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Flick Story

Roman Polanski’s ‘Venus in Fur’ Is Lightweight and Campy

By 7.15.14

Venus in Fur opens like a horror film—more precisely, like a horror-comedy. The camera swoops slowly over rainswept streets toward a shuttered theater, as thunder rolls and a darkly glittering waltz plays. The music sets the mood for something like Beetlejuice or even Gremlins: The carnival’s in town, and it opens at midnight!

Roman Polanski’s adaptation of David Ives's play about Leopold Sacher-Masoch’s perverse novel Venus in Furs manages to sustain this edgy, gleeful mood despite its layers of adaptation and influence. On one level it’s just an unhealthy confection, a movie-length warning: Be careful what you wish for, that classic horror maxim. Or, Be careful what you swoon for

On a deeper level the movie is about perhaps the most important question: Is there anything outside the self? Is a genuine surrender of the will possible, or is everything just egoism in the end, since you’re still the one choosing to give or withhold yourself? 

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A Further Perspective

Lawsuits and Impeachment

By 7.15.14

Whenever Democrats are in real trouble politically, the Republicans seem to come up with something new that distracts the public’s attention from the Democrats’ problems. Who says Republicans are not compassionate?

With public opinion polls showing President Obama’s sinking approval rate, in the wake of his administration’s multiple fiascoes and scandals — the disgraceful treatment of veterans who need medical care, the Internal Revenue Service coverups, the tens of thousands of children flooding across our open border — Republicans have created two new distractions that may yet draw attention away from the Democrats’ troubles.

From the Republican establishment, Speaker of the House John Boehner has announced plans to sue Barack Obama for exceeding his authority. And from the Tea Party wing of the Republicans, former Governor Sarah Palin has called for impeachment of the president.

Does President Obama deserve to be sued or impeached? Yes! Is there a snowball’s chance in hell that either the lawsuit or an impeachment will succeed? No!

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Main Street U.S.A.

President Joe Biden? Hmmmm…

By 7.15.14

Sarah Palin’s call for the impeachment of President Obama makes no sense. What does the lady want — a national street fight? But a fetching question arises from her enterprise: Could we live for two years under a President Joe Biden? Would it be worse than now? Maybe not.

It has come to this, in the second year of the second term of Barack Obama. Our present chief executive makes Joe Biden look good — a prospect that once seemed as unlikely as a free Clinton speech. Joe Biden, without a fresh political perspective to his name — but with a head of nicely transplanted hair and a mouthful of nicely capped teeth — might lead the country more intelligently than ...

Wait! That assumes someone is leading it now, which, if it happens to be so, surely looks otherwise.

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The War on Terror Spectator

The Middle East’s Christian Diaspora

By 7.15.14

Anyone who obtained too much power in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had two choices: join the Ba’ath Party or die. Joseph Kassab, a medical researcher at the University of Baghdad, chose a third option—flee to the United States. Thirty-five years later, he describes his success here as “an American dream story.” But he is a Chaldean Catholic, and he worries for the fate of his people, the Christians of Iraq.

“Do we want our people to leave Iraq? The answer is no,” he told TAS. “Our ancestry in Iraq goes back 2,000 years before Christ.”

The Christian population of Iraq, which has its roots in the ancient Assyrians who embraced Christianity in biblical times, numbered 1.3 million before 2003. Over the next decade, nearly a million Christians fled to neighboring countries. Many who became refugees fled to the West if they could.

Most joined the Chaldean Christian community in Michigan, which began in the 1870s. They had helped build the automobile industry, saving factory wages to bring family members to the land of opportunity. The Detroit community of Chaldeans now numbers 200,000 and has associations for every profession from pharmaceutics to CPAs.

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Political Hay

No U-Turns

By 7.15.14

The Netflix documentary Mitt ought to be required viewing for American voters, and particularly the low-information types who cast their ballots for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election. Mitt chronicles the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, and in it one can see the effects a long and grueling presidential campaign can have on a candidate and his family.

One can also see the chasm between who a man really is and what he’s portrayed to be by his political opponents and the media. The Romney in Mitt is a man America would happily choose as its president: successful in business, faithful to God, blessed with family, easygoing with friends, and possessed of the intelligence and skill to serve in a high executive role. He’s funny and down to earth. The Romney clan is straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

He’s a man you can root for.

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History

Cesar Chavez: Anti-Immigration to His Union Core

By 7.15.14

Call it the whitewash of Cesar Chavez. Yes, that Cesar Chavez: the late farm worker unionizer (he died in 1993) honored repeatedly by President Obama. The man the Left loves to name drop for his role in organizing all-those grape and lettuce and melon pickers in the day.

But there is a considerable twist to the story. In fact, Cesar Chavez believed ferociously in the border of the United States — because that border protected his union. So ferociously did he hold this view that the New York Times ran a story detailing an accusation that the union Chavez founded, the United Farm Workers, set up a 100 mile “wet line” to keep “wetbacks” and “illegals” — yes, all of those are Chavez’s words — out of the United States. So let’s go back in the time machine to the period when Chavez was rocketing to fame.

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Play Ball

In Midseason Form

By 7.15.14

With the 85th MLB All-Star Game set to be played tonight at Target Field in Minneapolis, we have reached the midway point of the 2014 baseball season. Actually, we’re well into the second half of the season as MLB teams have played nearly 100 contests in a schedule of 162 games. In any case, here is my assessment of the 2014 season thus far and how my predictions have fared.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
AL East                   W   L    PCT      GB
Baltimore Orioles     52   42   .553      ___
Toronto Blue Jays     49   47   .510      4.0
New York Yankees    47   47   .505      5.0
Tampa Bay Rays        44   53   .454      9.5
Boston Red Sox         43   52   .453      9.5

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The Nation's Pulse

Defending Washington

By 7.14.14

Washington, D.C. has always been under attack, rhetorically. But twice it was militarily attacked, with presidents at the scene of combat, and the anniversaries of each are this summer.

This past weekend was the 150th anniversary of Confederate General Jubal Early’s July 11-12, 1864 attack on Fort Stevens on what is now Georgia Avenue in Northwest D.C. He had virtually snuck up on the nation’s capital with a nearly 15,000 man army, when Washington’s defenses had been stripped bare by General Grant’s siege at Petersburg.

General Early first arrived at the city’s northern boundary ahead of his troops and spied “feebly manned” defending forts and claiming to see the Capitol dome. Much of his army behind him was bedraggled and exhausted from the extreme heat and dust as they meandered down what is now Rockville Pike through suburban Maryland.

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Special Report

A World Cup to Hold On To

By 7.14.14

Unlike our friend Aaron I was happy to watch the entire, riveting World Cup finale, and not only because my wife cut short her shopping to get back home in time to watch it with me. The two of us and the World Cup go back a ways. The night before our wedding we watched Poland lose to Argentina in Buenos Aires in the opener of the 1978 tournament. We’ve had better luck since then than the Polish national team.

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A Further Perspective

Cheating at the Sochi Olympics Alleged

By 7.14.14

Reports in the press, including AP and New York Times, indicate that pop violinist Vanessa-Mae may have been unwittingly implicated in a cheating scandal during the qualifications for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

Miss Vanessa-Mae herself is not accused of wrongdoing; rather, Slovenian Ski Association officials say that four of their racing officials faked results in the grand slalom, Vanessa-Mae’s event. They suspended the officials and are passing the dossier to public prosecutors. Vanessa-Mae finished last in the event at Sochi, which was actually one by a Slovenian.

The matter would be a cause for laughter and tut-tutting, with both sports and music chroniclers agreeing that the silly episode is in keeping with the character of a pretty, vain, ditzy 35-year old musician whose prodigies as a child were channeled into the kind of insipid pop classical performances that are used in airports to lull travelers or the noise you hear in the toilet stalls of big hotel chains.

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