Friday, February 10, 2006

The Moderate Voice - White House Faces Renewed Credibility Problems On Katrina


the people who run our country are not very good at their jobs, if one doesn't count auto-nest-feathering and bomb-dropping. though it must be said we've dropped a lot of inaccurate bombs in Iraq these past two years.

anyway, democrats--competence is the issue. competence. run on it. make it your platform. make it your frame. i don't care if you say that "republicans used to be competent, but they've lost their way". whatever. the point is, forget everything but this--democrats get things done, get social security checks showing up every month, run medicare effectively, punish wrongdoers etc.

These republicans couldn't hit water from a rowboat in the middle of the ocean.
Match Point Review, WITH TOTAL SPOILERS, so if you haven't seen it, don't read this.

Match Point was by far my favorite mainstream movie this year. my favorite underground movie was done by a sub-ethnic group so obscure, using non-narrative techniques so different from western studio ethics, that i can't even tell you about it. fine, one word. turkmenistan.

but back to match point. what makes this movie so different from today's standard thriller (for the sake of argument, let's call that "Derailed", so very down the middle)?

well, remember Jim Thompson: "there is only one plot: things are not as they seem."
now more than ever. every scene in every thriller must be fraught with potential peril. the audience must be kept waiting to know just what is coming next. they can't be in on the secrets of each character--BOW DOWN TO THE MIGHTY REVEAL PEONS!!!!

that's the way it is. and don't even get me started on M. Night's third revealatorium--it is but to puke. but that's a post for another day. back to match point.

the genius of this movie is that in every scene, where you are programmed to wait for the other shoe to never does. if a character says he or she is doing something, that's what they are doing. when someone appears out of the blue--the tennis player who shows up in the second act, say--they are there to illuminate some aspect of our main characters, not to reveal the real reason behind their dastardly plan. and yet, rather than become dull or episodic, this has the effect of making the movie feel like a real story, with the flow that comes from a good novel with an omniscient (and not faulty) narrator.

because this is a great little story, a taut and intense plot, well shot and well acted. in fact, until the third to last scene, it is a movie that could have directed by...well, um, who does good thrillers these days? anyone? hitchcock. it feels like a solid hitchcock movie. in that antepenultimate (look it up) scene, where jonathan rhys-meyers tells a ghost that if existence has specific meaning, then he will be caught--well, it is woody allen, so you are right to guess he won't get caught. but that doesn't detract from the last scene at all--it's just a sop for the insider types. like me.

jon and scarlett both give superb and naturalistic performances as well. you believe them both--they never oversell their characters, they just inhabit them (with one proviso--that doesn't look like much of a groundstroke on J R-M, but hey, he's better than DiCaprio's basketball skills in "The Basketball Diaries").

it's a beautiful piece of work--i'm excited to watch it again on ppv.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Rolling Stone : God's Senator

Just to be clear--it isn't only muslim fundamentalists who are utterly batshit crazy. sens coburn of ok and brownback (as this article makes clear) are loony. full of hate for their fellow man. soaked in contradiction that they clearly aren't smart enough to absorb and deal with. utterly religious, and unable to incorporate new ideas into their orthodoxy.

welcome to the future as long as we secularists are unwilling to fight harder and meaner for what we believe.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Paul Craig Roberts: Who Will Save America?

a representative quote from former reagan administration official roberts:

Before flinching at my assertion of blackmail, ask yourself why President Bush refuses to obey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The purpose of the FISA court is to ensure that administrations do not spy for partisan political reasons. The warrant requirement is to ensure that a panel of independent federal judges hears a legitimate reason for the spying, thus protecting a president from the temptation to abuse the powers of government. The only reason for the Bush administration to evade the court is that the Bush administration had no legitimate reasons for its spying. This should be obvious even to a naif.

he's pissed. and scared.
"What next, bearded one?" - signandsight

more on the whiny little pathetic creatures who can't take some ribbing of their prophet, from a german journalist.

brilliant. News | "Everyone is afraid to criticize Islam"

says it so well. why are we allowing ourselves to be fooled into "respecting the feelings" of these assholes?

hirsi ali is a hero in the truest sense. she deserves the kudos of the entire free world. here is an excerpt:

Was apologizing for the cartoons the wrong thing to do?

Once again, the West pursued the principle of first turning one cheek, then the other. In fact, it's already a tradition. In 1980, privately owned British broadcaster ITV aired a documentary about the stoning of a Saudi Arabian princess who had allegedly committed adultery. The government in Riyadh intervened and the British government issued an apology. We saw the same kowtowing response in 1987 when [Dutch comedian] Rudi Carrell derided [the Iranian leader] Ayatollah Khomeini in a comedy skit. In 2000, a play about the youngest wife of the prophet Mohammed, titled "Aisha," was canceled before it ever opened in Rotterdam. Then there was the van Gogh murder and now the cartoons. We are constantly apologizing, and we don't notice how much abuse we're taking. Meanwhile, the other side doesn't give an inch.

What should the appropriate European response look like?

There should be solidarity. The cartoons should be displayed everywhere. After all, the Arabs can't boycott goods from every country. They're far too dependent on imports. And Scandinavian companies should be compensated for their losses. Freedom of speech should at least be worth that much to us.

But shouldn't Muslims, like any religious community, also be able to protect themselves against slander and insult?

That's exactly the reflex I was just talking about: offering the other cheek. Not a day passes, in Europe and elsewhere, when radical imams aren't preaching hatred in their mosques. They call Jews and Christians inferior, and we say they're just exercising their freedom of speech. When will the Europeans realize that the Islamists don't allow their critics the same right? After the West prostrates itself, they'll be more than happy to say that Allah has made the infidels spineless.

What will be the upshot of the storm of protests against the cartoons?

We could see the same thing happening that has happened in the Netherlands, where writers, journalists and artists have felt intimidated ever since the van Gogh murder. Everyone is afraid to criticize Islam. Significantly, "Submission" still isn't being shown in theaters.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cross Posted at my daily kos diary, where maybe someone will read it.

It's hard to admit that your lifelong beliefs, inculcated from people who were otherwise quite perceptive and accurate about the state of the world, could be so horribly wrong. but facts are facts. the point of being a secular humanist, nay the very definition of one, to me at least, is that when new information comes in that refutes other firmly held beliefs, and that information stands up to scientifically based scrutiny, you change your beliefs to accomodate this new information.


So, a bit about me. i was raised by a social democratic professor father, and an early and ardent feminist mother. i lived either in London, where such beliefs were mainstream, or in Northampton, Massachusetts, about as liberal a college town as one could find. i think i went to my first gay rights march when i was 7, in 1975 or so. i was surrounded, literally, by people who believed that difference (later known as diversity, or multi-culturism) was to be celebrated. i guess the extreme version of this would say that headhunters in borneo were behaving in a manner appropriate to their culture, and who were we to judge them?

it always annoyed me that my parents were mostly right about everything political (although supporting one quixotic campaign after another [Fred Harris for President in 1976 for instance] ,was ultimately a useless endeavor), so where was the chance at rebellion? But something about the whole 70s/80s progressive beliefs always rubbed me the wrong way.

Moral Relativism was one central component of that group of beliefs which made up the "Academic Left" of that era. Let's call that the philosophically grounded version of the simpler concept of "tolerance." ultimately, tolerance is a profoundly Liberal (and liberal) sentiment: that one should listen to and respect the beliefs of others, especially if one disagrees with those beliefs. one root of this belief comes, at least in part, from the central nature of the protection of minority rights that Hamilton held so dear, as he made clear in his Federalist papers. those guys were very open minded for their time, the founding fathers. they were...tolerant. obviously within the proscribed area of possible reality of the 1770s, but nonetheless still very open to other's ideas.

Tolerance was so central to my upbringing, that it curled off into the P.C. of late 70s/early-mid 80s. P.C., as some will remember, was an internal issue of the Left (we used to make jokes about how we had to mention every agenda at every meeting--"what will the anti-fur pro-vegetarian radlebfems think" etc.) back then. it was later seized on by the Right as a club against us, and in retrospect, it was the beginning of the Right using our own belief system to get their own power boosted.

so where did all this multi-culti stuff lead? well, i would argue to two places. first (and grist for the mill of a second post, i don't want to deal with it here) i believe it became the linchpin of the criticism of the left, and of progressivism in general, in a way that allowed people to take what were once racist beliefs but could now be subsumed under the rubric of "anti-affirmative action" in the negative, or "i'm a proud white man celebratin' my heritage with this confederate flag" in the proactive mode. in turn i think this hurt our standing in the real world of american politics, and some of what tom frank talks about in "What's wrong with Kansas" comes out of this same place. these are bad things, but much less pernicious than the second outcome. and here we come to the present day, via the magic of cartoons, of all things.

we all know the story by now, how the muslim world has reacted in the main to the publication in a danish newspaper of mildly critical and marginally satirical cartoons depicting mohammed in various different ways. the muslim reaction was predictable--salman rushdie gave us a preview, and theo van gogh as well. islam has a shitty track record at inculcating criticism and improving from it. rather, it tends, as a religion, to lash out at criticism in ways we are all seeing now. I absolutely do not want to single out Islam here--all the major monotheistic (or polytheistic, in the case of Hinduism, or something-or-othertheistic, as in buddhism) religions can't handle logically grounded criticism, but some deal with it better than others. it is central to jewishness to push against the religion for many jews, and always has been. but really, all religions are pretty much terrible for progressivism, whatever good lefty catholic priest or unitarians might say to the contrary. Sam Harris has made the case quite brilliantly in "The End of Faith" that in fact moderate religious folk are the most dangerous people of all, as they allow us to believe that somehow these religions are sane or rational. they are neither, none of them. they are all ancients wrong-headed attempts to understand a world that is utterly different from the one we live in today. they fuck us up. bad.

but as a liberal, as a lefty, i'm supposed to celebrate this diversity of belief. i'm supposed to respect people's religious values. i'm supposed to believe that our country very existence comes from such beliefs. and no matter how weird, one is supposed to tread lightly when criticizing such beliefs. in this country, we have in Mormonism and Scientology two of the craziest fucking set of precepts one could imagine. you would have to be a fucking science fiction writer to come up with that shit.

oh. right. funny, but sad clown funny. shakes the clown funny. bad funny.

so i find myself, as is my wont, perusing your dailykos, your atrios, your americablogs, and yet on no strong intelligent lefty site can one just boldly state the obvious: You can't write a cartoon about your prophet? he's that insecure? your belief in him is that insecure? i can't express my opinion because of your insecurity? THAT IS FUCKING LAME AND IRRATIONAL, AND A BELIEF SYSTEM THAT IS SO FUCKING DELICATE AS TO FEAR ATTACKS FROM CARTOONISTS IS AN EMBARRASSMENT TO ALL RATIONAL HUMAN BEINGS!!!!!!!

sorry, yelling there. i've calmed down a bit. why can't otherwise right (and by right i mean left) thinking folk say this? because religion is the bridge too far. to belittle religion is to be racist, or anti-diversity and multi-culti, and it is ingrained into us on the left that this is a very.bad.thing.

well, that's wrong. it's just plain wrong. their are elements of the right who can say the obvious about islam with far greater accuracy than our side can. i'm not going to link to the horror festival otherwise known as Little Green Footballs, but trust me, those paranoid whack jobs over there are far more comprehensive and right-on in their analysis of islamic behavior than anyone on our side is, even Juan Cole, one of my favorite writers. don't get me wrong--if you turn the right towards the insanity and shortcomings of Christianity in its myriad guises, they revert to type, and will attack you for daring to say their god is as stupid as mohammeds. but still, what is wrong with us on the left that we can't see this situation for what it is: example number 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 that religion is one giant death cult and that ultimately the battle that matters will be between rationalists and god freaks.

get on the right damn side of the ramparts, i say.