Thursday, March 30, 2006
Grow Up Already
Mothers are the best life coaches.
"Maybe I need a life coach," a formerly sensible friend of mine said at lunch the other day. "Life coaches. Career coaches. They are really, really big." Yeah, I know. I read all about it this weekend in the "Style" section of the New York Times.
The New York Times, by the way, might need a coach itself fairly soon — a journalism coach. In the last couple of weeks the paper of record has made two major flubs, about which you may have heard. One was running a page-one hand-wringing story about a man who claimed he was the prisoner shown in one of most dismaying photos from Abu Ghraib. He wasn't. The Times' explanation: the guy had told the same whopper to Vanity Fair, so they believed him too. Another story was about a woman who claimed she came from Biloxi, Mississippi, and that after Katrina she was mistreated by FEMA. Only trouble: She was a complete phony and cheat who had never lived in Biloxi. It seems no reporter had bothered to check. Duh!
But back to those life coaches who, according the Times, have become a favorite in Hollywood where performers, writers, and producers have traded in their therapists for these very personal trainers. What do these life coaches do exactly? Well, Paul Towle, a psychotherapist and life coach, told the Times, "The difference between life coaching and psychotherapy is that therapy is about helping people heal their wounds and coaching is about helping people achieve the highest level of their fulfillment or happiness or success, whether they're wounded or not." He reportedly makes $40,000 a month saying things like that to members of rock bands. Clearly, it's a good gig.
Jeff Davis, a 30-year-old producer, told the Times he is very pleased with his coach, who, he said, has helped him get in touch with his "inner killer." Nancy Noever's coach helps her figure out "why I can't put myself first." Obviously life coaches, for their $100-a-phone-call fees, also teach their clients how to share their crassness and self-obsession with the press without blushing or considering how shallow they might sound.
But hey, shallowness nowadays is clearly bi-coastal. New York Magazine this week has a front page story on parents in their 30s and early 40s who look, talk, act, and dress as if they were -22 — and darn proud of it. (By the way, anyone who has an adult child knows most 22-year-olds today act like they're barely 15.) The article calls this "forever youngish" cohort "Grups" after a Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk lands on a planet ruled by children because there's a strange virus and — actually, it doesn't really matter. Our New York Gruppies, in their hoodies and their retro sneakers, have decided it is really very cool to remain childish even when they have children of their own.
I know the media in its endless search for what's new, what's "in," and what's hot, is always making a big to-do over very little. For example, remember "metrosexuals," and how nowadays guys in great numbers — even straight guys — had supposedly fallen in love with grooming and non-stop shopping? Well, the two magazines launched with great fanfare for those "metrosexuals" have just folded because of lack of circulation. The lamented hordes of shopping-bag-toting men were more hype than reality.
So I only can hope that the rage for life coaches who encourage self-centered people to be even more self-centered, and parents who think they need play dates, are as much a media exaggeration as those two news gaffes in the Times.
But, just in case they are not, here is some advice that the best life coaches of all — mothers — often give: "Just stop always thinking about yourself! And, for goodness sake, grow up."
— Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies' Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
I've been meaning to write about the last 'Sopranos' episode for a couple of days, and only now have I gotten the opportunity.
Pretty much everyone that I've spoken to, with few exceptions, hated the last episode of 'The Sopranos'. I'm not one of them. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how many people continue to wish for the show to be a straight gangster tale, when it should be obvious to any long-time watcher that it is anything but. Sure the last episode was arty, moody, and dark. Sure it was filled with all kinds of double-meanings and profound symbolisms. That's why I like about the show, and that's what I liked about the last episode. Right now (and I won't wreck it for any of you that have yet to dig into this season or the show in general) things are at a fever pitch and tensions are very high. But one episode to take stock in the significant damage that has been done, and the ripple effect that it is having, is called for.
At least that's what I think. I look forward to tonight's episode with burning enthusiasm.
I came across a news story about this fellow General Sir Anthony Heritage Farrar-Hockley. Sir Farrar-Hockley passed away about two weeks ago, but I was struck by this man's resolve, among other attributes. Here's an excerpt from the story:
General Sir Anthony Heritage Farrar-Hockley has passed away at the age of 81. He was a true hero of the Korean War and afterwards fought against terrorists and insurgents all over the world, from Malaysia to Aden to Northern Ireland. The IRA in particular hated him because of his uncompromising attitude to them.
Even in his retirement to a village in Oxfordshire, the IRA remained a threat. In 1990 a bomb was attached to the reel of his garden hose, but was spotted by his gardener and defused. "I keep my eyes open," said Farrar-Hockley, "and I don't much care for people who place explosive devices in my garden."
I love that last quote, "....and I don't much care for people who place explosive devices in my garden." How very British, eh?
While we're on the topic of the IRA, I've been following the goings-on in Northern Ireland for about a decade or more. It seems that with the Good Friday Agreement, which essentially brought peace (a precarious one, but peace nonetheless) to Northern Ireland, the more radical and violent elements of the Irish Republican Army have taken to gangsterism of the first order. A few years back they knocked off the Bank of Northern Ireland, taking it for the equivalent of $45 million dollars. They subsequently laundered the money through a number of banks in Central and Eastern Europe. They've bought up a large chunk of the pubs in Ireland proper as well, using them as legitimate fronts for their criminal enterprises. They've subcontracted their terrorist skills to the likes of Hamas. And they've been known to shake down civilians who have nothing to do with "the struggle". Worse than that, they've murdered two civilians who were innocent of nothing save being at the wrong place at the wrong time: Joseph Rafferty and Robert McCartney. In two of the last three St. Patrick's Days, George W. Bush has met with the grieving families of both of these men. (Events like these are the reason why I still hold faith in Bush: his vision of right and wrong is clear and unwavering.) At the same time, Bush has steadfastly denied an entrance visa to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. (Sinn Fein is considered the "political wing" of the IRA, even though they're fully connected to the "military wing" of the Irish Republican Army.) To date, the IRA has failed to produce the killers of both of these men, and their efforts to bribe the families of these two men have been for naught. Far from making a deal with the IRA, the families want Sinn Fein to produce the killers and have them tried in a legitimate court of law. Sinn Fein/IRA want nothing doing with this, as it would cause even more trouble and cause unnecessary attention to their criminality. They've also offered to execute the killers in both cases, but the families refused their offers.
Keep an eye on these stories, folks. The war on terrorism isn't just happening in the Middle East. And as the above link clearly notes, they're not different struggles, but the same one.
Regarding Islam, I'd say it's a pretty hard sell at this point to convince the average American that this is a "religion of peace". The case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghani citizen who converted to Christianity and was set to be tried for apostasy (with the inevitable death sentence as the conclusive punishment, natch), has, in all likelihood, left little doubt in the minds of the American public that it isn't just fringe elements of this religion, but your average everyday adherent that is the practitioner and advocate of savagery. That there are moderate muslims out there, I have no doubt. But considering they're up against some pretty bloodthirsty opponents, I can't see how they wouldn't be cowed.
This story comes, of course, on the heels of the massive (and unbelievably ridiculous) reaction of the "muslim street" to the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist.
Mark Steyn has been particularly incisive on this and many other cultural issues. His column on this event is probably the best I've read.
Anyway....ten minutes to 'The Sopranos'. Hope everyone has a stupendous week.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Mean, political animal of a president (usually a Republican, natch) suddenly has an epiphany, a moment of clarity and conscience, and decides to sign some sweeping environmental and/or socialist bill to the chagrin of his handlers, but to the everlasting joy of the woman in his life. Everyone in the country rejoices that the normally tight-fisted, Ebenezer Scrooge-like president now cares deeply for the endangered, impoverished hoi polloi. Everyone goes home happy, Q.E.D.
In other words, Hollywood movies about politics usually involve some kind of irritating liberal moralization. The underlying goal of this is to inevitably get audiences to think twice about who they pull the lever for, and more than that, how to live.
There are exceptions to the rule, mind. Wag The Dog was the clever exception to this rule. And now comes Thank You For Smoking, about a tobacco lobbyist named Nick Naylor. Nick's character, played by Aaron Eckhart, describes himself as such: "You know the guy who can get any girl? I'm that guy...on crack." Nick is so good at knowing every angle of every argument that he's virtually unbeatable in debate, even though he shills for a clearly unhealthy product. His two best friends are a gun lobbyist and and an alcohol industry lobbyist (David Koechner and Maria Bello), who routinely meet at a high-class Washington establishment for drinks, to compare war stories, and trade ideas on how to defend and promote the embattled industries that they work for. These three refer to themselves as the M.O.D. Squad (the acronym M.O.D. stands for Merchants of Death). One particular scene has them arguing which industry product is more dangerous, complete with annual fatality comparisons. (Nick wins that argument, too.) Throughout the movie, Nick spins, dodges, and invetably boxes in anyone and everyone who takes him on regarding the dangers of smoking. Does he suffer a crisis of conscience? An epipaphy that makes him turn against his former big tobacco employers? Become a voice of reason who joins forces with the liberal do-gooders in the end? That would be giving away too much, but I can tell you that this is a funny, intelligent movie that thankfully doesn't end up sanctimonious and heavy-handed. For Nick Naylor, it's not about tobacco being addictive or dangerous, it's about free will to choose to smoke or not smoke. Take him on, and he'll not only be you in debate, but have you believing he's right and you're wrong in the end.
A fun flick that is worth seeing, particularly for those with a libertarian streak.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
The West has long been aware that, while we hold freedom of speech as a centerpiece of our liberty, the Muslim world does not recognize this freedom. Before now, however, our worlds have rarely collided. The Muslims have not usually dared to extend their dictatorial systems to control our own behavior within our own cities. The Salman Rushdie affair—the Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 death edict against the "blasphemous" novelist—was an ominous warning, but Americans did not take it seriously.
Now, seventeen years later, the Muslim fanatics are making it clear: you don't have to come to our country, you don't have to be a Muslim. Even in your own countries and under your own laws, you will not be safe from our intimidation.
For the whole Western world, this is an opportunity to learn an important truth about the goal of the Islamists. Their goal is not to achieve any specific political demand or settlement. Their goal is submission: our submission to their will, to their laws, to their dictatorship—our submission, not just to one demand, but to any demand the Muslim mobs care to make.
Europe particularly needs to learn this lesson. The Europeans have deluded themselves into thinking that this is our fight. If only Israel weren't so intransigent, if only the US weren't so belligerent, they told themselves—if only those cowboys didn't insist on stirring up trouble, we could all live in peace with the Muslims. And they have deluded themselves into thinking that they can seek a separate peace, that having the Danish flag on your backpack—as one bewildered young Dane described it—would guarantee that you could go anywhere in the world and be regarded as safe, as innocuous.
Now the Europeans know better. With cries of "Death to Israel" and "Death to American" now being joined by cries of "Death to Denmark", every honest European can now see that they are in this fight, too—and they are closer to the front lines than we are. Threats against American cartoonists, when anyone bothers to make them, are toothless; there is no mob of violent young Muslims in the United States to carry them out. European writers and filmmakers, by contrast, are already being murdered in the streets. The first people to find themselves living under the sword of a would-be Muslim caliphate are Europeans, not Americans.
The lesson here is not just that the Islamist ideology of dictatorship is a threat to Europe. It is also that the dictatorships themselves are a threat. The advocates of cynical European "realpolitik" deluded themselves into thinking that, if they just made the right kind of deals with Saddam Hussein, or with the Iranian regime, or with the Syrian regime, then the dictatorships over there would have no impact on us over here.
But we can now see that the anti-Danish riots did not explode spontaneously: they were instigated by the dictators, by the regimes in Iran and Syria.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Second-term administrations have the deck heavily stacked against them thanks to a constitutional amendment that limits their capacity to influence events. It is high time for that limitation to be removed. A President who is able to go to the voters repeatedly is a President with political power and the capacity to make his/her administration more of a success than a President who becomes a lame duck the moment after he/she wins a second term. If we are interested in helping to ensure that the office of the Presidency remains consequential and influential -- and by the way, if we are interested in respecting the opinions of voters who may like a particular President and may want that President to remain in office for longer than two terms -- we will do ourselves and our political institutions a great favor by repealing the 22nd Amendment.
Read the whole thing here.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Second terms are notoriously crappy for most presidents. Taking a look at the last few two-term presidents pretty much bears this fact out. Eisenhower had his second term wrecked by the Gary Powers-U2 incident over the Soviet Union, Nixon had the obvious Watergate debacle, Reagan had Iran-Contra (which I still think he was right to be involved in, given the particulars), Clinton had Lewinsky (which I think did not warrant impeachment; letting the lower courts slap him around for his malfeasance would've been much smarter for the congressional GOP'ers), and Bush has got any number of things bogging him down. In essence, presidents seem to get sloppy in their second terms. It could be burn-out to some extent, both for the presidents and their staffs, or it could be that without the burden of re-election hanging over their heads, they stop monitoring the particulars. Either way, this UAE port deal is going to be killed. Congressional Republicans like Pete King (a Queens guy who's constituency is Nassau County on LI) claim that they came out of a White House briefing regarding the port deal MORE worried about it than before. In essence, Bush is going to lose his congressional Republicans if he doesn't kill this deal. Worse than that, his congressional Republicans are being put in vulnerable positions by the president's stubborn refusal to even consider killing the deal. I don't think that the Democrats will regain the House on this issue, but it's not out of the question that it is a possibility. Democrats taking a stand on defense is almost laughable at this point, with their vehement rhetoric regarding the Patriot Act renewal, NSA wire-tapping of international calls emanating from domestic locations, etc. But if people get pissed off enough, the Democrats might gain seats merely from protest votes alone. And what happens if the Democrats get the House? Payback time, in the form of the Articles of Impeachment, which the likes of the lunatic John Conyers would just love to invoke.
Bush is terribly tone deaf on this one, just the same as he was tone-deaf with the Harriet Mieirs nomination. He'll eventually get it, because he has no choice BUT to get it. But in the process of all this, he's got people, not just on one side of the aisle but BOTH sides, questioning the sanity of this deal.
It's dead. That's my prediction.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
"It's okay to think Atlas Shrugged is the greatest book you've ever read until you're 18. Then you should stop."
"He went about complaining how bad the times were, and particularly that there had been no public disasters...the prosperity of his own reign, he said, would lead to its being wholly forgotten, and he often prayed for a great military catastrophe, or for some famine, plague, fire, or earthquake."
--Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, commenting on Emperor Gaius, aka Caligula
Sound like some we all know? A certain former president, by chance? One who openly wished it would've been HE who was president in 9/11?
Think about it.
Apologies to those of you who live in New Jersey. (And you know who you are...)
"Not familiar with the Jersey Smell? Start your car, then lie under it with your half-eaten goat."
Story of the Day:
ROME (Reuters) - Leaders of the former Soviet Union were behind the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in 1981, an Italian parliamentary investigative commission said in a report.
A final draft of the report, which is due to be presented to parliament later this month, was made available to Reuters on Thursday by the commission president, Senator Paolo Guzzanti.
"This commission believes, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the leadership of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate Pope John Paul," the report said.
[Shocker. But hey, they were going to collapse on their own anyway, right?]
A friend ofJohn Derbyshire at NRO, this fellow did some low-level grunt work for Nixon in '72:
"A Republican president and a Republican Congress--both houses! We could only dream of it back then. And yet, after all, what has it got us? Spending out of control, open borders, Wilsonism all over the bloody world, congressmen's pockets stuffed with lobbyist dollars, huge dysfunctional govt bureacracies springing up all over the place, sucking in public money to finance their stupid turf fights..."
Kind of hard to dispute that, sadly.
And in the "some things never change" department:
"Augustus Caesar married his wife Scribonia, but divorced her, 'because', as he wrote, 'I could not bear the way she nagged at me'"
--Suetonius, Twelve Caesars
[Sidenote: Augustus Caesar ruled Rome at the time of the birth of Christ, some two thousand years ago.]