Saturday, August 08, 2009

‘You Are Terrifying Us’


AUGUST 8, 2009


The Wall Street Journal

We have entered uncharted territory in the fight over national health care. There’s a new tone in the debate, and it’s ugly. At the moment the Democrats are looking like something they haven’t looked like in years, and that is: desperate.

They must know at this point they should not have pushed a national health-care plan. A Democratic operative the other day called it “Hillary’s revenge.” When Mrs. Clinton started losing to Barack Obama in the primaries 18 months ago, she began to give new and sharper emphasis to her health-care plan. Mr. Obama responded by talking about his health-care vision. He won. Now he would push what he had been forced to highlight: Health care would be a priority initiative. The net result is falling support for his leadership on the issue, falling personal polls, and the angry town-hall meetings that have electrified YouTube.

In his first five months in office, Mr. Obama had racked up big wins—the stimulus, children’s health insurance, House approval of cap-and-trade. But he stayed too long at the hot table. All the Democrats in Washington did. They overinterpreted the meaning of the 2008 election, and didn’t fully take into account how the great recession changed the national mood and atmosphere.

And so the shock on the faces of Congressmen who’ve faced the grillings back home. And really, their shock is the first thing you see in the videos. They had no idea how people were feeling. Their 2008 win left them thinking an election that had been shaped by anti-Bush, anti-Republican, and pro-change feeling was really a mandate without context; they thought that in the middle of a historic recession featuring horrific deficits, they could assume support for the invention of a huge new entitlement carrying huge new costs.

The passions of the protesters, on the other hand, are not a surprise. They hired a man to represent them in Washington. They give him a big office, a huge staff and the power to tell people what to do. They give him a car and a driver, sometimes a security detail, and a special pin showing he’s a congressman. And all they ask in return is that he see to their interests and not terrify them too much. Really, that’s all people ask. Expectations are very low. What the protesters are saying is, “You are terrifying us.”

AP Photo

Joan Korman ,left, and Dawn Tabrizi, right, hold protest signs during a rally protesting government managed health care in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. , Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009.

What has been most unsettling is not the congressmen’s surprise but a hard new tone that emerged this week. The leftosphere and the liberal commentariat charged that the town-hall meetings weren’t authentic, the crowds were ginned up by insurance companies, lobbyists and the Republican National Committee. But you can’t get people to leave their homes and go to a meeting with a congressman (of all people) unless they are engaged to the point of passion. And what tends to agitate people most is the idea of loss—loss of money hard earned, loss of autonomy, loss of the few things that work in a great sweeping away of those that don’t.
People are not automatons. They show up only if they care.

What the town-hall meetings represent is a feeling of rebellion, an uprising against change they do not believe in. And the Democratic response has been stunningly crude and aggressive. It has been to attack. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, accused the people at the meetings of “carrying swastikas and symbols like that.” (Apparently one protester held a hand-lettered sign with a “no” slash over a swastika.) But they are not Nazis, they’re Americans. Some of them looked like they’d actually spent some time fighting Nazis.

Then came the Democratic Party charge that the people at the meetings were suspiciously well-dressed, in jackets and ties from Brooks Brothers. They must be Republican rent-a-mobs. Sen. Barbara Boxer said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” that people are “storming these town-hall meetings,” that they were “well dressed,” that “this is all organized,” “all planned,” to “hurt our president.” Here she was projecting. For normal people, it’s not all about Barack Obama.

The Democratic National Committee chimed in with an incendiary Web video whose script reads, “The right wing extremist Republican base is back.” DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse issued a statement that said the Republicans “are inciting angry mobs of . . . right wing extremists” who are “not reflective of where the American people are.”

But most damagingly to political civility, and even our political tradition, was the new White House email address to which citizens are asked to report instances of “disinformation” in the health-care debate: If you receive an email or see something on the Web about health-care reform that seems “fishy,” you can send it to The White House said it was merely trying to fight “intentionally misleading” information.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas on Wednesday wrote to the president saying he feared that citizens’ engagement could be “chilled” by the effort. He’s right, it could. He also accused the White House of compiling an “enemies list.” If so, they’re being awfully public about it, but as Byron York at the Washington Examiner pointed, the emails collected could become a “dissident database.”

All of this is unnecessarily and unhelpfully divisive and provocative. They are mocking and menacing concerned citizens. This only makes a hot situation hotter. Is this what the president wants? It couldn’t be. But then in an odd way he sometimes seems not to have fully absorbed the awesome stature of his office. You really, if you’re president, can’t call an individual American stupid, if for no other reason than that you’re too big. You cannot allow your allies to call people protesting a health-care plan “extremists” and “right wing,” or bought, or Nazi-like, either. They’re citizens. They’re concerned. They deserve respect.

The Democrats should not be attacking, they should be attempting to persuade, to argue for their case. After all, they have the big mic. Which is what the presidency is, the big mic.

And frankly they ought to think about backing off. The president should call in his troops and his Congress and announce a rethinking. There are too many different bills, they’re all a thousand pages long, no one has time to read them, no one knows what’s going to be in the final one, the public is agitated, the nation’s in crisis, the timing is wrong, we’ll turn to it again—but not now. We’ll take a little longer, ponder every aspect, and make clear every complication.

You know what would happen if he did this? His numbers would go up. Even Congress’s would. Because they’d look responsive, deliberative and even wise. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Absent that, and let’s assume that won’t happen, the health-care protesters have to make sure they don’t get too hot, or get out of hand. They haven’t so far, they’ve been burly and full of debate, with plenty of booing. This is democracy’s great barbaric yawp. But every day the meetings seem just a little angrier, and people who are afraid—who have been made afraid, and left to be afraid—can get swept up. As this column is written, there comes word that John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO has announced he’ll be sending in union members to the meetings to counter health care’s critics.
Somehow that doesn’t sound like a peace initiative.

It’s going to be a long August, isn’t it? Let’s hope the uncharted territory we’re in doesn’t turn dark.

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A13

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Conformity is now the new dissent

Community Organizer wants to organize us all.

By Mark Steyn
Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
Friday, August 7, 2009

DISSENT IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF PATRIOTI… No, wait, that bumper sticker expired January 20th. Under the stimulus bill, there's a new $1.3 trillion bills-for-bumpers program whereby, if you peel off old slogans now recognized as environmentally harmful ("QUESTION AUTHORITY"), you can trade them in for a new "CELEBRATE CONFORMITY" sticker, complete with a holographic image of President Obama that never takes his eyes off you.

"The right-wing extremist Republican base is back!" warns the Democratic National Committee. These right-wing extremists have been given their marching orders by their masters: They've been directed to show up at "thousands of events," told to "organize," "knock on doors" …

No, wait. My mistake. That's the e-mail I got from Mitch Stewart, Director of "Organizing for America" at But that's the good kind of "organizing." Obama's a community organizer. We're the community. He organizes us. What part of that don't you get?

AP Photo

Elizabeth Smith ,left, and her husband Spence Smith hold protest signs during a rally protesting government managed health care in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. , Thursday, August 6, 2009.

When the community starts organizing against the organizer, the whole rigmarole goes to hell. Not that these extremists showing up at town hall meetings are real members of the "community." Have you noticed how tailored they are? Dissent is now the haut est form of coutur ism. Senator Barbara Boxer has denounced dissenters from Obama's health care proposals as too "well-dressed" to be genuine. Only the Emperor has new clothes. Everyone knows that.

Thankfully, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has seen through the "manufactured anger" of "the Brooks Brothers brigade." Did he announce this in a crumpled suit? He's a Press Secretary who won't press. Apparently, the health care debate now has a dress code. Soon you won't be able to get in unless you're wearing Barack Obama mom-jeans, manufactured at a converted GM plant by an assembly line of retrained insurance salesmen. Any day now, Hollywood will greenlight a new movie in which an insane Sarah Palin figure picks out her outfit for spreading disinformation (The Lyin', The Witch And The Wardrobe).

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, added her own distinctive wrinkle to the Brooks Brothers menswear. She disdained the anti-Obamacare protests as fake grassroots. "I think they're AstroTurf," she declared. "They're carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care."

Is this one of those Chinese Whispers things? Obama told Gibbs to tell Boxer to tell Reid, and by the time it reached Pelosi, it came out as uniforms night: Brooks Brothers. Mel Brooks. Springtime for Hitler. Swastikas. Or is the Speaker right to sound the alarm about this army of goosestepping dandies? A veritable Garbstapo jackbooting down the Interstate like it's a catwalk in Milan.

Fortunately, this president doesn't fold like a Robert Gibbs suit. He won't give in to the attire pressure. So, on Monday, the official White House Web site drew attention to the alarming amount of "disinformation about health insurance reform." "These rumors often travel just below the surface," warned Macon Phillips, Chief Commissar of the Hopenstasi …whoops, I mean White House Director of New Media, "via chain e-mails or through casual conversation."

"Casual conversation," eh? Why can't these "dissenters" just be like normal people and read off the teleprompter?

"Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help," continued Commissar Phillips.

"If you get an e-mail or see something on the Web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to"

Reporting dissent is the highest form of patriotism! Is your neighbor suspiciously "well-dressed"? Is he mouthing off about cancer survival rates under socialized medical systems while wearing a cravat? Give us his name, and we'll give you his spats! Just go to, not to be confused with, which is the e-mail address for reporting President Obama's latest approval rating. Go to if you'd like Speaker Pelosi to walk across your back as a whip-wielding SS dominatrix barking "Vee hoff vays of making you tokk less casually, dumbkopf!" Go to if you need parts for your new government car, or your new government hip replacement. Go to if you'd like a special preview of President Obama's latest bare-chested pictorial for Vanity Fair. Go to if you'd like to report your neighbor's cow for excessive CO2 emissions.

Better yet, just send everything on everyone to the White House. Unsure about that old hippie artist across the street? The one who said, "Yeah, I voted for Obama 'cause I thought it'd be cool to have an African-American president. But, since the economic downturn, the bottom's really dropped out of my hemp tapestry market." He seems to be starting to entertain impure thoughts about the Dear Leader's plans for us, doesn't he? And yet, with the best will in the world, one couldn't really describe him as a snappy dresser, could one? It's a tough call. So best be on the safe side, and report everyone. The Administration can hire people to sift through it all, and that will stimulate the economy even more than the new cashmere-for-clunkers program: Are you an angry right-wing fop? Why not trade in your frankly effete sweater for an evening with Joe Biden?

The Washington Post's Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite (not, as far as I know, a Brooks sister to the Brooks Brothers) says "the town hall demolition derby" is "cynically designed and carried out in order to destroy real debate in the public square over health insurance reform." Decrying the snarling, angry protesters, liberal talk-show host Bill Press (no relation to the Corby Trouser Press) says that "Americans want serious discussion" on health care. If only we'd stuck to the President's August timetable and passed a gazillion-page health care reform entirely unread by the House of Representatives or the Senate (the world's greatest deliberative body) in nothing flat, we'd now have all the time in the world to sit around having a "serious discussion" and "real debate" on whatever it was we just did to one-sixth of the economy.

But a sick, deranged, un-American mob has put an end to all that moderate and reasonable steamrollering by showing up and yelling insane, out-of-control questions like, "Awfully sorry to bother you, your Most Excellent Senatorial Eminence, but I was wondering if you could tell me why you don't read any of the laws you make before you make them into law?"

The community is restless. The firm hand of greater organization is needed.

© Mark Steyn

Friday, August 07, 2009

Democrats’ Fear Is Showing on Health Care

This administration feels it is the only legitimate beneficiary of “people power.”

By Jonah Goldberg
August 07, 2009, 0:00 a.m.

The Democratic party is panicking, lashing out like a cornered animal, all because its effort to take over the health-care industry is coming apart like so much wet toilet paper.

Nancy Pelosi, who will get her own bound volume in the annals of asininity, has outdone herself. When asked by a reporter whether the protests at various town-hall meetings represented legitimate grassroots opposition or were manufactured “AstroTurf” stunts, she replied, “I think they’re AstroTurf. You be the judge. They’re carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care.”

Now this is a pas de trois of dishonesty, slander, and idiocy. Not only is Pelosi lying when she says protesters are bringing swastikas to these town halls, not only is she suggesting that American citizens are Nazis for having the effrontery to get in the way of Obamacare, but she’s also saying that the alleged swastikas are obvious proof that these protests are manufactured by slick P.R. gurus.

How does that work? What public-relations genius says: “Okay, we need these protests to seem like an authentic backlash of real Americans. Make sure everyone has enough Nazi paraphernalia!”

Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer insists the protests have to be fake because the protesters are too “well-dressed.” Likewise, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says this is all “manufactured anger” because the protesters — he calls them the “Brooks Brothers Brigade” — are too tastefully appointed to be authentic protesters. Apparently only filthy hippies can petition government.

This, of course, doesn’t preclude the possibility that the protesters are also Nazis; they were snappy dressers (Hugo Boss made SS uniforms, after all). But we’ll leave that there.

The White House is asking supporters to submit the names of anyone who forwards e-mail with “fishy” information. “Fishy information” herewith defined as anything that serves as a speed bump for the White House steamroller.

The DNC has put out an ad claiming that the “right-wing extremist base” is out to “destroy” Barack Obama, so it has unleashed “angry mobs . . . mob activity straight from the playbook of high-level Republican political operatives. They have no plan for moving our country forward, so they’ve called out the mob.”

The DNC ad points to a memo written by an activist named Bob MacGuffie as proof that Republican political ops are pulling the strings. It turns out that MacGuffie, a decent-seeming fellow, is a rank amateur whose Right Principles PAC has collected a mere $5,017 and disbursed the staggering sum of $1,777, and has 23 members on Facebook and five followers on Twitter, according to The Weekly Standard’s Mary Katharine Ham.

It’s difficult for mere mortals like us to fully grasp the enormousness of the Democrats’ hypocrisy. Put aside all that talk of dissent being the highest form of patriotism. Overlook that Democrats would have upended jerry cans of gasoline and immolated themselves in protest if the Bush administration had asked people to inform on their neighbors. You can even forget that the DNC’s claims are untrue.

But how can we ignore the fact that the world’s most famous community organizer is whining about community organizing?

But wait: It gets better. As of this writing, the entire site was dedicated to “Organizing for America,” with a special page dedicated to “Organizing for Health Care,” where supporters are asked to flood town halls and “make certain your members of Congress know that you’re counting on them to act.”

They only thing they left out is the instruction to leave the Brooks Brothers jackets and swastikas at home.

The reason for the panic is simple. Obama and the Democrats feel entitled to have their way on health care. This sense of entitlement is understandable. They won the election and control everything.

The problem is that Americans don’t like what they’ve heard about the plan, and Obama is incapable of selling, or unwilling to sell, it on the merits (perhaps because he knows the plan will lead to the single-payer system he has long sought but now denies wanting). That’s why Obama spends most of his time either attacking critics or denouncing the status quo.

Simply put: This administration believes it knows best. It feels it is the only legitimate beneficiary of “people power.” It thinks it has a monopoly on democratic organizing. And it is terrified that it will be hobbled if it loses this fight.

So, it just stands to reason that anyone who stands in the way must be a fraud, a puppet, a goon — or even a Nazi.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

© 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Today's Tune: Ray Charles - Mess Around (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

John Hughes, Director of ’80s Comedies, Dies at 59

The New York Times
August 7, 2009

LOS ANGELES — John Hughes, the once-prolific filmmaker whose sweet and sassy comedies like “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club” plumbed the lives of teenagers in the 1980s, died Thursday on a morning walk while visiting Manhattan. He was 59.

The cause was a heart attack, according to a statement from the publicists Paul Bloch and Michelle Bega.

Mr. Hughes turned out a series of hits that captured audiences and touched popular culture — and then flummoxed both Hollywood and his fans by suddenly fading from the scene in the early 1990s. He surfaced sometimes as a writer, occasionally under his pen name, Edmond Dantès, the real name of the Dumas hero in “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

John Hughes in 1990
(Paul Natkin/WireImage)

His seeming disappearance inspired a 2009 documentary, “Don’t You Forget About Me,” by four young filmmakers who went in search of a man who was by then being compared to J. D. Salinger because of his reclusiveness. It became a tribute to Mr. Hughes’s influence on youth culture.

Mr. Hughes, who began his career as an advertising copywriter in Chicago, had been living quietly on a farm in northern Illinois. He is survived by his wife, the former Nancy Ludwig, whom he met in high school; two sons, John and James; and four grandchildren.

John Wilden Hughes Jr. was born on Feb. 18, 1950, in the suburbs of Detroit before moving, at 13, to the Chicago area. His father worked in sales, and he lived in a middle-class, all-American reality that became the mainstay of his films.

“I didn’t have this tortured childhood,” he told The New York Times in a 1991 interview. “I liked it.”

While visiting New York during his advertising days, Mr. Hughes hung around the offices of National Lampoon magazine and was published when he showed a gift for comedy. Once having begun work as a screenwriter, he pursued the craft relentlessly.

In the 1991 interview, he said: “If I’m on a roll, and I finish a script at 3:00, I’ll start another at 3:02.”

Mr. Hughes’ biggest success, in box-office terms, was the “Home Alone” series, of which he was the writer and a producer. The first film, released by 20th Century Fox in 1990, turned the simple tale of a young boy, played by Macaulay Culkin, who was forgotten by his vacationing family, into a monster hit. The film took in more than $285 million at the domestic box office and spawned two sequels.

He had a reputation for discovering and bringing out the best in young actors. In a statement on Thursday, Mr. Culkin said: “I was a fan of both his work and a fan of him as a person. The world has lost not only a quintessential filmmaker whose influence will be felt for generations, but a great and decent man.”

Mr. Hughes’s greatest professional effect came from a series of teen-oriented films he directed in the 1980s, beginning with “Sixteen Candles” in 1984. It was a whip-smart but tender look at coming of age, with Molly Ringwald as a girl whose 16th birthday is forgotten in the whirlwind of her sister’s wedding; it featured emerging actors like Anthony Michael Hall, John Cusack, Joan Cusack and Jami Gertz, among others.

“The Breakfast Club” followed in 1985, with “Weird Science,” immediately behind, in the same year. By then, the troupe of young actors who showed up in films by Mr. Hughes and others who worked in the same vein had expanded to include Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy; they were tagged “The Brat Pack.”

Probably no film so completely captured the arch and almost noxious, yet somehow loveable, quality of Mr. Hughes’s characters as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” The movie, released by Paramount Pictures in 1986, starred Matthew Broderick as a ne’er-do-well high-schooler who spends more energy avoiding the classroom than he might have used inside.

“He can lie, manipulate and con people with inspired genius, especially in the service of a noble cause such as playing hooky,” Nina Darnton wrote of the Bueller character in a less-than-admiring New York Times review.

But the movie took in $70 million at the box office, and wound up 20 years later on an Entertainment Weekly list of the 50 best high school movies of all time, alongside others from Mr. Hughes.

If the magic seemed to fade — Mr. Hughes’s last movie as a director, “Curly Sue,” fell flat in 1991 — he continued to write for the screen. As recently as last year, working as Edmond Dantès, he shared a story credit with Seth Rogen and Kristofor Brown on “Drillbit Taylor,” in which Owen Wilson played a low-budget bodyguard hired to keep a couple of kids from getting pushed around.

Some in Hollywood surmised that he had stepped away simply because, for all his successes, he did not particularly like the film business and its ways. He was known as a stickler for control who often tangled with executives even as he made their companies a fortune.

Yet Mr. Hughes ultimately marked the business so indelibly that his name has become identified with an entire genre: comedies about disaffected youth.

Slide Show
Remembering John Hughes


Hughes was a master of light, right notes

The filmmaker's world was white, comfortably middle-class and suburban. His view encompassed an easy sentimentality, a measured angst, an outrageous sense of fun.


Los Angeles Times Film Critic

August 7, 2009

Filmmaker John Hughes burned brightest in the '80s, when he defined teen angst in terms of the caste system of the suburban high school experience, a thread that others would pick up again and again.

Writer-director John Hughes, right, on the set of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" with stars John Candy and Steve Martin. (Joyce Rudolph / Paramount Pictures)

His films were talky, in a good way. Like the kids whose stories he was telling, he let them ramble. Teen self-absorption was treated with reverence, not ridicule. The world might make fun of them, their classmates, their brothers and sisters too, but never John Hughes.

And a generation of kids and future filmmakers like Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow embraced it.

Hughes, who died Thursday at age 59, was fascinated with the human as outsider. Outsiders like "Pretty in Pink's" Molly Ringwald who just wanted to fit in. And outsiders who couldn't care less: Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller on his legendary day off, Judd Nelson's not quite broken Bender in "The Breakfast Club," Anthony Michael Hall's martini-mixing geek in "Sixteen Candles," all members of the players club before they were 17.

But Hughes' outsiders lived in a different part of town than, say, Francis Ford Coppola's gritty, wrong side of the tracks "The Outsiders." Hughes outsiders were white, comfortably middle-class and probably from one of Chicago's affluent suburbs, where he grew up and returned in the '90s when he'd had his fill of Hollywood. Things were only slightly sad or bad in his films, there were no serious train wrecks -- only feelings got hurt, and the endings were usually happy ones.

He reflected a very specific slice of Americana that like many, I understood. A pop culture filmmaker adored in the heartland, he knew how to hit all the light notes - an easy sentimentality, a measured angst, an outrageous sense of fun. His was a spoon-full-of-sugar kind of filmmaking that was often exactly what I wanted, if not what I needed.

The slights that life hands us was one of his favorite playgrounds. Forgotten birthdays, forgotten kids, forgotten families -- "Sixteen Candles," "Home Alone," "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" -- someone was forever being overlooked.

When you're Ringwald, and a soft, pouty, still awkward 16, it hurts; when you're an 8-year-old screaming terror embodied by Macaulay Culkin, it's the best Christmas gift ever; and when you're John Candy's middle-aged lonely traveling salesman in a life where nothing, including the suit, fits, it's tragic.

For a period of time, Hughes was so dominant -- certainly in the U.S. where he always played best -- that it's hard to believe that he only directed eight films. He wrote 30 others -- the "Home Alones," most notably -- that were produced, 16 of them in the '80s, 13 in the '90s, and contributed characters or ideas to a handful of others.

Of all of his films, there are two that will forever be quintessentially Hughes for me: "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," absolutely swimming in attitude, which captured brilliantly and irritatingly the kind of cockiness that you envy as a teen, hate as an adult, recognize no matter what age you are, and "The Breakfast Club," life deconstructed in high school detention, the archetypes and the anxiety playing out in real time.

By "Curly Sue" in 1991, Hughes had apparently tired of fighting battles with studio executives who second-guessed him.

He left Hollywood behind and headed back to the Chicago area, where he would still dabble in the business from a distance.

But really, Hughes was a creature of the '80s, and if he hadn't left Hollywood, it was on its way to leaving him.

Comedy took on more of an edge, went raunchier, darker, meaner than Hughes ever could.

In the end, like so many of the characters he created, Hughes had become a cinematic memory stream of another time when things didn't seem so bad.I will light 16 candles and remember.

Hughes dead at 59

Director-writer's coming-of-age movies dominated the '80s

By Mark Caro
Chicago Tribune reporter
August 7, 2009

Few filmmakers define an era, a genre and a place like John Hughes did with his '80s comedies often set on Chicago's North Shore.

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986)

He may not have been a critic's darling, but his name became synonymous with a brand of comedy in which young, rebellious, yet good-at-heart characters battle an establishment that seemed to rankle the filmmaker as well. Films such as "The Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Home Alone" took on an iconic status, all while his productions revitalized the local film industry and launched scores of careers.

A reclusive figure who in recent years lived in part on a farm in Harvard, Ill., Hughes, 59, died Thursday of a heart attack while walking in Manhattan, his spokeswoman Michelle Bega said. She said the filmmaker was visiting family in New York.

"I feel like a part of my childhood has died," "Funny People" director Judd Apatow said in a statement. "Nobody made me laugh harder or more often than John Hughes."

Macaulay Culkin, launched to stardom as the burglar-bashing kid in the Hughes-written and produced "Home Alone" (1990), said, "I was a fan of both his work and a fan of him as a person. The world has lost not only a quintessential filmmaker whose influence will be felt for generations, but a great and decent man."

"I am truly shocked and saddened by the news about my old friend John Hughes," said Matthew Broderick, who lived out the ultimate Chicago fantasy as the title character of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986). "He was a wonderful, very talented guy, and my heart goes out to his family."

Other young actors boosted by Hughes included Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Joan Cusack and her younger brother John in "Sixteen Candles" (1984) and Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson in "The Breakfast Club" (1985).

But Hughes' impact when far beyond performers.

"He put Chicago on the map," said Ernie Malik, unit publicist on nine Hughes-produced movies. "Movies had been made in Chicago before the 1980s but not to the extent and in the numbers that John got produced."

Said Chicago Film Office director Rich Moskal: "His films shooting in Chicago spawned an entire generation of film workers. They went on to be wardrobe designers, gaffers, directors of photography, producers and filmmakers themselves."

Born in Lansing, Mich., Hughes was an ad copywriter and creative director at Leo Burnett in Chicago before breaking through with the screenplays to the 1983 hits "Mr. Mom" and " National Lampoon's Vacation." Then working in the Illinois Film Office, Al Cohn remembers the young Hughes coming in and wanting to launch his directing career in the Chicago area.

"It was interesting to watch his rise from just one of a number of people who come into the office to talk about their hopes and dreams to become this icon of teenage films," Cohn said.

Hughes was as prolific as he was successful, working on multiple films a year with what Moskal called "a Midas touch. There was a time where everything he directed, everything he produced, everything he wrote, all the music that he selected to be in his films were nothing shy of hits."

After "The Breakfast Club" came movies he directed ("Weird Science," "Ferris Bueller," "Planes, Trains & Automobiles") and those he wrote and/or produced ("National Lampoon's European Vacation," "Pretty in Pink," "Some Kind of Wonderful"). "Home Alone" grossed almost $300 million domestically, a huge number in 1990.

David Rochester, who lived down the street from where some of the scenes from "Home Alone" were filmed in Highland Park, remembered Hughes describing the new movie.

"He said it would be a great movie, that it would be the kind of movie that would be played over and over again every Christmas," Rochester said. "I thought he had delusions of grandeur. Of course he was exactly right."

Hughes continued working on several projects at once. "He stayed up all night," Malik said.

Melissa Rochester Rosen, 31, was in 7th grade during the filming. She said their house can be seen when Macaulay Culkin is walking down, missing his family. He looks into a home with holiday activity – that's the Rochester house. She even got to appear in the film when a scene needed reshooting but the extras had gone home. Hughes asked her to stand in instead. "It was very exciting," she said. "I felt like I was being directed by John Hughes."

Hughes had a large farm near Harvard, but was rarely seen and was very private, said neighbors Bill and Sylvia Daletski, whose six-acre property adjoined his. They described him as a good neighbor.

The couple never met him but said they once spotted John Travolta out for a morning walk. Hughes had guest homes on his property, they said.

Hughes put on a large 4th of July fireworks display that his neighbors enjoyed watching. "That was the highlight of John Hughes living there," said Sylvia Daletski.

Jennifer Green, artistic director of the Piven Theater Workshop in Evanston, said Hughes gave opportunities to many young Chicago-area actors including, John and Joan Cusack. "A lot of our more illustrious alumni saw some of their first film work in his productions," Green said. "I think when John Hughes came to town to cast, he made a commitment to offer roles to local talent. Some of those people have gone on to become nationally known."

In 1991 and 1992, Hughes was responsible for the screenplays of "Career Opportunities," "Dutch," "Curly Sue," "Beethoven" (under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes) and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York."

Meanwhile, he remained in the Chicago area. "He never played the role of Hollywood superstar," Moskal said. "In fact it was just the opposite of that. His reasons for working and living in Chicago's North Shore were that he did not enjoy the trappings of Hollywood."

But after "Curly Sue" flopped, Hughes began withdrawing and never directed another film despite abortive attempts.

Cohn recalled being location manager on one of Hughes' subsequent projects based on a script called "Chambermaid." It fell apart and eventually became the Jennifer Lopez vehicle "Main in Manhattan." Hughes got a story credit as Edmond Dantes on that one, as he did on the Apatow-produced failed 2008 comedy " Drillbit Taylor."

"Very recently he toyed with the idea of making a film for the 2016 Olympic bid," Moskal said. "He was very interested in doing it. Clearly after all these years he loved Chicago and wanted to create a film to promote that to the world community, but like many of John's recent projects, it stayed in his head and never took hold."

Hughes routinely turned down or didn't respond to interview requests over the past decade, and little is known of how he spent his time. "He was sort of a regular, simple guy and someone who ended up having an interest in trees and cattle and different kinds of livestock," Cohn said. "The few times I saw him in recent years was at Blackhawks games."

"For some reason he walked away," Malik said. "I don't know why. I'm not sure anybody in town does. But I guarantee you there's a stack of scripts sitting in his house that has never seen the light of day, and one wonders if they ever will."

The Associated Press, Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips and freelances reporter Susan Berger, Brian Cox and Andrea Brown contributed to this report.

The movies of John Hughes
John Hughes' teens: Where are they now?

In Memoriam

John Hughes, RIP

By Ben Stein on 8.7.09 @ 6:09AM
The American Spectator

John Hughes was a stunningly talented director, a wildly funny writer, a great friend, a Republican in a town where being a Republican takes some courage. But most of all, he was a poet. He was to the postwar middle class white kid what John Keats was to the age of upheaval during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.

Ben Stein in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

John Hughes had many brilliant insights: his portrayal of the carnage that modern business travel wreaks in men's lives in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" was by far the best evisceration of what deregulation has wrought, and a powerful comment about the loneliness of the life of the working middle-aged traveling man. His understanding of the mindset of the rich pre-teen child -- total paranoia combined with almost Hitlerian fantasies of power and sadism -- was made funny in his "Home Alone" movies. His thought that family is far more of a combined prison and circus than a heaven was brought to hilarious life by his National Lampoon's "Vacation" series.

But the insight that will make him immortal came in his teen movies, "The Breakfast Club", "Pretty in Pink", "Sixteen Candles" and my favorite, the one that changed my life, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". This insight was that the modern American white middle class teen combines a Saudi Arabia-sized reservoir of self-obsession and self-pity with a startling gift for exultation and enjoyment of life. No one had ever thought to note that along with James Dean's sulky self-obsession might also come a shriek of happiness at just being alive. John Hughes -- Republican -- saw that potential, saw that the individual still had the ability to transcend whatever was weighing him or her down and come out leading a parade down Michigan Avenue.

This insight sized up teens perfectly but also ennobled them, which made them -- and all of us -- love him. In a way, he was describing modern man of any age.

There is no one else who can lay a glove on this insight or portray it so magnificently in the young American.

John Hughes was irreplaceable.

- Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Loincloth to Set Parisians Aflutter


The New York Times
August 6, 2009

PARIS — Last week it was announced in Britain that “Me Cheeta,” the comic “autobiography” of Tarzan’s sidekick, now a septuagenarian, was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize. Leave it to the French, meanwhile, to resuscitate Tarzan only to stick him in a semiotic jungle.

A movie poster for "Tarzan and the Leopard Woman," movie poster, 1946.

Photo: Sol Lesser Productions

Edgar Rice Burroughs’s famous ape man is the subject of a summer show at the Musée du Quai Branly here that mixes old comics and film clips with children’s action figures, a stuffed crocodile and the female robot from “Metropolis.” (Don’t ask.)

This being a serious museum, there are a few genuine African totems and shields, which look as out of place in this context as Maureen O'Sullivan did, toting her banana-leaf pocketbook and wearing a pair of homemade pumps, while standing in the bush beside the loinclothed Johnny Weissmuller and two forlorn elephants in the film “Tarzan Finds a Son!”
The show has been wildly popular.

Its organizers cogitate, with Gallic élan, on Tarzan’s proto-environmentalism; his philosophical roots in Rousseau and the 19th-century nudist movement; his literary antecedents in Kipling and H. M. Stanley; and his mythological reliance on the stories of Hercules and Romulus and Remus. The exhibition also makes hay about the first words Tarzan uttered not in ape grunts but the language of civilized men:
“Mais oui,” the young Lord Greystoke said.

And of course there is also the sex angle. “One can expound as much as one likes in scientific speeches about his mythical and universal nature, but one always gets back to the fact that Tarzan is a half-naked guy saving white-skinned young women, lost in the jungle and wearing their party dresses, from the claws of vicious gorillas,” noted Libération, the newspaper, in its review of the exhibition. “It’s all about torrid eroticism.”
So it is.

The show is a mess, truth be told. It has wonderful drawings from bygone comic artists like Burne Hogarth and Hal Foster, and it means to use Tarzan to help dissect how Western pop culture has (mis)interpreted the non-Western “other.” But it’s displayed in cramped galleries at a museum whose theatrical, heart of darkness installation of non-European cultures as diverse and unrelated as Inuit and Cameroonians — in meandering ill-lighted spaces connoting primitive, spooky peoples — is of a piece with the antediluvian ethos of the original Tarzan.

The highborn “killer of beasts and many black men,” as Tarzan unfortunately described himself in “Tarzan of the Apes,” was conceived just before World War I by Burroughs, a former gold miner and cowboy, in a climate of American expansionism, late colonialism and institutionalized racism.

Drawings from a Tarzan comic by Burne Hogarth on display in the exhibit.

Photo: Musee du Quai Branly

Before he died in 1950 Burroughs published about two dozen Tarzan potboilers, his fictional character becoming an increasingly fantastical figure, speaking a dozen languages while battling the teensy Minunians and dinosaurs. An easygoing guy with a fondness for golf who settled in what came to be called, thanks to him, Tarzana, Calif., Burroughs never bothered to set foot in Africa, which is why Tarzan also faced off against Asian tigers and killed lions by wrestling them into a full nelson. As Gore Vidal once phrased it, the author of Tarzan was “not one to compromise a vivid unconscious with dim reality.”

This turned out to make his work like catnip for Hollywood producers who, beginning in 1918, released Tarzan movies more frequently than Burroughs did books. They were the perfect vehicles for parading stars in various states of undress.

“In the first Tarzan movies,” said Charles Tesson, who picked the film clips for the show, “Tarzan wears a tuxedo. After Weissmuller took the role, he becomes a superhero, an abandoned child, an amnesiac, a naïf, pure but strong, très sportif.”

The exhibition’s principal curator, Roger Boulay, stressed how not just Tarzan films but also comics and books became a barometer of shifting political and social standards, in France no less than in America. The blue-blood colonialist defending Africa for white people for years played off against this country’s foreign escapades as well as its anxieties about miscegenation. Expurgated and unexpurgated versions of the comic strip were published here, one with Jane dressed for innocent French youngsters, the other with her in nature’s own to please more seasoned aficionados. An alliance of French Catholics and Communists eventually pushed through a law that, for a while, purged Tarzan from French movie theaters.

“For the Catholics it was the nudity,” Mr. Boulay explained. “For the Communists it was the fact that he was a violent, unemployed aristocrat who ate bananas.”

In America, Tarzan on screen, as he did in some of the later Burroughs books, went the way of late Dick Tracy in the funny pages. By the 1970s Tracy was battling outer space criminals on the Moon in a rocket-powered garbage can. Tarzan vanquished Vikings and ancient Romans and during World War II joined the Foreign Legion to fight the Japanese on Sumatra.

A movie poster from Edgar Rice Burroughs's "Tarzan and the Amazons," 1945, Sol Lesser Productions.

Photo: Musee du Quai Branly

The exhibition ends with a French television advertisement for men’s perfume, directed by the great Jean-Paul Goude, from 2005. A male model joins leopards and monkeys drinking at a watering hole. “Guerlain Homme,” a voice-over intones. “For the animal in you.” It’s a throwback to the Tarzan who hadn’t yet morphed into a time-traveling Superman.

That’s one plausible explanation for the show’s popularity: fondness for a gadgetless hero from the days before “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

There’s also the cachet of the eco-warrior, which the exhibition pushes hardest and which plays well here in France: Tarzan protecting the jungle from greedy commercial interests. But Libération no doubt had it right. The Parisian boys glued the other morning to a video monitor playing a clip from “Tarzan and His Mate” (1934) didn’t seem to be rapt by the concept of environmental preservation.

The movie was the first major instance in America of censorship under the Hays Code, which cracked down on racy Hollywood fare. In this case the outrage was over a skinny-dipping scene: a body-double for O’Sullivan briefly swimming underwater buck naked with Weissmuller.

The boys stared with great scientific interest.

Tarzan turns out to be a man for all times, having swung across the centuries, through eras of colonialism and multiculturalism, austerity and profligacy.

But some things never change.

Slide Show
Tarzan in Paris

Healing Amid the Herd

The New York Times
August 6, 2009

RIBERA, N.M. — Over the last 11 summers Don Imus and his wife, Deirdre, have welcomed nearly 1,000 children with cancer to their cattle ranch here in northern New Mexico for weeklong stays intended to be more work than play.

But this is the first season they have done so since Mr. Imus himself learned that he had cancer. In March a biopsy confirmed that Mr. Imus, the outspoken talk show host, had Stage 2, or intermediate, prostate cancer. Though he was initially advised to begin radiation treatments, he has so far chosen to treat the disease holistically. He has been dutifully ingesting habanero peppers and Japanese soy supplements as part of a regimen partly devised by his wife, a natural foods proponent, and monitored by a urologist at Columbia University Medical Center.

Marc Holm for The New York Times

Don Imus, on horseback, and Deirdre, his wife, encourage Emma Wider during a rodeo at the Imus Ranch.

“The kids want to know why, if I have cancer, I have so much hair,” Mr. Imus, 69, said in a recent interview in the Imus Ranch kitchen, rustling his shaggy, reddish-gray mane.

When asked if he drew strength from his young visitors, he said: “I used to think if I was ever in the kind of shape that some of them are in when they come here, I’d put a bullet in my head. But they don’t do that.”

Mr. Imus’s cancer diagnosis has done more than alter the dynamic at the ranch, where as many as 10 children at a time — most with brain, blood or tissue cancers — must be healthy enough to rise before dawn, muck stalls, ride horses and ultimately compete in a rodeo. His condition has also changed the tone of his syndicated radio show, which he resumed in December 2007 on Citadel Broadcasting and its affiliates, after his firing seven months earlier by CBS Radio and MSNBC over remarks roundly considered racist and sexist.

“Don’t you know I have cancer?” Mr. Imus invariably asks guests on the show these days. He does so more as a self-mocking plea for mercy than sympathy. The other morning he laid his guilt-inducing question on Bob Schieffer, himself a survivor of bladder cancer, who responded in kind.

“You and I have actually talked about it at some length,” Mr. Schieffer, the host of “Face the Nation,” said via phone from Washington, “which shows that you also have dementia.”

Sometimes the on-air conversation has been more professorial, as when Mr. Imus recently spent 10 minutes quizzing Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, about the side effects of his treatment for prostate cancer (including with radioactive seeds) while in office in 2000. “It gives you cold sweats, which are kind of embarrassing, particularly when you’re the mayor of New York City at the time,” Mr. Giuliani said.

One thing Mr. Imus has not done is to use “Imus in the Morning” — heard on about 65 radio stations by more than two million listeners each week, according to estimates by Talkers Magazine — to urge male listeners to be tested.

“I’ve always found it annoying when people who do the weather forecast tell you what to wear,” he explained the other morning, away from his microphone. “Like you couldn’t figure that out.”

He added, “None of us wear those lame yellow wristbands.”

During the four decades he has been on the air Mr. Imus has always used his life as fodder. There was his alcoholism, cocaine addiction and, later, sobriety, as well as his emphysema and the broken ribs and collapsed lung he suffered after falling from a horse in 2000. “It’s my act,” he said.

While talk of illness doesn’t tend to make for great radio, Mr. Imus’s audience appears to be growing. On WABC in New York, the flagship station for Mr. Imus’s radio show, he attracted an estimated 130,000 male listeners ages 25 to 54 each week in the most recent ratings period, in June. That represents a 3 percent increase from the same period a year ago, according to Arbitron.

Most weekday mornings this summer he is broadcasting his show live from a studio at the ranch, beginning at 4 a.m. Mountain Time. (The rest of the year the show, which is also simulcast on RFD-TV, originates in Midtown Manhattan.)

The elevation of Mr. Imus’s cancer to a regular on-air topic represents the second major change in his program in two years. After his firing he pledged to make the discussion of race a staple of his new show, and he has, by including two supporting players who are black — the comedians Tony Powell and Karith Foster.

The Imuses modeled the ranch, which is set on more than 4,000 acres dotted with juniper and pinyon trees, at least partly on the 35,000-acre working cattle ranch in Arizona where Mr. Imus grew up. After establishing the ranch as a nonprofit organization, Mr. Imus raised $40 million in donations for it, some from companies whose names appear like billboards on ranch buildings, like the Aflac Rodeo Arena.

Over the years the couple have contributed $10 million of their own money to the ranch, they said, and Mrs. Imus said they also pay the ranch’s annual administrative expenses, which are more than $250,000. (In 2005 The Wall Street Journal reported that Eliot Spitzer, then the New York attorney general, questioned some personal use of the ranch by the Imuses, but his inquiry concluded with no finding of impropriety.)

To anyone who might imagine the ranch as Neverland on the mesa, the Imuses have a ready retort: a central philosophy is that its young guests not be treated as if they are fragile, or special.

That was made clear to Cory Trout, 15, of Las Vegas, a visitor to the ranch in mid-July as part of a weeklong program not for children with cancer but for those who had lost siblings to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a group for which Mr. Imus has also raised money.

“This is not a good job,” Mr. Imus told Cory just after breakfast, as he stood over the boy’s freshly made bed. “See how your sheet is down to the floor? It needs to be tucked in.”

Soon after, Mr. Imus instructed Javier Rivera, 12, of New Jersey, on the proper way to wear his blue jeans. “Pull up your pants, Javier, or I swear I’m going to put you on the next plane back to Newark,” Mr. Imus said.

Mr. Imus said his holistic regimen appeared to be having a beneficial effect. In initial follow-up tests, key markers — including his PSA levels — had dropped. Although he is forgoing more conventional treatments for now — like other patients, he worries about side effects like impotence (or, as he puts it, “the dead noodle”) — he is not ruling them out.

Among those who said they felt a connection to Mr. Imus’s experience was Natalee Lauro, 13, a recent ranch visitor who learned five years ago that she had a malignant brain tumor. Though her equilibrium is unsteady, she said she had been encouraged by Mr. Imus to enter a ranch relay race, which she won.

“At first he’s really intimidating,” she said by telephone from her home in Mesa, Ariz. “He comes around.”


By Ann Coulter
August 5, 2009

Tardy though they are, we welcome MSNBC to finally joining every major conservative news outlet -- including Fox News, The American Spectator, Human Events, National Review and Sweetness & Light -- in discrediting the idea that President Obama wasn't born in this country and, therefore, is ineligible to be president.

Now the big question: Was Joe Biden born on this planet?

Inasmuch as the "birther" movement was hatched in the station wagon of MSNBC's favorite left-wing fantasist, Larry Johnson, maybe the mainstream media can stop acting as if it's a creation of the Republican National Committee.

Which party contains 99 percent of the people who believe (or believed):

-- O.J. is innocent;

-- Bush shirked his National Guard duty;

-- Sarah Palin's infant child, Trig, was actually the child of her daughter;

-- Justice Antonin Scalia threw the 2000 election to Bush so that his son could get a legal job with the Labor Department;

-- The spectacularly guilty Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed;

-- The Diebold Corp. secretly stole thousands of Kerry votes in 2004;

-- Duke lacrosse players gang-raped a stripper;

-- Bill Clinton did not have sex with "that woman";

-- Heterosexuals are just as likely to contract AIDS as gays;

-- John Edwards didn't have an affair with Rielle Hunter;

-- John Edwards' campaign aide Andrew Young is the father of Rielle Hunter's child.

And as has been recently noted, a 2007 Rasmussen poll showed that 35 percent of Democrats believe Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance, while 26 percent aren't sure ...

Holy mackerel.

Another favorite MSNBC guest, Janeane Garofalo, believes Enron's Ken Lay faked his own death. It's weird that Keith Olbermann didn't ask her about that when she was on his show a couple of months ago, given his sudden interest in stamping out conspiracy theories.

Also trying to revive his failing TV show, MSNBC'S Chris Matthews has been denouncing the birthers on "Hardball" nightly and demanding that every elected Republican who appears on his show do the same.

How many times has Matthews forced Democratic officeholders to denounce Al Sharpton for the Tawana Brawley hoax? Or for that matter, how many times has he forced Sharpton -- a frequent guest on his show -- to admit the case was a fraud?

Sharpton has veto power over all Democratic presidential candidates. Even Al Gore, a former vice president of the United States, was required to kiss Sharpton's ring.

If there ever comes a time when Republican presidential candidates have to get the blessing of the head of the birther movement to run, I'll say: I'm wrong -- Republicans do have as many conspiracy nuts as the Democrats.

Not content with merely humoring their nuts, Democratic officeholders promote conspiracy theories themselves.

In 2003, Democratic presidential candidate and future Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean approvingly cited the left-wing lunacy that Saudi Arabia had warned Bush in advance about the 9/11 attacks. He promised a caller to National Public Radio that, if elected, he would investigate.

In the fall of 2004, Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she believed Bush was holding Osama bin Laden and planned to release him just before the election. (She later claimed she was joking -- a surprise to all three witnesses who heard her say it.)

Sen. Barbara Boxer officially objected to the certification of Ohio's votes in the 2004 election -- on the Senate floor -- and demanded an investigation into the "Diebold stole Kerry votes" conspiracy theory.

And, of course, a Democratic House and Senate actually used official government proceedings to investigate the original nut-job conspiracy theory, the "October Surprise," maintaining that Reagan struck a secret deal with the Iranians not to release the hostages until after the 1980 election.

Now, the only October surprise will come under ObamaCare: Order an MRI in April and get it by ... October -- surprise!

Rosie O'Donnell -- who has headlined many a Democratic fundraiser -- is a prominent 9/11 "truther." She believes the World Trade Center was blown up with explosives, not taken down by terrorists in airplanes.

Most shockingly, the Democrats have a hand-in-glove relationship with Michael Moore, crackpot documentarian, whose "Fahrenheit 9/11" is chock-a-block with demented conspiracy theories, including:

-- the 2000 election was stolen;

-- the Bush family clandestinely spirited the bin Laden family out of the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks; and

-- Bush went to war in Afghanistan, not to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attack, but to help the Unocal Corp. obtain a natural gas pipeline in Afghanistan.

Terry McAuliffe, then chairman of the Democratic National Committee attended the glittering Washington, D.C., premiere of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and emerged endorsing Moore's wacko Unocal conspiracy theory. "I believe it after seeing that," McAuliffe said.

Show me RNC Chairman Michael Steele saying "I believe the birthers" and I'll give 10 percent of my book profits to Air America, raising their profits to -- let's see ... about 10 percent of my book profits.

Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark proudly accepted Moore's endorsement in 2004, and Moore was an honored guest at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, sitting with former President Carter.

What is the likelihood that a birther will be sitting with former President Bush at the 2012 Republican National Convention?

Other Democrats who attended Moore's movie screening included Sens. Tom Daschle, Tom Harkin, Max Baucus, Ernest Hollings, Debbie Stabenow, Bill Nelson, and representatives Charles Rangel and Jim McDermott.

Show me a half-dozen Republican senators attending a birther movie premiere, and I'll pretend to believe that Olbermann went to the Ivy League Cornell.


Uneven Playing Fields

As Colleges Cut Athletics, Title IX Does an Injustice to Men

By H. Clay McEldowney
Thursday, August 6, 2009

With endowments shrinking, donations falling and operating budgets squeezed, colleges and universities face great pressure to cut costs. Athletic departments are an obvious target. But, troublingly, men's sports are disproportionately bearing the brunt.

This year, men's programs across the country have gotten the third-strike call: swimming and soccer at Kutztown University (Pa.); baseball at the University of Northern Iowa; football at Western Washington; wrestling at Delaware State, Portland State and Carson-Newman. MIT, which has one of the largest athletic departments in the nation, eliminated men's teams in gymnastics, ice hockey, golf, wrestling, alpine skiing and pistol.

Even in cases where a women's team was eliminated alongside a men's team -- as happened when baseball and softball were cut recently at the University of Vermont, soccer and volleyball were dropped at the University of Maine, and men's track was cut along with women's swimming and diving at Pepperdine -- the men's teams had the larger roster.

From these wrenching choices an equally difficult question arises: Why are more guys being taken off the athletic field while the women mostly play on?

A big part of the answer is that the federal law governing collegiate athletic opportunity, known as Title IX, is indifferent to economics. Rich schools and poor, large and small, those with high-profile programs or without -- all must abide by the law's strict enforcement regime or face federal investigation, the wrath of trial lawyers or both.

Getty Images

WASHINGTON - JUNE 23: Former tennis champion Billie Jean King (5th L) celebrates as White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett (4th L) speaks during an event to mark the 37th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House June 23, 2009 in Washington, DC. Also attending the event were Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Department of Education Russlynn Ali (L), Assistant Administrator for Education at NASA Joyce Winterton (2nd L), former Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes (3rd L), and President of the National Women's Law Center Marcia Greenberger (R).

Typically, compliance means applying a quota standard called "proportionality" -- where schools must maintain the same ratio of men and women on the playing field as in the classroom. So, when Quinnipiac University tried to cut two men's teams and one women's team earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the school on behalf of the women (the guys were left on the sideline). A federal judge rebuked Quinnipiac and reinstated the women's team. The same day, a third men's team, indoor track, was dropped.

Even in the long, contentious battle over the application of Title IX, there seems to be grudging agreement that a worsening economy makes gender equity a more imposing hurdle. Last fall, the president of the NCAA began warning member institutions that in a troubled economy, eliminating teams may be inevitable. Law professor Erin Buzuvis, a contributor to the "Title IX Blog," explained last November that "no one is denying that Title IX operates once the decision to make cuts has been made."

But as legal action groups and gender activists are riding to the rescue of women's sports, there appears to be no similar savior for men's athletics. Although the law promises equal protection for both sexes, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has so far been silent on the cuts to men's teams. Parents, coaches and athletes would be right to ask: Aren't male athletes facing discrimination if their teams are being singled out?

Duncan wouldn't have to look far to fairly approach the question of allocating roster slots. In 2006, the Education Department offered schools an alternative compliance method: Survey the student body and then provide athletic opportunity based on the students' expressed interest.

Although that method would, at long last, give students a direct say in the way scarce athletic resources are apportioned, the NCAA immediately wrote to its members, warning them not to adopt it. Gender activist groups followed suit, suggesting they would sue schools that attempted a survey. The NCAA's patronizing response to students was that "[it] permits schools to use surveys alone . . . as a means to assess female students' interest in sports."

As many coaches could attest, young female athletes are determined -- perhaps more so than the NCAA imagines. A hearty cheer would surely rise from student athletes if the education secretary were to simply say: Take the survey, and the Education Department will support your choices.
Athletes know that something is out of whack when women's scholarships and roster spots vastly outnumber those of their male teammates in the 15 sports in which both genders compete. Is it too much to ask that men and women should have the same scholarship opportunities in the same sports?

Congress made Title IX law more than 37 years ago. A lot has changed for men and women on campus since 1972. Most colleges are worrying about how to attract and retain more male students, not the other way around. The law was meant to ensure fairness for both sexes, and that is not what is happening.

H. Clay McEldowney is a director of the College Sports Council, a Washington-based coalition of coaches, athletes, parents and fans that seeks to reform Title IX and to promote the student athlete experience.


A Threat in Title IX

How Much Is That Clunker in the Window?

The parable of the crushed clunker.

By Jonah Goldberg
August 05, 2009, 0:00 a.m.

Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas. That may exhaust my French-phrase quota for the year, but it’s worth it. The saying is the title of an essay by 19th-century French economist Frédéric Bastiat and means “that which is seen, and that which is not seen.”

Bastiat’s essay is most famous for the “parable of the broken window,” in which a young boy shatters a shopkeeper’s window and, after some initial outrage, the villagers conclude that the rascal helped the local economy.

Because if no one broke windows, window makers would be out of business, and if window makers were out of business, they wouldn’t buy any more bread or shoes, hurting the bakers and cobblers. So the six francs the shopkeeper must spend for a new window is really a boon to the community.

The problem with this argument can be gleaned from the title of Bastiat’s essay. By counting the money the shopkeeper spends to replace a perfectly good window (that which is seen), we ignore the money he might have spent on something else (that which is unseen). The shopkeeper might have instead dropped six francs on new shoes, a book, or a bonus for his assistant. Those who celebrate the broken window as a generator of growth take “no account of that which is not seen.”

Sorry for the long digression, but the parable of the broken window is worth keeping in mind, or perhaps even worth updating to the parable of the crushed clunker.

This parable is more convoluted, but the upshot is that Uncle Sam pays people to destroy their own cars as long as they use the money to buy a new, more expensive car.

As you’ve no doubt heard, the “cash for clunkers” program gives buyers up to $4,500 of taxpayer money toward the purchase of a new car if they trade in their old cars for vehicles with better gas mileage. The old cars, still roadworthy, are then destroyed just like the shopkeeper’s window.

The thinking behind the program is that the car companies need a boost, Michigan needs a boost, the environment needs a boost (through lower emissions), and Americans need help too.

Unsaid, but just as relevant, is that the authors of the government’s mammoth stimulus plan need some proof that something is being stimulated.

The program’s $1 billion funding evaporated in days rather than months as consumers, most of whom had been waiting to trade in their clunkers anyway, lined up for free cash. Washington is now agog with its successful effort to give out free money.

That Washington is shocked by the news that Americans like getting free money shows how thick the Beltway bubble really is.Like the drunk who only looks for his car keys where the light is good, Washington can only see the economic activity it has created, not the activity it has destroyed.

For starters, who says the smartest thing for people with working cars is to buy new ones? Personal debt is supposed to be a problem, so why not look at this as bribing consumers into taking out car loans they don’t need? Even with the $4,500 subsidy, not all of these customers are going to be paying cash for their new cars. So they’ll be swapping serviceable-but-paid-for cars for nicer cars that are owned by banks.

Besides, maybe some people would be smarter to buy a savings bond or max out their kid’s college fund or — here’s a crazy thought — buy health insurance. But instead they’ve been seduced into spending the equivalent of their six francs on a car they don’t really need.

But, you might say, some buyers surely do need a new car. True. But if they needed a new car, they’d get one anyway, eventually. Indeed, they might already have gotten it, but rationally opted to wait for the program to kick in.

Or maybe they’d have needed to delay the purchase until next year, or buy a cheaper car, possibly even a used car, which will now become more difficult for poor people to find because we are taking all these cheap cars off the market.But at least under these scenarios, they’d be spending their own money.

Under the government’s program, tax dollars are being diverted to people with cheap cars so they can buy expensive ones. That’s just really inefficient wealth distribution, not wealth creation. But government can see it, and that’s all that counts.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

© 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Bard Under the Big Sky

By Bill Croke on 8.5.09 @ 6:07AM
The American Spectator

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks (MSIP) made its annual stop in Salmon, Idaho, last week with an outdoor production of The Tempest, complete with its small but ornate Elizabethan stage set. The weather was fair: one of our golden summer evenings with a whispering breeze through the cottonwoods and views of distant snow-streaked granite peaks. Such a pleasant contrast to the play's opening storminess. ("Down with the topmast! Yare! lower, lower! Bring her to try with maincourse…A plague upon this howling!") The Tempest was likely Shakespeare's last play. It's a bizarre story of exile with characters both human and fantastical interacting on an island, and was based on a shipwreck in Bermuda that the playwright heard about. Scholars also speculate that it's Shakespeare's great retrospective play, in which he craftily leaves hints in the text about his own life and work. And it contains such great lines as "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep."

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks - Missoula, All's Well that Ends Well

Now in its 37th summer touring season, MSIP continues to provide the region with world class theater. Based in Bozeman, Montana, it works out of Montana State University's (MSU) College of Arts and Architecture, and may be America's most hardworking theater troupe by virtue of the sheer geographical scope of its travels. This year in 74 performances between June 17 and September 6, it will log thousands of miles and play before 30,000 people in 59 different venues, mostly public parks in all the major cities and small towns of Montana (average population, 7,000), and adjacent corners of Wyoming and Idaho -- even one date in the tiny farming-burg of Beach, North Dakota ("You sunburnt sicklemen, of August weary; Come hither from the furrow and be merry"). On the occasional rainy evening a performance might be held in a local high school gym or other appropriate indoor venue.

Every summer tour features two plays, performed on alternate nights with a few exceptions. This year they are the aforementioned The Tempest and Two Gentlemen of Verona. Last year it was Macbeth and All's Well That Ends Well. I saw the lightly comic latter and was disappointed to miss the majestically bloody former. Some year's the Shakespeare play alternates with another from the classic theater canon (Molière, Sheridan, Shaw, et al.). Over the last few years I've seen performed in Salmon and Cody, Wyoming, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, Love's Labour's Lost, The Winter's Tale, George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House, Molière's Tartuffe and last year's All's Well That Ends Well. I don't consider myself a theater snob, but that list is pretty good for a guy who lives 150 miles from the nearest Interstate highway, and who hasn't walked down Broadway in 20 years. All thanks to MSIP.

This year the MSIP troupe consists of ten young actors mostly in their 20s (three are female), who during the rest of the year are associated with big city repertory companies such as the Seattle Shakespeare Company and Steppenwolf in Chicago. But for that grueling touring schedule their summer spent on the road with MSIP could be seen as a lark played in the spectacular milieu of the Northern Rockies. ("With your sedged crowns and ever-harmless looks, Leave your crisp channels and on this green land answer your summons.") That backdrop does indeed make all the world a stage.

As in Shakespeare's day, the actors play multiple roles with frequent costume changes, and do the stage setup and breakdown themselves. When the still-clapping crowd was dispersing after The Tempest, some schmoozed with audience members while others were already busy dismantling the stage and impromptu dressing room partitions, and loading it into a nearby truck and trailer.

Mark Kuntz, actor (he played Caliban) and Company Manager, thanked the approximately 200 people who attended the play, and then made what was obviously his nightly pitch for financial support for MSIP. "Our revels now are ended!" he happily exclaimed. And went on: "Damn the economy; full speed ahead!" and "At least gas prices are lower than last summer!" He gave out website information, and reminded us of the handy self-addressed donation envelope found in our programs. There was also a wooden donation box next to the stage and people sauntered by it on the way to the parking lot. I dropped $5 into the slot.

Thank you, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. Please come back next summer, because when you do, "The air breathes upon us here most sweetly."

Bill Croke, formerly of Cody, Wyoming, is a writer in Salmon, Idaho.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Today's Tune: Erasure - Oh L'Amour (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Oh L'Amour
Broke my heart
Now I'm aching for you
Mon amour
What's a boy in love
Supposed to do

Looking for you
You were looking for me
Always reaching for you
You were too blind to see
Oh love of my heart
Why leave me alone
I'm falling apart
No good on my own

Oh L'Amour
Broke my heart
Now I'm aching for you
Mon amour
What's a boy in love
Supposed to do

Why throw it away
Why walk out on me
I just live for the day
For the way it should be
There once was a time
Had you here by my side
You said I wasn't your kind
Only here for the ride

Oh L'Amour
Broke my heart
Now I'm aching for you
Mon amour
What's a boy in love
Supposed to do

No emotional ties
You don't remember my name
I lay down and die
I'm only to blame
Oh love of my heart
It's up to you now
You've tore me apart
I hurt inside-out

Oh L'Amour
Broke my heart
Now I'm aching for you
Mon amour
What's a boy in love
Supposed to do

Oh L'Amour
Broke my heart
Now I'm aching for you
Mon amour
What's a boy in love
Supposed to do

Oh L'Amour
Broke my heart
Now I'm aching for you
Mon amour
What's a boy in love
Supposed to do

Ah, That Jersey Shore: The Fish Are Really Biting

The New York Times
August 1, 2009

Resistance is futile, really. From the moment you hear the words “The New Jersey Shore became a killing ground,” or “Klein pulls the arm out of the dead shark’s throat and rushes it to the hospital,” you’re hooked.

Shark Week has arrived on Discovery Channel, providing the usual feast of hapless swimmers and simulated gore. This year’s edition (the 22nd!) offers six new programs, beginning with the not so imaginatively titled “Blood in the Water” on Sunday. That two-hour film dramatizes the events of the summer of 1916, when four people were fatally attacked by sharks in New Jersey waters.

Those maulings would eventually inspire Peter Benchley’s novel “Jaws” and Steven Spielberg’s film of the same title, the template for Shark Week and all other depictions of beady-eyed, constantly moving predators. “Blood in the Water” is no “Jaws,” but it’s a highly competent television docudrama that relates its story clearly and with more than a little suspense.

But then it’s hard to go wrong with this kind of material. As vacationers flock to the Jersey Shore during a July heat wave, a swimmer is killed at Beach Haven, and five days later another dies at Spring Lake, the bottoms of both his legs bitten off. Among the animals blamed for the violence are giant sea turtles and oceangoing mackerel; sharks, never known to attack this far north, are further down the list.

Eventually scientists identify the culprit as a shark (or sharks), but the knowledge is of no use in preventing the summer’s most terrifying incident: the death of a young boy and then of a man searching for the boy’s body in Matawan Creek several miles from the ocean. This in turn leads to a paroxysm of shark hunting that employs nets, harpoons, guns and dynamite.

Running parallel to the story of severed limbs and befuddled marine biologists is an account of sensationalist journalism. As the attacks mounted, shark headlines screamed from the front pages of newspapers. This part of the tale serves only to highlight the shell game that Discovery has been playing for years: exploiting the queasy fear that sharks inspire while noting in passing how rarely they attack. “Blood in the Water” is nearly over when we’re told that there has been only one more death by shark off New Jersey in the 93 years since July 1916.

“Sharkbite Summer” on Tuesday takes this cheerful double-dealing even further. It mocks the news media coverage of what was called in 2001 the summer of the shark — one priceless clip shows Larry King staring into the camera and asking, “Are sharks rebelling?” — while vividly recreating the handful of highly publicized attacks that led to the frenzy. Again, we’re told late in the hourlong program that the “summer of the shark” actually included a lower-than-average number of attacks nationwide.

The facts and figures about shark-human interaction can build to a point where you really should feel silly watching these shows. You have a better chance of being hit by lightning or killed by a dog than of being attacked by a shark. But facts don’t need to stand in the way of horror movie fantasies and cool marine cinematography.

One particularly jolting bit of film shows a great white rocketing to the surface and knocking a seal many feet into the air, the better to snack on it when it comes back down. The seal footage, shot near South Africa, is so good that pieces of it show up in both “Blood in the Water” and “Shark After Dark,” a straightforward science documentary on Thursday night.

“Shark After Dark” features scientists swimming with their subjects as they investigate their nocturnal feeding habits; residents of the Seattle area will be interested to know that well inside Puget Sound, quite large sixgill sharks come to the surface for dinner within 150 feet of shore. Shark Week aficionados may be more excited that the program features Caterina Gennaro, the veteran underwater photographer and pole dancer., via Discovery Channel

Lemon sharks in a scene from “Shark After Dark,” a documentary on Thursday night.

The double nature of Shark Week is captured perfectly at the end of “Sharkbite Summer,” when the narrator’s admission that “the actual chance of being attacked by a shark remains remote” is immediately followed by a shot of a funeral procession. You can never be too careful, apparently. Among the tips you can glean from these programs for avoiding that extremely unlikely attack: don’t go swimming with your dog (a shark might mistake it for a big struggling fish) and try to keep your heartbeat down — sharks can sense the electricity. And that’s an actual fact.

Time To Go, Grandma!

By Patrick J. Buchanan
August 03, 2009

With "controlling costs" a primary goal of Obamacare, and half of all medical costs coming in the last six months of life, "rationed care" takes on a new meaning for us all.

London's Daily Telegraph reported Sunday that the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, [email them] known by its Orwellian acronym NICE, intends to slash by 95 percent the number of steroid injections, such as cortisone, given to people who suffer severe and chronic back pain.

"Specialists fear," said the Telegraph, "tens of thousands of people, mainly the elderly and frail, will be left to suffer excruciating levels of pain or pay as much as 500 pounds each for private treatment."[Patients forced to live in agony after NHS refuses to pay for painkilling injections, by Laura Donnelly, Aug 2 2009]

Now, twin this story with the weekend Washington Post story about Obamacare's "proposal to pay physicians who counsel elderly or terminally ill patients about what medical interventions they would prefer near the end of life and how to prepare instructions such as living wills," and there is little doubt as to what is coming. (Talk Radio Campaign Frightening Seniors Provision for End-of-Life Counseling Is Described by Right as 'Death Care', by Ceci Connolly, August 1, 2009)

The Post portrayed the controversy as stoked by "right-leaning radio" using explosive language like "guiding you in how to die" and government plans to "kill Granny."

Yet, is not the logical purpose of paying doctors for house calls to the terminally ill, whose medical costs are killing Medicare, to suggest a pleasant and early exit from a pain-filled and costly life?

Let us suppose the NICE plan in Britain is adopted. And an 80-year-woman, living alone, with excruciating persistent back pain, is visited by a physician-counselor. What is he likely to advise? What conclusion would Grandma be led to by a doctor who sweetly explains what treatment she may still receive, what is being cut off, and what her other options might be?

What other options are there?

Examples of how to "die with dignity" are at hand.

Three weeks ago, Sir Edward Downes, the world-renowned British orchestra leader, who was going blind and deaf, and his wife of 54 years, who had terminal cancer, ended their lives at a Zurich clinic run by the assisted suicide group Dignitas. They drank a small amount of liquid and died hand in hand, their adult children by their side.

This is the way of de-Christianized Europe. For years, doctors have assisted the terminally ill in ending their lives. Indeed, it has been reported that indigent, sick and elderly patients who could not make the decision for themselves had it made for them.

In America, we have a Death with Dignity Act in Oregon and such suicide counselors as the Hemlock Society, which itself took the cup in 2003. Now we have Compassion & Choices, which counsels the elderly sick on a swift and painless end. Before he took to ending the lives of patients who were not terminal, but sick and depressed, Dr. Kevorkian had his admirers. Not infrequently, one reads of nursing homes where the infirm and elderly have been put to death.

Beneath this controversy lie conflicting concepts about life.

To traditional Christians, God is the author of life and innocent life, be it of the unborn or terminally ill, may not be taken. Heroic means to keep the dying alive are not necessary, but to advance a natural death by assisting a suicide or euthanasia is a violation of God's commandment, Thou shalt not kill.

To secularists and atheists who believe life begins and ends here, however, the woman alone decides whether her unborn child lives, and the terminally ill and elderly, and those closest to them, have the final say as to when their lives shall end. As it would be cruel to let one's cat or dog spend its last months or weeks in terrible pain, they argue, why would one allow one's parents to endure such agony?

In the early 20th century, with the influence of Social Darwinism, the utilitarian concept that not all life is worth living or preserving prevailed. In Virginia and other states, sterilization laws were upheld by the Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said famously, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

In Weimar Germany, two professors published "The Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Life," which advocated assisted suicide for the terminally ill and "empty shells of human beings." Hitler's Third Reich, marrying Social Darwinism to Aryan racial supremacy, carried the concepts to their logical if horrible conclusion.

Revulsion to Nazism led to revival of the Christian ideal of the sanctity of all human life and the moral obligation of all to defend it. But the utilitarian idea—of the quality of life trumping the faith-based idea of the sanctity of life—has made a strong comeback.

And the logic remains inexorable. If government intends to "bend the curve" of rising health care costs, and half of those costs are incurred in the last six months of life, and physician-counselors will be sent to the seriously ill to advise them of what costs will no longer be covered, and what their options are—what do you think is going to be Option A?


- Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, reviewed here by Paul Craig Roberts.