Just a few random musings this week:
- The most hyped movie of this holiday season seems to be the Tom Cruise vehicle "Valkyrie." It's a heartwarming holiday tale about one of the failed plots to kill Adolf Hitler, and it opens, for some unaccountable reason, on Christmas Day. Because, as several of my friends have pointed out, nothing says Christmas like a movie about trying to kill Hitler. My personal theory is that it's aimed at giving Jewish people something to do on Christmas Day other than going out for Chinese food.
- New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress capped off an injury- and fine-plagued year by accidentally shooting himself in the leg in a New York nightclub. Then, to add insult to injury, he got arrested for illegal possession of the weapon and benched for the rest of the season. But none of this answers the main question for me: What the heck kind of name is "Plaxico"? It sounds like a cholesterol drug.
- Am I the only person who finds it really really disturbing to hear the voice of Steve Buscemi, the oddly visaged actor who's made a career out of playing creeps, coming out of an animated gingerbread man in an AT&T ad?
- Recently when looking back over the last few months' news, I started feeling a strange sensation of déjà vu. Gas shortages and high gas prices. Stock market crashes. Recession. Auto companies going to Congress for a bailout. Suddenly, a chill ran down my spine as I realized: We are facing the return of the 1970s. If disco comes back, I really am moving to Canada. Unless there's a corresponding Led Zeppelin reunion to offset it.
- Speaking of the '70s, though, the Big Three automakers who recently went to Washington to beg for a bailout should have studied up a little better on their history, particularly the trip Chrysler chairman Lee Iaccoca made to Capitol Hill in 1979 to ask for Congress' help in saving his company. He went up there with a plan for changing the cars the company had been making. He didn't ask for a handout; he asked the government to guarantee loans to the company--loans that not only got paid back in full, they got paid back early. And he sure as heck didn't fly there in a private jet. When the CEO of a major company does something that makes the vast majority of the people who hear about go, "How stupid is this guy?" one can't help but question the wisdom of giving that company money.
- One of the things that's really redlined my BS meter recently is the media's attempt to start a fight between Barack Obama and his Cabinet picks, in particular Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton. Reporters are acting like junior high school students trying to stir up drama: "Did you hear what she said about you?" The attempts to sow dissent (and therefore boost ratings) don't end with Clinton. Fox News' Chris Wallace even asked if Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, would "follow orders" when it came to Obama's timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. This is patently stupid, even by the standards of Fox News. Politicians making nice with one another after slamming each other on the trail has not previously been regarded as remarkable. Bush the Elder, after all, was picked for veep by Ronald Reagan after calling Reagan's domestic policy "voodoo economics." I'm betting that Obama's wishing he'd never mentioned he was reading that book about the Lincoln administration called "Team of Rivals." The media's obsession with that phrase ignores the fact that Obama, first and foremost, has picked a team of professionals. I know that seems strange and exotic after the past eight years, but the press just needs to accept that the government is finally in the hands of grownups.
- I am chuckling, however, at the irony of the fact that a lot of the harshest criticism of Obama's picks comes not from the right wing, but from the left. Progressive bloggers like The Nation's Christopher Hayes are shocked that the Cabinet-to-be doesn't contain "a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive." They're particularly incensed that Obama has relied heavily on people who served during the Clinton years. "That's not change!" they whine. But you have to ask: Where else are you going to find people who have experience implementing Democratic policies? All of the Carter veterans are really, really old by now. Again, picking people with actual experience in the jobs they're supposed to be doing may seem strange after eight years of Bush putting incompetent cronies and wild-eyed ideologues in charge, but it's really the way it ought to be done.
A Cabinet picked for competence and experience -- that really is change we can believe in.