There are whispers that Paul Haggis’ “Crash” might take Best Picture from Ang Lee's gentle-spirited presumptive frontrunner “Brokeback Mountain.” I really hope it doesn’t, because if it does, I'll be so angry that I’ll have to retire my long-term posture of benign condescension towards the Oscars and start hating them on general principle.
So begins the best critique I've read yet of the terrible-yet-praised Paul Haggis film Crash. Whether you love or hate the film, if you are interested in thinking about it you should read this. It takes the laziness and lies at the heart of it head-on. The following is just a small taste. Read the whole thing for his full argument.
Haggis doesn’t care about such distinctions because deep down he doesn’t actually want to say something useful about the modern state of race relations. He just wants to be able to play with racially charged material and be acclaimed for his bravery. The up-to-the-minute realities of American racism are too subtle and elusive for Haggis and his cowriter to grasp, and require too much care to dramatize. Even if Haggis acknowledged the need for subtlety, he'd probably ignore it anyway, because it would clash with his preferred directorial mode, monumental primitivism. This filmmaker wants blood and thunder in CinemaScope and Dolby digital. He wants to shake you up. So he lays bare the American psyche circa 1971, dresses it in 2005 fashions and hopes we’re too stunned and moved to notice that he’s lied to us ...
Haggis' depiction of a world where everyone's thoughts and words are filtered through a kind of racist translator chip -- like a Spike Lee slur montage padded out to feature length -- and then spat into casual conversation is ungenerous, because it depicts every character as an actual or potential acid-spitting bigot, and it's untrue to life, because it ignores the American impulse to at least pretend one isn't a racist for fear of being ostracized by one's peers. (That why hardcore big city bigots keep their voices down when discussing race in public; they don't want to get their asses kicked.)
Haggis' depiction of modern race consciousness is so wrongheaded in so many ways that the film's critical and financial success might actually inflict damage on the culture, by making apoplectic, paranoid racism seem like the norm and encouraging audience members (particularly the young) to think Haggis is tearing off society's mask and showing how things really are, all of which will allow those same ticket buyers to feel superior to the people in the movie and think themselves incapable of "real" racism, the type depicted in "Crash." ...
Haggis and the film's defenders can pretend this is evidence of complexity and contradiction all they want; it's really just evidence of Haggis' version of Powerful Dramaturgy, which mixes the schematic earnestness of an old afterschool special and the Zen pulp grandiosity of Michael Mann in full-on existential dread mode, complete with pulsing synth music, massive telephoto closeups and time-suspending action montages. This movie should have been called "Mess." ...
Sorry, couldn't help myself.
The horror, the voyeuristic, pretentious - no that's not strong enough - agonizingly self-important and self-impressed horror. I just finished watching this monstrosity written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, and felt the need to blog about it immediately - if I can save even one soul from viewing it, perhaps I've made my life worthwhile by that act alone.
There is something positively painful and arrogant about the concept - just dropping us into the lives of a string of characters at moments of great stress - turning point moments devoid of much context. But that can at times kind of work. For instance, that's not why I loathed Crash - that's a film that for all its faults, and there are lots and lots of them, still made the ridiculous and extreme situations sort of work given the structure of the film. But even there you got a broader scope and more connections. Here though you get 15 minutes of character A, then the same for B, etc. - but all to what purpose? You've got me. You've got hysterical sobbing and mania and many types of fights - and I'm flumoxed as to why I should give a damn. This isn't showing is the strength of women or whatever the pitch was that got this crap produced and put on film. It's a string of largely uninteresting vignettes, often worded and directed in ways that are meant to convey MEANING and ACTING to the n-th degree.
I get close to nauseous thinking back on it.
Well, ok to be fair I can't hate 100% of something that lets me glance upon the talent of Holly Hunter and Jason Isaacs for a few minutes. But given how awful this thing is, that's small compensation. Can't someone please save us from these Paul Thomas Anderson wanna-bes!
The deadly strain of bird flu was confirmed Tuesday in a cat in northern Germany, the first time the virus has been identified in a mammal in the 25 nations of the European Union.
The cat was on the northern island of Ruegen, where most of the more than 100 wild birds infected by the H5N1 strain were found, the Friedrich Loeffler institute said.
The cat was found dead over the weekend and then tested positive for H5N1, laboratory leader Thomas Mettenleiter said.
If you haven't read this post by Marty Lederman yet, you need to if you have any interest in the FISA/domestic spying/4th Amendment debates. Senator Specter's proposal to "reform" FISA essentially guts it and gives the executive branch the kind of spying power that paranoid autocrats would lust for. Here are some passages from (the usually much more reserved) Lederman's analysis. He notes he hasn't had time to read it as closely as he'd like - but he hasn't substantially updated this post since Sunday.
It would give the Executive branch everything it has always wanted, and much more: The punishment for having broken the law with impunity would be a wholesale repeal of the law that has governed electronic surveillance for almost 30 years (and not only with respect to Al Qaeda or terrorism). In one fell swoop, the Specter legislation would undo the detailed regulatory scheme that both political branches have so carefully calibrated over more than a quarter-century ...
...if you've ever had any communication with a foreign government or organization, or its U.S. agents or employees -- that is to say, if there's "probable cause" that you live and breathe here in the U.S. -- this bill would permit the President to wiretap you indefinitely, without any showing that any of your phone calls have anything to do with a foreign entity, let alone Al Qaeda. [UPDATE: Not quite indefinitely. "Continuous" surveillance could only last 90 days, after which the NSA would have to obtain a traditional FISA order, or perhaps merely skip a day and start the surveillance anew, so that it's not "continuous" for more than 90 days.]
In other words, there would no longer be any meaningful substantive statutory restriction on the federal government's electronic domestic surveillance of U.S. persons -- the end of FISA as we know it. The only check would be an odd constitutional check: The FISA court would be required to certify that the program as a whole (again, not any particular surveillance) is "consistent with" the Fourth Amendment. This would, if I'm not mistaken, bring us right back to the pre-FISA days, when the Fourth Amendment was the only legal constraint on domestic electronic surveillance by the federal government. To be sure, under the Specter bill the Fourth Amemdent bona fides would have to be approved in advance, by the FISA court. But the proceedings would be secret, and ex parte. Moreover, the FISA Court could not possibly review the surveillance for, e.g., the "particularity" that the Fourth Amendment requires, because the FISA Court would be tasked not with determining whether any particular interception is constutitional, but somehow with making "wholesale" determinations that the program writ large is "consistent with" the Constitution. That seems untenable, at least on first glance.
It's totally us, not you. Midterms are keeping us away from our duties. I just approved a batch of first time comments, so check back in your threads to catch up.
Now I fully understand the laws of supply and demand, and sure, I expected higher heating bills this winter. And of course this is perhaps a subject that I of all people shouldn't be bringing up here since I'm the one part of the Coup who lives in an apartment, not a big, old house. But I find it a little peculiar that my February heating bill is four times what it was last year (not double, not tripled, four times!) - particularly given that this February was 5 degrees warmer than last February. Is something fishy up with Dominion Hope - or are gas bills really that much higher this winter?
Women on Accutane will be required to have their uteruses monitored in case they accidentally get pregnant, because the drug is associated with severe birth defects. Adult women, in consultation with their doctors, taking a medicine to prevent pain and scarring. Have you ever known anyone who takes Accutane? It's a godsend (or whatever secular equivalent descriptor you want to use). I had a friend on it some years ago and it completely changed her life. More from Ema.
On the other hand, a splinter religious cult can take child brides and move them in and out of consanguinous polygynous marriages against their will, to the effect that they give birth to children with severe genetic defects in increasing numbers, and no one does anything.
Oh wait. That's because the child brides already have a patriarchy controlling their reproduction. Right.
I'm really going to have to stop with these posts. It's too easy, and too damn depressing.
Tom Delay needs to be scraped off of the sole of our collective shoe:
The Internal Revenue Service recently audited the books of a Texas nonprofit group that was critical of campaign spending by former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) after receiving a request for the audit from one of DeLay's political allies in the House.
The lawmaker, House Ways and Means Committee member Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), was in turn responding to a complaint about the group, Texans for Public Justice, from Barnaby W. Zall, a Washington lawyer close to DeLay and his fundraising apparatus, according to IRS documents.
The result of the inquiry?
No tax violations were found, according to a letter the IRS sent the group.
Officially, I'm changing it: What's the Matter with Texas? (with full apologies to Amanda, Norbiz, Molly Ivins, etc. and so forth).
I don't think Neil the Ethical Werewolf is as clear on this point as he could be, but I think that there's more than a little bit of smart analysis in his argument. If the Democrats are going to successfully explode the rather ridiculous "bipartisan" and "moderate" reputation that John McCain and his fawning media have created, having someone with working-class roots, a great smile and an aw-shucks manner as their nominee in 2008 would be a great help to their cause. For better or for worse we are stuck with a political system in which style counts for a great deal - and John Edwards can probably much more easily make the case that he's the candidate of the middle strata of the country, not the candidate of elite interests and partisans, than someone like John Kerry or Hillary Clinton can.
This piece by Dick Polman in the Philadelphia Inquirer is worth a look. Of course the fact that the president exists in a self-segregated bubble surrounded by yes-people and all the new he's likely to like isn't anything remotely new. That's been exceedingly well documented - and the dangerous, depressing comparisons to Wilson, Nixon and LBJ have long been made. But this article notes something else that I think is important - and why this often disasterous decision-making flaw is something we need to be concerned about, now more than ever. Bush is now in the sixth year of his presidency, and a lot of the people who've been around since the start 1) don't have fresh eyes to really see things clearly and 2) are exhausted. Working at the White House is about as grueling a regimen as can be imagined (well, for the staff). It's a problem that every second-term president faces - keep around the people you think are the best, but who might really be burned out at this point, or start promoting the second and third best people. It's an enduring problem, a structural problem in our system of government. But its flaws and dangers can be greatly magnified when the president walls himself off from everyone else in the country, even his fellow partisans on Capitol Hill.
Neato - if I'm ever appealing a ruling before a Supreme Court, I hope I also get to appoint the judges who'll hear the case:
Judge Burdette's contributions were to Fletcher's 2003 gubernatorial campaign, and he gave the maximum contribution in the general election. One month after Fletcher was sworn-in, Burdette was rewarded with a judicial appointment by Fletcher after a vacancy occurred. Now Fletcher asks Burdette to sit on the Supreme Court to hear his final appeal in his capacity as governor -- which Burdette helped him win. This is breathtakingly audacious.
Promoting some of your campaign contributors for the purposes of hearing a single case, a case in which you are one of the parties - no, there's nothing remotely fishy about that.
Michael Berube is 1.86 times as dangerous as Noam Chomsky:
Michael Berube Penn State University 266502
Noam Chomsky Massachusetts Institute of Technology 143390
Don't forget to vote for your favorite!
Not about actual South Dakota, but lurking around the edges of what South Dakota symbolizes, what it means.
Echidne of the Snakes also has not written about South Dakota. But she has:
The disadvantage the pro-choice faction is laboring under is that very few people now remember the pre-Roe era personally. Very few people have personal experiences of someone bleeding to death in a hotel room, of women being kicked out of their homes for becoming pregnant, of the double-standards that let a pregnant woman be lectured at in a church while the man who got her pregnant sits smugly in the choir. All stories that I have been told by older relatives. Young women today have not heard such stories, on the whole, and they have Roe v. Wade to thank for it. But it is hard to be grateful for something you take for granted, hard to see how the world would change if Roe was no longer there to be taken for granted. Hard, but we still have to find a way to tell these stories, to make it clear what is at stake at least for the poorest women if states like South Dakota become the rule.
Right to life activists are claiming that clinics encourage pedopiles, and put up audio to "prove" it. Unfortunately, taping a receptionist telling a caller that her birth control is "strictly confidential" doesn't prove anything except that Planned Parenthood is obeying the law. It also proves that the Right to Life organization is wasting taxpayer dollars and the legislature's time in order to pursue a change pushed by out of state interest groups and that only affects a fraction of young women seeking abortion in the state.
The right to life people say that Planned Parenthood is encouraging sexual predators by protecting patient confidentiality. In fact, they are obeying HIPAA.
The acronym HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. HIPAA is the law that brought us health care reform by allowing employees to maintain insurance coverage between jobs, prohibiting denial of coverage for preexisting conditions, and creating medical savings accounts. HIPAA also increased funding for fraud and abuse enforcement. Finally, HIPAA set forth new rules for 1) processing electronic transactions such as billing and eligibility verification, 2) protecting the security of health information, and 3) ensuring the privacy of health information.
Under HIPAA, health care providers must not notify the parents without the consent of the minor.
The health information of minors will be treated like any other health information except for the following special rules:
* As provided in West Virginia law, both parents of a child will have equal access to the child�s records, except as limited by court order or other West Virginia law. The parent objecting to a release of records to the other parent has the duty to provide us with a court order prohibiting the release.
* As provided in West Virginia law, records of the diagnosis, treatment or counseling of a minor for drug or alcohol abuse or addiction will not be released to parents or guardians without the consent of the minor.
* As provided in West Virginia law, records of the diagnosis, testing or treatment of a minor for a sexually transmitted disease will not be released to parents or guardians without the consent of the minor.
* As provided in West Virginia law, records involving the use of birth control by a minor, or of prenatal care rendered to a minor, will not be released to parents or guardians without the consent of the minor.
So why is a Texas organization calling clinics around the country, and trying to use the taped phone conversations as "proof"?
The state House of delegates will not take up the parental notification abortion bill. Supporters of the bill held a closed door meeting yesterday with house leadership and today the leadership said it would not take up the bill, but would consider it if it comes from the state senate.
Monongalia County state senator Mike Oliverio supports the bill and says so do a lot of other senators.
Marion County state senator Roman Prezioso introduced the bill and it will have to be passed by Wednesday, which is the deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin.
The bill would eliminate what supporters say is a loophole in the current parental notification law that allows pregnant girls in certain situations to bypass their parents permission for an abortion through a physician's waiver. It would instead require a judicial waiver.
The most recent information available shows there were 19 physician waivers in West Virginia in the last year.
H. B. 2112
(By Delegates Blair and Sumner)
[Introduced January 11, 2006; referred to the
Committee on Health and Human Resources then the Judiciary.]
A BILL to amend and reenact §16-2F-3 of the code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, relating to requiring a physician to receive written consent from at least one parent or legal guardian before an abortion is performed on an unemancipated minor; and providing a criminal penalty for failure to comply.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §16-2F-3 of the code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 2F. PARENTAL CONSENT AND NOTIFICATION OF ABORTIONS PERFORMED ON UNEMANCIPATED MINORS.
§16-2F-3. Parental consent and notification of at least one parent or guardian for abortions performed on unemancipated minors; waiver; notice to minor of right of petition to circuit court; minor to be referred for counseling; penalty
(a) No physician may perform an abortion upon an unemancipated minor unless
suchthe physician has written consent from at least one of the parents or legal guardians, and has given or caused to be given at least twenty-four hours actual notice to one of the parents or to the legal guardian of the pregnant minor of his intention to perform the abortion, or, if the parent or guardian cannot be found and notified after a reasonable effort to do so, without first having given at least forty-eight hours constructive notice computed from the time of mailing to the parent or to the legal guardian of the minor: Provided, That prior to giving the notification required by this section, the physician shall advise the unemancipated minor of the right of petition to the circuit court for waiver of consent and notification: Provided, however, That any such consent and notification may be waived by a duly acknowledged writing signed by a parent or the guardian of the minor.
(b) Upon notification being given to any parent or to the legal guardian of
sucha pregnant minor, the physician shall refer suchthe pregnant minor to a counselor or caseworker of any church or school or of the department of human services or of any other comparable agency for the purpose of arranging or accompanying suchthe pregnant minor in consultation with her parents. SuchThe counselor shall thereafter be authorized to monitor the circumstances and the continued relationship of and between such minor and her parents.
(c) Parental consent and notification required by subsection (a) of this section may be waived by a physician, other than the physician who is to perform the abortion, if such other physician finds that the minor is mature enough to make the abortion decision independently or that consent and notification would not be in the minor's best interest: Provided, That such other physician shall not be associated professionally or financially with the physician proposing to perform the abortion.
(d) Any physician that fails to receive written consent from at least one parent or legal guardian, or fails to provide notification to at least one parent or legal guardian as required by this section, before performing an abortion on an unemancipated minor, except in cases where these requirements are properly waived pursuant to this section, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to require a physician to receive written consent from at least one parent or legal guardian before an abortion is performed on an unemancipated minor; and provides for a penalty.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.