Saturday, December 30, 2006

2006 Begone

I began blogging daily (nightly) back on March 5, 2006. This was after a failed attempt two years earlier, and inspired by a post-Oscar phone call to a friend's house.

The deal I made with myself at the time was to post every day and to cover the two areas that had me opinionating the most with friends who shared similar passions, politics and entertainment. Since I work in the entertainment field, I choose to write only about works or creators that inspire me. With politics, anything goes. Hopefully it won't come back to bite me, but without free political speech, what is America?

Posting daily means that I'm writing daily, which is something I've been trying to do for decades, not always with consistent success. By success I mean just putting something, anything down, without stalling due to internal judgments or external priorities. It also means giving voice to the notions rattling around in my head, releasing them so to uncrowd my mental space. In public. Yeow.

I'm happy to report that, despite a horrific year for death by Bush Administration policy (and I use the term loosely) including so many U.S. soldiers, Iraqi civilians and, in a novelistic capper, an asshole named Saddam Hussein surrounded by ski-masked execution thugs crazily reminiscent of the beheading videos and other cheap snuff imagery, the blog decision has made me (to date) a happier person.

My thanks go out to the readers of Nettertainment, regular, infrequent or one-times, but with special appreciation for those of you who manage to keep checking in. It's been a pleasure to be part of the public discourse, thanks to your attentions.

The commitment to posting daily is a rigor more than anything else, a discipline that I've actually enjoyed even with the costs in sleep deprivation and probably the loss in other off-hour productivity. It's one I currently intend to continue, and will also continue to respond to every reader comment posted.

There's no telling where the New Year will lead, what with the dangers to our nation, the expansion of our arts, and the pressures of a new job I began in early December, but since I'll still have those pesky opinions and evangelical urges clamoring for release, it seems that bloggery is the best therapy.

Thanks again for your patronage, and it's on to 2007.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Edwards

In a more forthright manner than any Hillary or Obama thus far, John Edwards announced his candidacy for President on Thursday morning in the heart of Katrinaland.

Sure, he's only been a one-term Senator, but for the past two years he's actually been leading organizations fighting poverty in America. He's the only major candidate talking about that issue. Is that a message that is going to resonate enough to capture the Democratic Party's nomination and, beyond that, win a spot in the Oval Office?

While by no means do I feel he's a lock, I do think it foolish to underestimate John Edwards. Here's a self-made guy who's made a successful living defending individual citizens against corporations, been nominated Vice President, with an awesome wife (Elizabeth Edwards would be a brilliant First Lady -- with a direct line to The View, no doubt), and the tragic character builder of losing a 16 year-old son.

Strategically, Jon Stafford has a majorly informative comment on this DailyKos posting on Edwards in New Hampshire today (overflow crowds), saying it could be Edwards' race to lose:
Say Al Gore decides not to get in. Barack Obama may very well turn out to be a flash in the pan. In fact, one could argue that anyone getting so much attention THIS far out is bound to crash. Remember, at this point in 2003 Howard Dean was picking out cabinet members. And I think Hillary Clinton is going to surprise a lot of observers by how badly she does in the primaries.

And about those primaries (and caucuses)? It goes Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, in that order. Edwards has a huge lead in Iowa, where he's been working the labor vote since, well, 2004. And he practically wins South Carolina by default. If he wins those two, then either does well or wins in either Nevada or New Hampshire (or both) he has HUGE momentum going into Feb. 5, where 4 out of the 8 contests (Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, and Missouri) are places where he would be expected to do very well. Hell, if things went right, he could be practically unbeatable by early February.

It's just one scenario, but it's very plausible.

Chris Matthews and his commenters are also in the don't underestimate camp. Already rocking in Des Moines. Collected $262k and counting at Act Blue since Thursday morning (where to go if you want to give an early boost to his campaign).

I haven't always been a huge fan of Edwards, but he's reputed his vote to authorize El Presidente Bush to attack Iraq and is spreading the meme that the Bush/Cheney/McCain/Lieberman "surge" should be called by its true name, "escalation" like we did back in Vietnam at the same juncture(s).

Assuming Al stays out, how about an Edwards/Obama ticket? Too callow for these terrorist times, or maybe the breath of fresh air that Bill & Al delivered -- a youthful countenance, a system reboot for America -- something no GOP candidate can deliver?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Remedial

Three and a half years ago when I read a headline like, "Bush making "good progress" on new Iraq plan", I felt that impending sense of doom, that the bastard was going to launch the war like rolling America's dice at Caesar's Palace and no one in America was going to stop him.

Today when I read "Bush making "good progress" on new Iraq plan" I wonder how remedial our Presidente really must be, and why should anyone expect him to make any of the right decisions once he's finished Decidering.

All through the day, different news services trying to brush up the loxy headline:
Bush taking more time to craft Iraq plan
Bush hails Iraq plan progress
Bush closing in on new Iraq strategy

and the classic
Bush to convene top aides ahead of decision on Iraq

All with this same poorly stage-managed build-up, as if the world is suddenly to believe that El Presidente is suddenly a deliberative man. Prone to good sense, and care for the welfare of anything other than his reputation as "the guy who lost a war".

Escalate it long enough (two years) and you can pin it on the next election winner.

If you want to see the pathos written on the faces of the losers, here's Dick, Bob, George, Condi, and Peter at the Crawford ranch.

Dick has lost his swagger, maybe it didn't help hearing his ex-boss thought he made a huge error going into Iraq.

Bob Gates, new in replacing Donny Rumsfeld, is the faceless messenger from on high. By the photo he appears to be in league with General Peter Pace, matching blazers while all the other outfits clash, new for an Admin press briefing. Pace who has had moments of candor leak out in press conferences. Here he looks like the haunted gunslinger.

Then there's Condiloser Rice. Her trademark glower appears turned inward. She's smart enough to know all is lost. It couldn't help to have analyses like this going out on the wire, but then I'm one of those folks who thinks she never paid the price for 9/11 happening on her watch as National Security Advisor. Her watch.

And what to say about Dumbya. His medicine show goes on, a profile chiseled in duty. Still confidently dragging all of them down.

Most telling is this side shot of their arrival. Dick leads George, up ahead, with a pace and a half separating them from Condi, back with the realists.

Even Crawford isn't safe. Cindy arrested again. Back on Bush's doorstep.

The only good news is Bush's bloodthirst gets quenched within forty-eight hours. Will that be enough for him to declare "Exit with Victory" (or should I say, "Peace with Honor"?"

Was Gerald Ford's death an omen, a harbinger of El Presidente's future?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wonderful Redux

I've been reading Jim Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation blog for the better part of the year now, and while he only posts a few times a month, he never disappoints. Jim's raison d'etre is to warn us all, Cassandra-like, about the coming crash of our entire American suburban system when we hit the downhill slope of peak oil and our entire car-nation is forced off the roads.

While I recommend reading any of Jim's non-compromising posts, he put up a particularly provocative one for the holidays, his take on Frank Capra's classic film It's a Wonderful Life, extrapolating out on George Bailey's mission to spread suburbia vs. what has really happened to the small town centers Capra valorized in the picture:
In one of the movie's major set pieces, George Bailey opens Bailey Park, a tract of car-dependent cookie-cutter bungalows, and turns over the keys to the first house to the Italian immigrant Martini family. Had the story continued beyond 1946 into, say, the 1980s, (with George Bailey now a doddering Florida golfer), we would have seen the American landscape ravaged by suburban development, and the main street towns like Bedford Falls gutted and left for dead. That was the perverse outcome of George Bailey's good intentions.

Kunstler sorta nearly rhymes with curmudgeon and, with his usual intelligence, insight and, I'm scared to say, capacity for prediction, he'll make you see that beloved picture in a whole different light.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Mythbusting

In memorial for former U.S. President Gerald R. Ford, who died today, who rarely gets the credit for ending our involvement in the Vietnam War (it seems to go to disgraced former President Richard M. Nixon, even though the fall of Saigon happened after he left office), I give you Professor Juan Cole's "Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2006".

Coming in at #1 with, er, a bullet:
1. Myth number one is that the United States "can still win" in Iraq.

Read it and weep.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Godfather

I was fortunate enough to see James Brown in a small club, the famed Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, in Providence, Rhode Island, about twenty-six count 'em twenty-six years ago. That put The Godfather of Soul in his late 40's, although we were sure he must have been 50, neither of which seems as old to me now as it did then.

It had been a long time since his last surge, which began in 1970 when "Sex Machine" inspired the disco era, and while we had been listening to 1962's Live at the Apollo, particularly the medley kicking off with "Please Please Please" and my personal favorite, "Night Train," which doubles as a railroad anthem and a popular brand of rotgut, that record was more an anomaly. You couldn't really believe that guy seriously still existed because he was putting on a high-energy performance like you'd never thought possible.

So there's maybe a hundred or so of us facing the stage where we first saw The Pretenders or Dead Kennedys or The Go-Gos, and he's a got a pretty big band including horns, percussion, female back-up singers, and they come out before him and play a couple numbers to warm everyone up. Then out comes who I figure must be his longtime announcer, Danny Ray, doing a routine like you can see here, the best intro I've ever seen live onstage, and finally out comes this force of nature, a man not to be denied.

We started dancing immediately.

None of us could believe the splits this supposed past-his-time geezer was snapping into. Like a super-funk robot, but so unmistakably alive, kicking our asses.

One of the highlights was when he actually sat down at the keyboards. He was a great player.

The show was very generous on time, but it was just like a party you didn't want to leave because this one guy at the center was, for lil' ol' us, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. In America, however long he was onstage.

Here's his 1966 genius with the band on Ed Sullivan ("Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" segueing quickly into "I Feel Good") and aside from the wrinkles and other time effects, he was essentially the same singer/dancer, except muscled with age and post-disco evolution. Like when he did climaxed with a fifteen minute-long version of "Sex Machine". Mature, powerful, incredibly funky.

The whole band, the back-up singer interplay, the true soul power; a really great night courtesy of the Godfather's faith in himself which was, after all, his exhortation to all of us. Please, please, please, indeed. Please don't let the barriers -- the poverty, the racism -- keep you down. Please don't be afraid to do things no one has done before and keep doing them in between when they're in style. Please lead the state police on a high-speed car chase down Interstate 20.

Within five years Brown was up on the charts again with "Living in America," his stock rising as rap and hiphop hit the mainsteam, those artists acknowledging him influence. We were lucky to see him so close up that night, his hot moves and cold sweat. Bigger venues followed.

So I'm moved to hear that James Brown has died. The man clearly had his O.O.C. side, but he gave so much to popular music and was so influential to our culture, not to mention the African-American pride revolution, that I can't celebrate him any less. Are we not happier for his having shared his time?

And hey, talk about timing, how about it that The Godfather of Soul goes out on Christmas Day?

Just like having Baby Jesus as your announcer; giving up the biggest intro of all time.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Pix

The New York Times has a stunning collection of photos from this past year, and the selection will jog your memory and sear your vision.

Not surprisingly, the Israel-Lebanon War and the Iraq War topline here, but there may be other events you have forgotten or maybe just didn't follow. Like, I never realized there was this historical democratic election in the Congo.

Did you?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Meat

Just in case you're still wondering Why We Fight, there's this ceremony (not open to the general public) that took place in Najaf on Wednesday to mark the turnover of security responsibilities to Iraqi forces, a first for the newly catastrophic country.

Highlights, courtesy of The Los Angeles Times:
As U.S. commanders and guests watched, the burly commandos in dark green T-shirts began taking bites out of the frogs.

One man knelt, placed the rabbit belly-up on his lap, and cut it open with his military knife. He screamed as he bit the rabbit's heart, then handed the carcass to his companions, who began gnawing away, blood flowing down their cheeks.

I hesitate to imagine what they served at the reception following.

Darndest

I'm usually a junkie for end-of-year 10 Best Lists, particularly for movies. But this "Most outrageous comments of 2006" from Media Matters takes the cake.

It's like an advertisement for the Republican Party, via their conservative commentator army, as racist, sexist, homophobic, Christian-paranoid, and a clear & present danger to the survival of our planet who should not be allowed access to nuclear weapons.

I won't excerpt any here both because the riches are too great to choose from and because I generally dislike sullying Nettertainment with any free p.r., no matter how negative, for these individuals. Not one book sold because you read the name here first, I hope.

The kicker on the piece are a list of Fox News captions, led by:
"All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?"

If you just can't get enough, Mr Populist has "TOP 20 All-Time Stupid Republican Quotes" up at Daily Kos. Just a few are from this year -- he's even got GOP President Herbert Hoover making a jackass out of himself.

Here I'll allow a personal favorite, from first term W. Attorney General John Ashcroft: "I feel the best way to ensure Americans' freedom is to tighten restrictions on that freedom in any way possible."

Hey, considering this bounty quotes, how's this as a slogan for Today's GOP:
Enemies of Democracy

Catchy?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Iran

Nettertainment is no fan of flaming anti-Semite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the last thing I want to see is us ruining another beautiful country over this asshole. The fact is that his only power in foreign affairs is the publicity he can generate, because the mullahs, who are also huge assholes but not as crazily megalomaniacal, make all the decisions and important contacts. The ones that move oil and weapons around.

Since I know a number of Persian Americans, I know from their connections and visits back in Iran that the people, in general, hate the mullahs and have an exponentially more favorable opinion of the U.S. than every other country in that region.

But if we start blockading, instigating, shooting or bombing over there, we're making a whole new country full of enemies.

The Baker Group advises taking diplomatic steps with Iran, with the idea that we work smartly vis-a-vis their self-interest (such as regime preservation) as a means to advance some of our own goals in that region.

No way, not as long as Shadow President Cheney is running our El Presidente's foreign policy, and not as long as that man is President. They are ideologically opposed. Not wired that way. And far from correct about it.

Here's what The New York Times is saying in their Friday editorial, "Saner Voices in Iran" about how by not doing anything, we're letting Ahmadinejad lose from within:
The clearest evidence of Mr. Ahmadinejad's troubles came in last week's elections for municipal offices and the national council that oversees the work of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Mr. Ahmadinejad├é’s supporters fared surprisingly poorly. The main gainers came from two very different opposition groups, one aligned with former President Ali Rafsanjani, an establishment conservative, and the other with remnants of the cautious reform movement led by former President Mohammad Khatami.

And he's getting faaaaced by puny students:
Last week, in a remarkable show of courage, students at one of Tehran'’s elite universities openly denounced Mr. Ahmadinejad as a dictator and a fascist, forcing him to cut short his planned address.

The Times favors economic pressure/sanctions tied to that President's nuclear ambitions to make matters worse among his own electorate.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is so paranoid that public opinion might shift hard enough into pressuring them to negotiate, they even redacted a major portion of a Times op-ed by ex-CIA Analyst Flynt Leverett advocating a "grand bargain" with Iran as they've wanted since before the Iraq War -- only Bush completely shunned them then and we're in an indescribably weaker position to negotiate now.

The first half of the piece reveals how Bush and his neocon team completely botched their chance to influence that country by squandering all the ripe diplomatic opportunities. Much of this is blacked out by the pathologically humiliated Administration. (Is that Dick's pen running through it? Karl's? Hadley's?)

Then in developing the second half:
Iran will only cooperate with the United States, whether in Iraq or on the nuclear issue, as part of a broader rapprochement addressing its core security concerns. This requires extension of a United States security guarantee -- effectively, an American commitment not to use force to change the borders or form of government of the Islamic Republic -- bolstered by the prospect of lifting United States unilateral sanctions and normalizing bilateral relations. This is something no United States administration has ever offered, and that the Bush administration has explicitly refused to consider.

The only way to diminish any Iranian threat, believes Leverett, is to negotiate all the concerns at once. From where I sit today, it seems impossible that BushCheney Co. will do anything but let it slip away:
If President Bush does not move decisively toward strategic engagement with Tehran during his remaining two years in office, his successor will not have the same opportunities that he will have so blithely squandered.

Is there anyone who believes for a second that Bush won't try to screw over the next guy who gets his job? Especially if it's a Democrat?

Is there anyone who believes, whether well-intentioned or foolish or just plain-vanilla evil, that George W. Bush won't end up screwing over the people of America?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Politi-flicks: Freeze Frame

Courtesy of Crooks and Liars, follow along:

:05 Petulance.

:06 Furrowed brow, with "toughie" tongue, the wind-up.

:20 Smug but feeling quick on his feet as he clicks into a proudly prepared answer.

:21 Feigns trying to keep his condescension to himself.

:28 Fake thoughtfulness, tip head towards Jesus for effect.

:31 Condescending smile of fear.

:39 The big snake oil moment, his customary sell face. Like you'd be an asshole to everyone in the room if you contradicted him.

:50 Glimpses the abyss.

:59 Rehearsed hand movement.

1:02 Overly self-congratulates for having executed hand movement.

1:03 Working hard to see his confidence, not convincing.

1:06 Hand movement reprise, more relaxed this time, signaling he made it through the question.

1:09 Channeling smug to the heavens.

1:27 Thinks you're a two year old.

2:02 Been seeing this look more and more. I call it, "Credibility Implosion."

2:13 Rather fey head shake.

2:24 Counts to one on his thumb.

2:32 Cowboy move. (Practiced.)

2:34 More petulance, with a playing cute kicker. (Trademark side grin to someone in the audience he's acknowledging, gives sense of private joke, meant to communicate regular guy-ishness. Practiced.)

2:48 The coiling.

2:52 Springs the trap, confident, thinks he's sealing the deal courtesy his target's public humiliation. This is the Bush the Asshole look he used to sling around a lot more often up until last month's election.

2:54 Symmetrical hand/arm gesture, father knows best.

3:00 Smug condescension.

3:10 Over-the-hill snake oil salesman.

3:12 Actually appears to be thinking, comes off goofy.

3:15 Condescendingly smug symmetrical hand/arm movements.

3:21 The conciliatory "I need a friend, too" smile.

3:25 Make no mistake about it, I'm a serious guy.

3:37 The world's biggest loser, because he thinks he's won.

Is it any wonder that "We're not winning, we're not losing?"



As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Surgeless

Am I the only one who thinks this sudden floating of the troop "surge" strategy for Iraq sounds inescapably compensatory?

As they used to say in the Bronx, "I've got your surge right here!" meaning, of course, in my pants.

Are all of us taxpayers and world citizens and soldiers going to pay an additional surcharge on the Iraq War so that dickhead can save face?

From a reader of Talking Points Memo:
It hit me the other day that what the surge is going to accomplish for Bush and Cheney is to take them through these next two years. By the time they can claim to have the extra troops in Baghdad it's gonna be May or June. They'll be there a few months till everyone has to admit that it isn't working (though in the interim I would predict the first really horrendous event in which our troops suffer a big loss, like 200 men in one blast), then it will be the end of 2007 and the argument will be about whether we should remove some of the surge troops. That will take a few months, at least, and we'll be in the throes of a presidential election. Bush won't want to do anything too "political" at that point, of course, so he'll happily leave it to the new prez to make shitcakes out of shit. And Bush and Cheney will spin it for all it's worth for the rest of their lives...

The very definition of evil.

Here's what former diplomat Richard Haass tells Der Spiegel:
Spiegel: Is Iraq still winnable for the United States?

Haass: We've reached a point in Iraq where we've got to get real. And this is not going to be a near-term success for American foreign policy. The Iraq situation is not winnable in any meaningful sense of the word "winnable." So what we need to do now is look for a way to limit the losses and costs, try to advance on other fronts in the region and try to limit the fallout of Iraq. That's what you have to do sometimes when you're a global power.

Contrasted to this report from professional sycophant, Fred Barnes:
It turns out you only have to attend a White House Christmas party to find out where President Bush is headed on Iraq. One guest who shook hands with Bush in the receiving line told him, "Don't let the bastards get you down." Bush, slightly startled but cheerful, replied, "Don't worry. I'm not." The guest followed up: "I think we can win in Iraq." The president's reply was emphatic: "We're going to win." Another guest informed Bush he'd given some advice to the Iraq Study Group, and said its report should be ignored. The president chuckled and said he'd made his position clear when he appeared with British prime minister Tony Blair. The report had never mentioned the possibility of American victory. Bush's goal in Iraq, he said at the photo-op with Blair, is "victory."

How seductive, the fantasies of power and subjugation.

Richard Haass knows that this "winning" talk is, despite what the limited man believes, beside the point. He favors opening negotiations with, among others, Syria and Iran and lays out a very clear and persuasive argument in a Foreign Affairs piece, "The New Middle East".

What makes him so convincing is his laying out four eras of modern Middle East history, the beginning with Napoleon entering Egypt in 1798:
The first era ended with World War I, the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of the Turkish republic, and the division of the spoils of war among the European victors. What ensued was an age of colonial rule, dominated by France and the United Kingdom. This second era ended some four decades later, after another world war had drained the Europeans of much of their strength, Arab nationalism had risen, and the two superpowers had begun to lock horns. "[He] who rules the Near East rules the world; and he who has interests in the world is bound to concern himself with the Near East," wrote the historian Albert Hourani, who correctly saw the 1956 Suez crisis as marking the end of the colonial era and the beginning of the Cold War era in the region.

Most remarkably, the Fourth Era, where the U.S. enjoyed its greatest latitude in the region, began with the actions of the father and ended with the disaster of the son. It's oh so Shakespearean:
What has brought this era to an end after less than two decades is a number of factors, some structural, some self-created. The most significant has been the Bush administration's decision to attack Iraq in 2003 and its conduct of the operation and resulting occupation. One casualty of the war has been a Sunni-dominated Iraq, which was strong enough and motivated enough to balance Shiite Iran. Sunni-Shiite tensions, dormant for a while, have come to the surface in Iraq and throughout the region. Terrorists have gained a base in Iraq and developed there a new set of techniques to export. Throughout much of the region, democracy has become associated with the loss of public order and the end of Sunni primacy. Anti-American sentiment, already considerable, has been reinforced. And by tying down a huge portion of the U.S. military, the war has reduced U.S. leverage worldwide. It is one of history's ironies that the first war in Iraq, a war of necessity, marked the beginning of the American era in the Middle East and the second Iraq war, a war of choice, has precipitated its end.

If you have any interest at all in peering into the future of the region, I urge reading the whole article. Haass tells us the 12 defining characteristics of the years ahead, offers two cautions and two opportunities to be seized, albeit with a jumbo warning label.

At this stage in our history I expect that any action Bush/Cheney Co. takes in Iraq will fail, because I have no faith in their ability to judge, implement or lead. They are losers in their very own Fantasy Baseball League, and everybody knows it. Everybody.

Is it any wonder Brooklyn-born Richard Haass left his post in the Administration advising then-Secretary of State Colin Powell at the end of 2003?

The year of The Invasion.

The first surge.

Mouth

Does Judith Regan kiss her mama with that mouth?
Ms. Regan went on to say that the literary agent Esther Newberg; HarperCollins'’s executive editor, David Hirshey; HarperCollins's president, Jane Friedman, and Mr. Jackson "constitute a Jewish cabal against her."

A lawyer for Ms. Regan, Bert Fields, denied that Ms. Regan had said there was a "“Jewish cabal against her," saying she used only the word "cabal" in the conversation, and it came in response to a question from Mr. Jackson. But he acknowledged that she had made some version of the first statement, drawing attention to the fact that her boss and others involved in the controversy over the aborted O.J. Simpson project were Jewish.

He denied, though, that this reflected any anti-Semitism.

Thank goodness. And here I was worried about a Mel Gibson moment.

Hold on a minute.

Is anti-Semitism the new black?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Where we are now with That Man

The two poles: George W. Bush and how the American public now thinks of George W. Bush.

No matter how deep the polled disapproval of el Presidente, how clear the message sent this past Election Day, or how the new Democratic House and Senate may be willing and able to counter his awfulness, this guy is never going to change.

You can give him all the evidence you like on his "listening tour," but he's the enemy of reason, the enemy of liberal democracy, the enemy of withdrawal from the colossal mistake that will forever brand his Presidency and be linked with his name. He's not the guy you need to convince; he's the guy you need to argue against. If only there were some other Decider to before whom to present your arguments.

El Presidente George W. Bush is, essentially, a brick wall. As such, it is a waste of time to consider him further.

On the other hand, that psychotheraputic patient in a permanent state of clinical transference, the U.S. electorate's relationship to the country's Presidency, has taken a rather heartening turn towards what the first term Bush aides so smugly referred to as "the reality-based community."

TX Unmuzzled writes on Daily Kos about a Meet the Press interview with David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, both of The New York Times op-ed page, both supporters of the Iraq War during the lead-up and quite a bit into it (Brooks much farther than Friedman, but since he already writes the "conservative" column Brooks is in some ways less egregious than Friedman for having given that support).

The surprise to TX was that the MTP guests were:
...talking logically and agreeing on formerly very partisan (republican lies), with the fog lifted, and were really calling out this failed administration and its failed war, with dire warnings about them not facing reality. Brooks said the "Republican elite" in Washington will not allow the president to "destroy their party over this war." They "do not want to face another election ['08] like this last one again." That's an understatement.

Brooks admitted he wasn't "facing reality" a "year or two ago" when he also was "blaming the media" for biased coverage of Iraq - in direct contradiction to the White House defense and first lady's ridiculous interview this week.

It's Bush, Cheney and assorted asshole cronies vs. EVERYONE ELSE.

For a perceptive analysis of why this has (finally) happened, I highly recommend a short piece by Christopher Caldwell in this Sunday's NYT Magazine entitled, "The Vanishing". It's all the more interesting that Caldwell is a senior editor at the rightwing/neocon The Weekly Standard. The set up:
This latest landslide is different. The losers seem to believe they got what was coming to them. In Washington, leaving aside those legislators and staff members whose oxen have been gored most directly, there is little discontent. You can sit at a table full of Republican journalists and consultants and hear them describe feelings ranging from "relieved" to "“giddy."” You might reasonably assume that this reaction is more pronounced the farther you get from Washington. What makes the country so unanimously content with its new leaders?

The argument he develops is that the way politicians sell themselves changed as the '60's generation came to power, bringing with it that particular narcissism and appeal to self -- i.e. the idea that Bush beat Gore and Kerry because he was more of a buddy figure:
The recent election feels like something more intimate than a personnel change. It feels like the beginnings of an escape from a twisted relationship. The episodes that the most fed-up people cite against Bush are extraordinarily personal. Those angry at his failure to manage last year'’s floods in New Orleans will always mention his testimonial to the head of FEMA, Michael Brown, "“Brownie, you'’re doing a heck of a job."” You get the impression that the president's chipper tone bugs people as much as the mistaken assessment. More recently, Bush asked incoming Senator Webb how his son, a Marine fighting in Iraq, was faring. "“I'’d like to get them out of Iraq,"” Webb said.

"“That's not what I asked you. How'’s your boy?"

"That'’s between me and my boy, Mr. President."

This testy but perfectly proper exchange between ideological adversaries made newspapers all over the country.

Why are opinions so personal when it comes to President Bush? Because he has frequently sought, like the child of the 1960s that he is, to blur the line between the personal and the political. Posing as an amiable guy rather than a partisan politician has great advantages in democratic power politics. Even if not all of them vote for you, most Americans want to believe that their president is a jolly good fellow. But when a politician makes likability a substitute for authority, his opponents make hatred a substitute for opposition. Some people marveled at Clinton'’s empathy. But the people who hated it, hated it. His claim to "“feel your pain"” enraged many.

Caldwell argument is that for those among the President's previous supporters who have turned have turned against him, it's personal. I can only hope that means no backsliding, because for the next two years it'll take all the king's horses to restrain the Bush/Cheney duo from, in my humble estimation, plunging us into WWIII.

Looking Ahead

Smackdown.

Drop-out.

Comer.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Authoritative

I've been a fan of the Golden Globe Awards for years, from before the industry started taking them seriously and actually fighting for them. For one thing, unlike the Oscars, it's a room where the talent gets to drink, and they have a history of loosening up. For another, TV stars get to be in the same room with movie stars, so it feels more democratic to start. For a third, by dividing the top categories into Dramatic and Comedy/Musical, not only do more films and actors get recognized, but terrific comedies that end up losing Oscars to "serious" pictures are given their day in the sun.

I'm also appreciative of the Writer's Guild of America for making sure some friends of mine at least got decent minimum payments and residuals, and as a place to register screenplays which I've done like everybody else on every single block here in Los Angeles.

So it's with those kind thoughts in mind that I make the rare Nettertainment criticism of anything entertainment.

How is it that both groups, the internationally sophisticated Hollywood Foreign Press and the in-the-trenches themselves writers of the guild, have failed to nominate either The Wire (egregious) or Battlestar Galactica (easier to explain, but still egregious), to any awards?

Between the two -- not a single nomination.

I've got links here to both listings on Ain't It Cool News -- Globes and WGA -- which have the much appreciable benefit of comments from the site's readers seconding my opinion and in many cases going a lot further with the vitriol (not surprising for AICN, of course).

The Wire's precursor, Homicide: Life on the Streets, had a similar problem with lack of official awards respect. It finally earned it's only Oscar the year Andre Braugher left the cast, for Andre as a kind of show representative. Braugher didn't expect to win but gave a sweet speech thanking "the ladies in the office" and that was it.

Battlestar may be getting ignored because of the genre and the channel (SciFi), but to ignore both the mind-expanding imagination going into the plotting and the full-frontal counterpoint on the Iraq War in a mistake. The Wire may be hurt by being an East Coast show with non-Hollywood writers (even if three of them are novelists who have written bestsellers). It's not the same as rewarding the guys working in town with you all those years.

Maybe both shows are just under-viewed. Maybe it's The Shock of the New and in a few years time, thanks to DVD box sets. Maybe The Wire will receive it's awards after the fifth and final season, kinda like the valedictory award for Homicide and the Best Picture win for The Lord of Rings: The Return of the King.

I have to be so superficial as to really care. I know, I know, Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks never won competitive directing Oscars. It's only partially about the work; there's a whole slew of political and perception shoals to navigate.

I guess it's just the desire to see the work I feel so strongly about get rewarded, so that more people think to view it, more people with whom to share the pleasures, discuss the details and ambiguities, do the yap-yap.

> Sigh. <

Is their any love more pitiable than that of the unrequited fan?

Politi-flicks: Et, tu, Laura?

You have to go back to Pat Nixon to find a Presidential wife making less of an active impression than Laura Bush, and now that she does speak she's supporting her spouse by castigating the media.

It's a time-old technique only these days the sheer number of actual bombings, abductions, tortured corpse discoveries and U.S. service people dying each week is making that technique look shopworn at best, pathologic at worst.

Here's the clip (on Crooks and Liars) that's got me intriqued, with Norah O'Donnell who's not known for throwing hardballs at El Presidente, on NBC. I haven't seen much of our First Lady and she seemed rather promising back in 2000, an ex-librarian who had events with writers at the White House.

Until The Selling of the War kicked in and they started turning down the invitations.

She's looking thinner (again) than I remember her, and stumbles over the replacement of Donald Rumsfeld, some Freudian blockage over the term, "Secretary of Defense". Then she goes into a sort of Republibot defense of the President by attacking the media for reporting the big news of all the slaughters. When asked by a politely incredulous O'Donnell what good news the media is missing, Bush hits the schools immediately -- while NBC shows kids entering school between two amateur sentries dangling Uzi's.

The strangest section kicks in at :36 with El First Lady minimized screen right and video newsreel of her husband playing on the left, like the future newscasts in Robocop, portraits of an entirely disfunctional America.

First it's him looking old and unconvincingly flimflam at the Press Conference microphone flanked by the Pentagon officials he brought in on his save-my-debacle "listening tour".

Then it's the tired old Republicans from the past, including the two most responsible for seating him (as a way to truncate a full Florida recount), James Baker and Sandra Day O'Connor, trying to staunch their mistake and maybe their consciences delivering the Iraq Study Group Report but stuck across the table like a negotiating foreign nation from George W. Bush, who has since flushed the report down the media black hole by ignoring it.

At 1:26 she starts in with the blame game, which gives NBC their permission to run counterpoint footage, this time allowing her image more balance or dominant while devoted the right side of the screen to violence in Iraq, fire and carnage.

She closes out by using the phrase "our troops" a noticeable number of times, her body frozen in position but clearly on more comfortable ground and ending on "the holidays".

Per numerous press reports, our First Lady was a longtime chain smoker and still sneaks at least an occasional cig when she's sure she's clear of any cameras. Maybe that's why we haven't seen her so much. Must have that nic!

So with her husband's legacy going all to ruin, her daughters at military age instead running around Buenos Aires with unemployed lovers, and supermarket tabloids spreading rumors of marital collapse, is it any wonder that she'd be craving those evil snoids once again?

Image what its like to be Laura Bush these days with all the pressures she's under. Does she wake up all Stepford? Does she wake up feeling trapped?

Does she wake up aghast?


As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wizard

Peter Boyle may be best known these days as Ray Romano's father on Everybody Loves Raymond, but those of us who have watched his career over the years remember how he used his working class looks and acute understanding of human behavior to create unexpectedly compelling characters.

His big breakthrough was playing the title character in the indie-before-indie film,
Joe
. Iconoclast Norman Wexler created an unnerving contemporary story of one night when a wealthy businessman who has just accidentally murdered his strung-out daughter's drug dealer boyfriend befriends a blue collar reactionary, played by Boyle things end very, very badly. Joe also has the distinction of being Susan Sarandon's first movie -- she's the junkie rich girl.

Joe was better known than seen, being such a breakthrough for 1970 -- All in the Family was just hitting the airwaves and Boyle's Joe was the terrifying version of Archie Bunker -- and soonafter, 1972, Boyle did my favorite of his performances, as Robert Redford's honest but always political campaign manager in The Candidate. The final moments, with Boyle unable to understand what Redford is asking him from across a crowded room, is an extraordinarily powerful supporting character curtain, the moment everyone talked about when they walked out of the picture.

He received a special billing block for the couple scenes he did in Taxi Driver, playing The Wizard, the senior cabbie of the coffee shop bunch, and the one guy Travis Bickle goes to for advice. Boyle delivers a monologue on life that's memorable for being unmemorable: "You get a job. You become the job." Even The Wizard admits that what's he's just said is probably a load of shit. Boyle made you wonder, The Wizard of What?

Then there was his Season One Saturday Night Live hosting gig, where again there was a highlight everyone still talks about, his
"Dueling Brandos" routine with John Belushi, trading classic Brando movie lines in between snatches of that banjo number from Deliverance, climaxing with their mingled cries of, "Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaa..."

But there's nothing comparable to his brilliant turn as the monster in Mel Brooks' career-topping classic, Young Frankenstein, and no scene comparable to his dancing and, uh, singing centerpiece number with Gene Wilder, "Puttin' on the Ritz". If you haven't seen the scene you own it to yourself to click on the link; if you have you owe yourself, and maybe even Mr. Boyle, the encore.

Peter Boyle seemed older than what we currently take for 71, but no matter how young it might seem these days, you can't say he didn't have a fascinating life. I never even knew until today that John Lennon was the best man at his wedding. And I liked reading that Boyle was still married, with two daughters. Maybe it was the monk in him (for three of his early years) that understood the morality of the characters he played, and then had the ability to stand outside of that morality and just play the role.

It just seems that you couldn't have played The Monster that way, so brutal, so funny, so successfully poignant, without having been a lovely man yourself.

Peter Boyle. What wizardry.

Times

What's really going on?

The Saudi ambassador to the U.S. suddenly ups and quits:
The resignation of Prince Turki, a former Saudi intelligence chief and a son of the late King Faisal, was supposed to be formally announced Monday, officials said, but that had not happened by late Tuesday.

"They’re keeping us very puzzled," a Saudi official said. Prince Turki’s resignation was first reported Monday in The Washington Post.

The same article uncovers the Saudi position that if the U.S. pulls out, they may very well back the Sunni side, which the Bush Administration has been hinting they will go whole hog against by backing the Shiite majority.

And Dick Cheney had just been summoned to Saudi Arabia two weeks ago for some sort of talking to.

Coincidence?

And is it also a coincidence that El Presidente, on some sort of Rose Garden "listening tour," has decided to wait until 2007 to address America with whatever "new direction" he finally will have come to for the Iraq debacle?
American officials regard security in Baghdad as essential to political and economic stability, but there continues to be debate between those who support giving Iraqis the lead in combating sectarian violence and those who do not, and those who support a large surge of forces in Baghdad and those who do not.

Glad the Bush Administration is so together.

Meanwhile Newsweek tallies 25,000 American soldiers dead or wounded, holy cow, and a truck bomb in Iraq kills 70 people in a crowd lured together by the promise of work. Ho-hum, another day at the Baghdad office for El Presidente and crony crew.

Let's face it, whatever Bush announces will be lies and mistakes. So the Decider has "decided not to decide" just yet. We all know what it is going to be, per Unqualified Offerings blog:
The pattern has always been:

1. Declare that we must stay in Iraq to prevent some Bad Thing from happening.

2. Bad Thing happens anyway.

3. Declare that we must stay in Iraq to prevent some Worse Thing from happening.

4. Worse Thing happens anyway.

5. Reiterate sequence.

The problem isn't the goals (ill-defined) or the strategy (a disaster from inception, if ever coherent).

The problem is The Man.

Until he and Vice Presidente Richard Cheney are removed from office, in the next Presidential election or by impeachment/resignation, until double-downers like John McCain are shut out of the White House, until the adults get the reins of the most powerful Administration apparatus in the world, we are all doomed to a Groundhog Day of numbingly repetitive bad, loser times.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Change

My good friend, Roto, wanted me to be sure to see this interview with incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and I thought you should see it as well.

For anyone thinking that the Dems in control will be just the same as their counterparts in the Senate these past four years, I have to say, don't be a cynical jackass. Sure, there will be lapses and the media-fueled scandal here or there, sure there will be compromises and more GOP dirty tricks to dodge, but can you imagine the do-nothing, aristocrat-helping GOP Senate leaders we've suffered through recently saying anything like this:
Minimum wage isn't for kids flipping hamburgers at McDonald's. About 15 percent of the people who draw minimum wage are teenagers. Sixty percent of people who draw minimum wage are women and the vast majority of those women, that's all the money they get to support their families. The minimum wage is important -- it keeps people off welfare.

Or this:
We also have to recognize health care -- we've got to do something about health care. Two subsets of that, one is stem cell research, which is giving hope to millions. Second would be to recognize that we must do something to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prices for drugs for senior citizens. The way it is now, it's not a fair playing field where the private sector has an advantage over Medicare and that's not the way it should be.

Or maybe this:
I believe that the oil companies have the ability to manipulate prices. I had a study done by the Federal Trade Commission to find out why the price in Nevada was so high and they said 'well they're high, but we don't know why.' There was no reason for it. Well there's some reason for it... It seems to me that conveniently, they finally seem to go down at certain times and at times the gas prices are allowed to go up.

I'm not a big fan of the oil industry... I think they've ripped off the American people.

So, don't start blaming them for what they haven't done. Come January, February, March, those first 90 days, let's see if the Dems can't prove that they are so much better equipped to govern all of our great nation and not just make the rich richer and the poor dead.

Give them that chance. They deserve no less.

We deserve no less.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thrall

Wow, the fourth season of The Wire just concluded tonight. Season Five, shooting next spring and due to air about a year later, it to be the last.

No doubt they set it up for a grand finale. The Major Crimes Unit is geared up like never before, fresh for the season, there's a developed villain in Marlo with personal stakes for McNulty, the kids can be tapped any which way now, and there's the tantalizing possibility we might even glimpse "The Greek" again. Is Nicky Sabotka far behind?

The opportunity for such a tightly plotted, widely plotted show is to really pay off the particular grand investment made by the show's particular fans -- by it's particular demands. This season was remarkable not just for reigniting the series after the big tie-up at the end of last season, but for introducing hope into the always pessimistic mix. Saplings of hope, really. In The Wire world, that's saying a lot.

The bellweather will be whether McNulty stays on the wagon.

Executive Producer David Simon has said that the final season will add the media into the mix, just as this season added the school system, Season Three added City Hall politics (giving us Thomas Carcetti) and Season Two added labor (the decline of the ports and the corruption of the union, the decline of white working class Baltimore).

Who can wait? Rome had better kick ass in January.

For fans of this season here's the four brave young actors who were so memorable, interviewed by HBO. They're all around 16 or 17, so I imagine we'll be seeing a lot more of them in the future.

Here's David Simon being as candid as he usually is, and with a lot of background on the season.

For fans who want to hear what other reasonably intelligent fans are saying about the season, there's a great Matthew Yglesias post with smart comments, and the stalwart Heaven and Here site with the best running discussion all season long (including visits by David Simon himself).

For anyone who has never watched the show but wants to experience arguably the best dramatic series ever made in America, here's Seasons One thru Three on DVD. By the time you finish watching those, Season Four will be out on DVD or in HBO rebroadcasts. Altogether that's 50 hours of astonishingly consistent high-quality episodic.

You'll be all caught up and primed for the final 13 hours come 2008.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More reasons

for impeachment:
Bush said he talked about "the need for a new way forward in Iraq" in his morning session with leaders from both parties and chambers of Congress, "and we talked about the need to work together on this important subject."

But some Democrats came away unconvinced that major changes were coming.

"I just didn't feel there today, the president in his words or his demeanor, that he is going to do anything right away to change things drastically," Senate Majority Leader-elect Harry Reid, D-Nev., said following the Oval Office meeting. "He is tepid in what he talks about doing. Someone has to get the message to this man that there have to be significant changes."

Instead, Bush began his talk by comparing himself to President Harry S Truman, who launched the Truman Doctrine to fight communism, got bogged down in the Korean War and left office unpopular.

Bush said that "in years to come they realized he was right and then his doctrine became the standard for America," recalled Senate Majority Whip-elect Richard Durbin, D-Ill. "He's trying to position himself in history and to justify those who continue to stand by him, saying sometimes if you're right you're unpopular, and be prepared for criticism."

Durbin said he challenged Bush's analogy, reminding him that Truman had the NATO alliance behind him and negotiated with his enemies at the United Nations. Durbin said that's what the Iraq Study Group is recommending that Bush do now - work more with allies and negotiate with adversaries on Iraq.

Bush, Durbin said, "reacted very strongly. He got very animated in his response" and emphasized that he is "the commander in chief."

He's the Commander in Chief. This is our Commander in Chief.

Why does he feel he has to remind people?

Everyone knows if you have to talk about it, you aren't doing it.

Harry Truman fought in World War I, and made rank. Harry Truman wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, nor was he a rightwing Christian nutcase.

He was For Real.

Everything that comes out of El Presidente's mouth is, of course, a lie. In fact, that's the perfect filter for understanding what he's actually saying. Dishonesty.

Here's what I fear instead. Cheney and this guy are not going to pull out while in office. They will seek to saddle the next President with a direction nobody wants but, if they manage to fire off nukes to Iran, America will be branded with.

They are already discussing, maybe even implementing the El Salvadorification of the Iraq counterinsurgency, i.e. Death Squads. Picking the Shiite side, non-al-Sadr, and letting the Sunni and other bodies fall where they may.

I say, maybe some over here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Jewel

I ran across this big little site, The Sudden Curve. They cover a more lit side of brainy nerd pop culture, i.e. stories from books mainly, with great old covers and atmosphere to spare.

There seem to be three posters, Tom Novak (big John D. MacDonald fan), Bob Wallace (favors monster movies and twisted animal shots) and Wally Conger ("Smokin' Babes" - female stars with cigarettes, "Armed and Dangerous" - female stars with guns), and an honest libertarian bent.

Highly browsable.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Politi-flicks: Before Our Eyes

Once when I was a boy at the annual summer fair in Altamont, at that time a mainly rural town near us in upstate New York, there was a flimflam man performing for a group of men. He was at their level, not on a podium or stage, darting in and out amongst them from the little semi-circle he'd carved out with his pacing, this out of town act. The men were entranced, they found him funny, maybe a farm kid who knows their life, but got out, moved around, is now their entertainer.

I can't decide if he had a microphone or just a strong enough voice and cadence to not need one, but what I've always remembered is this one gag he did. He asked the audience, "Have any of you ever seen pasteurized money?"

They're farmers, they know about pasteurization, but of course no one knew. They were on the edge of their toes to get to the punchline.

The performer, more of a barker than anything north of con man, asked for a dollar and pretty quickly someone coughed it up. Then the performer opened the bill wide and waved it by the volunteer's face.

"There you go, right past your eyes..."

The men all laughed and the guy pocketed the bill. Maybe he could think of it like a tip, but we all knew he had just found his mark and played him for a buck.

For a few years, particularly around the 2004 Presidential Election, I thought of George W. Bush as an olde tyme snake oil salesman. He'd be in front of his canned groups and they'd be loving it. That aggressively "down-home" diction, that cloying yet effective appeal to common sense all the while framing it for the audience, finding his true calling as a high-tension pitch man, just one taste away from the bottle, Praise the Lord. Amazing for a kid from New England blue-bloods, but no matter how many folks saw through the snake oil, there they were on TV laughing and applauding along, buying it.

Like the flimflam man of that long ago Altamont Fair, they were so happy for the attention, they didn't care what he was getting away with.

This week, with the release of The Iraq Study Group Report, it's all Past Your Eyes.

Watch an Administration crumble away, right before your eyes.

As it does daily, BAG news Notes has decoded a photo, this time of El Presidente sitting beside group co-chair Lee Hamilton, the paperback edition in W's hand:
If Bush's M.O. is all about resistance and denial, and the Iraq Study Group "manifesto" is effectively an in-your-face repudiation of the Administration's Iraq campaign, is it any wonder Bush holds the book so it can't be opened, with the cover facing away?

You can watch the full newsclip of the official presentation in "Bush Taken to the Woodshed?" but I do have to warn you that you're watching the snake oil salesman trying to adapt his shopworn lines ("The country, uhhh, in my judgment is tired of the pure political bickering...that happens in Washington..."), the only ones maybe he knows, to a devastatingly new situation, one where he is totally obsolete.

Half the time he seems to finally know it, but he falls back on the salesman role. The oddest visual is the way he uses the book as a prop, seizing on it around 1:38, a lifevest floating by. See if you get the same sense I do, that his instinct is to brandish it like he knows it's the only product he's got to sell, but so not the one he ever imagined he'd be stuck selling.

It's his Presidency, right before our eyes, going right past his.


As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.

Honesty

Go watch Senator Russell Feingold (D-IL) eviscerate the weaknesses of the James Baker Iraq Study Group (Wha? Is this college??) report in a complete, adult, honest assessment.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Oedipus Wrecks

Daddy Bush cries over some old story about son Jeb's one losing campaign for Florida Governor.

Boo frakking hoo hoo hoo.

xrepub on DailyKos has the best analysis of what that psycho public breakdown really meant, Shakespearean by way of Mad magazine, in "The WRONG Son Became President":
It's not like anything REALLY horrid has happened to Jeb.... yeah Jeb helped rig the FL 2000 count for brother W, but Jeb isn't reviled world-wide.... Jeb lost his first run for gov but nobody can cry too much over THAT given the Bush family history of playing political games....what? they got outscammed? boo hoo...... What's Dad REALLY upset about?

It really DOES seem like Bush 41 is looking down the road and realizing what his REAL legacy is going to be....

He's the father of the WORST president ever to serve this country - and he's the reason his idiot son screwed up so badly.....

Brutal. Because El Presidente think his father is the loser. Still.

But as the walls continue to close in, daddy's man replacing daddy's nemesis, Rumsfeld, is speaking the truth in front of Congress. Like it should even be newsworthy.

But of course it is, because The Decider is insane. Check out this unnerving (if not an intentional spook?) this interview with glowering Fox cheerleader Brit Hume, courtesy of Crooks and Liars.

Freeze-frame at 1:59 and see how wildly edge of madness Bush looks in the middle to declaiming "and we're going to succeed in Iraq by the way!"

Clearly he doesn't even believe his bullshit anymore.

And he was the last one.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Criminal Intent

I've been following the Jose Padilla case out of the corner of my eye. Here's a U.S. citizen detained for two years and tortured by our very own government without right of counsel for 21 months, in sensory deprivation and isolation, basically being used as an experimental subject for the most fascistic elements of El Presidente's special thugs. But check out the whole story -- I have nothing to add to Digby's brilliant post.

Meanwhile in Orwell Land, there's a 2007 GOP Calendar (I kid you not!) and you can view each month like some sort of repellent Republican pornography. How can they put so many pictures of Bush and Cheney in a such a consumer product right now and expect anything less than astonishment? Is Ken Mehlman and crew tonedeaf or blithering idiots?

If nothing else, the photos for the various months act like some sort of counter history, or maybe a family album for some upcoming Nuremberg Trials. Say, 2008?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Until now?

I don't think Presidente George W. Bush is a stupid man, but he thinks you're stupid. Why else would everything that comes out of his mouth be a lie, an obscenity over which he drapes fig leaves of "toughness" and "Christianity".

The fact is that events are moving more quickly now. As I wrote the other day, the walls are coming in on this Administration, faster than they or Joementum (defacto R-CT) care to let on.

I think they're self-delusional to the point that they still cling to the most Likudnik of the Neoconservative beliefs, where you don't talk to your enemies and think you can keep them in line indirectly, with international political pressure, covert ops, bombing holes in their country. You know, like Israel did so successfully against Hezbollah this summer. Like George and Dick just might do with Iran, if only to double-down on their losing, losing hand.

The question is whether the Saudi spanking of Cheney and Bush's total facing by Maliki (basically meaning by Muqtada al-Sadr and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, two of Bush's sworn enemies) will hold these democracy pirates in check. Per the LA Times, "Mideast allies near a state of panic":
In all, visits designed to show the American team in charge ended instead in diplomatic embarrassment and disappointment, with U.S. leaders rebuked and lectured by Arab counterparts. The trips demonstrated that U.S. allies in the region were struggling to understand what to make of the difficult relationship, and to figure whether, with a new Democratic majority taking over Congress, Bush even had control over his nation's Mideast policy.

Along with recent articles hinting that the U.S. is about to pick a winner in Iraq and let them (the Shiites) do whatever they want with the Sunni population. Like in El Salvador, replete with death squads.

This Cheney lackey, Stephen Hadley -- yes, Bush's National Security Advisor, the asshole who put the big eighteen word lie about Saddam and uranium in Bush's State of the Union Address to sell us this War -- dares to go on TV and act like all is well by the corporation, and all I can think is how he'd look before the international war crimes tribunal without his comb-over.

Oh, and other of Bush's enemies, one in our Western Hemisphere, just got re-elected in a landslide (61%).

My only question is whether Bush and Cheney are still strong enough to open battle in Iran and let slip the dogs of war?

The control of events has been lost by these men in D.C. with the most powerful jobs in the world.

Until now?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

No Question

Wow, if this is the big highlight of Sunday's Washington Post opinion page, does that make it accepted wisdom, finally?

Read "He's The Worst Ever" by Eric Foner.

To get a flavor:
Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt always figure in the "great" category. Most presidents are ranked "average" or, to put it less charitably, mediocre. Johnson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Richard M. Nixon occupy the bottom rung, and now President Bush is a leading contender to join them. A look at history, as well as Bush's policies, explains why.

Foner breaks it down so that for each of the bottom rung Presidents he describes, Bush is trumping whatever aspect it was that made them losers.

And, viola, he's the biggest loser of them all.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hopeful Note

"Self-interest has intersected with reality," said Limerick, chair of the board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "To have open spaces and nice places, people realize, they cannot be a bunch of individuals pursuing self-indulgence. They have to act collectively."

I keep getting drawn back to Senators Elect John Tester (D-MT) and Jim Webb (D-VA). They both had counts ending several days after the election. They are both economic populists who seem hellbent on speaking for the average American rather than the corporations. Tester is an organic farmer, for cryin' out loud. Montana 2006 elected an organic farmer to the Senate.

I basically like what I hear coming out of the American West these days:
"Folks don't want a whole lot of government, but they want things like clean water, and they want us to be careful," Jon Tester, the Democratic senator-elect from Montana, said in an interview before the election.

This goes back to the Libertarian Democrat concept. We'll see if it comes to the fore in the new Congress, and if so we can see how well it works.

By the way, if you do check the link above going back to June on Nettertainment, you'll see the first post co-starring Tester and Webb.

And they both won.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Politi-flicks: Robert

There's a video of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) campaigning in 1968 that popped up on web this week (reportedly from Bob Kennedy: L'homme qui voulait changer l'Amerique, a film by Patrick Jeudy). He was in his 43rd year at the time.

Maybe it's Emilio Estevez' drama, Bobby, currently in theaters, that's bringing back the ghost. Maybe it's Barak Obama's flirtation with a Presidential campaign. Maybe it's this Democratic Spring, with the hope Pelosi and Reid are bringing to lead the charge back into enlightenment.

It's hard to compare anyone in politics today with his whirlwind string of accomplishments: Campaign Manager for his brother John's successful Senate campaign at 27, counsel work in the Senate when the Dems went from minority to majority, Campaign Manager for his brother's successful 1960 Presidential election, appointed crusading Attorney General (went up against corrupt Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa and the universally intimidating FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover), elected to U.S. Senate at 39.

Likely Democratic nominee. Likely about to be the second Kennedy brother to deny Richard Nixon the Presidency.

Leaving aside how the morbidity of Kennedy's demise makes him look anachronistically vulnerable out in the open so unprotected, the videoclip shows a series of crowd responses so big, so adoring, so heartfelt that one is hard-pressed to imagine any current politician would ever experience this real thing.

I was reminded that Kennedy was the key backer of the civil rights struggle within the White House, pushing his brother to make bold moves as President, including support of the Voting Rights Act, which for the first time in U.S. history removed the myriad local and state restrictions on African-American participation at the polls.

First Dr. Martin Luther King and President John F. Kennedy, two of the Americans most directly responsible for the great leap forward in civil rights for our country were shot to death by assassins. So what is our last best hope going out there unprotected -- no armed bodyguards, no Secret Service?

Contrast with our current Presidente and his pre-screened devotees, most of whom seemed more concerned with abridging the rights of their fellow citizens rather than expanding them.

Here's Robert on TV with Jack Parr, responding with incredible poise and inspiring thoughtfulness on his now murdered brother's greatest contribution to America: confidence in the value of being an American at home and in the world, American ideals and attitudes, confidence in themselves.

Here he is, being fearless.

Political assassination is, of course, as old as politics itself, sudden, violent redirections in the great stream of history. A gust of hope. A bullet. The '70's.

Here's Part 1 of the last speech of his life, the night he won the California Primary.

Here's Part 2 including (offscreen, audible) his assassination.

Is it any wonder we've ended up with the leadership we have?


As always, Politi-flicks is cross-posted to The Daily Reel.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Walls

The walls are coming in on little man Bush. Last month America voted "no confidence" to his Administration and did the next best thing to voting him out of office. His new year brings, for the first time in his Presidential experience, not even one House of Congress on his side.

He escapes, like many previous Presidents losing support at home, overseas for some high profile foreign visits. The kind that, if significant or showy enough to get reported, might reverse the tide back here. Masters of the foreign visit have included President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton. Not the first President Bush, of course. His reputation was sealed when he threw up on the Japanese Prime Minister.

Here's how George W. Bush, the worst President since Ulysses S. Grant (think of losing the Reconstruction...the post-U.S. Civil War Reconstruction, as opposed to the pre-Iraq Civil War one) is doing, a sequence of events since Tuesday:

- Bush goes to the Baltic countries. Not real glamorous. Maybe just visiting places that let us create secret torture prisons for the past couple wars. Maybe just all he could get. The big news: he won't acknowledge the Iraqi Civil War and vows not to withdraw troops "until the mission is complete." Prick.

- The White House leaks a memo written by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, one of the neo-con Cheney boys who got us into this foolish war, reveals distrust for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and offers him more pie-in-sky ideas for what he should do to save the disaster over there -- on the eve of his meeting with Bush.

- al-Maliki reaches a security agreement with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

- The whole Moktada al-Sadr contingent walks out of Parliament to protest al-Maliki's meeting with Bush on Wednesday.

- Prime Minister al-Maliki of Iraq and King Abdullah II of Jordan abruptly back out of a meeting with President Bush, some big dinner thing, leaving Bush press aides to try in vain to explain, uh, why this isn't a big international humiliation.

Has America, for let's say a Century, ever been more shunned in global affairs?

And just in time for the Thursday morning news, the NY Times publishes the advance word on the results coming from Bush Family consigliore James Baker's bipartisan Iraq Study Group: troop withdrawal, starting 2007.

Meanwhile, El Presidente is thinking El Legacy. Only he's incapable of crafting one; he has to get someone to buy it for him:
Facing the prospect of a lame-duck last two years in office, President Bush has decided to focus on what he hopes will form the cornerstone of his legacy: the George W Bush Presidential Library.

The cost of this memorial to a leader not renowned for his love of literature has been estimated at $500m - three times the sum spent on his predecessor Bill Clinton's presidential library.

Can't wait to see the donor's list for that puppy. Wow.

It was bad enough that his Saudi masters summoned Dick Cheney to their side like a simpering Toady the Bagman. They see what's coming, what Bush has wrought. There's going to be a big battle in Iraq, and unlike most of us, Bush wants in. The Shiite and Sunni sides are preparing for all hell about to break loose.

Think of the man responsible for it all. Think of how far he's come since his 90+% approval rating in the months following 9/11.

Think of how it's all suddenly endgame now, no matter how hard he tries to fight the notion.

As John Mellencamp says, "Some people ain't no damn good..."
Saw my picture in the paper
Read the news around my face
And now some people
Don't want to treat me the same

When the walls
Come tumblin' down
When the walls
Come crumblin', crumblin'
When the walls
Come tumblin', tumblin'
Down

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Impeach Him

What an asshole:
At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

"I didn'’t ask you that, I asked how he's doing," Bush retorted, according to the source.

Senator Elect Jim Webb (D-VA) not only has a son serving while the Bush daughters go AWOL in Argentina rather than volunteering for their daddy's deathwar, he has a long military career that puts El W's spotty national guard record to shame.

Who the hell is George Walker Bush Jr. to speak like that to such a man?

Is asswipery an impeachable offense?

Here's to Webb, a completely unique and actually straight-talking "politician" (at least in our time), giving him bloody hell once he's sworn into his Senate seat.

Maybe it'll be like they say in the movie trailers:

This time it's personal.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Turkey Shoot

There's no game in linking to the cascade of disastrous news about Iraq, our asinine Presidente, his shambling Administration, the massive amount of human suffering for which he, personally, bears the brunt of responsibility.

The thing to pay attention to is whether we're at a moment of shift, where the media story changes. You had Former President Bill Clinton turning the tables on Fox News' Chris Wallace as a kind of wake-up call before the election, now we have Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) kicking Wallace into actual decency this week.

So with the Dems winning the Congressional election and now, hopefully, getting airtime as new media darlings, I'm hoping to see more outspoken Liberals, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Richard Dreyfuss leads by example on Bill Maher's season closer. Check out his impassioned explication of Civics lessons and value of teaching it again in our schools. I couldn't agree more -- check out any yearbook from the 1950's and you'll go from giggling at the quaintness to wondering why we let the learning of our system of government leak out of the curriculum.

As if by someone's design.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Why Bond

Since a friend of mine and recommended blogger (see Nettertainment: Fascinating from way back in March), not to mention very happening screenwriter, Scott Veach, has called my bluff, in gambling parlance, and dared to question why anyone circa 2006 would be interested in Bond, James Bond, unless they were maybe nostalgic for the 1960's or '70's. He decries the plot holes and contrivances and my general impression is that he really did not enjoy his theatrical viewing of Casino Royale.

It may just be a matter of taste. Okay, $94.2 million worth of U.S. taste for a total of $224.4 million worldwide, and this only in its second week, with an impressively small drop-off from week one. But as a fan of the original Bond, that brilliant circuit between Ian Fleming's still highly readable novels and Sean Connery's lightning-in-a-bottle characterization, I feel compelled to offer some explanation not only for why I'm so drawn to the new picture, but why so many others have been drawn in for so long.

First off, let's make a clear distinction between the novels and the movies. The first four films -- Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball -- all stuck very close to the book plots, as did the sixth, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. What happened between the fifth -- You Only Live Twice -- and that last one is something of a tragedy for original fans.

Those two movies were shot in reverse order from how they were written, with OHMSS being the most tragic Bond story and YOLT following on it with Bond basically suicidal. Instead, YOLT was the first extremely spoofy Bond, with Connery aging unkindly and beginning the endless series of climaxes in the secret villain's hidden lair, spectacularly blown up along with his Dr. Evil-like plans to take over the world (whatever that means).

OHMSS might have been the best Bond ever -- sticking close to the novel and casting the brilliant/beautiful Diana Rigg (fresh off The Avengers which also gave us Honor Blackman as Goldfinger's Pussy Galore) as the Bond woman, but Connery had left and replacement George Lazenby just didn't work.

From thereon out, even with Connery stopping by one more time in (an offer he reportedly could not refuse) Diamonds are Forever, it was sillier and sillier. Roger Moore looked Bondish but didn't have all the chops of Connery, Dalton was a too-pissy looking replacement, and while Brosnan was arguably the best since Connery, the movies were all too formulaic by then.

Thankfully, even with a record-breaking gross on the last one, the producers realized Bond needed something very new if the franchise was to persist in the 21st century. They were cool enough to make that new thing something very old, in fact. They went back to the source.

Which brings us back to the original novels, and what it is about them that made the Bond DNA so appealing, even now.

One of Fleming's great early admirers was Raymond Chandler, an Englishman by birth who created maybe the best-known American detective, Philip Marlowe. Chandler saw that Fleming was writing in his tradition, in what was originally the Dashiell Hammett tradition (The Maltese Falcon, Continental Op, Red Harvest) of hard-boiled detectives. These rough, smart men were white knights in dirty, deceptive, endlessly dangerous worlds. They were as good with their fists as their brains, but they were at best middle class, without hope or pretensions to anything greater.

Both Hammett and Chandler were especially adept at depicting, with accuracy and economy, location and character. For the former, the world was mainly 1920's San Francisco. For the latter, 1930's and 40's Los Angeles. Both created a gallery of thumbnail portraits around their sometimes nameless sleuth, supporting players and bit parts, with their allure and grotesqueries all vividly laid out with prose that still reads like cats milk.

Fleming had the same skills, but for him the canvas was much larger. He had such a facility with location that, reportedly, he could spend three days in a new city and write about it like a denizen. He even published a book of just travelogues, Thrilling Cities, and another about the flip side of the African diamond trade, The Diamond Smugglers. The descriptions in the Bond books are tantalizing, much like the thrill in the better movies, like the current one, of being taken somewhere you maybe knew existed but would never experience elsewise.

As for the characterizations, the Fleming villains are all well constructed, powerful, memorable freaks, and the best of his women are more nuanced than some of the film portrayals (Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist?) would lead you to believe. Vesper Lynd gets her own inner life for some moments in Fleming's Casino Royale, and Bond actually gets completely turned down by the femme in the real Moonraker. The other players -- Quarrel of Jamaica, Felix Leiter of the CIA, Miss Moneypenny herself and on down -- are all drawn sparely but skillfully enough that they stick in memory.

While Hammett had actually been a Pinkerton detective (and probable strikebreaker, which evidently informed both his decision to quit that organization and to write Red Harvest), Fleming had actually served in British Intelligence, and was thus able to write knowingly about it, grounding Bond in a more real world than spy novel pretenders then and since. This made the novels fascinating for post-WWII mystery readers ready to move past the battered trenchcoat, their view having been opened wide by the events of that war, now looking for insights into the very real Cold War being fought between the Communist Soviets and the West. And Fleming never condescended to political baiting in his description of the Communist threat, simply taking it as a tooth-and-nail (and wiretap and gun) battle between two ruthless opponent forces, each looking for any possible advantage, any cranny to latch onto for that one extra lift, the one that might bring the other side to its knees.

In essence, what Fleming brought to popular detective literature was worldliness, and his professional spy hero was the pure embodiment of that worldliness in how he chose his drink, how he played the tables, how he seduced his women and how he performed his job.

Bond isn't just a superhero of stunts, vaulter of plot-holes or all-around superstud. In his original incarnation, per Fleming and Connery, he's just the most world, adaptive, trustworthy man around for continents. Give him the data and he knows the score. He can interpret that data -- he understands people, he understands how things really work -- and thus some of the most thrilling moments are when Bond realizes what's been kept from him, those reversals, and swings immediately, decisively into action. Once of those moments happens in the third act of the new movie, and while many viewers will see it coming from miles away, what's so gratifying isn't the "twist", it's how Bond reacts. With a worldly, able, committed professional like this, there is No Question.

All the fetishistic accoutrements of the series descend from these core values, the worldliness and Bond's place in a particular literary tradition. Those Hammett and Chandler and Fleming books are all great reads. If the plots are sometimes a little far-fetched or certain twists worthy of reconsideration over a sandwich, it doesn't matter because they are essentially effective stories, told within seductive worlds and following anti-heroes that appeal to our better, if gritty, angels.

While I'd happily agree that the good writing trailed off after the first handful of Bond movies, I think the new one has a script that shouldn't be lumped in with the previous, oh, say fourteen, and while there are probably as many plotholes as in Scorsese's also pleasingly kinetic The Departed, I didn't find the leaps in either to diminish my enjoyment of those experiences very much. I can't recall a non-documentary movie I've ever seen that didn't have holes (like "letters of transit" signed by free French leader Charles de Gaulle would actually help anybody get anywhere under Hitler's rule?) but I can recall tons that were no fun to play along with.

Maybe the main thing they got right in this Bond, something that may not survive in ensuing sequels, is that they knew they had to earn it. Craig as Bond earns our hero's worldliness, and the arc of his character over the course of the film is a classic innocence-to-experience, of all characters with which to do that trick.

If, like Scott, you don't buy the outlandish endurance, the appearance of Texas Hold'em in Montenegro, the lucky breaks for our hero in the heat of battle, so be it. I went for adventure, sure, but for adult adventure, and for the first time in decades the Bondmakers managed to age-up the entertainment, by tapping the source. And I think that's what teen superhero-overloaded audiences are responding to.

Maybe, Scott, you'd feel the same way after reading From Russia with Love or On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Maybe you don't particularly enjoy Hammett or Chandler, either.

But I'm thinking that if you gave it a chance, the smell of black tobacco in a high-stakes French casino at 4am or the tapping of three blind men making their way through the ominously sweaty streets of Kingston or the claustrophobic treachery of a Japanese poison garden might capture your imagination.

And maybe, just maybe, you might follow one all too flesh-and-blood white knight professional with nerves of steel through his reliably unreliable world, to the end of his mission.