Johnny Oleksinski When Tina Fey’s film “Mean Girls” came out in 2004, the comedy was lauded as a silly, satirical excoriation of modern high-school life and its cliques, cafeteria antics and materialism. “Mean Girls” was a “Clueless” for the millennial age. And it was so fetch.
Fast forward to 2018. “Mean Girls” is about to begin a new life as a Broadway musicalin March. But some Broadway watchers believe the subject matter is too mean for these kinder, gentler times.
“It just might not be the moment for ‘Mean Girls,’ ” one Broadway insider told me on the condition of anonymity. “It might feel stale and tone-deaf to the critics. And while this is something that could be critic-proof, maybe not.”
The fear of offending audiences isn’t limited to musicals about bratty teens. In this oversensitive era, TV shows, Oscar-worthy movies and pop music are all under pressure to be as nice as Betty Crocker. For millennia the best art has offended, tantalized, frightened, riled up and, of course, been life-affirming. But today the American public, looking more than ever like Soviet Russia, has just one rule for entertainers: Don’t rock the boat.
During last Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show, singer Justin Timberlake barely rocked his hips. The former boybander is responsible for the most famous sex stunt in the history of the event — Janet Jackson’s 2004 nipple-baring “wardrobe malfunction.” Read the rest of this entry »
We are living in an era of political panic.
Yuval Levin writes: Some of President Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters in 2016 were motivated to overlook his shortcomings by desperate fear that our system of government was near death and only the most extreme measures could save it. A poll conducted by PRRI and the Atlantic immediately after the election found that more than 60 percent of Trump’s voters believed the 2016 election was “the last chance to stop America’s decline.” As one pro-Trump essayist famously put it, things had gotten so bad that it was time either to “charge the cockpit or you die.”
” … Levitsky and Ziblatt essentially ignore core conservative complaints about the ways in which the left has undermined our constitutional norms and institutions. The progressive celebration of executive unilateralism, of the administrative state, and of a politicized judicial branch are left unmentioned. But even though they do not amount to autocracy, of course, these long-term trends are surely threats to American democracy and of at least the magnitude of President Trump’s tweets.
And yet to say so, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest, would itself amount to an attack on our institutions. Without a hint of irony, they note that one of the ways the Tea Party movement undermined political norms was that it lodged the accusation “that President Obama posed a threat to our democracy.” Later they say, regarding Republican critiques of Obama, that “such extremism encourages politicians to abandon forbearance. If Barack Obama is ‘a threat to the rule of law,’ as Senator Ted Cruz claimed, then it made sense to block his judicial appointments by any means necessary.” Presumably this means that if you write an entire book arguing that Donald Trump threatens to bring the death of democracy, you are similarly justifying resistance to his administration by any means necessary.
Jonathan Haidt writes: Here is the fine-tuned liberal democracy hypothesis: as tribal primates, human beings are unsuited for life in large, diverse secular democracies, unless you get certain settings finely adjusted to make possible the development of stable political life. This seems to be what the Founding Fathers believed. Jefferson, Madison, and the rest of those eighteenth-century deists clearly did think that designing a constitution was like designing a giant clock, a clock that might run forever if they chose the right springs and gears.
Thankfully, our Founders were good psychologists. They knew that we are not angels; they knew that we are tribal creatures. As Madison wrote in Federalist 10: “the latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man.” Our Founders were also good historians; they were well aware of Plato’s belief that democracy is the second worst form of government because it inevitably decays into tyranny. Madison wrote in Federalist 10 about pure or direct democracies, which he said are quickly consumed by the passions of the majority: “such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention . . . and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
So what did the Founders do? They built in safeguards against runaway factionalism, such as the division of powers among the three branches, and an elaborate series of checks and balances. But they also knew that they had to train future generations of clock mechanics. They were creating a new kind of republic, which would demand far more maturity from its citizens than was needed in nations ruled by a king or other Leviathan.
Here is the education expert E.D. Hirsch, on the founding of our nation:
The history of tribal and racial hatred is the history and prehistory of humankind. . . . The American experiment, which now seems so natural to us, is a thoroughly artificial device designed to counterbalance the natural impulses of group suspicions and hatreds. . . . This vast, artificial, trans-tribal construct is what our Founders aimed to achieve. And they understood that it can be achieved effectively only by intelligent schooling. (From The Making of Americans)
Thomas Jefferson wrote, in 1789, that “wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government;” he backed up that claim by founding the University of Virginia, about which he wrote, in 1820: “This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error as long as reason is left free to combat it.”
So, how are we doing, as the inheritors of the clock? Are we maintaining it well? If Madison visited Washington, D.C. today, he’d find that our government is divided into two all-consuming factions, which cut right down the middle of each of the three branches, uniting the three red half-branches against the three blue half-branches, with no branch serving the original function as he had envisioned.
And how are we doing at training clock mechanics? What would Jefferson say if he were to take a tour of America’s most prestigious universities in 2017? What would he think about safe spaces, microaggressions, trigger warnings, bias response teams, and the climate of fearfulness, intimidation, and conflict that is now so prevalent on campus? But first, let’s ask: How did we mess things up so badly? Read the rest of this entry »
‘Mr. Trump’s plans to eradicate violent extremists…’
“The emerging details suggest that Mr. Trump’s plans to eradicate violent extremists are not only at odds with Mr. Obama’s; they trample on American values and international law.”
The Times’ editors worried that Trump’s approach to fighting radical Islamic terrorism — which they referred to with scare quotes — is “more likely to further inflame anti-American sentiment around the world than to make the United States safer.”
“The emerging details suggest that Mr. Trump’s plans to eradicate violent extremists are not only at odds with Mr. Obama’s; they trample on American values and international law,” they wrote. Read the rest of this entry »
Hillary Clinton cannot seem to seal the deal with voters, and the left is lashing out at the media in frustration.
Noah Rothmans writes: For months, frustrated liberals have bemoaned the fact that Donald Trump receives any fair coverage at all. His xenophobic policies and racially toxic rhetoric, they contend, render him beyond the pale. To “normalize” him as though he were just another politician is irresponsible, and the press should not be giving him equal footing with a more responsible candidate like Clinton.
This view has recently received traction among liberal commentators and mainstream Democrats as it becomes ever clearer that Hillary Clinton’s post-convention halo is gone. Worse, Donald Trump continues to be mired in scandal, alleged misconduct, and potential fraud, and yet none of it seems to be affectinghis polling.
“He is playing you guys like a Stradivarius. Dominating news instead of Newsweek story, Trump Foundation. Pathetic.”
— the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza
Instead, superficial matters like the health of both candidates—propelled along by absurd displays like Trump’s apperance with celebrity physician Dr. Oz—are sucking up all the oxygen. These have been the prevailing conditions since Donald Trump entered the political fray, but only when Clinton became vulnerable did they become intolerable.
“He is playing you guys like a Stradivarius. Dominating news instead of Newsweek story, Trump Foundation,” perennial Republican critic Norman Ornstein barked at the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. “Pathetic.”
“[Y]ou can ask any question about Trump, Trumpism or anti-Trumpism except the existential ones,” wrote newly minted GQ pundit Keith Olbermann, “because the existential ones could lead him to stop calling in to your morning show and providing you with your highest-rated hour for free.”
Even President Barack Obama has become a media critic. “We cannot afford suddenly to treat this like a reality show,” Obama said, lambasting the press for covering the 2016 campaign as though both candidates were acceptable alternatives. “We can’t afford to act as if there’s some equivalence here.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Republican Party was in turmoil again Wednesday as party leaders, strategists and donors voiced increasing alarm about the flailing state of Donald Trump’s candidacy and fears that the presidential nominee was damaging the party with an extraordinary week of self-inflicted mistakes, gratuitous attacks and missed opportunities.
“A new level of panic hit the street. It’s time for a serious reset.”
— Veteran operative Scott Reed
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus was described as “very frustrated” and stressed by Trump’s behavior over the past week, having run out of excuses to make on the nominee’s behalf with donors and other party leaders, according to multiple people familiar with the events.
“The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable. Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.”
— Newt Gingrich
Meanwhile, Trump’s top campaign advisers are failing to instill discipline on their candidate, who has spent the past days lunging from one controversy to another while seemingly skipping chances to go on the offensive against his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“A new level of panic hit the street,” said veteran operative Scott Reed, chief strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “It’s time for a serious reset.”
Trump allies on Wednesday publicly urged the candidate to reboot, furious that he has allowed his confrontation with the parents of dead U.S. Army captain Humayun Khan to continue for nearly a week. They also are angry with Trump over his surprising refusal in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post to endorse House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) or Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) — two of the party’s top elected officials — in their upcoming primary campaigns.
“The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable,” Gingrich said in a Wednesday morning telephone interview. “Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.”
Gingrich said Trump has only a matter of weeks to reverse course. “Anybody who is horrified by Hillary should hope that Trump will take a deep breath and learn some new skills,” he said. “He cannot win the presidency operating the way he is now. She can’t be bad enough to elect him if he’s determined to make this many mistakes.”
Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, recommended that Trump “stop doing silly interviews nine times a day that get you off message” and deliver a major address seeking to reset the campaign establishing himself as the change candidate. Read the rest of this entry »
Hackers have stolen sensitive information from American energy companies — and have planted malware in the energy grid with the intent to turn off the lights in the future.
Jose Pagliery reports: They even managed to infect at least three energy companies with Cryptolocker ransomware, a particularly nasty computer virus that locks digital files and demands a ransom payment.
Newly released documents from the Department of Homeland Security are finally shedding some light on what exactlyhackers are doing when they sneak into the American electrical grid.
Some of the attacks described in the report are potentially serious.
Aggressive foreign government hackers broke into American companies 17 times between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014, according to DHS. In two cases they snuck into U.S. petroleum organizations, and hackers are “suspected of exfiltrating data” from one of them.
It’s rare, but highly sophisticated foreign government hackers have gotten inside the energy grid, DHS said. They hack “primarily to conduct cyber espionage … to conduct a damaging or disruptive attack in the event of hostilities with the United States,” DHS stated in a recent internal “intelligence assessment.”
That sounds alarming, but DHS is throwing cold water on any present worries. The agency concluded that damaging cyberattacks against the American energy sector is “possible but not likely.”
That calm demeanor doesn’t sit well with some cybersecurity experts. Ryan Duff is a researcher and former member of U.S. Cyber Command, the American military’s hacking unit. He warned that once a hacker gets into a computer — even if physical damage hasn’t been caused yet — the potential is there.
“While I agree with the DHS assessment overall, it’s still pretty frightening,” he said. “The fact is that the ability to cause destruction exists. Their assessment that attack is unlikely is based on political realities instead of technical realities. Attack is way more than technically possible.”
DHS prefers to label these cyber incidents as “espionage or some other activity,” rather than “cyberattacks.” To date, there have been “no damaging or destructive attacks against the U.S. energy sector,” DHS said.
“The majority of malicious activity occurring against the U.S. energy sector is low-level cybercrime that is … not meant to be destructive,” DHS analysts wrote.
“Most of the attacks that we’ve witnessed against this sector are in fact criminal in nature,” he told CNNMoney. “In some cases we even see criminals not realizing the importance of some of the machines [they gained access to.]”
[PHOTO] ‘If you think Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are awful separately, try to imagine them as one person’Posted: December 21, 2015
Belgian poster for The Deadly Mantis (1957)
‘Be Afraid, America. Be Very Afraid’
Joseph Weiss writes:
…I’m talking about seizing control of industrial control systems. These ubiquitous hidden computers have gradually and quietly been put in charge of all manner of critical infrastructure—including nuclear power plants, the grid, water and gas pipelines, refineries, air traffic control, trains, factories, you name it.
[Also see – Cyberwar Ignites a New Arms Race]
Unlike the computers we use in our daily lives, these computers are largely invisible. They don’t have screens or keyboards. Most people aren’t aware that they exist. And yet they are embedded in low-level processes. They are everywhere because they create tremendous efficiencies and cost savings, and because they exist almost as an afterthought, they are often completely insecure. They often don’t run anti-virus software and by and large no one bothers to scan them to see if they might be infected with malicious software. And guess what? They often are connected to the Internet where a clever hacker half a world away can get access to them!
The threat is not hypothetical. There have been almost 750 control system cyber events (including both malicious and unintentional incidents). They’ve had a global impact. Industries have included power companies, pipelines, dams, planes, and trains. Why hasn’t the public heard about them? Most often because the victims didn’t realize it since they didn’t have the right forensics….(read more)
Source: The Daily Beast
Has Joe Trippi Lost His Mind?
Source: LA Times
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at session lows, off nearly 531 points and in correction territory for the first time since 2011 as all blue chips declined. The last time the index closed more than 500 points lower was on Aug. 10, 2011. In the last five years, the index has only had four instances with closing losses of more than 400 points.
“For investors the momentum and the drive of the market is now lower (than) it used to be because there’s no place to hide,” said Lance Roberts, general partner at STA Wealth Management. “Every time we hit the major technical points we kept selling.”
A trader noted that investors stopped looking at technicals and were plowing through them.
“It’s an expiration day and it looks like they’re to have for sale on the close maybe as much as a billion dollars,” said Art Cashin, director of floor trading for UBS.
The Nasdaq Composite lost 3.5 percent, also closing in correction territory and joining the other major averages in negative territory for the year.
“Right now there is a feeling of fear in the marketplace and all news is interpreted negatively and it’s interpreted indiscriminately,” said Tom Digenan, head of U.S. equities as UBS Global Asset Management…(read more)
Clinton vulnerable, Democrats nearing full-on panic mode
Niall Stanage and Kevin Cirilli write: Democrats are worried that the furor surrounding Hillary Clinton’s private email server will be prolonged and intensified after her sudden move to hand it over to the FBI.
“I’m not sure they completely understand the credibility they are losing, by the second. At some point this goes from being something you can rationalize away to something that becomes political cancer. And we are getting pretty close to the cancer stage, because this is starting to get ridiculous.”
— Anonymous Democratic strategist, navigating through early stages of nervous breakdown
The Clinton campaign’s decision to give up the server and a thumb drive containing backup copies of emails left Democrats scratching their heads as to why the former secretary of State had resisted for months turning over the server.
“Concerned Democrats keep coming back to the same question: Why did the Clinton campaign not simply hand over the private server when the controversy first erupted in March?”
— Democratic strategist, whispering into mobile phone from locked bathroom
Coupled with new polls that suggest Clinton is vulnerable, Democrats are nearing full-on panic mode.
something that becomes political cancer. And we are getting pretty close to the cancer stage, because this is starting to
“The culture of secrecy that has surrounded the Clintons — understandably, in some cases — has now yielded a situation where she did something that wasn’t necessary and looks nefarious.”
“Look, this is a classic example of the cover-up being 10 times worse than the so-called crime — though in this case there wasn’t a crime,” said another progressive strategist.
“The culture of secrecy that has surrounded the Clintons — understandably, in some cases — has now yielded a situation where she did something that wasn’t necessary and looks nefarious.”
The former secretary of State remains the odds-on favorite the win the party’s presidential nomination. But the pattern seen in the email controversy — months of stonewalling followed by an eventual concession — has stoked worries about her flaws as a candidate.
“It’s bizarre…Let me give you some simple strategic communications advice: Put everything out first, on your terms. If you wait, or you are forced to do it, you always lose and look bad. … That is exactly what is happening here, and I find it inexplicable.”
— Democratic strategist, trying not to urinate in pants
The slew of unimpressive poll numbers is exacerbating the situation. Some have shown slippage against her main left-wing rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Others have indicated her losing swing states against Republican opponents. Still others have revealed continuing weakness in her ratings on trustworthiness and favorability.
Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist who has worked with Clinton in the past, argued that the general suspicion that the former secretary of State is concealing something is much more damaging than the specifics of the email matter.
“The thing that’s hurt has been losing the ground she’s lost on trustworthiness and honesty. It’s on trust, not on the specifics of emails or anything like that.”
— Joe Trippi
“It’s hard to imagine Americans in the heartland wondering about whether Hillary Clinton gave up an email server or not,” he said. “But [it adds to] this constant battering she’s taking, which is that people don’t trust her. It increases the feeling that something is not being told to them.”
“If Hillary continues to sink in the polls and is beleaguered by all of this stuff, there will be more and more interest in other candidates — including and not limited to Sanders.”
— Democratic strategist, from ledge of tall building
Joe Trippi, who served as campaign manager for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, concurred.
“The thing that’s hurt has been losing the ground she’s lost on trustworthiness and honesty. It’s on trust, not on the specifics of emails or anything like that,” he said.
A new Franklin Pierce University poll from New Hampshire on Tuesday showed Clinton losing to Sanders by seven percentage points in the Granite State. Another survey from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP), also released Tuesday, indicated Clinton getting the worse of hypothetical match-ups with four separate Republican opponents in the swing state of Iowa, which President Obama won in both 2008 and 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
Fears of ‘cord-cutting’ jolt stocks of traditional media firms.
Austen Hufford And Saumya Vaishampayan report: Stocks slumped on Thursday in a selloff led by shares of media companies, which have reported a flurry of disappointing earnings amid concerns about the shift away from traditional television.
“Media stocks are getting slaughtered. It’s been the long-running fear that we would eventually see cord-cutting. Everyone thought it would be a slow-moving train wreck, but Disney’s comment woke people up.”
— Aaron Clark, a portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management
A 15% decline in Viacom Inc. dragged down the Nasdaq Composite Index, which was 1.9% lower at 5044. Before the opening bell, the media giant reported a decline in second-quarter profit and revenue, fueling worries that more consumers are cutting the cable cord and turning to the Internet for their viewing.
That again weighed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which declined 154 points, or 0.9%, to 17386.77. The S&P 500 fell 1% to 2079.
Disney was down 4.8% on Thursday after falling 8.4% Wednesday. 21st Century Fox Inc. declined 11% after lowering its expectations for full-year profit for fiscal 2016.
“Media stocks are getting slaughtered,” said Aaron Clark, a portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management, which manages $25 billion in assets. “It’s been the long-running fear that we would eventually see cord-cutting. Everyone thought it would be a slow-moving train wreck, but Disney’s comment woke people up.”
Thursday’s losses come against the backdrop of tepid growth in the U.S. and around the world. Many investors are also concerned that elevated valuations on some stocks aren’t supported by earnings growth.
As well, investors are skittish ahead of the July U.S. jobs report, due out Friday, as they try to gauge the path of interest rates in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »