Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Global warming is obviously a myth:

Atlanta-based UPS, the world's biggest package-delivery company, is testing urinals that drain without water. Coca-Cola turned off the fountain in front of its Atlanta headquarters and canceled planting of new flowers that would require watering, said Kirsten Witt, spokeswoman.

Even the city's aquarium found ways to save a few drops. The Georgia Aquarium bills itself as the world's largest, with 8 million gallons (30 million liters) of water that is home to sharks, sea lions, coral and other aquatic life.

The aquarium, in downtown Atlanta, temporarily cut off a waterfall. For two other water-gushing features, the shutdown is permanent. A lake and a moat are being replaced with sand and art, said Dave Santucci, spokesman.

Wow, that sounds pretty extreme.
The moves may be too late: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that Lake Lanier, the city's reservoir, may run out of clean water in about 110 days. The area has received just 25 inches (64 centimeters) of rain this year, half the usual amount.

The worst drought since the 1920's. You know, just before the Great Depression.

We're a great nation. We'll be able to do something to make sure the people of Atlanta do not go without water in 3 1/2 months. There's a plan...right?
``It doesn't seem like people are concerned enough,'' said Mickey Mellen, 31, who tracks the water situation on a blog, ``What happens when we run out? Nobody has a real answer.''

First New Orleans, now Atlanta? How many more pieces of America do you think we'll lose before, say, January 20, 2009?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How You Know

How do you know when it's real Rock & Roll?

When the GOP-fronting establishment radio network dominating the U.S. airwaves censors it:
A couple weeks ago the new album was #1 on the Billboard album chart. Kid Rock's new album knocked it down a peg and this week, Springsteen disposed on Kid Rock and is back at #1. The album is already gold and headed right towards platinum and he's got a great shot to win a Grammy for Best Album of the Year. Magic's reviews virtually everywhere are over the top and the intro to his latest interview in Rolling Stone refers to the album's subject matter as "weighty stuff like the direction of our democracy and party stuff that recalls the days when sparks first flew on E Street more than three decades ago."
Republican radio network Clear Channel, a monopoly in many cities and a dominant player in most of the rest, isn't interested. Is it because Springsteen has been an outspoken campaigner for Democrats and progressives? Clear Channel has taken a political stand with its programming in the past. Just think back to their boycott of the Dixie Chicks. Oh, no... not way back, just back to when they released their most recent album. Despite being one of the top 10 best-selling American albums of the year-- across all genres and demographics-- radio studiously ignored it. There were maybe half a dozen country stations that even played it at all. What Clear Channel did to the Dixie Chicks is a watertight case for the need to break the media companies up into a thousand pieces.

Not much Magic on Clear Channel. Despite the hard-driving, hook-a-rama single, "Radio Nowhere". The official "leak" is that it's because the Boss is over 50. But there's evidence to the contrary -- delivered to Congress:
Another friend of mine distinctly recalls the Senate hearings on radio consolidation in light of the Dixie Chicks boycott where Barbara Boxer and John McCain heard testimony including an internal Clear Channel memo threatening "Just wait and see what happens if Springsteen tries this." I guess we're seeing that right now.

Clear Channel, jump a little lighter. Springsteen's back in town.

Monday, October 29, 2007


The key to every David Cronenberg movie is, of course, the body; specifically, it's limitations, mutations and mutilations. So it should be no surprise that the bravura sequence in his sharp new thriller, Eastern Promises, is the one where Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), a Russian gangster with a hint of a conscience and brand new gangland tattoos, is ambushed naked in a London bath house by two fully dressed thugs with short curved knives.

There's something James Bond about the scene, Connery or maybe Craig Bond. Perhaps I'm just influenced by being in the middle of Fleming's most celebrated episode, From Russia with Love, back when Bond had an animal side as well, often described naked or in boxers when alone at home or in a hotel room. In what may have been an intentional way, Cronenberg's fight scene plays like a mirror image of the one in that book and movie, when Russian agent Red Grant (Robert Shaw) finally attacks Bond (Connery) in the claustrophobic train compartment, on the elegant Orient Express. The Russian had a suicide blond buzzcut. Bond was jet black, neat with just a touch of rake.

In the bath fight, Mortensen's doo is jet black and cut like Connery's

That wall-banging, to the death hand-to-hand Orient Express fight scene set the standard. Until now.

As always, in the fight and in the opening sequence, Cronenberg takes the gore that touch over-the-top, to look-don't-look and look again. He punishes the audience because he knows it's what they want/don't want. But most of all, it's a signature, a throwback to his 1970's experimental horror days of The Brood and They Came from Within where the body mutations were, shall we say, visionary, and he needed them to stand out.

Who can forget the "New Flesh" of Videodrome, the psychotic twin gynecologists of Dead Ringers, or Jeff Goldblum literally falling apart in The Fly. Heads exploding in Scanners. Judy Davis mainlining into her breast near the start of Naked Lunch.

The new flesh, indeed.

What's happened over his last two pictures is an extraordinary late career turn where he's become the most exciting director of movies for adults of his generation, that kind of lost generation after the Movie Brats (Scorsese, Spielberg, De Palma, Lucas) that also includes David Lynch, but with a much more steady output. Thanks to working mainly outside of Hollywood in his home city of Toronto, and now twice in London, he's put out nearly a picture a year.

These last two have been from screenwriters other than Cronenberg himself, a reversal for him, and one that seems to have opened his wings. They're linear and accessible, fairly new for David, but the payoff for all his years laboring in his own post-structural macabre has yielded the best director of pure suspense tension maybe alive today.

From the opening credits with Howard Shore's foreboding, Continental score, and right into the first scene, in a barber shop, it's Hitchcock all the way, absolutely tense grand master work, in total control except for when he lets the out-of-control slip in, as Hitchcock yearned for but only glanced at, as in Psycho and Frenzy.

The basic story, of midwife Naomi Watts discovering the diary of a fourteen year old girl who dies in childbirth and how it mixes her up with the 100% ruthless Russian mob, is simple and nerve-wracking. But as with the diner and climax scenes in A History of Violence, screen idol Viggo Mortensen is the perfect vessel for Cronenberg to allow the kind of cathartic fight scene deliverance he previously eschewed. We're the richer for it.

Now always attracting impossibly great casts, including Armin Mueller-Stahl and Vincent Cassel as father/son mobsters, and the aging Polish-born director Jerzy Skolimowski, Cronenberg gets spot-on performances, all in a nifty 100 minutes, tight.

With their previous movie, Cronenberg and Mortensen explored the body as a vessel for identity. As Tom/Joey, Viggo slid effortlessly and convincingly between two men, one we started the movie with, the other who barges back in from long before the movie began. Here he slides effortlessly into his Siberian accent, having done the trips to Russia and individual research. There's a question of identity here as well, although maybe on an even more spiritual, brooding level. But even the naked fight harkens back to the previous movie, echoing the bumpy, crazily erotic staircase sex scene, and Viggo has even called it "Maria Bello's revenge." This time with overtones both homoerotic and classic male figure.

The spirit may divide but the body is static, the backstop, the stumbling block.

It's the pre-story miscarriage that makes Watts' Anna so protective of the orphaned infant. The first time we see the baby it must be a prosthetic newborn, a Lynch-like practical, but somehow all the more spellbinding for it. The real child is allowed to stare out at us, breaking the fourth wall, then drawing us back in again.

It's the order given by Cassel's Kirill to see actual intercourse, explicit voyeurism, and all of us implicated.

It's the blood of identity, the proof that just as easily pools on the hard tile floor.

But most of all it's the prison and gangland tattoos on Viggo's body, raw semiotic signifiers of pain and of membership. Viggo's age, pushing 50, is his ally, the thinking man's action hero of his generation. He's the king, after all, the title monarch of J.R.R. Tolkien's/Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and there's no doubt that Cronenberg knows it. In his standout line, Nikolai explains, "I can't become king if someone else already sits on the throne."

Just as Aragorn battled Mordor and Tom returned to Philadelphia, there's something that Nikolai can only take by wit, blood and strategy.

If Martin Scorsese has Robert DeNiro (and now Leonardo DiCaprio), in Viggo Mortensen, David Cronenberg has finally found his heroic onscreen alter ego.

And not a moment too soon.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Why Not Us?

Death of the species, by the handful:
Poaching and deforestation in the tropics are imperiling dozens of humans’ primate relations, with nearly a third of the 394 known species of apes, monkeys, lemurs and other groups listed as threatened with extinction in a new report from the World Conservation Union.

The report focuses on the plight of the 25 most endangered species, which live scattered around the tropics, mainly in areas of Asia and Africa. “You could fit all the surviving members of these 25 species in a single football stadium, that’s how few of them remain on earth today,” said Russell A. Mittermeier, the chairman of the panel of primate experts who wrote the report and the president of Conservation International.

I'm just thinking, the primates are closest to us, right? So what makes us think we're so special? Because we have gunpowder? What's to say we're not on the endangered species list before too long, human beings.

With a polar ice year like this one we've just had, would it be such a surprise?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Callow Gunslinger?

Watching the Red Sox takes apart the previously hot Colorado Rockies is a bit like watching Hillary Clinton take apart Barack Obama. The talented newcomer may get a clever hit or streak, but the experienced warrior doesn't let it last for very long.

On a purely gameplay level and leaving aside any preferences along with possible comeback kid John Edwards, the Obama campaign has been surprising for it's reverse momentum.

Starting by gathering record crowds inspired by his mere entrance into the race, he's hurt himself with long, rambling speeches (I noticed this on C-SPAN awhile back), a message of bipartisanship at a time when the other party has proven itself worthy of only mistrust, ill-defined positions other than hope/change, and being slow to make himself known on contentious legislation (second only to Clinton herself, but she is the establishment candidate in this race).

Rumors circulated this past week that donors are asking why he's not going after Clinton for real, just as he lost a fundraiser to her campaign. So now The New York Times reports that "Obama Promises a Forceful Stand Against Clinton":
The interview came amid growing signs that Mr. Obama was looking for a fresh start for his campaign after nine months in which his aides said they were startled by the effectiveness of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, and worried that her support was not as brittle as they had once believed...
...Mr. Obama said he was not concerned by a repeated spate of national polls showing lopsided support for Mrs. Clinton. “The national press for the last three months has written glowingly about her and not so much about me, so it’s not surprising,” he said. He described himself as an “underdog” running against a campaign that has “a 20-year head start when it comes to managing the spin of the national politics.”

Well, he's nailed the problem, and it's exactly why he shouldn't be going after Clinton, except in contrast by making it crystal clear what he stands for and taking on the front-running Republicans by name instead. He's the one who's supposed to be running the positive, new campaign, but we still don't know what he stands for other than a sea change in Presidential racial preconceptions. John Edwards is promising to be our age's FDR. Obama is claiming he's work across the aisle and reduce partisanship in D.C. Which is the stronger message?

The bigger issue at hand after too many Presidential elections where the Democratic candidate is fatally branded as weak, I'm not really hearing that on the GOP side about Hillary. They're trying to make you scared of her, the opposite of their approach with Kerry, Gore, Dukakis, Mondale, even Humphrey. More than anything else, the Democrats need a candidate who knows how to fight, per Jim Malone (Sean Connery) in David Mamet's dialogue for The Untouchables:
"You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way! And that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?"

Barack is in no way less likely to get smeared by the GOP in the general election than Hillary, I think it's a myth that any Democrat's Fox-fed negatives will be any less than hers by the time ballots are cast. Her 20 years are two decades spent fighting back against the vast right-wing conspiracy and, with the instructive exception of her national healthcare proposal, winning. On the other hand, Obama has never faced a seriously threatening GOP challenger. Ever.

As echoed by one of Andrew Sullivan's perceptive readers:
Clinton hasn't been overly specific on policy, either, but during the debates this summer we got to see how she'd handle the Swift Boats next year -- with competence and a spine of steel. As much as I'm emotionally drawn to Obama, his performances in the debates and on the stump have been less than stellar. It's all too easy to imagine him getting his ass kicked by the GOP and losing in a landslide to a thuggish dictator like Giuliani. Clinton may never reach the 52% she'd need to win the election -- but so far, she's the only one who looks like she can give as good as she gets. And whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face a hell of attacks the likes we've never seen.

The way I read it, the Clinton campaign has gone easy on Obama in public, responding as necessary but letting him self-destruct (i.e. the anti-gay minister bobble this past week). In response, it looks like he's going to trot out Social Security, in all likelihood handing the Republicans an issue and (God forbid) opening the door to private accounts. I seriously doubt he'll be able to knock Hillary off her perch with it, as her campaign staff is just too deep, and she's a very, very quick study.

But his staff has got to be sweating with the news that Clinton is no longer just taking a pass on Iowa:
The decision of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign to send 100 or more new staffers into Iowa demonstrates that she and her aides have determined to their own satisfaction that she can cripple Barack Obama in the first-in-the-nation caucus.

Up to now I've liked Obama as a person, a presence, and I've thought from some of the stories told by those who've played on basketball teams with him that he's got leadership and fighting skills. But if he muddies the Social Security waters for vainglorious political gain, I'll never forgive him.

Kevin Drum offers excellent advice for Barack Obama if he wants to set himself apart and recapture the imagination of both Democrats and independents:
(1) Propose that the United States unilaterally offer to reopen its embassy in Tehran. Ditto for Cuba and North Korea (and Bhutan, I suppose, though I don't really know what the deal is with them). Make the point that we live in dangerous times, and diplomatic relations should be used as a way of more effectively dealing with the world, not as a way of making self-righteous statements of approval or disapproval about specific regimes.

(2) Propose a specific list of Bush administration executive orders that he would rescind. No shilly-shallying, just a flat promise to revoke them. Possibilities include the orders governing torture, military commissions, and FISA. If he wanted to be even bolder, he could categorically promise to halt the use of presidential signing statements.

Show us some real fight. Show us some real menschiness. Show us some cajones. Don't just go after some little lady.

Especially when that little lady knows how to pull a gun.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hot Pistols

I was hoping to see the Sex Pistols show at the Roxy last night, but with the limited venue size I couldn't even score a ticket with my one inside connection.

This is why we love them:

The show was predictably a little rusty, with singer John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) forgetting the words to the first song of the night, "Holidays in the Sun." But he added some bonus lyrics along the way, notably "Paris Hilton, kiss my arse" in "Stepping Stone."

He also struggled with sound problems and the heat.

"It's hotter than (expletive) hell up here," said Lydon, 51, clad in a traditional Indian kurta, tartan pants and blue vest and guzzling red wine from the bottle.

The combustible singer was in cheerily sarcastic form for much of the night. When a young woman bounded onto the knee-high stage and hugged guitarist Steve Jones, 52, in the middle of a song, Lydon quipped: "Steve Jones always gets the fat ones!"

Towards the end, Lydon took an unscheduled bathroom break and emerged a little later "15 pounds lighter."

But Lydon eventually lost his temper after he was hit in the face with a drink. He threatened to kill the "coward" if he caught him. The fan, 21-year-old Manuel Vasquez, told Reuters he snuck into the show.

That's our Johnny. Cool pix here.

In case you've forgotten, here's the TV interview that made them famous. Rotten inadvertently starts the ball rolling, but Jonesy drives it home.

Here's the scene as it was.

Here's them in their original glory, such as it survives.

God save.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Thursday the Bush Administration, with the help of Joe Lieberdouche -co-sponsored bill, has for the first time in U.S. history designated a foreign nation's army as a "terrorist group" and announced a number of unilateral steps (just like with the Iraq War build-up) to ratchet up the pressure on Iran and, as many believe, purposely move us closer to war with that country, which has never attacked us.

I'd like to believe that the sanctions will work, Iran will stop enriching uranium, Ahmadinejad will stop threatening Israel, and no blood -- Persian or American -- will be spilt.

But I don't.

Here's Condi announcing it on TV -- wearing black, as for a funeral. She claims she's talk to the Iranian government anytime about anything, as long as they cease processing uranium, which of course is the deal-killing precondition. Maybe she believes her own bullshit, but when she speaks "directly to the Iranian people" at the end, it's Pollyannic at best, disingenuous at worst, probably somewhere in-between in a limp zone.

Just about the only thing that might keep Cheney from getting this war, too, is pressure from other countries due to the massive oil market shortfalls that would erupt once he started us bombing, and the Iranian government struck back. This is where I can see us getting the suitcase bomb in a big city.

But, of course, this is exactly what his oil buddies want. Oil at $200 per barrel. Nothing raises a price like scarcity.

Spread the chaos. Maybe get Rudy "Waterboarding" Giuliani elected with the renewed fearscape, or saddle a Democratic President with the draft.

One wonders if the twin Cheney/Bush foreign policy disasters between Turkey and the Kurds, and in Pakistan are going to slow their shot at a U.S.-Iran war, or maybe accelerate it. (Yes, spread the chaos.) For those still rational among us, it is as Juan Cole concludes in a brilliant Salon summary/essay:
Like a drunken millionaire gambling away a fortune at a Las Vegas casino, the Bush administration squandered all the assets it began with by invading Iraq and unleashing chaos in the Gulf. The secular Baath Party in Iraq was replaced by Shiite fundamentalists, Sunni Salafi fundamentalists and Kurdish separatists. The pressure the Bush administration put on the Pakistani military government to combat Muslim militants in that country weakened the legitimacy of Musharraf, whom the Pakistani public increasingly viewed as an oppressive American puppet. Iraqi Kurdistan's willingness to give safe haven to the PKK alienated Turkey from both the new Iraqi government and its American patrons. Search-and-destroy missions in Afghanistan have predictably turned increasing numbers of Pushtun villagers against the United States, NATO and Karzai. The thunder of the bomb in Karachi and the Turkish shells in Iraqi Kurdistan may well be the sound of Bush losing his "war on terror."

Please, Lord, don't let them take us all down with them.

Buy, Baby, Buy

There will be much more said about this in the future, but thanks to Microsoft there's a whole lotta valuation goin' on:
The two companies said on Wednesday that Microsoft would pay $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook. The investment values Facebook, which is three and a half years old and will bring in about $150 million in revenue this year, at $15 billion.
Aside from the fact that it makes the company I work for, Zannel, ostensibly more valuable, this makes me wonder why any one would go to work for Facebook from hereon out, since it is now a pre-IPO start-up where the company is priced so high that any options they get would be unlikely to ever increase in value enough to make it worth your while.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rudy and the Molester

Is Rudy Giuliani simply morally unfit for higher office?
Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani hired a Catholic priest to work in his consulting firm months after the priest was accused of sexually molesting two former students and an altar boy and told by the church to stop performing his priestly duties.
An accusation:
"This man did unjust things, and he's being protected and employed and taken care of. It's not a good thing," said one of the accusers, Richard Tollner, who says Placa molested him repeatedly when he was a student at a Long Island, N.Y. Catholic boys high school in 1975.
A defense:
"I know the man; I know who he is, so I support him," Giuliani said. "We give some of the worst people in our society the presumption of innocence and benefit of the doubt," he said. "And, of course, I'm going to give that to one of my closest friends."
The law:
The grand jury report concluded that a Priest F, who Tollner says is Placa, abused the boys sexually "again and again and again."

"Priest F was cautious, but relentless in his pursuit of victims. He fondled boys over their clothes, usually in his office," the report said.

The report concluded that Priest F, and several other priests under investigation from the same Long Island, N.Y. diocese, could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired.
And he was part of the critical hierarchy protecting...himself:
In addition to the allegations that Priest F was personally involved in the sexual abuse, the grand jury also said that Priest F became instrumental in a church policy that used "deception and intimidation" to keep the church scandal quiet.
How close is "Priest F" a.k.a. Place to Rudy?

Since going to work for Giuliani Partners, the former mayor and the priest have continued to be close.

Placa accompanied Giuliani and his wife Judith on a trip to Rome earlier this year.

Good luck, GOP.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Mister George W. "Geniusweed" Bush appears on the verge of having a potentially disastrous second front open in his Oedipal Iraq War:
Turkey said on Monday it would exhaust diplomatic channels before launching any military strike into northern Iraq to root out Kurdish rebels, who killed at least a dozen Turkish soldiers in fighting over the weekend.

Turkey has built up its forces along the border with Iraq in preparation for an incursion against rebel bases, although Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has pressed Iraq to curb the Kurdish separatists first.

"If expected developments do not take place in the next few days, we will have to take care of our own situation," Erdogan said Monday.

Heckuva job, Bush-ay!

Wait, did I say second front? There's a third opening up as well, also with help from those feisty Kurds:
Yet out of the public eye, a chillingly similar battle has been under way on the Iraqi border with Iran. Kurdish guerrillas ambush and kill Iranian forces and retreat to their hide-outs in Iraq. The Americans offer Iran little sympathy. Tehran even says Washington aids the Iranian guerrillas, a charge the United States denies. True or not, that conflict, like the Turkish one, has explosive potential.
Those darn Iranians. I'll bet they never tried to make nice. Or did they:
Toward the end of a great column on Iran, Fareed Zakaria's references the convenient truth about Iranian senior policymakers -- they want improved relations with the United States, citing the story of James Dobbins, the only person who's ever been actually sent to try to cooperate with Iran: "Dobbins says the Iranians made overtures to have better relations with the United States through him and others in 2001 and later, but got no reply. Even after the Axis of Evil speech, he recalls, they offered to cooperate in Afghanistan. Dobbins took the proposal to a principals meeting in Washington only to have it met with dead silence."
So what does Bushie want? As always, more money:
President Bush asked Congress on Monday to approve $196 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other national security programs, setting the stage for a new confrontation with Democrats over the administration’s handling of Iraq.
Rest easy. We all know what those Dems will do...

So while Bush sets wildfires in the Middle East that could all to conceivably lead to WWIII, there's another set of fires decimating the most Western part of our United States:
An epic wave of fast-moving wildfires engulfed a massive swath of southern California on Monday, destroying hundreds of homes as more than 250,000 people were told to evacuate from neighborhoods, schools and hospitals.

At least 13 fires, whipped by dry, gale-force Santa Ana winds blowing unchecked over the lower half of the state, torching 200,000 acres, killing one person and injuring more than 30 others.

With fire crews and state emergency services overwhelmed, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said 1,500 National Guard troops had been summoned, including 200 from the Mexican border, to help with firefighting, evacuations and crowd control.
Hey, aren't those National Guardsmen supposed to be workin' on the fence between the U.S. and Mexico? This does not compute!

Especially as rightwing mouthpiece Glenn Beck, inexplicably still on CNN, is saying that we Californians deserve it:
"I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today."
I actually have a two word answer for Mr. Beck, but I'll leave it to your imagination. Let's just say that Mr. Beck is clearly NOT a patriot as he maligns a very significant chunk of our great nation and basically consigns them to death. Let's just say that my two word answer start with "f" and ends with "you."


Sunday, October 21, 2007

President Situationalist

Last week Stephen Colbert announced his intention to run as a "favorite son" candidate in South Carolina on both the Democratic and Republican Primary ballots. Besides instigating a history lesson on what that long-lost U.S. political term means, Colbert is engaging in the most risky and surreal satire act since Andy Kaufman donned wrestling leotards.

Sure, there have been a number of notable humor candidates in the past. Pat Paulson in the network-censored Smothers Brothers era (later running again for real, albeit still fringe). Alfred E. Newman, Snoopy, Dan Quayle. But watch Colbert in an unrehearsed, real world/in-on-the-joke-sort-of Meet the Press interview from this morning. It's astonishing watching his mind work, as Tim Russert hits him with research that could potentially burst the bubble of the illusion, and Colbert high-wires the whole thing brilliantly.

I think my personal favorite exchange is the one on Gay Marriage:
MR. COLBERT: Marriage is the basic building block of society. And if gay men get married, that threatens my marriage immediately because I only got married as a taunt toward gay men because they couldn’t.

MR. RUSSERT: So it makes you feel insecure.

MR. COLBERT: Well, I just don’t know else—why I got married other than to rub it in gay people’s faces.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you consider Senator Larry Craig as your running mate?

MR. COLBERT: I would.

MR. RUSSERT: Have you had conversations with him?

MR. COLBERT: Define conversation.

MR. RUSSERT: Have you spoken to him?

MR. COLBERT: No, no.

MR. RUSSERT: Have you met with him? Have you been in the same room together?

MR. COLBERT: Yes. And my...

MR. RUSSERT: And how...

MR. COLBERT: Sorry, my lawyer’s telling me to say no more.

MR. RUSSERT: How did you express your interest in developing your relationship?

MR. COLBERT: Forcefully.

You can read his strategy of trying to get a single delegate and refusing to release it unless given a Convention speaking slot. I'm betting he gets one somehow -- maybe the Democratic Convention, which would be hilarious, especially if he castigated the Dems as he so often has for lacking (there's no way around saying it) balls.

Colbert's breakthrough moment, the turning point for both his career and public perception of Mister Bush, was his wolf-in-the-hen house speech at the White House Correspondents dinner. This Presidential run has the possibility of being the climax of an extended arc that began then, or at least a major act climax. It reminds me of the brilliant pranks of Alan Abel starting back in 1960's NYC and continuing even to when he hit the 2000 GOP Convention with his "Citizens Against Breast- Feeding":
200,000 American citizens have signed a petition urging Congress to declare breastfeeding unlawful. This primitive ritual has and continues to be a violation of babies' civil rights. It's an incestuous relationship with mothers leading to moral decay. Women enjoy an erotic experience that imposes oral gratification on innocent infants after birth. Their reprehensible behavior teaches children illicit sex, subsequently manifesting addiction to promiscuity. Republicans: choose a candidate who supports our cause!
In this age of GOP Christianist pandering, why wouldn't you believe it was for real?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bullshit and Idgits

With a hat-tip to a reader who sent me a link, the Onion News Network is on a tear. First it's the most determinant Presidential election issue. Then it's all about the voters themselves.

The latter kinda reminds me of this.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Brave Ones

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) seemed like the only principled Democratic Senator today, vowing to filibuster the cave-in FISA bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) want to push through. For Rockefeller, the grant of retroactive immunity to telecom companies for agreeing to break the law for the Bush Administration appears tied to a sharp increase in campaign contributions by said companies this year. And I used to like that guy.

It's behavior like that which leads to editorials -- accurately representing Democratic rank and file sentiment -- like this:
It was bad enough having a one-party government when Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. But the Democrats took over, and still the one-party system continues.
By the end of the day fellow candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE), had stepped up to say he'd join a filibuster against the bill.

Now where are supposed "leaders" Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) on this?

Why haven't we heard yet?

Props to Dodd for acting like a frontrunner more than the frontrunners. Leading is about protecting us first, that America outside the beltway. Getting out in front of issues rather than seeming like reactants. Contribute here.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, where there a chance of another female restoration at the top of the government, that woman is risking life and limb, as are her supporters:
Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto said on Friday she would carry on her struggle for democracy, despite an attack on her motorcade that killed 133 people as she returned home after eight years of exile.

"We are prepared to risk our lives. We're prepared to risk our liberty. But we're not prepared to surrender this great nation to militants," Bhutto, wearing a black armband, told a news conference at the home of her parents-in-law in Karachi.

"The attack was on what I represent. The attack was on democracy and the very unity and integrity of Pakistan."

I have no idea what's the truth over there in Pakistan's politics, whether Bhutto is saint or not, but it sure looks like she's the one alternative to the current President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, per the rules of their democracy, and there's no denying the risk she's taken in returning to her country.

With her own and other actual lives on the line, sure, Bhutto's courage may be greater than Dodd's. But we need courage like Dodd's to try and prevent threats to our own democracy.

Threats from within.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Elegy for an Assassin

I made a point of hitting a movie theater last night to see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford last night before it vanished from those screens. As a major studio release it seemed doomed to failure by title as well as length, two hours and forty minutes. There were five to eight walk-outs last night (I think the first three had slipped in after another movie) and maybe twenty of us left when the credits rolled.

Critical reaction has generally been polarized, but fervent supporters include the legendary Andrew Sarris and a number of other more contemporary critics I can usually trust. It hasn't been a priority movie for any of my friends, even the Deadwood lovers, so I ended up going alone.

Even an acronym for the title seems too long, TAOJJBTCRF, so with your forbearance I'll just call it The Assassination.

The Assassination is nominally a Western, but it's actually in the "History as Fever Dream" genre dominated by Terrence Malick, most similarly in Days of Heaven and The New World. Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller is an obvious antecedent and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (interestingly enough, also one of Assassination's producers) is a future version of this genre. Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon also comes to mind, with a similar narration style although Kubrick's was a turn or two more ironic.

In lesser hands this kind of epic can fall flat, whether or not a studio messes with the cut. In the right hands, the right minds, you're not bored by the length because the filmmaker is just adjusting the pace to the times of the story, to give you a feeling of living in those spaces, those old wooden rooms, those open fields of grain and dust, to give you essentially a time travel experience.

This is the promise of the dawn of cinema. The senses enveloped, the spectator transported -- not pummeled, not ridden -- to a sociologically alien environment where men and women make different decisions than they would today, where the choices are bleakly different. History as hallucination. History as an anxious landscape, a place just barely safe enough to visit in the theater, a place you and I would want to escape to and then from. History as a seductive dream from which we are trying to awake.

The length of the movie is its vividness, its life "in the moment" whether a rolling cloud transition or a chilly evening's chat on the front porch. As is typical for movies this length, there are four acts instead of the usual three, with the first act acting as prologue: think the half hour wedding sequence opening The Godfather. The plot doesn't really begin until Sonny opens his big mouth at a meeting, but what an extended movie prologue does it to double the amount of time for planting, laying in characters and motifs that will pay off bigger in the end for enriching our involvement.

So the first forty minutes of The Assassination is prologue establishing first Jesse James in 1881, heading into his last train robbery with his older brother, Frank, both of them aware this is the end of the line, and then showing us how Robert Ford insinuates himself into the gang on the eve of the crime. Ford is the youngest of five brothers, not yet 20, and he's grown up worshiping the image of James from the dime novels he keeps hidden under his bed. We establish James' brutality. Jesse asks of Ford, "Do you want to be like me? Or do you want to BE me?"

The meat of the movie, the crisis that runs through the second and third act (i.e. 1st and 2nd act, post-prologue) is a slow-burn distillation of the segment in Goodfellas where DeNiro's character is wiping out the heist gang one-by-one. Jesse thinks he's going to be betrayed and thus ends up insuring it. Brad Pitt does a brilliant job, playing Jesse James like a rattlesnake, eyeing you suspiciously and ready to strike at any moment, unpredictably, mesmerizingly. He hits the highs and lows of Jesse's manic depression. In the most terrifying scene, he brutalizes a teenage boy without allowing him to speak, even to give him the information he wants. (Shades of Guantanamo.)

Casey Affleck is equally brilliant, taking perhaps even bigger risks, playing Robert Ford as Mark David Chapman, an ultimate fan who loses his identity in his idol, is rebuffed, and then comes back a new and deadlier man. Ford isn't stupid so much as he's clueless, an innocent who learns he needs clues, which lead him to an ultimately ignominious fate, extraordinary in how it unfolds (the final act, a fourth that plays like a traditional third).

I found myself constantly in the thrall of the movie, a world that for its more measured pace is no less lethal than ours if not moreso. It's the anxious version of a John Ford historical western, a Liberty Valance or My Darling Clementine on a hair-trigger. For all the open vistas, when the men in the longcoats approach the house with rifles there's no place to run. When the bandits rob the train they shower the air with gunfire, pop-pop-popping away recklessly until the passengers are cowed, and then starting up again just when nerves have settled.

It's also a land of scarcity. Less people, less money, less food. Two-story housing developments on a hill in the middle of nowhere. Tense journeys through the wilderness. Stark codes of behavior even among thieves.

The lensing, by longtime Coen Brothers cinematographer, Roger Deakens, is superb, Oscar material. The supporting cast performs brilliantly, capturing nuances of class and intelligence, just what exactly such endeavors would attract, most notably Sam Rockwell as brother Charlie Ford, the iconographic Sam Shepard, now with sagging eyelids to match his long mustache, Deadwood's Garret Dillahunt and Paul Schneider as other gang members. Mary-Louise Parker in a sort of high-class cameo plays Zee James, Jesse's wife, and while her lines are few, she makes the most of her biggest moment. Nick Cave leads the scoring and appears as a Bowery saloon minstrel, again with the same preternatural understanding of darkest Western history that he provided to The Proposition. All of this is tribute to New Zealand-born director/screenwriter Andrew Dominik, who's only previous film credit is Chopper, another criminal character study and the movie that introduced Eric Bana to the world.

Only in the last act, the last ten minutes of the movie slipping through your fingers like the final pages of an enrapturing novel, do we learn why the movie's title is so accurate. This is history writ large in the typeface of the era. This is epic made sharp and cutting by sociology. This is a movie that you live in for two and two-thirds hours so it can live in you indefinitely, sharpening its questions as you turn it like a bauble in your hand.

There's only one other recent release I can think of in its class, this kind of adult epic American storytelling in the vivid ribbon of dreams form, and that's David Fincher's Zodiac. It's another film that did not find its audience the first time on the big screen, one that would benefit for an old-fashioned movie revival house system, but hopefully now with DVD. Another very adult film about men and the temperature of their souls, told through their fluctuations moment-to-moment, yet over a grand and inevitable landscape.

There's a central image in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford that recurs throughout the picture, that of the chair. In a moment of suburban respite, Jesse sits in a dining room chair set out in a backyard of overgrown, wheat-like grass. He proffers snakes like Cleopatra, live and as food. That chair is his throne and he is kingly in bearing, the kingly sociopath. With no television, no telephone, the chairs are where you sat and talked, hour after hour, and when we see an empty chair that Jesse has inhabited, there in a spartan room, we still feel his presence. Somebody has sat there, a number of others over time, the chain enduring without pity but their ghosts left behind by the furniture as reminder.

It's the sweet yearning of history. All that we witnessed. All that we missed.

All that is long gone, forever.

Most Dangerous

It seems that in order to prove his relevance, the endlessly overcompensating Mister Bush has to reassert himself as the most dangerous man in the world.

He's first to the plate with World War III.

Yes, the government of Iran is bad news, and the elected President (in an election where truly moderate candidates were not allowed on the ballot) wants to wipe Israel off the map.

But would he ever do it, knowing we'd flatten his nation? Would the mullahs ever allow it?

What's needed now is diplomacy and general economic pressure, along with some sort of carrot, to engage the Iranian leadership and hopefully keep their populace on our side.

Meanwhile, ex-Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is leading a $200 million ad campaign to sell unilaterally attacking Iran to America. With Bush hitting the same rhetorical notes he did the last time he hoodwinked us into a mistake, it's looking more and more like he's aiming to bring along that rapture his peeps predict and yearn for.

He's a bullheaded loser cratering in the polls, with only that psychotic base backing him. Meanwhile the war he's bet the house on is looking more and more complicated, with Turkey preparing to invade Iraq to kill Kurds, and the very country with which he's threatening global thermonuclear war being awarded major contracts from Iraq itself.

And with Russia's stern warning a day earlier, it looks as though Bush really would be starting WWIII.

Bush makes the Vietnam War look simple.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Here you go -- your very own church signs, and you can download them as well! Five different types, ingeniously implemented.

As a good friend liked to say, "Praise the Lord and pay the insurance!"

Monday, October 15, 2007

Three Women

Three women, each powerful in a different way:

Hillary Clinton: On the verge?

Nancy Pelosi: Too polite?

Debbie Harry: Still punky after all these years.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I've had a banner week for moviegoing, just last night saw the third one in seven days, Michael Clayton. It's a throwback, not just to the popular political dramas of the 1970's (photographed as if by Gordon Willis), but to that most endangered of species, the grown-up Hollywood drama.

It's the successful directing debut of screenwriter Tony Gilroy, starring George Clooney as a "fixer" for a top-rank Manhattan law firm who's come to the end of his rope. All the compromises he's made to try and make good money after early years of public service, years in the D.A.'s office that gave him the wealth of valuable contacts for which he was hired in the private sector, it's all swirling down a toilet of financial debt, compulsive gambling and conscience degradation.

While the movie is ostensibly about Michael Clayton's journey during three or four climactic days for his firm -- about to merge -- and their largest client -- a malignant chemical corporation wrapping up a critical class action lawsuit -- it is really about our times, specifically the moral turpitude of high capitalist power and profit, and that of its courtiers and bagmen.

I'll just skim over the recommendation elements -- Clooney is great, of course, in what will be seen as a signature roll, still my only real fashion icon; Tilda Swinton is spot-on as they say in the U.K. as the soul-sold corporate lever; Tom Wilkinson steals the movie with his voice alone in the opening credits, playing the Howard Beale roll and igniting the jackpot work crisis Michael has to fix to survive. And it's no accident that Sydney Pollack is on hand in one of his signature New York peak professional, this time Michael's boss at the big firm.

What made the movie feel right to me were certain thematic touches, certain patterns within the straightforward legal thriller plot that zips along at a pleasurable measure, elements of truth.

The most obvious one is the circular structure of the main body of the tale. Aside from providing the demanded pleasures of seemingly insignificant moments then clicking into place now, it feels like more of the trap Michael's built for himself these past few years, albeit coming to a head. Michael's in a cycle that can only lead downward, physicalized as the toll on Clooney's body.

Another was the vision of the major law firm pulling out all the stops on an all-nighter, all hands on deck in and around the boardroom, food and information flowing in, the important roads leading to Pollack. I spent a stretch of my youth temping in Manhattan at world class investment banks during the M&A era peppered with work on features. Gilroy does a great job of capturing the quality of the people, mainly young, buzzing through the office like a film unit the night before the first day of production. He gets the heat.

But my favorite moment is when Michael/Clooney has his moment with the horses, a modern movie hero desperately reaching out to this cinema cowboy roots. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? But in his second look, we see that the horses all are bridled, and he knows it.

This is the movie hero discovering a pack of wild mustangs on the mesa, only for our over-colonized 2007 and Michael's place in it, where there's no escaping the bridle. Not him in his world, not us in ours.

What minimal inspiration he receives is from these creatures, once wild in earlier generations, still beautiful, but no longer even trying to cast off the instrument of their harness.

Michael Clayton is about the cost of that bridle. To the horse.

He's Running

He's been playing it coy ever since starting his book tour, but this high profile column makes it seem like he's already decided, or maybe is leaning all-but-decided to go for it.

A "return to a simpler America."

"Hope for the common man."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Saint Al

Hear, hear:
OSLO, Oct. 12 — Former Vice President Al Gore, who emerged from his loss in the muddled 2000 presidential election to devote himself to his passion as an environmental crusader, was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of scientists.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised both “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change.”

The prize is a vindication for Mr. Gore, whose cautionary film about the consequences of climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth,” won the 2007 Academy Award for best documentary, even as conservatives in the United States denounced it as alarmist and exaggerated.

“I will accept this award on behalf of all the people that have been working so long and so hard to try to get the message out about this planetary emergency,” Mr. Gore said Friday in Palo Alto, Calif., standing with his wife, Tipper, and four members of the United Nations climate panel. “I’m going back to work right now,” he said.

Good stuff, and it's nice that the headlines from his statement are all in the vein of, "Gore: Back to work on environment" and "Gore says prize must spur action."

The environment is the frontline of peace, as virtually all wars arise from a scarcity of one kind or another. There's political thought that the Iraq War is as much about water rights -- the Tigris and the Euphrates -- as it is about oil. As the world population expands, global destruction means water scarcity. And, of course, with oil being the most immediate prize in the conflict, we're fighting for the right to continue emitting massive amounts of carbon dioxide, essentially for the right to continue poisoning ourselves as we collapse the polar ice masses.

As for our acting President, Mr. Bush is damned to be fending off heartbroken mothers who despair that their husbands and sons have died for nothing:

Another person who criticized Bush to his face was Elaine Johnson of Orangeburg, South Carolina. Her son, Army specialist Darius Jennings, died with 15 others when their Chinook helicopter was shot down near Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 2, 2003.

In her meeting later that month, she says, she repeatedly pressed Bush for a rationale for the war. She says he failed to deliver a satisfactory answer.

"Miss Jones, you sound a little hostile,'" Bush said, according to Jones, who was an industrial quality inspector.

"Of course I feel hostile. My only son was killed and I can't get an answer," Jones, 44, says she replied.

Bush moved on to a different cluster of family members in the large meeting room at Fort Carson in Colorado. As Bush departed, Jones says, she tried again.

"Could you tell me what is the mission?" she called out. Bush didn't respond.

Couldn't respond. How can he tell her that her son died for his Oedipus Complex butrussed by the greed of his cronies.

Look, at some point we all have to face reality. The Supreme Court blocked any chance Gore might have had to secure the Presidency and we'll never get those critical eight years back. If, like me, you believe there's a reasonable chance 9/11 would have been foiled had Gore taken office (Bush eliminated the daily intelligence briefings Clinton had instituted and didn't listen to Richard Clarke et al; Gore certainly wouldn't have been that stupid), then America would never have gotten a lesson maybe it needed about the true difference with the Republican Party, Ralph Nader's assessment notwithstanding.

I don't think Gore is going to run. I'm not even sure it'd be a good idea if he decided to in time for New Hampshire. I've grown convinced by clear, bold, even refreshing appearances like this that Hilary Clinton is prepared to lead this country, and I'm not sure who else besides Al Gore really is. Whether I'd ultimately prefer her leadership or another prepared citizen, I can't say for sure yet. But at this point only Al could knock her off the Democratic pedestal and I'm not longer certain he'd be a lock. And I think all the Republicans are underestimating her and their peril, just as Dems underestimated the candidate and electoral team of George W. Bush. And they're starting to realize it -- the way they run against her in their debates, you can smell the fear.

So bravo, Al, and here's hoping you can stay above the fetid fray and somehow effectively lead our planet -- maybe starting with your influence on a new Democratic President -- through this turning point in our planetary history. Even if you succeed, there will be other times, decades or centuries ahead, where we again forget our way and new saviors will be required.

But for now it is your ball. Who else in history has ever won as Oscar (okay, the statuette didn't actually go to him), an Emmy (sure, shared) and a Nobel Peace Prize in one year?

Answer: No one else but Al Gore.

Now, Al, for the love of all that is holy, do whatever it is you have to do to finish the job.


There's no moral equivalent on the Democratic side for such coordinated Republican thuggery as was initiated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)'s office against the child who spoke in opposition to Mr. Bush on the SCHIP bill and the child's family.

There's is no Democratic response organ like it's very own TV network filled with willing executioners like Malkin who consider the homes of such citizens as fair targets for their minions. Per Paul Krugman:

All in all, the Graeme Frost case is a perfect illustration of the modern right-wing political machine at work, and in particular its routine reliance on character assassination in place of honest debate. If service members oppose a Republican war, they’re “phony soldiers”; if Michael J. Fox opposes Bush policy on stem cells, he’s faking his Parkinson’s symptoms; if an injured 12-year-old child makes the case for a government health insurance program, he’s a fraud.

Meanwhile, leading conservative politicians, far from trying to distance themselves from these smears, rush to embrace them. And some people in the news media are still willing to be used as patsies.

These gangsters also like to rough up companies that won't play along with their extra-Constitutional ball and reach down from the White House itself to manipulate justice in order to win an election in Alabama.

Maybe I'd feel better about it all if I were perfect.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

All Too Human

Thanks to a fortuitous error in ticketing, I got to see BOTH Sean Penn's new milestone, Into the Wild, as well as the Ridley-really-means-it-this-time Final Final Director's cut of Blade Runner.

Penn's picture goes all the way out to the places where its real life protagonist trekked into certain danger, while Scott has created arguably the most enveloping vision of the future yet committed to celluloid, at the opposite end of the authentic/artificial construct spectrum from Into the Wild, but the movies have ended up complementing each other in my head, because both of them are extreme exploration of what it means to be a human being.

The human condition: both movies pose big questions about free will.

I'm going to hit some SPOILERS now, so here's your warning, with the caveat that what I'll refer to in Blade Runner has already been discussed everywhere since the first Director's cut was released, but if you haven't seen the movie you may want to skip. With Into the Wild, the ending is well known from Jon Krakauer's book among other sources, pretty much everyone I talk to knows the ending going in, but here's your SPOILERS warning as well.
It's never really celebrated as such, but Blade Runner is the most adult -- i.e. grown-up -- movie ever made about robots. Since the replicants are so human-like, especially the three most advanced models (Roy, Rachael and, admit it, Rick Deckard), and since they die with more blood than circuitry, the audience doesn't really think of them as robots. But that's what they are, androids, a.k.a. machines.

By playing Rick's condition so subtly, the brief giveaway with the iris and the unicorn being the only solid pieces of evidence, and by directing Sean Young's Rachael to demure insolence, we end up falling for the love story, the only bolt of hope at the end. But we know that replicants all have expiration dates -- that's their defining characteristic -- we just don't know Deckard's; so it's as doomed a love affair as ever graced a noir, we're just happy for whatever few years of joy they may win.

The robots -- I mean replicants -- in Blade Runner are killers, whether commando-programmed (Roy) or pleasurebots (Pris). They think, therefore they are, as the private joke goes between those two, but they clearly are because they have killed humans, and have no conscience preventing them from doing so.

The good guys, the good bots, they have remorse. Deckard feels sick after killing Joanna Cassidy's Zhora. Watching the film a second (or third or fiftieth) time one gets the sense that he knows, at least he suspects (does he really seemed so surprised when he examines the origami unicorn?) and it makes his feel like a race traitor, with all the self-loathing that goes with it. Rachel is horrified when she guns down Leon as well.

What makes it truly complex, something you have time to feel and even dwell on thanks to the movie's dreamlike pacing, is the Brechtian element of social metaphor. If Harrison Ford is being torn apart having to retire his own kind, who are we to shoot each other, blow each other up?

We're the ones who are supposed to be human.

Having only seen one other Sean Penn-directed feature (but wishing I'd seen more) I can only say that Into the Wild is a very, very accomplished movie, relatively raw and real, an art film that could potentially cross over to the multiplex, a throwback to the early 1970's impressionistic school of Hal Ashby and Terence Malick, while being all Penn's own.

Like Blade Runner, it's an impeccable cast. Emile Hirsch courageously performs in ice cold mountain water and with a very real bear, emaciating himself over the course of the shoot, but more than that actually capturing the independent spirit of Christopher McCandless. He's one of those guys everyone knew in college, super smart but self-contained, looking forward to spending time in nature, whether in a naturalist position somewhere out in the middle of nowhere U.S.A., or maybe trekking the fiords with a hiking buddy.

The question McCandless' story asks us is how far out can one really go from society. If you cut up your credit cards, your driver's license and social security card (shades of Jack Nicholson in Antonioni's The Passenger), if you decide to go by a made-up name and sever, without warning, all contact with your family, if you go up, up to the places on the map where few or no people live, are you really finding a higher truth?

Are you now just an organism, hunting/gathering for daily survival?

Are you one with nature?

Penn ultimately reveals what I assume is a real final passage from McCandless' diary showing that he'd changed, he'd learned something about humanity that he'd taken for granted in the past. And while Penn's trustworthy technique makes a strong case in favor of his protagonist's own sincerity, the heroic side of his quest for freedom, there's also the feeling that he knows McCandless has made a bone-headed move, that's he's a young fool but a fool nonetheless, and we wonder where the line might be.

Should he we the surrogate son for the lonely octogenarian he's revived, Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook is an Oscar-worthy performance, maybe one of his last)? Should he join forces with the hippy couple (Catherine Keener and middle-aged first-timer Brian Dierker) living in Slab City in the winter and just driving their mobile home around in the other seasons, waiting patiently for the angelic and horny sixteen year-old across the way to grow legal? She he just give his trusted sister a call?

As he passes through the lives of lonely people, sprinkling them with his presence which seems to heal rends and right boats, the sense you get is of a world of loneliness, one he accepts and embraces, one that comes as a shock to his heartbroken parents, one that speaks endlessly about the human condition.

Here's a guy who chose to be lonely. And however much we might admire or love him, he couldn't go the distance in the end. Because it's only an ideal; an impossible place to go.

McCandless builds his own trap but it's bourne of the ultimate truth that we all die alone, wondering how what we did before leads to where we end up. Deckard and his most sentient fellow replicants know that their past is a plant, that the memories are just design values, that they have a time to end just like us, albeit one more ruthless in it's scheduling.

Not a bad combo for a week.

Restores one's faith in going out to the cinema.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More Traitorous Behavior

While the manic U.S. rightwing continues to howl and cry that somehow anti-War Americans are traitors to our country, there's that Republican Bush/Cheney Administration leaking willy-nilly for political gain, no matter the damage to our country's anti-terrorist intelligence efforts:
A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.
Leading to White House spin fury. Remember Scooter Libby getting off for leaking the identity of Valerie Plame? Or their 2004 election campaign leak regarding Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan?

Putting the safety of America after their dreams of political domination has been their m.o. all along.

Will anyone ever bring them to justice?

Monday, October 08, 2007


This is a threshold issue for me, and I've already written my most susceptible Senator, Diane Feinstein, that she not support any bill without real teeth:

A Democratic bill to be proposed on Tuesday in the House would maintain for several years the type of broad, blanket authority for N.S.A. eavesdropping that the administration secured in August for six months.

In an acknowledgment of concerns over civil liberties, the bill would require a more active role by the special foreign intelligence court that oversees the interception of foreign-based communications by the security agency.

A competing proposal in the Senate, still being drafted, may be even closer in line with the administration plan, with the possibility of including retroactive immunity for telecommunications utilities that participated in the once-secret program to eavesdrop without court warrants.

I'm trying very hard to support Democrats and not fracture my Party at this time of great GOP evil. I also recognize that it is up to me to make my federal representatives know where I stand, hopefully helping a larger effort to convince her with my one little webform email.

Here's where you can find your reps contact info.

Tell them, politely if need be, that no teeth = they lose your vote.

Remorse 101

It seems that some of the President's resigning Men and Women aren't greeting their own consciences with flowers. Per the Washington Post:

The messages crossing those BlackBerries have been relentlessly negative the last few years. And some have grown embittered at what has become of the presidency they helped build. A key Bush reelection strategist has disavowed him, his former U.N. ambassador has become a vocal critic of key policies, his former defense secretary says he does not miss him, his former speechwriter wrote a harsh takedown of another top aide.

One former senior official said nearly everyone who has left the administration is angry in some way or another -- at the president for making bad decisions, at his staff for misguiding him, at events that have spiraled out of control. Others called that an exaggeration. Either way, interviews with a dozen top aides who left in recent months reveal a profound sense of ambivalence about the ultimate outcome of their work beyond toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Per Paul Krugman, any Conservative Republican who claims Bush is somehow not a true representative of their ideology is denying reality. A couple examples:

People claim to be shocked by Mr. Bush’s general fiscal irresponsibility. But conservative intellectuals, by their own account, abandoned fiscal responsibility 30 years ago. Here’s how Irving Kristol, then the editor of The Public Interest, explained his embrace of supply-side economics in the 1970s: He had a “rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or fiscal problems” because “the task, as I saw it, was to create a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority — so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government...”

...People claim to be shocked by the Bush administration’s general incompetence. But disinterest in good government has long been a principle of modern conservatism. In “The Conscience of a Conservative,” published in 1960, Barry Goldwater wrote that “I have little interest in streamlining government or making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size.”

And there they go again:

Washington accuses Iran's Revolutionary Guards' elite Qods force of supporting militias who have attacked U.S. troops.

General David Petraeus, speaking at a U.S. military base about 30 km (20 miles) from the Iranian border on Saturday, said Iran was giving militia groups advanced weaponry and guidance.

"They are responsible for providing the weapons, the training, the funding and in some cases the direction for operations that have indeed killed U.S. soldiers," Petraeus told a group of reporters when asked if the Iranian government was responsible for killing U.S. troops.

They want it so bad, don't they?

Spread the chaos.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Maureen Dowd's review of Journals 1952-2000 by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. is history as speed-dating, whizzing through mid-to-late 20th Century Presidential politics.

Schlesinger made his name first with John Kennedy's administration, and if you ever wanted to know the difference between that President and the two we have now, try this:
Schlesinger writes that Kennedy resisted seeing the missile crisis as part of a holy war with the Soviets. “Too many people will think now that all we have to do in dealing with the Russians is to kick them in the balls,” he says, after the Soviets back down. “I think there is a law of equity in these disputes. When one party is clearly wrong, it will eventually give way.” Kennedy is too much of an irono-babe for cowboy diplomacy. He says a nation gets prestige from the strength of its currency, not its nuclear weapons.
More great comments on Nixon, Gore, Jackie, Kissinger, Carter, awesome namedropping. Maybe a great advertisement for the book; that, or the complete crib notes version.

Friday, October 05, 2007

If It's Friday... must be another Republican sex or corruption scandal.

Or...two Republican sex or corruption scandals!

Just yesterday I was wondering, what to write on Nettertainment? What about that old staple topic, the godsend, the Republican sex scandal? Where were you in my hour of need?

Mark Foley: Spent.
Larry Craig: Played.
David Vitter: Climaxed too soon.

But tonight, all is well. Thanks to Joey DiFatta, St. Bernard Parish Councilman and until-today GOP candidate for Louisiana state senate:

Jefferson Parish deputies working an undercover detail in a men's bathroom at Dillard's at Lakeside Shopping Center in March 2000 stopped DiFatta after he indicated a desire to engage in sex with an undercover deputy in an adjoining bathroom stall, according to an interoffice memorandum written by Sgt. Keith Conley, one of the deputies involved in the investigation.

The report said DiFatta slid his foot into the deputy's stall and tapped the deputy's foot. In the report, Conley noted that such activity is common among men to indicate a willingness to participate in sex.

The deputy inside the stall, Detective Wayne Couvillion, responded by tapping his foot, and DiFatta reached under the partition and began to rub the deputy's leg, the report states.

The detective asked DiFatta, "What do you want?" according to the report, and he replied, "I want to play with you."

As anyone who knows me, I'm all for play. And I don't actually think our police need to waste their time looking for all-male hook-ups. I don't think even Councilman DiFatta should have to lead a double life, or be ashamed about his perfectly normal homosexual orientation.

But once again, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, i.e. one running on the platform plank, "Defend our conservative values from attacks by extreme liberal groups."

Moving On, poor Joey DiFatta's sad little scandal is nothing compared to the wild times at Oral Roberts University:

Richard Roberts is accused of illegal involvement in a local political campaign and lavish spending at donors' expense, including numerous home remodeling projects, use of the university jet for his daughter's senior trip to the Bahamas, and a red Mercedes convertible and a Lexus SUV for his wife, Lindsay.

She is accused of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on clothes, awarding nonacademic scholarships to friends of her children and sending scores of text messages on university-issued cell phones to people described in the lawsuit as "underage males."

One can only speculate that the other shoe waiting to drop is embezzlement to support the psycho over-indulged lifestyle, otherwise that's not really a scandal, it's the cost of doing religious business in those evangelical circles. It would still leave the "Affirmational" Action backdoor scholarships and, although underage males are involved, not homosexuality, but instead (and this is what makes this scandal so unique and potentially the most entertaining of all):

Underage Cougar Action.

Leave it to the GOP to innovate UCA.

Just like clockwork, providing salvation for bloggers everywhere; as if on schedule, run like a corporation, the one product of theirs we crave and the one that they will always eventually deliver.

It's like a contract with America.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


There's nothing funnier today than the unveiling of the 2008 Republican National Convention logo. Is it a Larry Craig reference -- the "wide-stance" elephant reared up and ready for action? Is it a blue dominance over red prediction? Is it GOP as roadkill? Prison stripes?

You can read these and many other hilarious interpretations (and a few Photoshopped re-interpretations) on the highighted DailyKos thread.

This is one of those moment that make a Semiotics degree actually pleasurable.

I'm laying odd the logo is either replaced by the time the Convention rolls around, or else seriously downplayed at the event, i.e. not on any stationary or buttons.

Care to take bets?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

President Pain

Has there ever been a U.S. Presidency as sadistic as that of Richard Bruce Cheney/George Walker Bush Jr.?

Yes, it is finally revealed, Cheney and his henchman David Addington got then-Attorney General Alberto "I Don't Remember" Gonzales to author a -- this makes me sick -- secret order authorizing torture.


Like...double secret probation...only for administering unbearable pain the bodies and psyches of other human beings in your custody to elicit information that is more often than not rendered unreliable due to the damaging methods. Without due process.

You know, fascism:
When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on “combined effects” over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.

Later that year, as Congress moved toward outlawing “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment, the Justice Department issued another secret opinion, one most lawmakers did not know existed, current and former officials said. The Justice Department document declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard.

It's perjury, it's bad faith, it's just plain evil when applied to, say, Jose Padilla in our country's name.

It's SECRET -- not just from us, the citizens, we accept some of that from our government, like secret nuclear codes and backdoor peace negotiations. But this was secret from any other branch of government, from all our other elected officials at the highest levels of our representative government.

Per Digby -- "Sociopathic Governance":
When Bush said, "a dictatorship would be easier --- as long as I'm the dictator" he wasn't joking. They simply do not believe that they have to adhere to the rule of law --- it's awe-inspiring in its pathology. And the rest of us are like a bunch of frightened townspeople, hovering behind the curtains just hoping these drunken louts will pass out or leave town before they take a match to the place.

I am still stunned that we are talking about the United States of America issuing dry legal opinions about how much torture you are allowed to inflict on prisoners. Stories like this one are the very definition of the banality of evil --- a bunch of ideologues and bureaucrats blithely committing morally reprehensible acts apparently without conscience or regret.
It's like some sort of Gilded Age gathering of wealthy Robber Baron sadists, or the repulsive fetishistic power-trippers in Pasolini's Salo. They don't love the children -- they love their children, and provide amply for them alone.

They're too busy vetoing child healthcare legislation (SCHIP) to protect their private insurance companies and their enabling ideology:

He said the bill's funding level would have expanded the health program beyond its original intent and taken a step toward government-run health care.

"The policies of the government ought to be to help people find private insurance, not federal coverage," Bush said.

"I happen to believe that what you're seeing when you expand eligibility for federal programs is the desire by some in Washington, D.C. to federalize health care. I don't think that's good for the country," he added.

That's Bush's legacy, cutting off children because their parents are merely struggling, not completely poverty stricken. And now all of the top ranked Republican Presidential contenders -- Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, McCain -- have gone on the record backing him up.

After what this country has been through, each and every one of them is a joke candidate.

All that history will remember Bush, Cheney and their whole gang for is pain.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Self Defense

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has just written a memoir in which he reportedly smears Anita Hill, the woman brought to the Senate in an attempt to disqualify him to serve on the court due to sexual harassment.

Why Thomas seeks to reopen the controversy from that time, now that he's been on the court for a decade and a half, in a position well-engineered to avoid such personal exposure, is beyond me. However, he's back at it, and the notably private Ms. Hill is making sure her voice is heard, in a New York Times op-ed:

Justice Thomas’s characterization of me is also hobbled by blatant inconsistencies. He claims, for instance, that I was a mediocre employee who had a job in the federal government only because he had “given it” to me. He ignores the reality: I was fully qualified to work in the government, having graduated from Yale Law School (his alma mater, which he calls one of the finest in the country), and passed the District of Columbia Bar exam, one of the toughest in the nation.

In 1981, when Mr. Thomas approached me about working for him, I was an associate in good standing at a Washington law firm. In 1991, the partner in charge of associate development informed Mr. Thomas’s mentor, Senator John Danforth of Missouri, that any assertions to the contrary were untrue. Yet, Mr. Thomas insists that I was “asked to leave” the firm.

It’s worth noting, too, that Mr. Thomas hired me not once, but twice while he was in the Reagan administration — first at the Department of Education and then at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After two years of working directly for him, I left Washington and returned home to Oklahoma to begin my teaching career.

In a particularly nasty blow, Justice Thomas attacked my religious conviction, telling “60 Minutes” this weekend, “She was not the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed.” Perhaps he conveniently forgot that he wrote a letter of recommendation for me to work at the law school at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa.
Thanks to the GOP pushback and Thomas' own accusation of a "high-tech lynching," Thomas made it through the hearings and onto the Court. But he sure seemed like a liar back then as well, per Mark Kleiman:

I thought at the time, and still think, that Thomas gave clear evidence of deceit. Hill had testified that Thomas had regaled her with tales of a porn-movie character named "Long Dong Silver." Thomas denied ever having seen any such movie, which if true must have meant that Hill's claim was false. The Senate Judiciary Committee staff tried to get Thomas's video-rental records, which could easily have resolved the question. Thomas and his supporters immediately went into a hissy-fit about how it would be a horrible invasion of privacy for anyone to look at those records.

Thomas's concern that his porn-viewing habits might discredit him with his moralistic right-wing supporters was legitimate. But of course it would have been easy to ask the FBI to review the records for the sole purpose of determining whether the film in question was or was not among those Thomas had rented. Joe Biden, showing his usual competence and courage, immediately folded, and the video records were never reviewed.

A staunch, unwavering, rightwing Republican liar? Back then it didn't seem quite to commonplace, I guess.

So why is he bringing it all up again? Is there that big a chip on his shoulder, that much of an ax to grind? Trey Ellis, who's mother is also an African-American Yale law school graduate around the same era when Thomas got his degree, is particularly incensed:
The most odious part of Thomas's memoir is his continued insistence that his contentious confirmation hearings elevate him to the canon of tragic black heroes like Native Son's Bigger Thomas and To Kill a Mockingbird's Tom Robinson. As Jane Meyer and Jill Abramson clearly demonstrate in their book, Strange Justice, Anita Hill was only one of several and Thomas, now one of the nine highest judges in our nation, lied repeatedly during his confirmation hearings. The bitterness that seems to be eating away at him and spews out of this book might stem from the fact that he was the head of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission while he was sexually harassing Anita Hill and he is now sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America because he lied his ass off in the United States Senate.
And at 58 years old, young for a Justice, he could be with us for two or three decades more.

Remember that next time someone says something nice about the first President Bush.

Not so much.