WOOF! Watchdogs of Our Freedom

MASS EXTINCTION ISN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE!

In "Apocalypse NOT" forum on May 31, 2018 at 10:39 pm


In which WOOF’s editor in chief, Old Bugler, expresses his up-to-the-minute-if-frustratingly-excursive views on nothing but 100% guaranteed genuine news, mostly in the annoyingly officious third-person, as befits his station!   

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Fellow earthlings—that sounds inclusive enough, doesn’t it? —your humble editor begs your indulgence as he departs the political realm in this column to address a topic about which he knows absolutely nothing. This is merely to say that your editor is not a meteorologist, has never studied meteorology, and, like most Americans, relies on those trained in that expertise for guidance. This is especially the case when such guidance appears undersigned by 15,000 recognized experts whose uniform opinion is that we—meaning all of us, including, presumably, each of Facebook’s 71 gender options—are blindly marching toward planetary disaster. Given the gravity of the situation, surely our readers will acknowledge the importance of turning–for at least this crucial moment–from our typical fare to a far less subjective discipline–one amounting to settled science.

Can 15,000 scientists be wrong?

Old Bugler felt compelled to undertake this discussion despite his confessed unfamiliarity with the field, owing to his shock and alarm upon learning that “Humans are sleepwalking into a mass extinction of species not seen since the demise of the dinosaurs.” That headline, emblazoned above an article in the U.K. Independent, derived in turn from the authoritative Journal of Communications Biology, certainly commanded attention. Moreover, the discovery that “British scientists” were the principal issuers of the warning served to instill the matter with an unsettling momentousness, because–as most Americans intuitively grasp–British scientists, being British, are prohibited by their inherent Brythonic natures from issuing frivolous or irresponsible pronouncements—a characteristic that imbues their findings with  near-lapideous credibility.

From Old Bulgler’s “Great Moments in British Science” archive, the Dr. Quatermass section.

On this basis alone, it seemed imperative to absorb the entire report, described by the authors as a “new letter to humanity” (presumably because nobody would bother to reread an old one) signed by the above-mentioned 15,000 scientists joined in tendering a “catastrophic warning about the fate of the world.” Readers will readily apprehend the mounting trepidation with which your editor read further, anxious as he was to descry by what means our mass extinction was to ensue. Were these learned scientists privy to the emerging truth about UFOs— had the Zeta Reticulans communicated their intent to eradicate earth’s dominant species? Or was an enormous asteroid hurtling toward us via some unanticipated orbit leaving only weeks—perhaps days—before its globe-shattering impact vaporized the lot of us? Or was the long overdue yet widely anticipated Planet Nibiru finally entering that aspect of its oft-described elliptical orbit so proximal to our world as to occasion our moon’s ejection from orbit, followed swiftly by a stupendous collision with Earth as a grand finale? Or perhaps the Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists accidentally moved their doomsday clock’s hand all the way to midnight, thus ensuring thermonuclear war.

“Careful, you fool! Another inch and you’ll blast the planet to smithereens!”

Old Bugler’s mind raced as he probed for details, and while he was instantly uncomfortable with the article’s content, his initial objections pertained more to the designated cause of mankind’s demise than any doubts about substance. True, a less dull-witted reader might have inferred at first glance that our impending mass extinction was, like so much else nowadays, a ramification of climate change–and certainly mass extinction is no less frightful whether provoked by aliens, asteroids, or global warming. That said, your humble editor is so peculiarly constituted that faced with inevasible doom, he would prefer something more original. But this admittedly irrational reaction was quickly superseded by an encroaching awareness of something more authentically anticlimactic. The report’s language took what seemed a curious turn, and precisely at that point typically devoted to substantiating the authors’ findings.  Instead, the prose seemed almost to downshift–to reflect a more nuanced tone, even while maintaining that “man-made global change is threatening the diversity of different creatures that have taken millennia to evolve.”

Poised to extirpate….

All right, any sentence containing a reference to man-made global change (by which was clearly intended global climatic change) is far from sanguine, and readers may be forgiven for deeming it premature, even reckless, to characterize evidence of an event poised to extirpate “different creatures that have taken millennia to evolve” as “downshifting,” or anticlimactic. Your editor felt a flash of shame at his rising incredulity. He reminded himself that any species said to have evolved has, in fact, “taken millennia to evolve,” including our own. That’s what we call settled science.  Thus, humans might well be among those “different creatures” to which the report alluded. But even as this logic compelled his further investigation, Old Bugler felt the tingle of an almost preconscious wariness–a sensation akin to that creeping blush of mortification that accompanies the realization that one has been cozened. Yes, cozened— a polite, nearly archaic term, less violent and roughshod than swindled, or flimflammed, meaning congenially and artfully deceived.

As history bears witness, global warming experts sometimes indulge in outright fakery, as in the NOAA scandal exposed by Dr. John Bates in 2017; but your editor suspects no such overt manipulation of data in this instance–British humor is subtler.

Science has long predicted extreme weather events even more disturbing than depicted here! 

At first, your humble editor’s aforementioned faith in the integrity of modern science, and modern British science in particular, forestalled any suspicion greater than a reflexive distrust of his own perceptions. Surely, an epistolary decree to the world undersigned by a veritable pantheon of distinguished scientists (not a few of whom actually study climate) surely exemplified a level of scholarship so elevated as to exclude any hint of…well…syntactic chicanery? And yet—reading on—one learns that “global warming and rising sea levels threaten to wipe out many species that cannot adapt to change quickly enough.” Worrisome, to say the least, but hardly, on the surface of it, indicative of the epic debacle implied by the title. What revelations lurked in the full report?  Was humankind among those species teetering on the brink of destruction? Does a subset of humanity reside nearer “the brink” being situated nearer beaches and ports? Is this subset liable to wholesale slaughter because rising sea levels will ultimately consume our coastal cities (despite several postponements and hasty reschedulings) whereupon the tides are expected to surge so violently that these hapless souls will be “wiped out” because they “cannot adapt to change quickly enough?” And even if such a catastrophe drowned multitudes of injudiciously situated victims, could we objectively call it “mass extinction?” No, something was definitely amiss.

Save the undocumented species!

Extinction is real,. The “Aye Aye” of Madigascar, for example,, is reportedly nearing extinction. Nature can certainly be cruel.

An impression began to solidify in Old Bugler’s consciousness:. Humans weren’t “sleepwalking into mass extinction” after all. Rather, it appeared that various species quite apart from our own were facing extinction, or might be, which datum formed the gravamen of what came advertised as a “catastrophic warning about the fate of the world.” In fairness, your editor reasoned, the deceptively crafted headline was probably the handiwork of some junior editor at the Independent assigned the task of slyly sensationalizing relatively mundane science stories—the better to encourage “clicks.”

But no, as a careful rereading served to verify, the language derived verbatim from the report itself, in which no less a luminary than Professor of Evolutionary Paleobiology Matthew Wills at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath (which is in England) specifically stated, “We are sleepwalking into a mass extinction of a magnitude unparalleled since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.” The miscommunication seemed to stem from Professor Wills’s liberal application of the pronoun ‘we,’ by which he seems to refer to sentient lifeforms quite apart from ourselves, only certain subspecies of which are threatened with possible extinction, and none of which, so far as Old Bugler is aware, has been observed to sleepwalk.  In fact, the majority of lifeforms identified by the “New Letter to Humanity” as likely candidates for extinction appears to be shrimp.  Adding to these concerns, Wills makes so bold as to declare: “We are already losing diversity that has never even been documented” –an illation of virtually supermundane percipience, considering the difficulties inherent in verifying the loss of species that have “never even been documented.”

Knowing the fate of the dinosaurs should serve as ample warning of what occurs when climatologists are ignored. Or gigantic meteors, anyway.

Dr. Katie Davis enjoys a large order of french fries, demonstrating, perhaps, that concerns about cholesterol become academic on the presipice of mass extinction.

Next, Research Fellow Dr Katie Davis, an evolutionary palaeobiologist at the University of York, (England), explained that “Understanding the processes that shaped the strikingly irregular distribution of species richness across the Tree of Life is a major research agenda,” which one can readily believe without seeing any obvious way in which such a quest, no matter what its priority, bears on humankind’s blind march toward “extinction of a magnitude unparalleled since …the dinosaurs.” In fact, even an exact appraisal of the threat eludes us, as Davis acknowledges there are “depending upon estimates, between two and fifty million extant species of animals (Metazoa), all derived from a single common ancestral species that lived some 650 million years ago.” So if there are either 50 million or 2 million of them, or any number in between, surely predicting what number of them will or will not become extinct is somewhat arbitrary? And besides, Davis reveals,“net rates of speciation…exceed rates of extinction,” even though “the balance of these processes varies greatly, both between clades and throughout geological time.”

Like Darwin’s finches…

Dr. de Grave is head of research at the prestigious Oxford University Museum, yet so unaffected, you can call him “Sammy.”

Clades and geological time aside, the data, viewed objectively, show that more species are tabulated extant than extinct by a sizeable margin. Even more reassuring is the discovery that “shrimp have independently transitioned from marine to freshwater habitats repeatedly, creating much richer pockets of biodiversity.” Surely this suggests a level of adaptability that belies the premise of the report? Indeed, it transpires that “the relative isolation of lakes and rivers appear [sic] to increase the diversity of species in a similar way to Darwin’s finches on island chains.” And diversity, as every educated person is aware by now, is wonderful. So, given these uplifting discoveries, what is the problem? In a game attempt to resuscitate the study’s apocalyptic tenor, co-author Sammy de Grave, head of research at the Oxford University Museum, adds: “But rising sea levels caused by climate change could put these pockets at risk, disrupting these freshwater distributions and leading to extinctions as a result.”

Could?  Really? So because 15,000 scientists saw fit to misrepresent a conglomeration of learned speculation and unbridled conjecture as proof of Armageddon, Old Bugler suffered a hair-raising endocrine event culminating in rampant adrenal surges, autonomic nervous conniptions, waves of quasi-suicidal angst and a pounding pulse rate? Good heavens, people, get a grip on yourselves! Why restyle what amounts to a preponderantly uplifting review of the miracle of expanding biodiversity and the amazing versatility of living organisms, as a “catastrophic warning about the fate of the world” when in reality, the worst extractable inference is that, in the event of certain mootable hypotheses coming to fruition given certain circumstances that might or might not develop, it could be the case that certain levels of destruction might or might not be visited upon certain unknowable varieties of species whose current numbers cannot be accurately estimated, and who are, in any case, largely “carideans,” which, beloved readers, means shrimp.  By what evaluative standard is the loss, however regrettable, of a few million carideans, (give or take a few million), a blow to humankind equatable with mass extinction on a par with the dinosaurs?  And come to think of it, when was the last time you seriously needed a dinosaur?

The aftermath…

Old Burglar is happy to report that his parasympathetic nervous system has restored him to psychobiological homeostasis in the wake of what initially seemed an inescapable cataclysm.  He is once again seated calmly before his Alger Hiss autograph-series Woodstock Model 5 typewriter, sipping a sudsy Yuengling, and sorting through the day’s dispatches. Outside the WOOF cave, seabirds–at least the surviving species of them–are cawing and cavorting blithesomely. Before him, your editor cannot help noticing among the daily flurry of news items, lies an “updated” bulletin from the Union of Concerned Scientists. A glance suffices to establish that “Unless we take immediate action to reduce global warming emissions, these impacts will continue to intensify, grow ever more costly and damaging, and increasingly affect the entire planet — including you, your community, and your family.” Be that as it may, Old Bugler will resist, for now, examining precisely what “these impacts” entail. One Götterdämmerung a week is enough for any senior editor–and meantime, this one is content to leave planetary salvation in the capable hands of concerned scientists, wherever located.

Wait a minute–those aren’t seabirds!

Second thoughts…

Although on second thought, it seems churlish to eschew all responsibility for the fate of the planet—especially in view of the tireless efforts at outreach emanating from so many informed professionals enjoining us to “take immediate action.” With this in mind, your editor scribbled a hasty memo to WOOF’s art department requesting the “immediate” designing and limited issuance of bumper stickers exhorting our fellow citizens to “SAVE THE SHRIMP!”

Further, your editor pledges to affix one to his 1964 Corvair’s rear bumper, right next to the sticker bearing the faded legend: “AuH2O,” and beyond this, he pledges to forward an additional bumper sticker absolutely free to anyone requesting it, while supplies last.  One must, after all, do one’s part.

Free while supplies last!

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Zuckerberg, Facebook, and Fate

In "The Media are the Massage" forum on September 17, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Lionized and feted for decades by every media outlet and establishment personality worth cultivating, Mark Zuckerberg is suddenly on the skids. His spectacular decline surprised us in the WOOF cave. The young tycoon seemed destined to expand his global pursuits, enhance his wealth limitlessly, and age serenely into liberal sainthood, wherefrom he would occasionally favor admirers with an enlightened insight or two, appear now and again to confer benedictions (and substantial cash endowments) upon worthy young activists, and generally remain annoying well into in his dotage.

Zuckerberg’s conventional Ivy-League liberalism made his conformity to elitist mores effortless. Beyond that, his knack for fitting the relevant beau gest to the trendiest social issue, or showering millions of dollars upon whichever starving, uneducated, oppressed, or similarly afflicted group seemed most underprivileged during a particular news cycle, solidified his credentials. He knew, in other words, how to play the game, and he played it better than the average establishment bootlick because unexamined, sophomoric liberalism was one of the few attributes Mark Zuckerberg never needed to fake.

Learning the game….

Wall Street barons, “obscene profiteers,” and corporate bigwigs denounced routinely by thundering Leftists are almost without exception those who haven’t played the game, or haven’t played it well enough. The intuitively satisfying but factually absurd notion that all big-money scalawags are Republican results largely from the media’s reluctance to disparage—or even acknowledge–any blood-sucking capitalist pig smart enough to fund progressive causes and babble the requisite shibboleths. Fat cat capitalists wishing to retain the affection of the liberal establishment long ago realized that redistributing their own wealth (in politically correct and tax-deductible ways) without waiting for a totalitarian state to redistribute it for them, was the key to immunity. Like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Ben and Jerry, and every ridiculously wealthy celebrity in Hollywood, Zuckerberg played the game with an almost instinctual acumen. Was he not declared “person of the year” by Time in 2010? Was his name not widely circulated by Democrat strategists as a presidential contender in 2020? And hadn’t mainstream news anchors reacted to such speculation like jiggled bobble-dolls?

Immunized by The Game

The kindness of our hearts

Yes, those were heady times by even Zuckerberg’s standards, but times now rinsed down the memory hole by America’s mavens of misinformation. Suddenly, Mark Zuckerberg finds himself portrayed as an anathema to the people—a pariah so detestable that declaring him an “enemy of the state” seems entirely condign—except that Trump’s appropriation of the phrase rendered it radioactive to liberals.

What antic twist of fate swept Zuckerberg from his vertiginous pedestal? The liberal media will not provide an answer. Doing so would require a review of the timeline, whereas applied lacunar amnesia (a favorite media tactic) prohibits any recollection of the CEO’s previous good standing. In other words, Zuckerberg is currently portrayed by the establishment as a churl who was always a churl, and never anything but a churl. All evidence to the contrary is irretrievable–down the hole. Obviously, then, it falls to WOOF to analyze Mr. Zuckerberg’s riches-to-ridicule collapse; but we are generous by nature, beloved readers—we will not only undertake the analysis but also–solely out of the kindness of our hearts—end this screed by suggesting a way for Mr. Zuckerberg to recapture his former standing…sort of like the surprise at the bottom of a Cracker Jacks box.

Don’t worry, Zuck–help is on the way!

The most fundamental thing…

In March of 2018, Mark Zuckerberg gave an interview to BBC television during which he repeatedly assured viewers that Facebook would never sell any information derived from its users. Fresh-faced, boyish, and brimming with trustworthiness, the earnest CEO went to great lengths underscoring the sacred obligation he felt to protect every user’s information, insisting “This is their information—they own it!” And because “Zuck” was the Left’s most conspicuous superstar (besides Oprah) in the wake of Obama’s inglorious eight years, liberal journalists simply wrote down his remarks and reported them without a thought given their veracity.  When accusations piled up from the FCC, members of Congress, and a cluster of privacy groups, Zuckerberg doubled down, maintaining the  countenance of an angel as he averred, “We do not allow the applications to share personal information, plus, the advertisers can’t have access to it [and] if application runners share it with the advertisers, we disable their functioning on our website, we shut them down. We make sure that people have control over their privacy and it will become the most fundamental thing on the internet.”

Proving there’s fundamental, and then there’s horses’ fundaments.

Media talkers repeated the CEO’s remarks uncritically. After all, if “Zuck” was lying through his teeth, it was no more newsworthy than Obama lying through his, or Hillary or Loretta Lynch, or Susan Rice, or—well, when liars enjoy the establishment’s favor, the trick is simply to  “report” the words verbatim, and call it “the news.”

The Winklevoss Twins–guess how their mom tells them apart!

Of course, Zuck’s difficulties began long before 2016, but the youthful entrepreneur finessed them effortlessly. Early on, critics accused him of building a simple knockoff of his university’s social network, Harvardconnectins.com.  Compounding the issue, the Winklevoss twins (creators of the Harvard site and erstwhile collaborators with Zuckerberg), filed suit claiming Zuck sabotaged their project, made off with their design, and awarded himself sole credit for its development. No big deal, Zuck prevailed and prospered despite the Winklevoss annoyance and a variety of similar Lilliputian assaults. When an unflattering biopic came to theatres, Zuckerberg upstaged it by appearing on Oprah to announce unprecedented charitable contributions, and complaining to journalists the filmmakers “just kind of made up a bunch of stuff that I found kind of hurtful.”

Young Mark Zuckerberg, expressing his pain.

Rumblings on the right

Sure, Zuck had problems with conservatives from the beginning, but these amounted to pinpricks. All the truly important people reminded the sultan of social networking that conservatives complain about all sorts of media ad nauseum. Complaints kept coming, nevertheless.

Posts like this one from Gatewaypundit typify conservatives’ paranoid reactions to Facebook’s efforts to thwart fake news and biased commentary!

Brian Amerige , former Facebook technology wiz, called Zuck’s enterprise “a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views.” But it was the rogues all along!

In May 2016, a former employee accused Facebook of cutting conservative topics from its “trending bar.” On June 13, the outspoken anti-jihadist Pamela Geller found two of her pages deleted. Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, as well as the Gateway Pundit site, not to mention hosts of conservatives in private life, complained of similar censorship. The indefatigable Diamond and Silk raised a ruckus when their page was labeled “unsafe,” prompting Facebook to call the labeling “an enforcement error.”  Zuckerberg justified much of what the Right called censorship as Facebook’s effort to cut down on “fake news and conspiracy theories,” which Media Matters helpfully—if ironically–explained “are more prevalent in conservative circles than in others.” Even more hilariously, Zuck dealt with the sudden exodus of rogue employees exposing his censorship of conservatives by claiming that all censorship of conservatives was the work of rogue employees–whom he promised to ferret out and lecture sternly.

Attempting to further smooth the waters, Zuck hosted a meet-and-greet for a dozen influential conservatives. Zuck assured them, “Donald Trump has more fans on Facebook than any other presidential candidate and Fox News drives more interactions on its Facebook page than any other news outlet in the world. It’s not even close.” True, no doubt, but also irrelevant.–the group’s overall concerns were never meaningfully addressed.

Censoring conservatives? Nobody in the mainstream could believe such nonsense.

But no amount of caviling from starboard could seriously threaten the CEO’s status with the in-crowd. That would require a starkly different event–and a frenzy so indiscriminate even a cosseted godlet like young Zuckerberg might be sucked into its vortex.

The New Inquisition

Repent!

Epidemiologists often observe the speed with which newly imposed bacilli devastate previously unexposed populations. Similarly, the Left succumbed to Russo-phobia—an affliction so novel to that culture, the outbreak remains uncontained to this day. It was Zuckerberg’s bad luck to be caught up, first in the delirium itself, but more significantly by the reaction it spawned.  And just as the plague inspired 14th Century Europe to purge itself of heretics and witches in hopes of placating God, so the Great Liberal Russo-phobia of 2016, (although almost entirely psychotic), inspired an inquest of similar intensity: the New Inquisition, with Robert Mueller in the role of Torquemada, the furious Clintons playing Ferdinand and Isabella, and the uniformly hysteric media as the Holy Office for the Propagation of the Faith.

“Nobody expects The Deep State… to lose an election!”

Zuckerberg’s downfall was occasioned by one of those desultory acts of egalitarianism that dot his career–but not the kind of egalitarianism liberals prefer– like granting the vote to illegal aliens, opening school lavatories to anyone inclined to drop in, or making college educations free for the asking–no, this time Zuckerberg exhibited the wrong kind of egalitarianism. It wasn’t the first time. For instance, he’d once taken a flukish notion to host a fundraiser for Chris Christie back in 2013, but when shrieks from the Left awakened him to his foolishness, he promptly shifted gears, hosting a still-bigger fundraiser for Corey Booker before flying to San Francisco to march in a Gay Pride parade. The stench blew over.

Sure! Almost definitely! So forget about Chris Christie–think about Utopia, and stuff! Right?

Who killed Mark Zuckerberg?  

But magnanimity was about to run dry. Once Team Hillary wrested the nomination from Bernie Sanders by—well—rigging the vote, an almost supernal calm swept over the establishment. The smugness was almost palpable. The elites had seen the future, and it wore a fuchsia Mao jacket. But something went hideously wrong on the way to the West Wing.

Falling short of expectations….

Without warning, the very election process every liberal panjandrum including President Obama repeatedly touted as unbreachable by any means, and which the self-same panjandrums agreed only a raving ignoramus [read: Donald Trump] would dream of impugning on any basis, lurched incomprehensibly off course.  As of midnight, November 9th, 2016, it became obvious to all the panjandrums that the election process nobody could possibly rig had been riggedso rigged, in fact, that the wrong candidate won.

Armed with this empirical evidence, the liberal panjandrums evolved. They now chorused that presidential elections could not only be rigged, but were so easily rigged that almost anyone could rig one, adding that anyone clueless enough to dispute such an obvious fact was either a raving ignoramus [read: Donald Trump], or worse, duplicitous in rigging the election [read: Donald Trump]. Before long, the lacunar amnesiacs in mainstream media caught up, and the hunt for conspirators began. These events, seemingly absent any connection to Mark Zuckerberg, nonetheless presaged the tech titan’s disgrace. Any hope of escape vanished once the Clintons, the media, and the leaderships of DOJ, the FBI, and the CIA, agreed on messaging.  The Russians did it!

The Zevon effect

As appalled by Clinton’s discomfiture as any other card-carrying progressive, Zuckerberg barely had time to blink before the Inquisition revealed irrefutable evidence of his involvement in the plot to usurp the throne. Suddenly the very news networks whose slobbering affinity Zuck always relied upon, united against him. They called him a menace to the democratic process. They accused him of shocking betrayals, none of which made sense objectively, but at CNN, MSNBC, and the dinosaur networks, objectivity was no object.

OMG, the man’s been in Moscow–all that’s missing is a dossier!

What on earth had Zuck done? Nothing he hadn’t done many times before in the normal course of helming his media monopoly, but now, everything was upside-down. Citizen Zuckerberg was charged with collusion. Worse, he was charged with colluding with Russians. Worse still, his collusion helped put Trump in the White House.                                                                                                                                                (READ MORE)

“CHAPPAQUIDDICK” or, WOOF reviews another film it hasn’t seen!

In "Ready when you are C.B.!" forum on May 14, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Our guarantee of freshness:

Seasoned readers are by now familiar with WOOF’s habit of reviewing films while adhering to our iron-clad rule that no film will be reviewed on our website unless our reviewers have scrupulously avoided seeing it. We believe our strict adherence to this standard ensures that ours are the fairest, most impartial cinema critiques anywhere in cyberspace. Limiting ourselves to movies we haven’t seen obviously frees our analyses of those partialities that would inevitably accrue during any actual exposure to the works under consideration. Apparently quite a few of you agree, as our movie reviews are always among our most popular posts, and among the most visited after time has swept them from our ‘front page’ to our archives. It is therefore with considerable pleasure, and not a little reportorial pride, that we present our latest film review of a movie we haven’t seen, namely “CHAPPAQUIDDICK,” Directed by John Curran, Screenwriters: Taylor Allen; Andrew Logan; cinematography by Maryse Alberti; edited by Keith Fraase.

__________________________

In his Cooper Union speech, Abraham Lincoln offered a timeless condemnation of those who, then as now, proffer compromise as though it were an Aristotelian master stroke. All right, we admit it–some occasions require a little give and take. In certain situations, trade-offs prove the beneficial fruits of what an author once called “the art of the deal.” But far more often they are smarmy abandonments of principle disguised as statesmanship—or what Lincoln denounced as “contrivances…groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong,” which contrivances he proceeded to denounce as “vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man.” Of course, Lincoln was unfamiliar with Schrodinger’s cat, but we digress.

Neither living nor dead.

Ted Kennedy is dead, or, as the Munchkin coroner described the Wicked Witch of the East, “Really most sincerely dead.” And yet, in the interest of even-handedness, (or perhaps less lofty–if completely understandable–considerations) the film Chappaquiddick portrays him as what Lincoln might have called “neither a living man nor a dead man” in the sense that screenwriters Allen and Logan repeatedly subject the Senator to withering fusillades of biographic divulgement, but in each instance demur at administering the coup de gras.

Director Curran–funny, he doesn’t look unhinged.

Why, you may ask, is a temperate, fair-minded organization like WOOF suddenly driven to envenom a film review with so vulgar an instinct as vindictiveness; especially when critics as diverse as Glenn Beck and the Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers agree that Chappaquiddick’s excellence is due largely to its dramatic restraint? Why, when even New York Times film critic A. O. Scott, (though admitting trepidation at the film’s release), is able to offer a complimentary review based on the film’s “forsaking sensationalism for sober, procedural storytelling,” should WOOF take pains to stake out the low ground, and fault Chappaquiddick for the very qualities extolled by so many of its admirers?  We think Barry Goldwater best explained our position during his acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican convention. Conservatives will recall his averral that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” but the Arizonan most precisely summarized our case against John Curran’s new film when he added that “moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” And that’s what Lincoln was trying to tell us, too. And that’s what we are trying to tell you.  In other words, our disappointment stems less from what Chappaquiddick is, than from what it might have been.

“You’re all we’ve got!”

A young Al Lowenstein, around the time he realized there was nothing left but Teddy.

So, imagine for a moment that our film opens in the immediate wake of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, or put another way, at the dawn of the popular jape: “They’re like the Kennedys, all the good ones have been taken!” And as if by way of demonstration, we find ourselves inside the elevator at Good Samaritan Hospital where a shaken, ghostly-pale Teddy (as the press affectionately dubbed Edward Moore Kennedy) is accompanying his slain brother’s body to the basement morgue. Suddenly, the door slides open and a nearly hysterical Al Lowenstein, (Kennedy adviser, anti-war icon, occasional office seeker) rushes aboard. Looking up to glimpse Ted, Lowenstein grabs him by the shoulders, shakes him frantically, and shouts, “Now that Bobby’s gone, you’re all we’ve got!” We zoom in on Ted’s face—he gapes speechlessly at Lowenstein, open-mouthed, petrified, incapable of verbalizing a response. We fade to black and superimpose the words: “One year later…”

Cut to an interior shot aboard an airliner returning from a 1969 congressional trip billed as a fact-finding mission to investigate Inuit poverty in Alaska. Ted Kennedy, (who earlier stumbled drunkenly into the airport at Anchorage shouting “ESKIMO POWAH!”), is now shown surrounded by aids and flight attendants trying to restrain him as he stumbles and reels down the aisle, bellowing, “They’re going to shoot my ass off the way they shot off Bobby’s!” An aide grabs the senator’s spastically waving hand and presses a hot cup of coffee into it. Kennedy grasps the cup, but lurches wildly when a stewardess attempts to guide him toward his seat. He nearly scalds a mother and her infant in the adjacent row. Insensible of the offense, Kennedy continues ranting about his impending doom as his attendants coax him back to his seat. He shouts “ESKIMO POWAHHH!!” a few more times, contenting himself, finally, with tossing dinner rolls at reporters while his team scrambles to pacify the offended passengers.

Next, we watch Teddy’s airliner land in Seattle. Reporters who witnessed the incident dash into the terminal to file their scoops, but we watch in shocked disbelief as the screen shifts to a mélange of newspaper editors and network news producers ordering the story “spiked”—killed—forgotten. It’s 1969, and no writers apart from a handful of vile, shadow-dwelling right-wing misanthropic scribblers of unreviewed, fringe-marketed books (who probably voted for Goldwater and almost certainly for Nixon), report dirt on the Kennedys.

Cut to an exterior shot of Newsweek’s Manhattan headquarters, identifiable by the magazine’s logo blazoned across the building’s top story. We zoom in through a window high above Hanover Square into an office in which a seasoned reporter urgently dials a phone. The screen inserts his name, John Lindsay, and identifies him as “Senate reporter for Newsweek magazine.” This saves confusion among audience members old enough to otherwise mistake him for the contemporaneous mayor of New York City. No, this is John J. Lindsay, accomplished journalist. His appearance raises the prospect of integrity triumphing over sycophancy. And look! Lindsay’s deeply furrowed brow bespeaks grave concern. Perhaps he is laying his job on the line. Perhaps he is phoning his editor, demanding the Kennedy story be told and told truthfully. After all, Lindsay fits a specific Hollywood stereotype geared to resonate with the American psyche–the hardened newshound defending the people’s right to know. Surely, his infectious ardor, his rhetorical passion, will rekindle long-dormant convictions in his veteran editor—Ed Asner, maybe–a crotchety-but-noble industry pro who after a few efforts at dissuasion leans back, pours himself a jigger of rye, and rasps, “Why not? Why not one last crusade!?”

“Why not one last crusade?” Well, Asner probably wouldn’t have done the picture, for one thing!

Disaster waiting to happen!

“That’s right–disaster wairting to happen! No, no, even worse than getting kicked out of Harvard!”

But no, that isn’t what happens. The phone isn’t answered by Lindsay’s editor, it is answered by a mysterious female. Is it—could it be—Joan Kennedy? Jackie, even? Whoever it is, Lindsay begins telling her about the airplane debacle, entreating her to take a hand, to do something “before something really terrible happens!”  “Ted is out of control,” Lindsay insists, and then, in a voice lowered almost to a whisper, he adds, “Ted is under terrible stress—and I’m telling you, if he doesn’t get help, he’s a disaster waiting to happen!

Is that you, Jackie?

Okay, not what we were hoping for, perhaps, but this can still work. We simply cut away from Lindsay’s close up with one of those abruptly jarring Thelonious Monk chords used nowadays to punctuate dramatic movie moments, and we “smash cut” from Lindsay’s under lit office to our main locale–a bucolic, riparian setting in somnolent New England. We find ourselves juxtapositionally tranquilized—but look out! To the nail-biting clang of another Thelonious Monk chord we INSERT TITLE CARD (that’s movie talk) and the screen is suddenly ablaze with a single, momentous word:  Chappaquiddick!

Our story so far….

So, beloved readers, how do you like the movie so far? We think it’s pretty impressive. And historically faithful? Absolutely!  Okay, except for that part about the woman on the other end of Lindsay’s phone call. We made her up, or rather we hypothesized her, because even though almost everyone agrees on the language Lindsay employed, nobody seems certain to whom he spoke it. And there’s one other problem—namely, none of what we just described is actually in the movie. File it under what MAD magazine used to call “scenes we’d like to see.” Historically verifiable, but consigned to the cutting room floor of our imaginations. Chappaquiddick, after all, made it past the New York Times by “forsaking sensationalism,” possibly because Curran knew his biopic, were it sensational even in a manner befitting Edward Kennedy’s depraved life and career, would die aborning—insufficiently immunized against a bilious media, not to mention the wrath of Hyannisport…a malignant force ruinous to the careers of more than a few entertainers, journalists, and biographers, even today.

The post-unassailable plunge….

Teddy, 2004, calling school vouchers “racisst” and “handouts to the wealthy!”

Ted Kennedy, however, is what we might call post-unassailable—although he is probably less annoyed by that fact than the family, having died of brain cancer in 2009.  He was the last of the golden Kennedys–the sons of Joseph and Rose–and his passing was prelude to the waning of the family’s mystique.  A measure of karmic justice is detectable in this, and not a little irony, because the Kennedy legacy fell victim to the very educational policies for which Ted fought tooth and nail—in other words, a single-option, federally regulated archipelago of public schools from which students are routinely graduated despite a conspicuous lack of reading, writing, or ciphering skills, or the merest grasp of science apart from an alertness to global warming.

More significant from the Kennedys’ standpoint, however, is the absence in recent generations of even a glancing acquaintance with American history, apart from an ingrained certitude that Columbus was a genocidal maniac, the Pilgrims were deluded religionists bent on ravaging the environment, that the Founders invented slavery–which was accidentally ended by the Civil War, which was not about slavery—and that Ronald Reagan almost bankrupted the economy with his crazy supply-side economic boom. But Liberalism’s rush to erase any taint of Americanism from our schools came with a hefty side order of blowback. Canons of faith fanatically nurtured by the Left for generations vanished into the same memory hole as George Washington and Sam Adams, a design flaw that left younger Americans untutored in such articles of faith as the saintliness of the Kennedys, the demonic evil of Joe McCarthy, or even such recent taradiddle as the incomparable brilliance of Hillary Clinton.

“Very little, I’m afraid…”

Professor Czitrom –searching for Camelot in the age of Absurdistan.

kind of brutal egalitarianism inhered in public education’s great leap forward: a purification that expunged our past from the lesson plans without regard to any given item’s significance on the political spectrum. Thus, the Kennedys aren’t simply diminished by an educational system grown neglectful of burnishing the family’s mystique. The progressive effort to divorce recent generations from their heritage means the Kennedys are barely mentioned–no more dwelt upon than Ike, Coolidge, or the Teapot Dome Scandal. In 2015, in recognition of 50 years gone by since the assassination of JFK, Professor of History Daniel Czitrom of Mount Holyoke College gave an interview during which he was asked to describe what modern college students know about our 35th president. “Very little, I’m afraid,” was his frank assessment. Small wonder, then, that they know and care even less about his vacuous little brother.

There are, it seems, opinions to the contrary. A review by Susan Wloszczyna suggests Chappaquiddick will do well owing to the presence of the “in-vogue-again Kennedy clan at the center.” On the off-chance that Wloszczyna isn’t nuts, isn’t a resurgence of Kennedymania all the more reason for Chappaquiddick to ‘speak truth to power’ unequivically? But instead we are treated to a barrage of softballs, like dorky Ted vowing to win a regatta, but slamming his sailboat into a marker buoy and catapulting both his passengers into the brine.  Okay, a dramatic foreshadowing of events to come, (and a sailing career littered with rammed obstacles, capsized catamarans, and other madcap feats of incompetence) but nevertheless…?

The “in-vogue-again Kennedy clan,” okay, that blew right past us!

The details, where most dramatically requisite, seem softened to implications. The six “Boiler Room Girls,” as the winsome young staffers formerly employed by Bobby’s campaign were jovially known, are partying in the wake of their boss’s untimely death with a bunch of married guys, one of them being Ted (whose wife Joan is home bedridden with a failing pregnancy soon to end in miscarriage, though the film makes no mention of the fact). Ted is hosting the wingding at the cottage of his chum, lawyer Sidney Lawrence. The cottage is located on Chappaquiddick Island, accessible by ferry from Martha’s Vineyard. So, what really went on at that party?

In the film, we witness a relatively demure replication of nineteen-sixties-style drinking and dancing–demurrer by far than any such festivities featuring Teddy and friends were ever known to be. Indeed, what the Guardian’s reviewer rather inferentially pronounced “a tawdry, boozy weekend” seems more like a scene from a Troy Donahue film of the same era—a bit jazzy and raucous, perhaps, but in an artfully understated Warner Brothers kind of way.

Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne in the party scene from “Chappaquiddick,” or is she auditioning for a remake of “A Summer Place”?

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