July 31, 2004
Here's my review: Read it now. Whether you're a comic fan or have never picked up a comic book in your life. Go find this thing and read it. This is easily the best comic I've ever read, but it's also become the best work of fiction I've read in a while. On top of being just a damn good piece of work, it's eerily poignient even though it's from the mid-eighties. I never thought comics could be like this.
July 30, 2004
July 29, 2004
I'll just leave you with this: At the end of Jedi, Vader's ghost will be Hayden Christiansan. My head hurts with the stupid.
July 28, 2004
Also, here's a link to a transcript of his speech for those of you on slower connections.
This is exactly the kind of advertising I want to see in the future. Well, no. I want to see NO advertising in the future, but ads are a fact of the world we live in, so they might as well be entertaining. Like the multi-part ads from the mid-90s (where a story was broken up into a series of ads), this type of advertising makes the ad itself a form of entertainment as well as a means of disseminating information about whatever product it's hawking.
And I love Halo 2 and if it loved me back I would have its babies if man/video game mating technology were more developed. But no, G.W. cut back on funding for that to! Is there no science he likes?!
July 27, 2004
There's a rumor that some of our readers are more interested in the topic of "Men in Hot Pants" than either "Politics" or "Wackyass Things Ben Finds On The Internet". So there, I'm bowing to public demand. We're THIS close to completely changing the site over to a porn site.
Incidentally, here's the link to where this pic came so I don't get any legal trouble from Big Underwear.
I'll be the first to recommend Moore's films to people, but O'Reilly's just more accustomed to the live format. I did, however, send in an e-mail to the Factor making some of the points I thought should have been made, so if you watch tomorrow you may get to hear old Bill read a letter from Ben Allen.
UPDATE: Here's the e-mail I wrote to The Factor in case it doesn't get on:
I was disappointed with Moore's response on the "Did Bush lie?" question. We
don't need to press whether he lied for the purposes of the election because
Bush made a colossal mistake which has cost us incredible amounts of money, but
more importantly the lives of hundreds of our troops as well as our ability to
credibly threaten countries like North Korea and Iran who we now know actually
possess WMDs. Yes, Bush may have gotten bad info from lots of people about
Iraq, but he is the boss and ultimately is responsible for the decisions he
makes, especially in an election year. Saddam was a horrible dictator, but I'd
feel a lot better if we weren't committed to nation building when Iran and N.
Korea are going nuclear.
If this were a company and you made mistakes of the magnitude Bush did with
Iraq, would your contract get renewed? I think not, even if it was because
you got some bad info.
UPDATE #2: Let's assume that this isn't going to make it onto national tv. Why don't you readers post in the comments how you think O'Reilly would respond to my letter if it DID make it on.
This is, of course, just a preview for the O'Reilly v. Moore rumble that's coming up next.
July 26, 2004
July 25, 2004
July 24, 2004
Also, I didn't know that he had already promised to tithe 10% of his winnings to the Mormon Church.
July 23, 2004
I know I posted a link to this a few weeks ago, but that was before I figured out how to post pictures on the front page. So, in an attempt to sexy up the place I thought I'd remind everyone that yes, Jennifer Garner is h-o-t-t hot. And I've said it before and I'll say it again, Daredevil was not a bad movie and Electra will rule! At least, it has to be better than Catwoman.
July 22, 2004
Apparently, another one of President Bush's federal court nominees is an arch-conservative alpha-male (and no, I'm not talking about Mr. "Nothing's wrong with cross-burning" Charles Pickering).
J. Leon Holmes, recently confirmed 51-46 by the Senate to the federal district court in Arkansas, firmly believes that "the wife is to subordinate herself to the husband ... the woman is to place herself under the authority of the man."
In enlightening commentary, Sen. Rick "I'm not against homosexuality, I'm against homosexual acts" Santorum feels it is another instance of unfair attention on a person who has conservative religious views that are shared by millions of Americans. You know, like the killing of Jews who aren't Christian, or the lynching of blacks who dared to whistle at a white woman...I should stop, I'm getting naughty.
Choice can be easy, as it was in my case, or truly agonizing. But assuming the fetal position is not an appropriate response. Sartre called this "bad faith," meaning something worse than duplicity: a fundamental denial of freedom and the responsibility that it entails. Time to take your thumbs out of your mouths, ladies, and speak up for your rights. The freedoms that we exercise but do not acknowledge are easily taken away.
July 21, 2004
But that's not all kids! There's a cross promotion with Coke so that you can get $10 off Sega Sports games. Which sports games will I be buying this year? The ten freaking dollar ones, that's what.
In regards to Sandy Berger: "Yes, removing classified documents from the National Archives is wrong – illegal even. But the consequences here don't support the conspiracy theories being bandied about – that Berger tried to cover-up flaws in the Clinton administration's handling of terrorism or was stealing documents for the Kerry campaign. Leave it to John McCain to distinguish himself again as a voice of reason: "McCain called Berger 'a fine and honorable man who we should presume innocent until proven guilty.'"
It's times like these I bet McCain just really riles the right-wing establishment.
Here's the linky because MosBen is whiny:
Post ideas in the comments!
Colmes, as always, was pretty much absent and/or appeasing (the nice liberal) while Hannity launched into a tirade about how Berger's actions gravely endangered our national security, how it was treasonous, and how it all comes down to Bill Clinton must have been fully responsible for 9/11, global warming, the ten biblical plagues upon Egypt, and the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, Ann Coulter looked like she wanted to have Hannity's baby then and there.
July 20, 2004
What's your favorite song for a contemplative/low key sort of mood?
Post away guys and gals...
Gergen said he thought that "it is suspicious" that word of the investigation of Berger would emerge just as the Sept. 11 commission is about to release its report, since "this investigation started months ago."
July 19, 2004
If Bush worked for any company in the world and got the company in the mess that he's gotten this country in with Iraq he'd be fired without a second thought. Whether or not he lied, he was WRONG and in a big way. Being the President is a tough job and you're bound to make mistakes, but getting the country involved in a war we didn't need to be involved in, especially if it hinders our ability to address conflicts in other areas of the country, is a fire-able offense.
The lovely MosBen invited yet another friend of his to contribute to this journal. That friend is me.
I thought I would take a moment to introduce myself to the 5 or 6 people who read this thing, even though there's a relatively good chance that everyone who sees this message already knows me. If that is the case, please disregard the introduction and replace it with a nice, numbing punch to the solar plexus.
Anyway, I'll pop in here from time to time to talk to you lovely boys and girls about things other than politics, which appears to be the central theme in this blog. Common topics from me range from music I've heard, things I've seen or just shit that flat out pisses me off. There are more, but I'm going to run with those for now.
That's all for now.
P.S. Please listen to the following:
DJ Shadow - In Tune & On Time
Prefuse 73 - One Word Extinguisher
Boom Bip - Corymb
July 18, 2004
Harry Potter, probably unintentionally, thus appears as a summary of the social and educational aims of neoliberal capitalism. Like Orwellian totalitarianism, this capitalism tries to fashion not only the real world, but also the imagination of consumer-citizens. The underlying message to young fans is this: You can imagine as many fictional worlds, parallel universes or educational systems as you want, they will still all be regulated by the laws of the market. Given the success of the Harry Potter series, several generations of young people will be indelibly marked by this lesson.
Ahh, I love the French.
July 17, 2004
When Kerry uses the word "values," it's meant to send a message: I am not who I am. I am not the blue-blooded prep-school kid who married two millionaires, dated a movie star and has a prenup and umpteen homes in tony locales; who has spent the past two decades as a moderately liberal senator from Massachusetts; and who likes to snowboard at Sun Valley and windsurf off Nantucket. I'm just your back-fence neighbor in Mayberry, out there in overalls, sidlin' over to the fence to chat: "Howdy neighbor! Would you like to come visit for a spell and hear about my values of faith, hope and opportunity?
Yes, that's right: because Kerry is rich and liberal, things like faith, hope, and opportunity (let's just pretend those are actually values) can't be important to him. But wait, it gets better. In his last three paragraphs, Brooks -- a prominent and fairly wealthy pundit -- manages to forget his net worth and complains in general terms about `these upper-class types [who] want our values'.
So, to sum up: Rich people, especially rich liberal people, have different values from such exemplars of the working class as David Brooks. They shouldn't pretend to care about faith, hope, and opportunity, because they don't have tattoos and aren't on the Atkins diet.
Update: Eschaton and Pro-war.com have more on Cons' understanding (or lack thereof) of the term `values'. Fixed Blogger's odd formating decisions.
July 16, 2004
What explains this folly?
Not simple bigotry, as some pundits declared, or even simple politics. While it is true that the amendment was a classic election-year ploy, it owes its power as much to a peculiar narrative of class hostility as it does to homophobia or ideology. And in this narrative, success comes by losing.
Doing research is, of course, the preferred way to go, because you have to do it anyway, might as well get paid for it. Thus research money is more prestigious, and usually only given to students who've been around a few years. The rest of us could, in theory, get a regular job -- I'm only spending eight of my sixteen waking hours a day doing homework and writing, a full-time job fits in there no problem! But since I'm selfish and enjoy my (relative) sanity, I have to teach for my department.
Teaching (by which I mean either lecturing for a course or assisting the lecturer) is actually a decent gig. For a glamorous $16k a year (before taxes) and the option to buy lousy health insurance, I work six hours a week during the summer, ten hours a week during the school year, and get 2 1/2 months of vacation. The problem is that, if I am not represented by a union, my pay and benefits are basically whatever the university decides to give me. For a single twenty-four-year-old who doesn't own a car and is still on his dad's health insurance, this isn't really a problem. My pay+benefits package is designed for someone at my point in life. It's somewhat different for, say, a twenty-seven-year-old man supporting his wife and newborn child. Or, to pick another example from people I actually know, a woman in her mid-forties with a teenage daughter.
So what did the National Labor Relations Board decide today? Well, if you happen to a grad student at a private university, you just have to live with your poverty, because the school has no obligation to recognize your union whatsoever. Their reasoning is that your relationship with the school is 100% student/institute of higher learning, and not in the NLRB's purview. The fact that you are paid (a pittance) for performing a (critical) service for said institution that has nothing at all to do with your education doesn't make you an employee. You're just a student with the privilege of being financial dependent on your school.
July 15, 2004
quiz the first time, or y'all are lazy and can't be bothered to post in
the comments section. Here's how it works, I post quizes, you take
them, and then post your scores in the comments section. Don't make me
tell you again chumps!
one, I had to take it. This thing is riddled with problems,
mostly that the "reds" are portrayed as straight up stupid and the
"blues" are close minded ideologues that have no knowledge of anything
outside their elitist little world. I scored right in the middle
because I know things like that Rush is on the radio three hours a day
during the weekday and who Dr. Laura is. Still take the damn quiz
and let's compare.
July 14, 2004
Or, if you and your loved one need some amusement this fine evening, see how many logical fallacies and factual errors you can find in this eloquent and persuasive essay.
And on behalf of traitorous American francophiles everywhere, Happy Bastille Day!
Now, having to buy an Xbox 2 in a year and a half, and believe me I'll HAVE to, doesn't really bother me. Four years of Xbox games is pretty reasonable I think and it's certainly cheaper than upgrading a PC all the time. In fact, I think a four year cycle is better than a five year cycle and for why I think that just look at most PS2 games and compare them to current top tier PC games and then imagine how they'll compare in a year and a half when the PS2 should be around 5 years old. Four years seems long enough to me for developers to really take advantage of the hardware, especially if backwards compatibility becomes the standard that it seems to be, while updating the hardware just a little more frequently.
"Refusing women access to the Pill is a very disturbing trend," says Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "The war on choice is not just about abortion anymore. It's about our right to birth control."
One of the many inadequacies of the Roe decision was that it legalized abortion to give medical professionals, eg, doctors and pharmacists, more freedom to determine treaments, prescriptions, and so on, instead of legalizing abortion to give women autonomy over their own bodies. Under the former perspective, these anti-abortion doctors and pharmacists may withhold the Pill from women at their discretion; under the latter, feminist, perspective, pharmacists have no right to act as a gatekeeper to a woman's access to the Pill or other forms of contraception.
"I have a hard time with people who market themselves as women's health care physicians but who won't prescribe such a basic part of women's health care," says Anne Drapkin Lyerly, MD, a reproductive rights ethicist and an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center. "We're seeing a growing trend among pharmacists and medical practitioners who consider it acceptable to impose their morality on women's bodies. I don't think moral aspects should be a concern. Imagine a pharmacist asking a customer whether his Viagra prescription is to enhance sexual performance in his marriage or in an extramarital affair. Never!"
Incidentally, a doctor who no longer prescribes the Pill is quoted as saying "I think most women feel life begins at fertilization". While I can't speak for this today, it is certain not true historically; traditionally the beginning of life was associated with quickening (when the woman can feel the foetus kick, not when the Immortals start cutting each others' heads off).
July 13, 2004
When the people in the small towns look around at what Wal-Mart and ConAgra have wrought and decide to enlist in the crusade against Charles Darwin
This prominence must come from some level of support at the polls. But here is the paradox: the sections of society which benefit from the actions of Conservatives in government are too small to be the bulk of this popular support. There is a significant chunk of the working class population which votes Conservative, even as Conservatives in government have acted almost exclusively in ways that harm the working class. Frank provides highlights of the 1998 platform of the Kansas Republican party:
* A flat tax or national sales tax to replace the graduated income tax (in which the rich pay more than the poor).
* The abolition of taxes on capital gains (that is, on money you make when you sell stock).
* The abolition of the estate tax.
* No ``governmental intervention in health care.''
* The eventual privatization of Social Security.
* Privatization in general.
* Deregulation in general and ``the operation of the free market system without government interference.''
* The turning over of all federal lands to the states.
* A prohibition on ``the use of taxpayer dollars to fund any election campaign.''
Along the way the document specifically endorsed the disastrous Freedom to Farm Act [which largely eliminated federal support for family farmers in favour of agribusiness], condemned agricultural price supports, and came out in favour of making soil conservation programs ``voluntary,'' perhaps out of nostalgia for the Dust Bowl days (76)
By contrast, prior to the mid-twentieth century (indeed, prior to the '60s), Liberalism, at least economic liberalism, enjoyed the support of almost all the American working class. Recall that abolitionism, FDR, and William Jennings Bryan (a radical leftist fundamentalist politician early in the twentieth century) enjoyed overwhelming popular support, and the original Populist party was associated with calls for government support of farmers and other Liberal economic policies (32). Frank undertakes to unravel this paradox by examining how his home state of Kansas shifted from radically liberal to radically conservative. His approach, unfortunately, is anecdotal, not sociological, and I feel this is the critical weakness of his book. However, his thesis is robust and intriguing, if not robustly supported.
Frank spends the first half of his book illustrating this gradual shift. The second half lays out the sketch of his argument, and then fleshes things out with further anecdotes of his encounters with prominent Kansas Conservatives.
His resolution begins by noticing a striking parallel between the populist Liberal rhetoric prior to the '60s, and the populist Conservative rhetoric since then: except for one crucial detail, they sound remarkably similar.
Even the rhetoric of the backlash, with all its regular-guy flourishes, sometimes appears to have been lifted whole cloth from the proletarian thirties. The idea that average people are helpless pawns caught in a machine run by the elite comes straight from the vulgar-Marxist copybook, which taught generations of party members that they inhabited a deterministic world where agency was reserved for capitalists. (130)
Conservative rhetoric, like Liberal rhetoric, engages and activates its audience, appealing to the latent outrage at the injustice of the present system. But where the malevolent Other of Liberalism was the plutocrat, in Conservative rhetoric it is the elitist, technocratic, sophisticated yet simultaneously shallow, latte-swilling liberal who is using activist courts, political correctness, and rap music to threaten The American Way Of Life.
Of course, this is completely ridiculous, and only the most naive would buy into it without two critical features of the rest of our media landscape. Liberals ARE, in fact, elitist, shallow, self-righteous assholes; and economics is incidental to the way the world works. That is to say, the sort of liberals who are most prominent in the mainstream media -- Hollywood celebrities -- are condescending when they express a political opinion, and generally not a group of people to be admired. The typical This Modern World fan or reader of The Nation is not someone the average Conservative voter is liable to be familiar with. Similarly, the media have presented economic issues for decades as of interest only to businesswomen and -men -- welfare `reform' is something the stock market will like and saves money, a universal health care plan will hurt the insurance industry and cost money, not something workers need to carry about, because what really matters to real Americans is abortion, homosexuality, affirmative action, and `values'.
Hence, Conservatism enjoys such extraordinary popular support not only because it portrays itself as a radical rejection of the dominant power structure, but derives its credibility from the injustices of the dominant power structure and actually supports the dominant power structure in turn by lending popular support to economic policies that exploit the working class. If you're thinking I'm being excessively Marxist, here's Frank:
Conservatism provides its followers with a parallel universe, furnished with all the same attractive pseudospiritual goods as the mainstream: authenticity, rebellion, the nobility of victimhood, even individuality. But the most important similarity between backlash and mainstream commercial culture is that both refuse to think about capitalism critically. Indeed, conservative populism's total erasure of the economic could only happen in a culture like ours where material politics have already been muted and where the economic has largely been replaced by those aforementioned pseudospiritual fulfillments. This is the basic lie of the backlash, the manipulative strategy that makes the whole senseless parade possible. In all of its rejecting and nay-saying, it resolutely refuses to consider that the assaults on its values, the insults, and the Hollywood sneers are all products of capitalism as surely as are McDonald's hamburgers and Boeing 737s. 242
Over the past few days, I've found Frank's analysis to be a powerful tool in deconstructing such things as the progress (or lack thereof) of the Hate Amendment. But theoria is not enough; we need praxis. And what really needs to be done is to get his ideas dispersed as widely as possible, to start challenging Conservative rhetoric. This last should be done, however, not by pedantically dissecting the logical fallacies and factual mistakes of Conservatives, but simply challenging the populist credentials of their ideas. Is globalization in its current form really going to bring real income back up to its 1973 high? Should our priorities on health care be with guaranteeing the bottom line of insurance companies, or with making people as healthy as possible? Is testing teachers and students really going to make schools `accountable', and is `accountability' more of the problem with education than lack of proper allocated funding and the crappy pay teachers make? While possibly personally offensive, is legal recognition of gay marriage really a threat to our society as a whole?
These are the sorts of questions I believe we should be asking our Conservative friends and family, and Liberals in the media and government should be asking Conservatives in the same places. While not outstanding as a piece of social science, Thomas Franks' book is an excellent polemic and means to organize a promising challenge to Conservatism. I highly recommend it.
The errors occurred from January 2003 to April 2004. During that time, the test - the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching for Grades 7 to 12, called the Praxis P.L.T. 7-12 - was given eight times, to a total of about 40,000 people.
That means ten percent of these potential teachers were erroneously failed.
But what's far more important, and naturally completely unquestioned by this article, is how one's general ability to teach can be measured by filling in scantron forms and writing short responses on a standardized test. I have no problem with testing to make sure potential teachers are competent in the subject matter which they want to be teaching -- history teachers should know dates and names, physics teachers should know the right formulae, gym teachers should know how to blow a whistle and order pushups. But the ability to manage a classroom and convey knowledge effectively is more akin to being able to perform on stage, and composed of so many distinct factors that it strikes me as absurd or naive or both to think it can be expressed as a single number, which is then compared to an arbitrary cutoff to determine whether the individual is to be allowed to teach or not. The only way to determine whether an individual is a qualified teacher is to put them in a classroom and watch them.
Rather than politics, Fox News offers only lockstep ideology. It does not present arguments; it blends fearmongering and happy talk, rinses in red, white and blue, and pours the mixture down our throats. Instead of challenging its audience, it simultaneously terrifies and comforts them, painting a hostile world constantly in need of good, old-fashioned Republican-style American might. It shows us a busy screen of sound and fury, but devoid of all thought.
Interestingly, Outfoxed is not being distributed, partially as a way to cut down on inevitable lawsuits. You can order a copy direct off the website, or check with MoveOn to find a screening party near you starting Tuesday.
Update: The Chron also has a story on the film.
July 12, 2004
On a side note though, they had the mayor of Oakland on afterwards talking about the fundraiser Kerry was at the other night which contained lots of lewd language and bad talk about Bush. Fans of the West Wing should find this oddly familiar. Anyhow, the mayor was great. Basically he said (paraphrasing), "Yeah, lots of things were said and they maybe weren't in the best of taste, but there are so many valid issues in this election that I can't imagine why people care. I know it's tantalizing for cable news networks when something like this or the Cheney swearing thing happens, but if we could just focus on the issues even just a little more this time, I think we'd have plenty to talk about and the discourse would be much better for it."
I don't know why so many people didn't like the first DD movie. I thought it was pretty good. The mood was certainly gritty, right were it needed to be, and the action was good. People complain about Affleck, but I thought he was tolerable enough and certainly didn't ruin anything. It's not as good as Spiderman or the X-men, but since when is being less than superb something to complain about.
July 11, 2004
As the article mentions, people in this area are naturally suspicious of Americans in general and this is going to play perfectly into their fears. Commentators like to point out how silling their suspicions are all the time and how we're the good guys, but stuff like this and Abu Gharaib are what they see of "the good guys".
If marriage were a cure for poverty, I'd be the first to demand that H.H.S. spring for the Champagne and bridesmaids' dresses. But as Horn acknowledged to me, there is no evidence to that effect. Married couples are on average more prosperous than single mothers, but that doesn't mean marriage will lift the existing single mothers out of poverty. So what's the point of the administration's marriage meddling? Jacobs thinks that the administration's mixed signals on marriage — O.K. for paupers, a no-no for gays — are part of the conservative effort to "change the subject to marriage." From, for example, Iraq.
July 10, 2004
Until then, here's a nice little column that should communicate my basic thoughts on the deity thing. And yesterday Fresh Air had two segments on the historical development of the New Testament; more specifically, why John is in there, and Thomas isn't.
Lots of people make a huge deal about Nader from both sides of the aisle this year. Personally, it just doesn't keep me up at night; I leave that to the cold I've been nursing for a week now. Listen, it's a pretty solid bet that at the actual voting booth Nader's not going to do better than a percent. Yes, this is going to be a close election. Yes, having a third party candidate on the left is never a good thing for a Democratic candidate and especially if the election is going to be decided in a small number of battleground states. I don't know, I guess I'm still holding out hope that Nader's going to drop out of the race in October. Maybe I'm not being realistic enough, but I'd rather have Kerry/Edwards and the rest of the Democrat machine focussed on stealing percentages from Bush by showing the country just what a crappy president he's been than fighting for that one percent Nader's clutching at. I know the country's pretty polarized right now, but there have to be more voters that Kerry can steal from Bush than he can from Nader.
July 09, 2004
July 08, 2004
1) State Constitutional challenges to state laws passed by voters.
2) Federal Constitutional challenges
3) challenges against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by Congress in '96
4) challenges to state laws under the full faith and credit clause attempting to enforce marriages in one state in another, and
5) If all else fails, sue, sue, sue
First, 1) Again, many state Constitutions, like those already mentioned, have built into them even broader civil rights for the residents of that state than allotted to them by the US Constitution. As much as Hatch might hate it, Constitutions trump laws every day of the week and any law that contradicts a part of a Constitution MUST be struck down. It's just the way law works. Most states have gotten around this by passing Constitutional Amendments, but that might not work as we'll soon see.
2) This is mostly going to fall under the 14th Amendment, specifically the part where it says that no state shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws", which was then applied to the Federal Government through the 5th Amendment. Let's break that down. "Laws" must include laws and regulations on marriage and that's pretty obvious. "Person" applies to gays as well as heteros. "Equal protection" is where it gets a little tricky, but Constitutional law has said that if you can identify a group that is being legislated against in order to shut them out, that's not equal protection. Rick Santorum can talk all he wants about beastiality, but just look at this article: these laws are targeted with specific intent to shut gays out of the institution of marriage. Swap blacks for gays and see if this isn't a violation of the 14th Amendment. In fact, it was like that right up until "activist judges" struck down popular laws against miscegenation.
3) Again, DOMA, being a law, must be Constitutional in order to be valid. I think it's pretty obvious that it's not, but it also represents Congressional overreach, that is, Congress got its hands into making laws which have always been a state matter.
4) Though passing a law like DOMA is definitely overreaching, it's pretty clear now that it's not just a state matter anymore because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Long story short, states have to give recognize the laws of other states so, for instance, a married couple from Texas can move to Florida and Florida must recognize their marriage because it was made under valid Texas law. This really becomes a federal issue as you can see because if one state has a Constitutional amendment against gay marriage and another allows gay marriage we're going to run into trouble, sort of like when we had some states that said slavery was illegal and others that said it was a-okay.
5) Not much to say on that one.
The bottom line is that Hatch is right: gay marriage under the current legal system is inevitable. We have amendments in the federal and most if not all state Constitutions requiring that we not make legal clubs which we can deny people from. Heteros get over 1000 federal rights the moment they get married including rights about visitation in a medical emergency, what happens to children after death, inheritance, etc., and we're systematically saying to gays that they cannot have these rights. It's illegal. The only way to make it not illegal is to change the US Constitution, but the same could be said for segregating schools, establishing an official religion, or allowing defendants to be convicted without a trial.
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others?
Does anyone care if John Kerry points to people in the crowd? Noonan does, take a gander:
By the way, Republicans tend not to point at the crowd in this way. They wave. I think it's because their mothers taught them pointing is rude. Someday, in 2008 or 2012, there will, however, be a Republican pointer. And we will know history has truly changed. Because that man's mother will not have taught him that pointing is rude, for she was working 18 hours a day in a law firm, and forgot.
Then, when Kerry mentions that George Bush lied in the lead up to Iraq War 2.0 the Noonster does what any good Republican lap dog does and says he's in Michael Moore territory, which might not be such a bad thing now since no one has, to my knowledge, debunked Fahrenheit 9/11 in any substantial way.
But the best/insaniest part of this column is when she tries to argue that because Kerry didn't spend years in 'Nam that it's not an issue at all despite the fact that no one on the other side went at all and yet are claiming to be "War President" and such. I really hope someone scratches Peggy's belly just like she likes this week 'cause she earned it.
Come on liberal media, this is front page material. Where are you?
July 07, 2004
Kristof also makes the following point about Edwards' economics, which I should've mentioned last night:
"Moreover, Mr. Edwards may continue to wave a protectionist cudgel at trade issues. That will win votes because manufacturing job losses are concentrated in swing states. But trade populism would mark a retreat from President Clinton's embrace of globalization. Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards should remember that Mr. Clinton won the electorate without turning demagogic on trade."
Question for discussion: can the left in this country reclaim the working class and work for a benevolent, fair globalization? Or should one come before the other?
I don't know how to format the fancy block quotations, so I'll just do some highlights like this.
"Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on Tuesday signed the law of broad martial powers that allow him to impose curfews anywhere in the country, ban groups he considers seditious and order the detentions of people suspected of being security risks."
It's not martial law; it's just the law that allows a declaration of martial law. There are some token limitations, but this is still not a positive development. Also note this little gem:
"Under the formal American occupation, Iraqis in effect lived under martial law for 15 months .... United Nations Resolution 1546 still grants the American military many of those rights."
Iraqi freedom my ass.
July 06, 2004
Granted, I don't follow the political horserace as closely as others, but with all the excitement over the past week, it's been hard to ignore, and the two most likely possibilities have seemed to be Gephardt and Edwards. Part of the appeal of Gephardt was his close ties to organized labour, and thereby the working class. While I haven't read his book, I'm inclined to agree with Thomas Frank's thesis that the Democratic party (and, more generally, the left) needs to reclaim its populism. Between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement, the working class was overwhelmingly Democratic while the GOP was the party of the wealthy. Then, as the Democrats abandoned appeals to the working class, Republicans stepped up their own rancid populism and the `Culture Wars' rhetoric.
Gephardt's connections to labour make him indirectly populist; but Edward's campaign rhetoric has been quite legitimately compared to FDR's populism; and while his politics aren't as leftist as I'd like, he may be a sort of moderate populist who can pave the way for a progressive populist in the next decade. I can't recall actually hearing him use the phrase `class warfare', but it would certainly be a refreshing change from the mainstream moderatism the Democratic party of late.
Of course, I didn't think there was ever any real chance that Kerry would pick anyone other than Edwards, but all the speculation was good because it kept Kerry in the news. So hooray! Everyone go see Farenheit 9/11, learn to hate Bush even more than you already should, and vote Kerry in November.
July 05, 2004
July 04, 2004
Most if not all of you either have or will see one or more of these films or even at least have an opinion. The comments system is a great place for you to express those opinions or maybe even just say hello or something.
Like all Michael Moore films, this movie is, at it's heart, something to entertain the audience and does not attempt to be anything like a History channel documentary. Most of the criticism from the Right has been exactly this point, but let's try to think of all the documentaries which conform to that method of documentary film making AND got even a minor theatrical release. Hmmmmmm. The best description I've heard of F9/11 is that it's an "op-ed documentary", which sums it up pretty well. Like an op-ed piece, F9/11 is not a fiction piece like Chronicles of Riddick, but it's not a story by the Associated Press either. Moore has a definite point to make and though he presents many facts, he also interprets them in a very obvious way and reaches a conclusion.
Moore himself stays out of most of the film personally, and only really has two of his signature "guerilla journalism" stunts, only appearing in a few scenes and sticking to narration for the rest. The stunts are funny, but like so much of this movie, the humor is bound up with an anger over what has happened in the last four years. For example, in one of the stunts Moore rides around in DC in an ice cream truck reading the Patriot Act to the members of Congress because according to one of his sources the Patriot Act, which arguably has restricted many normal people rights unjustly, was signed into law with most of the lawmakers not even reading it. See what I mean?
Along with the humor comes a deep sadness about what's happened to normal people in all this. Several parts of the movie revolve around a military family from Moore's own Flint, Michigan and the loss of both family and faith in the war. Flash over to Iraq and we see another mother who has lost several members of her family and screams to God for vengeance. If you don't at least feel like you could maybe get a little teary watching this film, you need to watch it again and I'll come puck you in a "sensitive area" at the part where you're supposed to cry. What really makes the emotion succeed in a way that so few Hollywood movies do is that you know it's all real. That's a real dead child there. That's a real destroyed home.
Flash over to a meeting of big industry IN post-Saddam Iraq talking about how "once to oil gets flowing" they all stand to make unheard of profits from this war, and you can start to see where the anger comes in. Now the weakest part of the film involves Bush's connection to certain business deals and some of the political implications those connections might have and it's exactly that "might" that is the weakest link. Like I said earlier, Moore is out to entertain but he uses pretty solid factual basis for most of the film. This part of the film, however, relies more on innuendo than solid evidence, but I don't think it necessarily damages the film or is even supposed to be taken as literal fact. Most of this part of the film deals with the House of Bush and the House of Saud, the royal family of Saudi Arabia, and most of the innuendo is, I think, supposed to make the audience say, "Man, why do we have a guy with so many potential conflicts of interest in the White House." rather than give a factual account of what happened.
Anyhow, in conclusion, go see this film now. I think it's Moore's best work yet, mostly because it is so poignant and has the potential to have a real impact on the world. It tries to cover a little more ground than I think is possible in a theatrical film, but like I said before this is a film to entertain the audience and hopefully make them interested enough to go research afterwards because it really is this bad.
July 02, 2004
The reason Bush is polling badly isn't because, as Noonan suggests, American's have a desire to return to some etherial state of normalcy. Bush is polling badly because his "guts" are looking more and more like "asshole-ocity". People are starting to think that maybe we're not safer with a leader that runs around the world kicking dirt in everyone's face and giving his rich buddies a free five minutes in the "Stick it in America's ass" booth.
If Anne Coulter is the crazy bitchy girl in our Political High School, Peggy Noonan is the deluded and obsessed stalker. Actually, Political High School might make for an interesting cartoon.
I just wish for once we'd be honest and say it's politics instead of people acting coy like they couldn't possibly know what you're talking about. The Dems are worried Ralph might steal votes away from them in November. They don't give a rat's ass about signiture rules.
July 01, 2004
Spiderman 2 fits into my "Unified Theory of Second Movies" perfectly. You see, when a movie comes out that has the potential to become a longer series but is as yet unproven, the first movie has to do a number of things: create the univese and explain it to the viewer, introduce the main characters in this universe, and tell a succinct story which has a satisfying ending in the event that the movie doesn't actually do well enough to spawn a series. Classic examples of this are Star Wars: A New Hope and The Matrix. The universes in these movies are rich enough that there's lots for fans to talk about and discuss, which is why they might spawn series to begin with, but the movies have a definite end with a satisfying conclusion and don't leave people expecting a sequel in case one never happens. This "brick wall ending" is in contrast to something like, say, the Back To The Future movies which were always, from what I understand, planned as a trilogy and had the backing from the start to make sure the trilogy happened, hence the really wide open endings to the first two films (see also LOTR). Even there though, notice that the second film's ending is a gaping chasm compared to the first's. And another possibility is to have a series of completely unconnected movies, at least from a plot perspective (ala Indiana Jones).
Then comes the second film. The difficulty in the second film that isn't generally shared with any subsequent films is that the film is presented with a wall at the end of the first movie which it has to explode in order to re-open the universe for further exploration. This can be awkward, especially if the movie needs to re-examine problems which the first movie either explicitly or impliedly solved. Take The Matrix for example: At the end of the first movie we're basically left feeling that Neo is an unstoppable God. Obviously having God as a omnipotent character won't make for a very gripping film, so Reloaded had to find some way to make Neo powerful, but not god-like, an endevour whose trickiness you can verify by all the message board rants on the internet. Additionally, in breaking the universe back up, the second film almost always has to, at some level, recap the story from the first movie so people at least know the characters.
Furthermore, the second film has to leave it's own ending wide open enough that a possible third movie can pick up the plot slightly more easily than the second while at the same time not leave the story hanging in mid-air to the extent that audiences feel cheated by a no-ending. All this and the second movie still has to tell its own bracketted story which arcs within the span of the movie.
This brings me to the wall crawler. The first movie was not a guaranteed success (we need look no farther than the spring release date, which is restricted to unproven action movies)so we had our classic formula: Tight script, interesting universe with plenty of supporting characters inhabiting the fringe of the story pulled from the comics both for a little fan service as well being there "just in case there's a sequel", and a solid brickwall ending. It worked perfectly for me and still stands as probably my favorite hero movie, though there are a couple contenders to the throne that aren't that far back.
So with Spidey 2, yes I'm finally talking about Spidey 2, we had to reopen the universe, which wasn't terribly difficult in this case, and recap the story from the first film which cleverly done in the opening credits. Where I felt Spidey 2 ran into some problems, at least from a film standpoint, is that it seemed to try to do too much. As big a fan of the comics as I am, from a film standpoint the story almost seemed disjointed by all the name dropping and sequel-possibility-creating moments. This is something that may go away with multiple viewings, which will happen when I inevitably buy the DVD, but for now I found the extended ending somewhat distracting, largely because I wasn't expecting it. To me this wasn't like Return of the King, which I knew was going to be the last film and sort of expected an extended wrapping up of loose ends, it was just sort of like the beginning of the third movie found its way into the end of the second. The problem with the ending I fully expect, however, to go away once the third movie is out because that's the thing about most of the problems with second movies; they largely go away once the series is complete. All the threads they leave hanging in the air are cleared up and dealt with. To the doubters, think about if Empire Strikes Back had been where the original series ended. As good a movie as it is, that would not be a satisfying end to the story and people would like it less because of it. Empire is liked better because it can be all dark and unfinished which it can do because it can rely on Jedi to be the happy ending everyone expects and secretly wants/needs but outwardly scoffs at.
Also, I hadn't realized how much I liked Willem Dafoe's performance in the first film until watching Alfred Molina in the second. This isn't to say that Molina is bad, far from it, but Dafoe was better as was his script. Doc Ock is given some pretty generic villan-ey lines and monologues that, while fine in a comic book, sounded really weird for a grown man to be saying to himself out loud.
As much time as I've spent writing all of this, here's the thing: It doesn't matter. It's got Spiderman in it and he's more human than ever, which has always been Spidey's draw. He's just a nerdy kid at heart with all the awkwardness and self doubt that comes with it, though if any nerds look like Tobey Maguire I imagine they wouldn't have quite as hard a time with the ladies. But like the first movie the everyman shines through, unlike other heroes like The Punisher that your average person doesn't even want to relate to. Other than some weird script problems, and the sneaking suspission that the whole movie was a Viagra commercial, Spiderman 2 is everything I want a Spidey movie to be: heroic, visually impressive, cool in-jokes/references, and a bunch o' webs. It's not the first movie, but it boads well for films to come. Everyone see it now.