Saturday, September 09, 2006

More on The Path to 9/11

Our new friend Akaky Bashmachkin weighs in very thoughtfully on the controversy, and by popular demand, we gratefully promote his considerations from our comments section to the mainpage:

This, I think, brings up the question of just how much accuracy can anyone expect from any art form depicting a historical event. Hollywood is notorious for rewriting history in order to get a better story on film, but it isn’t just Hollywood that has done this over the years. In Henry V, for example, Shakespeare has his Chorus apologize to the audience for mangling the full course of his characters’ glory and for turning the accomplishment of many years into an hourglass. The play contains the battle of Agincourt and then follows the battle with the Treaty of Troyes, where in fact Henry fought the battle in 1415 and signed the treaty with the French in 1420. In 1942, Warner Brothers had Gary Cooper play the great Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees. One of the high points of that film is Cooper’s rendition of Gehrig’s famous speech at Yankee Stadium, the one in which he proclaimed himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Cooper gives a moving performance, giving the speech wonderfully, until you realize, as many people did at the time, that Gary Cooper gives the speech in his own Montana accent, whereas Lou Gehrig not only played for a New York team, he was born and raised in New York City, and spoke with a New York accent. And in the greatest of all historical fictions, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Tolstoy depicts Field Marshal Kutuzov as an earthy son of the Russian soil, almost a peasant military genius, not at all like the smooth courtier the actual Kutuzov really was.

So, what is the responsibility of artists when it comes to depicting actual events? I think that the standard in such a case must be that the producers and writers do their level best to be historically accurate. You do not have major historical characters say or do things they did not actually say or do. The producers should restrict compression of time and character to events and people not absolutely central to the story. If a historical character must deal with a fictional character, then it behooves the artist putting these two people together to have the historical character say or do nothing that would offend the historical record. In Shelby Foote’s Shiloh and in Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, for example, both authors made certain that they had their historical characters interact with the fictional ones in the places where the real people really were at the time depicted, and both men had all their characters hew closely to the historical record.

In the case of this film, if the charges of slanting are true, and I should point out that as I write this it is the Saturday before the film is broadcast, so I have not seen it yet, then at least some of the Clinton administration officials upset by this film have every right to be. Ms. Albright, for one, is a woman whose opinions on foreign policy I almost never agree with, but she has spent years serving this country faithfully and deserves better than to have someone basically accuse her of tipping off Osama bin Laden that the United States had launched a cruise missile strike against him. This, I think, is uncalled for and unnecessary.

As for Mr. Berger’s complaint, it strikes me that Mr. Berger is singularly lacking in irony here. A man who tries to distort the historical record by stealing documents out of the National Archives should be the last person on the planet to accuse others of trying to alter history. Still, his ire, and the ire of the Clintonistas is understandable; no one likes being accused of aiding and abetting a mass murderer, no one likes being accused of negligence and dereliction of duty. It is easy, five years after the event, to pick out the relevant intelligence from all of the background noise, to see the dots that someone should have connected, to see that certain policies harmed rather than helped those responsible for the day to day running of the nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies. And yet, for eight years, these were the people responsible for those agencies.

What happened in New York on September 11, 2001 did not come out of the blue; it was the final blow in an ever-mounting series of attacks on Americans and American interests around the world. From the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 to the attacks on the Khobar towers in 1996 to the East African embassy bombings in 1998 to the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, al-Qaeda and its minions hit the United States again and again, even, at one point, publicly declaring war on the United States. The Clinton Administration did launch missile attacks on al-Qaeda camps after these attacks, and did set up intelligence groups to track and locate bin Laden, but it is clear that they did not take the threat seriously enough and neither did the incoming Bush Administration in 2001. Both administrations dropped the ball when it came to this threat, both administrations refusing to take bin Laden at his word. Both administrations filed him away as a minor annoyance, a man capable of minor terrorist attacks that might get a few people killed but unable to harm any long-term American interest. Both administrations were wrong, and three thousand people paid for their mistakes with their lives.

ABC Continues Edits on 9/11 Miniseries, Will Air It Despite Dems' Protests

Still shot from ABC TV miniseries The Path to 9/11E! Online reports that ABC is carrying on with its Path to 9/11 miniseries despite complaints by former president Bill Clinton and threats of retaliation from high-ranking Democrat politicians:

Don't believe the hype. Or believe it. Either way, don't decide either way until you've watched all five hours.

That's pretty much the gist of ABC's message to potential viewers of the network's two-part miniseries The Path to 9/11, which airs commercial-free Sunday and Monday. (Ironically there will now be a 20-minute break Monday at 9 p.m. to accommodate a speech from President Bush.

While ABC has stated that the $40 million production is still in the editing process and is being slightly tweaked in response to concerns that it unfairly attacks the Clinton administration for failure to act on terrorist threats in the years leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the network has not bowed to pressure from former Cabinet members and left-wing groups to "dump," "yank" or otherwise pull the movie from the schedule.

ABC has altered at least some of the scenes that have been criticized:

According to reports, a scene alluding to the idea that then-National Security Adviser Sandy Berger put the kibosh on an order to kill bin Laden has been "toned down."

"That sequence has been the focus of attention," a source close to the production told the Los Angeles Times.

ABC has also altered the credits to say that the film is "based in part" on the 9/11 Commission Report rather than "based on" the document.

An ABC executive told the Washington Post that any changes that were made "intended to make clearer that it was general indecisiveness, not any one individual," that left the United States vulnerable to attack on 9/11.

Hopes of opponents of the miniseries were disappointed when 9/11 commission member Tom Keane not only refused to condemn the film but instead strongly endorsed it:

Ex-New Jersey Governor Thomas Keane, who chaired the 9/11 commission and served as a consultant on The Path to 9/11, was asked to pull his weight with the filmmakers to have the project scrapped, but he has since spoken out in support of the picture.

"It's something the American people should see," Keane said during an interview on Good Morning America Friday. "Because you understand how these people wanted to do us harm, developed this plot and how the machinations of the American government under two administrations not only failed to stop them, but even failed to slow them down."

Keane did ask the filmmakers to take some of the complaints into consideration, however.

"These are people of integrity," Keane told the Post. "I know there are some scenes where words are put in characters' mouths. But the whole thing is true to the spirit of 9/11."

My opinion: The events that led up to the 9/11 attack are an important matter for public discussion which greatly merits further analysis, as we should all want to know exactly what in American policy worked and what did not, and the presentation of this miniseries will be a very good thing if it stimulates such a discussion.

From Karnick on Culture.

Perry Mason Season 1, Volume 2 DVD Announced

CBS Home Video has announced that volume two of season one of Perry Mason, the popular 1950s-'60s TV series based on the character created by Erle Stanley Gardner will go on sale on November 21.

The five-disc set will include the last twenty episodes of the first season. Volume 1 included the first 19 episodes.

That is all the information about the new DVD set available at this time. For information on the Perry Mason Season 1, Volume 1 DVD, click here.

For more on Perry Mason and author Gardner, see my Weekly Standard article on "The Case of the Bestselling Author" here. For more information on the Season 1 Volume 1 DVD and an important addition to my Weekly Standard article, see this Karnick on Culture post.

Here's the cover art for the DVD edition:

Perry Mason s 1 v 2 DVD cover art

From Karnick on Culture.

Friday, September 08, 2006

If It's on Film, It's Got to Be True

Realizing that many people get their education in history from the movies, Michael Moore dashed off a passionate note to Roger Ebert: "If I state something as a fact, I need the viewers to trust that those facts are correct." (And we do, Michael.)

So Bill Clinton and members of his administration have a bulletproof point here: If Sandy Berger didn't hang up the phone on a CIA operative ready to whack Osama bin Laden, and if Madeleine Albright didn't tip off Pakistan resulting in Osama slipping away on another occasion, such actions should not be attributed to actual political personages---living or dead.

There is always a duty to truth. Now, it really doesn't matter that the Philadelphia Eagle in Invincible didn't, in actual fact, scoop up the fumble and return it for the winning touchdown, and it's only a minor irritation that people think the Roman emperor Commodus died at the hands of Russell Crowe and not the Pretorian Guard. But the acts ascribed to Berger and Albright are more of the same info-nonsense, and are potentially far more corrosive. The Clintonites have a reason to kick.

Apparently unnoticed by the producers of The Path To 9/11, though, was that the Clinton administration often and provably did nothing (and worse) when it could have: turning down Sudan's offer to hand over bin Laden, and instituting the perverse legal "wall" of separation between intelligence agencies that likely let the 9-11 attackers slip through. (The latter being the work of administration attorney Jamie Gorelick, who eventually sat on the 9-11 commission. Hmmm.)

The proper slapping down of the producers' overreach and dramatic license, which in fine Hollywood tradition did not let the truth stand in the way of a good story, will result in an apparent vindication of the Clinton administration, and throw more dirt on where the skeletons are really buried. And that's the real offense to history and to truth, especially in these epistemologically troubled times.

Bill Clinton's lucky streak continues. He dropped the ball many times, but so far there has been no Eagle to pick it up and run it back.

"It is critically important to the safety of our nation that our citizens, and particularly our school children, understand what actually happened and why - so that we can proceed from a common understanding of what went wrong and act with unity to make our country safer."---Jamie Gorelick

You got one right for once, ma'am. The tragedies of the Clinton administration were never in what they did, but in what they couldn't bring themselves to do.

Did I mention I'm from Philadelphia?


Late Add: John Podhoretz agrees, to the letter. Scary.


The Disney organization's production "The Path To 9/11" has prompted Senate Democrats to threaten to revoke ABC's broadcasting license unless the mini-series is revamped to conform to their specifications.

We have at last a genuine example of a threat of censorship: the use of State power to punish an organization for something it has said. Indeed, this goes further than that, in that those Democratic Senators are exercising their threat prior to the "statement" represented by the mini-series. That makes it a case of politically powered extortion, which would surely be adjudged a felony if any private party were to try it.

But wait! There is an exception to the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech: the laws against slander and libel. Smith has slandered Jones if he has made defamatory oral statements about Jones that Smith cannot substantiate. Smith has libeled Jones if he has allowed such statements to be printed or broadcast.

Note the qualifying clause: " that Smith cannot substantiate." A defendant in a slander or libel action can escape unscathed by asserting and demonstrating the truth of his statements. So if ABC could produce evidence to support the statements made in "The Path To 9/11" to which those Senate Democrats object, the objectors would lose their case.

Does ABC have such evidence? Unclear, especially given the statement by the series's executive producer:

Executive Producer Marc Platt acknowledged that "there is dramatic license taken" in the docudrama to "render the program effective and accessible for viewers."

"But we do try within the boundaries of what is fair and reasonable to communicate the essence of what occurred (and) the intentions of those individuals involved," he told Reuters in a telephone interview from London. "We have no intention or desire to be political, to intentionally distort."

Since the series is being billed as a "docu-drama," the implication of dramatic license, to heighten the entertainment value of the series at some expense to its provability, should have gone without saying. But that opens a larger question: is it morally defensible to write fiction about the actions of persons who have occupied high office in the real past?

The BBC production "The Death Of A President," which chronicles events in the aftermath of the assassination of President George W. Bush, should be included in this sheaf of conundra, don't you think? And what about the many statements by Democratic partisans imputing felonious behavior to Vice-President Dick Cheney, to presidential advisor Karl Rove, and to others for political advantage -- imputations for which there was never any substantive backing, and all of which are now provably false?

Shouldn't all of these defamations be weighed for addressability under the slander and libel laws? Shouldn't those who made them have to rise to the same standard, at the minimum, that the Senate Democrats are demanding of ABC and Disney? After we've settled all that, perhaps we can make a group appointment to have our teeth filed down to points.

Senate Dems Join Push to Censor ABC 9/11 Miniseries

In a furor echoing conservatives' continuing claims of left-wing bias among the media, Democrat Sen. Harry Reid (NV) and other senate Democrats have joined former U.S. president BIll Clinton in pressing ABC to cancel its showing of The Road to 9/11, the network's docudrama based on the 9/11 commission report and other factual sources.

A production still from ABC's upcoming film 'The Path to 9/11' shows actor Stephen Root portraying Richard Clarke. Amid an election-year debate over who can best defend America, U.S. congressional Democrats urged ABC-TV on Thursday to cancel a miniseries about the September 11 attacks that is critical of former Democratic President Bill Clinton and his top aides. NO SALES NO ARCHIVES (2006 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc./Handout/Reuters)

Reuters reports:

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada denounced the five-hour television movie, set to air in two parts on Sunday and Monday nights, as "a work of fiction."

Reid and other leading Senate Democrats wrote to Robert Iger, president and CEO of ABC's corporate parent, the Walt Disney Co., urging him to "cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program."

Chronicling events leading to the September 11 attacks, the movie suggests the Clinton administration was too distracted by the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal to deal properly with the gathering threat posed by Islamic militants.

The furor comes as Democrats and Republicans jockey for political position in advance of the November 7 congressional elections over who can best secure the United States from another attack. . . .

In recent days, former members of the Clinton administration also lodged complaints with Iger, urging ABC and Disney to fix or eliminate what they called errors and fabrications.

ABC issued a statement saying the production, "The Path to 9/11," was still being edited and that criticism of the film's specifics were thus "premature and irresponsible."

From Karnick on Culture.

Bill Clinton Protests ABC 9/11 Miniseries, Demands Revision or Shutdown

Still image from ABC-TV miniseries The Path to 9/11The New York Post reports that former President Bill Clinton has sent ABC president Bob Iger a letter protesting the network's depiction of his administration's response to terrorist threats as shown in the upcoming miniseries, The Path to 9/11, to be broadcast by the network this coming Sunday and Monday at 8-10 p.m. EST. The Post reports:
A furious Bill Clinton is warning ABC that its mini-series "The Path to 9/11" grossly misrepresents his pursuit of Osama bin Laden - and he is demanding the network "pull the drama" if changes aren't made.

Clinton pointedly refuted several fictionalized scenes that he claims insinuate he was too distracted by the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal to care about bin Laden and that a top adviser pulled the plug on CIA operatives who were just moments away from bagging the terror master, according to a letter to ABC boss Bob Iger obtained by The Post.

The former president also disputed the portrayal of then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as having tipped off Pakistani officials that a strike was coming, giving bin Laden a chance to flee.

"The content of this drama is factually and incontrovertibly inaccurate and ABC has the duty to fully correct all errors or pull the drama entirely," the four-page letter said.

The movie is set to air on Sunday and Monday nights. Monday is the fifth anniversary of the attacks.

The docudrama does indeed include some fictionalized scenes to help compress the story into a manageable form, as such productions customarily do, but appears to be accurate overall. It is based on the comprehensive 9/11 Commission Report and other factual sources. The cast includes Harvey Keitel, Patricia Heaton, Penny Johnson Jerald (of Fox's 24), Amy Madigan, and Donnie Wahlberg, none of whom will ever work in Hollywood again if the former president has anything to say about it, as he clearly wishes to do.

From Karnick on Culture.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Trial by Media

David Broder points out in his column today, "One Leak and a Flood of Silliness," that the press owe Karl Rove a big apology for their asinine treatment of him in the Valerie Plame leak incident.

I agree entirely with Broder's indictment of the press's rush to judgment in this case.

The media's overheated and absurd reaction to the Plame case reflects a common but utterly irresponsible and unacceptable phenomenon in journalism today: the assumption that people are guilty simply on the say-so of someone the members of the press want to like, as in the outrageous public execution of the Duke lacrosse team, or because the accused is an individual they are disposed to dislike.

Regarding the press's mistreatment of Rove in the Plame case, I will let David Broder speak for himself in the following excerpts:

For much of the past five years, dark suspicions have been voiced about the Bush White House undermining its critics, and Karl Rove has been fingered as the chief culprit in this supposed plot to suppress the opposition.

Now at least one count in that indictment has been substantially weakened—the charge that Rove masterminded a conspiracy to discredit Iraq intelligence critic Joseph Wilson by "outing" his CIA-operative wife, Valerie Plame. . . .

No one behaved well in the whole mess—not Wilson, not [Lewis "Scooter"] Libby, [Vice President Cheney's chief of staff,] not special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and not the reporters involved.

The only time I commented on the case was to caution reporters who offered bold First Amendment defenses for keeping their sources' names secret that they had better examine the motivations of the people leaking the information to be sure they deserve protection.

But caution has been notably lacking in some of the press treatment of this subject -- especially when it comes to Karl Rove. And it behooves us in the media to examine that behavior, not just sweep it under the rug. . . .

In fact, the prosecutor concluded that there was no crime; hence, no indictment. And we now know that the original "leak," in casual conversations with reporters Novak and Bob Woodward, came not from the conspiracy theorists' target in the White House but from the deputy secretary of state at the time, Richard Armitage, an esteemed member of the Washington establishment and no pal of Rove or President Bush. . . .

[, Newsweek, The American Prospect] and other publications owe Karl Rove an apology. And all of journalism needs to relearn the lesson: Can the conspiracy theories and stick to the facts.

From Karnick on Culture.

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Daunte Culpepper of the Miami DolphinsThe college football season started last week with a great set of games, and continues this week with a showdown between no. 1 USC and no. 2 Ohio State University. And the NFL season starts tonight, with a game between the reigning Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the up-and-coming Miami Dolphins.

The Steelers will be without the services of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, recovering from an emergency appendectomy. The Dolphins, under second-year coach Nick Saban, are attempting to return to respectability after a long drought. With Daunte Culpepper at quarterback, they should be better, even though the former Minnesota gunslinger is still recovering from knee surgery.

Tonight's game aptly represents one of the great strengths of the NFL as a sports entertainment venture: parity.

Parity—the relatively small gap in ability between the league's best and worst teams—in the past decade has made the NFL in some ways an even more exciting proposition than before. Only one team in the NFC, for example, has reached the playoffs the last two years in a row (the Seattle Seahawks).

Hence in week 1 nearly everybody starts out with both optimism and great concern: we can almost imagine that anybody might end up anywhere. There is great drama as teams struggle for position and some players and organizations rise while other perform less impressively than expected and fall into the also-rans.

It's America in microcosm.

From Karnick on Culture.

A Magazine for the Modern Lady's Hectic Schedule

Here's a publication no one should be without: Four Weeks is a new monthly magazine that includes a variety of articles in four categories customized for the four weeks of a woman's menstrual cycle.

In week 1, the magazine informs us, ladies like things to be "Fun, Familiar," and in subsequent weeks "Exciting, Exotic," "Indulgent, Introspective," and "Cautious, Caring," respectively.

A yummy treat for a lady in week 4
This is information that could be very useful to any smart fellow as well, as it is obviously disastrous for a chap to give his lady fair a gift that is of the wrong type for her particular week of the month. We've all been forced to puzzle through the mystery of the wrong-week gift, haven't we?

Also of great interest is the magazine's Hormone Horoscope, which deftly combines two things of utter inscutability into an easily understood guide to life.

Thanks, gals!

From Karnick on Culture.

Tell Someone the Truth

The earnest young women speak directly into the camera, begging the listeners to "Tell someone.....tell someone about HPV." The message is repeated several times, so the target audience will not forget that cervical cancer is caused by human papilloma virus. OK, so let's tell someone -- but let's tell the whole truth.

This message is not new. Medical researchers have known for fifteen years that cervical cancer is caused by a subset of human papilloma virii. Physicians have also known three other uncomfortable truths about human papilloma virus: it is spread by sexual contact, only females contract a lethal disease from exposure, and its spread is not prevented by the use of condoms. But this information has been practically impossible to glean from either the popular medical press or from direct questioning of physicians. I know because I've tried to get doctors to tell me what I already knew to be the truth -- and concluded that you already had to know in order to get your OB-GYN to admit it, and even then it wasn't easy.

Every young woman in this country is constantly harangued, beginning in puberty, to submit to annual gynecological exams including Pap smears. The Pap test is indeed a true marvel of modern medicine: a relatively inexpensive, noninvasive, and safe test that provides accurate early detection of a potentially lethal cancer. There is nothing wrong with advocating regular examinations, but annual tests in an otherwise young and healthy population would under any other circumstances be considered intrusive and unnecessary. At the very least, some consideration of potential exposure to the disease would be made, to offset the very real costs, both monetary and emotional, that high numbers of false positive tests entail.

Why the silence and obfuscation? And why no outcry from the interest groups that are usually eager to publicize sex discrimination in medicine? For years, the only ready source of this information came from the pro-life grassroots. I long ago concluded that organizations like NOW and Planned Parenthood are not interested in advising young women that there is, for them, no such thing as "safe sex."

There is a controversy surrounding the "Tell Someone" campaign -- because it is funded by Merck, the pharmaceutical company that earlier this summer obtained FDA approval for an HPV vaccine that covers the virus subtypes responsible for about 70% of cervical cancers. Medical ethicists are upset that the information is being presented by a party who stands to profit. But they were not bothered, and are still not bothered, that no public or nonprofit agency saw fit to publicize this information in the past, nor are they bothered that failing to tell women all the facts about HPV will probably lead to many women to accept vaccination for themselves and in the future their infant daughters, without fully understanding that this disease is only completely avoidable, even for the vaccinated, by abstaining from sex.

The bioethics community is obsessed with "informed consent," but only consents to share some of the information.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Protecting Our Freedom From Our Duopoly

Pardon the coinage. It's merely a succinct way of saying that the Democratic and Republican parties have used legal means to prevent any new party from seriously threatening their shared control of the political system. In consequence, their power brokers are relatively well insulated from the displeasure of the electorate, since each can point to the other and say, "Oh yeah? Well, if you don't stick by me, look at what you'll get instead!"

For a freedom lover, the most galling thing about this arrangement is that each party, when in power, applies far more energy to advancing the anti-freedom parts of its agenda than it does to the pro-freedom parts. When the party in power is deposed and its adversary takes the helm, rather than undoing its predecessor's crimes against individual liberty, it adds its own.

In The God Of The Machine, Isabel Paterson made reference to the political ratchet effect:

Further, political power has a ratchet action; it works only one way, to augment itself. A transfer occurs by which the power cannot be retracted, once it is bestowed.

Paterson's major example, the persistence of the Prohibition enforcement agencies even after the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment, suggests that her focus was on "issue" usurpations, independent of party involvement. I wonder what she would have thought of today's "ping-pong ratchet," wherein citizens are encouraged to look to the Democrats to undo the excesses of the Republicans, and vice-versa, but are almost always disappointed and worse.

We who consider the global anti-terrorism campaign to be the most important issue of our time have been strongly encouraged to return Republican officeholders to power, despite their excessive federal spending and their repeated trouser-dropping for various interest groups. Come November, quite a lot of Americans will pull the Republican levers with distaste, for those very reasons. Similarly, a lot of left-of-center types will pull the Democratic levers with a grimace, because of Democrats' clear unwillingness to fight the War Against Islamic Aggression without the French alongside them. But if history is a guide, whichever party should have hegemony after the fall elections will do further damage to freedom through its domestic policies.

Given the stability of the duopoly, what alternatives does the freedom lover have? Is there any way to discipline the G.O.P. out of its profligacy? Is there any way to turn the party of Jefferson and Jackson away from special-interest statism and back toward Constitutional liberty?

I've long been a fan of "None Of The Above" -- the only "candidate" that never, ever lies or abuses his powers -- but that choice has been forbidden to nearly all of us as well. Apart from a massive tax rebellion or an armed uprising, what other avenues remain?

November draws ever nearer. We should give the matter some thought.

Anti-Bush Films Hot at Toronto Festival

Still shot from Death of a President filmThe British-made film Death of a President, which uses computer generation to create a vivid depiction of the assassination of President Bush, leads a significant roster of films critical of the president and his policies at this year's Toronto Film Festival, Reuters reports. The 10-day festival opens Thursday, and in addition to the political issues there will be plent of star power with appearances by Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Penelope Cruz, Russell Crowe and others. Reuters reports that 352 films from 61 countries will be shown.

Festival offerings will certainly reflect the visceral hostility many in the entertainment industry feel toward the current U.S. president.

Reuters reports:
British-made "Death of a President," . . . is one of a number of films with a decided political focus.

The documentary-style film raised hackles last week, as several British newspapers ran photos of the fictional assassination it depicts. The controversy elicited a terse "no comment" from the White House.

But it is not the only Toronto entry likely to raise eyebrows in Washington, particularly with U.S. midterm elections looming in November.

The festival will premiere the documentary "Dixie Chicks: Shut up and Sing," which focuses on the aftermath and fallout of Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines' criticism of Bush at a concert in London in 2003.

As well, controversial filmmaker Michael Moore will discuss the reaction he's had to his anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," and show parts of upcoming release "Sicko," which takes aim at the U.S. healthcare system.
Filming a scene for Amazing Grace movieBut that is by no means all that the festival entries will reflect, as films such as Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration and Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn will premiere as well.

The festival will close strongly with a showing of Michael Apted's Amazing Grace, a historical drama about William Wilberforce, the devoutly Christian British parliamentarian who led the nation's crusade to end the slave trade. The film has a strong cast including Ioann Gruffudd and Albert Finney, and an important story to tell.

From Karnick on Culture.

The Story of Upton Sinclair

John Wilson of Books and Culture has an excellent article on the socialist American author Upton Sinclair in today's edition of National Review Online.

Sinclair is best-known, of course, for his 1906 novel The Jungle which brought public attention to the unpleasant working conditions in the nation's meat-packing industry.

Wilson's article includes some things I hadn't known or had forgotten, such as Sinclair's authorship of three series of novels centered on adventure. Wilson provides a balanced view of the author and even includes a suitable moral to Sinclair's story:

Unwieldy and imperfect as our democracy may be, Sinclair’s life testifies to the genius and robustness of the American polis. And impervious to irony as he often seemed, I suspect that Sinclair himself came to recognize his good fortune: to live and work for 90 years in a country that honored its principled critics instead of shooting them.

From Karnick on Culture.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Please Pray for Air Canada

It seems that an Orthodox Jew was taken off an Air Canada flight to New York because his prayers while the plane was taxiing toward the runway seemed weird to a flight attendant or someone. Or something. So he was escorted off the plane.

So: Suppose a Muslim started praying at the outset of an Air Canada flight. Would those morons take him off of the flight? No need to answer; the question answers itself, just as the utter stupidity and cowardice of many in the West reveal themselves blindingly each and every day.

Hope in Disney's "Invincible" Film

Still image from Disney movie InvincibleThe Walt Disney movie Invincible won the box office competition again last weekend, bringing in a gross of $15.2 million.

The film merits attention. More than just a sports movie, Invincible tells the true-life story of Vince Papale, a 30 year old bartender who made the Philadelphia Eagles in an open tryout that then-new Eagles coach Dick Vermeil meant as mostly a publicity stunt and a way of motivating players.

Set during the economically depressed late 1970s among the working class in Rust Belt South Philadelphia, the film presents the theme of hope in several different ways.

First, of course, there is Vince's hope—vague at first but increasingly real—of making the Eagles as a wide receiver and special teams player. (Mark Wahlberg's portrayal of Vince is very solid and affecting.) Second, there is Vince's hope of finding a woman who will love him and stay with him through good times and bad. Third, there is the hope of Vince and his working class brethren that they will find permanent work that pays decently. (The film regularly cuts to brief scenes showing union members on strike, in the bar discussing job cuts, and so on.) Fourth is the hope of Eagles coach Dick Vermeil (excellently played by Greg Kinnear) to bring some pride and intensity to the team. Fifth is the way the exploits of professional football players bring hope to people who follow the team. The film makes a point of telling how the memory of a great play by an Eagles player got Vince's struggling, blue-collar father through 30 years of hard times.

Poster art for Disney film Invincible

That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. People in difficult conditions, especially men, do often find inspiration from the unlikely successes of sports heroes, especially underdogs. That is what athletic competitions bring most richly to the culture, and it is why we care about them. The moral drama of individuals trying through hard work to overcome others' advantages is a microcosm of American life, and it provides inspiration to all those who care to find it.

That insight is what makes Invincible such an inspiring and impressive film.

From Karnick on Culture.

A Race Against Time

And so, Election Day. September 5, 2006; by a weird fate exactly 38 years on the Hebrew calendar since my mother passed on.

Two months after I took over the campaign of Jay R. Beskin, running an impossibly quixotic - no incumbent has been defeated since 1994 - race for Miami-Dade County Commissioner (District 4) against the incumbent, Sally Heyman (who raised 400 thou to our 100), the local reporters all believe that the race is "too close to call".

Hopefully, tomorrow night we can reflect back upon a victory and analyze some of the unique things we accomplished. For now, mon ami Hastings, it is the biting of the nails.

Here is one historic move I did. Hired a company (Vowcast) that makes webcasts of weddings to make one of a debate between the candidates. We made no cuts at all and you can see
the entire debate - plus me at the end for a minute and a half explaining our intent. (Forgive my ruffled and rumpled appearance; it came at the end of a long day out on the campaign trail.)

Monday, September 04, 2006

"Crocodile Hunter" Irwin Killed

Steve Irwin in an undated publicity photo. Irwin, the Australian naturalist who won worldwide acclaim, has died in a marine accident off Australia's northeast coast. (MGM/Greg Barrett/Handout/Reuters)

Famed "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin was killed yesterday when he was stung in the heart by a stingray over which he was swimming in Australia's Great Barrier Reef for a video shoot.

Irwin, 44, apparently frightened the creature by getting to close, bringing on the animal's self-protective attack.

Stingrays have a poisonous, barbed tail which can cause excruciating pain if a person is struck by it, but such attacks are only very rarely fatal. Irwin was struck in the chest, however, and the barb appears to have pierced his heart. It was an extremely rare and strange incident.

In his television programs and theatrical movie, Irwin gained great fame for engaging in close contact with crocodiles, poisonous snakes and spiders, and other dangerous creatures. His continual message was that we should respect nature, understand it, and protect animals from abuse and extinction.

Irwin frequently had highly dangerous encounters with animals, always warning his TV viewers of what the dangers were but telling us we should not be afraid of nature and should understand it and live in harmony with it. Part of his appeal, however, was the daredevil nature of his exploits, and the number of times he placed himself in jeopardy almost guaranteed that he would eventually be hurt or killed during one of these encounters. Yesterday it happened.

Irwin was an immensely likeable personality, and his many fans and admirers will miss him. The message he tried to send, that nature is dangerous but is no threat to us if we let creatures go their own way and don't disturb them, is one that he ironically disobeyed in his work and which eventually killed him.

Nature is dangerous indeed and will often kill indiscriminately if we let her go her own way. The only thing that saves us from wanton destruction is our natural human inclination to harness the forces of nature to our own advantage and increased safety. Knowledge, reason, and a sense of benevolence are essential to such stewardship, as Irwin continuously pointed out in his life's work. But only through harnessing nature can we live well. That is the message we may best take from Irwin's life and tragic death.

From Karnick on Culture.

More Fun for the Intellectually Pretentious

Hehe. Already ordered mine, of course.

(HT: The folks at are a hoot, well worth a look.)