Wish I could fly like Superman


I was wondering why the name "Harvey Dent" felt so familiar during The Dark Knight, and though I find it hard to believe anyone actually had this in mind, the name works well as an amalgam of that of Harvey Gantt, the black ex-Mayor of Charlotte who ran against Jesse Helms, and Harry Dent, the architect of Richard Nixon's race-based "Southern Strategy" that turned Southern white people into Republicans. Anyway, if this is a Jungian unconscious at work, I'm all for it. It comports with my earlier note about how aggressively confused the politics of that film are. There is a new documentary about Lee Atwater making the rounds of festivals -- I'm doing a panel on it at the Democratic convention -- and it reminded me that it was Lee -- the funnest person I ever profiled, by the way -- who set me up with Dent's granddaughter in a romance that was never to be.

(Update: Eric Rauchway rather pointedly informs me that Mr. Gant the comic book figure predates Mr. Gantt the candidate for senator from North Carolina. So be it. Still, what would Mr. Jung say?)

In any case, this is all by way of introduction to what some have posited as the craziest op-ed of all time: "What Bush and Batman Have in Common" by Andrew Klavan. Quite a claim, I know, but it is certainly one of the funniest:

A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a "W."

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.


Why is it then that left-wingers feel free to make their films direct and realistic, whereas Hollywood conservatives have to put on a mask in order to speak what they know to be the truth? Why is it, indeed, that the conservative values that power our defense -- values like morality, faith, self-sacrifice and the nobility of fighting for the right -- only appear in fantasy or comic-inspired films like "300," "Lord of the Rings," "Narnia," "Spiderman 3" and now "The Dark Knight"?


Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They're wrong, of course, even on their own terms.


Perhaps that's when Hollywood conservatives will be able to take off their masks and speak plainly in the light of day.

One would think that the magazine that unleashed Stephen Glass (and Ruth Shalit) on the world would be more careful before empowering yet another young person with no journalistic credentials to make fantastic allegations merely because they happen to be consistent with the prejudices of the people who run it. But you would be wrong.

Yes, I know, The New Republic is a magazine without editorial standards in matters relating to Arabs and Jews. This is, sadly, unavoidable. It has long been owned, and is still controlled by a man with no literary or journalistic talent who owes his entire career to his ability to disperse his second ex-wife's inherited fortune.

Everybody who wants to work there has to accept his racism and hysterics. But as I said, Marty Peretz owned the place, and since he lost it owing to bad stock investments, he still gets to run it on other people's dime. Nothing to be done about that.

But what about Marty's "Mini-Me," young James Kirchick, who works as Peretz's personal assistant? Surely just because the boy happens to work for Marty doesn't make him untouchable. And yet he continues to embarrass and shame his colleagues on the magazine's website and in its pages virtually every time he appears there. Kirchick acts as Peretz's id, attacking those who are more talented writers and thinkers than both of them -- and who isn't? -- but whom Peretz is afraid to engage in open discussion. Thing is, the guy is so incompetent, so transparent in his water-carrying, that all he does is embarrass the colleague who must share a masthead with him and see the brand of a once great magazine continually besmirched.

Do I exaggerate? You be the judge. Kirchick writes here:

The attempt by people like Ben-Ami, Alterman, Yglesias, Klein et.al. to portray their advocacy of unconditional Israeli negotiations with Iran and Hamas, unconditional Israeli territorial concessions, the Palestinian "right of return," (among other extreme positions) as having any truck within the mainstream of Jewish, American or Israeli opinion, while also having the gall to allege that anyone remotely to their right is an extremist, is something that psychologists call "projection."

Well, excuse me, young man, I've never taken any position at all on Israeli negotiations with Iran or Hamas, the Palestinian right of return, or even "unconditional" territorial concessions, much less advocate for them. You are simply making that up. My guess is that neither have Matthew Yglesias or Ezra Klein, but they can speak for themselves.

So Kirchick is accorded what remains of the good name of The New Republic simply to invent positions and attribute them to people who happen to have criticized his boss, Marty Peretz, at some point. And apparently there is no one at the magazine willing to take responsibility for calling him on it.

The rest of his post is similarly delusional and McCarthyite. Again, just to be clear, no one in their right mind could care less about what this young man thinks about anything. If he were blogging under his own name -- or stuck to John Podhoretz's Commentary, where he belongs -- he would be justly ignored. My point, rather, is how the many talented and important writers associated with The New Republic allow this institution to be continually dishonored by his presence there, writing things that no sane person would support and appear to emanate entirely from his fevered imagination.

And by the way, TNR, I'd like a correction.

Oh, and Matt Y. has more here.

From ANP:

Since June 9, 2008, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has pushed for impeachment proceedings against President Bush. Last week, in an effort to placate Kucinich, the House Judiciary Committee finally agreed to hold a hearing on July 25th. The night before the hearing, Kucinich sat down with ANP in an exclusive one-on-one interview, where we asked him about his case against Bush, his party's reluctance to address impeachment, and Congress' obligation to uphold the Constitution.

Super-Rich Tax Cheats -- they hide an estimated $100 billion a year from the IRS, but now the U.S. Senate is turning up the heat on offshore tax havens. The man who ratted out some of these tax dodgers now lives in hiding and has a $10 million bounty on his head. This is a story straight out of our new Gilded Age -- one of billionaires, foreign bankers, corruption, secrecy and, of course, greed.

From TomDispatch:

Chalmers Johnson once consulted for the Central Intelligence Agency and more recently, in his book Nemesis The Last Days of the American Republic, the third volume of his Blowback Trilogy, called for the Agency to be shut down. He knows a thing or two about the world of American intelligence. As he has written, "An incompetent or unscrupulous intelligence agency can be as great a threat to national security as not having one at all." In his latest post, Johnson considers just how incompetent and unscrupulous a thoroughly privatized intelligence "community" can turn out to be -- and, in the process, explores the larger history of the relationship between private corporations and the Pentagon.

Focusing on Tim Shorrock's new book, Spies for Hire, Johnson traces the history of "the wholesale transfer of military and intelligence functions to private, often anonymous operatives" from Ronald Reagan's day to the present, reminding us of just how crucial the Clinton administration was to this development. He also lays out just what can happen when the intelligence budget soars and startling amounts of it are placed in private, for-profit hands. Not only, he claims, has the privatization of intelligence made it easier for enemies to penetrate American intelligence and greased the slippery slope to the loss of professionalism within the community of intelligence analysts, but, perhaps most serious of all, it has ensured the loss of the most valuable asset any intelligence organization possesses -- its institutional memory.

He concludes: "The current situation represents the worst of all possible worlds. Successive administrations and Congresses have made no effort to alter the CIA's role as the president's private army, even as we have increased its incompetence by turning over many of its functions to the private sector. We have thereby heightened the risks of war by accident, or by presidential whim, as well as of surprise attack because our government is no longer capable of accurately assessing what is going on in the world and because its intelligence agencies are so open to pressure, penetration, and manipulation of every kind."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Derrick Gibson
Hometown: All Panthers Are Black

I used to coop at Eastman Kodak; the greybeards there laughed at digital -- "nothing will ever replace film!" -- said they.

That was then.

15 years later, Kodak is still struggling to deal with the demise of film and digital rules the world.

Embrace the new printing press!

While the traditional newspaper is a classic product, the world is moving to services. Zell should sell his newspapers as a service.

Amazon wants people to buy their Kindle; Sony wants people to buy their Reader; Zell should partner with them to sell 5-year subscriptions to his papers - delivered daily to younger users equipped with Kindles and Readers. He can keep producing papers for the older readers, but he can attract generations of new customers by meeting them where the are.

Oh -- and Zell should stop making the newspapers so thin. Reducing content only dilutes the reason people buy the papers in the first place!

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT


Shortly after 9/11, Bush made it clear that if we were are going to prevail in "the war on terror," we would need the help of the rest of the world. Reasonable enough.

He and his cohorts proceeded to squander whatever international good will we might have accumulated, and did so exercising a vicious unilateralism.

Now this same crew and its surrogates tell us it is bad thing for America that so much of Europe and the rest of the world is looking forward to the opportunity to work with Barack Obama. In other words, it's bad for America that a sane and intelligent candidate for President has emerged, and that the rest of the world finds the prospect of working with such an executive refreshing.

Only in America. And only in the MSM and the Fox/Limbaugh propaganda apparatus. It's not just that these two sets of media are divorced from the American people - they are far removed from reason, from logic, and from reality itself.

Name: von bargen
Hometown: St. Monica's Blue Lagoon

With apologies to Joe Biden:

Every public utterance by McCain contains a noun, a verb, "the Surge" and "Gen. Petraeus."

I'm sure that the McCainians are trying to figure out a way to get Petraeus on the ticket in the flesh, since he's already become a "shadow" member of the team, being alluded to even more often than the Almighty.

Petraeus would make a formidable addition to the ticket, unless things got really bad again in Iraq. Of course, if that happened after a drawdown, it could be blamed on Obama and the Democrats.

Name: Jay Whitham
Hometown: Sarasota, FL

With all respect to Pierce, whose commentaries I always enjoy in any venue, I must take issue with the characterization of Bruce as guitar whiz. Without a doubt, he is among the greatest rock (and other) performer/writers of all time, but I do not believe his guitar playing, as solid as it is, qualifies him as a guitar whiz. I submit the names of Danny Gatton, Duane Allman, Tommy Emmanuel, Tal Farlow, Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Tony Rice, and Tuck Andress (among a short list) when the image of guitar whiz comes to mind. In any other context I think CP himself would be among the first to question such hyperbole, notwithstanding the deserved reverence and admiration for "The Boss" in so many other categories. I think Bruce would concur.

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