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Saturday, April 09, 2005

More From the Reality Front

Still in North Carolina, not a lot of time to check in to the blog but I've seen some amazing films -- The Life of Kevin Carter (of the Bang Bang Club), a documentary about people who have been freed from prison by Barry Scheck's Project Innocence called After Innocence (nobody should be able to vote on capital punishment until they see it and while we're on the topic fuck the entire state of Florida who officially believe it's more important to have "finality to the system" than it is to free an innocent man -- and I'm not kidding, that was their argument), Barbara Kopple's Bearing Witness, a documentary about women war journalists (who also happened to be next door to me in the hotel and were screaming drunk until three in the morning on Friday night, but that's another story).

My allergies are killing me but Durham is beatiful & it's fun to hang out with MTV Melinda. Off to watch Martin Scorcese hold court and see the Air America Documentary, Left of the Dial.

More later.


Friday, April 08, 2005

Oh Jonah's Gonna Need a Cigarette After That One

Word of advice: If you are generally pretty stupid, do not draw down the wrath of smart people upon yourself by making wholly unfounded statements about them. You will be sorry.

Quote of the day:

The entire right-wing movement is like a hovercraft floating on the perpetually roaring whirlwind of sub-rational, self-reinforcing nonsense that gusts through the minds of its adherents. - Cog

Note to TBogg: It's that time....


Million Dollar Assholes: Carville, Shrum & Greenberg

I love documentaries. A lot. Real people in real situations are always weirder, more original and more interesting than any fiction Hollywood can brew.

I saw a documentary that blew me away today but I don't mean in a good way. It was called Our Brand is Crisis, about how the firm of Carville, Greenberg and Shrum (as in James Ragin' Cajun Carville and Bob $5 million man Shrum) travel around the world meddling in political situations they know little about for fun and profit when they're not busy losing Presidential elections.

The film takes place in the Bolivian election of 2002, when Carville et. al. convinced the Bolivian people they needed to elect Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, aka Goni, an American-born candidate who speaks Spanish with an accent and who had failed miserably once before as President during the 90s. He is elected by the thinnest of margins, only to be forced to resign 14 months later amid riots that left 100 people dead.

The problem with the film? The director, Rachael Boynton, got amazing access by (admittedly) smiling and doing the cute girl thing, and making everyone like her and feel comfortable around her. But at a certain point you're done shooting and you've got to sit down and evaluate what you've got and drop the cute, and treat your subject with the critical objectivity they deserve.

And what do these guys deserve? Well, you tell me. The first shot is of a riot in the streets of Bolivia where a body lies dead, oozing blood. Pretty much moments later, a guy named Tad (no shit) Devine is standing on a Bolivian street corner wearing a sweater vest, talking into a cell phone and saying stuff like "This is the frame -- we can brand crisis." Now, you don't have to be an acid bitch like me to realize that at this point you are now dealing with a comedy, and your job for the next 90 minutes is to completely savage these guys.

I'm guessing that the director got too bonded with these clowns, because it's the only excuse I can think of for letting them uncritically gas on while the camera runs without calling them on the amazing amount of bullshit they are churning. Carville has turned into little more than a parody of himself (I am actually someone who will argue that at a certain point Carville was relevant), and about the best thing you can say is that Bob Shrum never appears on camera. Oh and it's nice that Jeremy Rosner has managed to forgive in his heart whoever saddled him with that tragic nose job long enough to spin a pretty complex understanding of world events into a few tidy memes.

I don't mean to be discouraging -- kudos to the director for pulling the project together and getting that kind of access. But for chrissakes next time don't let these goofballs off the hook so easy, okay?


Thursday, April 07, 2005

West Wing Watch

It looked for a minute there like Al Bundy might be President of the United States. Once again fiction is a step up from reality.

I arrived in North Carolina safely -- and was surprised to learn that more people than I think keep up with my whereabouts on this blog. The flight was fine though it takes a full day to travel anywhere from the Oregon coast (especially once you take into account the drive to Portland.)

Interesting this time -- I suffer from flight agitation, not so much fear or anxiety but just "can't we get this frigging thing over with." Usually my inner nerd comes out and I spend the entire day compulsively working logic problems (left brain function), but this time I brought a sketch book and drew all day (right brain function). The whole experience was a lot more peaceful.

Well I should have loads of interesting stuff to report on here from North Carolina later in the day, my brand new Mac laptop blew up just before I got on a plane (and note to Apple who want $700 to fix a fifty cent power plug -- you are EXTORTIONISTS!!) but the hotel has a lovely Dell that I can use so I will be happy.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Saul Bellow RIP

Deserves more ink than anyone else who died this month. But I'm on a plane to go do my job in a couple of hours so someone else will have to do it.

Time for all the nerdy fellow English majors out there to let the NCLB-ers know that Sieze the Day wasn't just a phrase from some bad 80's Ethan Hawke movie. And he thought Tom Wolfe was a crap novelist. Oh and Jack Nicholson always said the role he really wanted to play was Henderson in Henderson the Rain King.


Where Ya Goin' With All This, George?

It looks like the GOP is telling Tom DeLay to bend over and grab his ankles. But after dispensing with their unwanted baggage, then what? MandT over at the most excellent Adgita Diaries on the future of the Republican Party:
And perhaps you thought it stood for 'Grand Old Party'? How about 'Gassy Oily Patriarchy,' 'Greedy Old Predators', or 'Gross Omnipotent Pricks'? Little did we realize that a century and a half ago, the the Party of Lincoln meant gas guzzler. It also applies to the economy, whose fuel burning, gas guzzeling, deficit addicted legacy is soon to be bestowed by our GOP in power....

It was Clinton, a Democrat, who overhauled the 'welfare system' in America, not the Republicans. The Bushies want to eliminate it completely and let your local Christian Church hand out food, shelter, and hope on condition of conversion. Well, that eliminates several hundred million who don't want to be Christians. That is a large number of pissed-off, angry Americans.

Economic and social justice is expensive, but mandatory to a healthy society, because it ultimately insures a greater degree of stability. Jesus has nothing to do with it. What do Bush Republicans think is going to happen when the middle and working class start failing at a greater degree; when the credit bubble bursts; when pensions bcome nil; when social security benefits get so reduced that meaningful quality of life gets reduced; when 'average' Americans get ill and die without full government intervention as in the Shiavo case; when we lose homes, jobs and hope?

It will come to governmental instability and revolution. America will be no different from any other extended imperial power run by autocrats. It will face rebellion and violent reaction. It's time for Congress to stand behind the real needs of this American nation and stop the Bush impirium or its members and vested interests will not be able to spend luxurious pensions and extended benefits in neighborhoods safe from reprisal. The heat is on. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Justice.
I often wonder what the GOP vision of the future is. I always come up with some really ugly science fiction dystopia with the poor forced to breathe toxic gasses and selling their organs for food, and then I think it's time to lay off the Pepsi for a while. But how exactly does the GOP think the future is going to mold itself with no social security, no health care, and no middle class? What kind of a net is going to be there to keep us from falling into that kind of desperately economically stratified world? I always end up thinking that maybe they don't look that far -- that really they can't see beyond their own self-interest in the moment and their craven lust for power. Which is ugly but not quite as cyincal as I often think they must be if they ever actually stop to consider the consequences of their plans.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Doctors Need to Clean Up Their Act

Now I'm pissed.

The Michigan Househas passed a bill that will now go to the Senate, allowing Doctors and other health care providers to refuse to treat gay patients. The legislation protects them from being sued or diciplined for doing so on "moral" grounds. The Pope is not in the ground yet so I will refrain from talking about the bill's promoters, the Michican Catholic Conference, who say that the bill promotes "the constitutional right to religious freedom."

No, instead I'm gonna go after doctors, who really need to start taking a stand against crap like this. And a whole lot more. They whine about having exhorbitant malpractice rates, but do they do anything to police their own ranks and weed out the bad few who are responsible for most malpractice judgments (and hence the high rates)? No. They are decrying cuts in Medicare payments, and well they should, but they also play a large part in keeping the numbers of doctors trained in this country woefully low and way behind demand, and hence health care costs remain high. If we trained twice as many doctors, health care costs would drop like a rock. But that would benefit patients -- an not necessarily doctors.

Are they calling out the truly fruitcakian Pharmacists for Life who are trying to pass legislation across the country allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions based on "moral" grounds? No. Why aren't they coming together to say that they don't want to be second-guessed at the point of purchase by a bunch of bible-thumping wackos who ought to seek less controversial employment selling vacuum cleaners rather than sticking their meddling noses in other people's health care decisions? Enquiring minds want to know.

As a group physicians are enjoying the boon of the BushCo. tax cuts, and hence have stayed relatively quiet about the fallout from the social agenda that has allowed Fearless Leader to maintain power. Do they only come out of their holes to scream when it hits them in the pocketbook? What about a commitment to care, to the hippocratic oath, to the value of life that says you treat the friggin' patient no matter what their sexual orientation, and don't allow your profession to be used as a tool to further the politics of hate?

There is some evidence that as a group, Doctors are realizing that a party inimical to science is not in their best interests, and the ranks of physicians in the Democratic party have been steadily increasing. If the Schiavo case taught them nothing else, it should have illustrated to one and all that if they want to be free to practice their profession without government intervention for political gain, they better think twice about backing Fearless Leader and his henchmen.

But this Michigan business is just awful. And any doctor who doesn't have a problem with it ought to join said pharmacists in the aforementioned vacuum cleaner concession.


Le Resistance

Via Needlenose: "Our European 'allies' confirmed that they really are a bunch of chocolate-making surrender monkeys as they meekly confirm King George the Witless's nominee and neo-fascist Wolfowitz as the head of the World Bank."

I really just wanted an excuse to use the phrase "chocolate-making surrender monkeys." Oh and fuck Wolfowitz.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Make Me Wanna Holler

Molly Ivins:
In the long history of monumentally bad ideas, the Cheney energy policy is a standout for reasons of both omission and commission. Dumb, dumber and dumbest.

As a general rule about Bush & Co., the more closely a policy is associated with Dick Cheney, the worse it is. Which brings us to energy policy - remember his secret task force? In the long history of monumentally bad ideas, the Cheney policy is a standout for reasons of both omission and commission. Dumb, dumber and dumbest.

Ponder this: Next year, the administration will phase out the $2,000 tax credit for buying a hybrid vehicle, which gets over 50 miles per gallon, but will leave in place the $25,000 tax write-off for a Hummer, which gets 10-12 mpg. That's truly crazy, and that's truly what the whole Cheney energy policy is.
Wrong in so many ways I don't even know where to start.

After you've taken a moment to contemplate this vision of evil incarnate and hopefully write your Congressperson and Senator in objection to the sheer obscenity of it, reward yourself by heading over to Pimps of Gore and download some alternate/live/unreleased songs from the Kinks.

We all have to keep ourselves going somehow.


Blogger Smackdown and Gender

I read this a couple of days ago on Jennibee and it really stuck with me. I offer it up now because I think it says a lot about why so many male bloggers are trying to punch out the only super-successful female blogger Wonkette, and why many women (myself included) have a hard time seeing it as anything other than blatant sexism:
Offering opinions is a competitive activity. It isn't enough to write up an opinion piece; you have to systematically destroy your opponent in order to really be an interesting blogger. First you have to find an opponent, of course. AmericaBlog has Little Green Footballs. Eschaton has Instapundit. Altercation has Jarvis. And who can forget the Juan Cole / Jonah Goldberg smackdown? Most of them don't know who their True Opponent is - in fact, they actually get noticed and linked to long before they find an opponent of an appropriate stature, but sometimes I suppose ante hoc ergo prompter hoc, if you'll forgive my latin. Those men are real political bloggers by virtue of being willing to engage in competitive shouting matches, whether they actually have yet or not, because exchanges like that are what make a political opinion blog. They write back and forth, basically high-level trolling each other, cutting and sniping and everybody claims with every post that they've absolutely proved that they're right, and then they write about how embarrassed they are for their opponents because the other guy is so stupid that he just persists in being wrong. And these comments go both ways, with nobody ever conceding any point, no matter how minute. That's competitive. If women blogged at eah other across the political divide, we'd be writing cooperatively, trying to establish dialogue and better understanding of each other's positions, in an effort to build mutual respect and bonhomie.
(emphasis mine)

I am particularly intrigued by her deconstruction of the right/left jousting of equals that male bloggers seem to gravitate to. I always read them and I think, why do they irritate themselves by reading each other if it bugs them so much? It always seemed more to the point to write about the issues themselves, rather than get waylaid by the personalities involved in who said what. Never occured to me that it was a gender specific thing, but now that she mentions it...


Poodle Nominated for Nobel Prize

Word out of Oregon is that a large black standard poodle named Kobe has received a nominiation for the coveted Nobel Prize.

He is the first poodle in history to be considered for the award. The news came as a devastating blow to Tony Blair, who had been angling for that honor.


Sunday, April 03, 2005

Remembering the Pope

The pope proceeded down the line, nodding and patting, and when he got to me I jerked into a kind of curtsy-bow and touched his right hand with my hands. Then I bent and covered his thick old knuckles with Chanel No. 23 Red Raspberry lipstick. I couldn't help it. I think I said, "Papa." - Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal

I am not now nor have I ever been a Catholic, so I will refrain from commenting on the death of the Pope and leave it to the faithful such as La Noonan and K.J. Lopez, recognizing that during his tenure he did many admirable things in addition to making some highly questionable decisions.

Feel free to leave your own comments on his passing. And note to John Huffman -- HaloScan has now expanded its word limit from 1,000 to 3,000 words. Just for you, I think.

Update 10:00 pm: Roy at Alicublog offers an excellent political recap of JPII's papacy, while John Huffman's thoughts in the comments section addresses the theological perspective, and MandT over at Adgita Diaries gives a personal response. All well worth reading.


If You Were Running CNN...

Atrios today:
If I were running CNN, once I fired most of the people that worked there and replaced them with decent TV journalists, I'd get rid of their little daily blog show and replace it with the "Fox News Fuckup of the day." They could just steal it from Media Matters. Then I'd add a "crazy shit people are hearing on talk radio which aren't true" segment.
If I were running CNN, after I hired Eason Jordan back (just to show the mouth breathers they weren't pulling my strings any more) I'd bust Wolf Blitzer down to craft service and lure Keith Obermann to take his place, hire Matt Taibbi or TBogg to write headlines (could CNN be any more lifeless and dull?), and place armed guards at the door to prevent Novakula from ever breathing his toxic brand of poison over the network airwaves again. And oh yeah, and I'd launch some sort of pilot program to include some actual news in the 24/7 cycle.

So, if you were going to give CNN a much-needed face lift, where would you start?


BushCo. Crystal Ball Goes All Wonky as Oil Spikes

Remember when conventional war hawk wisdom told us that an Iraq war would bring about a huge drop in oil prices? You know, that thing they actually pretended to believe when they weren't pretending to believe all that bullshit about WMDs? If you've forgotten, per Steve at the Shameless Antagonist, let us refresh your memory:
Roger Kubarych, senior economic adviser for the Americas at Hypo-Vereins Bank, sees the impact from any confrontation as temporary, in part because he thinks Iraq will acquiesce to UN weapons inspections. If there is a war, he said, it could be won quickly. He also said Lindsey's numbers on the potential cost sounded high.

"I don't think it will be a big impact. The stock market will go down and oil prices will go up right at the beginning. ... This will scare people and they will become risk-averse," Kubarych said. "Once the war is clearly won, oil prices will drop like a stone," he added, noting there was already a war premium in oil prices.
Angus McPhail, an analyst at ING Financial Markets in Edinburgh, Scotland, was even more plain-spoken in 2003:
"We are adamant that oil prices will fall," McPhail said.
Now, one could argue that with 18 casualties today after an assault on Abu Ghraib prison that the war is not yet "clearly won." But you would be arguing against that selfsame choir of Republicans whose purple fingers beg to differ with you nattering nabobs of negativism, so the point is essentially moot.

I bring it up in light of this week's Goldman-Sachs Report:
New York light crude futures rose $1.41 to $55.40 after a report from Goldman Sachs said the market is in the early stages of a "super spike" period. Goldman revised its "super-spike" range to $50 to $105 per barrel from $50 to $80 per barrel, reported. The brokerage firm said oil prices will have to rise high enough to curb demand and reduce consumption before prices sink agin.
Nothing like a man with a plan.