June 29, 2012

Always expect the unexpected

Filed under: Commentary — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 1:32 pm

Now playing in Oakland: Education cuts blues.

Did General Dietrich von Choltitz just disobey a direct order to invalidate Obamacare?

The Breitbart website, on Thursday, was raising the possibility that Chief Justice John Roberts was coerced by liberals into changing his vote from striking Obamacare down to letting it stand. If Chief Justice Roberts was being coerced by President Obama or any of his authorized agents, the Supreme Court Justice missed a big chance to score the political equivalent of baseball’s unassisted triple play. Justice Roberts could have voted with the conservatives, accused Obama of political blackmail (and opened up an avenue to impeachment?), and become the man who insured that Obama would be defeated in November. Instead he made a “Profiles in Courage” move that unfortunately pissed off (AKA “greatly perturbed”) 99% of the conservatives in the United States and put the Republican Party in quite a bind.

Breitbart apparently isn’t bright enough to realize that perhaps the flip side of the coercion question might be in play. Suppose some highly place Republican strategist told Justice Roberts which way they wanted him to vote and additionally suppose that Justice Roberts reacted in a way described on the opening page of Albert Camus’ “The Rebel:” “A slave who has taken orders all his life suddenly decides that he cannot obey some new command.”

If Roberts made up his own mind then all the incredulity on Thursday would be genuine, but if he were being coerced by any of the Obama team Justice Roberts messed up in Hall of Fame fashion. If (subjunctive mood) Breitbart is spot-on with his wild assertion, then Justice Roberts could have revealed the blackmail effort and achieved a much greater and very different level of conservative indignation. As it is, rather than increase the conservatives hatred for Obama, this hypothetical unreported extortion ploy only produced a photo finish between Obama and Justice Roberts regarding today’s level of conservative revulsion for both of them.

This week’s current events sensation may eventually be seen as a tipping point for the entire conservative political agenda. The conservatives can not replay the Howard Dean “complete mental breakdown” response because that would call all of the recent SCOTUS decisions into question and possibly precipitate a need to review all of them. If, on the other hand, all possible rational explanations of the baffling decision invoke a conspiracy theory scenario, that too is unacceptable. If one conspiracy theory is confirmed that would then open the flood gate of legitimacy for all conspiracy theories and that also is unacceptable.

The only response is to completely ignore the story and that will open the possibility that some obscure bit of punditry could “go viral” and expose the “emperor’s new clothes” aspect of the “pretend this isn’t happening” attitude. Again, uncaccpetable.

The fact that Justice Roberts did not report any coercion brings to mind the Sherlock Holmes case in which a dog didn’t bark. A guard dog doesn’t bark at friends.

Thursday also produced news reports that indicated that both CNN and Fox News had a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment which indicates that they both seemed more motivated by the “nyuck nyuck” philosophy than by a sincere attempt to practice journalism.

Obviously the management at both organizations was proceeding from the Brennt Obamacare? (“Is Obamacare burning?”) attitude rather than wondering “What was the decision?”

If you want some analysis of Thursday’s decision that is more scholarly and lawyerly you might try reading UCLA law professor Gene Volokh’s site called the Volokh Conspiracy.

There was some fast and furious rewriting efforts at the WLJ home office following Justice Roberts delivery of the judicial equivalent of a brush-back pitch in baseball, but since the staff had not placed any bets on the decision, the prevailing attitude was: Me vole madre, cabronez.

Once upon a time, a member of management told the World’s Laziest Journalist that it was fun to be our boss because we were very unpredictable. The boss said he could usually accurately predict how the other workers would react under a set of certain circumstances, but that we were an unpredictable challenge.

When the Internets were getting started, everyone extolled the possibility that it might spawn new unique voices. Then the corporations brought in the carefully controlled publicity machine and imposed the old “star” concept and shut out the possibility that something unexpected might actually happen. Unfortunately the suits failed to see that another age old law of entertainment was also operable: repetition becomes predictable and that is bo-o-o-ring.

Hearing a conservative talk show host get rude with a liberal caller is funny the first time you hear it, but after the first hundred times, it gets very predictable. Get off my computer screen you unimaginative stuck record.

Hearing a pedantic liberal give icy cold courtesy to a troll conservative caller is annoying. Why don’t they sacrifice politeness in favor of entertaining righteous indignation? After several dozen callers abuse the hospitality of the liberal talk show host that too becomes tedious.

Hearing Norman Goldman give the trolls a flip side version of Mark Levin’s brand of vitriolic lack of hospitality is very refreshing.

We wish both the liberal and conservative talk show hosts were human bottles of nitroglycerin. Be sweet and cordial to one troll and then be exceedingly rude to another one later in the program.

The unexpected (as Thursday showed) may cause some upset stomachs but it also make for memorable entertaining moments. There is an alternate take, recorded in Las Vegas, of Elvis changing the lyrics to “Are you lonesome tonight” and breaking up the band, all but one of the back-up singers, and himself. (A video of that is on Youtube.)

How many people laughed the night Walter Cronkite said: “This has been Walter Cronkite filling-in for Arnold Zenker.”?

One (special) night at the Palladium in Los Angels, Keith Richards was touring with “the Expensive Wino Band” providing the back-up instrumental music and he was obviously getting a big kick out of seeing/hearing the audience react to songs recorded by the Rolling Stones. He enjoyed the audience’s confusion even more when they ripped into one particular song. WTF! ! ! Wait a minute! The audience recognized the song, but something sounds “off,” eh? Fooledja! It was a song that had been a big hit for the Beatles and like a pitcher who lures a runner on first base to take one too many steps, Keith had caught his audience way off base.

Here is a question for connoisseurs of uniqueness: If you heard two different musicians play the same song on the same piano in the same venue, could you tell the difference? We have heard a well known musician play “Great balls of fire” at the Palamino in North Hollywood and later heard Jerry Lee Lewis plunk out the same tune on the same piano. We have convinced ourself that we could distinguish a difference.

They say that in the old days some folks could not only tell who was working the other end of a telegraph, but that some experts could even tell who had taught that person to work the telegraph.

This columnist has read extensively about World War II (at least six books!) but it was only recently that we stumbled on something we weren’t expecting. Hitler was funny?
We’ve been conditioned to expect the words “monster” and “madman” when reading about Germany’s leader in WWII, but this was such a change-up.

On page 51 of “The Women Who Wrote the War” (by Nancy Caldwell Sorel [Yeah, we’ve already plugged that 1999 book twice recently]), Virginia Cowles quotes Unity Mitford as saying: “He (Hitler) would do imitations of his Nazi colleagues Goering, Goebbels, Himmler – also Mussolini, which was the funniest. Sometimes he even imitated himself.”

Ernst Junger won an Iron Cross in World War I and subsequently wrote a novel, Storm of Steel, which was a paean for war. Another novel On the Marble Cliffs was perceived by some as a criticism of the leadership of the Third Reich and Hitler, who was not known for a welcoming attitude for criticism, shrugged it off saying “Let Junger be!” Junger rejoined the military and became the only man to win an Iron Cross in both World Wars.

Did you know that Audie Murphy wrote some country songs?

Speaking of obscure links for bits of arcane and esoteric information, on a recent visit to the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory (which is rumored to be located in a secret rebel encampment in the Sierra foothills) during a visit to the gift shop we were completely baffled by a T-shirt that read: “Does Romney know about the treacherous rip tides at Cheviot Beach?” WTF? What’s the sense in offering material that nobody but the author will understand? We have lived in Los Angeles County and we know that there is no beach in Cheviot Hills. If they mean the world famous tourist attraction known as Venice Beach (which is the second biggest tourist draw in Southern California), why don’t they just say it?

In “An Aesthete at War,” Bruce Chatwin quotes Madame Morand as saying: “For me the art of living is the art of making other people work and keeping pleasure for myself.” The Supreme Court would no doubt concur in a 5 to 4 decision.

Now the disk jockey will play Linda Laurie’s song “Just Keep Walking” (which has only garnered about 10,000 hits on Youtube), Rod Derrett’s song “Rugby, Racing and Beer,” and (This is the first year tickets to the Bayreuth Festival will be available online!) “Sigfried’s funeral march.” We have to go see if Pan Am is sold out for next January’s China Clipper flights to New Zealand. Have a “iftah ya simsim” type week.

[Note: A feature photo from the Lakeview school sit-in in Oakland doesn’t have much of a direct relevancy to this column, but (as they used to day in Vietnam): “Sen Loi, G. I.”]

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