Monday, February 28, 2011

Washington National Opera's Boffo "Butterfly"

Awesome performance from our local DC Opera company, which has had its fiscal problems lately. Nonetheless, they can still put on one heck of a performance when they have a mind to, and their current production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly is a case in point.

Read my full review with pix via my column, Curtain Up! And check out other local arts, politics, news, and reviews at the Washington Times Communities.

Democrat Civility in Wisconsin

From Outside the Beltway, this little anecdote underscoring the considerable progress Wisconsin Democrats are making in the direction of more civil discourse:

Well this isn’t exactly new tone:
Last Friday…. after the Assembly voted to engross the Budget Repair Bill, [Wisconsin State Rep. Gordon] Hintz turned to a female colleague, Rep. Michelle Litjens and said: “You are F***king dead!”
I suppose this is acceptable because he was fighting for “the people,” right?
Hey, who does Hintz think Litjens is, anyway, Sarah Palin? If a Republican had dared to say this, he'd well and truly be F***king dead right now, ya think?

We report, you decide.

Meanwhile, remember Wonker's First Rule of Partisan Politics: Being a Democrat is never having to say you're sorry.

Peter Yarrow is in Wisconsin. Wonder Why?

Ann Althouse duly notes that once-famous faux singer Peter Yarrow has shown up in Madison to uphold union solidarity as funded via limitless taxpayer impoverishment. In the same piece, she wonders why better leftist entertainers either weren't invited or decided not to come.

The answer is simple. Yarrow, of "Peter, Paul and Mary" fame is one of the last musical survivors of an era when moderately talented acoustic singers of the Marxist persuasion rebranded themselves as friendly, benign "folk singers," the better to transmit Communist propaganda to a new generation while appearing as friendly grassroots entertainers carrying on "American musical tradition."

Case in point: Mary Travers herself attended New York City's notorious Little Red Schoolhouse, a public school with an essentially socialist curriculum, supported, of course, by the hapless taxpayer. It was a fine launching pad for her later career as a friendly subversive "patriot."

All three singers in the trio are classic examples of how the long march of the tattered Popular Front tradition gradually infiltrated music, the arts, and the entertainment industry to the extent where few in those fields today will admit to anything other than socialist leanings.

But back to Peter. Yarrow has faithfully carried on that Little Red Schoolhouse-style tradition, most recently in 2005 when he traveled to Ho Chi Minh City Saigon to apologize for America's actions in the Vietnam War. What a patriot. Just the guy with enough street cred to support the patriotic Wisconsin Public Employees. (The story was reported, by the way, on the website of the Organic Consumers Association which pretty much telegraphs the real intentions of this particular front group.)

Anyhow, it's small wonder that this knee-jerk old Commie was happy to show up at Marxism's Last Stand in Madison. He has nothing to lose. The other rich lefty entertainers still have careers. They've no doubt determined that an appearance along with Wisconsin's selfish union thugs won't exactly enhance their image or box office magic with the general public. Yarrow could care less. At least he's consistent.

Power to the People, Right On.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cypress String Quartet Disappoints at Wolf Trap

Didactic, disappointing performance by the Cypress String Quartet Friday evening at "The Barns," a delightful performing arts facility at Wolf Trap here in northern Virginia, a venue better known for its outdoor Filene Center. The quartet actually accompanied a banal film that softly bashes America, a tired yet continuous meme constantly pushed by the left. For my review of the performance, click here to learn about "The Cypress Quartet's muddled America."

For those who haven't checked my bio sketch lately, I still review music, theater, and the arts for the Washington Times, currently online under their Washington Times Communities tab, subtab "Entertain Us." You can find my reviews in my column "Curtain Up!" I might as well let you know they're there. 

Meanwhile, I'll be posting another review either later tonight or early tomorrow on the Washington National Opera's new production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Not to telegraph my opinion, but I'll give you a hint: See if you can get a ticket.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

MoveOn, Union Sponsored Rallies Flop, Big Time

The joint astroturfing endeavors of and various and sundry public employee unions flopped today, big time, according to RightNetwork, which speculates as to the reason why:
Despite the best efforts of the state-run media and the far left, protesters failed to materialize today at the dozens of rallies in support of government employee unions. Maybe it’s because government employees make twice as much as the private sector?
Want some numbers? Professor William A. Jacobson of Legal Insurrection has some for ya, aside from Madison, Wisconsin's Ground Zero where union thugs continue to be bussed in from God knows where:
In Washington, D.C., only about 500 people showed up (go to link for good photos of crazy signs). (Note, WaPo says 1000.)

In Columbus, OH, where you would expect a big crowd given a similar controversy, only "several thousand" people protested

Other head counts, based on news reports, include: Boston (1000), Portsmouth, N.H. (few hundred), Augusta, ME (small crowd), New York City ("several thousand"), Chicago (1000), Miami (100), Austin (several hundred), Chicago (1000); Lansing, MI (2000), Nashville (hundreds), Los Angeles (2000), Richmond, VA (300), Denver (1000); Frankfurt, KY (several hundred), Jefferson City, MO (several hundred), Harrisburg, PA (several hundred).  
Underwhelming, eh? Don't expect either MoveOn or the union thugs to see the light of day. This is their supreme Seinfeld moment: No hugging. No Learning. Ever. Or, to quote that learned sage, Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Global Warming Continues to Pound US Mainland

Headline links via Drudge:

Latest Snowfall To Make February Snowiest-Ever In Chicago...


33 degrees in San Jose -- lowest since 1897...

Storm Slamming Northeast with Heavy Snow, Flooding...

Obviously, this is all the result of "global warming" "climate change." The Goracle said so. So does everyone else.

(But remember Wonker's Rule: "Everybody" is always wrong.)

New Friends and Enemies

We've augmented our ever-changing Friends and Enemies lists today, incorporating some new sites that contain reliable--and unreliable--news and information respectively. Inspired by Tricky Dick Nixon's nearly-forgotten nomenclature, our lists are meant not only as handy links for those so inclined to explore. They're also intended as cautionary guideposts. More than ever today, you need to know just who or what it is that you're getting your information--or disinformation--from.

Here goes:

Two new friends from Canada:

SteynOnline--Online presence of conservative writer and sometimes Rush Limbaugh radio sub host Mark Steyn.
Blogging Tories--What it says.

Two new friends from the U.S.:
  • Planet Gore: Unlikely title, but this is a blog satirizing and debunking all things pertaining to the Goracle, that pusillanimous pugilist of pomposity, courtesy of NRO.
  • Linkiest: A new discovery for us, at least, this site vaguely looks like Twitter and is a scrolling series of reliably conservative links constantly updated.

Two old, familiar, and once cherished news magazines that went so far off the leftist cliff that you can just about stick a fork in them because they're done:
  • TIME--The Luce family would turn over in its collective grave. Now thinner than a broadsheet, this dying relic is what's left of a once major journalistic empire--left-wing smears and slander so biased that even the emeritus editors of the old Soviet Pravda would be embarrassed.
  • Newsweek--Merging with the snarky Daily Beast after being unceremoniously dumped by its owners, the Washington Post, for a buck, this rough beast is slouching away from Bethlehem to be Born Again under the tutelage of that Queen of Buzz and reflexive British leftism, Tina Brown. One of the fun things about being a hard lefty is that you can fail again and again and still come out on top with a great salary. Makes me a little wistful sometimes. Clearly, I've made some bad career choices.

Ventriloquist Journalism: The New Vernacular

Now here's a useful term I've never run into before: "ventriloquist journalism." Credit goes to new Power Line blogger Steven Hayward via M. Stanton Evans. Let Hayward explain:
Kudos to John for staying after Eric Lipton's fast one, which is a classic in the genre of what I call "ventriloquist journalism"--the highly refined technique by which "news" reporters seek out a source to confirm their preconceived story line with a specific quote. I didn't think of that term myself; I learned it from my first mentor out of college, the great M. Stanton Evans, who was one of the nation's youngest major newspaper editors decades ago at the Indianapolis Star.
Italics mine, carving out the actual definition.

The link in this graf, BTW, is to fellow Power Line-er John Hinderaker's entry earlier entry exposing  Eric Lipton's faux journalism at the despicable, rarely fact-checked New York Times. It's a classic anecdote that elegantly defines "ventriloquist journalism" via real world experience.

Hayward elaborates on the topic:
Reporters for mainstream media publications like the Times are extremely skilled at this dark art, and have numerous techniques for getting a source to utter a pre-written quote. Basically they just ask the same question over and over again in different form, and them culminate with, "In other words, would it be fair to say that. . ." until you give in. It takes a lot of patience and determination to resist their well-polished blandishments. The best of them have the whole "good-cop, bad-cop" schtick down cold.
Yup, you see this on TV "ambush journalism" clips all the time, too, usually perpetrated on hapless Republicans by the networks' star socialist reporters, camera man in tow.

The other flavor of this is to reformulate the trick question in ways that disguise its intent, the better to trap the interviewee into an answer that he probably neither wanted nor intended to give.

Ventriloquist journalism a good way to get yourself on the fast track for a Pulitzer, particularly if the tactic makes a George Bush or a Newt Gingrich squirm, grimace, or otherwise look bad. In the end, it's just another example of how so-called journalists crank out propaganda rather than actual news you can use. (It's also the way to win invitations to the very best cocktail parties in the Hamptons.)

BTW2, apropos of today's current state budget battles, here's another pithy Evans observation, obtained from an un-linked piece in the American Spectator:
Tax cuts are like sex; when they are good, they are very, very good. And when they are bad, they are still pretty good.
Did this dude study the comedies of Oscar Wilde?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Washington Post Shows Bias Again

Washington Post headline from today's online edition:

Democratic governors criticize Wisconsin's Walker

Democrats criticize a Republican governor? One who's trying to take away traditional, involuntary taxpayer funding for Democrats' political campaigns no less? Who knew? This is news?

Non-stories like this are simply editorials thinly disguised as news items, all the better to move editorial page rants into the news hole to make them look substantive. Any wonder why newspaper circulation is going down all across the country. Why pay for propaganda when you can get it free on the web?

Quotes, Scare-quotes, Whatever

This today from Ann Althouse who cites a passage from left-wing Salon and then offers comment:
Writes Justin Elliott in Salon:

A person at a Tuesday town hall with Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., got up and asked, "Who is going to shoot President Obama?"

The exact wording of the question is not clear because, the Athens Banner-Herald reports, there was a lot of noise at the event. 
If you don't know the "exact wording," why do you have some words in quotes? This non-quote has gone viral in the leftosphere, the leftosphere where no one seems to mind all the violent and over-the-top language and imagery at the week-long Wisconsin protests. If you don't have that quote, why are you spewing it out there? Maybe what hasn't changed post-Tucson is you?
Good point. But there's more to this than meets the eye, journalistic, legal, or otherwise.

While she's got a good point here, Ann makes a common observational error that most conservatives are prone to make. Let me explain.

A great many conservatives are conservative precisely because, either accidentally or on purpose, they've somehow managed to obtain a classic liberal arts education. This tends to make them:

  • Skeptics at the very least
  • Reasonably well versed in the rubrics of law and journalism (Althouse is, in fact, a law prof.)
  • Reasonably well versed in the skills of writing and grammar
Any journalist, or lawyer for that matter, knows that if you enclose a person's words in quotes, the convention is that those are the precise, exact words that person said. This is called a direct quote for obvious reasons. It's straight out of the proverbial horse's mouth. It's what a person said, no more and no less. If you didn't quite hear (or record) what a person said, you have to paraphrase and say so in some way, shape, or form.

I'm going to go out on a limb here. But in my recent experience, pretty much anyone who's 40 or under these days has received an "education" only in the sense that he or she has acquired one or more appropriate pieces of paper certifying the given level of "achievement." In other words, such individuals, through no particular fault of their own, are no longer aware of the finer points of language and communication arts.

It is entirely possible that the writer Althouse cites does not have a clue that his use of quotation marks above is, by his very admission, not an exact quote. But he encloses it in quotation marks because it approximates an alleged direct quote and because the individual in question did apparently say something. And because, most importantly, he doesn't have a clue as to correct usage.

I know, I know. Some lefties do, in fact, know the rules, but choose to flout them, the better to obscure the boundaries between truth and fiction and the better to remain in ideological service to the ruling class. But in point of fact, the bulk of errors of this type committed by the left are errors caused by pure ignorance. Since smearing conservatives, libertarians, and tea partiers has been ordered by Party apparatchiks, than the minor details of the smearing are not really relevant to the ideology. The whole idea is to get the smear out there and push it early and often. Further, most of those who are receptive to the smear don't really care about the grammatical, legal, or journalistic details. They just tweet or blog the smear and it goes viral. The hell with the details.

The real story in many of the anecdotes flying about in the wake of the ongoing attempted leftist putsch in the Midwest is one of ignorance. We're dealing with complex issues here which the left is cleverly propagandizing and oversimplifying while also attempting to change the subject. Their attack plan is almost puerile, but it's been effective. The MSM ignoramuses misreport what's going on. The conservative side of the isle is viciously slandered and misrepresented. And the union recipients of the message, by and large, no longer have the educational tools and training to cut through the crap--or you wouldn't see so many demonstrators turning out for these events. They'd already have figured out this Marxist-Leninist violence and obstructionism is actually not serving their own interests in the long run. But, having systematically been denied the tools that used to come standard with a liberal arts education, they just can't see what's really going on.

Fortunately, an emerging majority of Americans are now beginning to see the light, if only instinctively at this point. But we need to recognize that the complexity of the issues involved here make it tough to gain new converts from the middle and the left. Perhaps it's time for conservatives and libertarians to let go of their customary tendency to be reasonable, civilized, and polite--a tendency that allows the violent left to roll all over them and make them look bad every single time. Wiser conservaties are stealing a page out of Alinsky and using the left's same tactics back against them.

Althouse's approach is reasonable here. But we're probably at the point where, if we don't start fighting fire with fire, so to speak, conservatives will politely lose again--at precisely the moment when the hard left--which has been gradually destroying the USA for over 50 years--is ripe for a final, definitive defeat.

BTW: On those quotation marks. You'll note that I myself use them to surround individual words like "education" and "achievement." I'm using them here because I'm using these words in an ironic sense, the same way I write "global warming," which I regard as a farce propagated by the redistributionist left. Quotes in this case are called "scare-quotes." Now, I have no idea why they're called that. Nor do I think this particular usage is described in most old-fashioned grammar books. But this particular usage has nothing to do with the direct quote issue we're dealing with above. Just thought you'd like to know. I do try to stay consistent.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What the Public Employees' Unions Don't Want You to Know

Here's a great video HazZzMat found via Power Line. Assembled by a group called Minnesota Majority, it sums up, as succinctly and dramatically as I've yet seen, just what's really at stake in the current Texas Cage Match between the American people and the public employee union thugs.

BTW, I like everything about this video except for the Lord of the Rings/Batman style soundtrack. Unintelligible choirs and incessant drumbeats have about run their course, I hope! Oh, well, I supposed you have to get above the cacophony today somehow.

Tabitha Hale Speaks

If you haven't already seen it, here's a video taken by Madison, Wisconsin FreedomWorks worker Tabitha Hale. Using her iPhone, she was trying to assist a fellow staffer attempting to interview a surly thug who's allegedly a member of the Communications Workers--a union whose members include "reporters" working for the MSM, BTW. The FreedomWorkers were just trying to do a typical man-on-the-street interview; you know, the kind the MSM always tries to do with Tea Party people. Here's the reaction:

Nice, huh? So much for the always non-violent left.

Says Tabitha today, via RedState:
Basically, it’s ridiculous. I’m a 5′1 female in a dress, and he was standing up on a garden wall above me in the courtyard. He hardly felt threatened. I was stunned, because generally protesters are there to, you know, get their message out. They don’t normally shy away from the camera.... I’m very much okay, and very appreciative of the support from my fellow bloggers and activists today. I am, however, shaken up by the level of sheer hatred I experienced today. The look of fury on his face in the close up is appalling....
And now the money quote (my italics):
This just can’t be tolerated anymore. It’s one thing to be called a violent teabagger. It’s another to be called a violent teabagger while you’re being assaulted. They’ve been comparing themselves to the Egyptians ousting Mubarak. Looks like they’re not too far off, given that they share the tendency to assault women with cameras.

The violence, both physical and verbal, that we're experiencing in what passes for public discourse today is coming almost entirely from America's machine Democrats and left-wing public employee unions. The video above should at least help dispel any notions to the contrary.

Update: When I first relayed this report, I had reason to believe that it came from Madison, Wisconsin. Michelle Malkin has this happening in DC where FreedomWorks is located. I point of fact, although the incident clearly happened, I can't at the moment independently corroborate just exactly which city hosted this violent farce. I can say, however, that, evidenced from Tabitha Hale's own website, Tabitha herself lives in or around DC with some deal of political discomfort. I sympathize, because I live here too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Public Employee Unions: Democrat Funding Machine

Following up to our earlier post, Michael Barone describes in detail in today's Washington Examiner why the Dems are pulling out all the stops in the Rust Belt to choke off any attempt by the states to cut off the public employee union feedbag:
In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.
Ties in rather nicely with the stories in our earlier HazZzMat post, eh?

There's a lot more coming out on this in the blogosphere. Perhaps at long last the American taxpayer--and the Republican Party--are undertaking in earnest the long and arduous process of de-funding the institutional left that is ruining this country.

Hint: check out the politicized 501 (c) (3) non-profits next. A substantial number of them effectively launder money for Democrat political campaigns by using subsidiary organizations to thwart IRS rules against non-profit funding of political activities. There's plenty of information on this at David Horowitz' Discover the Networks.

Providence Teachers to Bite the Dust

Don't take it from me. Take it from the online Providence, Rhode Island ProJo:
The school district plans to send out dismissal notices to every one of its 1,926 teachers, an unprecedented move that has union leaders up in arms.
According to the story, this is apparently the mayor's attempt to get at least part of Providence's massive budget deficit under control. It's a complex story, actually, so it's well worth consulting the link.

More to the point, though, is the developing meme here which I think is about to spread like wildfire throughout the net. In Wisconsin, which is getting more publicity right now, pro-union demonstrators are likening Republican budget-cutters to Hitler, fascism, and Hosni Mubarek. In fact, it's the other way around. Public sector unions and their Democrat allies, whose elections the unions fund with taxpayer dollars, have been, like good old-fashioned Communists, "redistributing the wealth." 

Like the old Soviet apparatchiks, not to mention Mubarek, Qadaffi, and Iran's "religious" Islamofascists, the union-Democrat combine in the U.S. has slowly been bleeding the present and future dry for the average American. The press won't report this. But here's a trenchant comment from a commentator to the cited ProJo clip from "FORMERTEACHER":
THE CAT IS OUT OF THE BAG! Folks -- around the country -- are now realizing that for years unions and politicians had essentially an incestuous relationship from a monetary point of view. Politicians would do the bidding (encouraging union membership of government workers) in return for cash dollars for their campaigns, and promises of 'support' from the union.

The person ending up paying for this cozy relationship was YOU -- the TAXPAYER. Now, politicians are at a point where the pond is dry. States are going broke due to all of the promises made in the past. That is why there are BILLIONS in unfunded pensions, not to mention other perks. The politicians also know they cannot tax individuals into oblivion -- especially during dire economic times.

Do the unions care about increasing taxes? OF COURSE NOT. They will continue to get their cut (that you and I underwrite), but even more $$$$$$ if they can 'arm twist' more perks from the politicians...
And then, the money quote:
What are the real issues facing us today in Providence (and other states for that matter)? One word: POWER. Just remember, YOU AND I DID NOT ELECT THE UNION TO REPRESENT OUR INTEREST! 
Right answer. And it's echoed today in a totally different place, a "guest advisor" columnist in the publicly available section of my favorite financial technical analysis site, Decisionpoint. (Subscription required for full content.) In his "Market Intelligence Report" for February 22, Dr. Joe Duarte writes:
In the Middle East, ruling families and military governments have been in power for decades, and even centuries. In the U.S., public unions have negotiated lucrative contracts for their workers for decades. And while the situations are different in some ways, they are concretely similar because what's at stake in both places is who will actually foot the bill for the promises that have been made, and how will things look when the redistribution gets made.

This is what the mainstream media is missing. This isn't so much about ideology but about the central tenet in politics, who gets how much of what's available? 
Duarte's cautious conclusion:
The situations in Libya and Wisconsin are worlds apart, but share in one characteristic, they are about the distribution of wealth and power. Those who feel left out of the big time are trying to grab some for themselves, while those who have the upper hand are not letting it go.

One or the other side, in both places, will flinch. When that happens, there will be repercussions, in the streets, in the halls of power, and in the markets.
Both commentators are quite clear: This is it, folks, the final frontier. The middle class, which includes yours truly, has taken it in the ear for upwards of at least 50 years from not only the public sector unions and the increasingly socialist Democrat Party, but also from all the Wall Street fat cats who support DEMOCRATS, not Republicans (as the MSM would have you believe), shoveling millions of dollars to the Dems to craft unfair advantages for large businesses over small ones.

If we want to stop this, we may have to start doing something most good, family-oriented people have always flinched from doing. We may need to go out there ourselves and show the public union goons that the people are back in charge and simply aren't going to take it anymore.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Circumcise San Francisco

The Middle East is in chaos. Oil prices are skyrocketing through the roof. 'Fraidy Cat Democrats have abdicated in Wisconsin and now in Indiana to thwart the voters' clear will. Housing prices are plummeting once again. This nation is in serious trouble. So what's on the minds of San Franciscans today?
Self-described "civil rights advocates" say that a ballot proposition to ban circumcision is on track for gathering signatures, meaning that San Franciscans may vote on the measure this November.
That's right. According to Bay Area, today's hot issue in the People's Republic of San Fran is whether or not foreskins should be removed. Medical arguments pro and con aside, what the hell is the point here? We get the "freedom to choose" when it comes to abortion, but not on whether to retain foreskins? Where's the logic? Where's the common sense? Why now when so many other things are clearly more important, like California's insolvency for example?

This nonsense it typical of the Democrat-riddled nanny-state run truly amok. The individuals and pols pushing this nonsensical ballot provision are trapped in a case of arrested adolescence. They are not functioning as adults. Even more than the public employee union nonsense now being played out in the Rust Belt, such preoccupation with the trivial over the substantial is the hallmark of a failed political and personal philosophy.

BTW, as the former owner of a foreskin myself, I can attest that its absence hasn't made a damn bit of difference in my life, one way or the other.

Grow up, San Francisco. And stay out of people's private business.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Flash: Beavis and Butt-head to return!

This just in: one of HazZzmat's guilty pleasures in the 1990s was catching the occasional episode of Mike Judge's crude cartoon series, "Beavis and Butt-head" on cable TV.

These two clueless crude, and rude high school losers spent most of their time watching lousy music videos. The show was actually a pretty good satire on brainless teenage slackers who seemed to be taking over the earth (or at least suburbia) at the time. The series ran its course, RIP. But now it looks like the Dynamic Duo will be back, according to this piece in TV Squad:
'Beavis and Butt-head' are making a comeback! MTV announced that the iconic '90s animated series will be returning to MTV with all-new episodes.... MTV hasn't set a premiere date yet, though it did say it would happen this summer.... When the series returns, the two metal-loving slackers will still issue snarky commentary, but instead of watching terrible grunge music videos, Beavis and Butt-head will take on more contemporary acts.
More utterly wasted summer nights dead ahead.

(BTW, if you're really into TV news and trivia, check out Craig Sanger's TV Den.)

More new conservatives at the Washington Times Communities

The Washington Times Communities area mentioned in our last entry, HazZzMat: Milton Babbitt, conservative iconoclast is home to an increasing number of interesting new conservative writers. Check out college student Gabriella Hoffman's "Being Young, Conservative, and Spicy," and Eric Golub's "The Tygrrrr Express" for starters. Eric is now posting frequenty on the ongoing crisis in Egypt, and his insights make for a good read.

Milton Babbitt, conservative iconoclast

Beloved teacher and iconoclastic atonal composer Milton Babbitt passed away this weekend in Princeton, NJ at the age of 94. Unbeknownst to many, he was also a political conservative, something rarely if ever talked about in the classical music world where, even today, you need Marxist credentials to get your ticket punched. For an appreciation with links, check out the "Curtain Up!" column at the Washington Times Communities.