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Jewish World Review
Dec. 22, 2005
/ 21 Kislev, 5766
Here's the movie the President's critics would write
Setting: the office of B., a Hollywood producer. A writer, K., enters.
B: Loved the script, powerful and timely. I know your agent has gone over the changes we swapped out the Muslim terrorists for Mormon Nazis, and instead of trying to set off a nuke in New York they're to assassinate a new Supreme Court nominee who's pro-choice. Streisand is totally on board for the role and everyone smells Oscar. Anyway. There's this scene here at the Department of Central Security is that real?
K: It's a composite.
B: Right, right, super-secret stuff. I see lots of monitors on the walls and really dim lighting and James Earl Jones grabbing phones and barking stuff like "Get me our man in Beirut," right? Except in this case it would be, I don't know, Beirutah, because they're Mormons. Hah! Work that in. Anyway. It's on page 35. The hero we changed the ex-SpecOps guy to a discharged transsexual Navy sniper whose pregnant daughter was raped by a GI who came back from Iraq all bent. We kept the name, though. Anyway. She's watching this board where they track outgoing calls, catches a call going from a known terrorist in Washington to another terrorist cell in Hamburg, and she picks up and listens. Don't get my wrong, I have the highest respect for your talent, but, uh, don't you think this is a little far-fetched?
K: Which part?
B: You expect audiences to accept that they'll just tap a call without a court order? We want them to like these guys.
K: (Scowling) Well, if the movie had to wait for the warrant they would have never stopped the bombing plot in the last reel, so unless you want them sitting around playing sudoku ...
B: My wife loves that game! She's addicted!
K: I'll arrange an intervention. Look, I researched this. The president can order a tap if Bad Guy A in Kansas calls Bad Guy B in Wackostan with details on tonight's bombing. Why worry about that? This town makes 200 cop movies a year and the closest you get to Miranda, let alone a warrant, is saying "You have the right to remain dead" after shooting a suspect. C'mon. This is what people want. It makes them feel better to think there are smart people sitting around a dark room plugged into satellites, intercepting plans by sleeper cells and saboteurs to destroy America. It's something they expect the government to do.
B: I know, I know, but what if we went "Munich" on this one here, showed the emotional toll of all this? Say the call was innocent. "Hey, Bob, how you doing, howza wife and kids." And then we pick up the story 10 years later where the government is tapping everyone's phones and the hero realizes, my G-d or Buddha or whatever, "I am responsible for this." It's like that old saying, "First they came for the library records under the Patriot Act and I said nothing, because I didn't use the library," and so on. You know?
K: So the former Marine intelligence officer fighting Islamist terrorism is now a transgendered Buddhist so concerned about the effect of no-warrant intercepts she lets Barbra Streisand get assassinated.
B: Well, we'll send out the last act to some script doctors, but yeah. Basically. These are different times.
K: You make it sound like you'd end Casablanca with an arrest warrant for Claude Rains because he shot the Nazi.
B: Hey, things were different then. That was war.
K: And this isn't?
B: (Looking out the window) I don't see anything on fire. Do you?
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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.
© 2005, James Lileks