Tuesday Reads: Hitchcock, Hearing Aids, and Republican Delusions

Good Morning!!

I’m really looking forward to seeing Hitchcock, the new movie about the making of Psycho. Unfortunately, the film may not come to Muncie, IN, so I might have to just hope it will still be playing in Boston when I get back home sometime in December. If you have a chance to see it where you are, let me know how you like it.

Last night the Wall Street Journal posted an interview with Helen Mirren, who plays the great director’s wife Alma Reville Hitchcock in the new film. Mirren is one of my favorite actresses!

Alfred Hitchcock once said that there were four people who helped make him who he was—one was a film director, one a script writer, one a cook and one the mother of his daughter. “Their names are Alma Reville,” he said of his wife of 44 years, who performed all four roles. In the new biopic “Hitchcock,” Helen Mirren rolls Reville’s many facets into a singular performance.

The movie, which opened in the city over the weekend, traces Hitchcock’s (Anthony Hopkins) effort to make his 1960 classic, “Psycho,” from his struggle with Hollywood studios to finance the picture to Reville’s pivotal role in the movie’s—and her husband’s—success. “I was surprised to find out about the importance of Alma,” Ms. Mirren said recently.

Read what Mirren had to say at the link.

And here’s an interview with Anthony Hopkins, who plays Alfred Hitchcock at “Vulture.”

Do you remember the first time you saw Psycho?

When it first came out in Manchester on a wet September evening and I was knocked out by it. That was the most terrifying film I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe it: Where’s Janet Leigh? She’s got to come back. She’s the star of the movie! I thought she perhaps escaped from the trunk of the car. So I’ve been watching these films over the years, long before I knew I was going to play him.

Did you talk to anyone who worked with Hitchcock? What insights did they share?

I met Janet Leigh in New York, and then later in Hollywood at a function. She said, “Mr. Hitchcock was one of the funniest men I’ve ever worked with. My ex-husband Tony [Curtis] and I used to go to his house in Bel-Air, and we’d laugh ourselves sick, because he was so funny, so wicked, a great practical joker.” She said he wasn’t an easy man to get to know, but she got on with him.

Read lots more at the link.

Psycho came out in 1960, when I was only 12 years old. My parents wouldn’t let me see horror movies, which is probably why I love them so much now. I don’t remember when I first saw Psycho–it must have been on TV, probably in the late 60s or 70s. By then the shock value wasn’t as huge as when the movie first came out.

Entertainment Weekly has a “look back at the mystique of ‘Psycho'” by Owen Glieberman

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was released in the summer of 1960, and in the half a century since, it has become the rare movie in which every image and detail and motif is now, more or less, iconic. Every moment in the movie is a piece of mythological Americana.

In a way that I couldn’t quite say about any other film, I feel as if I’ve spent most of my movie life thinking — and writing — about Psycho. Part of the film’s mystique is that no matter how many times you’ve seen it (and it may be the ultimate movie that you can watch over and over again), it keeps coming back to provoke and tantalize and haunt you. Its power of revelation never wears thin or gets old. It’s one of the only films in Hollywood history — the others, I would say, are The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, and Star Wars — that is so alive, its experience so vivid and immediate and larger-than-life, that it effectively transcends time….

In the infamous shower scene, when that big, fat kitchen knife, wielded by a mysterious Victorian shrew named Mrs. Bates, came slashing down, over and over again, into the body of Marion Crane, it was also slicing through years — decades, centuries — of popular expectation that the hero or heroine of a fictional work would be shielded and protected, or would at least die (usually at the end) in a way that made some sort of moral-dramatic sense. In Psycho, murder made no sense at all; the suddenness — and viciousness — of it tore at the fabric of our certainty. What it suggested is that none of us, in the end, are ever truly protected. Hitchcock seemed to be pulling the rug, the floor, and the earth right out from under the audience. He opened an abyss, exposing moviegoers to a dark side that few, at the time, could ever have dared to imagine.

Eeeeeeeeek!

In other news, I had a big day yesterday. I’ve had moderate hearing loss since I was pretty young–at least since my early 30s. When I first found out I had nerve damage, I was told there was nothing that could be done. My problem was that I had trouble making out words, and hearing aids would only make the garbled words louder.

Technology has advanced over the past 30 years, and yesterday I got some hearing aids, thanks to the generosity of my mother. Suddenly I can hear things that I never heard before. I can hear the words people are saying even if I’m not looking at them and watching their lips. I can hear people when they whisper–previously I couldn’t make out whispering even if the person’s mouth was right next to my ear. It’s just amazing. I hope you don’t mind me sharing that.

Now some national news. Republicans are still trying to figure out why they lost the presidential election and, as Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out last night, they still don’t want to give President Obama any credit for beating them. No, it’s all about demographics, fooling Latinos and women into thinking Republicans actually care about their issues. But what about Asian-Americans, another group that voted for Obama by a lopsided percentage?

Right wing racist Charles Murray argues that the problem (with both Latinos and Asians) is that the Republican Party has tied itself to socially conservative issues (no kidding!)

My thesis is that the GOP is in trouble across the electoral board because it has become identified in the public mind with social conservatism. Large numbers of Independents and Democrats who are naturally attracted to arguments of fiscal discipline, less government interference in daily life, greater personal responsibility, and free enterprise refuse to vote for Republicans because they are so put off by the positions and rhetoric of social conservatives, whom they take to represent the spirit of the “real” GOP….

Asians are only half as likely to identify themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative” as whites, and less than half as likely to identify themselves as Republicans. Asians are not only a lot more liberal than whites; a higher percentage of Asians identify themselves as “liberal” or “extremely liberal” (22%) than do blacks (19%) or Latinos (17%). And depending on which poll you believe, somewhere in the vicinity of 70% of Asians voted for Barack Obama in the last presidential election.

Something’s wrong with this picture. It’s not just that the income, occupations, and marital status of Asians should push them toward the right. Everyday observation of Asians around the world reveal them to be conspicuously entrepreneurial, industrious, family-oriented, and self-reliant. If you’re looking for a natural Republican constituency, Asians should define “natural.”

And so on… bla bla bla…

At the American Prospect, Jamelle Bouie explains to Murray How Not to Appeal to Asian Americans. Hint: cut out the racism.

As with Latinos, Asian American movement to the Democratic Party has a lot to do with with the explicitly anti-immigrant stance of the GOP, as well as the overwhelming sense that the GOP is a party for hidebound whites, and actively hostile toward nonwhites of all stripes.

There’s a policy component in this as well; the Asian American community is highly diverse (ethnically, economically, and otherwise), and there many who would benefit from the core Obama agenda of health care reform, stronger social services, and investments in education and other programs. Still, even with that in mind, it’s fair to say that Asian American support for Obama is as much about inclusion as it is about policy.

Which is why this piece, from conservative scholar Charles Murray, rankles. Rather than consider Asian American political preferences on their own terms—or even acknowledge the range of experience among different Asian American groups—Murray lumps them all into a single, undistinguished mass of model minorities, and then wonders why they don’t vote for Republican candidates.

But Murray’s argument is based on a false premise:

It’s worth noting the implicit contrast here. Entrepreneurism, industriousness, family-orientation, self-reliance—these are things that Murray sees as unique to Republican constituencies. Which must also mean that these are thing that go unvalued by Democratic constituencies, namely, African Americans, Latinos, young people, and single women.

Furthermore, as Bouie notes today’s Republicans actually are a bunch of fundamentalists who are anti-gay and anti-woman. That’s not just a perception, it’s the reality that Charles Murray doesn’t want to accept. It’s not that Latinos, Asians, and African Americans are deluded about the nature of the Republican Party. But what else would you expect from the author of the racist screed The Bell Curve?

Today Susan Rice will begin facing down her Republican critics on Capital Hill.

With congressional opposition softening, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice could find her name in contention as early as this week to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. It’s a step that may signal greater U.S. willingness to intervene in world crises during President Barack Obama’s second term.

As Obama nears a decision on who should be the country’s next top diplomat, Rice has emerged as the clear front-runner on a short list of candidates that many believe has been narrowed to just her and Sen. John Kerry, despite lingering questions over her comments about the deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. Consulate in Libya.

According to congressional aides and administration officials, Rice will be making the rounds on Capitol Hill this week for closed door meetings with key lawmakers whose support she will need to be confirmed. Those appearances follow her first in-depth explanation of her Benghazi remarks that Republicans seized on as evidence of the administration’s mishandling of the attack that took the lives of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

Acting CIA Director Michael Morell will join Rice in her meetings with lawmakers.

Today Rice will meet with Senators John McCain and Kelly Ayotte. When asked about the meeting, McCain was his usual testy self:

McCain said he would ask Rice “the same questions I’ve been talking about on every talk show in America.” Asked whether he thinks she’s still unfit for secretary of state and what he was hoping for, McCain interrupted and said, “I’m not hoping for anything. She asked to see me and I agreed to see her.”

What a jerk. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

I’ll end with this amazing artistic depiction of Republican delusion, Grover Norquist as the Wizard of Oz (via Buzzfeed).

Artist Michael D’Antuono has painted anti-taxi activist Grover Norquist as a Wizard of Oz-like disembodied head with Republican politicians bowing before him as an elephant burns, to symbolize Norquist’s powerful position in the Republican party.


Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Petraeus Absolves Rice on Benghazi; Republicans Still Obsessively Nitpicking

Disgraced General and former CIA Chief David Petraeus testified on the Benghazi attacks in a closed Congressional hearing early this morning. Unsurprisingly, Republicans remain unsatisfied, and Rep. Peter King (D-NY) is running around suggesting that for some bizarre, unknown reason, the White House conspired to hide any terrorist involvement in the Benghazi attacks.

From The Washington Post:

After avoiding a swarm of awaiting reporters and photographers, former CIA director David Petraeus testified behind closed doors Friday that he believes the Sept. 11 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya was an act of terrorism that did not arise out of a spontaneous demonstration, according to a lawmaker who heard the testimony.

“He now clearly believes that it [the Sept. 11 attacks] did not arise out of a demonstration, that it was not spontaneous and it was clear terrorist involvement,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said.

Of course that is what everyone now believes, but Republicans seem determined to find some way to impeach President Obama over Benghazi regardless of what actually happened.

Petraeus gave a 20-minute opening statement to the House panel and took about 70 minutes of questions, according to King, who said that Petraeus testified Friday that the CIA gave the White House and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice information on the Benghazi attack that differed from Rice’s public comments on the incident….

Apparently the talking points were vetted by a number of agencies and at some point a line referring to a group associated with al Qaeda was removed. Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have spent the past couple of days attacking U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for comments she made on Sunday shows soon after the attacks. Her comments were based on the final talking points she, the White House, and Congress received from intelligence community.

Feinstein also rose to Rice’s defense, saying that the ambassador was using talking points based on the best available intelligence just days after the attack.

“They were unclassified talking points at a very early stage,” Feinstein said. “I don’t think she should be pilloried for this. She did what I would have done, or anyone else would have done that was going on a weekend show. We would have said, ‘What talking points can I use?’ and you’d get an unclassified version.”

The WaPo story quotes several Republican Congressmen, including John McCain, who

…called the former general’s testimony “comprehensive, I think it was important, it added to our ability to make judgments about what is clearly a failure of intelligence. He described his actions and that of his agency, their interaction with other agencies and I appreciate his service and his candor.”

The AP managed to find some Democrats to talk to.

After the hearings, lawmakers said Petraeus testified that the CIA’s draft talking points written in response to the assault on the diplomat post in Benghazi that killed four Americans referred to it as a terrorist attack. But Petraeus told the lawmakers that reference was removed from the final version, although he wasn’t sure which federal agency deleted it.

Democrats said Petraeus made it clear the change was not made for political reasons during President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

“The general was adamant there was no politicization of the process, no White House interference or political agenda,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “He completely debunked that idea.”

Schiff said Petraeus said Rice’s comments in the television interviews “reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly.”

In addition, Petraeus made it clear that he and others at the CIA approved the final draft of the talking points that were given to Susan Rice.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said Petraeus explained that the CIA’s draft points were sent to other intelligence agencies and to some federal agencies for review. Udall said Petraeus told them the final document was put in front of all the senior agency leaders, including Petraeus, and everyone signed off on it.

“The assessment that was publicly shared in unclassified talking points went through a process of editing,” Udall said. “The extremist description was put in because in an unclassified document you want to be careful who you identify as being involved.”

….

Schiff said Petraeus said Rice’s comments in the television interviews “reflected the best intelligence at the time that could be released publicly.”

“There was an interagency process to draft it, not a political process,” Schiff said. “They came up with the best assessment without compromising classified information or source or methods. So changes were made to protect classified information.”

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said it’s clear that Rice “used the unclassified talking points that the entire intelligence community signed off on, so she did completely the appropriate thing.” He said the changes made to the draft accounts for the discrepancies with some of the reports that were made public showing that the intelligence community knew it was a terrorist attack all along.

And, as we all know, the day after the attacks President Obama referred to them as terrorist acts.

So that’s where it stands for now–until the next press conference by John McCain and his sidekicks Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte.