The news just keeps getting worse for the White House. The president’s approval rating hovers around 42 percent. More than 50 percent of the country has an unfavorable view of him. And 61 percent of Americans say the country is worse off because of George W. Bush’s policies and needs to move in a new direction.
I have previously written about Pakistan’s dangerous peace treaty with factions sympathetic to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. My most comprehensive treatment of this issue is the article that I co-authored with Bill Roggio in the most recent edition of the Weekly Standard, “Pakistan Surrenders.” However, the dangers of this agreement aren’t universally recognized — at least not at an official level. When presented with Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf’s claim that this was somehow an anti-Taliban deal, President Bush replied, “I believe him.” And assistant secretary of state Richard Boucher has claimed that the peace treaty “really has the potential to work,” and that it gives Pakistan a chance “to get a political handle on this and enlist its citizens in the fight against terror.”
Michael Kinsley has just published a piece in Time, “Do Newspapers Have a Future?” He declares the end of newspapers - at least, in hard copy form. All is being lost in the tsunami of blogging and the internet. Yet don’t despair - “There is room between the New York Times and myleftarmpit.com for new forms that liberate journalism from its encrusted conceits while preserving its standards, like accuracy.” Furthermore:
I had forgotten how great the band R.E.M. once were. After the bloat of late 1970s rock and the cheese of that era’s a.m. radio, it truly was a tonic when punk and New Wave came along. No 20-minute drum solos, no whiny guitar riffs, no wannabe soul-man Mick Jagger tropes. Just music with grace, power, beauty, and honesty. R.E.M. has a new retrospective cd of their early years out. They were never that good again. From 1985, when I was a sophomore in college and saw them for the first time:
The great proletarian novelist was referring to the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti in 1927, an event that seemed to sever the nation in two opposing parts. On one side were the agitators in sympathy with the jailed immigrants, possibly framed for an act of violence. On the other were rightists who wanted the anarchist bastards to fry.
An Ohio car dealership has decided not to run a commercial proclaiming a “jihad” on the U.S. car market, following complaints from the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The dealership offered an apology and said the radio ad, which had never aired, was a misguided attempt at humor.
The German Opera in Berlin has canceled a production of Mozart’s Idomeneo, directed by Hans Neuenfels. Neuenfels added a final scene in which King Idomeneo lurches onto the stage and sits next to the severed heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed. The reaction in Germany? Outrage–at the decision to cancel. There was no actual threat. Chancellor Angela Merkel made the rather obvious but apparently necessary declaration that “self-censorship out of fear is not acceptable.”
Just in response to the New York Times’ smear campaign against Wal-Mart this month, I’d like to say that because I’m in New York for a few months and therefore not within reach of a Wal-Mart, I ended up having to go to K-Mart when I needed to buy a laundry rack. Normally a $10 or $15 item, the only one available was the $35 Martha Stewart version. I had no choice and bought it. On my way to the register I picked up the cheapest nightgown I could find, and a boxed Playtex bra. End of story: $73.
First of all, Let me say that Michelle Boorstein, the religion reporter for the Washington Post, is a nice person and an honest reporter. I believe she doesn’t consider herself biased. So the following critique is in the form of opening a friendly discussion, not of putting her down.Last April 28, Boorstein reported a story that was soon picked up by AP and local Washington radio and television. Fr. Gary Orr, a priest at Georgetown Preparatory School, was found guilt of sexual abuse by the Jesuit provincial in Maryland. The school itself had cleared Orr twice of the accusations, and couldn’t explain the discrepancy. Boorstein reported all of this straight, a simply 5 W’s piece.
The AP reports that two siblings, ages 75 and 81, who escaped the Holocaust, have been reunited after 65 years. Given today’s realities, namely that we’re in the 1930s all over again, the reunion can be summed up thus: “You found each other? Good, now drop dead.”
In Ron Cass’s recent piece “ My View on the View”, he thrashes Rosie O’Donnell (such an easy target) for some bone-headed political comments she apparently made on “The View,” from which he launches into the predictable bashing of empty-headed “Hollywood” dilettantes and egocentric actors who presume to weigh in on issues of public policy. As an actor (not a famous one, but hey, I’m not bitter) I’m so BORED already! Haven’t we heard it all since Marlon Brando sent that beautiful squaw to the Oscars?
Who was the nun recently murdered by Islamic nutbags (yes Islamic nutbag is a redundancy)? There’s been a blackout in the media as to her life story and the manner of her death, of course. Imagine if a Muslim woman had been shot in the back by rabid Christian thugs. There would be gooey Today show features, roundtables with E.J. Dionne, Cokie Roberts and Jim Wallis, books, etc. Hollywood would already be in pre-production for the story, and gaseous jabberjaw Chris Mathews would declare a theocracy. Maureen Dowd would simply stroke out.
So I’ve decided to educate myself about classical music. To do so, my strategy is simply to go to concerts - no NPR Guide, no classes, no cheesy “Mozart for Romantics” cds. I’m simply going to go to the concert, and if the music moves me the way pop and jazz does, great. If not - and no matter who says how great it is - so be it. Music shouldn’t be like eating green beans.
Judge Jack Weinstein, a nontoriously activist senior (semi-retired) federal judge, has authorized a class action tobacco suit for all smokers of “light” cigarettes, based on fraud. It is a nationwide class, though of course individual cases and state law on fraud will vary. Tobacco stocks sunk 5% immediately on the news.
Three recent media controversies – an award given to a movie that depicts the assassination of President Bush, a flap over fake photos of Tiger Woods’ wife, and the consideration NBC executives are giving to a prime-time airing of Madonna’s mock crucifixion – have highlighted an important truth that media elites ignore at their peril: Freedom of speech and of the press are rights, but they can be abused. And too much abuse can lead to a backlash that stifles the very exchange of controversial ideas so critical to the functioning of a free society.
As I’ve said at least twice in the New York Sun already, Jack Jones, like Tony Bennett, is one of the last of the great old school pop-jazz singers who are still performing at the top of their game. Tonight is his last night at The Oak Room. I heartily recommend him, especially if you’ve never seen him live. (There is a link to my full review at the bottom of this page.)
No evil goes unrewarded, thanks to the international community, and International Committee of the Red Cross, who are on their way to the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In particular, they plan to meet with the 14 terrorists who have been held at secret CIA facilities overseas in recent years.
This is too delicious to pass up. In her current blog/essay, the editor of the left-wing rag The Nation describes the dire state of middle class employment benefits, and cites as her source… PR Newswire! Yes!
I recently ran across the writings of Don Marquis. The celebrated columnist started in the early 20th century and wrote until his death in 1937. His greatest fame came from his creations named archy and mehitabel: the former, a lyrical cockroach who addressed him as “boss,” the latter, a salty feline with a hyper-sexy history. Both had lived previous lives. archy was a verse libre bard; “expression,” he writes, “is the need of my soul.” Mehitabel’s earlier incarnations included a series of history’s great femme fatales, including Cleopatra.
Since I installed a powerful spam-blocker, most spam email headed my way finds an ignominious end in the electronic trash. Yet danger still lurks in my in-box. Several times a week I receive emails — from people calling themselves friends, no less — containing threats and hints of extortion if I fail to do what the sender requires.
As conservative journalist Brian Anderson has show in his book South Park Conservatives, the Right is increasingly savy about and accepting of popular culture. Yet there is still a long way to go. For years I have advocated National Review, The New Criterion, First Things, the Weekly Standard and other conservative megaphones cover rock and roll. To me, much rock and roll was - is - a great form of modernist art, worthy of consideration among the knowing class. Indeed, I have argued that rock and roll is a Christian art form. Why leave its beauty to the pagans?
Iran is building a nuke to wipe out Israel, which its fanatical leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, insists has no right to exist. But liberals remain mute about his ravings, preferring to savage President Bush. Shameful. Hugo Chavez viciously derides the president in the pulpit of the United Nations and all liberals can do is remain silent. Is it because Chavez’s words so closely echo their own? Shameful. Even uber-liberal Rep. Charles Rangel’s defense of the president against Chavez’s verbal rampage was a damning with faint praise. “We have problems with our president,” Rangel said. Did he mean the 62, 040,606 Americans who voted for President Bush in 2004 – THAT “we”?