Saturday, November 11, 2006

Neil Young's "Living with War"

A promotional shot of pop musician Neil Young gamely bearing up under President George W. Bush's perfidiesTo get a feel for the new political atmosphere in the wake of the Democrats' takeover of both houses of Congress, I've been listening to Neil Young's most recent album, Living with War, recently, which was released earlier this year. As you may be aware, especially if you've seen the superb Saturday Night Live parody of it, the album is a collection of retro-1960s-style "protest" songs opposing the Bush administration and the American public's sheeplike acceptance of his many atrocities (ooops—overtaken by events, Dude!).

A sympathetic appraisal of one of the most talked-about songs on the album, "Let's Impeach the President," can be found here. It captures what some people find to like about the album—its lyrics.

I'm always much more taken with and interested in the sound of a musical composition rather than its words, and Living with War certainly is a disaster in terms of musicality. Nearly all of the songs are musically primitive, as is apparently Young's intention, presumably to ensure that the listener attends primarily to the lyrics.

The latter, however, are just as mundane and uncreative as the music. Consider these characteristic lines, from the ingeniously titled ditty "Shock and Awe":

Back in the days of "mission accomplished"
Our chief was landing on the deck
The sun was setting on a golden photo op
Back in the days of "mission accomplished"

Thousands of bodies in the ground
Brought home in boxes to a trumpet's sound
No one sees them coming home that way
Thousands buried in the ground


Thousands of children scarred for life . . .


Neil Young thinkng up brilliant lyrics setting President George W. Bush good and straightWell, you get the idea. The accumulation of cliches such as "the sun was setting," "a trumpet's sound," "photo op," "bodies in boxes," "buried in the ground," and "scarred for life" is truly breathtaking. In addition, the deceptiveness of "thousands buried," when the number of thousands is three (and I agree that one death is too many and tragic) is blatant and will persuade only those who already agree with the author. The rest of the lyrics are dominated by similarly deceptive left-wing cant.

Bob Dylan this certainly is not.

And for Young to allude to Dylan's 1960s protest songs, as he does prominently in "Flags of Freedom," is to invite a comparison so disadvantageous to Young as to be utterly shaming.

It would be nice if the lyrics quoted above were not characteristic of the whole album, but alas they are. It's that infantile: BUSH IS BAD!!!

Thanks for the subtle analysis, Neil.

The biggest problem with Living with War, however, is simply that it doesn't sound like a Neil Young album. Neil Young, despite his annoyingly adolescent, adenoidal whine of a "singing" voice, has put together a good many appealing songs in the past. Unfortunately, Living with War is as musically lame as it is lyrically unimaginative, with the sole exception of "Flags of Freedom," which, although rife with lyrical cliches, does have a nice sound to it and could actually have found its way onto a real Neil Young album.

All in all, Living with War is a dreadful bunch of glop, but it does wonderfully typify where the left is today: cant, slogans, open hatred, and disingenuous nonsense.

From Karnick on Culture.

Sausage fight on SW Side

Chi Trib has a front-pager that belongs in a neighborhood section, if there were one, but to the general reader I know best, myself, is meaningless.

Lawsuit over sausage cuts family links at plant, stores :

Bobak brothers sever ties; ruling sets limits on wholesale operation

has intense meaning to the Bobak family and their customers, I’m sure, and the story made the cut to the web site page, getting even bigger play than in hard copy.  For the first three paragraph-sentences — a triple lede, by gar — we are given so little information, it hurts:

When Stan Bobak discovered what his brother was doing, he was shocked. Then he got angry.

But in a way, he also was relieved to have solved a mystery: So that's why John wasn't ordering as much sausage as he used to.

The accusations of a betrayal are as sensational as they sound.

Look.  I do not know Stan Bobak and am not in a position to feel his pain, or shock or anger, whatever.  I am glad he was relieved, of course, on general principles, and I am in general prepared to be shocked or even angry that John had cut down on his sausage order.  But neither do I know John.  And if the accusations of betrayal are as sensational as they sound, I would like to figure that out for myself, rather than be told before I know what the hell they are.

The story continues as best it can, already dealt a body blow by its amazingly leisurely lede that but for the sausage reference might have been about marital infidelity — for not ordering sausage substitute hanging with Stan’s wife — or murder — for not ordering etc. put not showing up for weeks on end.

A reorganization occurred, presumably of the sausage company, which we are told is well known — sorreeee, I didn’t know!  One brother would handle the sausage, the other the kielbasa etc. 

But then Stan says he caught John making his own sausage and trying to pass it off in his stores as those made in Stan's plant on Chicago's Southwest Side.  [Make that “Stan caught John,” etc., ending with “he says.”]

This crucial info comes in the fifth paragraph-sentence — too far down, folks, for your usual Saturday breakfast-table-reader who is dedicated to Father Tribune from his youngest days but does have other things to do and read.

End of next ‘graph, we get the local angle: John has three stores, in Burr Ridge, Orland Park and Naperville.  So.  This one’s for YOU there, in and around those three marvelous towns.  Why did not Chi Trib say so in the first place?  The rest of us, in Oak Park and elsewhere, could have gone on to various AP and LA Times stories strewn throughout today’s paper, wishing happy reading to sausage-buyers and -eaters in those three marvelous towns, strewn over the southwest suburbs.

You can also buy this stuff at Jewel or Dominick’s stores or on Archer Ave. near Midway airport.  Fine.  Is it tasty?  The issue was decided in favor of these locations in federal court.

"In retrospect this could have been solved very easily," said Stan Bobak, the eldest of the three Bobak sons. "John could operate as many as 100 retail stores if he wanted, God bless him. But we would handle the wholesaling. But he didn't do that. He started making sausage."

That’s it!  The buried lede!  It all began when John started making sausage!  Do that and cut the story in half, and you have the makings of what might bring back or keep a few readers.  Forget your media bias, undeniable though it may be.  Forget your absence of local coverage: we have it here, gone clumsily astray.  Here is the answer to hemorrhaging circulation for mainstream newspapers: Look in your every story and FIND THE BURIED LEDE, damn it, before they bury YOU!

And offer a free quarter-pound of kielbasa to all who can prove they read the WHOLE STORY, stem to stern.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The mayor and the tattler

Chicago’s Mayor Daley says convicted and sentenced 11th Ward politician Donald Tomczak “disgraced his family. Basically, he destroyed himself."  He talked that way just the other day about his former aide and current Cook County board commissioner Forrest Claypool, who did not endorse Daley’s choice for county board president.  It’s what comes to mind for Daley.  He thinks familially, or we should say tribally.  Tomczak stole money from the public, whom Daley is sworn to serve.  But citizens as a whole are not what come to mind for him.

Daley had hired Tomczak in 1989 after saying he’d fire him, because his people had muscled Daley’s in the just completed campaign.  But he apparently valued the man’s ability to get things done.  Asked about this, he said he did not “care what allegiance [people] had as long as they were doing the job,” citing what his father, the first Mayor Daley, had taught him, and his “church beliefs,” which enjoin that he “never be vindictive."  This is sickening.  Days after virtually threatening Claypool, he preaches forgiveness.

Chi Trib’s John Kass is buying none of it.  Daley “protected” Tomczak, who

ran trucks on water projects, took at least $400,000 in bribes and commanded armies of political patronage workers hired in violation of federal court decree.

He quoted a prosecutor:

"Clearly, some of Mr. Tomczak's crimes were condoned, they were facilitated and I believe in some respects they were honored by high-ranking portions of the City of Chicago.”

As for disgracing oneself,

When Daley's guys do federal time with their mouths shut [Tomczak's isn’t], the mayor praises them, or sends their sons $40 million in city contracts.

It’s Tomczak’s tattling that got him the mayoral condemnation.

=============================

Meanwhile, back at the county, the interim board president has made higher-paying work for an employee close to the Stroger organization, billing it as reform.

Eighth-ward supporter Joann Robinson is set to get an $11,000 raise from her current forest preserve job. She'll be making $91,000 while overseeing a seven-person department that includes a newly-created deputy HR director who will be making $65,000 a year.

Her unenviable task?  To make sure hiring is on the up and up. 

“Business as usual,” said the soon to be destroyed Claypool, describing it as:

"Raise property taxes to pay for more bureaucracy and [lucrative] jobs for political patronage appointees. If this is indicative of the type of reform we can expect going forward, it's going to be a rocky four years."

Get ready.

Life Imitates Simpsons: 2006 Elections

Mayor Quimby of the SimpsonsIf you want to understand the huge tail-whuppin' the Republican Party took this week, there's a great Simpsons episode of a few years back that explained it all in advance.

You may remember the episode, "Sideshow Bob Roberts." In this classic installment, "Diamond" Joe Quimby, the blatantly corrupt, sleazy, porkbarreling, free-spending, incompetent, unprincipled, oversexed, self-indulgent jackass mayor of Springfield, is running for reelection for the umpteenth time, in this instance challenged by Sideshow Bob, the murderous TV clown.

During their televised debate, Quimby, suffering from the flu, flounders badly, and, brushing his hair back off of his sweaty forehead, even looks as if he has devil horns. The TV station broadcasting the debate instantly chooses to surround the beleaguered mayor with a circle of flames, to complete the job of characterizing him as a devil, adding the disclaimer, "Flames added for effect."

It's a hilarious moment, and it's exactly what happened to the Republicans this year. They governed all too much like Mayor Quimby in recent years, squandering their hard-earned reputation for fiscal respnsibility, realism, relatively limited government, and efforts to combat political corruption (the latter represented by the Gingrich House's reforms in the '90s). Instead of these things, they came to be known for spending worse than drunken sailors (a correct characterization), sexually sleazy (unfair in that they were probably no worse than the Democrats overall, had anyone cared to look), corrupt (fairly accurate, given the real scandals in which they were involved, although a similar attention to the Democrats would undoubtedly have revealed at least an equal amount of vile ooze), and incompetent (again, fairly accurate, alas).

So the Republicans, despite numerous warnings from many quarters (including the present author), went their merry way and received the just fruits of their efforts. In short, they looked exactly like Mayor Quimby.

The U.S. press, with great glee, added flames "for effect," and the deed was done.

From Karnick on Culture.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

This county ain't ready for reform

Black politicians in Chicago have to learn how to wink and nod like white ones. They are entirely too obvious in their corruption, as in freely discussing the jobs they expect to get as payoff for supporting Todd Stroger, just elected Cook County board president.

"If percentages are based on jobs, then I'm doing damn good," Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) was overheard telling Ald. William Beavers (7th) [at a victory party], referring to the vote he got out for Stroger and the county jobs he expects in return.

"I expect him to reach out to a good guy like me for recommendations for qualified candidates in top jobs he has control over," Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th) said, complaining about the lack of West Siders among 26,000 county employees.

Even with FBI nosing around, such supporters as Brookins and others are expecting rewards, not to mention Stroger's "godfather," Beavers, who won his own county board seat and will be Stroger's "muscle," says Sun-Times.

Race pride — whites do nepotism, why can’t we? — is well and good, but jobs and the power that comes from controlling them are what keep machines oiled.

Meanwhile, S-T sins against the light with this editorial comment, with which they are stuck in view of their earlier ridiculous campaign endorsement:

By electing Todd Stroger president of the Cook County Board, voters handed him and the Democratic Party the responsibility for cleaning up the mess that is county government. The question looms about whether he is sincere about doing that, or whether he filled his campaign with empty promises of reform merely to defeat Republican Tony Peraica.

Perish the thought.

Making the rounds . . .

. . . is this very funny 2008 DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION AGENDA:

7:00 P.M. Opening flag burning.

7:15 P.M. Pledge of allegiance to U.N.

7:30 P.M. Ted Kennedy proposes a toast

7:30 till 8:00 P.M. Non-religious prayer and worship -- Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton.

8:00 P.M. Ted Kennedy proposes a toast.  . . . . etc.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dubya's Last Election

The uniter, not divider---better late than never, eh?


This is not a stupid man, no matter what you read in the papers. Tuesday was his last election, and he did no better at avoiding the sixth-year jinx than FDR or Ronald Reagan did, and the judgment of history says they were pretty OK presidents.

Dubya couldn't make the case to an American people that (quite properly) hates war that we're actually in a war, because things are pretty normal here stateside, and the war is an abstraction. Not the war that Bush and his neo-cons chose to fight against Saddam, which has been over for some time now, but the bigger one of 9-11, Madrid, London's 7-7, the first World Trade Center attack, of the Khobar Towers, the USS Cole and many more incidents, the war that is not of our own choosing.

That war continues in Iraq today, not because we toppled Saddam, who needed toppling, but because it's where mideast meets west and it's the most convenient battleground for both sides.


And so, after losing his last election, Dubya is officially anointed a lame duck. To his credit (and I confess to admiring the man), he chose within 12 hours to move forward with the remaining two years of his presidency instead of digging in his heels and playing out the string.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was fired today simply and sufficiently because the Democrats hate him. For Bush to perform his sacred duty to defend our country and the western world against the Islamicist tide, he needs the new Democrat congressional majority to help him win this war in Iraq, which at this point has little to do with the war against Saddam except geography.

Yes, Bush and the Bushies seriously miscalculated what Richard Perle calls the "depravity" that Iraq's Sunnis and Shias have sunk into: either side blowing up each other's women and children with suicide bombers is something that even those who opposed toppling Saddam (or opposed war in general) can't claim to have voiced as an objection.

After all, that Muslims and Arabs aren't capable of democracy or even peaceful co-existence would have been quite an anti-multiculti, if not racist, thing to say.


But now that the Democratic Party is in a position of responsibility and not just jeering and spitballing from the balcony, even non-officeholding Democrat Howard Dean admits that chaos would follow a rapid withdrawal from Iraq.

It's become clear that political disunity and loss of will in the United States has been the greatest hope for insurgents al-Qaeda and otherwise in Iraq. Dubya, albeit not the way he wanted it, has, by virtue of his own screw-ups and his party's as well, united America to "stay the course" not because we like it, but because there is no alternative.

Funny how life and politics work out somehow. As long as this was Bush's War with Republican control of congress, victory over there was impossible, since the partisan political credit could not be shared. But together, both our major parties and all us Americans, we can outfight and outnegotiate these bastards, the enemies of all humanity, for the Iraqi people's sake, our own, and the world's. Bring it on.

Race is the thing?

Chi Sun-Times columnists Mark Brown and Mary Mitchell see mainly race in the Cook County board presidency race.

The political divide between Chicago residents and Cook County suburbanites -- and between blacks and whites -- was on stark display

said the one.

[T]he outcry over the way Todd Stroger [aiming to succeed his stroke-disabled father] ended up on the ballot resulted in a [black] backlash and cranked up loyal Democratic ward bosses,

said the other, even if nobody knows better than blacks "how poorly county government is working."

Mitchell is saying blacks also know better than anyone else how to cut off their noses to spite their faces.

[T]hese are the people who can tell you in great detail what improvements are needed at Cook County Jail because a disproportionate number of African Americans have relatives locked up there.

A lot of African Americans can also point out the failures at John H. Stroger and Provident Hospitals because many black families have depended on these hospitals for medical care over the years.

And, unfortunately, the faces of the youth detained at the Juvenile Detention Center are also overwhelmingly African American.

It didn't matter, says Mitchell, because inheritance works for others, mostly white, and they bowed to "the tit-for-tat factor." That's dumb, but Mitchell doesn't say so, letting it go at presumably informed analysis.

The most she allows herself, and we should appreciate her restraint, is to hope Todd Stroger "comes into his own" as board president.

As for Brown, it's not new that blacks and whites vote differently, "but there had been signs in recent years that [a city/suburban, black/white split] was starting to fade as Democrats increased their numbers in the suburban areas."

Not this time, when corruption was the dividing issue. It bothers him to see the vote "break down along racial lines" for any reason, however. Why? Because "no matter who wins, [this election] has disrupted the alliance that I think has produced the best results for Chicago and Cook County residents, that being the collaboration of progressive white Democrats and African Americans, often in conjunction with independents and Republicans."

The best results? Not for residents and users of county jail, hospitals, and juvenile detention center, per Mitchell. He worries that this racial divide will interfere with defeating Richard Daley for mayor. But rather than enabling Daley, it demonstrates Daley power.

In any case, he entertains nothing like Mitchell's fond hope for young Stroger, expressing his own fervent hope that "nobody actually expects [him] to bring real reform to county government." In this he also parts company with his own paper's deeply mysterious editorial board.

Election 2006---First Take

We're a 50-50, two-party nation. 51-49 in this election here, 49-51 over there.

I think this is a good thing, a vindication of the two-party system, and a rebuttal that there isn't a dime's difference between the parties.

Each party must build an internal consensus and then put it on the table. Pat Buchanan isn't a Republican anymore, and neither is Joe Lieberman a Democrat. (Each is too far to the right. On the other hand, nebulous lefty Ned Lamont has just been deposited on the ashheap of history.)

This narrow loss isn't death for the GOP; indeed, this very interesting article from the Smithsonian magazine recounts the GOP midterm sweep in 1946, an augenblick after the Roosevelt/Truman administration's triumph over the Axis. ("An unpopular president. A war-weary people. In the midterm elections of 60 years ago, voters took aim at incumbents...")

Just a few years later, the 1946 Republican victory was rolled back and became a mere aberration of memory as the Democrats dominated congress for the next two or three decades.

And so, to my fellow Republicans, my sympathies, even though we all knew we had this reverse justly coming. To our Democrat friends, cheers, congratualations, and enjoy it while it lasts---and please do try not to make the rest of us entirely miserable while you do so.

After all, it's only 731 days until the next major election...
__________________________________________________

Late Add: The House of Representives has gone Democrat quite comfortably. But the House is the toy store of US politics. The Senate appears poised 49-49 between the two parties, with Bernie Sanders (Communist-VT) a reliable vote with the Democrats, for lack of any other ally.

Since as president of the senate Vice-President Cheney breaks all 50-50 ties, Joe Lieberman (Independent-CT), too much to the right for the Democrats but left of the GOP, becomes the swing vote, if you do the math.

That's as close to 50-50 as is politically possible.

And failing Lieberman voting with the GOP on at least the key issues of national defense (which I doubt), we can only hope that President Bush can find out where they keep the veto pen, if it hasn't rusted from disuse.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

U.S. Media's Election Coverage—Biased, Sure, But Why?

It's Election Day, as you've probably heard, incessantly. The race for control of the U.S. House and Senate, between two political parties representing different sets of powerful, elite fatcats, is a close one, and hence the press coverage has been intense and hysterical.

Given that the story is the potential displacement of the Somewhat Left party (the Republicans) by the Rabidly Left party (the Democrats), Republican partisans have identified an excessive glee among the press, who are widely and accurately documented to be composed almost entirely of leftists, in documenting every misstep and failure of Republican politicians and candidates, and giving Derms a free ride even when they make entirely outrageous statements.

There have indeed been plenty of both—Republican idiocies and Democratic demogoguery—to go around, but it appears reasonable to observe that the preponderance of coverage has criticized the Republicans more strongly than it has done to the Democrats.

That, however, does not necessarily indicate a manifestation of widespread liberal bias among the press, argues Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post. Kurtz says what the press really want not is not a leftist government but an interesting one:

After six years of almost uninterrupted GOP control of Washington, divided government would produce what reporters like best: conflict. A spate of investigations and subpoenas of the Bush White House, led by such new committee chairmen as John Dingell, Henry Waxman, Barney Frank and Charlie Rangel, would liven things up for the capital's chroniclers. Even the mundane prospect of the Democrats being able to bring their preferred legislation to the floor -- though most bills might never make it past the president's veto pen -- would give journalists a new script. Divided government may or may not be good for the country, but it's great for the Fourth Estate.

In retrospect, the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994 was a godsend for journalism. The rise of Newt Gingrich, the government shutdowns, the Whitewater investigations, the Monica investigations, the overwhelmingly party-line vote to impeach Bill Clinton, all fueled thousands of stories about scandal and showdowns that boosted ratings and book sales.

One-party rule is, let's face it, rather predictable, especially with a Republican Congress that has basically gotten out of the oversight business during the Bush presidency. . . .

There surely may be some instances of liberal bias. Maybe the press made too much of Sen. George Allen's "macaca" moment, or wallowed too long in the finger-pointing fallout from the Mark Foley page scandal. At the same time, the press can't very well ignore the rising death toll in Iraq, which is also being cast as bad news for President Bush and his party.
I think that Kurtz is correct to observe that the press are indeed gleeful about the possibility of having new stories to write if the Democrats should take one or both Houses of Congress.

Nonetheless, it appears to me that this cannot be the press's ultimate motivation for skewing coverage to favor the Democrats. If the past six years have been anything, they have certainly been interesting. There has been plenty to write about. Yes, with the Democrats out of power there has been no great flood of horrendously asinine congressional investigations into allegations of perfidy in the executive branch, but the press have taken care of that themselves, after all.

Whereas the big congressional scandal hearing was a ridiculous investigation of the Major League Baseball steroid situation, nothing came of the allegations about the Bush administration illegally identifying a CIA agent to the public. That is a good thing, actually, because the allegations were entirely false. The revelation was in fact done by an opponent of the Bush administration. Congressional hearings headed by the President's enemies would not have changed that fact, but they would surely have destroyed the people falsely accused, as they almost did anyway thanks to the press's outrageously biased and out-of-control coverage of that entirely trivial matter.

The press have thoroughly taken on the adversary party role during the past four years, and they have done their level best to try and to convict the Republican Party of incompetence and malfeasance. (The Republicans, for their part, have done all they could to provide plenty of indications of each.)

The press haven't simply been searching for a more interesting story. They have indeed been trying to influence events and move the country further to the left. That is their right and prerogative in a society with a free press, but it is important that we not pretend that things are other than as they are.

The media's treatment of the Bush administration and the Republican Congress has been justified by the mistakes and misjudgments of each, but the press's treatment of the party currently in power and the runup to today's elections has indeed been motivated by a desire that the Democrats would win in order to institute a leftist government of the sort that the press overwhelmingly favor personally.

From Karnick on Culture.

Election Eve Report: Final Add

It's very late out here on the West Coast. Even later for you East Coasters, so late that you're now reading this tomorrow, and me, I haven't got even up yet.

As I write this, CNN is re-re-running their weeklong anti-GOP hit piece series, Broken Government. I predicted CNN would have a surprise for Election Eve, but not even I could predict they'd be so lame to just go with re-re-runs.


This Day in History, 2006: By the time the revolution was televised, everybody had gone to bed.

-30-

Monday, November 06, 2006

My wine, Jackie C., S-word, Blago's bishop

* On reading Sun-Times about Mike Ditka Wine:

Soon TBA: Jim Bowman Wine. Piquant and zesty, sure to rouse the laziest taste bud, and good for you too. Chockful of vineyard and crushing-floor vitamins. Grapes beaten down by bare-footed Venetians stomping to tune of "Figaro." Soon, at your nearest drug store or cheap-wine location.

* On reading Chi Fed of Labor endorsement ad (from people who HATE Wal-Mart) filling page 7, not linkable:

Union candidates don't wear glasses: Todd Stroger, heir to his stroke-disabled father’s Democrat fiefdom, namely the Cook County board presidency, is pictured unusually lens-free. Only two Republicans make an appearance, of 37 county candidates. Only Stroger has a pic, being the union candidate held most important by biggies with ad purse strings. The two Republicans are W. suburban Elmwood Park president Peter Silvestri for county board, and Jill C. Marisie running uncontested (so why the endorsement?) for judge. The latter is the late mobster Jackie (the Lackey) Cerone's granddaughter, for what that's worth. Her father, Jack P. Cerone, of NW suburban Des Plaines,

earned a reputation as a labor lawyer, fighting for union workers in numerous contract fights with Chicago city officials -- from the 1980s when he fought for Laborer garbage collectors and seasonal street cleaners to the late 1990s when he salvaged victory for the Decorators Union in a trade show row.

Thus the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, in a 10/22 story about his taking over a Pittsburgh brewery. He's a solid union man, to be sure.

* On reading about ex-Socialist now Green Party Ill. goober-natorial candidate Richard Whitney excoriated and warned against by Republican opponent Judy Barr T.:

He says he wouldn't shoot self in foot by volunteering his Socialist past but wouldn't deny it either. Has plausible defense: As young man with care for "working man," he fell for socialism, later rejected it. Which is a recommendation, if anything. His are "mainstream" ideas, he protests.

But what's not socialism-inspired about them?

1. Mandated wages -- as gross an interference in property ownership as the supposed mainstream will reveal

2. Higher income tax -- the more you earn, the more you pay

3. Universal tax-paid health care -- same-old same-old for all and consequent health care dilution.

Each is government-induced wealth distribution that undercuts overall prosperity.

* On reading about "Bishop" Arthur Brazier (consecrated by what other bishop, reporting to what presiding bishop or pope or even district conference?), distinguished pastor of black mega-congregation Apostolic Church of God on S. Side, telling members to ignore reports of corruption and vote for Gov. Blago anyway:

How would you Episcopals or Catholics or Methodists (or members of Congregation B'nai whatever) like that? Not very much, I ween.

Flicka Flick

Critics tend to look down on movies like Flicka, the new film based on the oldtime bestselling novel My Friend Flicka, which has been filmed a couple of times previously, about an adolescent girl who adopts a wild horse against her parents' wishes.

Flicka fails to undermine bourgeois values, show the family to be an outmoded and socially destructive phonomenon, attack free enterprise as an invitation to greed and exploitation, and demonstrate the superiority of personal autonomy and pleasure-seeking over selfish, socially destructive notions such as duty, honor, and decency.

Alison Lohman and Tim McGraw in Flicka

But that is what makes the movie most interesting and gives it a certain amount of moral complexity.

Flicka vividly depicts how individuals' desires can conflict with others' needs, but it comes down strongly on the side of duty, honor, self-sacrifice, and other such traditional notions. Alison Lohman plays Katy McLaughlin, a sixteen-year-old Wyoming girl whose family operates a horse ranch that is on the verge of bankruptcy. She finds a wild mustang horse which she wishes to tame and train, but her father objects.

Naturally, Katy decides to defy him in secret, surreptitiously working to make the exceedingly wild horse trust her. Meanwhile, her father and mother struggle to keep the ranch from financial ruin.

The family conflicts in the film are highly plausible and presented with great realism and persuasiveness. Even though we never believe that the family will be torn apart (this is, after all, a film geared toward children), we do see and understand how easily that can happen but for the strong values and leadership of both parents, played superbly in the film by Maria Bello and Tim McGraw. Flicka never skims over the frustrations of family life, which makes its treatment of the conflicts, and their ultimate resolution, that much more affecting.

The theme of freedom is strong in the film, and it is explicitly connected to contemporary political concerns in a nonpartisan, general way, which works very well. One can see an influence of the great Hollywood director Howard Hawks behind the film, with its strong female characters, thematic conflicts between the individual and the group, love for the American West, assertion of the value of individualism and political and social freedom within a conservative context, and the evident sheer joy in hard work and personal accomplishments.

As those familiar with the book or the previous film versions will be well aware, several other difficulties and conflicts arise, and all ultimately works out as it should. In that way, too, Flicka resembles a Hawks film. Ultimately, it does have a couple of sappy moments—when, for example, unhappy events tend to happen during rainstorms—but overall it's an interesting, morally engaging film that merits more credit than most critics are likely to give it. Let's hope audiences make up for it.

From Karnick on Culture.