Archive for The Lileks Zone

Well, this explains it all

Interesting piece in the LA Times – no, really – about a provision in the health care bill that might forbid insurance companies from discriminating against “religious and spiritual healthcare.” That’s nice ‘n’ specific, eh? I give it a year before someone sues to have voodoo included in the benefit package.

Here’s the part that may sum up the problems we face:

Kerry’s spokeswoman, Whitney Smith, disputed that insurers would be forced to cover prayer. Instead, she said, “the amendment would prevent insurers from discriminating against benefits that qualify as spiritual care if the care is recognized by the IRS as a legitimate medical expense.”

The tax department, the church, and the medical profession together at last – with the first determining the legitimacy of the other two.

More bravery from Hollywood

“Independence Day” was probably the last good movie Roland Emmerich made, and it was junk. Fun junk, though. We all saw the previews of the Empire State Building and the White House blowin’ up reeeeal good – the latter apparently being made of wood that theatrically fragmented when struck by energy rays – and we all couldn’t wait to see some state-of-the-art monument destruction. In the boring old days all we got were models that fell over. Computers let us get in touch with our inner 10-year-old boy, and revel in AWESOME destruction.

Once they ran out of things to blow up, the idiocy of the movie was revealed like a shoal on low tide. Will Smith bare-knuckle punching an alien who had a thick chitinous skin, and knocking him out. Jeff Goldblum writing a computer virus that would bring down the alien defense, AND taking care to insert an animation of a skull-and-crossbones that would show up on the aliens’ monitors. He used a Mac, which was nice, but in those days a Macs were not known for having an OS compatible with alien computers. This may have changed since the adoption of USB 2.0 as a universal standard. You may recall the movie had a president who fit the fantasies of Hollywood at the time – one of those muscular liberals who could fly jets!!! And pass important social legislation!!! XXOXX, whatta man. When we got a president who actually could fly a jet, history was rewritten so Bush the Latter spent two hours in the seat of a Cessna in the hangar, making machine-gun sounds while his instructor stamped DEFERRED FROM VIETNAM on his folder.

I bring up “Independence Day” because Mr. Emmerich has a new movie coming out, “2012.” It’s about things blowing up and the end of the world. Yes, that movie. Previews look spectacular and banal – a combination Hollywood has honed to an art – and monuments galore go crashing down. The Vatican: rubble! The statue of Christ in Rio: timmmberrrrr! Why? Emmerich explained in an interview: “Because I’m against organized religion.” But he declined to blow up the Kabaa in Mecca.

“Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit,” Emmerich says. “But my co-writer Harald said I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie. And he was right. … We have to all … in the Western world … think about this. You can actually … let … Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have … a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it’s just something which I kind of didn’t [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out.”

Yes, he kind of left it out, by which he means he left it out entirely because he’s afraid of having his head removed. He’s not alone. If they remade “Lawrence of Arabia” today, they’d set it in Kansas. Just to be safe.

Civilization is a modern invention, too. Explains why they can’t stand it

You may have heard of the case of a British family who lost their kid to the state because everyone in the household is too bleedin’ fat, and the Health Authorities deemed the child at risk for becoming stout. Whether they took him Elian-Gonzalez styl, with troops in riot gear holding Mum and Da at bay while they hooked up a block-and-tackle to swing the tot out the upper-floor window, I don’t know. I do know that England will continue to be the source of stories of PC gone starkers, and that the vast majority of porridge-spined Britons will continue to take it.

Now comes a story from Boston that makes one wonder how the scolds in the Sceptered Isle would react: A family has decided to forgo heating this winter to do their bit for climate change. A 16-month old baby is among the residents of this bleak house.

Would this be sufficient cause to take away the kid? Probably not. Just as multicuturalism has a pecking order that belies its kumbaya egalitarianism – all victims are equal, but some are more equal than others – so it is with modern progressive thought. Given the ruminations some make on the wisdom of a one-child policy, it seems that A) the child ought to be glad it’s shivering for the Cause, and B) if it does expire from exposure, well, it’s done its bit for Mother Earth, eh? A family that had three children and kept them all warm with fossil fuels: enemy of the planet. A family that has one and lets him lose the occasional toe when the climate turns cold: heroes. (Besides, with all this warming about, the house can’t get too chilly.)

So they get a pass. Unless dad works at home and smokes, of course. An Ontario truck driver has been fined for smoking in his truck, because the cab is a “workplace,” and you can’t smoke there. Even if it is your property, to use an archaic word that means . . . well, not sure what it means. Better to use “workplace,” because then the state can regulate it. As the fellow said in “1984” – it’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.

Dig this:

Neil MacKenzie, the manager of tobacco programs for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, said even a farmer’s enclosed tractor would be considered a work environment.

“Whether or not you have the sunroof open or windows down … it’s an enclosed workplace and you’re prohibited from smoking in that vehicle,” he told Windsor radio station CKLW.

MacKenzie added, however, that no one would march into a field and fine a farmer for smoking in an enclosed tractor.

“Before we take any radical action on it, we’d confirm with the Ministry of Health whether there’s precedent,” he said.

Yes, that’s what’s stopping them from trudging across a muddy field, slapping the Winston out of a farmer’s mouth, and fining him: they’re not certain whether there’s precedent. But there will be. They need precedent, because that makes their actions “legal.” And “legal” makes it right.

(PS: the comments on the Boston story are priceless, as you might imagine; one person sniffs that 63 degrees is a perfectly fine temperature for winter: “People have lived for years in less than 72 degree heated homes and been healthy and happy. Central heating is a modern invention.”

That’s now what you call something to discredit it.)

Power Flows from the Barrel of a Dunn

I’m still chewing over the Mao-quoting speech by White House Communications Director Anita Dunn. I don’t know if she was telling a joke – a long, unfunny, detailed joke that lacked only a comic premise and a punchline – or whether she’s one of those bloodless sorts who float around government and academia on a warm breeze of reheated 60s cliches. I suspect the latter, especially since she also discussed how Fox is not a real news service, but a right-wing GOP distribution node. Yes, Fox, home to those heel-clicking crypto-Nazis like Geraldo and Juan Williams. She possibly still gets a glimmer of a smile when someone calls them “Faux News.” Man, that never gets old. Sorry, that’s sexist. Person, that never gets old.

The amount of cerebral real-estate Fox occupies on the left is astonishing, and leads to peculiar outbursts of Rumplestiltskin-like rage. Jacob Weismann calls them “un-American,” because they have tilted right and thus caused a great disturbance in the Media Force, heretofore exquisitely balanced between Jedi and Sith. (It was sheer McCarthyism for a blogger to call the left un-American in the Bush era, but such accusations from pundits and politicians are prima facie statements of fact now.) Fox is seen as a frightening mind-control device from which there is no defense, and you can thus understand the left’s unease: more people see Glen Beck in a day than ever picked up a copy of the Nation in the entire 20th century. (More or less. I’m guessing that’s true, based on my ideological preconceptions. Hey, put me on CNN to cover the Limbaugh story!)

But back to Dunne. If she was serious, you might wonder why she regarded Mao as something other than a hideous carbuncle on the face of 20th century history. Could be that iconic picture, with its hunt of an amused smile; it’s the Mona Lisa for the collectivist set. Could be the fact that the man got things done; some people are always been susceptible to a man on a horse, even if their friends in PETA are complaining the horse has no say in the matter. Could be the usual dry historical perspective at work; say what you will, Mao took a country that was quite backwards, and turned it into a modern state that could put two men into orbit. (One to fly the ship, the other to watch for signs he might defect.) Sure, he killed millions, but you can’t make an omelette without nationalizing the chickens, passing laws requiring them to lay six times as much, purging the rural leadership for failing to meet quotas, then banning omelettes as “decadent” and reserving them for private inner-Party functions. The man got things done. He would have know what to do with Fox.

At least neutral remarks on Mao still have the power to make us lift an eyebrow, Spock-like. Not so Che. He’s still the political Jim Morrison of the left, revered for his Noble Expression, looking up to the revolutionary future that lies just over this hill. What’s that? It’s not a hill, but a pile of bodies? Details, details. Proof that Che-worship has reached new levels of absurdity:

The Che jacket, from J. Crew.

Just the thing to a wear while lounging stylishly against one wall, watching your troops shoot opponents standing in front of another wall. But there’s more! Behold the Che candle. Yes, you too can bring the romantic odors of post-Batista Havana into your house. I suspect the smell around those offices was mostly cigars and BO, with hints of dysentery and a top-note of emptied bladders, but who can tell.

The candle is yours for 75 dollars. They same company sells one that smells like the era of Marie Antoinette in her happier, pre-decapitation phase, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. You can see a Dunne-type buying Che for living room, and Marie for the bathroom. They might even feel a certain kinship with the doomed queen. She liked to dress up as a rustic, head out to her fake farm with courtiers, and pretend everyone lived a simple, honest life. How different are the academics in the colleges who still fancy themselves firebrands ready to take it to the streets?

Well, Marie didn’t have tenure to protect her.

Note: upon looking for the Che jacket in the catalogue, I see they’ve changed the name and dropped the Che. At least over here. Not sure what it’s called in the Oceania or Eurasia markets.

Don’t you question my patriotism!

Treacher pointed us all to this:

And to think, just a few months ago, it was unpatriotic to go without a flag pin. Now, however, actively rooting for your country to lose an Olympic bid is PATRIOTISM DEFINED!

No, my good fellow, we didn’t think you were unpatriotic because you didn’t wear a flag pin. We thought it was amusing how some on the left spazzed out when the flag was in vogue for a while, as though the appearance of Old Glory in a moment of national woe heralded an era of mandatory pledges, blood oaths in torchlit stadiums, and the passing of the National Conformity Act that would require men to wear hats and women to be chained, barefoot, to stoves. No, it was the way you made fun of the people who wore flag pins or hung out the flag. That was telling, no?

Anyway. Personally, I am happy we didn’t get the Olympics. They’re expensive and leave giant stadiums in their wake, like the droppings of some enormous Godzilla. Cities go deeply into debt to fund them, and aside from the momentary tourist boom (Kyoto has seen its tourism influx wane in recent years, I suspect) they exist to pump up the resumes of local officials and make everyone in local government feel “world class” – meaning, I suppose, they get to have luncheons with dapper Europeans in nice shoes who speak Swiss and everything. Ah, but you’re jealous: your town wasn’t in the running. You’d feel differently. No: Minneapolis was one of the cities named to host the quarter- or semi-finals of the soccer games, just a mile or two from my office.

Not wanting the Olympics is not the same as wanting America to fail. I wanted America to succeed at not getting the Olympics, and we did it. USA! USA! As for wanting President Obama to fail, this is one of those tricky concepts that enflamed the left in the first few months of the administration. There are certain things the right would be more than happy to see President Obama succeed at doing. Say, degrading Iran’s petroleum infrastructure with some covert ops that takes out a refinery now and then, which either brings down the regime through domestic unrest or brings them to the table begging for terms. Just a thought. If the left believes the right would react to the fall of the mullahs by grabbing their legs and splitting themselves in half like Rumplestiltskin, shouting DAMN THAT KENYAN PRETENDER, the left may well be reliving its own reaction to the fall of Baghdad through its usual prism. (Also known as “a mirror.”)

When it comes to yanking the country leftwards, piling up a Himalayan of debt and digging deficits as deep as the Marianas Trench, jump-starting inflation, wasting a few loose trillions on “stimulus” packages that are as effective as heart-defibrillator panels on King Tut’s mummy, passing health-care laws the legislators themselves cannot understand or bear to read, well, yes: failure is an option, devoutly to be wished. If you believe these things are bad for America, you don’t want them to happen. Seems rather simple.

Unless one believes that Obama is somehow the embodiment and personification of America, of course. I doubt the President thinks so, but he does give the impression of one who believes he contains its essence in a remarkably rarified and distilled form. Hence the groans over the Olympic speech, the incessant personalization of the narrative by the POTUS and the FLOTUS.

Yes, Laura Ingraham did react with a joke about Michelle Obama’s arms, which you find extraordinary, but here’s how it works: if we get lots of glowing stories about the Amazing Impressive and Accomplished First Lady’s toned arms, people who have not drunk the Kool-Aid until their kidneys slosh are going to make fun of the fact that everyone was impressed with the tautness of the underside of her upper arms, and seen it as one more manifestation of the Age of Total Awesomeness in which we are privileged to live. The idea applies elsewhere, too: if you don’t approach every issue with the assumption that President Obama is the smartest, coolest guy on the planet, a lot of what he does seems like a parade of pretty prancing ponies, sent out to impress bad guys who travel by tank.

There’s just one more thing that bothers many on the right. If talk is cheap, why has the last ten months cost us so much?

The part where Biden and Neil Kinnock met in Hawaii tipped him off

Thomas Lifson in the American Thinker:

Obama is a literary pretender. Case closed. The evidence is overwhelming that Bill Ayers ghost-wrote Dreams from my Father, the book which established Obama’s pose as a brilliant writer (and therefore a fine mind, in the estimation of many).

More at the link, and Jeff Goldstein’s thoughts on “‘Barack Obama’ as a literary construct, here.

Curb Your Enthusiasm, indeed

Pittsburg knows well how global summits help the local economy – why, plywood sales are through the roof. Prudent businesses board up the windows before the protestors can lob a rock though the glass. (The glazier trade does well after the summit, too.) In the protestors’ minds, the G-20 participants are waddling clones of Moneybags the Monopoly Man, a happy plutocrat in top hat and tales, using his cane to clear a path through the alms-seekers to the meeting room, where they can get on with the business of impoverishing the world for kicks ‘n’ grins. Hence the rock. If you throw some granite into a Starbucks, you might stop global capitalism in its tracks; if you fling a trash barrel stuffed with burning dog offal through a bank window, the Overlords might realize the game’s up, the people have arisen, and we’d best chuck it all for a barter economy.

Hasn’t worked yet, but hey, 327th time’s the charm, as they say.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned, though. The air is full of warnings about the climate of violence, and what all this uncivility might lead to. Speaker Pelosi, responding to someone out there saying something or other, reminded us the other day that these are difficult times, and we had better watch what we say:

“We are a free country and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance,” Pelosi said. “I have concerns about some of the language that is being used because I saw this myself in the late 70s in San Francisco.

“This kind of rhetoric was very frightening and it gave — it created a climate in which violence took place and so I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made.”

Obligatory comparison: If Bush had said such a thing the left would have emitted a fine mist of blood from their ears, convinced he’d just hinted to all via dog-whistle frequencies that he was suspending the First Amendment so people wouldn’t google “alternatives to missionary position.” (It’s all about sex for the left, which is why they think it’s all about sex for the right.) But coming from Congressmadam P., it’s a frank, sensible reminder of the trade-offs of a civilized society. You can’t shout LIAR in a crowded theater, after all.

Given that the speaker’s intellectual candlepower is somewhere between a keyfob light and a burnt match, it’s possible she believes Harvey Milk was killed by a deranged Republican instead of a deranged guy with a personal beef. We can be certain that’s her baseline for political violence, in any case. The mid-seventies. The dark nightmare of the Ford Putsch. The years of endless bloodshed – mostly from people stabbing themselves trying to put on a Whip Inflation Now pin, granted, but bloodshed nonetheless.

But who is violent? Who takes to the streets? For that matter, which side has a romantic notion of recent history as the chosen ones, the holy boomers, the street-takers who went up against the Man to ensure Vietnam could be hastened to its Golden Era of collectivism and re-education camps? Ah, but the cause was just in the 60s. History, if not several important Oscar-winning movies, have proved that for good. Since the enthusiastic days of the Vietnam protests, the left has produced nothing but civil, rational, reasoned discourse, and it’s been the right that foams and howls HITLER.

No, the left’s constant critiques of capitalism haven’t inspired window-breakers in every town where the WTO gets together. Eco-panic talk, a stock in trade of the segment of the hard left that want to kneecap the West and reduce us back to vegan tribes squatting in hemp yurts, have had no influence on the Earth Liberation Front. Gentle persuasion has always been the left’s stock in trade: if you’d put your throat in this yoke, Mademoiselle Antoinette. Merci beaucoup.
When Howard Dean said he hated the Republicans and everything they stood for, he was making an intellectual case against a set of ideas, not blurting out his own blunt contempt for people who dare to have different view of marginal tax rates.

But sometimes you wonder.

This story – appearing in one of those crazy right-wing scandal sheets published by Village Voice Media – says the FBI thinks the Weather Underground was behind the bombing. Just to restate the case: police officer killed. By a bomb. Planted by domestic left-wing totalitarians. In San Francisco. In the seventies.

A reminder of the way the seventies really were, Congressperson Pelosi’s recollections to the contrary:

In 1972 alone, the FBI attributed 1,500 bombings within the United States to “civil unrest” from domestic radical groups. Noel, the retired San Francisco FBI agent, said police officers routinely searched their patrol cars for bombs before starting their engi


As for the Weather Underground’s collaborators:

The BLA collaborated with former Weather Underground members Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert in a 1981 armed robbery in Nanuet, N.Y., that ended with the deaths of two police officers and a Brink’s armored truck guard. Ayers and Dohrn have also expressed their fondness for members of the BLA in surprisingly personal ways. Their son, Zayd Dohrn, is named after BLA member Zayd Shakur, who died in a shootout with New Jersey state troopers in 1973.

Lovely people. The article names Bernadette Dohrn – spouse of Bill Ayers – as one of the people suspected in the bombing.

Apparently Speaker Pelosi forgot about the sixties. The next time she finds herself at a conference where Ayers and Dohrn are speaking, she might ask for a refresher course. Over drinks. In a swank hotel bar. Or any other such place the Weather Underground wanted replaced with camps to exterminate anyone who listened to Lawrence Welk and wanted to own a piece of land to call their own. It would be sweet irony if they were having a civil chat while a WTO protest took place, and a molotov cocktail landed in Ayers’ lap. He’d probably throw it back.

An Enemy of the People? He could justify it in heartbeat. Someone has to lead the revolution, you know. All that cognac you liberate isn’t going to drink itself.

ACORN: the unreleased transcript

You’ve seen the tapes: two undercover agents of the Fox-Beck-Klan-Bilderberg Axis try to bring down ACORN by forcing them against their will to feign indifference to kiddie-hooker rings. As soon as the scandal hit the web, ACORN officials insist that the pair tried to scam various offices, and were turned away. The Hughniverse has learned that this was indeed the case, and we have the transcripts.

This exchange took place in an unidentified office, and demonstrates that not everyone in the ACORN organization bought the obvious scam. In this transcript, a male and female are meeting with an ACORN rep.

Male: Hi.

ACORN staffer: Tovarisch!

Male: Uh, we heard you could help us, and, so, we’re like, here.

ACORN staffer: We’ll see what we can do. We’re all about the art of the possible. I got a guy into a house today for a fifty-six dollars and twenty nine cents.

Female: Wow, it was that cheap?

ACORN staffer: Cost of a new lock on the door and a pane of glass. The owner lives in Mexico. Anyway, what can I do for you?

Male: Well, we’re going to be bringing into the country about a dozen underage girls from El Salvador.

ACORN staffer: Uh huh. Is this one of them?

Male: No, this is my wife.

ACORN staffer: You’re married? Well, to each his own. Go on.

Male: Uh, we’re interested in, you know, setting them up. We have a business, I guess you’d call it. Although you could call it a charity. Whatever works.

Female: They’re all orphans. We bring them to America and get them set up for adoption.

ACORN staffer: Uh huh. And by adoption you mean –

Female: Families take them into their homes, make them legal children and all, and care for them. We need a halfway house to give them a place to stay until they’re adopted.

ACORN staffer: How’d you get these children? Orphans you say?

Female: Their parents died.

ACORN staffer: Uh huh. Anyone do time for that?

Male: I don’t understand. There was a flood in their village.

ACORN staffer: Oh, so they’re from Katrina. I got it now. El Salvator or whatever, that outside of Brownsville? I had a client, she was there for three years waiting on a trailer. We got her one but it had the mold, all in the walls and (bleep). So you definitely don’t want the trailer.

Male: No, they’re from El Salvador. The country.

ACORN staffer: Doesn’t matter. You say you’re looking to get into a house?

Female: Yes. But we’re wondering if there will be any tax problems.

ACORN staffer: Honey, there’s always tax problems. Nothing a tin can in the backyard can’t solve, though. What’s the nature of your problem?

Male: Well, you should know we’re doing this through our church, so there’s the whole question of tax exempt status.

ACORN staffer: Uh huh. What’s the church?

Female: The Holy Roman Catholic Church.

ACORN staffer: The real one, or the mail-order one?

Male: I don’t understand.

ACORN staffer: There’s a guy in New Jersey who – oh, it doesn’t matter. (pause) You say the real church there and all?

Male: Yes.

ACORN staffer: So you’re actually bringing them here for adoption?

Female: Yes, if God wills it.

ACORN staffer: I’m going to have to speak to my supervisor.

(Five minute delay; raised voices heard outside room)

(Supervisor enters)

Supervisor: I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Do you have any idea what would happen if it got out we were using public money for a church project? And the Catholic church, my God. Sorry. Good day.

(Leaves room)

(Loud argument outside room.

(Supervisor: They were running a scam, you idiot! I can’t believe you believed that guy! Did he look Catholic?

(ACORN rep: He had the tall pointy hat and white robe and all, how am I supposed to know different?)


Is this the only such example? Stay tuned.

Lileks Lands In The Hughniverse: His First Column Here

Will we have political conspiracy movies in the Obama era? If government is now All Wise and Good, how can we possibly have shadowy cabals at the Highest Level, working to follow and/or kill charismatic young Hollywood leading actors? 

Trust me: they’ll find a way. Let us look back in history for our examples. You may recall “Three Days of the Condor,” a high-water mark of high-70s paranoia. It was hardly unusual; in those days it was safely assumed that all major corporations had assassins on the payroll, for example. (Mercinaries loved to work for GlobalTechCorp, because they let you kill with impunity AND they had a great dental plan.)  If I remember correctly – a Latin phrase that means “too lazy to Google” – Robert Redford had stumbled across plans to invade the Middle East and take their delicious, useful oil. By “plans” I mean contingency plans, the sort of thing you have around just in case. 

Scandal! Of course, the Pentagon war-games everything, and no doubt they have plans for invading the Congo via Australia, or conquering Canada by turning the planet upside down and dumping Brazil on its head, should such technology become available. You want them to have plans, because if you find yourself suddenly needing to invade, oh, Iraq, you need to know how to get there, and whether you might have to cross a river or two on the way. But in the movie, the actual existence of plans was the Deep Dark Secret, the smoking gun, and if I also recall, this gave Redford a chance to deliver the usual adolescent speech about how My God it’s all a game to you guys. Presumably he would have scoffed at plans for the Normandy landing as well. You sit here in your ivory tower, and it doesn’t mean a thing to you, how many people you kill or picturesque villages are shelled! My God! Yes, yes, run along, young fellow. We have Nazis to deal with. 

The movie ends with Redford marching into the New York Times. I’ll show you! I’ll show you all! Cliff Robertson, playing an evil CIA mastermind, asks him: how do you know they’ll publish it? Curtain. A shiver of delicious righteousness passes through the audience – the CIA might even get to the Times. Those bastards. In hindsight it’s hilarious, because we know now the New York Times would publish the details of an Israeli strike on Iraq, including the home phones of the pilots and the the URLs of their Facebook pages. 

Paranoia thrillers have made a return in the last few years, as filmmakers and producers attempt to do their civic duty to combat the Bush Peril. The last few films are finally trickling out of the pipeline, just in time for the era of Hope and/or Change, and it makes you wonder: now that the savior of the nation guides us with his steady hand and impeccable judgment, will there still be movies about the perfidy of “patriots?” 

Well, sure. As long as there are Republicans. A few nights ago I watched “State of Play,”  a movie about a crusading journalist who teams up with a spunky perky blogger to expose the murderous doings of a private security contractor. It’s not named Blackwater, and at least they called it “Point Five” instead of, oh, Darkfluid or Inkyliquid, but we know who it’s supposed to be. A Crusading Congressman is attempting to expose the group when the murders start, and we allllll know who’s responsible; anyone will tell you that when you’re the subject of a congressional investigation, you should start killing witnesses and congressional staff the day before the hearings start. We know Congressperson Affleck is a conservative, because he answers to a House Majority Leader with Newt-hued hair, a flag pin,  and a tendency to berate people for taking the Lord’s name in vain. Say no more! Brand that man with the Scarlet R! The screenwriter may have been anguished about having a GOP congressman investigate Blackwater, but trust me: he finds a nice way to deal with that piece of cognitive dissonance.

The movie resurrects the Watergate-era notion of the principled, dogged reporter thrust in the maelstrom of conspiracy. We know he’s a real reporter, because he drives an old car, has a messy apartment and a messy desk no doubt crawling with silverfish; he’s slovenly and unkempt and doughy, but oh-so-irresistible to willowy blonde women and perky bloggers because A) he’s a man of passion and conviction, and B) he’s played by Russell Crowe, and hence probably looks better when shaved and bathed and put on a diet. Unfortunately, he has trouble getting his story past his editor (Helen Mirren, chewing through the cliched dialogue like a kid eating a cooked carrot quickly to stave off the gag reflex) because the paper’s been bought by RUPERT MURDOCH. Well, it’s not spelled out,  but you know that’s who they mean.  

As long as there are Ruperts, conservatives and private security services bent on repealing the 3rd amendment so you’re forced to put them up in your house, there will be ample opportunity for the political thriller. It’s ironic, really: in the olden times, a movie might spin a gripping tale out of an administration that had an actual Communist in its ranks. But then anti-anti-communism became the default position for the bien pensants, and calling someone a commie was a sign of a paranoid lunatic who sat in darkened rooms and drew acrostics about Precious Bodily Fluids. 

Now we have an administration that contains an Actual Communist, but he gets thrown out because it seems he also is a Truther. There might be a movie in there somewhere, but’s not very dramatic to accuse someone of being everything they’ve admitted to being.  Imagine a dramatic meeting in a darkened parking lot with Deep Throat – he looks around to make sure they’re alone, pulls out an iPhone, and calls up some YouTube clips. 

Deep Throat: Burn the URL as soon as you copy these videos, and empty your cache! 

Investigative Blogger: But the video already has 23,464 hits, and it’s mirrored on 26 other accounts. 

Deep Throat: You mean everyone knows about this YouTube? 

Investigative Blogger: Well, yeah. 

Deep Throat: Huh. Well. I watch the Nightly News and read the Times, and I didn’t know any of this stuff until I googled him. 

Investigative Blogger: Really. Imagine that.  


James Lileks blogs at and

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