Calling Mssrs Epstein and Yoo, Esquires


From “Obama and Supreme Court may be on collision course” in today’s Los Angeles Times:

The president and congressional Democrats have embarked on an ambitious drive to regulate corporations, banks, health insurers and the energy industry. But the high court, with Roberts increasingly in control, will have the final word on those regulatory laws. Many legal experts foresee a clash between Obama’s progressive agenda and the conservative court.

Coming to Grips with Reality


Imagine being able to travel through time to the mid-1980’s and have a meeting with executives from the major television networks. (Okay, so wasting the gift of time travel to meet with TV execs makes no sense; just play along!) Anyway, they would certainly ask what the top shows were in 2010. Imagine their surprise when you told them the biggest show was a singing contest, followed by semi-celebrities learning to dance, people losing weight, men picking a woman to date or women picking a man, wives being swapped, people being videotaped while living together, and on and on and on. (Of course, I guess they’d be surprised to hear that “Wheel of Fortune” was still the highest-rated show in syndication. Or that the host was still alive.)

All in all, I think you’d have trouble getting any of them to believe you were being serious. Who in the world would want to watch any of this stuff? I’m not sure I’d have the heart to break the news that YouTube existed. After more than half a century, television has become a freak show for voyeurs. We appear to be happy doing what we used to dread—watching other people’s home movies.

What’s the Big Guy Upstairs Think He’s Doing


Ursula Hennessey writes about her disappointment on learning that Richard Thomas was participating in the sexual revolution while portraying John-Boy Walton, prompting Andrew Klavan to write in turn that Mel Gibson, now given to anti-Semitic rants, and Roman Polanski, given to statutory rape, have both produced fine movies. “We have to learn to celebrate the artist’s creation as a gift from God,” Andrew concludes, “and leave the artist himself to his foolishness, imperfection and inner darkness.”

Well, okay, I guess, but let’s not understate just how hard it can be to celebrate the way God goes about distributing those creative gifts. I mean, really. Why could John Kenneth Galbraith write better than Milton Friedman? Why does Christopher Hitchens write better than Mother Teresa? Why were Paul Newman and Marlon Brando better actors than John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart? The bad guys have Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, and John Irving. Our side has Tom Wolfe. That’s three to one. When it comes to the arts, it’s almost as if God wants the good guys to start from behind.

The Fight is Over for Bob Probert


Hockey is a beautiful game. Like soccer, if you give it a chance, and if you are up close to the action, it is truly thrilling and breathtaking.

I learned early in my journalism career that the NHL is filled with some of the smartest and most thoughtful athletes in the world. Most have completed college prior to their athletic career, so they have a more healthy relationship with success and fame. One part of hockey always escaped me — the fighting. I found it deeply troubling to watch two people punching each other in the face repeatedly, blood splattering on the ice and teeth clanking off the glass, while thousands of fans stood on their feet and hooted with delight. But sportswriters far more knowledgeable and experienced than I argued its merit, so I kept my mouth shut. The last thing I wanted was to seem naive about this aspect of a game I never actually played.

For Our Woman in Istanbul


Claire, have you had the opportunity yet to read Michael Rubin’s long and intensively reported article in the summer issue of Commentary? The title: “Turkey, from Ally to Enemy.” One sentence:

A decade ago, Turks saw themselves in a camp with the United States, Western Europe, and Israel; today Turkish self-identity places the country firmly in a camp led by Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Hamas.

Michael Barone, Refusing to Throw Up His Hands


Michael Barone, in his column on President Obama’s immigration speech last week:

[Obama] said it would put pressure on state and local budgets without stating how (isn’t that Arizona’s problem?) and seeks to “enforce rules that ultimately are unenforceable.” But federal law has required legal immigrants to carry proof of status for decades, and if that law is unenforceable, we might as well throw up our hands.

The Worm Turns?


Steve Manacek’s post set me to thinking, yet again, about the utter supineness businessmen have displayed when under assault from the Obama administration and its allies in Congress. When the administration shoved him out as CEO of GM, Rick Waggoner went without a struggle. When the administration told banking executives they couldn’t pay back their government loans until the administration was good and ready to have them do so, the banking executives simply tugged their forelocks, stared at the ground and replied, Whatever you say, Sir. When I wrote about this just over a year ago, I could find only one business figure of any standing–exactly one–who was willing to take on the administration, the financier Clifford Asness.

And so it remained–the business class, utterly supine–until the last month. Since then:

From James Lileks to David Ogilvy


James Lilek’s “In Defense of Advertising” cast my mind back to David Ogilvy, whom I got to know during the last few years of his life. The founder of Ogilvy & Mather, Ogilvy, a Scot who had emigrated to the United States, was one of the three or four greatest admen of the twentieth century, which is to say, come to think of it, that he was one of the three or four greatest admen ever. I’d read his books, Confessions of an Advertising Man and Ogilvy on Advertising, and I’d been struck by his persistent emphasis on substantiveness and truthfulness. Not, of course, that he wasn’t a master of the subconscious appeal–Ogilvy had invented the Pepperidge Farms horse-drawn cart, created a campaign for Schweppes tonic water based on the dashing life of Commander Whitehead (who owned the company), and produced “The Man in the Hathaway Shirt” campaign, in which distinguished real-life figures, often rich businessmen, appeared in magazine ads wearing both Hathaway shirts and, unforgettably, black eyepatches. Yet advertising, Ogilvy insisted, should convey factual information about the product in question, helping the consumer to understand how he–or, in the case of another couple of famous Ogilvy campaigns, one for Dove soap (“three-quarters cleansing cream”), the other for Ivory (“ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredths percent pure”), she–would use it. “The more you tell,” Ogilvy argued, “the more you sell.” “Never write an advertisement you wouldn’t want your own family to read,” he insisted. “You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”

As I got to know Ogilvy–there’s a long story here, but he and I exhanged letters and telephone calls during his final years, when he lived in the Chateau de Touffou, the French castle he had purchased and restored–I wondered what kind of man he would prove. To what extent, I wondered, would I discover that Ogilvy was, when it came down to it–and in spite of his insistence on substantiveness and truthfulness–simply a particularly gifted huckster? But Ogilvy proved nothing of the kind. He was well-read, urbane, witty, political–he disdained socialists and “those dreadful Bolshies,” his term for Communists–and intellectually curious. (He would have loved James Lileks. Just loved him.) For a time, Ogilvy and I discussed whether I ought to pursue a position at Ogilvy & Mather in New York. I finally decided against it, but David Ogilvy persuaded me that–and I know this is wildly politically incorrect, but I believe it all the same–a career in advertising could represent one of the finest routes to the thorough and well-lived life.

Member Post


Politicians navigating the shoals of a sputtering economy used to sell unemployment benefits as an economic life-raft: temporary relief for displaced workers providing time for an economic rescue plan to take hold. I hope you all enjoy small open boats, because the raft is now the rescue. By now you’ve seen Nancy Pelosi explain that […]

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Happy 5th of July


Don’t get the post-party blues, says Ross:

Since the financial crisis hit, there’s been a lot of talk about the bubble mentality — how a run of growth and good news persuades people that what goes up need never come back down. “This time is different,” the enthusiasts always say, in a refrain that provided the title for Carmen Reinhart’s and Kenneth Rogoff’s recent history of financial panics. But it never, ever is.

Non-Ricochet Quote of the Week


An absolutely astonishing quote from Fareed Zakaria’s piece in this morning’s Washington Post:

Most of the business leaders I spoke to had voted for Barack Obama. They still admire him. Those who had met him thought he was unusually smart. But all think he is, at his core, anti-business.

The Fiction of Fancy


I wasn’t allowed to watch much television when I was a child, but I worshipped the actors in the few shows I was able to see – among them, “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie.” I was certain we’d all be best pals if we met.

It’s taken me about a year to get over the fact that Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls Wilder on LHOP, was snorting cocaine during the final seasons of the show. Her autobiography came out last summer. I’m 38, for God’s sake. Why should I even care? But I did.

American Kids: Stupider and Lazier, But At Least They Feel Good About It


We’ve all heard, probably, about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is:

is a cognitive bias in which an unskilled person makes poor decisions and reaches erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is…