government.

Wisconsin made history in a different way Tuesday night. As Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch said, the recall election will go down in the record books as the night "the campaign to save America" began.

COPYRIGHT 2012 ANN COULTER

Obama’s Third-Party History

New documents shed new light on his ties to a leftist party in the 1990s.

By Stanley Kurtz
http://www.nationalreview.com/#
June 7, 2012

 
Barack Obama campaigning for the Illinois State Senate in 1996, a race he easily won. (Marc PoKempner)

On the evening of January 11, 1996, while Mitt Romney was in the final years of his run as the head of Bain Capital, Barack Obama formally joined the New Party, which was deeply hostile to the mainstream of the Democratic party and even to American capitalism. In 2008, candidate Obama deceived the American public about his potentially damaging tie to this third party. The issue remains as fresh as today’s headlines, as Romney argues that Obama is trying to move the United States toward European-style social democracy, which was precisely the New Party’s goal.

In late October 2008, when I wrote here at National Review Online that Obama had been a member of the New Party, his campaign sharply denied it, calling my claim a “crackpot smear.” Fight the Smears, an official Obama-campaign website, staunchly maintained that “Barack has been a member of only one political party, the Democratic Party.” I rebutted this, but the debate was never taken up by the mainstream press.

Recently obtained evidence from the updated records of Illinois ACORN at the Wisconsin Historical Society now definitively establishes that Obama was a member of the New Party. He also signed a “contract” promising to publicly support and associate himself with the New Party while in office.
Minutes of the meeting on January 11, 1996, of the New Party’s Chicago chapter read as follows:
Barack Obama, candidate for State Senate in the 13th Legislative District, gave a statement to the membership and answered questions. He signed the New Party “Candidate Contract” and requested an endorsement from the New Party. He also joined the New Party.
Consistent with this, a roster of the Chicago chapter of the New Party from early 1997 lists Obama as a member, with January 11, 1996, indicated as the date he joined.

Knowing that Obama disguised his New Party membership helps make sense of his questionable handling of the 2008 controversy over his ties to ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). During his third debate with John McCain, Obama said that the “only” involvement he’d had with ACORN was to represent the group in a lawsuit seeking to compel Illinois to implement the National Voter Registration Act, or motor-voter law. The records of Illinois ACORN and its associated union clearly contradict that assertion, as I show in my political biography of the president, Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism.

Why did Obama deny his ties to ACORN? The group was notorious in 2008 for thug tactics, fraudulent voter registrations, and its role in popularizing risky subprime lending. Admitting that he had helped to fund ACORN’s voter-registration efforts and train some of their organizers would doubtless have been an embarrassment but not likely a crippling blow to his campaign. So why not simply confess the tie and make light of it? The problem for Obama was ACORN’s political arm, the New Party.

The revelation in 2008 that Obama had joined an ACORN-controlled, leftist third party could have been damaging indeed, and coming clean about his broader work with ACORN might easily have exposed these New Party ties. Because the work of ACORN and the New Party often intersected with Obama’s other alliances, honesty about his ties to either could have laid bare the entire network of his leftist political partnerships.

Although Obama is ultimately responsible for deceiving the American people in 2008 about his political background, he got help from his old associates. Each of the two former political allies who helped him to deny his New Party membership during campaign ’08 was in a position to know better.
The Fight the Smears website quoted Carol Harwell, who managed Obama’s 1996 campaign for the Illinois senate: “Barack did not solicit or seek the New Party endorsement for state senator in 1995.” Drawing on her testimony, Fight the Smears conceded that the New Party did support Obama in 1996 but denied that Obama had ever joined, adding that “he was the only candidate on the ballot in his race and never solicited the endorsement.”

We’ve seen that this is false. Obama formally requested New Party endorsement, signed the candidate contract, and joined the party. Is it conceivable that Obama’s own campaign manager could have been unaware of this? The notion is implausible. And the documents make Harwell’s assertion more remarkable still.

The New Party had a front group called Progressive Chicago, whose job was to identify candidates that the New Party and its sympathizers might support. Nearly four years before Obama was endorsed by the New Party, both he and Harwell joined Progressive Chicago and began signing public letters that regularly reported on the group’s meetings. By prominently taking part in Progressive Chicago activities, Obama was effectively soliciting New Party support for his future political career (as was Harwell, on Obama’s behalf). So Harwell’s testimony is doubly false.

When the New Party controversy broke out, just about the only mainstream journalist to cover it was Politico’s Ben Smith, whose evident purpose was to dismiss it out of hand. He contacted Obama’s official spokesman Ben LaBolt, who claimed that his candidate “was never a member” of the New Party. And New Party co-founder and leader Joel Rogers told Smith, “We didn’t really have members.” But a line in the New Party’s official newsletter explicitly identified Obama as a party member. Rogers dismissed that as mere reference to “the fact that the party had endorsed him.”

This is nonsense. I exposed the falsity of Rogers’s absurd claim, and Smith’s credulity in accepting it, in 2008 (here and here). And in Radical-in-Chief I took on Rogers’s continuing attempts to justify it. The recently uncovered New Party records reveal how dramatically far from the truth Rogers’s statement has been all along.

In a memo dated January 29, 1996, Rogers, writing as head of the New Party Interim Executive Council, addressed “standing concerns regarding existing chapter development and activity, the need for visibility as well as new members.” So less than three weeks after Obama joined the New Party, Rogers was fretting about the need for new members. How, then, could Rogers assert in 2008 that his party “didn’t really have members”? Internal documents show that the entire leadership of the New Party, both nationally and in Chicago, was practically obsessed with signing up new members, from its founding moments until it dissolved in the late 1990s.

In 2008, after I called Rogers out on his ridiculous claim that his party had no members, he explained to Ben Smith that “we did have regular supporters whom many called ‘members,’ but it just meant contributing regularly, not getting voting rights or other formal power in NP governance.” This is also flatly contradicted by the newly uncovered records.

At just about the time Obama joined the New Party, the Chicago chapter was embroiled in a bitter internal dispute. A party-membership list is attached to a memo in which the leaders of one faction consider a scheme to disqualify potential voting members from a competing faction, on the grounds that those voters had not renewed their memberships. The factional leaders worried that their opponents would legitimately object to this tactic, since a mailing that called for members to renew hadn’t been properly sent out. At any rate, the memo clearly demonstrates that, contrary to Rogers’s explanation, membership in the New Party entailed the right to vote on matters of party governance. In fact, Obama’s own New Party endorsement, being controversial, was thrown open to a members’ vote on the day he joined the party.

Were Harwell and Rogers deliberately lying in order to protect Obama and deceive the public? Readers can decide for themselves. Yet it is clear that Obama, through his official spokesman, Ben LaBolt, and the Fight the Smears website, was bent on deceiving the American public about a matter whose truth he well knew.

The documents reveal that the New Party’s central aim was to move the United States steadily closer to European social democracy, a goal that Mitt Romney has also attributed to Obama. New Party leaders disdained mainstream Democrats, considering them tools of business, and promised instead to create a partnership between elected officials and local community organizations, with the goal of socializing the American economy to an unprecedented degree.

The party’s official “statement of principles,” which candidates seeking endorsement from the Chicago chapter were asked to support, called for a “peaceful revolution” and included redistributive proposals substantially to the left of the Democratic party.

To get a sense of the ideology at play, consider that the meeting at which Obama joined the party opened with the announcement of a forthcoming event featuring the prominent socialist activist Frances Fox Piven. The Chicago New Party sponsored a luncheon with Michael Moore that same year.

I have more to say on the New Party’s ideology and program, Obama’s ties to the party, and the relevance of all this to the president’s campaign for reelection. See the forthcoming issue of National Review.

In the meantime, let us see whether a press that let candidate Obama off the hook in 2008 — and that in 2012 is obsessed with the president’s youthful love letters — will now refuse to report that President Obama once joined a leftist third party, and that he hid that truth from the American people in order to win the presidency.

— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. A longer version of this article appears in the forthcoming June 25 issue of National Review.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Boys of Pointe du Hoc

(Note: The following are remarks delivered by President Ronald Reagan on June 6, 1984 commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Invastion of Normandy.)

By Ronald Reagan
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/
June 6, 2012


We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.

We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.

Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.

The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.

And behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your "lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor."

I think I know what you may be thinking right now -- thinking "we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day." Well everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren't. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.

Lord Lovat was with him -- Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, "Sorry, I'm a few minutes late," as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he'd just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.

There was the impossible valor of the Poles, who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold; and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.

All of these men were part of a roll call of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore; The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland's 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots' Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard's "Matchbox Fleet," and you, the American Rangers.

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love.

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought -- or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am. In Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying. And in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: "Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do." Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.
When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together. There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall Plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall Plan led to the Atlantic alliance -- a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.

In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. The Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent. But we try always to be prepared for peace, prepared to deter aggression, prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms, and yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.

It's fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II. Twenty million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war.
I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.

We will pray forever that someday that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.

We're bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We're bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe's democracies. We were with you then; we're with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

Strengthened by their courage and heartened by their value [valor] and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States.


Biggest losers: Teacher’s unions earn “F” for Wisconsin recall abuse

As fiscal conservatives in Wisconsin and across the country celebrate the triumphs of GOP Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and progressive heads EXPLODE, my latest column looks back at the biggest losers in this nasty battle: The public school employee unions. They must be held accountable. Remember in November!

By Michelle Malkin
http://michellemalkin.com/
June 5, 2012


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gives victory speech after the recall election results came in Tuesday evening.

They really outdid themselves. In Wisconsin and across the nation, public school employee unions spared no kiddie human shields in their battle against GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s budget and pension reforms. Students were the first and last casualties of the ruthless Big Labor war against fiscal discipline.

To kick off the year-long protest festivities, Wisconsin Education Association Council led a massive “sickout” of educators and other government school personnel. The coordinated truancy action – tantamount to an illegal strike — cost taxpayers an estimated $6 million. Left-wing doctors assisted the campaign by supplying fake medical excuse notes to teachers who ditched their public school classrooms to protest Gov. Walker’s modest package of belt-tightening measures.

When they weren’t ditching their students, radical teachers steeped in the social justice ethos of National Education Association-approved community organizer Saul Alinsky were shamelessly using other people’s children as their own political junior lobbyists and pawns. A Milwaukee Fox News affiliate caught one fourth-grade teacher dragging his students on a “field trip” to demonstrate against Gov. Walker at the state Capitol building.

The pupils clapped along with a group of “solidarity singers” as they warbled: “Scott Walker will never push us out, this house was made for you and me.”

Hundreds of high school students from Madison were dragooned into marches. When asked on camera why they had skipped school, one told a reporter from the Wisconsin-based MacIver Institute: “I don’t know, I guess we’re protesting today.” Happy for the supply of warm young bodies, AFSCME Local 2412 President Gary Mitchell gloated: “The students have been so energized.

“Energized?” How about educated, enlightened, and intellectually stimulated? Silly parents. Remember: “A” isn’t for academics. It’s for “agitation” and “advocacy.” Former National Education Association official John Lloyd’s words musn’t be forgotten: “You cannot possibly understand NEA without understanding Saul Alinsky. If you want to understand NEA, go to the library and get ‘Rules for Radicals.’”

Against a rising tide of rank-and-file teachers who oppose their leaders’ extremist politics, the national offices of the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers shoveled millions in forced union dues into Astroturfed, anti-Walker coffers. According the WisconsinReporter.com, strapped state affiliates also coughed up major sums to beat back Wisconsin’s efforts to bring American union workers into the 21st century in line with the rest of the workforce:

“The Ohio Education Association made a $58,000 in-kind contribution May 30, followed a day later by a $21,000 contribution from the Pennsylvania State Education Association. New York State United Teachers gave $23,000 on June 1, the Massachusetts Education Association gave $17,000 on May 31, and a group of unions based in Washington, D.C., poured in $922,000 during the past week.” Even the Alaska NEA affiliate pitched in $4,000.

Back in the Badger State, the Education Action Group Foundation caught Milwaukee teacher’s union head Bob Peterson on tape this week bragging about how his school district organized bus runs and stuffed flyers into every K-8 student’s backpack urging them to vote in the recall election. No, this wasn’t a civic, non-partisan get-out-the-vote effort. It was a purely partisan, self-preservation campaign. Peterson preaches that educators must be “teachers of unionism. We need to create a generation of students who support teachers and the movement for workers rights, oppressed peoples’ rights.” Because, you know, asking teachers to contribute more to their pension plans is just like the crushing of freedom-fighters in Iran, Egypt, and China.

The progressives’ blatant exploitation of bureaucratic authority over the nation’s schoolchildren – at the expense of classroom achievement and fiscal sanity – isn’t sitting well with the public. A new Marquette University Law School poll released on the eve of the Wisconsin recall election showed that “only 40 percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable view of public-sector unions, while 45 percent viewed them unfavorably.” In addition, “three-quarters of respondents said they approved of the law Walker signed requiring public employees to contribute to their own pensions and pay more for health insurance, while 55 percent approved of the new limits on collective bargaining for state employees that Walker signed into law.”

Uncertainty reigned over Wisconsin as both sides braced for a possible recount on Tuesday night. But against all odds, Gov. Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch prevailed over out-of-state Big Labor agitators. From their first unhinged salvos 16 months ago in the state capitol and right up until Election Day, the union bosses have made one thing clear as playground whistle:

It’s not about the children. It’s never about the children. It’s about protecting the power, perks, and profligacy of public employee union monopolies.

~ For the latest breaking news, be sure to join Michelle's e-mail list ~

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Concert Review: The Gaslight Anthem at the Music Hall of Williamsburg

By
http://www.examiner.com/
May 17, 2012


View slideshow: The Gaslight Anthem at Music Hall of Williamsburg

Wednesday night the Music Hall of Williamsburg (MHOW) became an international hangout between The Gaslight Anthem, fans filling the Brooklyn venue and the rest of the internet world. The concert, which was broadcast live on livestream.com, was billed as an official rehearsal show for the band's upcoming tour in support of their album "Handwritten", which will be released July 24th.

The initial show announcement was great news for Gaslight diehards, as the only shows they've played as a band since 2010 were at last year's Bamboozle in May and their December show at Convention Hall in Asbury Park. However, many were disappointed as ticket scalpers hijacked the pre-sale and public on-sale, scooping up and reselling a bunch of the reasonably priced tickets for double the face value. Infuriated that their fans were shut out and being ripped off, singer Brian Fallon announced at the MHOW show (and on the band's Tumblr) that a plan for a fan club with a "stupidly cheap" fee was in the works to prevent the ticket vultures from getting to the goods before real fans.

It's that kind of connection and dedication shared between The Gaslight Anthem and their fans that keeps everyone coming back for more. It's also what helped the band rise very quickly to fame, from being "that band that played Jersey basements" a few short years ago (the band formed in 2006) to headlining Radio City Music Hall in the Fall of 2010. After last year's large gigs, the group's followers were in dire need of a fix and a small intimate show. The 550-capacity hall was a perfect opportunity for the local band and its local fans to reconvene before the next chapter of the band's career begins with "Handwritten", their first release through a major label (Mercury Records).
The evening kicked off with Tim Barry performing to the crowd as they continued to file in for the headliner's set. Barry is one of the most sincere, authentic performers out there right now and appeared very grateful to those who showed up early to catch his set (check out my review of his recent CD Release Show here). Opening with "Driver Pull", performed on the venue's floor at eye level with concertgoers, and closing with "Avoiding Catatonic Surrender", Barry made a great impression on those who have been missing out on his music up until Wednesday night.

Making their entrance to Beastie Boys' "Sabotage", The Gaslight Anthem took the stage as cameras began filming for the internet broadcast. Opening with "Great Expectations", the band burned through a setlist that included fan favorites "I'da Called You Woody, Joe", "Film Noir", "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues", "Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis", "We Came To Dance", "The Diamond Church Street Choir", and "Here's Looking At You, Kid" along with popular singles "American Slang" and "The '59 Sound." Fans were also treated to a live performance of the new single "'45" and "Biloxi Parish", both of which appear on the upcoming album, as well as a rocking cover of The Who's "Baba O'Riley."

Joining the band on the Brooklyn stage was guitarist Ian Perkins, who fans fell in love with when he released "Elsie" along with Brian Fallon as The Horrible Crowes, a side project who only performed live twice (once in NYC, once in L.A.). Perkins was previously a crew member for The Gaslight Anthem who occasionally played guitar on the American Slang tour while Brian focused on vocals during songs like "Old Haunts." Perkins had not officially been added to the group's live show until now as a touring guitarist. Given that smiles were constantly flashed between Perkins and the band all night, it's clear he's a natural fit with the Gaslight Anthem and that he'll have a great time backing them up full time on tour this summer.
The Gaslight Anthem will be playing at this Sunday's Bamboozle Fest in Asbury Park, NJ. To find out more info about purchasing tickets and traveling to the show, check out the Bamboozle's official site. They are also set to play Webster Hall on July 24th. Tim Barry will be heading back to NYC next month when he plays Santos Party House on June 16th.

Check out my Examiner slideshow of photos from the concert here, with additional shots from the show here. Follow me on Twitter at @ConcertExaminer!