Friday, November 30, 2007


American Gangster is my kind of mainstream Hollywood movie. Money well-spent on a sprawling cast of fantastic actors and successfully recreating a fascinating time in the late Twentieth Century. Add some quality shoot 'em up. Stir.

Although build around an arguably obvious rise of a drug lord/pursuit by a cop plot, it scores by depicting how thoroughly drugs permeated U.S. culture from the 1960's through the entire 1970's setting, and how so much of it was fueled by the Vietnam War -- both the desperate degradation bourne by the constant images on the television screen and the actual opium highway via U.S. military transport.

But the real story the rides like a bandit throughout American Gangster is that of corruption. American was a drugged up nation by that time, what with all the legal speed, barbs, alcohol and cigarette society that developed from WWII through to the 1980's, then LSD developed by the CIA and released to the streets (legal in the early 1960's), pot (although not as widespread as today, treated like a narcotic), some coke (more late 70's-late 80's, Reagan era drug including it's bastard child, crack), and a whole influx of heroin. While this movie doesn't show every single person on some sort of mood alterer -- Denzel Washington's drug boss Frank Lucas doesn't partake in more than the social drink -- it chooses instead to portray a variated landscape of corruption.

Early in the picture we learn that Russell Crowe's Det. Richie Roberts, is a mess with his personal life -- the exact opposite of family man Frank -- but scrupulously honest as a cop. Lucas, of course, is supplying the city and northern New Jersey with life-sucking heroin, but we just get a couple of horrific, passing junkie montages, nothing following a junkie character all the way to empathy. And at the far end of the moral scales is brazenly corrupt Detective Trupo (a second great turn this season for No Country's Josh Brolin), who moves around with a posse of corrupt coppers in suits.

The movie implies that virtually all of the NYC/NJ metro area police force was on one take or another, hence the physical danger to Richie for not taking money. The resultant facts bear out similarly. But the question is always asked, what's the price for that character. How much money, how much respect, how much self-respect, how much hero worship to come aboard. How much family.

And for almost every character, it's not a tough decision. Whether it's already being corrupt or entering into the family business, it's just everyday evil. In some cases it's the blind eye tolerance, most notably with Frank Lucas' mother, played by Ruby Dee.

What's great about her performance is that at first you think maybe she's in this very small role just because she's the valedictorian, the long beloved breakthrough career with her husband, the late great Ossie Davis. Then, late in the picture, there's a scene where you realize why she was hired. It's because she can stand up to Denzel. No problem. And not many can.

You can see what it does for him to be opposite her, where with everyone else but Crowe, with whom he spends most of the movie separate, he's the mature, esteemed, royal guy in the room, the motor completely driving his half of the movie, star power.

Crowe, on the other hand, does another one of his chameleon performances, channeling a very boyish, unpretentiously earnest working class cop who's striving to make a little more of himself. As with Michael Mann's Heat, these are two equivalent leading men (Washington gets his name first in the titles, fittingly as the title character) each owning half the movie building up to finally meeting, what we're waiting for, the two facing off, even a showdown.

With Heat is was the scene in the restaurant between DeNiro and Pacino, which was engaging without being cathartic. In American Gangster, it's a much bigger release when they first appear in a shot together, and the ensuing act-off is almost less important.

Very cinematic, very big screen stuff. And what may be director Ridley Scott's greatest accomplishment is that he's subsumed his more obvious trademark stylizations. You'd be forgiven for thinking this might have been directed by any one of a dozen other directors, but it's his confidence to just "shoot the story" this time (no doubt eased by service to the pro Steven Zaillian script) that makes it work. The movie benefits from his gift for big images, big performances and iconic performances, but the movement is so fleet, without feeling either jumpy or overly graphic, that it feels unforced, as hip like the era.

I even forgave the play of "Across 110th Street" after it was on both the original 1972 classic and Tarantino's Jackie Brown, because that Bobby Womack song is so damned cool.

With any resonating period piece one has what the metaphoric connection to our times, what element of our contemporary psyche is it stroking, what's the reflection of. I do think analogies can be too stretched (is No Country for Old Men really construable as a metaphor for the Iraq War? ) but I can also see how we believe the world of Scott's movie, even our hollowed American Past, because of the rife corruption of the current Administration and the GOP Congress that was so long working in tandem. We've had those months this year, last year, the year before, when it seemed like a country of a scandal a day.

Sure, all those cops were on the take. America was on the take. And we want that celluloid catharsis because we're trying to convince ourselves that somehow, someday, we'll clean up our collective act.

For a moment.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


The walls are starting to cave in on former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's bid for the Republican Presidential nomination.

Back in the day when Rudy was running for reelection, a friend of mine -- the wife of a close buddy -- told me there was no way she was going to vote for "that fascist." Indeed, Rudy did his NYC clean-up with a lot of force, also his opening up to real estate developers, but was absolutely terrible on race relations (eventually alienating even those who had supported him earlier) and even tried to use his office to censor works of art and punish the museum for their noteworthy British "Sensation" show:
Giuliani asserted that he found a portrait of a black Virgin Mary splattered with elephant dung and photographs of genitalia to be the most offensive. Other works that outraged the mayor include a bust of a man made from his own frozen blood, the use of dead pigs and cows sliced from head to tail in a tank of formaldehyde, and a painting depicting the murder of children that took place in England in the 1960s.

Although threatening to withhold public funds for the Brooklyn Museum, he only succeeded in making British artists Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili et al the most famous contemporary artists.

So inside of the authoritarian, that one trait which most endears him to the average Republican voter, does it necessarily go hand-in-hand that he would cheat on his wife, and let her and her kids learn that he was divorcing her from the television set in Gracie Mansion?

It's a man who's only in it for himself, of course. His own ego. His sexual gratification. His yearning for power.

Hence no surprise that, while still married to second wife Donna Hanover and engaging in an affair with eventual third wife Dr. Judith Nathan, he had people on the city tab squiring around his mistress like it was his own kingly taxi service, all on the public dime.

It's the same thing that took down NY State Comptroller and mayorial hopeful Alan Hevesi. It's a felony.

None of it any surprise. Rudy's fatal flaw is actual more about his legal background, and how he lies like the bad lawyers that make people hate all of 'em. He just says whatever he wants to bolster his rhetoric, like it's the College Republican club, a vicious advocate who cheats on the facts. Anything to win.

I'm guessing that since he was coming off a "rumored" longterm affair with his press secretary, Cristyne Lategano, imagining that much of their erotic time would have been spent alone in workplace settings, it was probably second nature to integrate his new affairlette into his official life and quarters. After all, he was a very busy man.

So what if maybe he made them build the terrorism command center, against expert recommendations, close enough to City Hall that he could go down there and shag with Dr. Nathan. Busy men have to be efficient with their time.

Giuliani isn't the first executive politician who thinks he's popular enough that he owns the city or the state enough to take liberties for personal pleasure. But what's been so dissonant during this run up to the GOP primaries is how flagrant he was with his amorality, yet it's gotten virtually no play among the party faithful. Media blackout, maybe. Narrative interference (Mr. 9/11), maybe. Willful self-delusion, certainly.

The key indicator to watch during this scandal is Fox News, run by Giuliani's very own ex-campaign manager, Roger Ailes. If they show people in the heartland giving up on Giuliani based on what they're learning about the real Rudy during these next few news cycles, his goose is cooked. But they'll be his staunchest hagiographers to the end.

Watch Rudy sink like a rock in the upcoming GOP polls. He was wearing badly last night in the Florida debate, and the party faithful are breathing a sigh of relief that Mike Huckabee appears ready for primetime.

All that's left is face-saving so he can duck back into the private sector and keep the brand intact enough to get clients. Expect him to drop out by March. New affair twelve months hence.

America's Mayor.

GOP Turning Point

I believe tonight's GOP debate, which neither I watched nor most of the electorate, is a turning point in the process. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is, I predict, about to get a huge influx of cash, much of it from evangelicals and fundamentalists, and will become the front-runner for the nomination coming out of the Iowa caucuses.

The Rudy & Mitt show is over, to a large degree because they ate each other. Giuliani is also cooked because of the Shaggate, that the NYC taxpayer paid for him to shag his future wife, Dr. Judith Nathanson. I'll be surprised if their marriage survives the coming train wreck of his candidacy.

The general news story is that this was the debate that drew blood. Andrew Sullivan calls it "Rove's Frankenstein Moment," when a Christian Bible studies bar was solidified for the Republican Party Presidential nominee (Pastor Huckabee wins that contest hands down). McCain took on Ron Paul for wanting out of Iraq but Paul gave as good as he got.

Kevin Drum live blogged here. Favorite line:
9:04 — McCain and Giuliani don't own a gun? What the hell kind of effete pussies are they?

Conservative boot-licking dope
Fred Barnes calls it "Two Hours of Humiliation". Best line:
By my recollection, there were no questions on health care, the economy, trade, the S-chip children's health care issue, the "surge" in Iraq, the spending showdown between President Bush and Congress, terrorist surveillance, or the performance of the Democratic Congress.

But I think Eschaton's Thers sums it up best

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rice Party

I'll laud any U.S. Presidential efforts towards peace between Israeli and Palestinian factions in the Middle East, even Mister Bush's. And it's certainly better than nothing that he's got the Israeli Prime Minister and the head of the once vilified PLO agreeing to negotiate. However, like most sentient followers of Bushie behavior, I'll believe it when I see it that he's going to "devote himself to ending the six-decade conflict in the 14 months he has left in office."

Sure, he could use a Hail Mary Pass on his legacy. But he's going to have to do more than, as Keith Olbermann explained tonight, show up for a couple of hours for a photo op, mispronounce the names of the two men leading their peoples in negotiations, and not be able to say what his actual involvement is in "devoting himself" thus far.

President Bill Clinton, as some may remember, actually led the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations during the twilight of his term. This time it's really Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's show, and one imagines she's hoping to make this her place in the history books, rather than failing to prevent the 9/11 attacks as National Security Advisor even though the memo was staring her in the face, lying to Congress, and enabling the Presidents Cheney and Bush to misdirect our war against al-Qaeda by invading Iraq and allowing the destruction of that country from the inside.

There is, of course, the question of a negotiation without including Hamas, which actually won the last democratic election in the Palestinian territories. 49 countries involved but no seat for them -- undoubtedly the Administration is hoping to marginalize them enough that they don't win any more elections over there.

All that being said, I can only hope that some sort of effective peace comes out of this. With various parts of the globe regionalizing economic power, it will hopefully be in the best interest of the regional Mideast countries to come together, somehow, someday.

With or without Mister Bush's direct help.

Monday, November 26, 2007


The whole series, spearheaded somehow by director George Hickenlooper and featuring famous actors in black & white shorts supporting the Writers Guild of America in its strike for a fair contract, is awesome, and today's is the most fun, a compilation of actors set to music as they go and scrawl "Speechless".

Here's the list of actors in the video and participating whole-heartedly with their biggest business asset, their images, in the pro-union activism:
David Schwimmer, Kate Beckinsale, Chic Eglee, Susan Sarandon, Benito Martinez, Walton Goggins, Sean Penn, Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, Paula Garces, Garry Marshall, Lizzy Caplan, Holly Hunter, John Amos, Gary Dourdan, Matthew Perry, Bill Hader, Robert Patrick, James Lemar, Joshua Jackson, Matthew Modine, Bill Macy, Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000), Rosanna Arquette, Jill Kushner, Chazz Palminteri, Cch Pounder, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, Christine Lahti, Eva Longoria, Patricia Clarkson, Amy Ryan, Frances Fisher, Justine Bateman, Jason Bateman, Ed Asner, Nicolette Sheridan, Felicity Huffman, America Ferrera, Judith Light, Rebecca Romijn, Ana Ortiz, Ashley Jensen, Mark Indelicato, Tony Plana, Freddy Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, Christopher Gorham, Michael Urie, Laura Linney, Alan Cumming, Michael Weatherly, Michael Jace

Love seeing my faves from The Shield in there! It's all very iconic and sharp and strong. The writers strike has produced much better agitprop than anyone must have expected. I guess the writers can control the means of their own production. After all, the most successful of them in TV become executive producers.

You can find all of the videos on emerging Internet doyenne Nikki Fink's Deadline Hollywood Daily blog. They're all interesting -- Laura Linney, Felicity Huffman & Bill Macy, Sean Penn, Holly Hunter etc etc. Personal faves have to include Jeff Garlin (#4) because's he's so darned cute at the end, and elder statesmen Hollywoodians Richard Benjamin & Paula Prentiss (#2) -- she's particularly adorable, even as she seems to have a cast on her right arm. He & She, anyone? And Andre Benjamin (#7) is great to look at as he speaks Martian.

Here's to a speedy, quality deal between the writers and the production entities. Everyone knows there is money enough for all.

Why else would anybody be working in Hollywood?

Sunday, November 25, 2007


From the June 16, 2001 White House Joint Press Conference transcript:
I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. And I appreciated so very much the frank dialogue.

There was no kind of diplomatic chit-chat, trying to throw each other off balance. There was a straightforward dialogue. And that's the beginning of a very constructive relationship. I wouldn't have invited him to my ranch if I didn't trust him. (Laughter.)

That was the Joint Press Conference by President Bush and Russian Federation President Putin.

There was no kind of diplomatic chit-chat. No trying to throw each other off- balance. Because that would have been the tactic, you see. Putin's only tactic.

The "Nickname Prezdent" proves once again that he is our nation's greatest judge of character:
On a second day of rallies against President Vladimir V. Putin, riot police officers aggressively broke up a protest in St. Petersburg on Sunday, detaining numerous marchers, including two prominent politicians.

The unrest came a day after a similar event in Moscow ended with the arrest of Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion and opposition leader, whose coalition, Other Russia, has declared that Mr. Putin is turning Russia into a dictatorship. A judge sentenced Mr. Kasparov to five days in jail.

Similar demonstrations across Russia this weekend, a week before parliamentary elections, were either banned by regional authorities or squelched by the police.

Putin, Musharraf, it's all just friendly fascism. This is what they do.

Kasparov was recently on the U.S. TV circuit hawking his new book and giving a frank reality check on the growth of Putin's repressive, power aggrandizing moves.

Fortunately, the Cheney/Bush White House is responding:
"We are troubled that Garry Kasparov and other leaders of the opposition have been arrested and detained," said White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Once more time:

Heckuva job, Bushie.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Main Argument

I'm sure I'd be as righteously vindictive as anyone should a criminal hurt one of my own family members, but in philosophical terms, in moral terms, the one reason I've always ended up against the Death Penalty is fall conviction.

The New York Times has a powerful piece on one man, Jeffrey Deskovic, who was freed a little over a year ago for a murder/rape that DNA evidence proved he had not committed (and which nailed the actually perpetrator). What's so heartbreaking is that Deskovic, 34, was falsely convicted when he was a shy kid of 17. After seven hours of questioning, during which he was browbeaten that he had failed his lie detector test -- a ruinous lie itself by some lawman who no doubt wanted an easy, face-saving solve -- and promised psychiatric treatment rather than incarceration, the poor kid (age 16 at the time) signed a false confession.

Deskovic missed growing into the real world during the crucial formative young adult years, a whopping seventeen of them. He's doing as many speaking engagements as he can book, telling his story, wearing a suit, advocating for Death Penalty abolishment. No one is exempt from false conviction, he says. But he's clearly having a hard re-entry, feels he's still in prison mentally, misses the routine, and worries most that he'll wake up and release will have been a dream.

The a/v slide show tells the story best. There's also an interactive feature with a slew of cases and voices. The fact is that the stolen decades and inculcated horrors can never be compensated, no matter the size of the settlement or the publicity of the exoneration. But it's better than being executed for false conviction.

The government has a fundamental responsibility to remove those who commit grave crimes from society, for both individual safety and the health of society as a whole. But execution?

I guess I ultimately don't care if it's a deterrent or not, although I understand the value as a bargaining chip for law enforcement interrogators. I don't think it is moral for the state to put someone to death, but there's a number of grown adults who have deserved it. I can't imagine the feeling I'd have were, God forbid, someone still alive, even in life imprisonment, who had killed, worst of all, one of my boys.

When Robert Chambers was convicted in a plea deal of killing Jennifer Levin in NYC back in the 1980's, her father said in no uncertain terms that of course he wanted to kill Chambers, but he was a sane man living in civil society. Chambers was released a few years ago but clearly there was nothing to reform, as he's been in and out of jail on drug dealing charges.

It's a shame that scum like Chambers get to reemerge into our society. One expects it won't be for long, hopefully without taking anyone else down with him again.

But it's worth it for every single falsely convicted citizen like Jeffrey Deskovic to go free.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More Thanks

Here's a huge one -- a cruise ship hits the Antarctic ice, goes down, and yet everyone is rescued (the anti-Titanic):
A Canadian cruise ship struck submerged ice off Antarctica and began sinking, but all 154 passengers and crew, Americans and Britons among them, took to lifeboats and were plucked to safety by a passing cruise ship.

The entire vessel finally slipped beneath the waves Friday evening, about 20 hours after the predawn accident near Antarctica's South Shetland Islands, the Chilean navy said.

No injuries were reported although passengers reportedly endured subfreezing temperatures for several hours as they waited in bobbing lifeboats for a Norwegian liner that took them to a Chilean military base in the region.

The New York Times has a more moment-to-moment account (and some blowaway pics):

In the lecture hall, they were told that water was creeping in through a fist-size hole punched into the ship’s starboard. As it flooded the grinding engine room, the power failed. The ship ceased responding.

“We all got a little nervous when the ship began to list sharply, and the lifeboats still hadn’t been lowered,” John Cartwright, a Canadian, told CBC radio.

About 1:30 a.m., the passengers climbed down ladders on the ship’s side into open lifeboats and inflatable craft. They bobbed for some four hours in the rough seas and biting winds as the sun rose and the day broadened, sandwiched between the 20-degree air and the nearly freezing waters. Their ship traced loose circles in the steely ocean.

And then a research ship and a Norwegian cruise liner that had heard the distress call approached.

I've been looking for video but so far just have this YouTube link to a sequenced slideshow. I know I'm not the only person who can get mesmerized by catastrophic events. All in all, it seems like a fitting capper to the Thanksgiving holiday.

That is, if your Thanksgiving wasn't in Baghdad.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Over at Talking Points Memo there's a hilarious video collecting "Testimony We Give Thanks For" by the Cheney/Bush Administration officials who appeared in front of Congress over the past year, the first of Democratic control in twelve years. Disgraced ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is the star scumbag, but there's no shortage of forgetters and pretenders.

While crime in D.C. has gone up during Republican rule, i.e. in the Federal government with seemingly anything they've touched, it's actually decreased in NYC, and some credit should go to faux-Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg switched parties from Democratic to GOP in order to get a nomination (he was right that the NYC Dems would never nominate him) but he's led as a pragmatic, connective centrist, much more so than the self-myth of ex-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

So since I'm closing out a holiday family visit to the city, I'm grateful for these statistics from The New York Times:
New York City is on track to have fewer than 500 murders in 2007, by far the lowest amount in a 12-month period since reliable Police Department statistics became available in 1963.

But within the city’s official crime statistics is a perhaps even more striking figure: so far, with roughly half the killings analyzed, only 35 were found to be committed by strangers, a microscopic statistic in a city of 8.5 million.

That's right -- it's not so dangerous to visit anymore.

Let's hope this holds until we're safely on the plane and headed back to sunny Santa Monica.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


One thing we know about the Republican leadership in the Cheney/Bush White House: they sure know how to cudgel any opposition with the phrase, "Support the Troops."

That's the myth.

How does this Administration actually treat the valiant?:

The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments. To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.

Since this story went live there's been some ass-covering from the Pentagon, but it's not good enough:

From Rep. Jason Altmire:

I am heartened by Brigadier General Michael S. Tucker’s announcement of the Army’s policy that it will not ask for repayment of bonuses paid to those soldiers who are injured in the line of duty. However, I am disappointed that the policy does not go further by stating that wounded soldiers will also receive the remaining balance of future bonus payments. It is preposterous for our government to have a policy that says that a soldier who has sustained serious injuries in the field of battle has not fulfilled his or her service obligation.

Y'know, every four years the GOP accuses the Democratic Presidential candidate of calling for a class war, and then something like this pops up and I think, isn't that war already on?

Balancing the Federal budget on the backs of broken service men and women instead while allowing Blackwater and Halliburton to pillage the Treasury, not to mention the outrageous oil industry subsidies?

Support the Troops! Support Our Troops!

Here's how
to really support 'em.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


It's late and I'm short on both time and wakefulness, but as the mega-long weekend approaches there's an opportunity to see some movies, so I don't want to wait too long to recommend Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. It's a one-way ticket to damnation, something in the air that also rides through No Country for Old Men, but in some ways it makes the Coen Bros film feels like a trip to Disneyland. It's that dark.

One of the more astonishing aspects of BTDKYD is that the director, Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict, Serpico, Prince of the City, Twelve Angry Men, The Anderson Tapes, Long Day's Journey Into Night, The Pawnbroker, Network...need I go on?), is 83 years old, having won his lifetime achievement Oscar three years ago at 80. There's none of the slackening of vision that often comes with "geriatric" filmmakers, no weakening of shot rigor or logic. Taking a script by newcomer Kelly Masterson and reportedly changing the lead characters from friends to brothers, he's made a Greek tragedy wrapped up as a tightly-wound crime thriller. Think Agamemnon set in NYC and Westchester; Oedipus noir.

The basic story is of two brothers, one apparently successful, the other just barely hanging on, who decide to stick up their parents' mall-located jewelry store to pay off various debts. The heist goes horribly wrong and the moral conundrums pile on. The story is told in fits of flashbacks and flash-forwards, but while such a narrative gimmick may have provided the delight of its own cleverness in earlier pictures (Reservoir Dogs comes to mind), in this instance it feels maybe a little less obviously clever and more a necessary method for conveying the moral structure of the story. That is to say, fractured at best.

The cast is brilliant and unexpected. Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant in the lead, the dominant brother, his trademark technique of smiling at some sort of inward, private joke (the kind that conveys his intelligence and draws one closer in hopes of being let in on it) is here perversely charismatic, a man who has all the moves figures out if only they'd behave. Ethan Hawke is also great as his brother, conveying the endless panic of a man caught in a life-changing plan gone bad, his conscience like an endless earthquake. Albert Finney, who interestingly played famed Agatha Christie detective Hercule Poirot in Lumet's Murder on the Orient Express, is the missing motivational piece as the father, and Marisa Tomei once again demonstrates her commitment and skill, making my movie-going companion wonder why she's not used more often.

Movies like this one and Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan have a particularly nasty edge for cash-strapped or even cash-conscious yuppies, and it's what makes their knives particularly sharp. They're modern cautionary tales, not distanced enough to make the medicine go down easily, hence more courageous than a lot of other films. It was a sold-out Sunday night audience in Brooklyn for the Lumet picture, and while there wasn't a lot of feel-good applause at the end, there was that good kind of silence I used to remember from well-made, honest, powerful dramatic pix I saw as a kid.

Back when Sidney Lumet was in his heyday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Yes, Torture

Men of amelioration of torture like Rudy Giuliani would like to blur the discussion of how the Cheney/Bush Administration has lowered our country into international barbarism by instituting, for the first time in U.S. history, the notorious practices of the Spanish Inquisition.

Waterboarding. Is that like snowboarding?

Or waterskiing?

It turns out, it isn't. In fact, it's proper name is either "Controlled Drowning" or, most accurately, "Induced Drowning."

If you don't think the embrace or even consideration of Induced Drowning as an interrogative technique isn't grounds for Presidential candidate disqualification, then read this thorough description of the vile practice by Hunter at DailyKos.

WARNING: This post sickened me. It delineates something that happens to an accidentally drowning human only once but, in the hands of torture operatives like ours, can be prolonged in such a way that it happens to the torture subject, the (yes) victim, over and over and over again for hours:
Compare this with the crude techniques of torturers: cutting off a thumb or finger is repeatable, at most, ten times. Drowning can be repeated indefinitely, or at least until the information is obtained, the interrogator deems the sessions worthless, or the prisoner accidentally dies.

I read it like watching a blood-freezing, clinical description of a butchering car accident, mainly to know exactly what it is that I thought I was against.

Now I'm sure.

And remember, these techniques were originally used to bring about false confessions, because they were the confessions the brutal ruling powers needed. Hence the whole section on how torture subjects give false information, and the need for additional violent punishment (not specified) due to that common result.

Hell, I'd lie to stop the assault. Wouldn't you?

After reading the post it became clear to me that there was only one fair answer to the likes of Giuliani, "Double Guantanamo" Romney, Richard Bruce Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush and all those who would seek to enlist the darkest and most sadistic among us to perform this perverse and godless act.

They must voluntarily submit to 24 hours of Induced Drowning interrogation themselves.

C'mon, Blackwater.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Real Game

It's all about the dollar. There's arguments that the Iranian oil bourse, going live with a new oil exchange based on a currency other than the dollar, i.e. the euro, is a pipe dream of undermining U.S. currency hegemony in the world, but then again, we (Bush & Cheney & their fellow Republicans) have done it all ourselves.

To the point that seven (7) countries are considering abandoning the dollar.

But if the world runs on oil, then problem with destabilization of the dollar can have wide-ranging effects. Sure, Ahmadinejad and Chavez have their own political agendas to push, but you never want anybody calling your currency, "a worthless piece of paper."

Writing off a column by economist Paul Krugman, European economist Richard Baldwin writes:
The only reason to predict a sudden dollar plunge is if we believe today's capital flows are driven by investor myopia. That the markets are due for what Krugman calls a 'Wile E. Coyote' moment – a reference to the Warner Brothers’ cartoon where a greedy, shortsighted coyote chases a roadrunner off a cliff but doesn’t start falling until he looks down and realizes he’s left solid ground. Up until this 'Wile E. Coyote' moment, his belief that he’s on solid ground prevents him from falling. For investors in dollars, the 'Wile E. Coyote' moment comes when they realise that their expectations are inconsistent with any feasible adjustment path.

In this instance, "double bubble" isn't a flavor-packed alternative to Bazooka Joe.

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Balls?

That's the question the electorate has been asking about the Democrats ever since Clinton the 1st left office.

For some reason, they seem to be driving back into Cajoneville at the end of this week. Even The New York Times has noticed it.

To me the big news is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is not allowing that chamber to fully recess over the Thanksgiving holiday, in order to deprive President Cheney/Bush from making yet another assholic recess appointment.

Next in line is my district's Congressman, I'm proud to say, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who's just nailed a Bush State Department Inspector General, Howard Krongard, who has just perjured himself regarding his brother, Alvin “BuzzyKrongard, being on the Blackwater Board of Advisors. Since Blackwater is in deep doodoo from killing unarmed Iraqi civilians with impunity, and the Howard's job includes oversight of Blackwater, it sure looks like the now classic Bush/Cheney Corrupt Cronyism we've come to expect, albeit after a lull.

Operation Ass Save: Buzzy just bailed on Blackwater.

The lull dates back to the resignation of disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. A legal defense fund just happened to open up for Mr. Gonzales (will it scare up as much cash as Scooter's?) and maybe it had something to do with this:

New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici called Iglesias to see about getting indictments against state Democratic officials before the 2006 election. McKay said it's clear from testimony that Gonzales met with Domenici and other New Mexico Republicans -- and with the president -- about the fraud case there.

"It's apparent that he had a conversation with the president about David Iglesias and David Iglesias was fired six weeks later," he said. "There was real live investigation and the Republicans wanted the indictment out in time to help them in the election, and Iglesias said 'no' and they fired him.

"Now if all of that's true and the attorney general was aware of that when he fired David Iglesias, then he has some 'splainin' to do -- and probably in front of a grand jury."

The Democratic candidates are getting some traction at the end of this week. Hillary proved that hers is bigger in the Las Vegas debate (C'mon, lucky number seven!) even though Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is acting like such a gentleman, raising money off one of his supporters calling Clinton a "bitch" to his face, ha-ha-ha.

John Edwards marched with the WGA in Burbank, and even ex-Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) is getting into the act, facing down the cowardly T. Boone Pickens, Texas corporate predator and Swift Boat funder.

More balls? Really?

How about Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA):
The Bush administration has taken historically unprecedented steps in its assertions of executive privilege and authority. For instance, the Vice President has fought over relatively modest requests to disclose information such as with whom he consulted when setting the Administration's energy policy. The Vice President's office, during a confrontation with the National Archives over executive branch records, even declared itself an entity outside of the executive branch with enhanced powers to resist the public's right to know about its actions.

These assertions of executive privilege have wide-ranging implications for both Congress' day-to-day oversight of the Bush administration and for efforts to hold the President and Vice President accountable.

That is why I introduced the Executive Branch Prosecutions Act. This legislation would suspend the statute of limitations for crimes committed while the president and vice president hold office. Federal law currently suspends the statute of limitations for crimes related to national security. That suspension should extend to any crime committed by the President or Vice President while in office.

Could it be an outbreak of sanity?

I mean, what could be saner than getting serious about impeaching Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney? "Events sure have changed the situation..."

Oh...and guess who's returning to be honored at the White House...?


I can't say I have high expectations for how it will fare in the Senate, but the FISA bill made it out of the Judiciary Committee day without immunity for those telecoms which knowingly violated the law for Cheney/Bush.

It was a 100% party-line vote, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein getting the message and reversing her support for immunity earlier this week. I had let her know what I thought by email, as her phone lines were jammed.

Seems the main metaphor these days:

Hold the line.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


There's two new ads up from the Center for American Progress at Crooks and Liars, essentially re-introducing the Progressive "brand" to America, for the first time via television.

Casting the yet-to-be-smeared term Progressivism as the antidote to Conservatism -- rather than Liberalism vs. Conservatism -- the ads list major advancements such as Women's Suffrage, the National Park system, the 40-hour work week, Civil Rights, Social Security and the New Deal as successes benefiting all Americans bitterly opposed by Conservative forces, and then links up to today's major battlefields of national health care and protection from corporate exploitation.

There's two more ads I "get" but like a lot less, as they're already cliched parodies of Apples "Mac guy/PC guy" ads, but they're at least on point and mildly amusing, if borderline cheap shots.

What I love about all of this is the focus on modern branding, and anyone who gets too purist on me can eat it, because if we don't do it we don't win -- the other side already knows all these lessons, witness Karl Rove's message machine. And it's also crucial to define it to ourselves so it's not just an instinct or tendency or feeling.

But a modern brand campaign won't be enough in and of itself, progressives.

Get ready to be slimed, and I hope the Center for American Progress already has their plans in place for brand defense.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Tell me something. What's the most you've ever lost on a coin toss?

I've read the Cormac McCarthy book, certainly his most accessible to then, that the Coen Brothers made into their latest release, No Country for Old Men, and read most of the screenplay, so I was prepared for the crazy violence, the Texas desert and, most of all, the un-Hollywood ending, so when I was watching it in packed Century City AMC on Sunday night at 8:05pm I was not only caught in the relentless suspense of the story, at the same time I was thinking about how to describe the work.

At one level, it's simply a perfect literary adaptation, true to the source material in both plotting and spirit, true down to the offbeat, ruminative ending, bringing it alive in jackpot images not unlike the successful adaptation of Tolkien by Jackson.

At another level it's a sterling set of actors, roles, performances, not a weak link in the bunch, with high-wattage bigscreen performers including Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Steven Root and, best of all, Javier Bardem as the ruthlessly principled boogie man, Anton Chigurh.

Sure, the picture has a lived-in authenticity while still delivering the crystalline Coen Bros imagery, by way of DP Roger Deakins. Yes, the level of control is astounding, yet the performances seem fresh and three-dimensional. Yeah, maybe the ending is striving for a certain literary quality that we can debate whether it merits.

What's really at the core of the movie's appeal, and credit McCarthy for laying out all the brutal beats in his own semi-elliptical style in the source material, is the suspense. As one NYC friend and reader wrote me after seeing the movie pre-release, "them Coen boys are badasses."

I can't recall the last time I saw such detailed playing out of extended suspense, essentially one long chase stretching across all three acts. The audience I saw it with was completely rapt, with groans and expletives and inappropriate laughter at all the right moments (okay, maybe that was me with most of the inappropriate laughter). The Coens are so at the top of their game, the lessons of Blood Simple and Fargo echoing throughout their unimpeachable command, that they easily win the heir to Alfred Hitchcock mantle with this one.

It's Hitchcock with shotguns. Sawed-off shotguns. And a cattle puncher.

Beside the cliche infusion of L.A. cinema geeks/unbearable Coen fanipshers (there was a tiny group in the audience, middle left, who applauded when the credits rolled, one member endlessly, that was completely inappropriate to the way the Bros leave us), I realized that the rest of the crowd is there not so much for "quirkiness" or "Art"; we came because this looked like a serious Americana noir, and we know the Coens know how to deliver on that.

So in the middle of this essentially nihilistic movie I remember the quote Fellini made about Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, another masterpiece suspense picture with a dangling, deliberately unsatisfying ending -- he called it, "An apocalyptic tone-poem."

This one as well. Those critics seeing a larger metaphor talk about the apocalyptic undertones to the story, the way Chigurh represents and whole never wave of future violence tearing apart the old world (set in 1980) or maybe our terroristic world of today. What I love about the movie is that it allows that the violence is actually ancient an reoccurring, per Chigurh's lopsided Buster Brown haircut and Jones' visit to an old, disabled lawman towards the end of the picture.

But at some level it's an existential art d'object, a Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) screening, stills of running, bloody, at night, or fishing in air ducts with tentpoles, or standing in by the counter in the filling station, all Warholized on the wall. It's an invitation to look deeper and the possibility that nothing's there, that it's the surface you have to watch, for clues and warnings, and god-bless quick reflexes.

McCarthy himself seems twice inspired by Sam Peckinpah movies, with Blood Meridian like a "Mirror, Mirror" version of The Wild Bunch, and No Country echoing Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. In the Bros hands, it's a brilliant combination. Long stretches of Alfred laced with startling explosions of Sam, then a couple John Ford-class speeches by Jones, who's arguably the protagonist of the piece.

When the lights go up, the movie's still with you. Stop clapping, asshat, because this one's bigger than the self-importance of your self-valorizing opinion.

Ethan Coen turned 50 this year, and the team of he and his older brother, Joel, is here to stay; the biggest professionals on the lot, hitting a peak. What I think they're reaching for here, that maybe they weren't fully feeling before, is a real mortality. Still young men relative to McCarthy, they deliver his darkening vision of aging and passing beautifully. It gives their characters, which appear as seamless additions to the Coen cannon, a weight that hasn't been so certifiable before.

That's right. They may have made more than their share of classics already, but with this one they've grown up.

Ethan & Joel Coen have made their first 100% movie for adults.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day Blues

The worst Veterans Days are always the ones where there's a war going on. And while all wars seem to engender some degree of patriotic censorship, even the ones going well, the chaotic banning of anti-Iraq War vets from V-Day parades is just, well, un-American:
Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out were prevented from joining the annual parade down Atlantic Avenue and restricted to a nearby parking lot, officials said. Organizers said the groups were trying to push a political agenda at an event to honor veterans. Earlier this week, the Veterans Day Parade Committee rejected their applications to participate, according to the Long Beach Press- Telegram. "This is not a political event, this is a time to come and just say thank you to all veterans," said Long Beach City Councilman Val Lerch, who also was on the parade committee.

Here's Val. I'm hoping he means well, but you just don't know these days, with such a dissent-averse rightwing as we have now. The partisans in charge.

Keith Olbermann had on a very compelling Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), where they covered the stifling of veteran free speech, the 1 in 4 stats of Iraq & Afghanistan war vets currently homeless, and a recent case story in the L.A. Times by a photographer who got closer than usual to his Marlboro Marine.

Oh, and they cover Bush not pausing in his war council to attend the annual wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetary.

Meanwhile our very own Admiral William Fallon, head of Central Command, says:

None of this is helped by the continuing stories that just keep going around and around and around that any day now there will be another war which is just not where we want to go.

Getting Iranian behaviour to change and finding ways to get them to come to their senses and do that is the real objective. Attacking them as a means to get to that spot strikes me as being not the first choice in my book.

Getting our government to change its behavior is not even possible until January 20, 2009.

It's enough to drive one to absinthe.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Did Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) just turn his sagging campaign around?

On Saturday night in Iowa, at a fabled event called the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, with six Democratic Presidential candidates giving speeches, Obama got his best reviews since his big splash at the 2004 Democratic Convention, i.e.
What I liked most about it was that Obama finally seemed to find the right balance between being a unity candidate, someone who can bring both parties together, and throwing anti-Republican red meat to the base while at the same time actually expressing pride in being a Democrat. Last night, Obama may have given his very first Democratic primary speech of the campaign. About time, Senator...
Andrew Sullivan has a collection of raves.

If you 're really interested, you can watch the whole 20:49 here. Big winning drive:

Our moment is now!

I don't want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s. I don’t want to pit red America against blue America. I want to be the President of the United States of America.

And if those Republicans come at me with the same fear-mongering and swift-boating that they usually do, then I will take them head-on. Because I believe the American people are tired of fear, and tired of distractions…we can make this election not about fear, but about the future, and that will not be just a Democratic victory, that will be an American victory, a victory that America needs right now!

Legitimately stirring stuff. If Obama really has a chance to win the nomination, I may have to rethink my current voting plan...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dirty Water

What the hell is going on in San Francisco Bay?

Emergency officials more than doubled the number of ships and cleanup workers attacking the massive oil spill throughout the Bay Area on Saturday - while hundreds of frustrated citizens who tried to help were turned away from contaminated beaches and so-called training sessions.

The armada of governmental and private boats on the water either searching for oily messes or mopping them up grew from 11 to 46, the Coast Guard reported, and the number of people working cleanup shifts increased from 300 to 770. Three helicopters did flyovers all day to pinpoint the worst contamination spots.

"I assure you, that's not where we're stopping," said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Craig Bone, who for days has been fending off criticism of his agency's response to the crisis. "In the next few days you'll see hundreds more people arriving on these beaches."

Yep, another coastal oil spill. And it's really, really bad:

The 65,131-ton ship hit the second tower west of Yerba Buena Island at 8:30 a.m., causing a gash more than 100 feet long in the ship's hull and releasing 58,000 gallons of fuel into the bay. The resulting oil slick has spread as far north as Tomales Bay, fouling or killing more than 100 birds.

It was the first time a commercial ship had hit the bridge and is the worst oil spill in the bay since 1996.

Immediately after the accident, Capt. Peter McIsaac, president of the San Francisco Bar Pilots, boarded a boat and headed for the Cosco Busan, then just off Treasure Island. He said oil was pouring out of a gash in the ship.

"I've never seen oil going into the water like that," he said.

The geography there is damning. They've got protective booms coming out of Chrissy Field, for godsake. The most beautiful jewel of bridge over water in a U.S. city, now longterm besmirched.

At Daily Kos, catfish has the latest on how everyone is trying to volunteer, but the Coast Guard and other feds are arresting people trying to help, while Rome burns.

Take a look at this overhead view of the Bay, with the variations in water color clearly indicating that this breach, being at the Oakland Bay Bridge on the east side of the city, is a total horrorshow
The Cosco Busan struck a tower of the Bay Bridge on Wednesday morning in dense fog, creating a long slash along the ship that allowed bunker fuel to spill into the water.

The Coast Guard initially called the spill minor but later realized the amount of fuel was greater than first thought. Environmentalists criticized the Coast Guard for not notifying other agencies fast enough and for being slow to put inflatable booms on the water's surface to prevent oil from spreading...

...Tides carried the bunker fuel towards the Pacific Ocean under the Golden Gate Bridge and people near the spill on Wednesday reported headaches and nausea. The spill reached the famed former prison island of Alcatraz and as far north as Marin County, environmentalists said.

Someone has to run against Big Oil, and I'm guessing it might be Edwards, but why doesn't someone just do it? Obscene profits, massive subsidies, life-threatening energy source who's dwindling is causing wars.

Remember the Exxon Valdez? It's still not over:

Many people remember that the Exxon Valdez tanker went aground and gushed 200,000 gallons of oil a minute into the waters of Alaska's Prince William Sound. And that its captain allegedly was drunk. It is harder to recall just how long ago that was — March 1989, more than 18 years ago.

It was the largest oil spill in the United States. It dominated the news and became part of the national culture.

But in the United States every really big story happens twice — first the thing itself, and then the trial.

The Exxon Valdez trial occurred five years later, in federal district court in Alaska. The plaintiffs were fishermen and natives claiming that their livelihoods had been destroyed by the spill, and the principal defendant was Exxon, which owned the now-immortal tanker.

It was a jury trial. It lasted for months. And then the 12 jurors deliberated and debated. And decided. They came in with a punitive damage award of $5 billion against Exxon. (Compensatory damages of $286 million had been awarded in another phase of the trial.)

That decision was on Sept. 16, 1994. Exxon quickly filed an appeal on the punitive award.

That was more than 13 years ago.

And for those 13 years, the case has remained in the seamless limbo known as appeal. It is as if time stopped. The matter went to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and there it stayed, shrouded by mystery and fog, like Skull Island. From time to time small fleets of litigants tried to approach and were themselves enveloped in the eerie mists.

Many plaintiffs died. No matter. Advantage moved from one side to the other, with no end in sight.

Then last week, the fog thickened. The Supreme Court granted certiorari, and so those plaintiffs still clinging to life will have to keep on waiting to see whether they get their money — the pot is now about $4.7 billion, because during the appeals process the sum was lowered but interest has kicked in.

Eighteen years later and still not paid. Who says you can't buy justice?

I expect to be up in SF later this month, will try to get a look.

Just heartbreaking.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Law 'n' Order

Gotta love the law & order GOP. They can't even keep anyone from robbing a dead President. Witness the Ronald Reagan library:

Library officials told auditors that "the collection contained approximately 100,000 items, yet the library systems only had information to locate and account for approximately 20,000 items," Brachfield said.

"This does not automatically mean the approximately 80,000 remaining items are missing. The vast majority may very well be safely located within the library's storage facilities. ... Some of these items may be missing or stolen, or none of these items may be missing or stolen."

If it is indeed theft, then I can only think it celestial irony that this library was looted just like we (Rumsfeld et al) allowed all of Iraq's libraries, museums and government buildings to be looting in the first few days following our "Mission Accomplished".

On the other hand, if it's all just mismanagement, the cosmic "heckuva job" irony is simply even greater proof that:

(a) The GOP can't be trusted to run institution properly.

(b) The idea that private sector organizations are somehow better run than government ones is not inherently true.

Better to get the Republicans out of government and let them play their war games on a PC or console, where they can restart all they want.

Just Do It

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has very shrewdly introduced a motion to commence impeachment hearings against Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney.

What's smart of this is that if the Democratic leadership grows maybe just one additional testicle and ovary and at least permits it to go forward, it immediately puts pressure on the Vice President's Office to prepare a defense, which historically how impeachment hearings have been used to hamper Presidencies.

What's also smart is that after the Clinton impeachment debacle, and with Bush's much more rigorous plausible denial mechanics and puppet-like reputation, no one series expects he could be impeached, and no one wants to waste the Electorate's goodwill by going there.

On the other hand, everybody but a core uninformed, alcoholic, obstinate and wingnut constituency actually fears and despises Cheney, and there would be no tears in making him go. We Americans want him out, and we feel the world will be much safer without him in power.

There's a pretty brilliant clip here of Kucinich by live feed up against Tucker Carlson on that blowhard's show. Kucinich handles Carlson deftly, with the once bow-tied one slipping misleading throwaways like calling impeachment proceedings "overthrow", and Kucinich catching and correcting him on it.

The ambush-style interview actually turns out to make me think that impeachment hearings against Cheney are possible, that due to a public buzz and call for the hearings, the Democratic leadership might ease its docking of the bill.

Some are optimistic, but I can't get there yet. The establishment Dems against it are looking for a clean path to Tuesday 11/04/08, enough of an agenda passed to run on, constant veto-doomed votes to withdraw from Iraq to make their base think that they're at least trying, more GOP implosion and maybe even a Ron Paul 3rd Party run.

What I do imagine is that if there's any public airing of Cheney's actual deeds and those of his Libby-like subordinates, things could snowball fast. Imagine how excited the Democratic electorate would be, and a lion's share of independents. Maybe even Ron Paul?

How fast could things start happening?

All I know is that in his role as Vice President, Cheney has a pit-bottom 23% approval rating, and a punishing 60% disapproval rating. Those have to be record numbers for an American Vice President.

Just do it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Devil and Rudy Giuliani

Far rightwing Christianist Pat Robertson just endorsed an overjoyed Rudy Giuliani. What exactly is the common appeal?

Blaming liberals for 9/11.

Pro-torture. (Read: Crusade.)

Fascist capitalism.

"Southern" Strategy.

Ed Kilgore puts Robertson's waiving of all supposed "principles" (in light of Giuliani's previous support of abortion rights, gay tolerance, infidelity and divorce record) in a perspective that folks on my side of the line can understand:
I've tried to think of a Democratic analog for the unlikeliness of this particular endorsement, and the best I can come up with is Cindy Sheehan joining Hillary Clinton's campaign out of admiration for her energy proposals.

I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Truth Will Out

Maybe the biggest story developing in U.S. politics is how the Republican Party, such as it has grown to be constituted today, is re-kookifying. By which I mean that it is splintering and fragmenting again, and with each chip reveals the pieces to be fundamentally dysfunctional at best, but more often non compos mentis.

Leading the charge is "far-right wing operative and former communist agitator David Horowitz", who created something he called "Islamofascism Awareness Week" to bolster his dying speaking career. Horowitz is a leader in trying to muzzle liberal thought on campuses, in the guise of combating what he claims is a prejudice against right-wing thought.

Kooks like Horowitz seem to think that all schools should have the ideological balance reflected on Fox News. Problem is, thinking is the ideal in college study, and the modern Conservative orthodoxy has been shown as a total sham, a bankrupt ideology built on greed and fomentation of fear.

Max Blumenthal covers Horowitz at Columbia October 26th, where he even confronted him in Q&A with his own words, in which Horowitz compared his father to Mohammed Atta of that horrific 9/11 crew, all to make a circuitous ideological point.

All I can think is, does this entire Early-21st Century hole these Horowitz's and Bush/Cheneys have put us in have to be Oedipal wrecks?

Next comes the crack-up of the #1 Conservative book publishing house, Regnery Publishing, as a group of its authors sue for stolen earnings. The wingdingaling volumes include such classics as, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security and Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush Is Winning the War on Terror.

You know, sci-fi.

It seems that Regnery owns the very book clubs it sells do at loss leader-style discounts. According to The New York Times:
Mr. Miniter said that meant that although he received about $4.25 a copy when his books sold in a bookstore or through an online retailer, he only earned about 10 cents a copy when his books sold through the Conservative Book Club or other Eagle-owned channels. “The difference between 10 cents and $4.25 is pretty large when you multiply it by 20,000 to 30,000 books,” Mr. Miniter said. “It suddenly occurred to us that Regnery is making collectively jillions of dollars off of us and paying us a pittance.” He added: “Why is Regnery acting like a Marxist cartoon of a capitalist company?”

What's funny about this statement is that Regnery is actually acting like any other hyper-capitalist GOP mechanism, vertically integrating and taking advantage of a monopolistic opportunity in the marketplace that exploits elements of the creator's contract to maximize profits. Even if it screws the creator.

Jillions vs. pittance. Which side of that Hobbesian stick would anyone want to be on?

What's koo-koo is that for all the schaudenfreude, but per Kevin Drum:
But if a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, what do you call a conservative who's come face to face with the naked face of vertically integrated capitalism?

And my final favorite re-kookifying is actually a case of a kook making so much sense he makes his Party look positively kooky running away from him.

I used to fear Former Governor Mike Huckabee, who could still run away with the GOP Presidential nomination. Only now I think Huckabee would have to shuck even harder than he has to absorb Ron Paul's followers.

Rep. Paul (R-TX) is the bummer guest at the Republican Party's party, the guy who actually makes more sense on the Iraq War and its relationship to our U.S. Constitution than some of the Democratic candidates (Edwards and Dodd excepted). While you may not agree with Paul on this other Libertarian ideas (abolishing the IRS and Dept. of Education, cutting virtually all Federal regulations) they adhere to a consistent Constitutional approach, one that treats the Framers with a hell of a lot more respect and intellectual coherence than the Federalist Society cabal.

But looky here, Paul's campaign/supporters somehow organized up an excellent p.r. moment, when they all made their donations on Guy Fawkes day to the impressive tune of a $4.2MM one day haul. Nice work! The Guy Fawkes business has been criticized in relation to the British celebration -- capturing the man who was about to blow up Parliament -- but is really just an appropriate reference to graphic novel/movie V for Vendetta.


But already making the standard storyline Republicans kook-out in fear, trying to make you believe it's not really catching on.

The reality is that Rep. Paul's philosophy is very appealing and, I expect, will grow a following that may not even crest until 2012 or beyond. With the standard GOP philosophy discredited by all but the most hardcore ideologues or bloodsuckers, there's an opening for a concise, fiscally conservative, pro-habeas corpus, non-interventionalist philosophy. I wouldn't be surprised if Paul isn't a force at the Republican Convention -- maybe even winning a few states.

Will a Democratic candidate evince a consistent and succinct enough philosophy to lock in a win for this next Presidential election?

If I were one of them, I'd take a cue from Rep. Paul and start here.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Wondering about the quality of the news you're receiving, maybe even the news with which you start your day?

Think it might be o.k.?

Then tell me how a so-called professional anchor woman, Hannah Storm can focus her interview with the wife of a major party Presidential nomination candidate on the "get" of getting his wife to stick out her tongue?

Meanwhile there's wild repression by our supposed #1 ally in the so-called "War on Terror", a conviction in a huge Congressional Republican corruption case linked to the Department of Defense, and our nation facing “the worst potential financial crisis since the Depression.”

Party on, Hannah. And show us your piercings.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Another appearance by Former President George Herbert Walker Bush, another tear shed for the election of his son:

Bush: “My favorite picture is a picture of American soldiers surrounding a guy whose been in a foxhole, Iraqi soldier, and the American guy says, we’re not going to harm you, we’re American soldiers.” (fights back tears) “…See, that side of the war never got — the fact that we treated those people with respect in spite of the fact they were the enemy, it’s really good.

Flow them tears, it's your devilspawn who's got the world thinking that America's turned into the Hanoi Hilton. Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, "it's not waterboarding if we do it," all coming home to roost.

Per the lede, this isn't the first time Bush Sr. has cried in public. Whatever Poppy planned for his dynasty, it all went to hell along with Jeb Bush's chance to reach the Oval Office.

Sorry, pops. Hear my violin.

Oh, that's right. I can't play violin.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Emergency Powers

Our primo ally in the War on Terror/Islamofascism/Radical Islam/Talaban/Whatever just declared martial law:
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf suspended Pakistan's constitution and deployed troops in the capital Saturday, declaring that rising Islamic extremism had forced him to take emergency measures. He also replaced the chief justice and blacked out the independent media that refused to support him.

Authorities began rounding up opposition politicians, cut phone lines in Islamabad and took all but state television off air, defying calls from Washington and other Western allies not to take authoritarian measures.

While there have been several suicide bombings in the past few months, some wonder if Musharraf has other reasons for taking such actions:
Musharraf's leadership is threatened by an increasingly defiant Supreme Court, the reemergence of political rival and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and an Islamic movement that has spread to the capital. The Supreme Court was expected to rule soon on the validity of Musharraf's contentious re-election last month.

He's going right ahead with arresting a key political enemy:
Pakistani authorities on Saturday arrested the main lawyer who has been arguing in favour of challenges to President Pervez Musharraf's re-election, private television reported.

Geo television reported that police had detained Aitzaz Ahsan after Musharraf imposed emergency rule on Saturday, just days before the Supreme Court was due to rule on the legality of the October 6 vote.

Ahsan, a former cabinet minister, also successfully defended chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry after Musharraf tried to sack him earlier this year.

Ah, but don't worry. I'm sure the Cheney/Bush Administration will take decisive, moral action.

Or maybe not:
For more than five months the United States has been trying to orchestrate a political transition in Pakistan that would manage to somehow keep Gen. Pervez Musharraf in power without making a mockery of President Bush’s promotion of democracy in the Muslim world.

On Saturday, those carefully laid plans fell apart spectacularly. Now the White House is stuck in wait-and-see mode, with limited options and a lack of clarity about the way forward.

General Musharraf’s move to seize emergency powers and abandon the Constitution left Bush administration officials close to their nightmare: an American-backed military dictator who is risking civil instability in a country with nuclear weapons and an increasingly alienated public.

Darn it.

Look, I have no idea if Musharraf is in some way justified, that Pakistan was/is about to tip into the Taliban zone, with all those other Constitutionally vested folks -- judges, lawyers, lawmakers -- poised to deliver the country to the most radical elements. It just stands to reason that fascism is fascism and there's a thick line there.

We have, of course, seen the erosion of this line in our country under President Cheney, who is still surely planning to bomb Iran and expects to somehow get away with it. (He might, we won't.) So how ironic that Musharraf should quote one of our most revered Presidents in suspending his country's rule of law:

Just after midnight, General Musharraf appeared on state-run television. In a 45-minute speech, he said he had declared the emergency to limit terrorist attacks and “preserve the democratic transition that I initiated eight years back.”

He gave no firm date for nationwide elections that had been scheduled for January and said his current Parliament, which he dominates, would remain in place. He did not say how long the state of emergency would be maintained.

The general, dressed in civilian clothes, quoted from Abraham Lincoln, citing the former president’s suspension of some rights during the American Civil War as justification for his own state of emergency.

Our next move?

Do we even have one?

Friday, November 02, 2007


One of the best-known song by the short-lived but exponentially admired and influential late-1970's British rock band Joy Division is entitled "She's Lost Control", and when watching it being sung by actor Sam Riley reincarnating doomed lead singer Ian Curtis in Anton Corbijn's brilliant new picture, Control, it finally fell into place for me. Curtis wasn't singing about "she", he was singing about himself:
And she turned around and took me by the hand
And said I've lost control again.
And how I'll never know just why or understand
She said I've lost control again.
And she screamed out kicking on her side
And said I've lost control again.
And seized up on the floor, I thought she'd die.
She said I've lost control.
She's lost control again.
She's lost control.
She's lost control again.
She's lost control.

Control is about an immensely promising young artist who loses control of his body thanks to epileptic seizures that plague him even onstage, who loses control of his mind to the crapshoot combo of drug prescriptions meant to control the seizures, and who loses control of his heart when torn between his wife and is band-following mistress. He took final control on May 18, 1980, by ending his life, thus entering into the pantheon of rock & roll legend.

I arrived in London three months later for my Junior Year of college, having heard a little bit about Joy Division back in the states, where the most musically adventurous of university acquaintances had their first album, Unknown Pleasures. Just before I arrived in England, as I remember, their second and final album was released, posthumously for Curtis, Closer. It's a dark, at times industrial, often propulsive record, an instant classic, simultaneously spare and dense, the pulsating beat of the odd lead bass, ultra-separated drums, and rhythm factory guitar laying an edgy, icy, addictive bed for Curtis' signature bass baritone, as ritualistic as a church service, albeit one held on a dance floor at three in the morning.

It's that pulsation, that pulse, which infuses Control with a spirit somehow less depressing than you might imagine, considering Curtis' final act, the bad-times Manchester setting, and the black & white cinematography. In fact, that time in England was a era of Joy Division wannabe bands, dronish act of diminishing interest all inspired by the band's sound and Curtis' newly minted legend. If the band was white and new, it droned. What the majority of those bands failed to capture, however, and what Corbijn and Riley capture so tellingly, is that Joy Division didn't just have drone; it had swing.

Yes, buried in the seriousness of their musical moments, at his best, Curtis glided back and forth over the beats like a jazz singer, albeit one raised in ancient Sparta. One of the most astonishing after-viewing facts I discovered was that Riley and his fellow actors actually decided to play the music themselves rather than sync to the original tracks, and it infuses the stage scenes with real energy and credibility, much like Gary Busey and company in The Buddy Holly Story (itself released in 1978). Riley, a U.K. band veteran, channels Curtis' trademark vocals so well that I naturally assumed it was lipsync. Hence the mandate for him to win a bunch of end-of-year acting awards.

Corbijn had just come from his native Holland to England back then when he was assigned a photo shoot with Joy Division. He explains that he barely spent any time with the band, but clearly this first feature has been a mission for him, adapting wife Deborah Curtis' book Touching from a Distance, shooting in surviving locations like Curtis' flat and street, and shooting it like a set of photos from the time come to life.

Although I intellectually knew that the movie was in black & white, when it first came on I found myself at first surprised, almost cheated out of color, expecting it would show up later in the movie as so many current filmmakers like to mix filmstocks for effect. Then I settled back, recalling how much I love b&w movies and enjoyed them throughout my youth, and relaxed to the look. It turns out to be the absolute right choice, perversely draining the depression out of a movie that would have been too kitchen-sink unbearable in color, and reinforcing the period as no art direction would. Not only is 1970's Manchester well-suited to the limited tonal palette, but there are very few images of the band in color. Even the cover of their final album features a black & white photograph -- of two mausoleum statues.

Then the story Corbijn tells is anything but black and white. As Deborah Curtis, Ian's young cuckolded working class wife, top-billed Samantha Morton doesn't fall into any cliched pathos-generation tricks. Deborah is a sensible woman who first noticed Ian's lyrical talent and loves him to the end, even if she's decided that divorce is the only way forward. Curtis himself is portrayed as a young intellectual and reasonably dedicated civil servant who's come to see his marriage and fatherhood as an irrevocable mistake. (It's also a bit of a revelation that Curtis was so enamored of David Bowie, but it provides a key to understanding his vocal style.) The movie does a good job of showing some of the hallmarks of suicidal depression, i.e. the consistent lack of appetite and the constant inner tension that metastasizes into unbearably ceaseless self-loathing.

Along the way there's the fresh handling of the "B" plot of Ian joining the band and their rise to fame. While some of the tale is more apocryphal than true (record label owner Tony Wilson didn't actually sign a contract in blood), it's got the wry and dry midlands sense of humor, best carried by Tony Kebbell as band manager Rob Gretton. It's a measure of the movie's drive for originality that when expected to cover for Curtis to his wife, Gretton takes an unexpected path.

Ultimately it's the pulse of the times, the band, and the stilled pulse of Curtis himself that provide the pleasing energy of the film, a ripe contender for top rock biopic ever. If there was any disappointment for me it was that Corbijn didn't include my favorite Joy Division song, the side two opener to Closer, "Heart and Soul". Per Curtis, in words his wife, fellow band members, and mistress later realized they had not paid proper attention to:
Existence well what does it matter?
I exist on the best terms I can.
The past is now part of my future,
The present is well out of hand.
The present is well out of hand.

Heart and soul, one will burn.
Heart and soul, one will burn.
One will burn, one will burn.

In Control, it burns bright.