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The Art of Performance

Short Stein. Bartlett's Bowman. Ayn Randian Wal-Mart. Howie as Deano. Plus much more.

2.16.05

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SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
Re: Ben Stein's One of Them:

I continue to be amazed by Ben Stein. Impressive as he was as Ferris Bueller's teacher, his obit for Arthur Miller is one of the most powerful short pieces I have read in a long time.
-- Jon Hagenson

Sometimes the best articles, the ones that in fact say the most, are the shortest. And the best written, too.
-- Richard Szathmary

WORDS TO REMEMBER
Re: James Bowman'sMasked Players:

From James Bowman's excellent review of the Baby reviews comes this pithy and multi-purpose truth, which I intend to fly as a banner until Doomsday: "It's always easier to remain pleased with oneself for the intelligence of one's beliefs if one starts from the assumption that only stupid people could believe anything else."
-- Jeffrey S. Erickson
Davidson, North Carolina

I have what I believe to be the most obvious answer to your question as to Mr. Eastwood's motivation in his deception: "Why does even Clint Eastwood persist in his denial of the obvious instead of showing the courage of his convictions."

Namely, by minimizing the political angle of the film, Eastwood can get a much larger audience to see it. This will both increase his film's earnings and maximize its political effect. Americans, by and large, aren't going to go see a film about euthanasia. They will go see a cross between Rocky and The Next Karate Kid, apparently, as that is what the movie is being sold to the public as.
-- Scott Wilhelm

For me, movies are entertainment. I take their "messages" with a grain of salt, but I truly enjoy most of the movies I choose to see. Based solely on personal experience, I believe most people watch movies for the same reasons I do and give little thought to the political agenda, which admittedly exists in most films. If you insist on watching movies for the sole purpose of exposing a lefty agenda and sucking every ounce of joy out of them, please do yourself (and me) a favor and stop watching them. I have stopped reading your movie reviews because they induce uncontrollable eye rolling, but with the absence of the "Movie Takes" label you tricked me into reading this one.
-- Chuck Lazarz

UP AGAINST THE WAL-MART
Re: Philip Klein's Wal-Mart Strikes Back:

Lovely article. This situation (especially the closing line) reminds me of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's masterpiece. When the men of the mind went on strike, they were vilified by their most passionate enemies for daring to deprive the public of its "rights." It is true that life imitates art!
-- Vincent Mohan

A further point to Philip Klein's article on Wal-Mart, the Jonquiere region of Quebec has one of the highest unemployment rates in the Province.

Wal-Mart, in employing these people, is keeping them off either unemployment insurance or welfare. It is, at the same time, giving many of them the chance to learn the discipline of work -- getting up in the morning, being punctual, perhaps even the luxury of a budget.

The more successful, having been given an entry level to the work-force and some "experience" by the reviled Wal-Mart, can start building a CV and may even move on to better paying jobs.

Thus Wal-Mart, like McDonald's, is providing a better service to the Province and the Country than the bureaucrats who administer the dole -- paying for "on-the-job training" and helping people clamber on-board a work ethic while saving taxpayers the onus of having to support them.

Of course, within our Canadian socialist mind-set, unions and elites would be dead set against this, and we must not be surprised since these vocal groups fly in the face of most sensible economic objectives.
-- Douglas Sheard
Eastern Townships, Quebec

In Philip Klein's piece, it is clearly evident that the unions need Wal-Mart and on their terms -- which only would be vertically dynamic. And, the Canadian government needs Wal-Mart for the money it generates through sales, payroll, and income taxes. And we know that taxes are also vertically dynamic.

I like Wal-Mart's approach -- a page right from President Reagan's "How To Deal With a Union" playbook. I love it!
-- Doug Meyer
Parker & Broomfield, Colorado

Wal-Mart is closing its one unionized store in Quebec? So what?

How do you say "good riddance" in French? "Bon riddance?" (Roll the "r.")

It might be possible to support Wal-Mart's anti-union policy if Wal-Mart consistently applied it to all the countries it does business in, but the policy is ignored in China and Mexico.

A couple of weeks ago Wal-Mart executives were featured on the news with Chinese Labor Union Officials at the opening of a Wal-Mart store in China. To be sure, the Union is a nationalized "Yellow Dog" union, but the picture does wonders to illustrate the versatility of Wal-Mart's "business models" in reaching that elusive 3 cents on the dollar profit margin!

CNBC recently produced a 2-hour special on Wal-Mart. It was stated therein that Wal-Mart was now the largest employer in Mexico. All of Wal-Mart's hirings (as is the case of any company doing business in Mexico) is done through Unions acting as hiring agencies. It would be interesting to look at these hiring contracts and see how they show up on the year's end balance sheet before that 3 cents on the dollar profit is distributed.

Wal-Mart brings to mind Thomas Jefferson's dictum on merchants: To wit; "Merchants have no allegiances."
-- Bob Keiser
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Where I live there was a specialty steel mill that specialized in stainless steel bars and ingots. It employed 1,200 workers at very high-paying jobs. The Management purchased a continuous steel caster from a Japanese company and tried to get it into production. The caster was horrendously expensive, difficult to run, and necessary if the company was to continue to compete in the world market. The company had great difficulty getting the caster up and running and was forced to call upon the Union to moderate its contract proposals and accept a wage freeze. The company also petitioned the local government to grant it a temporary tax abatement. The government agreed, but the Union, believing that it had a solid bargaining position held firm to its demands for improvements in the contract. The company told the Union that it would have to close the plant, however, the Union believed that since it had purchased the aforementioned caster for so many millions of dollars, the threat to close was an empty one. Cutting to the chase, as they say in Hollywood, the plant closed, the jobs were lost, and every piece of equipment including the railroad tracks was sold to the highest bidder. The moral: Unions need to consider the welfare of the entire community, not just their hourly wage and benefits. I mean, didn't these folks ever hear about the goose that laid the golden eggs?
-- Joseph Baum
Newton Falls, Ohio

After reading today of organizations like Monsanto, which has agreed to stop research on genetically engineered wheat because of pressures from Greenpeace or the CEO of Ford Motor Company, publicly supporting a large gas tax to get environmentalists off their back, it is so refreshing to see a major corporation not genuflect to the demands of the left. You just gotta love politicians who would not hesitate to characterize a company as conducting "economic terrorism," because the same politicians would never characterize unions practicing collective bargaining or going out on strike as a form of terrorism or legalized extortion.

Personally, I am not a customer of Wal-Mart, but I can't help but to root for them.
-- Anthony Mastroserio
Princeton, New Jersey

SCREAMING TO THE TOP
Re: George Neumayr's The Great Con:

Suspicions are popping up that Dr. Dean took credit for organizational skills he doesn't have but rather were due his staff. Others think that his narcissism will cause him to steer himself toward a draft for the 2008 nomination. If the party's power matrix doesn't change, he might well be their nominee.
-- Howard Lohmuller
Seabrook, Texas

Well the Democrats have finally taken some Republican (insider) advice: "...get Clinton's Man (McAuliffe) out of the DNC." But they've not taken the advice of the American people about whom to put in his place. This should provide food for thought for Republicans to realize how bad it could be if they ever lose sight of viable, pro-American ideas. Your party tanks.

And John (Kerry), we still don't know what "The Plan" is.
-- P. Aaron Jones
Huntington Woods, Michigan

Good article and pretty much to the point. I figure Dean will last about 6 months. I also think Clinton and company will be exploring the third party option if they can't get rid of this buffoon in time. Keep attacking. Dean is a fool leading a group of fools.
-- Pete Chagnon

During the last election cycle I asked my liberal friends to explain to me how John Kerry would make "a stronger America" when he had consistently voted to (a) raise our taxes, (b) de-fund our intelligence gathering agencies, and (c) stop production of innovative military weapons. With the ascendancy of Howard Dean to the chairmanship of the DNC I have revised my questions. I now ask how gay/lesbian marriage, abortion on demand up to the time of birth, socialized medicine (that has failed in every country that has tried it), and completely relative morality will make the U.S. a better country. As with the last batch of questions, this one has brought no intelligent answers. In fact, yesterday, in a conversation with an ardent Bush hater, I listened to a college educated former teacher tell me that same sex marriage is not "abnormal," and that young people who love each other should be encouraged to live together because there is nothing wrong with fornication. It was like trying to explain to a blind man what a glorious sunset looks like.
-- Joseph Baum
Newton Falls, Ohio

So, the Democrats have effectively put Dr. Kevorkian in charge of the hospital. I always figured that there might be some kind of death wish at the heart of modern American liberalism; now I know.
-- David Carter

Reading George Neumayer's article on Dean and the Dems uncontrollable urge to pander to the gay lobby made me think of one of the strange things about Dean and, by extension, liberalism itself. Dean is one of the most liberal of prominent Democratic liberals, but in his personal life he is probably most conventional of the lot. He has never had a swinging bachelor mid-life crisis period like Sens. Kennedy, Dodd, and Kerry, and lacks their pomposity. He is not a womanizer and serial liar like Bill Clinton. He seems too comfortable with who he is and has not constructed a phony shop-window of a persona like Hillary. He is not gay. Howard Dean is conventional upper-middle class WASP from a nice family. Come to think of it, most of the liberals I know are too. What's that all about? Any ideas, Mr. Neumayr?
-- Will Pickering

George Neumayr's "The Great Con" identifies the essence of what American voters told Democrats in the last election, specifically -- "We do not agree with your message." Repeating that message (bigger government, higher taxes, a pacifistic foreign policy and continued social license) -- in a softer voice or a louder voice or a female (Hillary's) voice does not change the message.

Howard Dean's assertion that the failure of the Democrats to make connection with real Americans is a "language problem," does indeed sound like a huckster who enjoys own his sales pitch, while ignoring the fact that we've already rejected his product.
-- Deane Fish
Altamont, New York

Regarding Mr. Neumayr's article, "The Great Con," I believe the quote ran, "No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby."

The cynical observer was H. L. Mencken, NOT P.T. Barnum.
-- Jon R. Brenneman
Glen Gardner, New Jersey

Isn't the quote actually, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public," and attributed to H.L. Mencken?
--Steve Altland

The editor replies: Yes and no. Search Google and you'll get Barnum as often as not. British sources credit Barnum as well. Besides, great minds think alike.

ALWAYS WRONG
Re: Jed Babbin's The Gitmo Girls:

An online poll at "Christianity Today" is enlightening:

Targeting an enemy combatant's religious beliefs as a means of breaking his will is:

Always wrong 50%
Wrong if it violates the Geneva Convention 7%
Wrong if prisoners must violate their beliefs 6%
OK if prisoners are offended but not injured 8%
OK if prisoner's beliefs violate the Bible 3%
OK if it leads to information that saves lives 5%
Not a problem 6%
I don't know 10%

For a large part of the religious population, pure pragmatism is not a satisfactory ethic.
-- Gary Martin
Platte City, Missouri

BAGHDAD SPECTATOR
Re: Ben Stein's How Was Your Day?:

Thanks very much for the splendid article. I often wonder where we get such young people.

You may not know it, but a number of military folk keep up with the Spectator's online articles. I know I did when I was in Baghdad last year.

I don't mean to seem churlish, but I believe Mr. Stein should have said "M240B machine gun" instead of "B-240 machine gun." It seems a small point in an otherwise delightful telling of a splendid tale.

Again, thanks and keep up the good work.
-- Jerry L. Shaw

TOP OF THE LINE
Thank you very much for returning the print/mail option to the top of the columns! Boy, do we appreciate it!
-- unsigned

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