Saturday, February 13, 2010

For Conservative Movie Lovers: Werner Herzog, Timothy Treadwell, and ‘Grizzly Man’ Part 1

For Conservative Movie Lovers: Werner Herzog, Timothy Treadwell, and ‘Grizzly Man’ Part 1

by Leo Grin
February 13, 2010

Timothy Treadwell loved bears. In the name of loving them, with a stalwart sense of the innate sanctity of his mission, he continuously abused them for thirteen years. Time and again from 1989 until 2003 he invaded their territory — startling them, scaring them, angering them. Interrupting their hunting, their mating, their sleep, their play, he would coo sweet nothings at them in a flamboyant, high-pitched whine. He gave the savage beasts silly names like Lulu, Cupcake, Daisy, Ginger, Booble, and Mr. Chocolate, robbing them of their natural dignity. He firmly believed he was their protector, and unleashed torrents of self-righteous hatred upon anyone who dared question his treating of one-thousand-pound predators as if they were cute cuddly teddy bears. Handsome and charismatic, yet narcissistic and naïve, filled with honest caring, yet a smooth liar thoroughly at home in delusion, he became a constant danger both to himself and to everything he loved, ever on the verge of instigating a sudden volcanic eruption of nightmarish unintended consequences.

In short, Timothy Treadwell was a perfect liberal. He loved bears, with all his heart.

And then one ate him.

The story of Treadwell (1957-2003) is told in Grizzly Man (2005), a film destined to be remembered long after the likes of Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Munich, Capote, and the rest of that cinematic annus horribilis are blessedly forgotten. Directed by the fearless and unflinching German filmmaker Werner Herzog, it’s also an intensely conservative film, in its conclusions if not in its subject.

When Grizzly Man was released, film critic Monohla Dargis astutely dubbed Treadwell “a kind of Spicoli of the backwoods.” Born Timothy Dexter, he grew up a slightly wayward and troublesome middle-class boy in Long Island, and migrated to Los Angeles at twenty to search for fame and fortune. His life was soon in a struggling-actor tailspin due to a regular diet of partying, drinking, and drugs, but a motorcycle trip to Alaska to see bears changed him almost overnight into a man with a purpose and a love greater than life itself. Treadwell spent the next decade visiting the bears every summer, fancying them like little children. Eventually he created Grizzly People, a non-profit organization dedicated to bear conservation and education, with an especial focus on schoolchildren, God help them.

With the passing of years came increasing notoriety. Nature channels filmed specials about the exploits of this man who dared to live among bears without weapons, and magazines like People gave him glowing write-ups. He was featured on NBC’s Dateline and The Rosie O’Donnell Show. On Tom Snyder’s program, he told wild stories about poachers he had driven off who were, “like poster men from the NRA” stalking bears with “machine guns,” “shotguns,” and “high-powered rifles.” One time, during an appearance on The David Letterman Show, he was asked (and, in hindsight, incorrectly answered) a question that now takes on an absurdly tragic cast:

Timothy Treadwell on David Letterman:
YouTube -- click here to watch in full-screen

Treadwell was aware of the dangers of bears on a superficial level, but eventually he refused to use defenses of any kind to protect himself, including such non-lethal and widely successful deterrents as pepper spray or electric fences. Always his self-absorbed Christ complex carried him past his fears and assured him that his was a special life, and that if he died by the claws of a bear it would be as a martyr to all that is good in the world.
Treadwell saw himself as a protector, an educator, and a savior. “If there were a god,” he says on one of his video tapes with self-satisfaction, dwelling on the nobleness of his spirit and actions, “he’d be very, very pleased with me.” In the last year of his life, such was his self-created, family-friendly celebrity that Disney asked him to host a live-action introduction to their 2003 cartoon Brother Bear.

The trouble was, all of his vaunted expertise and benevolence was a lie. Treadwell said he was there to protect the bears — but they were already in an official sanctuary, and according to Nick Jans (author of The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears) they were now so hearty and safe that there were “damn herds of them, thicker than anywhere else on earth, and their numbers seemed to be increasing.” Treadwell claimed repeatedly that the Alaskan parks were rife with poachers, when in actuality there wasn’t a single recorded instance of an illegally harvested bear in the park’s history. He cleverly sponged donations for his charity from ex-hippie housewives, idealistic students, and gullible movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, but Grizzly People wasn’t even registered as an official non-profit, and no real scientific research was being accomplished there. Donors thought they were giving to a reputable organization deeply involved in “saving the bears,” when in actuality they were simply financing a surfer dude’s yearly Alaskan vacations.

In addition, Treadwell frequently found himself on the wrong side of park authorities, bear experts, and even Alaskan locals who had helped him repeatedly gratis, only to have him return their kindness by biting the hands that fed him. He once shamelessly passed off a picture of an innocent man as that of a poacher in his organization’s newsletter, and his incessant loony eco-moralizing quickly made him a pest to rangers, tour guides, and vacationing sightseers. “He was a con artist,” says one of the businessmen Treadwell sold down the river with his false poaching stories. Forest Bowers, a state biologist, adds: “Frankly, he seemed like he’d done too much acid.”

As the clear and present danger of his outrageous behavior became notorious throughout the bear conservation community — approaching bears, touching them, goading them — sensible people began to react.
When Sterling Miller, a state bear biologist and president of the International Bear Association, wrote to Treadwell warning him of his risky actions and the dangers they posed, Treadwell responded that if killed he would, “be honored to end up as grizzly shit.” As Nick Jans writes in his book on Treadwell, Miller read this and thought that, “Given his attitude, I believed it wouldn’t be long before he would be so honored.” At the same time he was violating basic park laws and breaking every rational rule of behavior, putting both himself and anyone foolish enough to stay near him at risk, Treadwell was spending his winters traveling to schools and sanctimoniously preaching bear safety to kids.

Women — a gender known for, among other peculiarities, lavishing marriage proposals on serial killers — fell all over Treadwell, frequently buying his bear-expert shtick hook, line, and sinker. The lucky ones got to travel up to Alaska with him to ooh and ahh at the cute little bears up close. His last girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, met him at a lecture in Colorado, and being a highly educated liberal (master’s degree in molecular biology) made her perfectly suited to fall for lies and nonsense. For the folly of believing in his expertise she would die alongside him, her final screams captured on a video camera which she turned on just as the fatal attack commenced.

The bitter truth is that if Treadwell had done a single sensible thing that didn’t smack of eco-liberalism run amok, he would still be alive today. Most bear attacks happen in enclosed woodland spaces where a human accidentally surprises them — so Treadwell decided to camp in the midst of a well-traveled thicket of ursine trails and tunnels he called the Grizzly Maze, with one oft-used path situated mere feet from his tent. (Alaska Fish and Game biologist Larry Van Daele said later, “A person could not have designed a more dangerous location to set up a camp.”) Bears become far more desperate for food as summer leads into autumn, so Treadwell stayed in the field past September and into October, during a year when the berry crop failed and the bears were far hungrier and more irate than usual. Bear attacks are often sudden and overwhelmingly brutal, prompting the invention and use of protective countermeasures such as pepper spray or electric fences, yet Treadwell went out of his way to render himself completely defenseless, by proxy rendering equally defenseless the poor lady with him.

In the end, bears are akin to sharks on land: sure, you can probably get along for awhile without getting munched, and occasionally you can feel powerful and in control when you bravely stand your ground and hit them on the nose to drive them away. But if one truly sets its sights on you as its next lunch, you’re in deep trouble. Treadwell ignored this, choosing to treat them like treasured pets, and he paid not only with his life, but with the lives of an innocent woman and two of the very animals he professed to love (the bears were shot dead during the recovery of his remains). The unintended consequences of good intentions strikes again, as they always do wherever people subscribe to a view of the world that embraces fickle feelings at the expense of reality.

His friends in the “bear conservation” cottage industry reacted to his death with pretty lies of their own. A new edition of Treadwell’s book has his partner at Grizzly People, Jewel Palovak, saying that Treadwell’s gruesome demise was “the culmination of his life’s work” and that he “died in the field with the bears he loved,” as if perhaps from a falling boulder or a bolt of lightning rather than from nature red in tooth and claw. Among the pro-Treadwell progressives goofy conspiracy theories abound: maybe Treadwell and his girl were slain by poachers, with the bears only shambling in to devour the evidence after the fact. In his book, Nick Jans tells of hearing crazy stories that Treadwell’s enemies may have “air-dropped a rogue bear into the camp area” or “baited bears in with food or alluring scents strewn around the camp, driving the animals into a killing frenzy.” Crazy, 9-11 truther-type stuff (especially given the existence of the final video tape with its horrifying soundtrack).

Bear scientists and biologists were up in arms over Treadwell, and thought he was up to much harm and no good. Jans cites in his book an anonymous bear expert, who said of Treadwell’s camerawork (much of which appears in the film Grizzly Man):

The videos are all of outrageous behavior. . .completely unethical from a scientific point of view. . .a bunch of cheap theatrics, the most absurd, cockamamie crap. . .I don’t want to disrespect dead people, but what he was doing was illegal and absolutely selfish. . .we have no right to impose our own stupid little personal mission on the universe. . . he had nothing at all to offer except his touchy-feely Beanie Baby approach. . . that might work with fifth graders, but you can’t advance a good science agenda on public relations and hyperbole.

That same anonymous biologist concludes that “These deaths were predictable and totally preventable. We can go right down the list of errors he made. It didn’t have to happen. He was warned and warned and warned and warned. Yet he negated, defied, and ignored all common sense.” Hard to argue with that: in the known history of Alaska, Treadwell and his girlfriend became the first recorded fatalities associated with a bear.
Like liberals everywhere, Timothy Treadwell created problems and then hawked himself as the solution. Along the way, he became a major pain in the ass to regular law-abiding citizens. His do-goodism likely altered the behavior of an entire population of bears, causing them to get too used to humans and too fearless about approaching them in the future. His death led directly to the demise of the woman in his charge and two of the bears he loved so dearly. And all for what? Jans spells out the grim facts:

[The Bears’] world, even in Katmai National Park, is brutal. Only one in ten cubs lives to adulthood; starvation, accidents, and cannibal predation by large male bears take the rest. Even females, worked into a rage, have killed both their own and other bears’ cubs. Fights are common enough that many bears, especially larger males that battle for dominance in mating, personal space, and feeding areas, carry horrific scars.

Brutal. . . cannibal. . . rage. . . horrific. These are the lovely, kind creatures which Treadwell fell into a dance of death with, and vowed to protect against the evil humans who had created and maintained a protected nature reserve in which they could live as peacefully as their bestial natures allow.

So when, after his death, it came time for someone, somehow, to sum up Treadwell’s legacy on film, the choice of filmmaker had a certain inevitability, just like his ultimate end in the wild. Timothy Treadwell — obsessed, possessed, mad with his sense of importance and mission — got exactly the interpreter his lunacy demanded. He got Herzog.

Next Saturday in For Conservative Movie Lovers, the life of Werner Herzog, arguably the single most interesting man ever to become a movie director.


The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears by Nick Jans. Of the several books written about Treadwell, this one is by far the best, which is why it was so heavily referenced for this article: a poetic, well-reasoned and eminently fair analysis of the tragi-comedy of errors that was the life and death of the Grizzly Man. If you find yourself interested to learn more about these events, it’s the one to read.

Among Grizzlies: Living With Wild Bears In Alaska by Timothy Treadwell and Jewel Palovak. A typically self-serving autobiography filled with half-truths, deft evasions, and heaping piles of pure fantasy. When combined with the truth as expressed in both Herzog’s Grizzly Man and Jans’ book, it becomes a horrifying look into the mind of a hopeless liberal forever lost to reason and common sense. I love how the authors give everyone who might be even remotely conservative a profanity-laced good-ole-boy speaking voice. And shake your head in disbelief at Treadwell’s cringe-inducing “conversations” with the bears:

Booble, the world must know of your ways. I will fight for your survival. One day people will understand and stop destroying your homes and killing your kind. I’ll return next year and protect you, Booble.


Grizzly People: Leonardo DiCaprio has apparently given up his desire to play Treadwell in a feature film, but his name is still being used to hawk the Treadwell charity, which as far as I can tell has never done a single thing for bears other than give some feel-good lectures anthropomorphizing them to middle-school students.

Trailor: Grizzly Man:
YouTube -- click here to watch in full-screen

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Posted Feb 13th 2010 at 7:08 am

What I Saw at the Tea Party Convention

The attendees want politicians who will deliver on Obama's promise of clean and open government.

The Wall Street Journal
FEBRUARY 13, 2010

There were promises of transparency and of a new kind of collaborative politics where establishment figures listened to ordinary Americans. We were going to see net spending cuts, tax cuts for nearly all Americans, an end to earmarks, legislation posted online for the public to review before it is signed into law, and a line-by-line review of the federal budget to remove wasteful programs.

These weren't the tea-party platforms I heard discussed in Nashville last weekend. They were the campaign promises of Barack Obama in 2008.

Mr. Obama made those promises because the ideas they represented were popular with average Americans. So popular, it turns out, that average Americans are organizing themselves in pursuit of the kind of good government Mr. Obama promised, but has not delivered. And that, in a nutshell, was the feel of the National Tea Party Convention. The political elites have failed, and citizens are stepping in to pick up the slack.

Associated Press

Angela McGlowan enters the GOP primary to represent Mississippi's First District.

This response has brought millions of Americans to the streets over the past year, and brought quite a few people to the posh Opryland Resort (with its indoor waterfalls and boat rides, it's like a casino without the gambling) for the convention.

Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry—and they are—but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when ne w-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause.

A year ago, many told me, they were depressed about the future of America. Watching television pundits talk about President Obama's transformative plans for big government, they felt alone, isolated and helpless. That changed when protests, organized by bloggers, met Mr. Obama a year ago in Denver, Colo., Mesa, Ariz., and Seattle, Wash. Then came CNBC talker Rick Santelli's famous on-air rant on Feb. 19, 2009, which gave the tea-party movement its name.

Tea partiers are still angry at federal deficits, at Washington's habit of rewarding failure with handouts and punishing success with taxes and regulation, and the general incompetence that has marked the first year of the Obama presidency. But they're no longer depressed.

Instead, they seem energized. And surprisingly media savvy. William Temple donned colonial dress knowing that it would be an irresistible lure to TV cameras. When the cameras trained on him, he regaled interviewers with well-informed discussion of constitutional history. Other attendees were hawking DVDs, books, and Web sites promoting tea-party ideals, while discussing the use of tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for political organizing.

Press attention focused on Sarah Palin's speech, which was well-received by the crowd. But the attendees I met weren't looking to her for direction. They were hoping she would move in theirs. Right now, the tea party isn't looking for leaders so much as leaders are looking to align themselves with the tea party.

It's easy to see why. A recent Investor's Business Daily/TIPP poll found that three-fourths of independent voters have a favorable opinion of the tea party. This enthusiasm, however, does not translate into an embrace of establishment Republicanism. One of the less-noted aspects of Mrs. Palin's speech was her endorsement of primary challenges for incumbent Republicans, something that is already underway. Tea partiers I talked to hope to replace a lot of entrenched time-servers and to throw a scare into others.

One primary challenger is Les Phillip. He is running against Republican Parker Griffith in Alabama's fifth congressional district. Mr. Phillip, a black businessman and Navy veteran who immigrated with his parents from Trinidad in his youth, got his start in politics speaking at a tea-party protest in Decatur, Ala., last year.

"Somebody had to speak," he told me, "so I stepped up." He did well enough that he was invited to speak at another protest in Trussville, Ala., after which things sort of snowballed. Of the tea partiers, he says, "Their values are pretty much mine. I live in a town in North Alabama where there are plenty of blacks driving Mercedes and living in big houses. Only in America can someone come from a little island and live the dream. I've liked it, and that's what I want for my children. [But] I saw the window closing for my own kids."

Mr. Phillip has gotten tea-party endorsements, as well as one from Mike Huckabee. The Republican establishment is siding with Mr. Griffith, who only recently switched from Democrat to Republican. That support is perhaps understandable as realpolitik, but it's not the sort of thing that sits well with tea partiers, who think that too much realpolitik is what rendered the Republican Party corrupt and ossified over the past decade.

Mr. Phillip isn't the only black tea-party candidate in the deep south—Angela McGlowan, who spoke in Nashville, has entered the Republican primary in Mississippi's first district—and primary challenges aren't the only way activists are exerting influence. Cincinnati tea-party activists are running candidates for Republican precinct executive in every precinct in their area—if elected, these candidates will help set policy platforms within the GOP and have sway over which candidates the party endorses. Activists in other states are doing the same. Adam Andrzejewski, who ran in the Republican primary for governor in Illinois, told me he will run candidates in each of Illinois' precincts, and Utah activists are turning that state's convention-based nominating system into a trial for incumbent Republican Sen. Robert Bennett. Plus, tea-party activists used their convention to launch a political action committee.

If 2009 was the year of taking it to the streets, 2010 is the year of taking it to the polls. With ordinary Americans setting out to reclaim the political process, it's likely to be a bumpy ride for incumbents of both parties. I suspect the Founding Fathers would approve.

Mr. Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee. He covered the National Tea Party Convention for, an Internet television network.

Why Obama Can't Drop Health Care Reform

By SusanAnne Hiller
February 12, 2010

What the GOP fails to realize is that President Obama is fighting so hard on health care reform because the issue, for him, is finishing the work of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement. Obama has some influential company in this belief.

In 2007, the Sacramento Bee covered Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson:

"There really are two Americas when it comes to health care -- the fully insured, primarily white America and the disproportionately uninsured minority America," Halvorson wrote. "More than half of the total uninsured people in this country are minority. That fact alone should make the need to cover everyone in America a pure ethical imperative. This issue is not about economics -- it is about equality. Universal coverage should be the next major civil rights issue for this country to face."

Halvorson also wrote an article in 2007 equating health reform to the "unfinished business of the Civil Rights agenda." Halvorson discusses the disparities between the races and health care coverage and states:

If we considered no other issue than racial and ethnic disparities, this nation's leadership -- like the leadership of a number of states -- should be moving this country down the path to an American form of universal coverage as quickly as possible. There is no more vital or meaningful way for us to honor and extend the great legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Why should we care about what Halvorson says? This is the same George Halvorson who has met with Obama and has had several meetings in 2009 with key figures in health care, including:

March 27 - Meeting with Keith Fontenot, who manages the financial resources of government agencies related to health.

June 5 - Meeting with Peter Orszag, director of the CBO.

July 23 - Meeting with Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).

July 24 - Meeting with Sarah Fenn, White House assistant.

Additionally, Halvorson was the only insurance executive to meet with Kathleen Sebelius.

And just how far off is Halvorson from MLK's legacy correlation? Most of the last years of Martin Luther King have been lost -- especially worth noting because most of his speeches were recorded. MLK challenged the nation's priorities during his final years, as noted in this article:

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" -- including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

This point is further dwelt upon by Obama in an NPR radio interview where he stated that the Supreme Court did not go far enough into wealth redistribution and economic justice.

Moreover, MLK appeared to question his own race-relations understanding, as dissected by Michael Eric Dyson in 2003, where he writes:

As King told journalist David Halberstam, "For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of the society, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values." For King, this recognition was not a source of bitterness but a reason to revise his strategy. If one believed that whites basically desired to do the right thing, then a little moral persuasion was sufficient. But if one believed that whites had to be made to behave in the right way, one had to employ substantially more than moral reasoning.

In addition, Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, also confirmed that MLK's public perception is quite different and "anesthetized" as compared to the real MLK. About three minutes into this interview, Bond reveals that MLK was a critic of capitalism and a proponent of socialism and wealth redistribution. This point is further confirmed in the 2004 article from Mary Starrett.

Furthermore, as documented in a little-remembered interview with Playboy in 1965, MLK reiterated his call for social and economic justice through a $50 billion payout from the federal government.

PLAYBOY: Along with the other civil rights leaders, you have often proposed a massive program of economic aid, financed by the federal government, to improve the lot of the nation's 20,000,000 Negroes. Just one of the projects you've mentioned, however -- the HARYOU-ACT program to provide jobs for Negro youths -- is expected to cost $141,000,000 over the next ten years, and that includes only Harlem. A nationwide program such as you propose would undoubtedly run into the billions.

MARTIN LUTHER KING: About 50 billion, actually -- which is less than one year of our present defense spending. It is my belief that with the expenditure of this amount, over a ten-year period, a genuine and dramatic transformation could be achieved in the conditions of Negro life in America...

Obama is disingenuous when he says he seeks GOP input, as Republicans have twice introduced their version of health reform (here) and reintroduced it in late January 2010. He continuously says the GOP has not offered any ideas or a plan for health care reform, but he changes his story when he's face-to-face with the GOP. The GOP must grasp that when Obama states that "[h]ope and change have been the causes of my life," he is not lying. He will not change course or come to the realization that his policies are destroying the private sector and bankrupting the country, as some pundits predict.

When you look at health care reform, each political party is looking through different glasses; their visions and the goals of reform are polar opposites. The Democrats want a Medicare-for-all type of reform, with the federal government controlling the entire U.S. health care system and using mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth; while the Republicans simply base their reform on free-market principles, tort reform, and interstate competition.

Additionally, Obama and the Democrats have been very consistent on their goal of a single-payer health care system and the elimination of the private insurance industry.Obama's policies reflect who he is; they are the vehicles that masquerade as hope and change, which are the mechanisms for social justice and economic justice -- "meaningful legislation" through wealth redistribution. And now, through health care "reform," Obama will attempt to finish the job of applying positive liberties (what the government can do for you), ultimately attempting to forsake the Constitution, which is a charter of negative liberties (what the government cannot do to you), to apply the final judgment of the Civil Rights movement.

Getting our groupthink on

The Orange County Register
2010-02-12 10:18:01

A man asks for a plastic bag at the supermarket checkout. Next thing you know, his head's slammed against the counter, and he's being cuffed by the Green Police. "You picked the wrong day to mess with the ecosystem, plastic boy," sneers the enviro-cop, as the perp is led away. Cut to more Green Police going through your trash, until they find ... a battery! "Take the house!" orders the eco-commando. And we switch to a roadblock on a backed-up interstate, with the Green Police prowling the lines of vehicles to check they're in environmental compliance.

Photo courtesy of Audi

If you watched the Super Bowl, you most likely saw this commercial. As my comrade Jonah Goldberg noted, up until this point you might have assumed it was a fun message from a libertarian think-tank warning of the barely veiled totalitarian tendencies of the eco-nanny state. Any time now, you figure, some splendidly contrarian type – perhaps Clint lui-même in his famous Gran Torino – will come roaring through, flipping the bird at the stormtroopers and blowing out their tires for good measure. But, instead, the Greenstapo stumble across an Audi A3 TDI. "You're good to go," they tell the driver, and, with the approval of the state enforcers, he meekly pulls out of the stalled traffic and moves off. Tagline: "Green has never felt so right."

So the message from Audi isn't "You are a free man. Don't bend to the statist bullies," but "Resistance is futile. You might as well get with the program."

Strange. Not so long ago, car ads prioritized liberty. Your vehicle opened up new horizons: Gitcha motor running, head out on the highway, looking for adventure ... . To sell dull automobiles to people who lived in suburban cul de sacs, manufacturers showed them roaring round hairpin bends, deep into forests, splashing through rivers, across the desert plain, invariably coming to rest on the edge of a spectacular promontory on the roof of the world offering a dizzying view of half the planet. Freedom!

But now Audi flogs you its vehicles on the basis that it's the most convenient way to submit to arbitrary state authority. Forty years ago, when they first began selling over here, it's doubtful the company would have considered this either a helpful image for a German car manufacturer or a viable pitch to the American male.

But times change. As Jonah Goldberg pointed out, all the men in the Audi ad are the usual befuddled effete new-male eunuchs that infest all the other commercials. The sort of milksop who'll buy the TDI and then, when the Green Police change their regulatory requirements six weeks later, obediently take it back to the shop and pay however many thousand bucks to have it brought it into compliance with whatever the whimsical tyrant's emissions regime requires this month.

Let's turn to an item from The Philadelphia Inquirer. A young American with a white-bread name ("Nick George") and a clean-cut mien returns from Jordan to resume his studies at Pomona College in California, and gets handcuffed and detained for five hours by U.S. Immigration and Philly police. Why? Well, he had Arabic-language flash cards in his pocket. Also, upon his return to the United States, his hair was shorter than on his Pennsylvania driver's license. "That is an indication sometimes," explained Lt. Louis Liberati, "that somebody may have gone through a radicalization."
Really? As Nick George's boomer mom remarked, once upon a time long hair was a sign of radicalization. But now it's just a sign that you're an all-American spaced out doofus who'll grow up to congratulate himself for driving an Audi TDI.

At any rate, the coiffure set off a Code Red alert, and Nick George found himself being asked: "How do you feel about 9/11?"

According to the Inquirer's Daniel Rubin, "He said he hemmed and hawed a bit. 'It's a complicated question,' he told me by phone." However, young Nick ended up telling his captors, "It was bad. I am against it."

My, that's big of you.

Take it as read that the bozos at the airport called this one wrong. The problem is not that Nick George, his radical haircut notwithstanding, is a jihadist eager to self-detonate on a transatlantic flight. The problem is that he is an entirely typical American college student – one for whom 9/11 is "a complicated question." After all, to those reared in an educational system where the late Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States" (now back in the bestseller lists) is conventional wisdom, such a view is entirely unexceptional. It's hardly Nick's fault that the banal groupthink of every American campus gets you pulled over for secondary screening when you're returning from Amman.

America can survive a few psychotic Islamic terrorists flying planes into skyscrapers. Whether it can survive millions of its own citizens mired in the same insipid conformo-radicalism as Nick George is another matter.

If you think "conformo-radicalism" is a contradiction in terms, well, such is the way of the world. It was reported last week that as many as a dozen men have been killed in disputes arising from karaoke performances of Frank Sinatra's "My Way." Surely, bellowing out "I did it my way" to Frank's backing track in a karaoke bar is the very definition of not doing it your way, but it's marginally less pathetic than the song's emergence in post-Christian Britain as a favorite funeral anthem: For what is a man? What has he got? If not himself, then he has not? Nothing sums up your iconoclastic individualism than someone else's signature song, right?

That's Nick George: "9/11? I do it my way." That's the metrosexual ninny in the Audi ad: "Thinking the way everyone else thinks has never felt so cool."
The good news is, as in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," there are still a few holdouts. The Washington Post ran a remarkable headline this week: "Europe Could Use Its Own Tea Party." Underneath David Ignatius went through the obligatory metropolitan condescension toward America's swampdwelling knuckledraggers before acknowledging that the Continent's problem was that there was no similar populist movement demanding fiscal sanity from the governing class.

He's right. I've been saying for months that the difference between America and Europe is that, when the global economy nosedived, everywhere from Iceland to Bulgaria mobs took to the streets and besieged Parliament, demanding to know why government didn't do more for them. This is the only country in the developed world where a mass movement took to the streets to say we can do just fine if you control-freak statists would just stay the hell out of our lives, and our pockets. You can shove your non-stimulating stimulus, your jobless jobs bill, and your multitrillion-dollar porkathons. This isn't karaoke. These guys are singing "I'll do it my way" for real.

But it's awfully late in the day. The end is near, we face the final curtain, and it's an open question whether the spirit of the tea parties can triumph over the soporific, sophomoric, self-flattering conformism of that Audi ad: Groupthink compliance has never felt so right!


Friday, February 12, 2010

The Author Who Aced Hollywood

Dennis Lehane has had three novels made into movies. Remarkably, none were ruined

By Michelle Kung
The Wall Street Journal
FEBRUARY 12, 2010

Paramount Pictures

Novelist Dennis Lehane and actor Leonardo DiCaprio on the set of 'Shutter Island.'

Practically all novelists who have seen their books adapted for the screen have had their souls ripped apart at least once. Not so with Dennis Lehane, whose novels "Mystic River" and "Gone, Baby, Gone" were turned into well-regarded films by directors Clint Eastwood and Ben Affleck, respectively. "I'm so aware that I'm out in a minefield, but I just haven't stepped on a mine yet," says Mr. Lehane, a movie freak himself. "It's difficult, because Hollywood is mostly mines and there's only a little soil."

Next Friday, director Martin Scorsese will debut his take on Mr. Lehane's pulpy 1950s noir "Shutter Island," which stars Leonardo Di Caprio as a paranoid U.S. Marshal investigating a disappearance at a mental hospital.

The Wall Street Journal: How have you been so fortunate in who makes these movies?

Mr. Lehane: A lot of it has been luck, and some of it has been a very specific desire to only work with people at a very high quality level. So people like Clint and ["Gone Baby Gone" producer] Alan Ladd Jr. I think Ben did a great job on the film, but I'm not going to say that I was so wise that I knew he would be a great director his first time out. I came to the project through Alan, who produced "Blade Runner" and "Braveheart," for God's sake. With quality people, in the worst case scenario, if you don't hit a home run, you'll at least hit a triple.

What was it like dealing with Scorsese?

For the first time in my life, I met somebody who not only knew more about movies than me, but knew vastly more about movies than me. Not only had I not seen things he was throwing out at me, which is rare, but he knew of films that I haven't even heard of, which is unheard of. He was shocked that I'd never seen the "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," which he was sure was an influence, and "Time Limit," the only feature Karl Malden ever directed. When I said that "Manchurian Candidate" was an inspiration, he just said, "Oh, that's obvious."

"Shutter Island" has a more cinematic tone than your other books. What films influenced it?

Definitely "The Wicker Man," the 1973 version. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," because of what it was doing with allegory. I wanted the book to have a real pulpy feel. Marty really got the tone; you can tell by the actors' dialogue, which is not the dialogue of people in the 1950s, but rather the dialogue of how people spoke in 1950s movies. To throw in some books, "Wuthering Heights" and Patrick McGrath's "Asylum" were titles I thought about a lot. To be honest, the critical reaction to "Mystic River" freaked me out a little—there's a part of me that's so contrarian that I thought, if they got it, I must have done something wrong. So I had to do something that's a bit back to my punkier roots.

You have a cameo in "Mystic River" as the mayor. Do you generally enjoy being on film sets?

I don't hang around film sets for the most part because a) they're incredibly boring, and b) a novelist is as useful on a film set as a giraffe. Plus, I like having the illusion that everyone else in the audience does. On "Mystic River," I was on the set all the time, and I've never been able to watch the movie as an audience member—I'm always remembering something random, like where I was sitting on a given day. It's funny, on "Gone Baby Gone," Ben asked me if I wanted to be in a scene one day I was on the set. I was starving at the time, so I had to choose between a burger or being a walk-on. I was really hungry; you can guess what happened.

What's the status on a film adaptation of your historical novel "The Given Day?"

Sam Raimi's working on it. I believe he's hiring a screenwriter as we speak. I'm a huge fan of "A Simple Plan," which I think is one of the most underrated films of the last [15] years, and came out before "Spider-Man" blew him into the stratosphere. So I'm totally down with him. I'm also just finishing up the sixth book in the Patrick Kenzie & Angela Gennaro series, my first in nearly 11 years.

Write to Michelle Kung at
A Scene From 'Shutter Island"0:44

Watch a clip from "Shutter Island," about a woman who escapes from a mental institution; starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson. Video courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Secession in the Air

by Patrick J. Buchanan

No, it is not 1860 again.

But with all the talk of the 10th Amendment, nullification and interposition, states rights and secession -- following Gov. Rick Perry's misstatement that Texas, on entering the Union in 1845, reserved in its constitution a right to secede -- one might think so.

Chalk up another one for those Tea Party activists who exploded in cheers when Sister Sarah brought up the dread word in endorsing Rick Perry in the primary.

Looking back in American history, however, these ideas, these sentiments, decried as insane inside the Beltway, were once as American as "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere."

Protesters walking towards the United States Capitol during the Taxpayer March on Washington (12 September 2009).

"I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical," wrote Thomas Jefferson to James Madison from Paris in January 1787, about Revolutionary War Capt. Daniel Shay's anti-tax rebellion in Massachusetts.

In the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, both of these founding fathers sanctioned the idea that states could interpose their own sovereignty and nullify acts of Congress. Both were enraged by the Alien and Sedition Acts of John Adams and the Federalists, written into law to combat sedition during the undeclared naval war with France.

On taking office, President Jefferson declared the acts unconstitutional, refused to prosecute those charged and freed the imprisoned writers.

In 1814, Timothy Pickering, another veteran of the revolution and secretary of state to both George Washington and Adams, was a force behind the Hartford Convention, which argued for New England's secession and reuniting with Great Britain. Massachusetts opposed Madison's War of 1812 that had caused the British blockade that destroyed their trade and prosperity.

The war's end and Jackson's victory at New Orleans, however, aborted the Hartford movement and finished off the Federalists forever.

In 1832, it was Vice President John Calhoun who inspired South Carolina to vote to nullify the Tariff of Abomination that was killing the cotton-exporting South and enriching Northern manufacturers. To the chagrin of Madison, Calhoun invoked his and Jefferson's Virginia and Kentucky resolutions in defense of Carolinian defiance.

In 1845, it was Massachusetts again. Ex-President John Quincy Adams declared that admission of Texas to the Union as a slave state might constitute grounds for secession and civil war.

With Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 and Republicans, the Northern party, assuming power, South Carolina, Georgia and the Gulf states seceded.

But not until after Fort Sumter, when Lincoln called for volunteers to march south and crush the rebellion, did Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas secede, rather than remain passive or participate in a war on their kinfolk.

Unlike the issues of yesteryear that tore the Union asunder, Tea Party issues are not sectional but national. Yet, they are rooted in a similar set of beliefs -- that the federal government no longer serves their interests, but the interests of economic and political forces that sustain the party in power.

In 1860, the South saw power passing indefinitely to a new regime, a Republican Party that represented high-tariff industrialists and New England radicals and abolitionists who despised the agrarian South and celebrated the raid on Harper's Ferry by the terrorist John Brown, who had sought to incite a slave uprising, such as had occurred in Santo Domingo.

What called the Tea Party into existence?

Some are angry over unchecked immigration and the failure to control our borders and send the illegals back. Some are angry over the loss of manufacturing jobs. Some are angry over winless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some are angry over ethnic preferences they see as favoring minorities over them.

What they agree upon, however, is that they have been treading water for a decade, working harder and harder with little or no improvement in their family standard of living. They see the government as taking more of their income in taxes, seeking more control over their institutions, creating entitlements for others not them, plunging the nation into unpayable debt, and inviting inflation or a default that can wipe out what they have saved.

And there is nothing they can do about it, for they are politically powerless. By their gatherings, numbers, mockery of elites and militancy, however, they get a sense of the power that they do not have.

Their repeated reappearance on the national stage, in new incarnations, should be a fire bell in the night to the establishment of both parties. For it testifies to their belief and that of millions more that the state they detest is at war with the country they love.

The secession taking place in America is a secession of the heart -- of people who have come to believe the government is them, and not us.

Obama's problem, like the Bushes' in 1992 and 2008, is that one thing these folks are really good at is throwing people out of power.

- Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, "The Death of the West,", "The Great Betrayal," "A Republic, Not an Empire" and "Where the Right Went Wrong."

Who's to Blame?

Freedom Watch

By Walter E. Williams from the February 2010 issue of The American Spectator

In Federalist Paper 45, James Madison, the father of our Constitution, explains, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected.” Other founders gave similar assurances about the limitations that the constitution set on the federal government. If our founders could see today’s federal government, it would be unrecognizable to their vision. In fact, their vision has been turned upon its head, so that the powers of the state governments are “few and defined” and those of the federal government “are numerous and indefinite.”

James Madison

Who is to blame for a federal government that spends a third of our income, regulates most every aspect of our lives, and has snuffed out the personal liberty envisioned by our founders? It is tempting to blame politicians whom we elect and send to Washington. I shared that view until a luncheon conversation I had with the late Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina during the 1980s.

Part of our conversation was about crop subsidies that I had often criticized in my nationally syndicated column. Sen. Helms said that he agreed with me 100 percent. Then he asked me to tell him how could he remain senator from North Carolina and vote against crop subsidies. He said that if he voted against crop subsidies, North Carolinians would run him out of office and elect someone else whom I’d find worse than he.

My conversation with Sen. Helms was an epiphany of sorts: how reasonable is it for us to ask or expect a politician to commit what he deems to be political suicide? A politician’s goal, before all others, is to get elected to and remain in office. The way he accomplishes that is suggested by Henry Louis Mencken’s description of an election: “Gov ernment is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.” To the extent Mencken is right our problem is identified. It’s not our politicians who are to blame for our Leviathan government and subsequent loss of liberties. It is the American people.

Government has no resources of its very own. Moreover, there is no Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus who gives the government resources. The recognition that government has no resources of its very own forces us to recognize that the only way Congress can give one American one dollar is to first, through intimidation, threats, and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American through its agents at the taxing authorities. Politicians do precisely what we elect them to office to do: take the rightful property of one American and give it to another.

That is not a complimentary description of our fellow Americans, but it is the reality. If you don’t believe it, imagine there is a senatorial candidate running for office in your state. He tells the people that he plans to heed the Constitution. Therefore, he will not fight to bring his constituents highway construction funds, aid to higher education, farm and business subsidies, welfare, and other federal expenditures not enumerated in the Constitution. He would never be elected. The most tragic thing is that the citizens of the state would be acting wisely, because if he does not bring home the bacon, it does not mean that his constituents will pay lower federal income taxes. All it means is that citizens of some other state will get the money instead. Once legalized theft begins, it pays for everyone to participate. Those not participating will wind up holding the short end of the stick.

If one asks the question: Which way are we headed, tiny steps at a time—toward more liberty or toward greater government control of our lives? The answer is unambiguously more government control of our lives. What can be done? To recover our liberty requires at the minimum putting Washington back to where it was from 1787 to 1920, when it spent only 3 percent of the GDP, except during times of war, as opposed to today’s more than 30 percent of GDP. A constitutional amendment limiting federal spending to, say, 10 percent of the GDP would be a good start.

Walter E. Williams is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University.

Film Reviews: 'The Wolfman'

'Wolfman' a strange beast

New York Post
February 12, 2010

Benicio Del Toro as a hairy psycho who roams the land on a deranged murder spree while driven by a monstrous disease? I thought this movie was called “Che.”

No, it’s “The Wolfman,” though Del Toro again crosses the sea to rescue an island nation’s peasants (who wind up wishing he’d never gotten on a boat).

B. Del T. is actor Lawrence Talbot, a Shakespearean thespian working the New York stages called home to England by a letter from his brother's girlfriend (Emily Blunt) informing him that his brother's gone missing. Once Lawrence arrives, though, his frosty dad (Anthony Hopkins) informs him that he needn't have bothered -- the cherished sibling's been torn apart by a savage man-beast. Lawrence resolves to stay until the killer is found, but wandering the forest at night in the presence of a bloodthirsty murder machine turns out not to be as smart as you'd think.

As a story, "The Wolfman" is a strange beast. Think of another popcorn movie in which you'd have a relatively happy ending if only the hero killed himself in Act 2. Yet the movie is pungent with atmosphere, laying down a thick fog of creepy Victorian murk, with tight action scenes and without the cheesy one-liners and would-be hipness of "Sherlock Holmes," which takes place at the same time, 1891. Still, the story can never quite sink its claws into you.

Our shaggy protagonist -- this Chia Pet "Incredible Hulk" -- is neither hero nor villain. Make him full-on evil, like Dracula or the Mummy, and you've got a cool monster movie. Make him a richly tortured soul searching for a cure or at least some self-control, like the Hulk or Frankenstein's creature, and you've got tragic potential. This movie can't even give wolfie a genuine love story. Blunt asks him, "What's it like in New York?" and it's like every other awkward first date.

The supposed villains -- such as a Scotland Yard detective (Hugo Weaving -- him again?) are merely trying to save innocent lives, a fact even Dogbreath implicitly acknowledges.

Yet the best scenes are nastily effective. Perhaps the best is one set in a morally polluted "Elephant Man"-styled London where Lawrence, a prisoner at a mental hospital, comes in for some harsh reprogramming by a Dr. Strangelove-like shrink. But even in this case, high-grade visuals conceal a story flaw: Why would the doc think werewolfiness is all in Lawrence's mind when an entire village has witnessed the wolfman getting down to business?

Like buffalo meat, "The Wolfman" is a little too lean for its own good. Who is Lawrence, really? What is the measure of his anguish? A movie longer than 90 minutes might have had time to explain. We don't even get a backstory about the silver bullets. All the villagers are simply aware that this is the only way to kill a werewolf, as if they all looked it up on Wikipedia.

The story would be more exciting if it were a matter of the wolfman outsmarting himself, arranging to be chained up at every full moon and trying to stay ahead of the police long enough to find a cure -- but, as the Gypsies who lurk in the forest spewing ancient wisdom tell us, lycanthropy is a one-way street.

Oh, there's one little mystery to be solved, but it's so simple that even Marmaduke could have sniffed it out -- plus there's no reason for Lawrence not to have known the truth all along. So Lawrence is left with one not-all-that-challenging task to follow through on.

But if you're not in a thinky mood, director Joe Johnston stages the climax more than adequately, with much snarling beastiness. When in fire, set fire to the set? Works for me. As a spooky midnight movie, "The Wolfman" is worth curling up with.

The Wolfman

‘Wolfman’ is a howling good time

By Ty Burr, Boston Globe Staff
February 12, 2010

AwROOOOoooo! What are dignified, award-worthy thespians like Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt, and Sir Anthony Hopkins doing in a piece of old-school hokum like “The Wolfman’’? Having the time of their lives while trying to keep a straight face. The movie is by no means good but it’s surprisingly enjoyable: a misty, moody Saturday-matinee monster-chiller-horror special that hits the same sweet spot for moviegoers of a certain age (cough) as those snap-together Frankenstein model kits from the late 1960s. You can practically smell the Duco cement.

Of course, the Wolfman was always the poor relation of the Universal Studio horror crew. The Frankenstein monster and Dracula got there first and had defining stars in Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi; 1935’s “Werewolf of London’’ had the dull-as-dirt Henry Hull. (Nifty transformation scene, though, and points for inspiring Warren Zevon.) It was only with 1941’s “The Wolfman’’ that movie lycanthropy got a face: poor, hulking Lon Chaney Jr., who always suggested a football player who’d been forced to take over the family watchmaking business. That first “Wolfman’’ isn’t a very good movie, either, so it’s not like the new one is sullying hallowed ground.

On the contrary, director Joe Johnston (“Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’’) and writers Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self, working from Curt Siodmak’s 1941 script, treat the hairy old cliches with reverence. Set in 1891 in the fictional hamlet of Blackmoor, England, the new “Wolfman’’ lets the fog machines rip from frame one, and every time an offscreen wolf howls you may find yourself giggling uncontrollably.

In an inspired casting touch, Benicio del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a traveling actor returning to his ancestral manse to bury his brother (Simon Merrells) and confront the family demons. Since del Toro already looks like the missing link - he has a hairline lower than Butch Patrick on “The Munsters’’ - this gives the makeup team only half the work to do.

Hopkins staggers merrily around as the unfathomably decadent Sir John Talbot, cradling a gun as if he were re-enacting his post-stroke scenes from “Legends of the Fall.’’ With tremulous conviction, Blunt plays Gwen Conliffe, the brother’s fiancée who’s drawn to the tormented Lawrence after he’s bitten one eldritch evening and starts staring fixedly at her neck. Since the original film’s Maria Ouspenskaya is long dead - not that that would have stopped her from chewing the scenery - Geraldine Chaplin has been drafted to play the aged Gypsy woman Maleva, issuing dire warnings and asking Gwen, “Vill you condemn him or vill you set him free?’’

One caveat: Because this is the 21st century and the multiplex circus demands blood, the new “Wolfman’’ is trendily gory. The violence erupts in brief, visceral spasms rather than prolonged wallowing, and I was cheered to see the Wolfman tear loose a victim’s liver in one scene, like a dog going straight for the Liv-a-Snaps. Mostly, though, Johnston busies himself with atmosphere and mood; this is a more faithful updating of Universal horror tropes than the recent “Mummy’’ desecrations, and it has its very real, if goofy, pleasures.

The transformation scenes come courtesy of makeup effects legend Rick Baker, who doesn’t dwell on the details as he did in 1981’s “An American Werewolf in London.’’ They’re shown off best in the movie’s strongest scene, in which Talbot is trussed to a chair in a medical amphitheater, surrounded by Victorian doctors curious to see what happens when the full moon rises. (The payoff is delicious - for Lawrence.) As with all monster movies, though, the more you see the sillier it gets, and the climax of “The Wolfman,’’ with two Oscar-winning actors in fur masks going at it tooth and talon, plays like a tussle at the pound.

Del Toro, sadly, is a bit of a dud in the title role, reciting his ornate period dialogue in an embarrassed monotone. Or maybe he’s just channeling Lon Chaney Jr. Hard to say. “The Wolfman’’ knows the old horror classics had pure pulp running through their veins, and it honors those cheap thrills with gusto. This isn’t a great movie - it’s just a good dog.

Ty Burr can be reached at For more on movies, go to

The Wolfman

February 10, 2010

"The Wolfman" avoids what must have been the temptation to update its famous story. It plants itself securely in period, with a great-looking production set in 1891. Gothic horror stories seem more digestible when set in once-great British country houses and peopled with gloomy introverts, especially when the countryside involves foggy moors and a craggy waterfall. This is, after all, a story set before the advent of modern psychology, back when a man's fate could be sealed by ancestral depravity.

The film's opening and closing shots are of the full moon, which is correct. An early exterior shows Chatsworth in Derbyshire, perhaps the grandest of all English country houses. Inside it is derelict and unkempt, inhabited by the sinister old Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) and his faithful manservant Singh. Gas was well known as a means of illumination in 1891, and indeed electric lights were not uncommon, but Sir John makes do with flickering candles carried from room to room, the better to cast wicked shadows.

Sir John's son Ben and his fiancee Gwen (Emily Blunt) were living there until recently, when Ben was savagely killed. Gwen writes to Ben's long-estranged brother Lawrence (Benicio Del Toro), an American actor who is appearing in London in "Hamlet" and indeed is holding poor Yorick's skull when we first see him. Lawrence arrives in a foggy, chilly dusk of course, and his voice echoes in the vast lonely mansion before his father emerges from the shadows.

I love stuff like this. The gloomier and more ominous the better. (There is a silent classic named "The Fall of the House of Usher" that actually has dead leaves scuttling across a mansion's floor.) Lawrence views his brother's body, which seems to have made a good meal. Meanwhile, down at the obligatory local pub, the conversations of the locals center on a strange beast marauding in the district. In the 19th century, a pub served as the evening news.

More plot you do not require. What you might like to know is that "The Wolfman" has been made with care by Joe Johnston, and is well-photographed by Shelly Johnson and designed by Rick Hendrichs. The music by Danny Elfman creeps around the edges. Del Toro makes Lawrence sad, worried, fearful, doomed. It's not just the loss of his brother. It's the earlier loss of his beloved mother. The family manse is haunted by his memories. His father, Sir John, however, is played by the bearded Anthony Hopkins as a man holding up perhaps better than you might expect. And he's well turned-out, especially for a man who lives almost in the dark.

The film has one flaw, and faithful readers will not be surprised to find it involves the CGI special effects. No doubt there are whole scenes done so well in CGI that I didn't even spot them, but when the werewolf bounds through the forest, he does so with too much speed. He would be more convincing if he moved like a creature of considerable weight. In the first "Spider-Man" film, you recall, Spidey swung around almost weightlessly. Adding weight and slowing him down in the second film were some of the things that made that sequel great. The werewolf moves so lightly here he almost cries out: Look! I'm animated!

I am not sure of the natural history of wolf men. Is the condition passed through the blood? Apparently. How exactly does one morph from a man into a wolf? By special effects, obviously. The werewolf has much less pseudo-scientific documentation than the vampire. I understand why he sheds his clothes when he expands into a muscular predator. What I don't understand is how he always succeeds in redressing himself in the same clothes. Does he retrace his path back through the dark woods by moonlight, picking up after himself?

In any event, "The Wolfman" makes a satisfactory date movie for Valentine's Day, which is more than can be said for "Valentine's Day." Truer love hath no woman than the woman who loves a wolf man. And vice versa, ideally.

Cast & Credits

Lawrence Talbot- Benicio Del Toro
Gwen- Emily Blunt
Sir John Talbot- Anthony Hopkins
Maleva- Geraldine Chaplin
Inspector- Hugo Weaving
Hoenneger- Antony Sher

Universal presents a film directed by Joe Johnston. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker and David Self. Running time: 103 minutes. Rated R (for bloody horror violence and gore).

The Wolfman: A Howling Good Flick

It's a monster movie done the old-fashioned way — with no apologies and plenty of scary moments.

by John Boot
February 11, 2010

He’s a man. He turns into a wolf. He likes to rip people down to juicy, throbbing red cutlets. What more do you require in a movie?

The latest “Wolfman” movie, starring Benicio Del Toro as the four-footed terror of the forest, comes to us amid howls of bad buzz. Mid-February has become the official dumping ground for movies, originally envisioned as summer blockbusters, that didn’t quite pan out — movies like Ghost Rider, The Pink Panther, and He’s Just Not That Into You.

The Wolfman was supposed to come bounding and roaring into theaters back in 2008 but was sent back to the movie veterinarian to nurse its reported wounds.

What wounds? The movie being released in theaters is fast, vicious, scary fun. It doesn’t waste our time with a lot of psychological exploration of Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro), the son of a British nobleman who moved to America to work as an actor and get away from his father (Anthony Hopkins). Called home to England when his brother’s girl Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt, who has lately made a specialty of playing Victorian ladies, including Victoria herself in The Young Victoria) informs him that his brother has gone missing in the woods, Lawrence learns that his brother has in fact been mauled to death by a toothy beast of no known species.

The local gypsies, who have seen this sort of thing before, insist it wasn’t their pet bear that did it, while the muttering villagers swear that there’s a curse in the air — one that can only be cured by the brisk introduction of silver bullets.

Resolving to see for himself, Lawrence steps out into the bleary night — and is himself attacked by the wolfman. His father realizes that Lawrence is going to turn into a wolf by the light of the next full moon.

Universal, which pretty much wrote the book on monster movies, has selected no single template for its ongoing series of revivals. The Mummy and its sequels were comic adventures filled with not-always-sharp one-liners and played along the lines of Indiana Jones, but King Kong was a mournful epic and even a love story. The Wolfman stakes out a middle ground that is closest to the original spirit of these movies, which were meant to shock and disturb.

The Wolfman isn’t cuddly. He’s a demon spirit who leaps out at you in the night, never asking you to consider him a victim. With that in mind, the director Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III) keeps to a minimum the amount of screen time between wolf attacks. This movie spends almost as much time tramping through the cursed woods as The Blair Witch Project.

The big added element that was much less prominent in The Wolf Man of 1941 by Lon Chaney, Jr. (which was not the first “Wolfman” picture but is still the best) is the daddy issues Lawrence Talbot has been carrying with him since he was a boy. As the dad, Anthony Hopkins doesn’t much look like Del Toro but has the creepy authority of a man who demands to be obeyed. Yet Hopkins doesn’t overplay his hand, maintaining an aura of solemn mystery about just what haunts this fellow in his crumbling wreck of a country pile.

I could have done without the now-obligatory-in-every-blockbuster scene of political allegory — Lawrence gets committed to a mental hospital in London where he undergoes a kind of waterboarding, as though we’re supposed to think that al-Qaeda’s animals should be treated a little more humanely — but the transformation sequences are fully convincing, and shot through with agony as Lawrence’s bones grow and creak. Okay, so there is something a little silly about a familiar actor’s eyes being visible in a face that becomes thickly covered with shag carpeting, but the way the wolfman flings himself in every direction with no objective except ripping into everything in sight is pretty cool.

The Wolfman has some subplots, such as one about a zealous Christian minister who preaches that the creature has been sent from hell, and a love story develops between Lawrence and Gwen. But the movie doesn’t seriously make the case that the religious types are wackjobs for being threatened by the marauding animal, or that a love affair between a he-beast and the local lovely has much of a chance to work out.

It’s a monster movie done the old-fashioned way — with no apologies.

John Boot is the pen name of a conservative writer operating under deep cover in the liberal media.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

London's Islamic Radicals Speak Out

[Click on article title to view CBN's video "London Terror Hub". - jtf]

By Erick Stakelbeck
CBN News Terrorism Analyst
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Great Britain recently raised its terror alert to "severe" following reports that al Qaeda was plotting new attacks.

But Britain may be facing an even greater threat from within -- one the British government helped to create.

CBN News recently traveled to London to interview a number of leading Islamic radicals who have settled there with the full knowledge of the British government.

Meeting: Hate preacher Abu Qatada (left) with car bomb terrorist Yasser Al-Sirri.

All Eyes on London

Just one year before attempting to blow up an airliner over Detroit, Christmas Day bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab studied engineering at University College London.

During his stay there, he networked with known Islamic radicals. Security sources believe he may have linked up with al Qaeda.

Abdulmutallab is just one of many Islamic terrorists with ties to London. Some live there with help from the state.

One example is Yasser al-Sirri, who faces a death sentence in Egypt.

Then there is Anjem Choudary. To date, he has not been charged with terrorism, but his pro-jihad views have led some to call him Great Britain's most hated man.

"Many people love the idea of jihad, you know?" Choudary told CBN News. "And they want to engage in it."

A radical Islamist can find a little bit of everything in London. Ex-jihadists, current jihadists, "wannabe" jihadists: they're all there. So how did this happen?

During the 1980s and 1990s, British authorities granted asylum to a number of Islamic terrorists wanted in their home countries.

"All of this happened under the assumption that if you allowed these people to operate in London, if you allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do, they would not be attacking Britain," terrorism expert Peter Neumann explained.

Neumann is author of the book Old and New Terrorism and heads the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization in London.

"The government, quite cynically, thought that whatever happened in other countries, whatever these people were plotting in other countries, was of no concern to the British government," he added.

Policy Backfires

On July 7, 2005, explosions proved the British government's open door strategy horribly wrong, as al Qaeda-linked terrorists killed 52 people in a series of bombings against London's mass transit system.

One year later, London was the staging ground for a massive al Qaeda plot to blow up 10 transatlantic airliners.

"Only then did the policy change," Neumann said. "However, the seeds of the radical Islamists' activity had already been sown."

Yasser al-Sirri has lived in London since 1994. In Egypt, he belonged to a terrorist organization led by al Qaeda's second-in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In 1993, he was found guilty of participating in a failed assassination plot against Egypt's then-prime minister and sentenced to death.

His recent interview with CBN News marked his first appearance on an American television network.

"The British government knows about my activities, my situation," al-Sirri said. "Everything is clear and I have done nothing to break the law."

The British government locked al-Sirri up in 2001 on terrorism charges. He was found not guilty and later released, but American officials still want to get their hands on al-Sirri.

In 2005, he was found guilty in a U.S. federal court of assisting terrorist mastermind Omar Abdel Rahman, the notorious "blind sheikh" behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

False Accusations?

Both the U.S. and Egypt have tried to extradite al-Sirri from Britain for years. He declares he is innocent.

"Many times the American government uses the wrong people for spies or to get intelligence information," al-Sirri claimed. "Some people do business with the FBI, CIA and give them wrong information and sometimes the wrong decision is made."

Al-Sirri didn't help his cause in 2008 when he was photographed walking on a London street with Abu Qatada, al Qaeda's spiritual leader in Europe.

Qatada received asylum in London in 1993 and collected welfare benefits for years. He is now in prison and awaiting deportation to Jordan, where he has been convicted on terrorism charges.

"There was a permissive environment to some extent," said Oxford-based terrorism expert Mahan Abedin. "There was the issue of a lot of foreigners, foreign fighters for instance, and foreign ideologues basing themselves here in London and finding a receptive audience."

Aaad al-Faqih is wanted in his native Saudi Arabia for allegedly seeking to overthrow the Saudi regime.

CBN News recently conducted an off-camera interview with al-Faqih in his London home.

He was designated by the U.S. and U.N. as a global terrorist in 2004 for alleged links to al Qaeda but maintains his innocence. Al Faqih says he meets with British government officials regularly and that they respect his work.

He believes there will be more confrontation between the West and the Muslim world, including terrorist attacks "even bigger than in 2001."

British officials have pushed to deport men like al-Faqih and Yasser al-Sirri back to their home countries. But the European Union and a number of British judges have blocked these efforts over human rights concerns.

"Over years, perhaps decades, a whole sub-culture had grown up," Neumann observed. "And to get to grips with that only through law enforcement and intelligence is very difficult. This subculture of jihadism still exists."

In April 2008, Britain's then home secretary said that British intelligence was monitoring some 2,000 individuals, as well as 200 radical Islamic networks and 30 active terrorist plots.

The British government banned Anjem Choudary's group, Islam4UK, last month under the country's counter-terrorism laws.

Choudary calls for Islamic Sharia law to be enforced in the United Kingdom. His group praised the 9/11 hijackers as "the magnificent 19."

"There is a huge amount of support for people like sheikh Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri [among British Muslims]," Choudary told CBN News.

A Ticking Time Bomb?

Choudary -- who collects welfare benefits from the state -- says his group is a non-violent political and ideological movement. But several former members have been convicted on terrorism charges.

"There are many youth out there who do contact us and do come to our talks and they have other ideas," Choudary said. "And we can make sure that those energies are channeled through discussion, dialogue, interaction. But if you take us out of the picture, then you have a very volatile situation."

"It's not a threat. It's a warning. It's a reality check," he added.

Abedin said things have improved significantly in London since 2005 and the British government has taken important steps to battle radicalism among young Muslims.

"The permissive environment that prevailed prior to July 7, 2005 is no longer the case," he said. "Radical preachers like Omar Bakri Mohammed, like Abu Hamza, for instance, have departed the arena. They've either been deported, expelled, or imprisoned.

But others like Anjem Choudary walk the streets of London as free men.

"I think that the British government is sitting on a tinderbox, you know, full of dynamite" he said. "And they have the matches in their hand and they're being very flippant."

"They're not dealing with it properly," Choudary continued. "It could all blow up in their face and it could be a very vicious situation."

Related Story:
A Look at the Christmas Day Bomber's School
Related Blog:
Stakelbeck on Terror

Today's Tune: M4GW- Frozen Wasteland

(Click on title to play video)

The media is struck all but dumb in neatherworld

By Melanie Phillips
11 February 2010

Britannia statue, Plymouth, United Kingdom

Last October, I wrote about how Andrew Neather, a former speechwriter for various Labour Cabinet ministers, had blurted out the fact that the Labour government had engaged on a covert act of national sabotage by loosening immigration controls in order to change the ethnic makeup of the country and

rub the right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date.

Neather subsequently tried to deny that this is what he had said, claiming he had been misrepresented by

‘excitable right-wing newspaper columnists’

by presenting his views in such a way that they were

‘twisted out of all recognition...into being a ‘plot’ to make Britain multicultural. There was no plot.’

Well, now we know there was indeed precisely such a plot. Neather had originally written that drafts of a government policy document

were handed out in summer 2000 only with extreme reluctance: there was a paranoia about it reaching the media. Eventually published in January 2001, the innocuously labelled ‘RDS Occasional Paper no. 67’, ‘Migration: an economic and social analysis’ focused heavily on the labour market case. But the earlier drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural [my emphasis].

The pressure group Migrationwatch has now obtained an early draft of that policy document. The chairman of Migrationwatch, Sir Andrew Green, writes in the Daily Mail, which carried the story, that this document shows there was indeed a conspiracy to change the make-up of the country:

It had already been censored but it was to be neutered still further. In the executive summary, six of eight references to ‘social’ objectives were cut from the version later published... Why the censorship that has now been laid bare? Reading between the lines of these documents it is clear that political advisers in Number 10, its joint authors, were preparing a blueprint for mass immigration with both economic and social objectives.

None of this was in the Labour manifesto of 1997 or 2001...the social objective of greatly increased diversity was entirely suppressed for fear of public reaction – especially from the white working class. These are the very people who are now paying the price for a decade of Labour deception.

A covert policy to subvert the makeup of the country and change its national identity, an abuse of democracy, a stupendous swindle of the British people -- more, an act of collective treachery to the nation: an enormous story, you might think? You would be wrong. Other than in the Daily Mail, I cannot find any reference to this anywhere else.

I wonder why.

Army warned about jihadist threat in '08

The Washington Times
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Almost two years before the deadly Fort Hood shooting by a radicalized Muslim officer, the U.S. Army was explicitly warned that jihadism — Islamic holy war — was a serious problem and threat to personnel in the U.S., according to participants at a major Army-sponsored conference.

The annual Army anti-terrorism conference in Florida in February 2008 included presentations on the threat by counterterrorism specialists Patrick Poole, Army Lt. Col. Joseph Myers and Terri Wonder.

US Army soldiers stand together as they prepare to leave after the memorial service in honor of the 13 victims of the shooting rampage on November 10, 2009 in Fort Hood, Texas. A report into the Fort Hood shooting spree calls for holding accountable "several" US military officers who supervised the suspected gunman, a leader of the probe said last Friday.
(AFP/Getty Images/File/Joe Raedle)

The meeting was organized by the Army's provost marshal general and included more than 350 force protection and anti-terrorism professionals who came from major Army installations and commands from around the world, according to participants.

Mr. Poole, a counterterrorism specialist and adviser to government and law-enforcement agencies, said his presentation and that of the other two counterterrorism experts "attempted to instruct these anti-terrorism and force protection professionals not just in the indicators of Islamic jihadism, but also the strategic deficiencies in the military comprehension of the overall jihadist threat."

The shooting at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark., in June and the November shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, that killed 13 people have exposed the problem of the Army's deficiencies in understanding the nature of the domestic Islamic terrorist threat, Mr. Poole said.

The incidents have raised questions about whether the Army made any effort to "operationalize" the threat warnings from the 2008 conference and develop policies to counter the threats. "The answer quite clearly is no," Mr. Poole said.

Col. Myers said in an interview that he was a key speaker at the annual conference and spoke there based on his role as a force protection instructor-trainer.

He also had conducted an organizational review of the Pentagon's Anti-Terrorism Operations Intelligence Cell, a group that provides strategic threat warnings to the Army.

"I noted that because of our lack of understanding of Islamic doctrines, Islamic Jihad and my view that our counterintelligence function is broken, outdated and being usurped in some cases by public affairs and equal opportunity officials, we were going to get soldiers killed in America, on our own bases for that professional ignorance," he said, adding that his comments were his personal views and not those of the service.

Col. Myers said he told the conference that senior military and defense officials were involved in outreach programs to "organizations affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and snapping pictures with its foundational leaders in our country."

"The Muslim Brotherhood, also known as the Ikhwan al Muslimeen, is a global jihad organization that fundamentally shares the same objectives as the 'combat jihad' groups like al Qaeda, but orients on 'cultural jihad' — subversion, infiltration and proselytization," he said. "By its own long-standing strategic documents, … they say they exist in America to destroy our civilization and replace it with an Islamic one."

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Nathan Banks declined to comment on the specifics of the Army conference.

However, "in light of the Fort Hood tragedy, we are currently reviewing potential vulnerabilities and methods of combating external and internal threats," Col. Banks said.

The Pentagon-wide review led by former Army Secretary Togo West and retired Adm. Vern Clark, former chief of naval operations, as well as an Army review "have been focused on identifying those vulnerabilities and developing ways to mitigate those threats," Col. Banks said.

Mr. Poole said the Pentagon's outreach program to some Muslim groups, including photographs of senior defense officials associating with questionable domestic Muslim leaders and groups, gave "legitimacy" to some of the organizations promoting the ideology embraced by Maj. Nidal Hasan, the suspect in the shooting rampage at Fort Hood that killed 13 people.

"These embarrassing photo-ops occur because the military is not well-schooled on the jihadist threat in America, and because fundamentally the national security establishment does not have a fully elaborated threat model for the global and domestic jihad," Mr. Poole said. "In many instances, relationships and events with terror-tied Islamic groups and leaders are organized by public affairs flacks and never vetted by counterintelligence agencies."

Mr. Poole said an example was a lecture on Islam that was given to U.S. troops at Fort Hood by Louay Safi as the troops were preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. Mr. Poole said Mr. Safi had been captured on FBI communications intercepts talking to a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader in the U.S. Additionally, Mr. Safi's office had been raided by the FBI in 2002 as part of a terrorism finance probe.

"Amazingly, a Fort Hood spokesman later claimed that Safi had been fully vetted," Mr. Poole said. "If thats true, who was doing the vetting and what standards were they using?"

Ms. Wonder, a third speaker at the conference, also presented several case studies showing indicators and warnings of mosques in the U.S. that were taken over by Islamic radicals, many linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. The mosques are being used as "hubs" and support systems for active terrorist cells, she told the conference.

Col. Myers said his presentation in 2008 represents a failure to strategically understand the full nature of the threat facing the United States in the war on terrorism. "Unfortunately, such strategic failings at senior leader levels cannot help but result in tactical failings, such as the Fort Hood terrorist attack," he said. "It demonstrates that we don't get it."

Mr. Poole noted the case of Army Sgt. Hasan Karim Akbar, who killed two fellow soldiers in Kuwait in 2003. Akbar was sentenced to death for the killing.

"Our conclusion was that ignorance and inaction keeps our troops vulnerable," Mr. Poole said. "But our warnings were ignored and no policies were changed. And in 2009, 13 soldiers and one civilian employee paid with their lives."

Col. Myers said the Army's recent report on the Fort Hood shooting, like much of current military doctrine, focused on capabilities and deficiencies, process and procedures but failed to address the threat.

"We continue to act and talk as though we don't understand it and that there is a level of 'uncertainty' — a word overused today in military parlance — as to who our enemy is and at this point, that can no longer be tolerated," he said.

"All federal and commissioned officers take an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, and that mandates a duty to be clear on who the enemies of our Constitution are, and a failure to know is a failure of duty."