On the air seemingly everywhere, and …

It turns out that there are a lot of people who listen to National Public Radio’s “1A.”

The list of stations that carry all, or some, of “1A,” including the Wisconsin Public Radio Ideas Network, runs from Birmingham, Ala., to Buckhannon, W.Va., the latter famous for …

… and from Concord, N.H., to Coachella, Calif., and from Miami, Fla., to Walla Walla and Yakima, Wash. It’s not on in Alaska or Hawaii, but it is on in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s on in states I’ve never been to, including Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas (though I was on the air once in Texarkana, Texas, broadcasting an adult amateur hockey tournament), Virginia and West Virginia, and Washington state and Washington, D.C.

That doesn’t mean that if I flew to Charlotte Amalie and asked random people if they knew me because I was on NPR on WTJX (93.1 FM) back on July 12 that they wouldn’t assume I had gotten too much sun and too much rum. I was on the BBC World Service earlier this year too, so I was theoretically on worldwide, but between the Beeb and NPR I guess I have now spoken to the biggest audience(s) in my entire life this year. As I said before, had I realized the size of the potential audience, I might have been more nervous.

The show can be heard here. It was, as is usually (but not always) the case with public broadcasting, a very civil discussion. As is always the case, there were some things I wished I had said but didn’t, and some points the other two guests made that I didn’t get to respond to, but such is the way of live radio or TV.

Read the Facebook comments on the show, and you will get an interesting look at how others (and some Wisconsinites and ex-Wisconsinites) view Wisconsin. And not favorably. I find it fascinating that there are people who base their opinion about not merely where they live, their state or the U.S., but even the state of their lives on what the government is or isn’t doing and who is or isn’t in office. (This is one reason I believe conservatism, or at least its libertarian side, is vastly superior to all the leftward “isms,” because one facet of the correct way of thinking is that government should never be the be-all and end-all of anyone’s life, even if the right people, however you define that, are in charge.) Similar statements, including some of mine, can be found on 1A’s Twitter feed.

I admit I did not get a chance to read Kauffman’s book. Charlie Sykes did:

What happened in Wisconsin should be a cautionary tale for the Left in the Age of Trump. But as this book makes clear, the Left declines to be cautioned.

According to the publisher, The Fall of Wisconsin gives “the untold story behind the most shocking political upheaval in the country.” But that story has, in fact, been told repeatedly, and author Dan Kaufman adds little to those accounts. Rather than a thoughtful critique of how progressives in a state with such a rich political tradition squandered their historical advantages, what we get is a work of ideological nostalgia, written with political rage goggles. Kaufman yearns for a return to the days of Scandinavian-style social-democratic politics, which he thinks have been defaced and degraded by a deep-pocketed and malign conservative machine.

The Fall of Wisconsin is packed with the sort of stories that progressives tell one another to account for their multiple defeats. It wasn’t anything we did, they reassure themselves; it was big money, the Koch brothers, Citizens United, voter-ID laws, gerrymandering, and a vast conservative infrastructure.

Kaufman paints a dystopian picture in which conservatives such as Governor Scott Walker (very much the villain of the book) “pitted Wisconsin citizens against one another, paving the way for the decimation of laws protecting labor unions, the environment, voting rights, and public education.” The results of those Republican victories, he writes, have been “disastrous” for just about everyone and everything, from the middle class to the environment, children, and small animals.

How awful — except that I live in Wisconsin and I can testify that, contra the title of this book, it has not “fallen.” Actually, it’s quite nice here, especially during our six weeks or so of summer. Despite his depiction of Wisconsin as a reactionary hellhole, the unemployment rate here is 2.9 percent, well below the national average; both the labor force and wages are growing; everyone in poverty is covered under Medicaid; the state has the ninth-best high-school-graduation rate in the country, and school spending is on the rise; and the state’s GDP has grown faster than that of neighboring Minnesota.

But I can certainly understand why the author and his allies on the left are rending their garments over what has happened here. Few states have flipped more decisively from blue to red, and the transformation of the state’s politics from progressivism to conservative dominance has been traumatic and disorienting.

Kaufman takes great pains to retell the story of Wisconsin’s progressive glory days and its role in pioneering progressive legislation. Wisconsin was the first state to enact an unemployment-
insurance program, the first to grant collective-bargaining rights to municipal employees, and one of the first to enact a progressive income tax. “Indeed,” he recalls, “much of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, including the Social Security Act, was drafted by Wisconsinites loyal to what is called the Wisconsin Idea.”

But his history is truncated and selective, more a morality play than an attempt to chronicle the state’s idiosyncratic political history. Kaufman’s narrative sees Wisconsin locked in a decades-long battle over the question posed by its iconic former governor “Fighting” Bob La Follette: “Who shall rule — wealth or man?” In Kaufman’s telling, progressive Wisconsin Republicanism extended through the 1960s. The turning point, he writes, was the Supreme Court’s decision in Buckley v. Valeo, which removed many limits on campaign spending. From that point on, writes Kaufman, “Wisconsin’s politics started becoming more like the politics of other states.”

This fits into his preferred narrative of wealth versus people, but the result is that he glosses over quite a bit of history, including the career of Wisconsin’s red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy. Similarly, former governor Tommy Thompson, who was elected to four terms and compiled an impressive reformist record, barely rates a mention. Nor does he spend much time analyzing the rise of Walker, suggesting at one point that he “attracted little notice during his time in the state assembly,” when in fact he was a ubiquitous presence in the local media. Kaufman devotes only a single paragraph to Walker’s improbable election as county executive in the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee County after a pension scandal that implicated both the unions and local Democratic politicians.

And he has little to say about Walker’s deeply unpopular Democratic predecessor, Jim Doyle, except to blame the bad economy for “forcing” Doyle to ram through massive tax hikes in the midst of the financial crisis after repeatedly promising not to do so.

But Kaufman does have a great deal to say about the reactionary forces that conspired to “decimate” Wisconsin. Much of his book is devoted to documenting the “vast infrastructure conservatives [have] created over the past forty-five years,” including groups such as the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity. At the center of that conspiracy in Wisconsin sat the Bradley Foundation, which “distributes tens of millions of dollars in grants to think tanks, litigation centers, opposition research firms and other organizations promoting a spectrum of conservative causes such as Voter ID laws, school vouchers, the curtailing of safety net programs, and anti-union measures like right-to-work laws.” (Full disclosure: My wife formerly worked at the Bradley Foundation as director of community programs.)

Kaufman is especially troubled by the network of conservative think tanks clustered around the State Policy Network and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which allowed conservatives to share ideas and model legislation with legislators around the country. Kaufman struggles to portray the policy initiatives as sinister, highlighting, for example, the group’s support for a “Special Needs Scholarship Program Act,” which gave children with disabilities scholarships to attend schools of their choice. He quotes one Wisconsin legislator describing the ALEC-backed legislation that created education-savings accounts as “the death of public education.” You get the idea.

Not surprisingly, much of Kaufman’s account centers on the battles over Act 10, Walker’s proposal to limit the collective-bargaining powers of public employees. His account of the mass protests is nothing if not romantic, quoting speculation that the mass protests were a sign that Wisconsin was becoming the “Tunisia of collective bargaining rights” (a reference to the Arab Spring, which was then breaking out in the Middle East).

In his telling, the protesters were passionate, idealistic, and not at all to blame for their failure or subsequent electoral defeats. Reading Kaufman’s book, one would have no idea that in fact the protests backfired by alienating voters across the state.

Early polling suggested that support for Walker’s reform was soft, at best. But public opinion began to turn as the protests escalated. Demonstrators occupied and trashed the state capitol and marched on Walker’s family home in Wauwatosa, where his elderly parents lived. Others, dressed as zombies, disrupted a ceremony to honor participants in the Special Olympics. Death threats and obscene letters became commonplace, and the language of Walker’s critics was especially toxic. During one of the protests in Madison in 2011, a video captured one demonstrator repeatedly shouting the F-word at a 14-year-old girl who was speaking at a pro-Walker rally. On the floor of the state assembly a Democratic state representative turned to a female Republican colleague and shouted, “You are f***ing dead!” A progressive talk-show host mocked the state’s female lieutenant governor for having colon cancer and suggested she had gotten elected only because she had performed oral sex on talk-show hosts.

Readers won’t find any of that in Kaufman’s sanitized account and, as a result, will probably have a hard time understanding why Walker went on to be reelected twice while the GOP strengthened its hold on the legislature.

But perhaps the most revealing aspect of The Fall of Wisconsin is Kaufman’s choice of Randy Bryce as the hero. Often known as the “Iron Stache,” Bryce is an ironworker and union activist who has become something of a media/Hollywood/progressive celebrity for launching a bid to unseat U.S. House speaker Paul Ryan before Ryan announced his retirement. As it happens, even though Bryce is locally known as something of an Internet troll, perennial losing candidate, and deadbeat, Kaufman has been touting the Stache for years, including a long article featuring him in The New York Times Magazine in 2015. Even on the left, there have been growing misgivings about Bryce, for example a piece in Vice titled: “Democrats Bet Big on ‘Iron Stache.’ They May Have Made a Mistake.”

The article noted that “Bryce is perhaps more politically vulnerable than his liberal fans realize,” citing a series of failed previous campaigns and a tangled personal backstory that includes unpaid debts and multiple arrests, including a DUI. Despite that, he loaned his failed state-senate campaign $5,000 and, according to the New York Times, bought Twitter followers in 2015. He’s been dogged by reports about his offensive tweets (“If you look up the word succubus, you’ll see Ivanka Trump”) and was caught claiming nonexistent endorsements.

But Dan Kaufman has seen the future, and it is more social democracy and more Stache. “The support for Bryce,” Kaufman enthuses, “was a sign of a broader awakening.”

Perhaps not.

Two points I made more than once on the show. Coming into the 2010 election Wisconsin had a Democratic governor, Democratic-controlled Legislature, and only one Republican statewide official. All of that exactly reversed in the 2010 election, the GOP has controlled the governor’s, attorney general’s and state treasurer’s offices and, except for a few months around Recallarama, both houses of the state Legislature. Voters have four chances — the 2012 recall election and the 2012, 2014 and 2016 elections — to change that, and they have declined to do so.

Kaufman and others on his side will blame gerrymandering (which helped Walker how?), the Evil Koch Brothers, other big campaign money (which is the fault of excessive government power, which means excessive stakes in elections and the absolute need to do whatever it takes to win) or whatever boogeyman the left likes. The fact is that a majority of Wisconsin voters to this point have approved of what Walker and Republicans have done in Wisconsin, and a majority of Wisconsin voters to this point have not felt the need to restore power to Democrats. Like it or not, that is reality. And trying to shame voters for their incorrect (in the leftward opinion) views or past votes isn’t likely to make them vote correctly (in the leftward opinion) in the next election(s).


The T/A at 50

Gary Smith reviews a book:

“I don’t think You’re man enough to take on a car like this.” Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) has just walked into Pete’s Dependable Used Cars somewhere in Idaho. He eyes up a Cameo White ’73 Trans Am with a red “shaker.” “It’s a repo. Three thousand and change,” says Pete. Seconds later, the Trans Am is flying through the western countryside, stolen. Movies made the Trans Am an American legend.

Tom Glatch tells the inside story of the Trans Am’s impact on the culture (and sales) through it’s starring role in several motion pictures and TV shows. Clint Eastwood in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot drove a Cameo white ’73; John Wayne’s Brewster Green ’73 in McQ; and David Carradine’s red ’73 in Cannonball. 1977 introduced Burt Reynolds drove a black TA “Bullet” in Smokey and the Bandit, along with Hooper. “Ain’t nobody can fly a car like Hooper.” Steve McQueen drove a ’80 TA in Hunter. Steve died four months after the film was released. In the early ’80s David Hasselhoff starred in the TV series Knight Rider that featured KITT, the talking Trans Am. Tom reveals many inside details about the making of the films, how the cars were procured, and what became of them.

The book quotes many designers and engineers who had something to do with the Trans Am. Norm Inouye drew the famous flaming bird graphic based on a sketch by Pontiac Studio Chief Bill Porter. After a flaming initial rejection by Bill Michell, it finally became an option beginning in 1973. Porter recently commented, “I think it may have saved the car. In the mid-seventies, everything was going against the Firebird, and I’ll put he case forward that the Trans Am bird saved it.”

Mitchell’s Pegasus

Enzo Ferrari gave Bill Mitchell a 347 horsepower V-12 from a Ferrari Daytona 365 GT/B4 for his customized Firebird, Pegasus. The motor was a tight fit, and the author states that the firewall was moved back nine inches to accommodate the longer engine. However, you can clearly see that there were no modifications made to the interior or the wheelbase of the Pegasus. The V-12 was shoehorned in by taking up the space occupied by the stock fan and fan shroud.

1989 Turbo Trans Am

As an added bonus the author devotes several pages to the development of the 1989 Turbo Trans Am, the fastest four-seat American car of the 1980s. Pontiac built two Trans Ams in 1986 with the Buick Turbo 3.8-liter engine. But for the engine package to fit, the passenger-side fame rail was modified to make room for the exhaust downpipe. Production was not feasible, because the car would have to be re-certified at great expense to meet government crash standards. Using the standard Trans Am transmissions was also a certification issue.

The PAS team was brought in to see if production would be possible by other means. Bill Owen of Buick, the primary engineer behind the Turbo V-6 engine, came up with the idea of using the cylinder heads from the front-wheel-drive 3300 V-6 to narrow the width of the engine and make room for the transmission bracket so that the entire Grand National engine/transmission package would fit, along with the different heads. With this, the first production-ready Turbo Trans Am was born. Lloyd Reuss, executive vice president for GM’s passenger car group at the time, drove the gray-on-gray prototype and decided he wanted it to be the 30th Anniversary Trans Am.

Pretty interesting stuff. There are a lot of similar insights in the book.

By the way, in the gallery there is a shot of five ’77 TAs and a GMC motorhome that was part of the Trans Am Territory promotion. It is included in Michael Lamm’s great book, The Fabulous Firebird. One day at GM Design they picked out several TAs in the parking lot for the shot. The yellow TA was my car.

The Trans Am was named for a racing series of the same name, which included such pony cars as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and AMC Javelin, each of which was limited to a 5-liter V-8 engine.

We owned very mild versions of two of these. Our first new second car was a brown 1973 Javelin with the 304 V-8 and automatic. It was the first car I, uh, legally drove. It had bucket seats and console, which was cool. It did not have power brakes, which one could get used to; it also didn’t have a parking brake indicator light, which led to a few interesting moments when one tried to drive without releasing the parking brake. It was fun to sit in the front seats of that car, but not so much in the back.

Note: Not our actual car.

Twelve years later, my mother got a red 1985 Camaro, because her oldest son kept using the 1975 Caprice, about which I have previously written. The Camaro had the 2.8 liter V-6 and automatic. It was an unusually reliable car for a GM product of the day; the only problem I recall with it was that the shifter knob kept coming apart until a recall. The problem that fit in the category of Feature, Not Bug was that that Camaro was so low that I had to put my hand on the ground first to get out.

Note: Not actual car, I think.

Between Javelin and Camaro ownership, the motorheads at my middle school (none of whom of course could legally drive) there was an ongoing argument about the Trans Am and the Corvette. The late ’70s C3 had the L-48 350 V-8 engine standard, with the L-82 350 V-8, with 40 more horsepower, optional. The standard Trans Am had a 400 V-8 with the same horsepower as the L-48, with the “T/A 6.6” V-8 adding 20 more horsepower.

Both cars are an example of 1970s taste, such as it was:


You could logically guess that I pined for the Corvette. I was a subscriber to Motor Trend magazine (motto: Every Car’s Great!), and when it reviewed the ’77 I pored over every word, including the red bubble on top of the antenna for the AM/FM/CB radio. (Don’t ask me how I remember that, good buddy.)

The reason the Trans Am became so popular in the late ’70s wasn’t just “Smokey and the Bandit” (starring ’70s icon Burt Reynolds), but because there were few other choices for a hot car. (“Hot” as in high performance, such as it was in the day, not “hot” for stolen.) Besides the Corvette (which was more expensive and lacked any back seat, as opposed to pony cars’ Back Seat in Name Only) … well, AMC killed the Javelin, and Chrysler killed the Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Challenger. Chevy killed the Camaro Z-28 in 1975, only to bring it back in late 1977 after noticing Trans Am sales. Ford’s Mustang II was based on the Pinto, and without a V-8 until 1975, one year before Ford introduced the Cobra II package powered by a 140-horsepower V-8.

The ultimate Trans Am is the Special Edition T/A, available in black with gold bird thing on the hood or gold with black thing on the hood. According to this site, the correct combination — the T/A 6.6, 4-speed manual and T-tops — was chosen by 2,699 buyers.


License to dad

The writer’s name is Orkin. Haris Orkin.

I was a skinny, bookish, bespectacled, and insecure 12-year-old living in the suburbs of Chicago when I first realized what I wanted to be when I grew up: Alexander Mundy in It Takes a Thief, James West in The Wild, Wild West, and James Bond. Those men had no fear. They were confident in any situation and were comfortable in their own skin. Not me. I lived a life of perpetual embarrassment. Of course, now I know that’s how most 12-year-olds feel. At the time, all I knew was I wanted to be someone else.

The first Bond movie I saw was In Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond was engaged to be married to Teresa (Tracy) Draco, played by Diana Rigg. I was a huge “Avengers”‘ fan back then. (I’m talking about the English “Avengers,” not the Marvel “Avengers,” though I was an avid comic book reader as well.)

Who wouldn’t want to be engaged to Diana Rigg in 1969? She was beautiful and smart and effortlessly cool. Bond was heartbroken when (spoiler alert) Diana Rigg died. At least he avoided getting married. It was clear even to my 12-year-old self that no one wanted a married Bond—a Bond who had to change nappies and help with the dishes. They killed off his fiancé so Bond could continue to be a lady killer. This is probably just as well. Bond would have made a terrible husband and a worse father. The first time his kid spilled a Cherry Slurpee on the supple leather of his Aston Martin, Bond would have launched his tiny ass into the stratosphere with his ejector seat.

There’s no denying that being Bond has its perks. You visit all kinds of exotic places and drive unbelievable cars. You have a license to kill and because you do, you can take what you want and do what you want and no one stands in your way. Men fear you and women fall all over you. Best of all, you get to make a difference. You get to save the world.

There’s also a pretty significant downside. After all, no one really cares that much about Bond, and Bond doesn’t really care all that much about anyone else. That makes for a pretty lonely life. That’s not the worst of it. Bond isn’t willing to open himself up to love. He’s kind of an emotional coward. He isn’t willing to care deeply about someone. He’s too afraid of getting his heart broken, too afraid of experiencing loss.

Fathers face that kind of fear every day. We worry about our kids. We worry about them physically and psychologically. We worry about their futures. To me, the idea of losing a child is far more frightening than having a supervillain like Auric Goldfinger barbecue my scrotum with an industrial laser.

In the original Magnificent Seven, Charles Bronson played a gunfighter who comes to a Mexican village with six other gunmen to protect the town. He’s admired by three little Mexican boys who follow him everywhere. They worship him for his bravery and aspire to be just like him. They think their fathers are cowards in comparison. Bronson paddles their asses and gives them a speech that has always stayed with me:

Don’t you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally, it buries them under the ground. And there’s nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery.

Am I sorry I didn’t become an international super spy? Would I have enjoyed jetting around the world, dispatching super villains and romancing women with names like Pussy Galore and Holly Goodhead? Probably. Then again, when I was in junior high, I was painfully shy around girls. I was awkward, tongue-tied, and insecure. Not exactly James Bond material. By the time I hit college, I started capitalizing on the strengths I did have. Like my honesty, my empathy, and my self-deprecating humor. Besides, if I had become James Bond, I wouldn’t have had time to coach my son’s soccer team or teach him how to ride a bike. I wouldn’t have had time to take him hiking or watch “Looney Tunes” or play video games with him. I would have missed everything.

My son saw me for who I was: a combination of contradictory traits. I was klutzy and confident, bold and bashful, and I made fun of my own awkwardness. Humor was my secret weapon. He watched and learned, and had none of my bashfulness when it came to the opposite sex. He had a lot of friends who happened to be girls. He saw them as equals. He had no expectations, so he didn’t make things weird. He was honest about his feelings and didn’t play any macho games. He was a good person and girls could see that. And he was funny. That’s probably why he had a girlfriend from the time he was 12.

Maybe you don’t need a license to kill to be a hero, after all. Maybe there’s more than one way to save the world. Maybe it’s more important to be a good parent. Maybe it’s more important to raise a child with confidence and kindness.


I’m back. I’m nationwide.

It turns out that my forced retirement from public broadcasting punditry (because the show on which I was punditing concluded) lasted a month and a half.

I will be appearing on National Public Radio’s “1A” show today discussing “Wisconsin’s Legacy” and the book The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics by Dan Kauffman.

The show calls itself “a show about a changing America. Host Joshua Johnson convenes a daily conversation about the most important issues of our time. 1A brings context and insight to stories unfolding across the country and the world. With a name inspired by the First Amendment, the show celebrates free speech and the power of the spoken word.”

I’m all for that. (Which is why I appear on every show, friendly audience or not, I’m invited to, other than the fact that I am a media ho.) In fact, I think every newspaper should change the name of its opinion page from “Opinion” or “Perspectives” or something generic like that to “The First Amendment.” (Of course, then they would actually have to respect the First Amendment, which is not currently the case for such newspapers as the New York Times.)

What is the book about? Glad you asked!

During the 20th century, Wisconsin was the embodiment of what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called a “laboratory of democracy” — an experiment in social and economic innovation, and a prospective blueprint for other states.

A bastion of progressive values, Wisconsin created the first workers’ compensation program, a progressive state income tax, stricter child labor laws, and the first unemployment insurance program. Much of FDR’s New Deal was even authored by Wisconsin natives.

But in recent years, the state has undergone a major political shift. Republicans secured the [state] government in 2010, and in the 2016 presidential election, the state went Republican for the first time in three decades.

How did Wisconsin go from electing Barack Obama in 2012 to Donald Trump in 2016? Dan Kaufman, author of “The Fall of Wisconsin,” assesses the state’s changing tides:

Wisconsin has gone from being a widely admired “laboratory of democracy” to a testing ground for national conservatives bent on remaking American politics. Its century-old progressive legacy has been dismantled in virtually every area: labor rights, environmental protection, voting rights, government transparency.

As Gov. Scott Walker campaigns for a third term, new polls indicate that public opinion of various economic and environmental conditions is low.

We’ll discuss how the changing political landscape has impacted life in Wisconsin — and vice versa — and what’s next for the once-progressive state.

The show originates from WAMU radio in Washington, D.C., which means I will be on a radio station in a place I’ve never been to, though as readers know that didn’t stop me from appearing on the BBC World Service earlier this year. Actually, since this is on NPR nationwide I will be on the air in a lot of places I’ve never been to. (I therefore should be nervous, I suppose.)

The show is on WAMU (88.5 FM for Washington-area listeners) from 10 a.m. to noon and 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern time. It’s on WPR from 1 to 3 p.m. Central time. Our discussion will be on WAMU live at 11 Eastern, 10 Central, and on WPR at 2 p.m. Central time, which means I guess I’ll be able to hear myself after I’m done talking.

As you might imagine — spoiler alert! — I will be taking an opposing view, or views, from the author and the third guest, a fellow Wisconsin Public Radio Week in Review alumnus who apparently suggested me for this. (I might start, perhaps, with questioning the term “once-progressive state,” which infers that most Wisconsinites bought everything the Progressives did.)


The latest dwindling outrage

Amy Swearer:

On Thursday, four journalists and one staff member of the Capital Gazette were murdered in the newspaper’s Annapolis, Maryland, office.

While the event was initially widely covered by all major news outlets, the media is likely to quickly move on from the story, just like it did with the Santa Fe High School shooting, because it doesn’t fit the right narrative. (Unlike many of the Parkland students, the Santa Fe students didn’t respond to the tragedy by calling for gun control measures.)

That in itself is a shame, not just because there is much to learn from this tragedy, but also because the inspiring courage of the surviving journalists deserves more than a single news cycle.

Why It Will Go Away Quickly

Reason No. 1: It doesn’t fit the gun control narrative.

This shooting can’t be blamed on lax gun laws. Maryland has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, earning it an A- rating from the Giffords Law Center—one of only six states to earn above a B+ score. It has enacted almost all of the gun control measures commonly proposed by gun control advocates.

And yet, despite this, not only did this incident occur, but Baltimore is one of the worst cities in the U.S. for gun-related violence, and was recently named by USA Today as “the nation’s most dangerous city.” In the last sixth months, 120 Baltimore residents have been murdered with firearms—21 in the last 30 days. Maryland itself does not fit the gun control narrative.

But this tragedy does fit the actual common fact pattern of mass public shootings: An individual with a long history of concerning behaviors managed to avoid a disqualifying criminal or mental health record, took a legally owned “non-assault” firearm to a gun-free zone, and picked off defenseless people in the time it took law enforcement to respond.

This reality, however, is inconvenient for pushing common gun control measures like raising the minimum purchase age to 21, imposing universal background checks, and banning “assault weapons.”

That makes it much more likely this story will quietly fade and be replaced by other stories that can be better weaponized against conservatives, like Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement.

Reason No. 2: Pundits immediately—and incorrectly—blamed President Donald Trump.

Within an hour of the first reports of shots fired in the Capital Gazette building, numerous media pundits took it upon themselves to blame the shooting on Trump’s rhetoric about “fake news.” A Reuters reporter accused the president of having blood on his hands, followed by similar accusations from a New York Times journalist, a White House correspondent, an investigative reporter from Politico, and other high-profile media personalities.

They were completely, unequivocally wrong.

The suspect wasn’t motivated by political ideology, but by a longstanding feud with the newspaper that predates Trump’s election by roughly four years. Had these journalists waited for the facts of the situation to come out, they could have avoided looking exactly like the “fake news” media the president has accused them of being.

Instead, they’re having to backtrack and justify irrational statements. That’s not an easy job, and often requires a bit of humility.

On the other hand, simply dropping the story as fast as possible is much more convenient.

Why It Shouldn’t Go Away Quickly

Reason No. 1: We need to face the reality of warning signs.

It’s all too common to hear people, in the aftermath of these attacks, imply that they had every reason to believe the suspect was a danger to himself or others, and yet nothing was done to keep him from possessing firearms. We must learn from these heartbreaking incidents so that we can prevent future tragedies.

The suspect has been convicted of criminal harassment, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail. He served 18 months of supervised probation. But in Maryland, as in most states, this is not an offense that disqualifies a person from possessing a firearm.

Criminal stalking, harassment, and threatening behaviors need to be taken seriously as indicators of future violence. This man’s actions left a women so in fear for her life that she moved to a new location and told reporters that she still sleeps with a gun.

He became so unhinged that Capital Gazette employees reported him and his threats to two different law enforcement agencies. A former executive editor and publisher for the paper once told his attorneys that “this was a guy that was going to come and shoot us.”

The answer to these warning signs is not to impose wholesale restrictions on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens, or to prohibit entire categories of firearms commonly used by those law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.

The answer is to intervene with the specific individuals who, by their actions and based on objective criteria, indicate that they present a heightened risk of danger to themselves or to others compared to the general population.

This does not mean that every single person who has ever committed a misdemeanor should be eternally, completely stripped of gun rights, either. States should pair individual restrictions for violent and violence-related misdemeanors with comprehensive, fair, and easy-to-utilize mechanisms for the restoration of an individual’s Second Amendment rights.

Reason No. 2: Maryland left the journalists defenseless.

There is no evidence that any employees of the Capital Gazette would have chosen to carry a firearm to work for self-defense. But had they been inclined to protect themselves against a person they reasonably—and correctly—believed was more than capable of carrying out his threats, Maryland makes it nearly impossible for them to do so outside of their homes.

Maryland is a “may issue” state, meaning it does not presume that residents have a right to carry concealed firearms, and only issues permits to those who sufficiently prove they have a “good and substantial reason” to carry a firearm in public. This bar is rarely met, even by law-abiding citizens such as Robert Scherr, who served honorably in the National Guard and who felt at risk because of his work as a divorce lawyer.

Fewer than 0.4 percent of Maryland adults have an active concealed carry permit. In terms of total concealed carry permits issued, Maryland outranks only Washington, D.C. (which effectively did not issue concealed carry permits until 2017); Hawaii (the only state to not issue a single gun carry permit to a private citizen in 2016); New Jersey (which notoriously issues permits almost exclusively to former law enforcement officers); and Delaware and Alaska (both of which have fewer than one-sixth of Maryland’s population).

And even if a Maryland resident is one of the lucky few authorized to carry a gun in public, she is prohibited from doing so in a wide range of places.

The reality is that, for all of Maryland’s strict gun laws, it has only succeeded in making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves from criminals bent on destruction.

Reason No. 3: The journalists are heroic.

The most unfortunate part of the likely imminent media retreat from this story is that the real heroes of the day won’t get the coverage they deserve.

When asked if the Capital Gazette would print a Friday edition on the heels of so horrific a tragedy, reporter E.B. Furguson III fiercely told The New York Times, “Hell, yes.” This was followed by a tweet from the Gazette’s twitter account, informing the public: “Yes, we’re putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”

The men and women of the Capital Gazette were hours removed from watching their colleagues be slaughtered simply for having the audacity to publish truthful material about a deeply troubled man. Their blood was still wet on the floors of the printing office. The pain was raw, and deep, and intense.

So they did the most courageous thing they could do.

They published the damn paper.

We’ll see if Swearer is correct. For one thing, I do not consider what I do to be heroic. Journalists who think they’re heroic need to find people who actually put their lives at risk every day — the military, police officers and firefighters — which journalists do not unless they’re reporting from a war zone. Journalists who go through life with an agenda are likely to miss the lessons of this tragedy.



As I wrote yesterday, it was inevitable this was going to happen someday.

The Annapolis (Md.) Capital shooting was reported on by its owners, the Baltimore Sun:

A gunman blasted his way into the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis with a shotgun Thursday afternoon, killing five people, authorities said.

Journalists dived under their desks and pleaded for help on social media. One reporter described the scene as a “war zone.” A photographer said he jumped over a dead colleague and fled for his life.

The victims were identified as Rob Hiaasen, 59, a former feature writer for The Baltimore Sun who joined the Capital Gazette in 2010 as an assistant editor and columnist; Wendi Winters, 65, a community correspondent who headed special publications; Gerald Fischman, 61, the editorial page editor; John McNamara, 56, a staff writer who had covered high school, college and professional sports for decades; and Rebecca Smith, 34, a sales assistant hired in November.

Two others were injured in the attack that began about 2:40 p.m. at the Capital Gazette offices at 888 Bestgate Road in Annapolis.

Police took a suspect into custody soon after the shootings. He was identified as Jarrod W. Ramos, a 38-year-old Laurel man with a long-standing grudge against the paper. …

“This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” said Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief William Krampf. “This person was prepared today to come in. He was prepared to shoot people.” …

Ramos’ dispute with the Capital Gazette began in July 2011 when a columnist wrote about a criminal harassment case against him. He brought a defamation suit against the columnist and the organization’s editor and publisher. A court ruled in the Capital Gazette’s favor, and an appeals court upheld the ruling.

Neither the columnist, Eric Hartley, nor the editor and publisher, Thomas Marquardt, are still employed by the Capital Gazette. They were not present during the shootings.

Police said the suspect used “smoke grenades” in the attack. They said 170 people were inside at the time.

The Capital Gazette is owned by The Baltimore Sun.

Phil Davis, a Capital crime reporter who was in the building at the time of the shooting, said multiple people were shot as he and others hid under their desks. He said there was a single male gunman.

“Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees,” he wrote on Twitter. “Can’t say much more and don’t want to declare anyone dead, but it’s bad.”

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload.” …

Davis later told The Sun it “was like a war zone” — a scene that would be “hard to describe for a while.”

“I’m a police reporter. I write about this stuff — not necessarily to this extent, but shootings and death — all the time,” he said. “But as much as I’m going to try to articulate how traumatizing it is to be hiding under your desk, you don’t know until you’re there and you feel helpless.”

Davis said he and others were hiding under their desks when the shooter stopped firing. Then police arrived and surrounded the shooter.

Photographer Paul Gillespie had finished editing photos from one assignment and was preparing for the next when he heard shots behind him and the newsroom’s glass doors shatter.

He heard another shot, he said, dived under a co-worker’s desk “and curled up as small as I could.”

“I dove under that desk as fast as I could, and by the grace of God, he didn’t look over there,” he said. “I was curled up, trying not to breathe, trying not to make a sound, and he shot people all around me.”

Gillespie said he heard one colleague scream “No!,” then a shot. Then another colleague’s voice, and another shot. He could hear the gunman approaching his hiding place.

“I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to die. I can’t believe this.’ ” Gillespie said.

But the gunman passed him, he said, and continued to shoot. Eventually, there was a lull in the shots. Gillespie stood and ran for the exit, through the shattered glass, jumping over the body of a colleague he believed was dead as another shot rang out in his direction.

He ran to a nearby bank and screamed for people to call the cops.

“I feel like I should be helping to cover it,” he said, “but I’m a mess.”

Authorities said police responded to the scene within a minute of the shooting.

The injured employees were identified as Rachael Pacella, a reporter who covers education and the Naval Academy, and Janel Cooley, a sales representative who covers downtown Annapolis. Both were treated and released. …

Josh McKerrow, a Capital Gazette photographer for 14 years, started his day Thursday covering Induction Day at the Naval Academy at sunrise. He was driving home to celebrate his daughter’s birthday when Capital editor Rick Hutzell called.

“He said he’d heard there had been a shooting, and he couldn’t get in touch with anyone in the newsroom,” McKerrow said.

Then he heard sirens.

“My heart sank,” McKerrow said. “I knew.” …

Jimmy DeButts, an editor, wrote on Twitter that he was “devastated and heartbroken.”

He praised his colleagues’ work.

“There are no 40-hour weeks, no big paydays — just a passion for telling stories from our community,” DeButts wrote. “We keep doing more with less. We find ways to cover high school sports, breaking news, tax hikes, school budgets & local entertainment. We are there in times of tragedy. We do our best to share the stories of people, those who make our community better. Please understand, we do all this to serve our community.” …

The Capital Gazette is one of 30 tenants in the building. Five others share the first floor with The Capital. They include accountants, lawyers, financial and medical offices. The newspaper has been in the building since 2015, according to CoStar, a real estate information company. They have 5,000 square feet of offices.

Aaron Smith and Randall Fisher of the Fisher Law Office were on the fourth floor at the time of the shooting, but they didn’t hear or see anything. They learned of the assault when a colleague texted Smith.

They flipped a desk over in front of the door to the office and stayed there until SWAT officers arrived. They then walked out of the building with their hands on their heads, like everyone else in the building, Fisher said.

Bethany Clasing, who works on the second floor, said she heard a single gunshot. Then police yelled: “Get down! Get down! Don’t move!”

Rayne Foster of Frost and Associates LLC said a plainclothes officer entered her fourth-floor office suite and told the receptionist to lock the doors because there was an active shooter. She quickly gathered people together.

Some employees removed high heels to prepare to flee the building. Others hid. One pulled two handguns out of his desk drawer for self-defense.

The shooter chose a target as likely to be unarmed as a school. Reporters are notoriously incorrect about firearms because reporters are unfamiliar with firearms. In my entire career I have known no one in the media who is a CCW carrier, and I would bet I could use two hands to count the number of journalists who own firearms even for hunting.

More on the shooter from the Sun:

In 2012, Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit against the paper and a columnist over a July 2011 article that covered a criminal harassment charge against him.

He brought the suit against then-columnist Eric Hartley, naming Capital Gazette Communications and Thomas Marquardt, the paper’s former editor and publisher, as defendants.

Throughout my career I have heard from people displeased with their presence in the publication. (As well as people displeased with their absence from the publication, for different reasons.) They never grasp that (1) police and court records are by state law open records (except for juvenile offenders), and (2) their problems with my writing, unless something is mistaken, are something to take up with the police or the court system. I’ve gotten threats of lawsuits, and I’ve gotten threats of cancellations of subscriptions or advertising, sometimes carried out. I’ve also gotten physical threats, though never delivered in person, and never carried out.

Perhaps this could be credited to the trauma, or perhaps she’s always this way, but, reports the Huffington Post via Yahoo:

A shaken journalist who survived Thursday’s deadly attack at The Capital Gazette newspaper says she “couldn’t give a fuck” about thoughts and prayers if “there’s nothing else.” …

In an interview with CNN on Thursday night, Capital Gazette writer Selene San Felice told Anderson Cooper what it was like to hide under her desk while the gunman opened fire. She also said the attack had left the newsroom “shaken,” but she was not interested in politicians’ well-worn platitudes.

“I’ve heard that President Trump sent his prayers. I’m not trying to make this political, right? But we need more than prayers. I appreciate the prayers. I was praying the entire time I was [hiding] under that desk. I want your prayers but I want something else,” San Felice said.

“I’m going to need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers because our whole lives have been shattered,” she added. “Thanks for your prayers, but I couldn’t give a fuck about them if there’s nothing else.”

Although CNN didn’t bleep San Felice’s comments, Cooper warned viewers that the interview contained strong language.

San Felice also described feeling deja vu because she had covered the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine people died in that attack.

“I remember being so upset hearing about the victims who were texting their families,” she said. “And there I was sitting under a desk texting my parents,  telling them that I love them.”

Better comments come from Dave Barry:

Five newspaper people were killed yesterday at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis. I can’t imagine how brutal that must be for the families. I met one of the victims, Rob Hiaasen, a few times; he was the brother of my close friend Carl Hiaasen. From all accounts Rob was a fine journalist and a wonderful man. My heart aches for his family, for all the families.

My heart also aches, on this sad day, for the larger family of journalists, especially newspaper journalists. It’s a family of which I still consider myself a member. I started in this business in 1971, as a rookie reporter at the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa., for (if I recall correctly) $93 a week. Since then most of my friends have been newspaper people. No offense to any other profession, but these are, pound for pound, the smartest, funniest, most interested and most interesting people there are. They love what they do, and most of them do it for lousy pay, at a time when the economic situation of newspapers is precarious, and layoffs are common.

It’s also a time when the news media are under attack — for being biased, for being elitist and out of touch with ordinary Americans, for not caring about the nation. And I’ll grant that in some cases, some of these criticisms are valid. There are cable-TV “news” operations openly devoted to either propping up or tearing down Donald Trump. There are newspaper journalists who seem far more interested in getting on TV, and jacking up their Twitter numbers, than being fair or accurate. There are incompetent, dishonest people in this business, as in any business.

But these people are a minority — I think a tiny minority — of news people, especially of newspaper people. There are over 1,000 daily newspapers in the United States, most of them covering smaller markets, like Annapolis or West Chester. The people working for these newspapers aren’t seeking fame, and they aren’t pushing political agendas. They’re covering the communities they live in — the city councils, the police and fire departments, the courts, the school boards, the high-school sports teams, the snake that some homeowner found in a toilet. These newspaper people work hard, in relative obscurity, for (it bears repeating) lousy pay. Sometimes, because of the stories they write, they face hostility; sometimes — this happens to many reporters; it happened to me — they are threatened.

But the news people I know are still passionate about what they do, and they do it remarkably well. And here’s the corny-but-true part: They do it for you. Every time they write a story, they’re hoping you’ll read it, maybe learn something new, maybe smile, maybe get mad and want to do something.

That’s what the people were doing at the Capital Gazette when they were shot. And the survivors, God bless them, put out a paper the next day. Because that’s what we do in this business.

So criticize us all you want; when we screw up, feel free to call us on it.

But don’t say we don’t care.

This isn’t the first time violence has been committed against journalists. Arizona Republic reporter Don Bowles was rewarded for his investigative reporting on organized crime with a car bomb that killed him in 1976. The worldwide record of violence against journalists, including murder, is far more extensive — 33 so far this year, after 46 in 2017 and 73 in 2015.

Nor will it be the last time, for reasons that have nothing to do with what Donald Trump or anyone else says about journalists. In this world disputes and disagreements increasingly get solved with violence, regardless of the availability of weapons. There are people running around who, though they don’t consider themselves mentally ill and may not be considered legally mentally ill, are what we used to call “deranged,” “crazy” or “disturbed,” to use subjective non-scientific terms. I’m not sure what to do about that in a country that supposedly supports individual constitutional rights.



Coming to a multiplex near you

News on the movie front — and if you grew up in Madison you should recognize this …

…. starts with John Fund:

The movie that many Americans have been waiting for — a full-length feature on the life of Ronald Reagan — is becoming a reality. Last week, it was announced that 64-year-old Dennis Quaid (The Right StuffSoul Surfer) has been signed to play Reagan in a biographical movie scheduled for release next year. Quaid will play Reagan as an adult, and teenager David Henrie will play the Gipper as a young man. The film is produced by Mark Joseph, who has been an executive on 45 films ranging from The Passion of the Christ to Max Rose, the last film starring comedian Jerry Lewis. The executive producer is Ralph Winter, of the X-Men superhero franchise.

What makes the movie exciting to Reagan fans is that it will be the first movie that will not seek to take down or tarnish the former president. Reagan was intimately involved with Hollywood for some 30 years, first as a leading man, then as the host of the top-rated General Electric Theater and as six-term president of the Screen Actors Guild. But most of Hollywood never forgave Reagan for becoming a conservative. Take Ida Lupino, the noted actress and director. She used to babysit Reagan’s children in the 1950s. But after he became a Republican in 1962, she cut off all ties and never spoke with him again.

The films in which the character of Reagan has made an appearance have reflected that bitterness. In 2003, CBS hired left-wing activist James Brolin, Barbra Streisand’s husband, to play Reagan in a three-hour miniseries. The New York Times got hold of an advance script and found several scenes, involving the Hollywood blacklist and AIDS, that it called “historically questionable.” One showed Nancy Reagan begging her husband to help AIDS patients only to hear him reply, “They that live in sin shall die in sin.” Lou Cannon, Reagan’s most prolific biographer, dismissed the film by saying the assertion that Reagan had been an FBI informant was “really wrong” and that “Reagan was not intolerant” toward gays. CBS executives eventually caved and shunted the film to their Showtime cable channel, where it bombed.

That disaster kept Hollywood silent on the topic of Reagan for about a decade. Then, in 2016, only weeks after the death of Nancy Reagan, it was announced that Will Ferrell was going to star in a “comedy” about Ronald Reagan’s slipping into Alzheimer’s while he was still president. The script had made Hollywood’s informal roster of the best unproduced scripts making the studio rounds. It was given a live read, with Lena Dunham and James Brolin (again!) playing various parts. Here is the summary:

When Ronald Reagan falls into dementia at the start of his second term, an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander in chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.

Luckily, the outrage from Alzheimer’s-advocacy groups and the Reagan family forced Ferrell to abandon the project only two days after it was announced.

Mark Joseph, the producer of the new Reagan film starring Quaid, says he felt compelled to make his movie before Hollywood attempted once again to rewrite history. His research has been meticulous. He personally reviewed KGB and FBI files kept on Reagan. He interviewed more than 50 of Reagan’s friends, aides, and cabinet members. Among them were people who rarely grant interviews, such as Donn Moomaw, Reagan’s pastor, and Ben Aaron, one of the surgeons who operated on Reagan after the attempted assassination against him in 1981. The script is based on two biographies by Reagan historian Paul Kengor and is personally endorsed by Ed Meese, Reagan’s close confidant and attorney general while he was president.

The script premise is a fascinating one. It begins with a Putin-like figure, the new leader of Russia, visiting a nursing home to interview an old KGB agent named Viktor Petrovich (played by Jon Voight) to learn how Reagan and the U.S. defeated Communism. The movie tells Reagan’s story through Petrovich’s eyes as he follows Reagan for four decades; Petrovich can’t get his superiors to heed his warnings about Reagan until it is too late. The Petrovich character is a composite of several KGB agents who did indeed track Reagan throughout his career. The film also covers other aspects of Reagan’s life, including his domestic policies and religious faith.

“The story of Reagan is a fascinating one, whatever one’s politics,” Joseph told me.

We came at it from the angle of wondering what his enemies thought of him and how they followed him and ultimately lost to him. Nobody knew him like his enemies did — and it’s through that lens that we tell the story. It’s impossible to understand the last century without understanding who Ronald Reagan was.

I agree, and here’s my prediction: It will be impossible for millions of Americans to resist seeing a film that finally puts Ronald Reagan in proper historical perspective, and that will be highly entertaining to boot.

Given Joseph’s involvement, I’m guessing Reagan fans need not worry about a Brolin- or Ferrell-like savaging of Reagan in this movie. Of course, sometimes things change. Consider actor Timothy Bottoms, who played George W. Bush for laughs in Comedy Central’s “That’s My Bush” and a Bush-like doofus in “Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course,” but then played dead-serious Bush in Showtime’s “DC 9/11.”

Quaid is an interesting casting choice. I’ve been a fan of his ever since one of the most underrated movies of all time, “The Big Easy.” For some reason I saw that before Quaid’s portrayal of astronaut Gordon Cooper in “The Right Stuff.”

Meanwhile, Jordan J. Ballor writes about a movie now in theaters:

I saw Incredibles 2 over the Father’s Day weekend, and just like its predecessor, there’s a lot to ponder beneath the surface of this animated film. In the real world we’ve had to wait 14 years, but the sequel picks up basically where the original left off.

As the Rev. Jerry Zandstra wrote of the original, “litigiousness and mediocrity are some of the biggest obstacles in our culture. The propensity to settle every dispute by legal action undermines values, such as trust and forgiveness, that are essential to the maintenance of genuine community. Fear of rewarding or achieving excellence discourages human persons from fulfilling God-given potential.” In the sequel, superheroes are still illegal, for reasons of both litigiousness and social anxiety over “supers,” that is, those who have super abilities.

Incredibles 2 has a lot to do with the virtues of a system that allows individuals to find out what they can do well and how those abilities can serve others for their good. In this, it is true to the stewardship mandate at the heart of all superhero tales: with great power comes great responsibility. Or as Jesus puts it, to those whom much is given, much is expected.

But the issues of trust are at play as well in the sequel, and in a way that shifts the focus beyond the legal system to the marketplace. It is always notable when the businessperson or the entrepreneur in a film is something other than the villain, and without spoiling it, Incredibles 2 stands out in this regard. The villain is someone who wants to sow discord and distrust, and who mocks the trust that, among other things, characterizes the marketplace. Why would we trust someone we don’t know well (or at all) to care about our interests? Adam Smith gave a compelling answer to that question long ago, but the film does a good job making the case for re-examining the dynamics of trust and distrust in a digital age.

And while it may not offer a fully-fledged theory or philosophy of society, Incredibles 2 does a fantastic job of opening up lines of conversation and discovery around a host of issues, including family structure and gender roles, vocation and stewardship, digital worlds and virtual reality, as well as law, justice, and the market. Among the offerings of brooding anti-heroes and gritty realism of many superhero films lately, Incredibles 2 is a film that is helping to make superheroes great again.

Remember: No capes.

And then The Spy Command reviews:

For the eighth James Bond film, star Sean Connery wasn’t coming back. Three key members of the 007 creative team, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, production designer Ken Adam and composer John Barry, weren’t going to participate. And producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were mostly working separately, with this movie to be overseen primarily by Saltzman.

The result? Live And Let Die, which debuted 45 years ago this month, would prove to be, financially, the highest-grossing movie in the series to date.

Things probably didn’t seem that way for Eon Productions and United Artists as work began. They had no Bond. Broccoli and Saltzman didn’t want Connery back for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. The studio didn’t want to take a chance and made the original screen 007 an offer he couldn’t refuse. But that was a one-film deal. Now, Eon and UA were starting from scratch.

Eon and UA had one non-Connery film under their belts, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They had tried the inexperienced George Lazenby, who bolted after one movie. For the second 007 film in the series not to star Connery, Eon and UA opted for a more-experienced choice: Roger Moore, former star of The Saint television series. Older than Connery, Moore would eventually employ a lighter touch.

Behind the camera, Saltzman largely depended on director Guy Hamilton, back for his third turn in the 007 director chair, and writer Tom Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz would be the sole writer from beginning to end, rewriting scenes as necessary during filming. In a commentary on the film’s DVD, Mankiewicz acknowledged it was highly unusual.

Perhaps the biggest creative change was with the film’s music. Barry had composed the scores for six Bond films in a row. George Martin, former producer for the Beatles, would take over. Martin had helped sell Saltzman on using a title song written by Paul and Linda McCartney. The ex-Beatle knew his song would be compared to the 007 classic title songs Barry had helped write. McCartney was determined to make his mark.

Saltzman liked the song, but inquired whether a woman singer would be more appropriate. Martin, in an interview for a 2006 special on U.K. television, said he informed Saltzman if Eon didn’t accept McCartney as performer, the producer wouldn’t get the song. Saltzman accepted both. The song eventually received an Oscar nomination.

Live And Let Die wasn’t the greatest James Bond film, despite an impressive boat chase sequence that was a highlight. The demise of its villain (Yaphet Kotto) still induces groans among long-time 007 fans as he pops like a balloon via an unimpressive special effect. Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James), up to that time, was probably the most over-the-top comedic supporting character in the series. (“What are you?! Some kind of doomsday machine, boy?!”)

For Clifton James, the role was just one of many over a long career. But he made a huge impression. When the actor died in April 2017 at the age of 96, the part of J.W. Pepper was mentioned prominently in obituaries, such as those appearing in The New York TimesThe Guardian, The Associated Press and Variety.

Live And Let Die is one of the most important films in the series. As late as 1972, the question was whether James Bond could possibly continue without Sean Connery. With $161.8 million in worldwide ticket sales, it was the first Bond film to exceed the gross for 1965’s Thunderball. In the U.S., its $35.4 million box office take trailed the $43.8 million for Diamonds Are Forever.

Bumpy days still lay ahead for Eon. The Man With the Golden Gun’s box office would tail off and relations between Broccoli and Saltzman would get worse. Still, for the first time, the idea took hold that the cinema 007 could move on from Connery.

Many editors at the former Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website criticized the movie and its star in a survey many years ago. But the film has its fans.

“I vividly remember the first time I saw one of the Bond movies, which was Live And Let Die, and the effect it had on me,” Skyfall director Sam Mendes said at a November 2011 news conference. Whatever one’s opinions about the movie, Live And Let Die ensured there’d be 007 employment for the likes of Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

“Live and Let Die” is my favorite Bond movie.

Yes, the ending is ludicrous, but the entire premise has gotten increasingly ludicrous. That doesn’t mean Bond movies aren’t entertaining.


Why people hate the media, periodicals edition

Aaron Blake of the non-conservative Washington Post about this Time magazine cover:

There are examples of children separated from parents who immigrated illegally playing out nationwide. And well-meaning people across the political spectrum have taken a stand and forced change.

Unfortunately, they made their most iconic image something that wasn’t a family being separated — and ultimately undermines their cause.

The photo of a nearly 2-year-old Honduran girl crying as her mother is being patted down quickly went viral. It has also been used for a Facebook fundraiser to raise more than $18 million to help reunite families who have been separated. And the whole thing culminated in its placement in a photo illustration on the cover of Time magazine. The image features the girl against a red background, with President Trump towering over her and the words “Welcome to America.”

The implication was clear: This was a girl who, like 2,500 other children, was being separated from her mother. Time and many others made a decision to suggest that this was an example of Trump uprooting our American ideals.

But that’s not what it was. As The Washington Post’s Samantha Schmidt and Kristine Phillips report, the girl’s father says the child and her mother were never separated. U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed it, as did the Honduran deputy foreign minister.

The image is a sad one, but it is of a rather standard occurrence at the border: A mother and her daughter attempted to immigrate illegally and were apprehended. The mother, in fact, had tried this before and was deported in 2013. The photo says virtually nothing about Trump’s now-aborted policy. In fact, it’s an example of how not all young children were separated from their parents.

Update: Time is standing by its cover. Editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal  says in a statement: “The June 12 photograph of the 2-year-old Honduran girl became the most visible symbol of the ongoing immigration debate in America for a reason: Under the policy enforced by the administration, prior to its reversal this week, those who crossed the border illegally were criminally prosecuted, which in turn resulted in the separation of children and parents. Our cover and our reporting capture the stakes of this moment.”

There had never been a clear indication that the mother and her child were separated. In speaking to The Washington Post, the Getty Images photographer, John Moore, speculated that separation might have occurred but didn’t say it had. “I don’t know what the truth is,” Moore said. “I fear they were split up.”

Others like Univision’s Jorge Ramos assumed the policy would lead to their separation. …

made the biggest assumption, though. You could perhaps argue that the photo illustration wasn’t meant to be taken literally, but anybody who saw the cover against the backdrop of the week’s news would assume this girl — pictured alone — had been separated from her mother.

And Time pretty clearly at least at one point thought that was the case. A correction on the piece a separate piece featuring the photo from earlier in the week says:

Correction: The original version of this story misstated what happened to the girl in the photo after she taken from the scene. The girl was not carried away screaming by U.S. Border Patrol agents; her mother picked her up and the two were taken away together.

That’s a pretty bad mistake.

Opponents of Trump’s policy will decry all of this fact-checking of the photo as hand-wringing. They’ll point to Trump’s and Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s tweets and say all of this is a meaningless distraction from an awful policy. The tragic scenes still exist — probably some of which look a lot like one in that viral photo — and we still have very little idea how or when these thousands of children are going to be reunited with their parents after Trump’s executive order reversing the policy. …

But forcing action on this policy requires care and credibility. It requires convincing skeptics that you’re not overselling the problem by using misleading information and images.

The use of this photo damaged that entire effort — no matter how pristine the motives were.

Hope they die before they grow old

You might not expect National Review to write about AC/DC and other rock groups, but …

The past four years have been a time of turbulence for AC/DC. There’s been a jailbreak, if you will.

Longtime drummer Phil Rudd was sentenced to eight months of home detention after pleading guilty to threatening to kill a man. Cliff Williams, the band’s bassist since 1977, announced his retirement from music. Brian Johnson, vocalist since 1980, stepped away from touring due to hearing problems. Co-founder and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young left to treat his dementia, and then passed away.

It appears that Angus Young, the band’s lead guitarist and sole remaining founding member, is undeterred. He will soldier on to create new music and tour with replacements, including Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose. After all, there’s still a strong demand for AC/DC music and a limited supply of lead guitarists who look good in schoolboy uniforms.

Steven Hyden, in his new book Twilight of the Gods refers to the phenomenon as “shrunkgroups.” Lindsey Buckingham can’t commit to a tour? Fleetwood Mac simply recruits Mike Campbell and Neil Finn to suit up for the squad. Glenn Frey passes away? The Eagles tap country star Vince Gill and Frey’s son, Deacon, to fill in.

What’s important is that the machine stays well-lubed and the ticket-buying fans get to hear the songs they’ve been singing along with for decades.

Twilight of the Gods is simultaneously a love letter to a certain collection of artists and songs and a preemptive eulogy for the classic-rock genre, and perhaps for rock music itself. In preparation, Hyden spent a year attending classic-rock concerts across the Midwest, listening to the albums that shaped his youth, and rereading seminal books about the bands and artists. He artfully retraces the steps of a young man falling in love with this music.

The book makes clear early on its subject is not classic rock, but classic rock. What’s the difference?

Clearly, my definition of “classic rock” is shaped by classic-rock radio. . . . The overriding factor in determining who was classified as classic rock — and who was classified as folk, punk, new wave, or metal — was mainstream popularity. If you sold millions of albums, played arenas, and benefited from a major record label plying disc jockeys with cocaine and microwaves in order to get your music on the radio, you were classic rock. If you were beloved by critics, played clubs and theaters, and earned way more street cred than dollars, then you were slotted in one of the ‘cult artist’ genres.

In other words, Styx gets to be “classic rock,” and the opening lines of “Come Sail Away” are chiseled into our collective memories, waiting to be recalled whenever Dennis DeYoung’s piano intro triggers the need. Elvis Costello? Well, he’s “new wave,” so the beauty and power of “New Lace Sleeves” is reserved for those who have taken the time to seek out and explore the tour de force that is the 1981 album Trust.

But what does it all mean now that the most famous and influential purveyors of classic rock are fading away?

“You can’t talk about classic rock now without also thinking about death,” Hyden writes. And, indeed, the rock obituaries have begun to pile up. David Bowie, Tom Petty, Gregg Allman, Glenn Frey, Walter Becker, and J. Geils all have passed away in recent years. Paul Simon, Elton John, and Lynyrd Skynyrd just announced farewell tours, as they say goodbye to the road.

Could the future of classic rock look something like the modern-day incarnation of Foreigner? The band, best known for late-’70s and early-’80s classic-rock cornerstones such as “Cold As Ice” and “Urgent,” now features just one original member in Mick Jones. One other guitarist dates back to the mid ’90s, well after the band’s heyday, while everyone else has been added since 2004.

Over the past few years, Jones has missed quite a few shows due to various health issues — but the shows have not been canceled. At times, the audience is paying pretty good money to see a version of Foreigner in which every band member is, well, foreign to any of its chart success.

Father Time is undefeated; band members will continue to leave this Earth or become physically incapable of touring. Perhaps Mick Jones has stumbled upon the next breakthrough in keeping classic rock alive. At some point in 2033, might we see the officially licensed, Kevin Cronin–endorsed, all-replacement version of REO Speedwagon™ playing the county fair at a town near you? Will Rick Nielsen be lending his signature five-necked guitar to younger version of himself to keep Cheap Trick’s legacy (and money-making prowess) intact?

Hyden spends the final portion of his book grappling with the question of whether or not there will be another generation of fans who even have an interest in rock music. He blames, in large part, a gradual narrowing of the definition of the term, arguing that recent stars such as Taylor Swift and Adele have “rock in their DNA” but never are discussed as other than Top 40 pop artists.

The distribution aspect also is problematic. As Hyden writes, “Life-changing bands don’t just appear on television or the radio these days. . . . The music no longer finds you. You must find the music.” As the “rock star” archetype has faded from pop culture, so have the avenues from which listeners could experience new guitar/bass/drum-centered music.

In fact, as Hyden pointed out in a 2015 essay for Grantland, one of the most successful rock bands of the past decade, The Black Keys, sidestepped the normal channels almost entirely by licensing song after song for commercial use. Think you don’t know The Black Keys’ music? Pull up “Tighten Up” or “Howlin’ for You” and experience flashbacks to any number of television ads you’ve seen over the past few years.

Later in that essay, Hyden puts forth another keen observation, namely that dozens and dozens of bands and artists who would have been considered rock not long ago have been reclassified into the country ecosystem. After all, who is Keith Urban other than Bryan Adams with the occasional banjo or fiddle? A song like “Long Hot Summer” would have absolutely owned rock radio in a different time.

Like Hyden, I grew up on classic rock. I bought all the albums. I read Rolling Stone and spent countless hours devouring books and reference guides about music made years before I was born. I’ve experienced a whole lot of these classic-rock bands in person. In fact, there’s really only one more act I’d truly regret not seeing live before retirement (or something worse): The Rolling Stones.

Come on, Mick and Keith. Back to the U.S. for one more rodeo.

Fans of Chicago have watched guitarist Terry Kath die, bass guitarist/tenor singer Peter Cetera leave for a solo career of ballads more sappy than his former band’s, as well as Cetera’s replacement and multiple other musicians leave, to the point where only four original members are left — keyboard player/singer Robert Lamm, trumpet player Lee Loughnane, trombone player James Pankow and saxophone player Walt Parazaider (who doesn’t tour anymore). They are viewed as Chicago’s core four.

At the risk of appearing equivocal, there are core members of groups, and there are lesser members of groups. Chicago survived Kath’s death and Cetera’s departure, though the group still performs songs sung by their former members:

Led Zeppelin survived drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham’s death, but it likely would not have survived Robert Plant’s death or departure. The Who survived drummer Keith Moon’s death, but it wouldn’t survive the death or departure of Roger Daltrey or Pete Townshend. There has been a debate for years over whether Van Halen was really Van Halen with lead singer Sammy Hagar instead of David Lee Roth. Several musicians have left Electric Light Orchestra, but the only one most people know is Jeff Lynne.


The list, the list, the list

For those wondering what in the world the headline refers to: A previous employer included a coworker known for speaking in his own clichés. Toward the end of my time there we had a going-away party for a reporter (whom I replaced when she switched beats). The boss brought a karaoke machine, and between that and the adult beverages we came up with a song that included every one of his pet phrases, including what he (the only newsroom employee not present at the party) would ask us reporters every morning, “What have you for the [story] list?”

Somehow I missed this from Bloomberg News when it was reported two months ago:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”

It’s seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event, according to a request for information released April 3.

The data to be collected includes a publication’s “sentiment” as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum, and circulation. No value for the contract was disclosed.

“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers,” according to the statement. DHS agencies have “a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners,” it said.

The DHS wants to track more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio, as well as trade and industry publications, local, national and international outlets, and social media, according to the documents. It also wants the ability to track media coverage in more than 100 languages including Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, with instant translation of articles into English.

The request comes amid heightened concern about accuracy in media and the potential for foreigners to influence U.S. elections and policy through “fake news.” Nineteen lawmakers including Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, asking whether Qatar-based Al Jazeera should register as a foreign agent because it “often directly undermines” U.S. interests with favorable coverage of Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria.

The DHS request says the selected vendor will set up an online “media influence database” giving users the ability to browse based on location, beat, and type of influence. For each influencer found, “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.”

Once again the term “homeland security’ is being perverted into something that has nothing to do with national security. What possible national security interest could there be in this list? And should the government compile such a list given that inconvenient limitation on government called the First Amendment?

There are two additional questions: (1) What if you are on the list? (2) What if you’re not on the list?