Friday, July 21, 2006

Later. I like to play with things a while before annihilation.

It would be nice to be represented by diplomats who, when confronted with wasp's nest on the path, don't think it's a good idea to start hitting it with a stick.

You know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world.

M. Night Shyamalan is an interesting cat. He's got an ego the size of his beloved Philadelphia the manifestation of which in interviews is grating. At the same time he's definitely somebody that's blessed with real talent- just not as an auteur, which is the role he's been assigned by Hollywood up to the release of "The Lady in the Water" today. Judging by the bad reviews of that film his role is about to change and that's a good thing as I see it.

The "Sixth Sense" was a great film the experience of which was somewhat lessened for me by a marketing campaign that promised a twist. When you go into a film expecting a twist it's usually not that hard to spot it fairly early on. The convention of film with the need to condense a story into 90 odd minutes makes the task springing a surprise ending on an audience practically impossible.

"Unbreakable" was also a solid movie and the only one of Shymalan's films I'd like to see a sequel to. It was about as realistic a depiction of what it would be like to have comic-book super powers as we're ever going to see. It wasn't a perfect film and there are moments that fortold Shymalan's weaknesses (an extended, pointless cameo by himself for one) but it was still better than most of the dreck that came out that year.

It was his next film "Signs" where things really began to run off the tracks. Pointless moralizing and amateur theology do not make a solid backbone for a film thematically. Forcing that theme down audiences' throats is usually not a good idea. Crowbarring that same theme into a film at the expense of HUGE plot holes is simply unforgivable. There are genuinely creepy moments in the film and great performances by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix but none of that makes up for the film's overbearing conceit.

The thing is that every time I give up on the Shymalan the filmaker and tell myself he's a hack I remember that seen from "Unbreakable" that sends shivers up my spine just thinking about it. We're watching a flashback of the character "Mr. Glass" who is afflicted with a disease making his bones so brittle they break at the simplest the simplest contact. In the flashback the young Mr. Glass is waiting in line for a roller-coaster holding two enormous teddy bears. He gets onto the ride and positions the bears to each side to cushion himself during the ride then realizes the back of the seat is hard plastic so me moves a bear behind himself. Then he sees the metal bar...

This was done masterfully with an excellent sense of how to set up a scene and how to make an audience squirm. It wasn't the work of a hack. It was the work of a great DIRECTOR.

Which is why when I read reviews of his new film that begin, as the Seattle Post Intelligencer's did "M. Night Shyamalan's fairly disastrous new chiller..." it's a little bittersweet for me. I'm happy that it looks like Shymalan may have his first, real flop on his hands. Perhaps now he'll be forced to concentrate on what he's really talented at: directing. Directing something someone else has written.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I want friend like me.

It's not hypocritical for the Big Dog to go to Connecticut to campaign for Lieberman. Among Clinton's many sins holding a grudge isn't one of them.

But what does it say about Lieberman's principles that he is now utilizing the support of a former President of which he said this during the height of the Lewinski debacle?

In choosing this path, I fear that the President has undercut the efforts of millions of American parents who are naturally trying to instill in our children the value of honesty. As most any mother or father knows, kids have a singular ability to detect double standards. So we can safely assume that it will be that much more difficult to convince our sons and daughters of the importance of telling the truth when the most powerful man in the nation evades it. Many parents I have spoken with in Connecticut confirm this unfortunate consequence.

The President's intentional and consistent misstatements may also undercut the trust that the American people have in his word, which would have substantial ramifications for his presidency. Under the Constitution, as presidential scholar Richard Neustadt has noted, the President's ultimate source of authority, particularly his moral authority, is the power to persuade, to mobilize public opinion and build consensus behind a common agenda, and at this the President has been extraordinarily effective. But that power hinges on the President's support among the American people and their faith and confidence in his motivations, his agenda, and ultimately his personal integrity. As Teddy Roosevelt once explained, "My power vanishes into thin air the instant that my fellow citizens who are straight and honest cease to believe that I represent them and fight for what is straight and honest; that is all the strength I have."

Sadly, with his deception, President Clinton may have weakened the great power and strength of which President Roosevelt spoke. I know this is a concern that many of my colleagues share, that the President has hurt his credibility and therefore, perhaps, his chances of moving his agenda forward. But I believe that the harm the President's actions have caused extend beyond the political arena. I am afraid that the misconduct the President has admitted may be reinforcing one of the most destructive messages being delivered by our popular culture --namely that values are essentially fungible. And I am afraid that his misconduct may help to blur some of the most important bright lines of right and wrong left in our society.

Thank goodness values aren't fungible. Otherwise we might be faced with the spectacle of watching "principled" politicians like Lieberman blithely tossing aside the principles they've professed to believe for years in a desperate attempt to hold onto their seat.

That would be horrible.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

You're a Catholic the moment dad came.

In honor of the President's first ever veto against stem cell research I give you the definitive word on the subject courtesy of Monty Python.

I'm not gonna scare you. I'm off duty.

This Washington Post piece "Bush faces backlash on the right" seems to be equal parts conservative CYA and conservative historical revisionism. Both are equally delusional.

The CYA appears in the form of various conservative players complaining about foreign policy decisions by the administration, especially those that don't involve choosing a military option as the only way to achieve foreign policy goals-

Conservative intellectuals and commentators who once lauded Bush for what they saw as a willingness to aggressively confront threats and advance U.S. interests said in interviews that they perceive timidity and confusion about long-standing problems including Iran and North Korea, as well as urgent new ones such as the latest crisis between Israel and Hezbollah.

Mog not use club enough!

At it's core this is what Digby likes to refer as "conservativism can't fail it can only be failed." If some conservative economic or foreign policy initiative collapses under real-world application it can never, ever be because the premise was wrong to begin with. It follows that such a failure falls on the shoulders of those that tried to apply the conservative principle. In this case that person would be George W Bush who apparently wasn't bellicose enough or didn't oversimplify complex geopolitics to a level in which the conservative principle of "carry a big stick and speak damn loudly" would thrive.

It's all nonsense, of course which is why they also have to try and change recent history -

Conservatives complain that the United States is hunkered down in Iraq without enough troops or a strategy to crush the insurgency. They see autocrats in Egypt and Russia cracking down on dissenters with scant comment from Washington, North Korea firing missiles without consequence, and Iran playing for time to develop nuclear weapons while the Bush administration engages in fruitless diplomacy with European allies. They believe that a perception that the administration is weak and without options is emboldening Syria and Iran and the Hezbollah radicals they help sponsor in Lebanon.

Conservatives complain that the United States is hunkered down in Iraq without enough troops? WTF? Conservatives?

Sorry- conservatives have spent the last four years telling those of us that complained about troop levels and that our forces were overextended in Iraq to STFU. Conservatives have been droning on endlessly about how none of the good news out of the country is getting reported and that things are really going swimmingly. Conservatives - at every step of this stupid war - have obstinately refused to look at the big picture and consider the larger implications to U.S. foreign policy and military capability. Now they try and try and tell us that really wasn't them standing behind Bush sticking their tongue out at us?

Even after the Clinton impeachment, the election of 2000 and the disastrous Bush presidency I still remain in awe of the ability of rank-and-file conservatives to remain oblivious to the real world and continue to insist that their fantasy narrative is really how things work. Douglas Adams wrote that the trick to flying was "to aim for the ground and miss." Conservatives seem to have taken this to heart. Except- instead of the ground they aim for the truth.

And miss.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Those bastards are trying to kill me.

Billmon took on the Blair/ Bush dinner fiasco yesterday where the two leaders were caught on a microphone discussing events in the Middle East from a unbelievably naive perspective-

This is fascinating as well as terrifying. It suggests that Bush and his faithful water carrier both really believe their own bullshit -- not just in terms of viewing Hezbollah and Hamas as the mindless tools of Syria and Iran, but also in their rosy-lensed assessments of how things are going in the Middle East these days.

The biggest thing I take from the exchange, and response of the United States as a whole to the growing conflict, is that this is just yet another example of the cold war mindset that the clowns running our foreign policy are stuck in. They simply cannot bring themselves to see any world event outside the influence of state actors. All the recent talk of "WW III" from Gingrich and other neocons just highlight this mindset.

It demonstrates once again why George W Bush and Tony Blair are exactly the wrong men for our time. They lack the imagination or the mindset to truly keep the us secure by dealing effectively with our true enemies: loosely organized, shadowy terrorist organizations. Their continued efforts to pound the square peg into the round hole only seeks to make things worse.

Add to that their "rosy-lensed assesment of how things are going in the Middle East," as Billmon put it, and there isn't much hope for a responsible change in course anytime soon.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Archaeology is the search for fact... not truth. If it's truth you're looking for, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall.

From Matt at the The Great Society who takes up Glenn Greenwald's recent charge-

What I find incredibly mind-boggling, is that right-wing bloggers introduce very little to political debate and yet they are met with praise and television time. If anything, they are partly responsible for the devolution of political discourse to its current state of frothing accusations of “treason” and “anti-Americanism.” They fling ridiculous charges of a “War on Christmas.” They falsely accuse Democrats of conjuring up a phony memo attributed to Republicans during the Terri Schiavo fiasco. A claim that was completely without merit and one that was pushed even after a Republican aide confessed to writing it. Charges that a major American newspaper, the New York Times, is actively working in collusion with terrorists — even plotting to have U.S. leaders assassinated. Yet no one in the corporate media will call them out on their steaming pile.

I don't see what's so confusing. The right-wing bloggers are only threatening the physical safety of mainstream journalists. The left-wing bloggers are threatening their self-image by expecting them to do a better job. It goes without saying as to what is the bigger threat in their eyes.