Sully asks which of two ads is more offensive, linking to a criticism of a PETA ad and to a criticism of an anti-smoking ad. The latter calls the ad out as poor taste because it evokes 9/11. Looks to me like someone's offense-o-meter is a little too finely calibrated. The obvious evocation is smokestacks. Other smokestacks here for comparison.
This sounds like an interesting book. From studying 500 Islamic terrorists Sageman sees them fitting into 3 waves, and an awareness of the changes in who the terrorists are should guide how we deal with them.
The first wave of al-Qaeda leaders, who joined Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, is down to a few dozen people on the run in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan. The second wave of terrorists, who trained in al-Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan during the 1990s, has also been devastated, with about 100 hiding out on the Pakistani frontier. These people are genuinely dangerous, says Sageman, and they must be captured or killed. But they do not pose an existential threat to America, much less a "clash of civilizations."
It's the third wave of terrorism that is growing, but what is it? By Sageman's account, it's a leaderless hodgepodge of thousands of what he calls "terrorist wannabes." Unlike the first two waves, whose members were well educated and intensely religious, the new jihadists are a weird species of the Internet culture. Outraged by video images of Americans killing Muslims in Iraq, they gather in password-protected chat rooms and dare each other to take action. Like young people across time and religious boundaries, they are bored and looking for thrills.
"It's more about hero worship than about religion," Sageman said in a presentation of his research last week at the New America Foundation, a liberal think tank here. Many of this third wave don't speak Arabic or read the Koran. Very few (13 percent of Sageman's sample) have attended radical madrassas. Nearly all join the movement because they know or are related to someone who's already in it. Those detained on terrorism charges are getting younger: In Sageman's 2003 sample, the average age was 26; among those arrested after 2006, it was down to about 20. They are disaffected, homicidal kids - closer to urban gang members than to motivated Muslim fanatics.
Sageman's harshest judgment is that the United States is making the terrorism problem worse by its actions in Iraq. "Since 2003, the war in Iraq has without question fueled the process of radicalization worldwide, including the U.S. The data are crystal clear," he writes. We have taken a fire that would otherwise burn itself out and poured gasoline on it.
Let's see, he's said Drudge rules his world, earlier this week he was encouraging (or at least legitimizing) the McCain campaign to attack Obama's wife, and to institute a racist attack against the Obama campaign, and today he's calling Bob Dole an "all-around good guy". Yet more evidence that Big Media (Halperin was for years the political director at ABC and is now Time's pooh-bah of election coverage) isn't actually reliably liberal. Who knew?
"I'm trying to figure out what part of this Univesity isn't run by idiots."
Kevin Drum was kind of funny yesterday, pointing out how the US loves military timetables when it involves other countries' armies leaving Iraq, but not ours. But while the hypocrisy might be amusing the situation on the ground isn't.
Iraq's three-man presidency council Wednesday announced that it's vetoed legislation that U.S. officials two weeks ago hailed as significant political progress.
Also Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he hoped that Turkey's incursion into northern Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels would last a "week or two" but "not months."
Turkish news agencies reported that as many as 77 guerrillas were killed the night before in the most violent night of the week-old incursion on Iraq's northern border. A rebel spokesman said fighters for the Kurdish Workers Party, known as the PKK, had killed 18 Turkish soldiers.
The rejected bill, which sets out the political structure for Iraq's provincial governments and establishes a basis for elections in October, was only the second of 18 U.S.-set political benchmarks that the war-tore nation needs to reach.
So they've now met 1 out of 18 benchmarks that we set. Yeah, that operation is just going swimmingly isn't it.
...because thinking about Myron has me in the mood.
Stalin? Are you lurking? Because the first video is just for you.
What, yinz jagoffs don't know who Donnie Iris is?
or the 80s rocker, without the banana Devo suit:
I remember that Donnie Iris and Greg Kihn band getting some airplay on the same radio stations (I know, how old school... radio), but Donnie Iris didn't get the TV time that Kihn did (probably because of he could get his hair to do that flip, although I always thought it made him look a little bit too much like Rowdy Roddy Piper). I thought both acts had slipped away until I moved to Pittsburgh. There I found out about places like The Decade, and learned that Donnie Iris was still going strong.
So quit scroonrahnd and get with some Pittsburgh appreciating.
Maybe you saw the Groovy Girl dancing to Harder, Better Faster, Stronger or the fabulous Daft Hands. There's a new(er) vid that just crossed my view at Videosift (a delight for the ADD/MTV generation that thinks watching something for 5 minutes is too long). It starts a little slow, like Daft Hands, but finishes strong:
Myron Cope, the legendary broadcaster from Pittsburgh who gave us the Immaculate Reception and the Terrible Towel, and the glorious "double yoy," has passed away at the age of 79.
The test of being a real Stillers fan - and a real Yinzer - was watching your football with the volume off, but with Myron cranked up on the radio. He had a face that was made for radio and a voice that was made for peeling paint. He was an incredible Pittsburgh institution, and his passing, like that of Fred Rogers, signals the end of an era.
If you've never heard the YOY! head over to Balloon Juice for a listen.
What was already looking like a good year for the Democrats in the fall Senate races got better today. Anchorage mayor Mark Begich filed papers to form an exploratory committee. So it looks like he's going to take on Ted Stevens, the scandal-tarred senior Republican in the Senate. Early polling has Begich ahead, which is rather stunning given that Alaska is extremely Republican, and Stevens has long been a political titan in both the state and in DC (he used to chair the Appropriations Committee, and only 3 senators have served longer - Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy and Daniel Inouye). But to me this race looks like the Roth-Carper race from 2000, and the Democrats have an unusually good shot here this year with Begich as the nominee.
Oh, and for the trivia-minded among you, should Stevens lose, Richard Lugar will be the senior Republican in the next Senate.
Ron Klain skewers Nader (in a much more polite way than you'd expect) here.
If Sunday night has left you in the mood for more things Oscar, well Variety's Kris Tapley has come up with his first predictions for next year's Oscar nominees. There are definitely some movies to look forward to later this year. Though the Best Actor predictions are likely to make those who are tired of biopics scream.
Rep. Don Brown, R-DeFuniak Springs, has filed legislation to create a new license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag.
Do go check out the sample graphics. Looks like this has a snowball's chance, as they say.
Oy. He spends a ton of time asking a factually incorrect question in which he seems to confirm that Obama being anti-Israel is an idea to be taken seriously and be troubled about, and, yeah, you do have to wonder if he'd ever have asked it of a white candidate.
And how silly and ridiculous is Sen. Clinton in response? Ugh.
UPDATE: Oh, and I forgot about that truly ridiculous Iraq/Al Qaeda scenario. Russert really must be stopped. As Josh Marshall notes this morning:
These are not lines of reasoning I do not expect to hear in this campaign cycle. But they are precisely the sort of dingbat, tendentious reductio ad absurdum questions that I'll expect to hear from febrile talk radio yakkers outlandish political snuff ads. Which is sort where Russert got himself to last night.
I want to work in that.
Moon passed this along to me. What's Julianne Moore's next movie going to be about? Why in-bred West Virginians of course.
A movie about to be filmed in Pittsburgh is casting Gothic characters - including an albino-like girl and deformed people - to depict West Virginia mountain people. "'Regular-looking" children need not apply.
And is it just me or is the response of the director of the West Virginia Film Office entirely too sanguine? It seems to me that someone in her position might stand up for West Virginians a bit more.
Yay. I like Dodd a lot, so it's nice to see him join the Obama team. Now if only he could displace Harry Reid as Majority Leader ...
Kinda cool. Well, apart from the fact that the models are grossly emaciated. Not sure what I think of the gloves Sara Larson opted to skip. On the one hand I think they're pretty in an off-the-wall way, but then on the other I'd have to think they'd be really distracting.
So Ambinder notes that in today's speech she said:
We've seen the tragic results of having a president who didn't have neither the experience nor the wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our national security. We can't let that happen again.
Uh, exactly what foreign policy experience does she have? And her vote in favor of the Iraq war, and her other votes related to that ... you know what, I agree with her. We can't let that lack of wisdom prevail again.
Scott Horton reports on the follow-up to the 60 Minutes story last night. The AP is running a misleading (and in part flatly inaccurate) story (who'd have thought that from the organization that employs Nedra Pickler!), and an Alabama station owned by the Bass family mysteriously went dark during that part of the 60 Minutes broadcast last night. As the church lady would say - how convenient.
Noted without comment (source):
Two years and 142 cases have passed since Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas last spoke up at oral arguments. It is a period of unbroken silence that contrasts with the rest of the court's unceasing inquiries.
In the past, the Georgia-born Thomas has chalked up his silence to his struggle as a teenager to master standard English after having grown up speaking Geechee, a kind of dialect that thrived among former slaves on the islands off the South Carolina, Georgia and Florida coasts.
He also has said he will ask a pertinent question if his colleagues don't but sees no need to engage in the back-and-forth just to hear his own voice.Lately, he has focused on the latter reason.
As the thread from earlier notes, I was really happy with this year's winners. And maybe it's because of that that I caught myself looking around the theater more. And something struck me - do the honored actors of today just seem nicer than those of the past? I mean I'm used to hearing stars referred to as imperious or demanding or neurotic. But looking around at the likes of Viggo M, Laura Linney, Diane Lane, Tommy Lee Jones, Daniel Day-Lewis, George Clooney - is it just me or have we hit an age where the stars seem to be nice, hard-working folks? And if so, does that say anything about Hollywood or us?
But once I realized I was thinking about such things I realized that was kind of messed up, this is a night to talk winners, losers and fashion. So feel free to do that in the thread below. As I noted, I like tonight's winners. So my thoughts on the fashion? Well I guess my favorite dresses would be those worn by Marion Cotillard (congratulations! and I love that Gaultier) and George Clooney's date, and, though it was relatively plain, Keri Russell's (classic, and suited her). As to the men, well I always envy Johnny Depp's hair. And Colin Farrell is so interesting. I never find him pretty or handsome, but he is so cute and attractive. Same with James McAvoy. And Javier Bardem is simply scorchingly hot. And Daniel Day-Lewis didn't wear plaid!
If there was a disappointment tonight it was the show itself. All those tributes to the Oscars were waaaay too long and really dull. And it's just so tacky to spend an hour or such on that crap and march tonight's winners off the stage after a few minutes. Jon Stewart was okay, but not great. The presenters' banter was predictably boring. And if I could change the Oscars in 1 way what would it be? I'd probably cut the song production numbers. I mean if you want to show the song, and supposedly one of the criteria to get nominated is how the song is integral to the film - how about showing the song clip from the movie? Except for Falling Slowly tonight's song performance's were underwhelming, and that happens pretty much every year.
An ESTJ, an ESTP, and an ENFP. No wonder I like Obama best.
So I'll be commenting on the show after it concludes. Are there any nominees you will be especially pulling for? I guess the winners I'd most like to see are Tilda Swinton, Marion Cotillard, a Visual Effects win for The Golden Compass, and maybe Brad Bird (Ratatouille) for Original Screenplay, though really all 4 of the nominees I've seen in that category are strong. I don't expect to see any of those win, except maybe Swinton, but that's what I'll be hoping for tonight.
The other day I had a conversation with Baltar about the threads at Balloon Juice, and whether I normally took the time to read them, because he doesn't. These days, I skip reading most blogs, not just the comment threads, but I do dip in over at BJ from time to time. The blog authors show up in the threads, and there's a lot of community policing going on, with a good amount of humor and a smattering of assholier than thou behavior to keep thing interesting.
After that conversation, I reminded myself to check out some more threads, and maybe it also has something to do with a big project coming due. But today, I was reading All That She Wants over at Unfogged, and though I'm not all the way through, am just loving where the thread is going. There's a serious discussion about race and marketing, another about beauty standards and hiring, and a subconversation about rocking prom looks from the 80s. Seriously. Plus, Sifu Tweety. Enjoy!
Binky just sent me this. It's kind of neat. Some of them are lame, but others are pretty interesting. From a quick glance I'd say my 5 favorites are The Sting, Ordinary People, Gone With the Wind, West Side Story, and All About Eve (my favorite of all).
Yeesh, that was awful. There were some things I quite liked about the first one, but this one ... egads. I think I enjoyed The Forsaken more.
And this is something Baltar should definitely stay away from. There was indeed a Tudor queen named Elizabeth, a Walsingham, a Raleigh, a Philip II and a Mary Stuart, but apart from the existance of those people this film's version of history bares little resemblance to the actual events of the past. Very little.
This cartoon on the FISA issue is really funny (in a most unfortunate way).
Worst film I've seen in months? That "honor" now goes to this awful vampire movie I watched last night. Starring Kerr Smith, Johnathon Schaech, Brendan Fehr, Simon Rex and Giles's girlfriend Olivia, this lame low budgeter took itself waaaay too seriously. Whereas I was hoping for silly, over-the-top menace and light thrills, I got lots of exposition, lots of waiting around, talk of drug cocktails, and acting too wooden and too bad to be silly. Generally, it was a snooze fest.
Well damn, given the cast and the trailer (which has seemingly been playing for the last 10 months) I was pretty excited about going to see it - but the reviews are brutal. So I guess if I want to see anything next week it should be There Will Be Blood, Definitely, Maybe, or ... Charlie Bartlett? Yikes, I forget how few appealing films are released in February.
This would seem to be good news from Iraq - at least if one's goal is to limit direct conflict between the major armed groups in the country.
But it's probably also worth noting that this renewal is only until mid-August - shortly before election season in Iraq and the US. It will be interesting to see what Sadr does then.
So that RSX that got flipped on Cornell Ave. yesterday - guess where it was registered? Now I should note that it wasn't the car's owner who was driving it, and perhaps the driver wasn't from New Jersey. But it was awfully predictable to see that yellow plate upside-down on the front of today's DA.
And if you are interested in his circle, they list several key people (though I'm surprised Mark Lippert's not on their list). But I'm a bit puzzled by their description of Greg Craig: "is a newcomer to foreign policy. At the end of the Clinton administration, he served as the director of policy planning at the State Department." So ... he's a newcomer, even though he held the top planning job at State? Ummm, okay.
So the latest young darling of the righ-wing, who's even making it on some fantasy lists for Vice President, has worked to kill a couple of ethics reforms proposed in the state legislature. Because if there's something Louisiana doesn't need it's more transperancy in government, or a system that punishes those who commit ethics violations. Riiiiight.
Matthew Yglesias has two insightful short posts up today on stories that could, down the road, bite the Clinton and McCain campaigns. As he notes, if a President Clinton is raising money to pay off a campaign debt she owes to herself (and her campaign's debt is big) ... well can you imagine the coverage press coverage that would get? And I'm curious to see if the Iseman story attracts more coverage to McCain's first marriage and divorce.
After all, it's well known that he repeatedly cheated on his first wife Carol, of a number of years, with a variety of women, before eventually dumping her for a much-younger heiress whose family fortune was able to help finance his political career. That's well known, I should say, except to the electorate, who would probably find that this sort of behavior detracts from McCain's "character" appeal.
And since according to Bay Buchanan Republicans care about "character" and things like that (sure, it is to laugh, but they claim to), maybe this will be yet another reason why a lot of Republicans might not feel like going to the polls in November.
Because I am home sick, reading mindless blogs about fancy clothes and award shows and what not, I just noticed that this (taken this week at the Designers' Guild Awards) sure looks a hell of a lot like this (photoshopped a couple of years ago by someone looking to be sued by Xenu's enemies).
For anyone in town who likes political commentary, fyi, Arianna Huffington will be speaking in the Mountainlair Ballroom on the 29th.
I don't have anything to say about Fidel saying he won't stand for re-election. He already pulled the switcheroo when he did the transfer to Raul. Not much will change rapidly, especially not US foreign policy.
Exposing the soft underbelly of Florida's idiocy:
In a move that could endanger Florida's flaky backwater reputation, the state Board of Education is poised to endorse the teaching of evolution as a science.
This is a dangerous idea -- not the presentation of Darwinism in schools, but the presentation of Florida as a place of progressive scientific thought.
Over the years the Legislature has worked tirelessly to keep our kids academically stuck in the mid-1950s. This has been achieved by overcrowding their classrooms, underpaying their teachers and letting their school buildings fall apart.
Florida's plucky refusal to embrace 21st century education is one reason that prestigious tech industries have avoided the state, allowing so many of our high-school graduates (and those who come close) to launch prosperous careers in the fast-food, bartending and service sectors of the economy.
By accepting evolution as a proven science, our top educators would be sending a loud message to the rest of the nation: Stop making fun of us.
Is that what we really want?
Nice try, pinheads, but there's no sin in being a slightly backward state with extremely modest expectations for its young people. That's been the guiding philosophy of our tightwad lawmakers for years, and the degree to which they've succeeded is illuminated annually in the FCAT charade.
If snubbing is to be done, Florida should be the snubber, not the snubee. Keep your elite biotech payrolls up North and out West -- we've got hundreds of thousands of low-paying, go-nowhere jobs that require little training and minimal education.
Should state officials vote this week to put evolution on the teaching agenda, it will be a small yet radical step out of Florida's backwarding-thinking past.
Resistance is not futile. We've worked hard to keep ourselves so far behind in education, and we must stay the course.
What a disappointment. Since I've fallen in love with the new Doctor Who series, and since I've loved John Barrowman since watching Putting It Together, I had high hope for this sort of X-Files-ish spin-off. But those hopes went mostly unmatched by what the series has had to offer so far. There are major tone inconsistencies, plot holes you could steer a zepplin through (don't get me started on the series finale), and unfortunate tendency to end episodes with bits at the end that are seriously disappointing or annoying (like in Countrycide and End of Days), and after 13 episodes I can't say I have a clear hold on what Torchwood itself is or how it functions.
Now the show has its strengths. There have been some good episodes (I particularly liked Out of Time, Greeks Bearing Gifts, and Captain Jack Harkness), and it regularly features some of the best guest starring turns I've seen on any tv series, ever. And Barrowman is good when they know what to do with him. And I still have hopes that they can turn the character of Ianto into someone interesting (I've given up hope that'll happen with Tosh). And best yet I hear the next season is a good deal better. But after the great success that the new Doctor Who has been it's a shame this has gotten off to such a fitful start.
China Hand does a masterful job of concisely analyzing the outcome of the election, and the different roads the near future might take. He's also got a nice map of the results. If you are interested in the topic this is well worth your time. Sharif is in an even better position than he first appears. And while the US might appear to be a big loser from this election, the degree to which that's true depends on what the Bush administration chooses to do in the coming days.
So Sen. McCain has pledged to not raise taxes, and in fact to pursue new tax cuts as well. Okay then Sen. McCain, as we are already running giant budget deficits, does that mean you are committed to carrying those further, and in fact increasing them over the next 4 years? And if not, what exactly are you going to cut? And don't give us any of that "earmarks" nonsense. There's little real money there. Think Progress notes the scale of the deficits at issue. And it'd be nice if the media would ask him these follow ups, rather than giving us truly pointless breathless coverage of what Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama are or aren't saying.
Sasha Stone reviews the locks and the toss-ups.
She's down in money, tied in delegates, doesn't know how the Texas primary works (here), and the best arrow she's got in her quiver (the night before a critical primary) is plagiarism?
Oh ScarJo - "I mean it, Natalie. I look like 1993's national president of the Blind Melon fan club posing with you. What possessed me to wear these flats with this?
Sick, and yet sadly so predictable.
I'd think it unlikely that Sen. Obama would take him up on the suggestion, but I agree with Jonathan Zasloff that that this presents a certain sort of opportunity. Though of course the key thing is to make sure that such hatred gets the rebuke it deserves.
Matt Duss notes the contradictions, which is amusing as far as it goes, but of course still leaves us with a debacle.
While on a darkly satirical level I appreciate that Gerecht's new line of pro-war bull directly contradicts previous lines of pro-war bull, it must be understood that there is simply no way to draw a smiley face on all this, no calculus that can justify the costs of this debacle, no way that the Iraq war ends up as a net positive for the region, or for the U.S. Any productive debate over where to go from here must begin with that.
I'm not shocked and appalled that Obama's speech might contain subtle - or not so subtle - negative cues and certainly don't think that kind of stuff is grounds for claiming you'll never support that candidate. Let's face it, they all do nasty things, and holding firm to that kind of purity standard would leave you voting for nobody.
On the other hand, it seems pretty clear to me that all those people - blog authors and commenters who vehemently deny that Obama's turn of phrase could possibly be interpreted by reasonable people as a suggestion that women are too emotional to get the job done - have never been on the receiving end of "looks like somebody's on the rag today" whenever they express anger, a strongly held opinion, or you know, humanity.
Women do hear that message, because it's one we get hit with all the time, and one that implies we are too unstable to be reliable, too emotional to be trusted, and better off having what we're saying/doing ignored.
As you may have noticed, there are some changes to the blogroll, several additions and a few deletions. I wish I could be a more ruthless pruner, but did manage to get rid of a few. Somehow I still can't bring myself to delete Fafblog or Whiskey Bar. And I am holding out hope that Norbiz is just off enjoying playing with his hamster and will be back. So, for nostalgia or lobbying nice bloggers in Texas, those remain.
There are also a few blogs that I used to read daily but that have really deteriorated, for various reasons, not all of them bad. These are still on, but I am thinking of them as the "last chance" crowd. As the Tumor Turns, which was a morph from Granny Gets a Vibrator, has gone mostly offline because Granny is now (thank goodness) cancer free and busy enjoying life. Majikthise, who used to have some of the best blogging - especially photoblogging - around, has dwindled as its blogger has accumulated more "professional" outlets for her work. TBogg, who I used to read daily, moved to an unsightly new home with bloggers whose work I don't really care for. A simple move ought not to matter that much, but somehow the new format is really off-putting to the point that I don't really go there anymore. These, and others, may drop off shortly.
I've also added quite a few blogs that are more towards the IR side, and a few academic blogs from other disciplines (some friends, some not). Even though we often (mostly?) write about things other than International Relations, this is still technically an academic/IR blog run by three people with PhDs in political science. The additions reflect that, and more may follow.
Finally, I want to say that this is a chance for me to try to shake my boredom with blogging. The combination of overcommitment and underenthusiasm has been deadly for my blogging output. I am tired of a lot of what I used to read with more energy. I spend more time with music boards, lolcats, and heaven forbid, PerezHilton that I ever wanted to. So, for the regular and occasional reader, and the lurkers (I'm looking at you, JPoff), I'll close with a request to share some of your favorites that we don't have in the blogroll. Let us check them out, and maybe rotate some more new blood into the mix.
They are problematic for a host of reasons. But as Charles Swift notes, no matter the outcome, they'll vindicate the Bush administration.
There was one other reason to bring these high-value detainees to trial now. The timing is perfect for the Bush administration. The MCA ensures that the appeals process can be finished in as little as 120 days, depending on whether the accused waives his right to appeal to the D.C. Circuit. And under the act, any sentence of death must be personally approved by the president of the United States before the sentence can be carried out.
This means that if any of the accused, like Timothy McVeigh, volunteer immediately for the death penalty, President Bush will be able to conclude his presidency by signing a death warrant. With a stroke of the pen, he can claim to have accomplished his goals and vindicated his policies in the war on terror by bringing the architects of Sept. 11 to justice. But even if the detainees try to put up a fight, the protracted legal battle will take place on some other president's watch. And when the dust settles, that next president will be left with the Hobbesian choice of either signing the death warrant (thus putting a stamp of approval of both the process and the policies of Guantanamo) or commuting the sentences of some of the most reputedly vile murders of our time. Either way, this administration is vindicated. Either way, the question of torture happens in secret. And either way, justice loses.
There's a good deal of debate about whether or not newspaper endorsements really affect voters' choices. But on the chance that they do, the Obama campaign has to be happy that recently their candidate has picked up the endorsments of the biggest papers in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Milwaukee and Cleveland.
This is the greatest thing ever.
That is all. You may now go about your business.
(* - with the possible exception of alcohol. I'll have to think about that.)
Oy. It's not only the likes of the State Department and the Justice Department that stops producing data when it might become politically painful. Today we see another example of this in economics. Got bad economic indicators? Well, then stop measuring them!
The British can. But the US Olympic Committee won't let the Americans. They don't want to offend the Chinese.
Yes. This is built on the assumption of Clinton winning the state by 8%, and due to gerrymandered state senate districts and traditionally low Hispanic turnout (so less delegates are awarded in districts where they comprise larger percentages of the populace).
It was a horrible day at Northern Illinois. And it brings to mind something that annoys me no end about West Virginia University. WVU is currently spending who knows how much money on a building spree, building new buildings and refurbishing old ones. But it would appear that even in the wake of Columbine and Virginia Tech no thought is being put into making the classrooms in these new buildings secure. Some of them have glass walls. Some have doors little thicker than plywood. While I suppose it might be possible to lock all their doors, I have my doubts about that, and as an instructor I've never been told how. No, our campus's response to this kind of threat is a text messaging system. I don't know about you, but that doesn't make me feel the slightest bit safer. And given the current environment, the university really does need to take these kind of threats more seriously.
Pretty funny. Gotta love YouTube.
These are topics where Clinton is regularly praised, but is her reputation built on that much? Just what is her "experience" that she says makes her vastly better prepared to be president than Barack Obama?
Those 35 years of experience have always been a bit murky to me. Hillary Clinton's seven years in the Senate have been pretty undistinguished. Fifteen earlier years were spent working full-time as a corporate lawyer, and while Clinton served on various worthy boards and panels during that period, and by all accounts did quite well on them, it's hard to see how much time she could have spent on them while also having a full-time job. Eight were spent being first lady, during which time her major undertaking was the catastrophic attempt to get health care reform passed. And while I do give her full credit for the two years she spent working for the Children's Defense Fund, and the Watergate Committee, I've always been a little puzzled by the idea that I should vote for Clinton because of her experience.
Me too. But it seems a better argument than her claims of breath-taking competence and ability to get things done. Honestly, the reports that've come out in the last week about the Clinton campaign scare me. iI would appear that the Clinton's decision-making style is really quite problematic, and the way her campaign's been run is all too reminiscent of some of the most poorly run White Houses's in recent years.
Rewarding incompetent people because they are loyal is bad. But rewarding incompetent people who lie to the public and to your donors is worse. Lying to the public is both wrong and stupid: it brings your name into disrepute, and that's not good for anyone, least of all a politician. Lying to your donors is also wrong and stupid: wrong, since you presumably ought to feel some loyalty towards the people who have donated to your campaign, and stupid because they are the last people on earth whose trust you should abuse. Solis Doyle's performance in 2006 should have meant that she was not hired for any position of responsibility ever again. Instead, Hillary Clinton made her campaign manager.
This is all to reminscient of Giuliani, Bush the Younger, Rice, etc. Even if you like her policies positions, if this is how she'd run and organize Washington I wouldn't be too confident about her achieving her aims.
Today there are a lot of posts up saying that former Sen. Edwards (D-NC) is considering endorsing Hillary Clinton for president. These posts make some decent arguments (endorsing her would have more impact than endorsing Obama, presuming Edwards is looking for relevancy; he probably prefers her health care plan to Obama's). But it seems that they are all pretty much silent on something that you'd think Edwards might remember. Edwards voters and activists were, for the most part, the lefties who yelled and hollered hooray every time he went off on his greed screed. He was the most popular candidate among the Kossacks, and among a lot of the netroots. And the thing is, those fans of his are not Hillary Clinton fans. Does any of their fanbase overlap? Over course it does. But big chunks of it don't. And if Edwards wants to have a future in politics and not alienate a lot of his strongest supporters, maybe his best course of action is staying neutral.
So this issue doesn't strike me as one the Supreme Court would have much interest in diving into. And it seems all the more unlikely given how small the Court's docket is getting under Chief Justice Roberts. But wouldn't it be highly entertaining to read the blow by blow reported by the likes of Lithwick, Greenburg and Greenhouse following a Supreme Court argument over this?
So the polls just closed in what was supposed to be the toughest state of the night for him, and the networks have already called the race. Sen. Obama wins Virginia. According to the exits I've seen he won senior and female voters and almost won white voters.
Supposedly it's a close race on the Republican side between Huckabee and McCain.
UPDATE: With 94% of the vote counted from the Virginia primary, what was supposedly his toughest contest in the Potomac Primary, Obama leads Clinton 63%-36%. Clinton only won 1 of the state's 11 congressional districts (Boucher's 9th, at the far Western end of the state). That margin ... I don't think anything can capture it but - OMG. Wow, just, wow.
Am I the only person who finds it strange that this hasn't gotten more attention? Important findings, coverage in the New York Times, a vital national issue, an issue that a lot of people are concerned over ... and yet barely a whimper in the national press, or from the presidential candidates (who, true, have other things on their minds right now - but who need to rework their energy plans).
Some of you want to cancel the F-22. Some of you want to fund it to infinity and beyond. You can both play this game David Axe's come up with, where you can build the Air Force of your choice.
So what, Cousin Eddie was a toned-down, morally upstanding version of his life?
For those of you who've already caught up on the films of 2007 (note to self, see There Will Be Blood soon), Nathaniel and company are discussing the 15 films they are most looking forward to seeing in 2008. Coming in at #14 and #15 (the posts that are already up) are the remake of The Women and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Look, I like talking politics more than most, but this? Just stop it. We don't know who's going to win in VA, MD, and DC yet. It's fun to make projections and everything - but since we don't know if he's going to win all the states (and DC) yet, and since those delegate swings are pretty big, just stop making delegate projections. Wait 12 hours. Then we'll know. It's not that far away.
And relatedly, stop saying WI and HI are sure things for Obama, and OH and TX should vote for Clinton. Until someone shows me a variety of polls that all agree on that, I don't want to hear it.
Courtesy of Nick Beaudrot. Don't you love maps? Basically, in WA Obama won everywhere, while in LA the voting patterns, as in Alabama and Tennessee, showed a big racial divide. Who'd have guess that? But if Obama is weak in Livingston Parish, St. Bernard Parish, Winn Parish, Jefferson Davis Parish (yeah, I couldn't resist pointing that out) ... I don't think that necessarily speaks ill of him or his chances for November.
Okay, I rarely find this kind of thing all that impressive - but this really is pretty funny, and actually I'd love to see someone pay to put it on tv (where it'd surely get lots of free media attention). The guy breathing into the bag at the end is a great touch.
So Michael Gordon's piece on the RAND report that's been hushed up for over 2 years is interesting mostly for the continual secrecy about even things that are already widely known, so long as they might prove the slightest bit embarrassing to the Bush administration. That said this bit is really sad:
Gen. Tommy R. Franks, whose Central Command oversaw the military operation in Iraq, had a "fundamental misunderstanding" of what the military needed to do to secure postwar Iraq, the study said.
Ouch. And this about a guy that various Republicans float as a possibility for the US Senate or even Vice President.
I'm sure you all read TPM anyway, but don't miss these posts on the counting of the Republican caucus vote in WA. It really does kind of defy belief - so much so that it's sort of hilarious as well as outrageous.
Ah, Boss Hogg. Sorrell Brooke was so funny. I need to watch What's Up, Doc? again soon.
What are essentially the UK's Oscars were awarded today. And any list of winners that prominently features the likes of Swinton, Cotillard and The Lives of Others is a list I'm going to generally like. But Atonement as Best Picture? Really? I guess it's not a surprising winner, given who's giving the award. But it's certainly not the film I'd have voted for in that category.
So I can see a candidate making an argument against releasing her tax returns at all, and I can see a candidate releasing them early in order to show transperancy and a lack of corruption - but I'm really unclear on why a candidate would argue that it's appropriate to only release her tax returns after she's won her party's nomination. That would seem especially problematic in the case of this candidate given that Republicans will be sure to be talking about the Rose law firm billing, cattle futures, and President Clinton's money-making since 2000, as soon as she releases them during the general election campaign. Nonetheless, that's what the Clinton team says they are going to do.
So Sen. Obama won all of today's contests. He won by huge margins in Washington, Nebraska and the Virgin Islands, and with 78% in, he's leading in Louisiana 54-39.
On the Republican side? Mike Huckabee trounced John McCain in Kansas, and with 78% of the vote counted in Louisiana Huckabee is leading there too - 45-41. It's too early to call the Washington caucuses, but with 37% in, Huckabee is leading there too. He's got 27% to 23% for McCain and 21% for Ron Paul. Now sure, Louisiana would seem to be a good state for Huckabee, and both Kansas and Washington have far-right Republican activists (Washington is one of the 4 states Pat Robertson won in 1988), and sure John McCain is still going to be the Republican nominee. But it doesn't look good for him to be doing this poorly, right after he seems to wrap up the nomination by his top opponent dropping out.
Are you kidding me? I won't be at all surprised if some of the rest of you disagree with this, but I find the Clinton campaign's outrage over David Schuster's "pimped out" comment to be something between weird, absurd and self-serving. It's the latter of course because if Clinton gets to appear the victim and the underdog it's likely to help her in the polls and at the polls (or that's certainly how everyone seems to have interpreted the aftermath of the pre-New Hampshire debate and her "crying"). But I also think it's bizarre because 1) Schuster's comment was basically incomprehensible (literally, it made no sense, and I have to think most viewers saw it that way) and 2) so many news anchors and reporters have said things that sound so much worse (to my ears, at least). I mean if the Clinton campaign is going to harp on an MSNBC voice, why aren't they calling for the head of Chris Matthews since Matthews has a long history of demeaning and inflammatory comments about Sen. Clinton? Or why isn't Clinton calling for the head of one or more of the Fox News set that's said far worse?
I guess we can check back in on Sunday night or Monday to see if they are right.
Considering what we know about the Republican party in Kansas, that's not that surprising. But it is a reminder that while John McCain is sure to be the Republican nominee, there are a lot of Republicans who aren't happy about that.
So we get season after season of the inane right-wing, pro-torture wet dream that is 24, but the Discovery Channel won't air Taxi to the Dark Side because it is too controversial. Could the American media be more pathetic and embarrassing? And of course the answer is yes, but this is pretty damn bad.
Huh. I hadn't thought of that. But the governor of Utah makes this list (Ambinder's) of possible McCain running mates, and I've got to say it makes a certain sense, even if Pawlenty, Crist and Huckabee are the more obvious possibilities.
UPDATE: And he's got another list of names. Those commenting seem to really like Sarah Palin. But she only became governor of Alaska 14 months ago, so I have trouble seeing her as a likely pick. In his weekend column Bob Novak is reporting that people close to the White House are pushing for Rob Portman.
One of the next presidential contests will be held in Washington state. Sen. Obama has now secured the support of that state's governor, Christine Gregoire. Sen. Clinton has the support of the state's two senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and the state's best-known congressman, Norm Dicks. Obama won another endorsement from a governor yesterday. But of course Chet Culver's state (Iowa) has already voted.
This will be somewhat obscure, 'cause I don't want this to be public (this will make sense; just read on).I've been invited to have dinner with a gentleman being inducted to this august University's Alumni Hall of Fame (or whatever they call it). My boss's boss asked me to sit at the table with him, as I have some familiarity with his job. In the last six-seven years (I'm unclear on this, 'cause I can't track down his detailed resume) these are the jobs he has held:
2001/2002/2003? (unclear when he started) to 2004/2005: Chief Military Aid to the Secretary of Defense (and remember who that was at the time).
2004/2005 to 2006?: Head of US Southern Command (guy in charge of all military forces south of the United States in this hemisphere). This made him in charge of a small naval base way out at the eastern end of Cuba.
2006 to Present: Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR), NATO. In charge of efforts in Afghanistan (Afghanistan being a NATO operation).
So, I'm being obscure here because (A) I've been invited by my boss's boss to sit at the table with him (presumably since they think I know something about military affairs) but (B) I have some very, very pointed questions I'd like to ask him about all of the things he's done in the last sixish years. However one's politics fall out, I think you can understand how the chance to ask this guy questions would be interesting. I'm being obscure because I can talk about legitimate (and illegitimate) questions here, and it won't show up on anyone's "google" search (if I've been sufficiently obscure).So, my dilemma is: what are the limits to what I can ask him? While still being polite (and not pissing off my boss's boss), what is "on the table" and what of "off"?
In a little-reported story yesterday, the Attorney General of the United States argued that if the Justice Department declares something to be legal, it cannot (later) be investigated to see if it is (in fact) legal or not:
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said Justice Department lawyers concluded that the CIA's use of waterboarding in 2002 and 2003 was legal, and therefore the department cannot investigate whether a crime had occurred.
"That would mean that the same department that authorized the program would now consider prosecuting somebody who followed that advice," he said.
Many Democrats this week have called on Mukasey to open a separate criminal investigation to focus on the CIA's use of waterboarding and whether it violates U.S. anti-torture laws. Although Mukasey suggested in testimony last week that the tapes investigation could include that subject, his position has since appeared to have hardened.
Waterboarding, he told the House committee, "cannot possibly be the subject of . . . a Justice Department investigation" because its use was approved by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Mukasey made a parallel argument about the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program, saying the Justice Department could not investigate that program because it was approved at the outset by the department's lawyers.
This has resulted in some people noting that the argument smacks of tyranny; a government declaring that (because someone previously said something was legal) it cannot investigate itself means that the government can take practically any action it wants (declaring it legal), since there will be no cost down the road (an investigation as to whether someone did something wrong). You've heard of retroactive immunity? This is pro-active immunity.
I realize we have less than a year to go in this administration, but the degree of insanity has not leveled off yet.
Somebody gets very pissed off here.
(It doesn't say anything new, but it does say it very angrily.)
Now there are some celebrities who are actually deeply informed about politics. And then there are some who aren't. And then there are some who aren't who nonetheless feel the need to talk about it and the "reasoning" behind why they support or oppose Candidate X. Enter Whoopi Goldberg, who apparently thinks that neither Clinton nor Obama said anything about "expediting" jobs out of the country prior to May 2007. Jeebus save us.
From the people that President Bush prances around hand-in-hand with ...
An American businesswoman was carted off to jail by religious police in Saudi Arabia for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks in Riyadh, the Times of London reported. The woman, who spent a day behind bars, was strip-searched and forced to sign a false confession before being released, the newspaper said.
"Some men came up to us with very long beards and white dresses. They asked 'Why are you here together?' I explained about the power being out in our office. They got very angry and told me what I was doing was a great sin," she told the Times. Following her arrest and interrogation, the woman was hauled before a judge. "He said 'You are sinful and you are going to burn in hell.' I told him I was sorry. I was very submissive. I had given up. I felt hopeless," she told the Times.
So CNN is reporting the Romney campaign is over. So will we really see some McCain/Huckabee contests? Or is this thing done?
Ezra Klein makes an excellent case for why Sen. Webb should stay in the Senate, and not be put on the national ticket.
Obama's raised $5 million since the polls closed yesterday!?! And the number keeps going up! I don't know how he's going to overcome her lead in super-delegates, but at this point I think I can honestly see him beating her among the delegates selected through primaries and caucuses. And that is simply amazing. Where does his campaign rank on the list of best presidential campaigns ever?
Bradbury is appalling, and the kind of guy a lot of people would probably think might more appropriately be facing charges than running (seemingly in violation of the law - kind of funny in a sick way given his job) an important part of the government. But the president would apparently rather make sure this bestest friend of a Stuart-dynasty-type national executive gets to stay in place than fill scores of government jobs with his own appointees. Is there a better example of Team Bush's insistence on its own endless power, its extreme ideology, and its utter indifference (at best) to competently managing the government?
Obama seems to have a problem winning the votes of white Catholics, though it's not entirely clear why.
Wikipedia notes that on this day in 1819:
British official Stamford Raffles signed a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor, establishing Singapore as a new trading post for the British East India Company.
Stamford Raffles - Stamford Bingley Raffles, actually. Ever heard a more 19th century British name?
Look at that patch of green.
Ummm, so multiple networks called Missouri for Hillary Clinton. Now who "wins" the state is likely largely irrelevant given that that has little to do with delegate allocation. But it's still probably worth noting that now with 97% of precincts reporting Obama has pulled ahead and leads Clinton by 4,000 votes. Maybe that lead will disappear. But we'll see.
Well this is an exciting way to start the night. If Obama's numbers are right the size of his win in Georgia is enormous.
Per Obama spokesman Bill Burton: Obama's victory in Georgia was achieved through a broad coalition of voters. He not only increased his support among African American voters since South Carolina (78% in South Carolina to 86% in Georgia), but he dramatically improved his standing among white voters (from 24% in South Carolina to 43% in Georgia.)
And on that very good news I'm going to step away from the computer and the blogs for a few hours. Baltar might post on events as the night unfolds, but I won't be back until around midnight or tomorrow. I want to watch the tv coverage, as that's (for good or ill) sometimes as important as the vote totals when it comes to determining who "won".
On the conclusions at least, and the feelings about Dodd. I don't share all the negatives he lists for Clinton, and my trust is not as high, but I do share the belief about generational politics. And I would love to see the "dream team" with Obama as the uniter and Clinton as the enforcer. So sue me.
I am not voting today, and things more than likely will be over by the time I get to vote (May sometime), but I thought I should at least note where I stand. I intend to vote for the unity pony.
I wish Dodd had been given more of a chance, but that just didn’t happen. Absent that, I am left with Clinton and Obama as my only realistic choices. Either one (and in the case of Clinton, this is truly depressing for me to state) will be a radical improvement from Bush, and either one will be better than the GOP candidate that is upchucked from the bowels of the “conservative” base. Both have very similar positions on many issues.
So why am I then choosing Obama?
If these turn out to be right, McCain is not putting it away by the margins I expected.
Okay, did I miss something? Why did this get such middling reviews? It was directed by a well-liked director (Danny Boyle, who directed Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Millions). It had an attractive cast (Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh). It had some great CGI work, looked fasntastic, and held to all the usual rules and expectations of the genre. Now I don't want to say the film didn't have its problems. I can't say I was able to fully understand what was going on in the last 20 minutes or so. And that's a big problem. And sure if you are a stickler for science you can complain about the gravity issue. But visually this film more than succeeded, and even if I didn't get the last section of it, it was still always watchable and interesting.
In more West Virginia news, the closed Republican Caucus (down in Charleston, 200 miles from here in Morgantown) decided to support Huckabee. The first round of voting gave Romney 41%, but convention rules say you have to win with 50%, so a second round happened. The rumor is that McCain's (who showed poorly in the first round) supporters were told to vote Huckabee, in order to prevent the state from going to Romney.
Thus, Huckabee wound up with 18 delegates.
It's worth noting the non-democratic nature of this process. This wasn't an open caucus (like Iowa), but a closed one where only WV Republican party members could caucus; it clearly wasn't open to any WV Republican (I'm registered as one and never got an invite). So how accurate a barometer of WV Republican sentiment (meaning "WV Republican voters") this is, is anyones guess.
WV Republican voters will vote alongside WV Democrats in May, come the primary. Of course, that (open) primary will only seat 9 delegates (as opposed to today's "insider" primary, which seated 18). Nice to see the WV Republican party ditching democracy like our President has done for the last 7 years.
Obama could get the most delegates from Tennessee even if he doesn't win the state's popular vote, and it's possible that Huckabee could win the West Virginia caucuses in a bid by McCain forces to thwart Romney.
Today's election that I'm most interested in, other than the Democratic presidential contest, is the primary in Illinois-3. Dan Lipinski, a pro-life, pro-Bush, pro-war product of nepotism is being challenged in his bid for another term. I strongly hope Mark Pera wins the primary in this "deep blue" district. I hope this for a number of reasons - a relatively minor one being that it's embarrassing that one of the few political scientists in politics is such an appalling congressman.
And the budget maker spoke and said, I give unto each service one third, now and forever ...
It really is amazing that the Pentagon's budget has been divied up so precisely in every budget for 40 years. Definitely a point to drive home in classes on policymaking and the power of bureaucracies. But while that's getting most of the attention in Fred Kaplan's latest column, what I think the bigger untold story of the defense budget tends to be is the reporting of it that always underestimates the spending - sometimes by hundreds of billions of dollars. He does a nice job of walking through the big parts of the budget and explaining how the $515 billion requested for the Pentagon doesn't even begin to approach our actual military spending (which he puts at about $200 billion higher).
Tomorrow is the Republican state convention in West Virginia, so if anyone feels inclined to make a case for a particular Republican candidate, well, it seems an appropriate time to do it on this blog.
I suppose being anti-evolution makes Huckabee a non-starter for me, but as far as the other 3 go I don't know that I have a favorite. I've found McCain irksome for years, and he seems rather stunningly clueless about economic concerns. I can't begin to comprehend what Romney really believes in his heart of hearts, plus he's gotten disturbingly friendly with the likes of Coulter and several of the scariest Christianists. And Ron Paul ... well, he's Ron Paul. It'd be like electing a cranky, dissenting voice on the Faculty Senate president. Hmmm, well I guess that means I'm endorsing Paul - for the shear entertainment value of a Paul presidency.
Apparently we're going to be waiting a few days to learn the Democratic delegate count from California.
As Emptywheel notes, this is a big deal, and definitely calls the commission's work into question, no matter what Isikoff says.
Last week I finished reading Toobin's The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. And if you know people who are interested in the Court's workings and its recent ideological shifts, but who don't know a great deal about it I think you should strongly recommend this book to them. Toobin shows a remarkable gift for telling an important story in a way that even those who don't closely follow politics or the Court can understand. While it's very much about matters internal to the Court, it's a bit less inside caught up in the behind the scenes issues than Jan Crawford Greenburg's book was. Put another way, it's something that'll seem more relevant to the daily lives of most Americans (I mean I'm interested in who Leonard Leo had brunch with when, but I expect most readers of these kinds of books don't really care). Though even those who already know a lot about the Court will learn some new things here.
Okay, make any comments you want to about the game or the ads here. And Moon, congratulations on your Giants' victory. I'd still argue that the Patriots are the better team, but on this given Sunday the Giants gutted out a nice win through the work of their defense and Eli Manning (and what must Tiki Barber be thinking right now?).
As to the rest I thought the Tom Petty show was a lifeless snooze, and I thought most of the ads were pretty lame, though I did like the Chris Kattan cameo, that Bud (or Bud Light) ad with Will Ferrell in that awful basketball outfit for that movie of his, and the Corolla ad with the badgers.
So every Sunday Time's Mark Halperin runs down the Sunday hot air-n-pundit talkathons. So he does that again today noting what Clinton, McCain, Romney and Huckabee say on the various programs. And then he ends with this brief discussion of Meet the Press: "James Carville, Mary Matalin, Mike Murphy, Bob Shrum - all played their assigned roles. No news." Would be nice if such segments (or in this case entire shows)were more often called out for their inane repetitiveness.
I've always been a fan. She's had an interesting life - not the one many would expect given the roles she normally plays on film. And interesting that Brenda Last was her favorite performance. I rather liked the performances in A Handful of Dust when I saw it many years ago - though of course the movie is incredibly bleak.
The LA Times has this great graphic explaining the process.
So, I'm bacheloring this weekend. Thus, I can officially take the night off. Thus, in an attempt to do some more Baltar Movie Reviews, I'm drinking, eating dinner, and watching bad movies. We'll see how it goes. I let whimsy decide, so it looks like we're watching some Costner/Kutcher monstrosity about saving people from drowning (The Guardian) first, and then transitioning to the main course, dead Greeks (300).
I'm putting this below the fold, so you can ignore it if you want.
Right, on with the show.
I don't know much about "The Guardian." I caught a bit of "Bull Durham" the other day, so I thought I'd see what Costner was up to these days. This movie involves helicopters, and people jumping out of them into an ocean. That's all I know (that, and Costner is too old to do action movies, so I'll be curious).
That dude, who played the bad guy in "Highlander" is doing a voice-over intro.. People are swimming around in a hurricane. This is exciting! I have another drink.
Costner just smacked somebody in the head. Acting! I have another drink. Oh, the guy was panicing, and Costner had to whack him to save the girl. Nope. One dead. I have another drink.
SURPRISE. She's not dead. Costner saves her. I have two drinks.
The helicopter, previously flying in a hurricane, is now landing in a cloudless sky. Small hurricane. Must be global warming.
Ah, the guy from Highlander. He's Costner's boss. That's cool. He needs work. I have a drink to celebrate his acting job.
Costner arrives home to find his wife (Sela Ward; I had to look that up) moving her stuff out of the house. Interpersonal Drama! Costner complains about how he saves lives so he shouldn't have to talk to his wife. His wife claims she needs to rescue herself (A pun! See, he's a rescue guy, and she needs to rescue herself. Except his type of rescue isn't what she needs!). I have another drink.
Costner gets called back to base! It's an emergency! I have another drink! I'm done with exclamation points!
Oh, it's dark now. That happened fast.
The hurricane is back. Some cargo ship is sinking. The helicopter has a mechanical failure, but Costner pushes on! (sorry, one more exclamation point.) I think we've hit most major cliches here: interpersonal conflict, manly-jobs, exciting ships, water, ignoring orders to save lives. Huh.
Costner is saving some people; nothing exciting. He really is too old for this. But since he's in a survival suit, you can't see any saggy muscles, so he looks OK. His helicopter got hit by a rogue wave, and there are lots of people and pieces flying around. Mass chaos. Costner saves his "wingman" (or whatever the partner to the diver in a Coast Guard helicopter is called). Lots of drama.
This is all introductory. Costner and "wingman" (they haven't even given him a name yet) are left floating in a life raft, waiting for rescue (see the irony? They were the rescue, but now they need rescue. You can't pay enough for writing this sharp).
The lack of writing begin to remind me why Hollywood makes such bad movies. I have another drink.
In a surprise to no one, Costner wakes up in a hospital. He's fine (we next see him walking around the CG base); but his partner (we never learned his name) is dead. His CO (The Kurgan! - actual name is Clancy Brown, but we'll forever call him The Kurgan!, with the exclamation point - he's that cool) is reading him a trite line about how Costner, now past 40, must move over to be an instructor. Huh. That's a new plot twist. Haven't seen that before.
Costner protests; that's new. He reluctantly goes. That's new, too.
Change of scene: a bunch of really young people on a bus. Huh. Wonder what they are here for?
Hey, Kutcher thinks he hot shit. He's acting like he has an attitude. I wonder if he thinks he's really good, and doesn't really need training, and he's better than all the old guys training him? That plot line has never been used before. Huh. Kutcher just said he'd break all of Costner's records; and Costner was standing RIGHT BEHIND HIM. That's never happened before, either. Who the fuck wrote this shit?
We now have the obligatory "first PT of the class" scene. Pushups. Running. Yelling. Posturing. Costner throws them all in the water and tells them they have to tread water for an hour, or they get tossed. That's also new. How much do writers get paid? Oh, now a lesson in teamwork ("You should have saved him"). Christ, did anyone pay money for this?
Ah, now Costner is offending the trainers. They don't like his hot shit new methods. Goddamn. I really need to drink more. This isn't so much bad as it is boring. There isn't anything here that hasn't been done seven hundred times before. The Coast Guard angle is new, but other than that, nothing here isn't done in every other military/male-bonding movie that has been made in the last 25 years. And now, while I tried to pause and write something more pithy, they've done it again. All the cadets are going off to crash a wedding reception (while Costner gets drunk and calls his estranged wife). The cadets are getting drunk. Jesus, couldn't they actually find anything new to throw in here? Anything new at all?
Stud Costner is now out at the old-people's bar (all the other old trainers are hanging around, so that's how you know); he's found the old crone (the old person who is the font of all wisdom; this is crone is a good sense) to talk about all his life's problems (getting old, lack of wife, career change, etc.). The cadets are betting on who gets to pick up the hottest girls. I need several drinks. Like I said, this isn't so much bad as just boring.
I understand why Hollywood needs to make these; they are, in their own way, the bread-and-butter of the industry. There isn't anything new here; we know that. But by putting Costner and Kutcher in a predictable situation (as noted, nothing new is happening with the story) you get people to come out and see the stars. The selling point here isn't the story, but the stars. Nothing more. (Costner is having flashbacks to his rescue disaster; this isn't new.) Movies are made to make money; that's fine. I object to the passionless story this one is telling. (Kutcher is successfully managing to make the local hottie interested in him; like I said nothing new.) I think what offends me is the casual way that Hollywood makes this crap and expects us to pay for it. Would you buy a mediocre car; a mediocre meal; a mediocre book? I mean, you might (if it was discounted), but movies aren't discounted. They are all the same price, so you get to see this piece of crap for the same price as (choose your favorite actually good movie at this point). Hell, Highlander was better than this (cheesy, but better). It's the casual disdain for the average moviegoer (one who just wants to go out and see something better than "Delta Farce" but less intellectual than "Memento") is depressing. This is, after all, basically an "average" movie. And, basically, it sucks. Thus, one can conclude (my sample size is beyond this single movie), that Hollywood thinks we're idiots. After all, the average movie just sucks. And that's depressing; it's beyond depressing, it's (as I've said) insulting.
Sigh. And, it's boring. It's not that I require every movie to be Casablanca or Indiana Jones (or Highlander); it's that I'd like every movie to, at least, be interesting. (Oh, and Kutchner proves to have a dark past - his swim team died in a car crash while he wasn't there. I'm guessing Kutchner wasn't in the van/bus/car for some reason; nope - I was wrong, he was driving, but "it was just an accident" (Costner). OOOOOOOh. Acting! Plot!) At this point I just want this to be over. I"m hoping that 300 will be either much worse or much better (I'm betting on worse).
How many millions did they spend on this?Christ; Costner just said "Save the ones you can; the rest you have to let go." Fuck me. And now their both out drinking, and about to get into a bar fight. Can this be any more dumb?
They all graduated; Costner gives up on being an instructor and goes back to active duty. In a surprise, Kutcher is assigned to the same place. And their training mission is now an actual rescue. Sigh. Why are they so predictable (though, to be honest, I'm not sure what else they could have done at this point). This movie is almost done (and it's lost it's way a long time ago).
In case anyone cares, I've given up on this movie. There's some very extended sequence where Stud Costner quit, but Kutchner went out (for his first rescue) and got in over his head, and Stud Costner was the only one available, so he goes out to save Kutchner, and now they are both trying to get off a sinking ship. I haven' blogged this 'cause it's so predictable. I'm also predicting that Costner dies, but I could be wrong on that.
Nope; wasn't wrong on that. Depressing (they can do mood music), but predicable.
And Bryan Adams to finish the whole thing. I'm not sure I've seen such an average movie (in all possible respects) before. So boring I couldn't even make fun of it.
Now, this next one, 300, maybe. All I know is that it's a version of a comic book version of the famous stand of 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. And that many people said it was bad. That really is all I know. It's a war movie set in the historical past, so it's consistent with my reviews of Troy and the other ones. I suppose it was inevitable that I'd see this. How bad could it be?
Uh, I'm trying to start the movie, and their running an ad for a Superman comic (on video). This is not a good sign. If you are advertising for Superman fans, this isn't a good sign.
Some sort of guy with a British accent is claiming some kids birth is amazing; the kid kicked ass at combat from age 5 or something. "He was taught to give his life for Sparta" or something. Now they are showing people ritually beating him. OK. I'd be annoyed to. The initiated him by throwing his ass out into the wild, where it snows. And there are wolves. I might buy wolves (big, ugly, Warg-like wolves, by the way), but did it ever snow in Greece? Kid kills the wolf (I guess they let him back into Sparta). Cue the music.
Now we see him in color. Scrawny little kid. Turns out to be Leonidis (spelling?), the king of the Spartans. And someone is making a speach about how Sparta is the world's great hope for Reason and Justice. Uh, no. Athens was somewhat more democratic. Sparta was the authoritarian end of the spectrum; Athens was the democratic. I guess we'll ignore that historical fact.
About half of what I've seen thus far has been in slo-mo; I'm wondering if the movie would take about 35 minutes if you just ran the whole thing at regular speed.
A pack of six, I dunno, African Archers? has shown up with a mess of skulls in Sparta. I have no idea what this means. Ah; this is the Persian messenger (the Persians are the bad guys; I know this from the ads). The African Archers are Persians (uh, huh?); the King (Leonidis) just told the Persian messenger that he (as is everyone) is responsible for their message. Uh, "don't kill the messenger?" Why would anyone ever bring Leonidis any bad news, if they would be held responsible for whatever news they brought. This thing is three minutes old, and already makes no sense.
Ah, the Persian Ambassador insults the King's woman ("what makes you think a woman can address me" or something); we are supposed to dislike Persian even more (they oppress women!) except that the King's Woman's response is "only Spartan women produce Spartan men" or something like that (meaning women only bear studly kids). This is not equality. I realize I'm supposed to dislike the Persians, but the heavy-handedness of the story is grating already (and we're only five minutes in).
Just so we recap here: the Spartans are good because the are virile and send their kids out to face wolves at an early age; the Persians are bad because ominous music plays when they are on screen. It makes no sense, but it is easy to remember.
The Persians have asked for submission. This means War! (why the Persians have asked for this remains unclear.)
Why does Leonidis have a British accent?
Uh, the Athenians are "boy lovers"? And this is somehow an insult? Hey, Leonidis, they turned down the Persians before you did; I wouldn't make fun of them.
Leonidis is, in fact, killing the messenger for his message. He's just dumped him in a big pit (why not just run him through?). This would, presumably, make it difficult for anyone to actually negotiate with Sparta (as anyone who brings the King any sort of proposal that would be unacceptable, would find themselves killed. Ultimatums (which might, if they were strong enough, get accepted) might seem to be the only way to talk to Sparta. This, by they way, is insane an ahistorical.
Following that political exchange, Leonidis is climbing a mountain. Perhaps he is insane.
Oh, oracles. Yeah, it makes sense that Sparta would need mystical oracles. Oh, the Spartans face Persians who number in the millions. And, explains Leonidis, we'll rebuild a wall and funnel the Persians into some sort of narrow killing field, where the Spartan superior quality will prevaill. Eh. Nice tactics, but, as the saying goes, "numbers have their own quality;" superior technology/system/people will only get you so far, before masses will swamp you. This isn't a new military tactic. Leonidis should know this.
Jesus, now the Queen is claiming that Leonidis should be horny as a mountain goat, or at least be unaffected by the various doomy pronouncement by oracles. Uh, maybe he's got other things on his mind (are their actually a million Persians?).
Leonidis has summoned 300 (all who have sons); the council (????) claims that Leonidis can't go to war without council permission. Leonidis just shrugs, and says the 300 are his personal bodyguard, and are out for a stroll. I guess I understand all those who claimed this was a parallel to W's way of acting (Congress? I don't need no stinking Congress!). Still, fairly silly.
Uh, except that a bunch of non-Spartans just showed up. Uh, 300? Is it more? That sorta defeats the myth, I think (though I think I read somewhere that the 300 Spartans brought some slaves, who fought with them, so maybe this is accurate). Still, the posturing of the Spartans ("we brought 300 warriors, you brought a bunch of potters, sculptors and farmers") is noteworthy. It's worth noting, at this point, that most of the wars of the 20th Century (whoever won them) were won by conscript armies (not professionals). There are exceptions (Israel comes to mind), but not many. I think the line I quoted earlier ("quantity is it's own quality") is likely to be ignored by this movie.Now, the Persian fleet is assaulted by weather (hurricane winds/rain) and bad music (heavy metalish nonsense). This is seen as a victory by the Spartans. It really was bad music, so I guess I could see this.
There seems to be treachery in the Spartan camp. The Queen is approached by someone who wants something. She responds with a platitude ("Freedom isn't free at all; it comes with a cost in blood."). I wonder how the Spartan slaves felt about that.
The Spartans have climbed a hill, and discovered that heavy metal isn't as effective as they'd hoped; lots of Persians are invading. Should'a used Warrant or Ratt or something - much more effective.
OK, so the Spartan chuckles at seeing the massed Persian, and the Arcadian (Athenian?) wonders why. The Spartan says, as a professional warrior, he's always wondered if someone could be man enough (I'm interpreting here) to actually be able to kill him. The Arcadian (Athenian?) looks at him like he's crazy. Which he is. One of the first things to recognize is that any idiot on any battlefield can get lucky enough to kill the veteran. It's the law of averages. These people are insane, no matter how good they think they are.
"Run along and tell your Xerxes that he faces free men here." Uh, no. Sparta didn't emancipate the slaves. Its just not a fact.
Leonidis just turned away some mutant (some dude who was turned out of Sparta) who claimed to be able to hold some goat-paths that led to the Spartan read. Leonidis turns him down (he can't hold his spear high enough), then walks over and says "there is a goat path; we don't have enough men; hope no one finds it." This is insane. Some guy just offered to guard it; the guard may not meet your ideal of physical perfection, but beggars can't be choosers. And, it seems, they seem to be discriminatory (and maybe racist; the Persians are mulitcultural, while the Spartans aren't).
OK, about a million or so Persians are wandering up to try to push the Spartans out of the way. Leonidis' speach is (and I quote exactly): "This is where we hold them. This is where we fight. This is where they die." That's profound. The Persians are calling for them to surrender; as usual, messengers get killed (this really would seem to cut down on negotiations).
They are making a big deal of the Spartan "hopplite" tactics and ability to counter the Persian masses (assumed to be untrained/unorganized masses). This is true, to a degree. But the movie shows lots of individual combat scenes (which defeats the whole purpose of the massed Spartan tactics). Then they show Persian archers launching thousands of arrows (which the Spartans defeat by staying behinds their sheilds); followed by Persian cavalry (whcih the Spartans defeat via their spears). Uh, yeah, but the point was to use multiple arms at the same time. While the Spartans are hiding from the arrows, you run the cavalry over them (in other words, make them do two things at once). This isn't rocket science; the Persians should know this.
OK, Leonidis is having a talk with Xerxes. Xerxes has some very expensive (20th century) voice modulation technologies. Nice voice. Of course, Leonidis won't give in to the bribes (make Leonidis king of all Greece), but claiming that the "free men of Sparta" are the ones that oppose Xerxes is silly; Sparta clearly had slaves.
Now the "Immortals" have been released upon the Spartans. And they brought a monster of some kind (something in chains they release), which Leonidis promptly kills.
You know, the funny thing is that very little of the fighting is the "Greek/Hopplite" organized fighting of history. It is true that Greece invented the organized (one man's shield protects another man's spear thrust) style of fighting; that was their strength. Once it disintegrates into one-on-one fighting, the Greeks lose their edge. Except that the movie ignores this; it seems to be mostly about every Spartan killing several multiples of the enemy (in violation of the strength of the Spartans; their organization). This makes a sexy movie, but ignores the real strength of the Spartans (their Hopplite organization). Leonidis seems successful.
The scene shifts to Sparta; the Queen asks some idiot to help her send reinforcements to Leonidis. The idiot seems to want sex (as opposed to money or power). Very odd; the argument here seems to be that behind-the-line-of-battle politics (which is never defined) is not irrelevant, but is at least less noble. And, clearly, there are traitors (evidenced by what the Queen must do to ensure reinforcements to Leonidis).
And now the Spartans discover that the (previously turned away; insufficiently virile) ex-Spartan who offered to defend the goat-paths, has (in fact) told the Persians where the goat-paths were (big surprise there). So, lots of bad stuff happening (both at the home front, and at the front). Leonidis predicts death (glorious, though). The non-Spartans leave the pass, leaving Leonidis (and whats left of the 300) to hold everything. The Queen (does she actually have a name, or is she defined by her role? goes to Parliament (or whatever the called it) to get help (she gets none; this isn't unexpected given the movie; yet more treachery)
Leonidis rejects a settlement with Xerxes, and calls an attack (300 against however many thousand Persians are hanging around the king). They all get slaughtered (including Leonidis). it's very noble, but not really intelligent (there were better places to attempt to get Xerxes). This serves as a rallying point for the Spartans the next year (about 10,000 of them) to hold off the returning Persians; the assumption is that Leonidis' actions have served as an anchor for the success of the Greeks a year later.
Can anyone explain to me why CNN doesn't fire Glenn Beck? I mean it's bad that the "most trusted name in news" prominently employs a non-reality-based racist - but even if an executive felt like overlooking that, why employ one who gets such lousy ratings?
Now that it's a two-person race for both the Republicans and the Democrats, The Fix has decided to stop doing a Line on who'll win the presidential nominations - he's moved on to considering possibilities for the bottom half of the national tickets.
McCain-Feingold is perhaps John McCain's signature achievement in the 20+ years he's been in the Senate. There aren't any top-rank conservative legal eagles who support it. So would a President McCain really appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court? The question is considered here.
This is indeed really silly, and terribly inefficient way to run an organization - particularly one as important and powerful as the Department of Defense. Bush wanted "the Surge", his generals didn't, so he got himself some new generals. Now he's not listening to Gates, Mullen or Fallon on the issue of troop deployments. He's siding with Petraues, not Petraues' bosses. Are these the kinds of management skills he learned at Harvard?
This management situation is completely ridiculous. Think of the U.S. government as a corporation (Just for the purposes of this exercise. Nothing to do with privatization). Bush is the equivalent of the Chairman of the Board and Gates and Admiral Mullen play the roles of CEO of the company (DOD and the military). Gates's and Mullen's job, along with the Joint Chiefs, is to think big picture and look at the overall health of the company and where it needs to be putting its assets. Petraeus is the VP of one department. An important department such as marketing. But still just one department. Yet here we have the Chairman of the Board essentially reaching down, ignoring all other concerns such production (Afghanistan), research and development (Pakistan), finance (China) and saying that the only thing that matters is marketing. It's just bad management.