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Scene above:  Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
 

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FEBRUARY 8-9,  2023

BULLETIN:  The U.S. has shot down an object flying at 40,000 feet over Alaska.  From Fox: 

The U.S. military shot down an "object" that was flying in territorial waters over Alaska, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Friday afternoon during a White House press briefing.

"I can confirm that the Department of Defense was tracking a high altitude object over Alaska airspace in the last 24 hours. The object was flying at an altitude of 40,000 feet and posed a reasonable threat to the safety of civilian flight. Out of an abundance of caution and the recommendation of the Pentagon, President Biden ordered the military to down the object. And they did. And it came in inside our territorial waters," Kirby said.

Kirby added that the "object" landed on frozen waters, and that "Fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command took down the object within the last hour."

He also added that the "object" was "much, much smaller than the spy balloon that we took down last Saturday."

"The way it was described to me was roughly the size of a small car as opposed to a payload that was like two or three buses sized," Kirby said.

Kirby said that he doesn't know of any "outreach" to the Chinese government about the object, and said that the government doesn't know who owns the unmanned object.

COMMENT:  There are no updates on this.  That's all we know.  No one is claiming the "object," and no insurance company, including the good-neighbor one, will pay a claim unless they know the owner.  Speculation ranges from space junk to a UFO from another world.  The briefing did use the word "flying" to describe the object's activity, which means something was propelling it and keeping it at 40,000 feet. 

Stand by.

 

HE'S RIGHT, THE FILM BUSINESS IS DEAD:  Barry Diller is a Hollywood old timer and his pronouncements are taken seriously.  This one is particularly important, and I believe he's correct.  Hollywood is kaput, and so are the Oscars.  "The End" is a deserved ending.  From Los Angeles Magazine:

The Oscars have been in shocking decline for years—from plummeting ratings, representation issues, the irrelevance of Old Hollywood in the face of streamers (not to mention the Andrea Riseborough controversy, Envelopegate and Will Smith’s handsy tantrum).

Recently, Former Paramount CEO Barry Diller offered his own prognosis of the beleaguered industry showcase. Spoiler alert: The situation’s terminal.

“It’s an antiquity,” the current IAC and Expedia chairman told Firing Line‘s Margaret Hoover of the awards process. Citing the Riseborough Affair, Diller noted the internal collapse the movie and awards-show industry have long been suffering. “All awards ceremonies were based on this hierarchical process of a movie going to a theater, building up some word of mouth if it was successful, having that word of mouth carry itself over,” Diller said. “That path no longer exists.”

This isn’t the first time Diller has warned that the sky is falling on the film industry. In 2021, he proclaimed to NPR that the movie business was dead with no path toward revival. Where some may lay blame on increasing ticket prices, the pandemic, the surge of streaming platforms’ critical and consumer popularity, Diller notes the perfect storm created by all of these, underscored by the quality over quantity dilemma.

“I used to be in the movie business where you made something really because you cared about it,” he told NPR. The very definition of movie, he went on, “is in such transition that it doesn’t mean anything right now.”

The sudden cultural ambiguity of movies and how we both define and value them is having an impact on how we access them as well. Last year, Regal Cinemas parent company Cineworld Group filed for bankruptcy after struggling with low admissions and a limited slate of films. As a result, nearly 40 theaters across the country will be shuttered this month. Meanwhile, the number of movies released to more than 2,000 theaters is down more than 30 percent from 2018 and 2019. 

COMMENT:  It's been a long ride down for the movie business.  In the early 1970s, ABC made a TV documentary called, I believe, "Whatever happened to Hollywood?"  That was half a century ago.  And ten years earlier than that, Frank Sinatra warned in an Oscar speech that the business was being taken over by lawyers and agents, neither of whom made movies.  We have been lamenting the death of Hollywood for some time. 

There was once a period when 90 million Americans a week went to "the movies."  They were our primary form of entertainment.  Free television ended that, along with Hollywood's curious obsession with self-destruction.  The industry lost touch with its audience, forgot how to tell stories, and became politicized.  The notion that giving people two hours of pure entertainment was a noble enterprise was laughed at.  And musicals disappeared because the great composers and lyricists disappeared. 

I agree with Diller that there's not much hope.  There is vibrance in television today, but the big screen, once as American as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, has lost its place.  It once had a touch of greatness.  And yes, you can see those "old" movies on your 40-inch living-room TV, to get a feel for that era, and what made it special.

February 9, 2023       Permalink

 

A RARE DEMOCRATIC VOICE:  All right, the State of the Union is history.  We can return to the real world. 

A story today tells of the plight of Eric Adams, the mayor of New York, who is trying his best to govern an ungovernable city.  He had the unspeakable audacity to speak the truth to his party, and look what happened.   From Fox: 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams accused woke Democrats of driving away minority voters during an appearance on MSNBC Wednesday.

While responding to President Biden's State of the Union, Mayor Adams said "There’s a hemorrhaging of our Latino community, our AAPI communities, that’s leaving the traditional Democratic base, because we’ve allowed the loudest and those who consider themselves to be ‘woke.’"

He continued, "Some of us never went to sleep, and we hear and speak directly to people, and I think the party is now understanding that we have to speak at those issues that are important: Jobs, public safety, educating our children, good health care, just these common kitchen table issues that we run away from."

Adams made the case that Biden did a good job in his speech by moving away from "woke" rhetoric in favor of focusing on kitchen table issues.

"This president’s focus on working people is exactly what the nation needs, and his focus on helping Americans care for their children, provide for their families, and put money in their wallets will resonate from coast to coast," Adams released in a statement following the address. "The agenda he laid out goes hand-in-hand with what we are doing in New York City — this is a blue-collar president, I’m a blue-collar mayor, and we’re both pursuing a blue-collar agenda for working people in New York and across the rest of the nation."

In an otherwise sound statement, the mayor exaggerates the role of President Biden in keeping the Democratic Party focused on real issues.  I hear the rhetoric, but I really don't see the effort.

Tony Melone, a spokesman for the New Kings Democrats, a left-leaning faction within the Brooklyn Democratic Party, questioned why Adams would echo Republican rhetoric while talking about members of his party.

"Perhaps the Democratic mayor of NYC shouldn’t amplify Republican talking points on national TV?" Melone wrote on Twitter.

 And...

Since being elected to office, Adams, who was a registered Republican between 1997 and 2001, has clashed repeatedly with progressive wings of his party.

Jeremy Cohan, a co-chairman of the New York City chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, has claimed Adams has done nothing for the working class and people of color.

In remarks to a group of business and civic leaders on Wall Street in December, Adams took shots at progressives who want to tax the wealthy at a higher rate.

"It blows my mind when I hear, ‘So what if they leave?’ No, you leave!" Adams said of progressives questioning why the city needs ultra-wealthy residents. "I want my high-income earners right here."

COMMENT:  If leftist Democrats would embrace Mayor Adams, and help him to clean up the city, all would be better off.  But leftist Democrats have an ideology, and, in their Marxist heads, ideology is above everything.  That attitude is killing their party, and severely damaging the country. 

February 8-9, 2023       Permalink

 

 

FEBRUARY 6-7,  2023

AND IT IS OVER:  The president's State of the Union speech is over.  They sounded the all-clear in my neighborhood a couple of hours ago.  People came out of their soundproofed shelters, and all is normal again.  No Chinese balloons flew over in salute.

The speech was a routine SOTU.  No surprises, no strokes of genius.  It was the standard list of claimed accomplishments in the age of Biden, and a longer wish list designed to rally the Democratic Party base.

The analyzers were heavy with seriousness, but I thought the best comments, by far, were made by Fox's Brit Hume.   He divided his response to the speech into two categories – the substance and the delivery, and devoted almost all of his analysis to the delivery.  He wondered whether Americans, hearing and seeing the president's performance, would have enough confidence in him to give him a second term.  Hume concluded that they would not, and I agree.  The president looked and sounded as he is, an old man, impaired, and well past his vigorous years.  He slurred, he stammered, he seemed at times confused, and he rambled aimlessly. 

In addition, Mr. Biden's choice of priorities was odd, although probably acceptable to the woke wing of his party.  He barely mentioned the most important story of the last week, the incursion into our airspace of a Chinese vehicle presumably equipped with surveillance equipment.  The American people deserved a full discussion of the event, with the latest information on the probable intent of the incursion.  We got nothing.  Mr. Biden let us down.

Sitting behind the president was Vice President Harris, who sometimes seemed to slump down in her chair.  She was mostly expressionless, except for the required periods of polite applause.  In a strange way, she was the person who wasn't there, or shouldn't have been.  I did not notice her receiving any particularly notable reception from those in the hall.

An unimportant evening.

February 7, 2023       Permalink

 

THE SPEECH:  I am preparing for the president's State of the Union speech in my usual scholarly and professional manner.  First, I have the sleeping pills.  Next, in case they fail, I have my ear plugs.  Should they not do the trick, I possess an excellent wire cutter on a Swiss Army knife that can cut the cable cord to my TV.

Finally, there is medical intervention.  I can report to the emergency room at White Plains Hospital, complaining of near-terminal boredom.  I've done it before, with Obama.  They treated me with an immediate playing of Ronald Reagan declaring, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"  My recovery began.

The modern State of the Union speech is a joke.  It simply fulfils the Constitutional requirement that the president inform us from time to time about the state of the nation.  Long ago the speech wasn't even delivered in person.  It was written, and sent over to Congress by the lowest available messenger.  No one cared.

In the age of television, that old tradition is impossible.  The speech has become a regular spectacle, allowing TV commentators of every sort to give their blessed opinions on what every line really means.  These opinions, like the speech itself, will be forgotten by the next day.  Indeed, do you remember any State of the Union speech?  Can you quote a line?  Is any presidential utterance in the speech found on a building?  That tells the story.

What is the story of this State of the Union?  Well, I haven't read it so I don't yet know.  But the real story may well lie in the body language, in fact the very presence, of the two people behind the president as he speaks.  One will be the new speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, who will introduce him.  McCarthy, a Republican, wants to make his mark as the man who stops the Biden presidency and prepares the voting public for a Republican victory in 2024.

And next to McCarthy will be someone called the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, who wins no popularity contests.  It is not a coincidence that a great deal of material leaked to the press and printed this week told us that even her own Democratic Party is turning against her, with many feeling she is a liability going into the 2024 elections.  The president she serves is clearly frail.  If he runs again and is re-elected, the person in the vice-presidential office will almost certainly become president.  The prospect that it will be Kamala Harris horrifies millions of Americans. 

But can Harris, the first woman and first person of color to hold her office, be removed from the ticket?  That will be the question on many minds during the State of the Union, as she sits behind the president she hopes to succeed.  That will be the greatest drama in the room.  More eyes may well be on her than on the chief executive.

February 7, 2023       Permalink

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 "What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
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      of The New York Times.


"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
     - Jacques Barzun

"Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain."
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