Celebrity behavior may be rather unpredictable — who knew a weakling like Justin Bieber could do $20,000 in damage throwing eggs at a Calabasas mansion — but celebrity awards programs, generally, are not. The 2013 Oscar nominations announced today, however, feature a number of surprises. Oprah will have no excuse to snub Academy Awards red carpet reporters, as she was snubbed by the Academy itself. Chris Martin will not be looking dejectedly at the camera as Bono picks up a shiny new toy for his mantle. Tom Hanks does not even need to show up. And the producers of Jackass can now put the words “Academy Award nominated” in front of Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.
The Reagan Revolution.
And now… the Trump Revolution?
Although he doesn’t put it that way, Ron Fournier is concerned.
So, incredibly, is New York GOP chairman Ed Cox.
But we will begin with Ron Fournier.
In this article over at his National Journal perch, longtime liberal journalist Fournier asks with trepidation:
President Trump? Stranger Things Might Happen
Political, social forces make the 2016 presidential race unpredictably interesting.
After spending his column recalling how far off the radar Barack Obama was in the lead-up to the 2008 election, when everyone who was anyone just knew Hillary had the nomination wrapped up for the Democrats and that Rudy Giuliani was in the lead for the GOP, Fournier shivers:
In her nearly 400-page feminist screed about the plight of women in America, “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink,” Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress have fired the first volley in the pivotal campaign of 2014 that will determine whether the President’s leftist agenda will proceed forward unimpeded or whether the Constitution and common sense will prevail. It is no small matter that the document also propels Hillary Clinton’s goals forward and seeks to revive a moribund feminist movement’s struggle for relevance. Served with a dollop of celebrity and a high-powered roll-out — including President Obama promoting the report with Shriver at the White House — the skill of the marketing effort greatly exceeds the heft of the report. It is long on glamour and glitz and short on substance and scholarly depth.
The Udall clan is a distinguished Western political family, the Kennedys in cowboy boots (though hiking boots might be a more apt metaphor nowadays). They have been a presence on the regional political scene for four generations, with various antecedents serving in state legislatures, mayoral offices, and on state supreme courts dating back to 1887. Two of the family’s leading lights were Morris “Mo” Udall (1922-1998), Democratic Arizona Congressman who represented the state’s 2nd Congressional District from 1961 to 1991 (and a serious primary challenger to Jimmy Carter in the 1976 presidential cycle); and his brother Stewart Udall (1920-2010), who previously held the same seat (1955-1961), relinquishing it to serve as Secretary of the Interior through the entire Kennedy and Johnson administrations (1961-1969).
WASHINGTON — You will perhaps forgive me if I have found all this bellyaching about retired Secretary of Defense Bob Gates’ so-called indiscretion, indignation, and candor a bit hard to take. I first got to know Bob in the early 1980s, thanks to Bill Casey. Through all these years Bob has not changed fundamentally. What has changed is Washington. It is more politicized with an especially shallow politics, more parochial, and more in need of candor, indignation, and even moments of indiscretion. Bob did not let the country down when he wrote his memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense.
Today is our lucky day, the day each year my wife and I get to be on the receiving end of multiple doses of federal welfare — gratis money we didn’t ask for and don’t need that will be picked from taxpayers’ pockets in order to lower the price of our breakfast, dinner, travel, and unlimited pours of pinot noir and chardonnay.
As I’m writing this, an Amtrak attendant is driving our ruby red Lexus ES350 up the ramp onto Amtrak's Auto Train in Lorton, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.) for our overnight train excursion to Sanford, Fla. (near Orlando).
Before it headed off to the loading area, another Amtrak attendant slowly circled our car with a video camera, carefully filming the condition of every panel so there’ll be clear evidence when we arrive in Florida whether a scratch or dent was a preexisting condition.
Dear Mr. Plunkitt—
I went to Healthcare.gov to see what all the fuss was about. Big mistake. First of all, by accident I initially typed in Healthcare.lov, which—lo and behold!—hosts an explicit website for those who find amorous appeal in stethoscopes and inflating blood pressure armbands. When I finally got to the correct website, I entered some very private information (yes, I still smoke at least a pack a day, but Michelle cannot find out and this is said in confidence, Mr. Plunkitt, not for publication), but when I clicked “submit” it just disappeared into the ether. So I tried the 1-800 enrollment number instead. My call was put through to an unhelpful but extremely enthusiastic “navigator,” who told me he would guide me through the signup process like Ferdinand Magellan. I didn’t have the heart to enlighten him that Magellan was impaled by eskimos or zulus or something like that.
And to think they called him limp, soft, flaccid. The nickname behind his back was Flanby, a popular gelatinous French canned dessert. Wrong, all wrong. It turns out that President François Hollande demonstrates a firm, nay, veritably priapic virility that, at age 59, would do honor to many a fantasizing man years his junior. French presidents have long let it be known that they like an extracurricular dalliance now and then — even when it wasn’t true. It goes with the territory and improves the image in a country where the menfolk like to consider themselves sacrés baiseurs (I prefer not to translate in a family magazine). But sneaking out of the Élysée Palace on a scooter for regular midnight trysts with an actress in a nearby apartment owned by the ex-mistress of an alleged Mafioso? That sets a new record for insouciant presidential playing around even in France.
The late Chicago columnist Mike Royko nicknamed Jerry Brown “Governor Moonbeam” for his flaky politics. Brown’s 1980 campaign slogan was: “protect the earth, serve the people and explore the universe.” But perhaps even Royko didn’t foresee the eccentric politics of 2014 California under Jerry Brown, which could feature, among other oddities, a referendum on whether or not to keep transgender bathrooms in public schools.
Brown signed the transgender-bathroom legislation, authored by the San Francisco radical Tom Ammiano, last fall. The legislation stipulates that students, based on nothing more than their “gender” self-perception, may choose the bathroom, locker facility, and sports team of their choice. (Brown has also signed legislation allowing people to alter birth certificates based on their self-perception.)
“Now, every transgender student in California will be able to get up in the morning knowing that when they go to school as their authentic self they will have the same fair chance at success as their classmates,” Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center, told the press.
The latest faux issue to insinuate itself into our political polemics travels under the unedifying name of “income inequality.” As political abstractions go, this one is more incoherent than most. (Shabbier too in its naked appeal to envy and resentment.) Almost no one who uses the term says what he means by it. But it has the ring of yet another incitement to leftist larceny.
Since President Obama heaved this dead cat into the room a few weeks ago, I’ve been waiting for anyone speaking for the Republican Party to say that this hustle is nothing more than Marxist boilerplate. Since no one in the Grand Old Party has either the courage or the awareness to say this, I guess it’s up to me.
If income inequality is the problem, then income equality is the goal. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, to coin a phrase (or to each according to his or her fanciful desires, if we are to adopt the Sandra Fluke addendum to the original Marx).
Congressional speeches are generally hot air, politicians blathering to a largely empty chamber. But on January 9th a discussion in the House of Representatives soared above that mediocrity. For those Americans who worry that Congress no longer cares about preserving the Constitution, the words below will provide reassurance that there are a few people with backbone in Washington, D.C.
Congressman Tom Rice (R-South Carolina) and several of his 29 co-sponsors defended their resolution calling on the House of Representatives to sue President Obama in order to compel him to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” as the U.S. Constitution commands. They cited his changes to Obamacare by fiat, his defiance of U.S. immigration law, and his waiving the federal work requirement for welfare benefits.
Niall Ferguson has characterized the current state of America as “The Great Degeneration.” Another commentator has recently introduced a new term into the public domain to describe our present political and governmental distemper.
In Yuval Levin’s very useful conservative policy journal, National Affairs, we find an honest and perceptive liberal, Professor Steven M. Teles of Johns Hopkins University, decrying the size, complexity, and incoherence, not to mention ineffectiveness, of American government as a “kludgeocracy.”
Before I woke up on the morning of January 15, 1994, I had the most vivid dream. In this dream, Harry Nilsson was standing right in front of me. His heart was melting and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
My own heart leapt into my throat when I learned later that day Nilsson had died of heart failure. My dream completely spooked me out.
I would be spooked out again 48 hours later when an earthquake hit Los Angeles that measured 6.7 on the Richter scale. My Dad had arrived in L.A. the previous evening for a visit to his eldest sister. Fortunately, he was not the worse for wear. Interestingly, shortly after his arrival Dad asked my aunt, “When earthquakes occur what time of the day do they usually take place?” “About 6 a.m.,” my aunt replied. So sure enough when the earthquake happened Dad awoke and said, “Oh, it must be 6 a.m.” He then promptly went back to sleep.
The disastrous October 1 launch of Healthcare.gov surprised even those of us who expected Obamacare to fail. The economics of the law are impossible, but who’d have thought just building a functional computer system would prove an insurmountable challenge?
As it turns out, Henry Chao, the project’s “chief digital architect,” had grave doubts months earlier. The New York Times reported on October 13 that in March, Chao “told industry executives that he was deeply worried about the Web site’s debut. ‘Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience,’ he told them.”
The Times story, written by Robert Pear, Sharon LaFraniere, and Ian Austen, was titled “From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal.” It turns out the reporters, like Chao, were aware of the impending problems long before October 1:
In a victory for the future of the Internet and for property rights, on Tuesday the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned — we should all hope permanently — the heart of the Federal Communication Commission’s so-called “Net Neutrality” rules.
Net Neutrality, as with so many leftist proposals, is Orwellian in name: it represents little more than the theft of property rights of companies that have invested billions of dollars in Internet infrastructure.
It is “neutral” in the sense that the regulations would force providers of Internet bandwidth to treat all content providers the same way. That is no more reasonable than saying that a stadium can’t sell better seats for higher prices or limit access to the Club level or tell you that you can’t bring in your own beer. It is “neutral” in the same way that Chairman Mao was “neutral” about private property.
Retired Defense Secretary Robert Gates breezed back onto the national scene last week by speaking his mind. Oh, and did he speak it -- loudly enough, robustly enough to remind all within earshot what it means to hear an honest man seek to serve the truth.
I said "seek" to serve. Did he actually serve, and how would we know for sure? With any of Gates' memorable judgments, ladled out in a memoir called "Duty," we are entitled constitutionally to differ. Is President Obama, as Gates avers, skeptical of his own Afghanistan policy? Are the majority of representatives in Congress "uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country?" Has Vice President Joe Biden "been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades"? Do foreign policy calculations spring as often as not these days from domestic political reasonings?
Retired Defense Secretary Robert Gates breezed back onto the national scene last week by speaking his mind. Oh, and did he speak it — loudly enough, robustly enough to remind all within earshot what it means to hear an honest man seek to serve the truth.
I said “seek” to serve. Did he actually serve, and how would we know for sure? With any of Gates’ memorable judgments, ladled out in a memoir called Duty, we are entitled constitutionally to differ. Is President Obama, as Gates avers, skeptical of his own Afghanistan policy? Are the majority of representatives in Congress “uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country?” Has Vice President Joe Biden “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades”? Do foreign policy calculations spring as often as not these days from domestic political reasonings?
Chris Christie and his bridge. Sean Hannity and his Conservative Solutions Caucus 2014. Mark Levin under attack by the Senate GOP Establishment. Three different events — and exactly the same point.
By now the entire world political and beyond knows the tale (thus far revealed) of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate.” The closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge that resulted in days of traffic jams, all as the result of a political vendetta carried out by Christie aides against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee. In a lengthy press conference, Governor Christie, the Great Moderate GOP Establishment Hope for 2016, announced he had fired his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and cut his ties to his campaign manager Bill Stepien, the latter described as “Christie’s Karl Rove” who not only was set to become chairman of the New Jersey Republican Party but apparently had a considerable consulting contract with the Christie-chaired Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) as well. Also resigning: David Wildstein, described by CNN thusly:
If popes and presidents have anything to do with it, 2014 looks set to be the “Year of Inequality.” Already the rehashing of old, old arguments has begun in earnest. Economists, for instance, are re-disputing the inequality statistics. Others are re-debating perennial philosophical questions such as what we mean by inequality and (depending on the meaning) whether it’s always a bad thing.
You don’t, however, have to join most of the contemporary academy in worshiping at the altar of the prophet of modern liberal egalitarianism, the late John Rawls, to recognize that some seriously unjustifiable inequities do characterize virtually all modern societies. And one such injustice, though rarely spoken about in these terms by many politicians (for reasons that will become obvious), is the rise and rise of crony capitalism.
Crony capitalism is an expression that’s used a great deal these days, so let’s be clear what it means. Crony capitalism is not criminal activity or outright corruption — though it verges on, and often enters, these spheres. Crony capitalism is about hollowing-out market economies and replacing them with what may be described as political markets.
RALEIGH, N.C. — A sure sign of our adolescent approach to politics in the United States is that wrestlers, stand-up comedians, and reality TV stars can run for office — and win. The latest chapter in the ongoing saga of celebrities-turned-politicians could unfold in North Carolina.
Sources have informed the Washington Blade that Clay Aiken, of American Idol fame, has met with Democratic political operatives to weigh a potential bid for Congress in the Tar Heel State’s 2nd Congressional District, located in the central part of the state near Raleigh.
Aiken exploded onto the reality TV circuit in 2003 when he placed second on American Idol. (As an aside, one must admire the power of reality TV when a second place finish propels one to stardom.) Since his victory, Aiken has released numerous albums and become something of a 21st-century pop culture personality, in that unusual vein of celebrity made possible by reality TV and YouTube.