Tag Archives: media

September 11

There is a lot I could write about this day and what it means to me — and in coming posts I will — but right now I will leave you with a link to a column that was written only a few days after the attacks, a column that still holds up. Not surprisingly, it was written by Christopher Hitchens. How we miss him.

The link to the whole column is here — money quote below.

But the bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic face, and there’s no point in any euphemism about it. What they abominate about “the West,” to put it in a phrase, is not what Western liberals don’t like and can’t defend about their own system, but what they do like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state. Loose talk about chickens coming home to roost is the moral equivalent of the hateful garbage emitted by Falwell and Robertson, and exhibits about the same intellectual content. Indiscriminate murder is not a judgment, even obliquely, on the victims or their way of life, or ours. Any decent and concerned reader of this magazine could have been on one of those planes, or in one of those buildings–yes, even in the Pentagon.

Hobson’s Choice

A number of people on social media — as well as in some newspaper columns — have called the U.S. election this year a “Hobson’s Choice.” It is not. A Hobson’s Choice is a take-it-or-leave-it scenario, not a situation where there are two unsavoury options. That would be “a dilemma.” I guess it could also be called a “Sophie’s Choice,” but I don’t like that expression for two reasons: 1) it brings up images of Nazis killing children, and 2) it makes me think of the book (and the movie) of the same name, both of which were tinged with anti-Semitism.

On a brighter note, here is a clip from the brilliant David Lean film, Hobson’s Choice, with Charles Laughton in the lead role. And yes, the title character is given a Hobson’s Choice at the end of the story.

Post-Brexit Hysteria

There has been a lot of crazed commentary from leftists and elitists (but I repeat myself) and even the occasional sane person (Niall Ferguson comes to mind for that category), since last week’s vote. Yes, it is a big deal. Yes, it was unexpected. But the idea that all “Leave” voters are frightened bigots and the idea that the UK’s economic future is surely at risk as a result are both absurd ideas.

Megan McArdle provides an eminently sane analysis here, Matt Ridley another here.

One of the British Tories I most admire is Daniel Hannan (boy, I would love to see him be leader of the UK Conservatives). Of note, he wrote a short book called “Why Vote Leave,” which is most definitely worth a read if you want to understand the issues at hand beyond the unfair media characterizations. I mention him not merely in order to link to his book, but also as a lead-in to this video of him being “interviewed” (i.e., bullied) by leftist and elitist (but I repeat myself) Christiane Amanpour. He does not let her get away with nonsense, and you can tell it makes her apoplectic.

What I find most infuriating about this “interview” is when she shows three obviously carefully-picked sound-bites from bigoted “Leave” voters and tries to suggest that somehow they are representative of every “Leave” voter. Again, he doesn’t fall for it, and she does not like that. (Sadly, I remember when she was a good journalist, over 20 years ago – in particular, her reporting from the former Yugoslavia was compelling. Those days are long gone.)

Behold Daniel Hannan, an extremely smart and decent man dealing very patiently with a nasty fool.

Another Great Bernie Ad

He is wrong about many, many things. But man, does his team make great ads! This is another goosebump-inducer, rather like this one. I would challenge much of what he says here about “rights,” and also, I wonder what he means when he says the U.S. is the only “major” country that doesn’t guarantee healthcare as a “right.” What is “major,” first of all? There’s more I would challenge (particularly about unions and “dignity”), but man, why bother with the facts? Just enjoy! As my late brother used to say, there will be tears!

Frank Sinatra Jr.

On the death of Frank Sinatra Jr., I thought I’d post this very good piece by Tom Junod. It was written over 20 years ago and reposted in 2013. It was not easy being the Chairman’s son, as one can imagine. My Significant Other and I used to listen to Frank Jr. on Siriusly Sinatra and as S.O. once said, “Compared to most people, he is a decent singer. But compared to his father, he’s a disappointment.” Still, Sinatra Jr. seemed to have terrific humour about his unique situation and Junod shows great empathy.

Somewhat a propos, the  tribute I wrote to Frank on the 100th anniversary of his birth. In it, you can find links to many great pieces of writing about Sinatra, including Gay Talese’s famous “Frank Sinatra has a cold.”

Trump is not Goldwater or Reagan

If only he were. And yet, many who are anti-Trump are posting the below video from 1964, as though they are making some deep point about what is happening today. They are not. All they are doing is showing us that they don’t know a thing about history.

I do not like Trump and I do not want him to win the Republican nomination (my first choice would have been Rubio and now I am hoping for Cruz) or the presidency. But I also do not like specious comparisons.

This video is an anti-Barry Goldwater ad from 1964. It’s called “Confessions of a Republican” and in it, a Republican voter nervously confesses his fears about Goldwater and a Goldwater presidency and says he is going to vote for Lyndon Johnson. (For the record, though I am an admirer of Goldwater, I also think LBJ did much good and gets a historical bum rap, especially from old hippies.)

One of the things this nervous Republican mentions is the KKK endorsing Goldwater. It is true that they did but it is also true that Goldwater immediately and sincerely denounced them and said he didn’t want their support (something Ronald Reagan also did when he received the same dubious endorsement in 1980). This nervous Republican also mentions fear of nuclear war and the “mistake” his party made at the Republican convention in 1964 (the mistake presumably being giving Goldwater the nomination).

In fact, Goldwater was always a libertarian, a supporter of civil liberties and civil rights and a believer in freedom. (A young Hillary Rodham-later-to-be-Clinton supported him.) He remained so throughout his life, including openly supporting gay rights before that cause became a favourite of “progressives.” I would love it if I thought Trump was anywhere near the kind of man Goldwater was. So yes, this video being used as some sort of point is foolish, unless that point is, “wow, we used to have some great Republicans that we didn’t appreciate, such as Barry Goldwater. Too bad so many had such an hysterical over-reaction to them.”

(I believe the people posting it today think that if Goldwater had won in 1964, terrible, unspeakable things would have happened. We will never know, but I don’t think it’s preposterous to suggest the United States might be in better shape had Goldwater won.)

Now, about the video itself: I love how this guy smokes up a storm during his monologue! Awesome. And note the suit and tie. I wish we all dressed like grown-ups today. (I have to wonder what the selected Republican would look like in such an ad today.) I imagine this would be classified as an “attack ad.” If so, bring on the attack ads. I think this is powerful, though again, I am an admirer of Goldwater.

A(nother) great Nick Cohen Column

The column in question is ostensibly about why we should all become Jews. Of course, Cohen isn’t really suggesting we should, although Significant Other and I often say that we will have to join the Israel Army one of these days…if they would have two middle-aged out of shape folks.

It’s a column about the pathology of anti-Semitism and how far it is spreading, in particular its grip on much of the political left.

But consider how many leftwing activists, institutions or academics would agree with a politer version [of blatant anti-Semitism].

Western governments are the main source of the ills of the world. The “Israel lobby” controls western foreign policy. Israel itself is the “root cause” of all the terrors of the Middle East, from the Iraq war to Islamic State. Polite racism turns the Jews, once again, into demons with the supernatural power to manipulate and destroy nations. Or as the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström, who sees herself as a feminist rather than a racial conspiracist, explained recently, Islamist attacks in Paris were the fault of Israeli occupiers in the West Bank.

(Oh man, I know so many people — some to whom I am related — who buy such nonsense. Depressing. As my late brother used to say, “the ’60s have a lot for which to answer.”)

Cohen writes of his own experiences (his father was Jewish, not his mother) growing up with a Jewish name and in particular of the temptation — which he resisted — to become a self-loathing Jew.

He does suggest one pretend to be Jewish to see how people’s reactions to you change. It’s fascinating, because when I was in Italy in 2014, there was this awful woman who was always very mean to me and I remember one day she asked me if I was Jewish. I just knew that if I answered “yes,” she would have hated me even more, but I thought the fact that she suspected it (as though it were a crime) was revealing.

The Cow Who…

Meant to post this a while back, but stuff (travels, colds, work) got in the way.  A few weeks ago, Peter Singer wrote about the New York Times’ use of the word “who” in regards a cow, rather than “that” or “which.” To me, it doesn’t seem odd to use “who” regarding an animal, as animals are not only sentient beings, but individuals. Nor is it odd to Singer, though he points out that the Times‘ decision was not the great step forward some of us might like to see.

It would be premature to conclude that the New York Times article indicates a shift in usage. Rather, it seems to show uncertainty, for the first line of the article refers to “A cow that was captured by police.”

I asked Philip Corbett, the standards editor for the New York Times, if the use of “cow who” reflected a change of policy. He told me that the Times style manual, like that of the Associated Press, suggested using “who” only for a named or personified animal. The manual gives the example “The dog, which was lost, howled” and contrasts this with “Adelaide, who was lost, howled.”

I find this noteworthy, not just because I am an animal rights advocate, but because I had a conflict — not a big one — with an editor years ago when I wrote about a whale for the Christian Science Monitor. I referred to the whale as “he,” first of all, and I also referred to the whale’s uncle. Both of these things bothered the editor with whom I was dealing, although she heard me out and graciously printed the article the way I had wanted (for the most part). Newspapers have their style guidelines, and they have to be heeded to a point. They can change, though, as views change.

As Singer writes:
In a language like English, which implicitly categorizes animals as things rather than persons, adopting the personal pronoun would embody the same recognition – and remind us who animals really are.

Ghomeshi

There is much I could say about this case but I will only say two things. 1) It makes me think of a favourite phrase of my sister-in-law Louise – “yet another example of the never-ending stupidity of women.” The never-ending stupidity of women. 2) It is important for Canadians to not learn about law stuff from American law shows. Case in point — I keep wondering why these terrible witnesses don’t take the Fifth.

I Have Been Doing This for Twenty Bleeping Years

So everyone is parsing the importance of the new “curvy” Barbie and her other “normal” friends. But way back in 1997, I wrote an article about just such a possibility. It appeared in its original form in the Women’s Quarterly, a magazine out of D.C., and was reprinted in a large number of newspapers. I found a link to the piece here. (I am not the type who keeps copies of her articles. There are simply too many of them and I am big believer in constant de-cluttering.) I also found a link to a write-up of the piece here, from the Chicago Tribune’s James Warren.

This was nearly twenty f***ing years ago, peeps. God, I have been doing this job a loooooong time. It’s funny  — not funny “ha ha” — because I had a visit in the fall from a family member who routinely takes cheap shots at me about everything — my career, my looks, my intelligence, my private life — and this person asked me if I was “between jobs.” Um, no, I have doing the same job for twenty bleeping years.

The article in question is much harsher than one I would write today, I think. In a sense, I think we soften on some matters as we gain more experience. So in a way I cringe when I read it and yet, it must be taken in the context of the era and in the spirit of satire. (Or not, if you so choose.)