Monkey Media Report Archive

A North Carolina
news and arts Weblog
November 2003

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*****

12.10.03 - While I sit here wondering why anyone would still care what Al Gore thinks about anything, I'll thank the coworker who pointed me to Bob Herbert's succinct historical analysis of exactly how fucked up the new Medicare bill is. It's also a fine time to note (via a multi-faceted post at The Sideshow) Buzzflash's most recent pointed blast at Tom Daschle. They - along with many other smart Democrats - are particularly upset at the Senate minority leader's complete cave-in on the Republican energy and Medicare bills. Daschle's refusal to support a filibuster on the latter, a true pharmaceutical industry boondoggle, was made all the more disgusting by his subsequent introduction of a new bill to fix what he calls the "egregious" flaws in the boondoggle he just let pass the Senate. Someone obviously thinks Tom's strategy is smart, but from here it looks perfectly designed to do absolutetly nothing while protecting Daschle's campaign donations so he can get reelected in the oh-so-representative state of South Dakota. Buzzflash nails it:

Tom Daschle acts like a "Trojan Horse" Democrat -- whatever his real intentions -- who is helping out Bush more than he is positioning his party to lead a rebirth of democracy, prosperity and national community in 2004.

Amen. But what's with the "real intentions" bit? Why the hell is Buzzflash bothering to suggest that the Senate's minority leader has "real intentions" that don't involve selling out the left-leaning ideals of the Democratic Party? Good lord, how much more evidence do they need that Daschle's main interest in politics is protecting his own ass? Oh, I'm sorry; there is one other interest that does seem more important to ol' Tom: protecting his wife Linda's income as a lobbyist for Baker Donelson, a company that boasts of being called "one of the top 10 most powerful firms in Washington." It's headed by ex-Reagan chief of staff Howard Baker, by the way.

Let's take a moment to refresh ourselves about the spouse of the person who's supposed to be the most powerful Democrat in the country. This Jan/Feb 2002 Washington Monthly story, "Tom Daschle's Hillary Problem, describes in detail Linda Daschle's pre-9/11 work to lower airport security standards as well as her post-9/11 work on the disgusting airline industry bailout. A year later, Doug Ireland summarized the Washington Monthly story in "The real reason Tom Daschle didn't run for President." Take a second to read how Linda and her hubby pushed a backroom deal "that forced the FAA to buy defective baggage scanners" from Linda's client L-3 International:

Under a provision Linda’s husband had slipped into the 2000 budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the FAA was required to buy one of L-3’s scanners for every one it purchased from the company’s competitors. The L-3 scanners were found to be substandard by DOT’s inspector general; FAA tests of the scanners showed high failure rates; and most have not yet been installed because of their defects (the one at the Dallas–Fort Worth airport — another of Linda’s clients — leaked radiation), which is a major reason DOT says it won’t be able to screen all luggage for explosives for years to come.

Nice, huh? There's no way those little tidbits wouldn't have come out during a Bush-Daschle matchup, and it's obvious that fear of exposure of his Washington game goes a long way towards explaining Daschle's withdrawal from the 2004 presidential race (a withdrawal, you'll recall, that "surprised even some of his closest aides"). It's certainly a more plausible explanation than Tom's stated desire to remain in the Senate to "shape the nation's priorities." As a minority leader who caves in at the drop of a hat. Yeah, whatever you say, Tom.

But back to Linda Daschle and L-3 International: L-3 happens to be the parent company of Military Professional Resources Inc., one of the largest of the military contractors currently making a killing by privatizing core functions of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Think about that for a second. If there's a single element that best encapsulates the obscenity of the Iraq war, it's the fact that shady companies - like Cheney's Halliburton, which routinely used Enron-style accounting practices - have used their close connections to government officials to profit from the decision to drop cluster bombs on Iraqi cities and place 19- and 20-year-old Americans on the front lines of a deadly, impossible occupation. What does the lead Democrat in the Senate plan to do about that? Oops. He's freaking married to someone who lobbies heavily for one of those very companies. Hello? What the hell is this guy doing anywhere close to a leadership position in the Democratic Party?

The failure of the mainstream press to examine the role that Linda Daschle's lobbying may have played in her husband's decision not to run for president is just crappy journalism as usual, but what's Buzzflash's excuse? None of the site's anti-Daschle editorials even mentions the fact that the man who's supposed to be leading the Democratic charge against Cheney & Co. is married to a high-powered lobbyist for one of the very military contractors benefitting most from the occupation of Iraq. Hell, Buzzflash actually bends over backwards to hint that Tom Daschle is hiding good intentions somewhere. Gosh. Maybe the good intentions are hidden up his ass, Buzzflash. While your head's there, would you mind looking around for them?

Yeesh. And you wonder why I stopped blogging this crap. Daschle's "real intentions" couldn't be more clear if he phoned them into Limbaugh: his wife's lobbying income is more important than his commitment to the principles of the majority of voters in his political party (feel free to take that as a sign of the feminist movement's effectiveness if you like). How could anyone be more of a Trojan horse to left-leaning notions of peace and justice than Tom Daschle? And it's not just Tom Daschle's wife who's a lobbyist: Check this op-ed that appeared last July in USA Today about the corrosive influence of Congressional nepotism:

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that at least 28 members of Congress have close relatives working as Washington lobbyists, some without experience. GOP Sen. Trent Lott's son, Chet, managed pizza restaurants and played polo before becoming a telecommunications lobbyist. The family of Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., includes his wife, Linda, an aviation lobbyist; his daughter-in-law, Jill, a lobbyist for companies such as Aetna and Blue Cross; and his son, Nathan, a former labor union lobbyist.

Daschle's wife, daughter-in-law and son have all been lobbyists? Holy shit, we are in serious trouble. Bottom line is that the centrist, Beltway-business-as-usual Dem strategy lost the Senate in 2002 - Joe Conason and Arianna Huffington both nailed that one at the time - and is almost certain to lose the Presidency in 2004. How many times are Democrats going to fall for this garbage? Daschle, Terry McAuliffe and the rest of the Republican-leaning, money-grubbing DLC crew should be run out of town on a rail for using such a clearly losing strategy when the stakes are so high. Instead, they're maintaining their chokehold on the Dem party machinery. There are only two words to describe the situation:

Goodbye, Presidency. [link]

*****

12.8.03 - Yeah, it's been a tough couple of weeks, and yeah, I'm still working out a Web-writing schedule that feels comfortable. Meanwhile, here's a little investigatory arts piece I wrote for the local alternative rag last week. I tried giving voice to some talented graffiti artists whose work had been blatantly ripped off by a mainstream Raleigh painter who knows next to nothing about graffiti. It was bad enough that the painter had managed to convince a gallery to draw extra attention to this kind of work, but when I saw that the alt rag's obviously graffiti-impaired art critic had inexplicably raved about the show, I was disgusted enough to get off my ass and do some journalism again. Thanks to the Indy for having the guts/brains to pay me for it.

Funny that it was graffiti that got me going, eh? Don't worry, political fans, once I find a few good sites about traitors to spice it up, I'll have a post about the horrid Tom Daschle for you. For now, I'm still staving off the predictably depressing U.S. political news with art and music. And history. Lots of history.

So, art lovers, do yourself a favor and find a way to watch the first three hours of HBO's "Angels In America" this week. I read and enjoyed Tony Kushner's play a decade or so ago, but this version (which coyly drops the - ahem - obviously queer subtitle "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes") also happens to be the best damn piece of filmmaking I've seen in ages. It's brilliantly directed throughout, a point that seems to have been misplaced in this New Yorker review, which focuses far too much on the alterations made to the stage version and far too little on the joys to be found in the film itself. (As if it's news to anyone that theater and film deal with questions of narrative in different ways - yeesh.)

Anyway, aside from being gorgeously shot and edited, the film is a marvelous vehicle for a host of great actors, including Al Pacino, who rips into the juicy role of 1980s-era Roy Cohn without turning the volume up to 11 as much as usual. And the film's fantastic elements - particularly Mary-Louise Parker's hilarious/heartbreaking descent into Antarctic hallucination and Ethel Rosenberg's return from the dead to dial 911 for Roy Cohn - work beautifully to keep jittery, genre-fiction-loving brains like mine captivated. Plus, you get Meryl Streep as a Mormon mom from Utah and an aged Jewish rebbe from the Old Country. Mike Nichols, I love you.

[Oodles of thanks to Wayne - and, obliquely, Natalie - for smacking me out of my "don't believe the hype" stupor on this one.] [slightly misdated link]

*****

11.24.03 - So John Edwards' wife Elizabeth sent me a thoughtful and challenging email a few weeks ago after watching an episode of my Raleigh cable access show - one in which I sharply criticized her husband's opportunistic stance on the Iraq war and questioned his ability to win the Democratic nomination. She took polite issue with some of my TV statements as well as points made in this post. If you political junkies can get over the fact that it's almost a month old - positively ancient in blog years - you might find our exchange interesting. And yes, Elizabeth gave permission for me to reprint her email here. I may be sharp and aggressively opinionated, but I know how to show basic online respect, thank you.

-----
From: Elizabeth Edwards
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2003 9:05 PM
To: todd@monkeytime.org
Subject: From Elizabeth Edwards

Todd –

As a Raleigh resident who actually watched Monkeytime, I feel I have the room to comment on your blog, which, unless I missed it, does not invite comment. So where to start?

Let me start at the end of the story (well, not the end because we are not there yet, but start with the present.) John is leading the polls in South Carolina. In the most recent poll in New Hampshire, he is continuing his rise and is now alone in third place behind the candidates from contiguous states. New Hampshire will be a two-primary-state: the contest between Kerry and Dean and the contest among the remaining candidates. And have you been to Iowa? The people are a lot like the people of North Carolina, and John wins supporters whenever he is there. Now he hasn’t been there as often as some candidates, so he has only moved up to fourth (third in one poll only, so I will stick with fourth here), but within a couple of points of a candidate whose support has seen erosion. If trends continue, John will rise in Iowa too. Unless you believe that the race is over after Iowa and New Hampshire, you have to concede that two or more candidates will come out of that first seven days. It is not only plausible but reasonable to assume that John will be one of those candidates.

Now he has set a bar for himself that absolutely no other candidate has done in his neighboring state: he has said he has to win South Carolina. At the same time, he is also campaigning and organizing across other February 3rd states. He has attracted key supporters in these states, and although the press is keyed on South Carolina, John is in every contest. It’s pretty easy to understand how John builds on his rise in the first states and his victory in South Carolina.

I think that the best way to analyze this race is analyze each candidate’s “path to the nomination.” I am not certain that you can get a final answer that way, but you can narrow it down considerably from nine candidates. And when you do that analysis, I think you will find John in the mix at the end of the story.

Now to the television ads and your comment, which prompted this email. Now you may object that in the two ads of John that you featured, John is stating lines in a televised ad and that there is a tinkling piano in the background. That is certainly true. But you don’t mention two things. You don’t mention that some of John’s ads on that same website you visited are shot during a spontaneous town hall. Not a town hall where the participants were given questions. (One of them took place at Big Ed’s; you can ask there whether any questions or answers were choreographed. In fact I was frustrated that one particularly fabulous interaction took place when the cameraman was changing batteries. No attempt was made to recreate the moment.) And second, you appear to lump John’s ads into the criticism of Dean’s ad as “absurdly vague.” In one of John’s ads, he has specific proposals to eliminate tax advantages for corporations that move jobs overseas and to use the tax code instead to encourage businesses to stay in this country. In the other ad, he talks about his college-for-everyone program, a novel program to cover state college tuitions to students willing to work the first year. (It won’t be “novel” long; Dean mentioned that he was introducing the exact same proposal in the next week or so.)

So. Was there anything else? Oh, I know. I cannot apparently post on your blog, but you are welcome to post on John’s. http://blog.johnedwards2004.com/ We look forward to hearing from you.

Elizabeth Edwards
-----

From: Todd Morman
Sent: Friday, October 31, 2003 11:21 AM
To: Elizabeth Edwards
Subject: RE: From Elizabeth Edwards

[Do I have permission to reprint your letter at the site? It's not clear and I like to be careful about that sort of thing.]

Thanks for writing, Elizabeth. It's nice to know that you watched the show; I hope some of the thoughts about the idiocy of the center-right corporate takeover of the Democratic Party filter over to your husband as well. And the part at the end about the Pentagon report of poor post-war planning is, I think, a key point of attack on Cheney's administration.

Re the campaign: I assume you prefer honesty to spin, so I'll be honest in my reply: John's vote on the Iraq invasion was a truly unconscionable move - one clearly driven by presidential ambition and the DLC's ridiculously misguided 2002 election strategy rather than any sober analysis of the threat posed by Saddam. I find it half hilarious and half insulting that a smart lawyer like John is still defending his decision to preemptively invade another country, particularly now that the country [the USA, I meant] knows exactly how the Cheney/Rumsfeld axis cooked the intelligence to justify dropping cluster bombs on the Iraqi people. John's "I have secret knowledge about Saddam's threat from the Senate Intelligence Committee" defense has become nothing but an example of just how far the DLC will go to pander to right-wing voters. None of the nominees thrills me, but it's obvious we'd be better off with Howard Dean running a less aggressively stupid foreign policy and your husband as something like Attorney General.

John's remaining possible "paths to the nomination" are obvious enough, particularly now that the other 2nd-tier candidates have dropped out of Iowa and Kerry is looking more and more superfluous. Lieberman has been obviously sputtering for months, and Clark has no reason to be in the race other than the fact that the DLC thinks the public will only vote for a Democrat if he's a military daddy figure. But even though John has nowhere to go but up in the first two primaries, his massive media spending has produced limited gains at best. The strategy still seems paper-thin to me (similar Jim Andrews campaigns have failed repeatedly in the past [see this post for details]), and I stand by my opinion that John doesn't come across well in the ads he's relying on to carry the day. I'll leave the fundraising discussion for another time.

Re comments: I've always used a very simple HTML setup for my blog, and have never bothered with comment packages. If I get around to switching to Moveable Type, rest assured I'll turn comments on. For now, it's simply an occasional outlet for my own thoughts. (And, to be honest, I've grown a little burned out by the whole daily blogging thing; this morning is the first time I checked the computer since Wednesday afternoon.)

Thanks again for writing and for watching the TV show, and good luck to you and yours. You can count on my vote in November 2004 in the unlikely event John wins the nomination, but not before. His political career has been too much of a disappointment for a left-leaner like me to get excited about now. I do enjoy his recent rhetoric about the war on work, though. Perhaps he'd make a good Labor Secretary.

Best regards,
Todd

P.S. We sure could have used John in that Senate seat for another term or two.
-----

A cordial enough exchange, no? Particularly given the gulf that separates the Edwards' politics from mine. The conversation was the subject of much of the following week's show, of course, with viewers calling in to add their two cents. It was surprisingly immediate local television, I've been told.

Oh, for a country where lefties don't wait for the Democratic Party to create a TV network for them.

Update: I meant to note that Elizabeth Edwards has been making interesting posts at her husband's blog for months now, and has also been offering regular comments at Greensboro journalist Ed Cone's blog. Is this sort of online presence radically different from the role candidates' wives played in pre-Internet elections? I'm not sure about that. But an obvious willingness to engage in discussion is always a good sign in a presidential campaign. [link]

*****

11.24.03 - Oh, good; the Web's still here.

Let's see...how do you cook spaghetti squash in the microwave again?

Ah. Delicious.

Apologies to my sistren and brethren of the First Church of Wintermute for not doing my part lately, but a monkey needs an occasional break from daily massive injections of information. For what it's worth, I like life as a non-blogger just fine, and remain unconvinced that most bloggers (myself included) have any clue how to drive this neat new invention in a direction that effects change as real as, say, volunteering to teach poor kids to use computers. I also remain convinced that for all the blather about blogging, insuring that local municipalities demand public access television channels from cable conglomerates and then seeding those channels with smart shows would be infinitely more helpful than 99 percent of whatever comes out of blogs this year. But what the hell, I'll keep flinging my bottles into the void. I'm sure I've missed a lot, and nothing much at all, in the month I've been gone.

Three things got me back to the keyboard this morning: 1) the ongoing parade of hilariously tepid and ignorant editorials from the local daily, 2) a series of embarrassing goofs from the local "alternative" weekly - including a distorted campaign by one of its columnists for a Raleigh city council candidate and an absurd gush from its art critic over a gallery show that was nothing but a blatant theft of ideas from local street graffiti, and 3) Zez Confrey. More to come. [link]

*****

10.28.03 - Well, now, here's a smart move. Particularly given the absurdly vague and tepid loser commercials we're seeing from the mainstream ad folks now advising the Democratic field. And it's not just Dean, whose people really should be sending their candidate to basic "How To Appear Human On Television" classes. A similar problem can be seen in this John Edwards classic, or this one, both of which feature an obviously over-rehearsed candidate and gently tinkling piano. How quaint.

Does anyone think that soft-focus silliness like that will be able to dislodge someone like Dick "I'd sell my mother for a dollar" Cheney? I know these are primary ads, but is there any reason to believe that centrist Dems will risk running more pointed ads during the campaign itself? Nah. That's when they'll be sure to blather mightily about a phantom need to tone down their message and "aim for the middle." And that's when they'll lose yet another gimmie election. So I applaud MoveOn.org's attempt to get some non-DLC-approved thinking going on the ad front, and hope the Dem leadership takes its head out of its ass long enough to learn something from the rank and file. (They won't, of course, but we can always hope.)

A quick word of caution about MoveOn.org, however, for those of you who rush to join movements controlled by people whose politics you don't really know. It should be clear from MoveOn's awful performance during the Davis recall that the group probably won't run any ads during the 2004 campaign that aren't pre-approved by the stupidly centrist Clinton/DLC crowd. Let's return to the blog-ancient days of early October, and read the LA Weekly's smart, bitchy Marc Cooper discussing MoveOn's willingness to shill for a corrupt right-wing Dem like Davis:

Woe to the next person who forwards me an e-mail from some East Coast Democrat front group like MoveOn.org breathlessly warning us Californians of the hell we face with Arnold in power. MoveOn, showing its true partisan colors, is distributing posters that read — can you believe it? — “I love Gray Davis.” Having just paid a $508 car-registration fee this week after paying my kid’s hiked tuition last month at a school that just had to cut two-thirds of its class schedule, and remembering how the governor blithely played dialing-for-dollars as the energy crisis mounted and the lights went out, I’m hardly in the mood for pro-Davis lectures from simpering liberals...

[P]eople really at the bottom...are just as shut out from the system under Davis as they will be under Arnold. The tens of thousands who languish in the state’s bloated prison gulag will not miss Gray. Welfare mothers forced into demeaning workfare while their kids get prepped for that same system will suffer little change. Women’s choice and gay rights will remain the same under Arnold.

Stay with me for another jittery second and watch Cooper nail MoveOn.org in his immediate post-recall column:

Face it. Just about everything liberal activists said about the recall, just about every Cassandra-like prediction spooned out by the party hacks at MoveOn.org, failed to materialize. Far from being a Republican "power grab," the recall election culminated as a raucous festival of direct democracy. Turnout was much greater than in November. The voting system didn’t collapse...

Refusing to validate or even recognize the raw voter resentment against the political cesspool of Sacramento, liberals wound up pinned up against the wall, on the losing side of an historic voter revolt. As the insurgency swelled, the best that liberal activists could do was plug their ears, cover their eyes and rather mindlessly repeat that this all was some sinister plot linked to Florida, Texas, Bush, the Carlyle Group, Enron, and Skull and Bones. By bunkering down with the discredited and justly scorned Gray Davis, they wound up defending an indefensible status quo against a surging wave of popular disgust.

...Fortunately, much of the Democratic base is so much smarter than its leadership. Exit polling reveals much of it just plain refused to buy this crap and outright refused to lift a finger, or punch a chad, to save Davis.

Here's the kicker:

But for the moment, let the Democratic Party and its "progressive" satellites deeply, richly and slowly feel the painful consequences of allying with and defending — to death itself — the likes of Gray Davis. The harder the Democrats now have to work to hold on to constituencies they’d rather take for granted, so much the better. One day they may actually get it.

Get the point? When push came to shove in the California recall, the rhetoric coming from MoveOn became embarrassingly partisan and completely out-of-touch with the majority of clearly furious reformist voters. What a lost opportunity to begin building a new kind of cross-spectrum coalition capable of taking both of the major parties down a notch or two.

Again: It's clear that liberals like the ones behind MoveOn.org aren't going to be running any ads in 2004 that haven't been approved by central Democrat HQ. It's also clear, given central Democrat HQ's horrible recent track record, that we'll be in dire need of some truly independent - not to mention wealthy - lefties to produce and air our own "special interest" advocacy ads. DLC be damned. [link]

*****

10.22.03 - Center-left-leaning TAPPED makes a phone call and reports that the South Carolina Democratic Party is backing away from its ridiculous plan to sell ad space on its presidential primary ballots. The same state party chairman who once enthused, "Some statewide corporation may want their company identified with democracy" is now telling the world that he realized - "before anybody called us on it" - that corporate ballot sponsorship "doesn't pass the common-sense test."

Whatever. The fact that SC Dems considered the move at all, of course, hints at disaster for the future of democracy in the USA, but at least someone in the Palmetto State had the brains to realize that the plan was an insult to voters (or was just a truly awful PR move - take your pick).

To be fair, we have to acknowledge that "South Carolina is one of only two states in the country where the state parties -- as opposed to the states themselves -- finance primary elections." Forget the thorny issues that raises about state endorsement of the two-party system; the more urgent point is what it says for John Edwards' chances that the state he's chosen for his final political stand has a Democratic Party that can't cover the costs of its own primary ballot without corporate money. And make no mistake: while SC Dems won't have ballots sponsored by, say, Clear Channel, they're still "in negotiations with corporate sponsors" over who'll be paying for the programs in the state's January presidential debate. Can't wait to see whose wad o' cash wins.

Here's my favorite part, though:

As for online fundraising, that's something the local party would love to do, Erwin says. But it would be wholly novel: Right now, there is no way for anyone to make an online donation to the South Carolina Democratic Party, should they want to.

"We're looking at that right now," Erwin says. "We're reintroducing our party Web site in the next week or two. One of the things we want to build into that Web site is space for small donor donations to come in through the Internet."

"Small donor donations." How patronizing and out of touch can you get? Howard Dean is kicking Edwards' ass (and every other Dem candidate's ass) in the fundraising department, but the SC Democrat establishment is still treating the Internet like a radioactive red-headed stepchild. I feel reassured about Edwards' all-in-one-basket strategy already. [link]

*****

10.20.03 - I promised the woman I played pool with tonight that I'd post at my blawg before I went to bed, so here's a collection of must-read links about the most provocative and captivating bit of mainstream pop culture I've seen in months. Go see Kill Bill.

I've been collecting reviews of Tarantino's over-the-top epic and will have more on where they go wrong later this week. For now, ignore any of the more humorless attacks - like the one in our local alt rag that lectured, "the principal audience impulse that is being gratified is sadism" (which certainly was news to this lifelong fan of gory shocker flicks). I'm not suggesting there are no debatable points in Tarantino's approach to violence; rest assured there are plenty. I am suggesting that in order to debate them you have to see the movie first, and that there are more than enough elements to make it a fun, fascinating ride (probably helped that I saw it for free, so go to a matinee if you're iffy). Any print reviewer who dismisses Kill Bill based on its bloodshed is doing smart movie fans a disservice.

Anyway, here are some links for my pool-playing pal:

  • The Japanese version has even more gore.
  • Creative Loafing reviewer's thoughts on Jack Valenti, the MPAA and why Kill Bill didn't get an NC-17 rating
  • Tarantino's own comments about his "really great relationship with the MPAA" and why he prefers working with the group to "every jerkwater county in America having their own obscenity laws."
  • Hilariously stupid neonazi review ("I'm not going to count the number of jews involved in this production...")
  • Hilariously furious hipster review ("This is the movie they'll use in CIA mind control torture sequences when they you strap you down, shoot you full of drugs and make you watch 'Kill Bill.' It will desensitize you in no time. Maybe they'll even make you watch it when you join the Army.")
  • Some good points made in this traditionally feminist review ("Tarantino forces a battle within me, too—a conflict between woman and movie lover, feminist and art-house devotee...But Kill Bill is viciously, grossly irresponsible, not just to women but to any society that considers itself thoughtful. As he neatly stitches sex and brutality together, Tarantino plants permission in the minds of the young men who sit behind me in the theater, the men who gawk and sneer and pant at the images of cruelty...Make no mistake: This is a porno fantasy.")
  • Thoughtful, measured positive review ("Tarantino has got to be the luckiest filmmaker on earth. No one else could have gotten away with making something like this -- this orgy/fetish movie. But at least he loads it where it counts.")
  • Quentin apparently, um, gushed on LA radio last week about the way he handled blood in the film ("An assassin will get chopped and all of a sudden will have, like, garden hoses for veins...It's some of the prettiest blood you'll ever see.")
  • Be sure to read these interesting short interviews with the movie's female supervillains: Vivica, Lucy and Daryl (who is pretty sure, by the way, that it was initially her idea to split the movie in two)
  • Ditto for these interesting longer interviews with Uma and Quentin.

Okay, that's it for now. As always, the sites at the top of the page are great for info and analysis of current politics; I can't recommend Counterspin and Body and Soul enough, really. Oh, and sorry for scratching on the eightball, hon. But damn if we didn't have those guys worried for a minute there, eh? [link]

*****

10.14.03 - Ok, my 40th birthday was yesterday. It's strange how much that absorbed my mental energy this past few weeks, but I had a fun celebration and think I'm ready to start blogging again. All of you less-than-middle-aged peers might want to take heart in the knowledge that sex got dramatically better after 30. I can't wait to see what gets better this time. [link]

*****

10.8.03 - Gray Davis' defeat in California yesterday has roots in many, many causes, but - quelle surprise - the factor that won't be raised in official Democratic circles is the one that's most important. Here it is:

The center-right Democrats who controlled Gray Davis were completely out of touch with the voters who call themselves Democrats. All the rest is icing.

Don't believe me? Tell it to the hand, once you've read this November 2002 Nation article by Marc Cooper, published just after Davis got re-elected by a surprisingly small margin against a very weak Republican opponent:

Armed with a massive, $68 million war chest and faced with a bumbling challenger who even Republicans said ran the most inept campaign in the nation, Davis was expected to finish with a long, double-digit lead. But his 47-to-42-percent victory netted him five points less than he won when first elected four years ago. And Republican Simon--whom Davis greatly outspent--finished strong enough to surprise many of his supporters.

Golly. Why did that happen? Because Davis represents the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, that's why:

"We should've buried Simon and the Republicans," says a Los Angeles labor official who put in several eighteen-hour days for the Democratic ticket in the final week. "Instead, it feels like only by the grace of God we dodged a train wreck of our own."

Indeed, sifting the California election results, it's easy to conclude that a very different politics from that of the Bush White House is struggling to be born on the Left Coast. But a lack of leadership from the Democratic governor's office--to say the least--has failed to fully capitalize on that alternative potential.

Sound familiar? It should. Erskine Bowles used a similarly conservative strategy in his loss to Elizabeth Dole that same month. And guess what? The same pattern is playing out in the presidential race this year, with Wesley Clark's staff split over whether to campaign as a left-leaning, grassroots-friendly Democrat or a right-leaning, D.C.-insider Republican. Clark is clearly choosing the latter course, which means he's destined to follow Gray Davis and Erskine Bowles into political obscurity. Here's $5 if you want to bet on it. Remember, Davis barely hung onto the governorship in 2002 despite the fact that California's left-leaning voters had won important victories in the months before the vote. Cooper framed the issue beautifully, in a way that should be resonating (but almost certainly isn't) with Bowles' and Clark's campaign managers:

Indeed, sifting the California election results, it's easy to conclude that a very different politics from that of the Bush White House is struggling to be born on the Left Coast. But a lack of leadership from the Democratic governor's office--to say the least--has failed to fully capitalize on that alternative potential.

Thanks to California's massive demographic and economic shifts of the past decade, labor and especially Latino voting power has increasingly marginalized the gun lobby and along with it the Christian right...A move by homeowner groups in the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood suburbs to secede from the city was smashed by a broad coalition fueled by organized labor. School bonds were handily passed, even in once-taxophobic Orange County. And the increasingly liberal state electorate installed and retained a solidly Democratic legislature that passed a landmark global-warming bill, granted paid family leave and widened organizing rights for farmworkers.

Wonderful, eh? Too bad Gray Davis was nowhere to be found in all of those fights that galvanized the left:

But the governor refused to lead on most of these liberal issues and had to be cajoled by his own party base to sign them into law. One can only imagine how California liberals and progressives could have been mobilized over the past four years if a more Wellstonian spirit had emanated from Sacramento.

Instead, mounting Democratic disappointment with Davis produced sky-high unfavorable ratings--60 percent of the electorate expressed disapproval of Davis. It was no surprise, then, that millions of state Democrats simply didn't show up to vote.

That sure does help explain yesterday's election - to anyone who's paying attention, anyway. The point about turnout is critical:

Turnout in the overwhelmingly Democratic bastions of Los Angeles and San Francisco was the lowest in a decade.

Yeah, that'll win some Democratic seats. What is it about centrist Dems that turns off left and center-left voters? Don't ask the DNC; they refuse to acknowledge that us lefties are valuable at all, let alone essential to their chances of winning national office. What a bunch of blinkered, power-hungry morons.

Anyway, it's late, so I'll close with this: As you consider the California results, keep in mind that smart lefties were already predicting serious trouble for Davis last November, before the recall campaign began:

So Davis will begin his second term under clouds of apathy, if not antipathy. And he's not likely to make very many new friends as he confronts a whopping $24 billion budget deficit, in large part a product of his mishandling of last year's energy crisis. Los Angeles County's public healthcare is collapsing and Davis could suffer some collateral political damage if it goes down completely. And the ACLU continues pushing a class-action suit against Davis on behalf of tens of thousands of public school students who have rats and mice in their classrooms but not enough textbooks.

Sure sounds like a recipe for success, doesn't it? Here's the key bit:

GOP strategists were guardedly optimistic after Tuesday's results. Many had gone into the election fearing their party could suffer a greater loss than in 1998, when its gubernatorial candidate, Dan Lungren, finished with a paltry 38 percent.

"What our late polling found instead is that for the first time in years, there was no longer an automatic anti-Republican bias among California voters," says a leading GOP consultant. "No question that if the Democrats had fielded a less unpopular candidate they would have done better. But our candidate was a boob, and he came within a handful of points of unseating Gray Davis. I'd say the next election is wide open for us."

That last prediction may just be Republican spin. But maybe not. Arnold Schwarzenegger (who sponsored an after-school program initiative overwhelmingly approved by voters, with the active support of the pro-Democrat teachers' union) is already being groomed by the GOP as the probable gubernatorial candidate for 2006.

2006? Hell, Republicans didn't even have to wait that long, thanks to California's unusually easy recall law, which is among the loosest of laws in the 18 states that allow recalls.

Which makes Arnold something of a political coward, of course - a guy who chose his moment carefully to minimize the amount of time he had to spend campaigning on the issues, and maximize his artifically inflated name recognition. Real macho stuff. It worked, though, didn't it?

Better wake up, folks; U.S. politics won't ever be the same after this one. But don't forget that Arnold never could have won if Davis hadn't been such a center-right political tool who'd completely misread the voting population.

And that's the most important lesson of the 2003 California recall circus. [link]

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10.2.03 - Look, you don't have any cause to be upset that I haven't posted in over a week. I'm in an absorbing rather than spewing mode right now, sorry, with attention drawn particularly to the Clubmen's "Peaceable Army" at the height of the English Civil Wars of the mid-1600s. Fascinating stuff for all you jittery mouse-clickers, if you can stop caring about moronic mainstream polls long enough to learn a bit of deeply relevant history.

Besides, if you're not regularly reading BodyandSoul, The Sideshow, Counterspin, Metafilter, Atrios and the other sites linked above (which provide tons of pointers to evidence supporting left-leaning positions), reading this blog probably won't help.

But, hey, I like you anyway. You actually care what I think about the Michael Peterson trial (he'll be acquitted), beach erosion, Loretta Lynn, electronic voting that doesn't leave a paper trail, and the completely unjustifiable exemption for newspapers that was recently written into NC's "do not call" law.

Check back in a day or two for specifics. When my brain and fingers agree it's time to spew again rather than simply absorb it all as it passes by, you'll be the first to know. [link]

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9.24.03 - Let's see...if I'm curious about the reality behind John Edwards run, which should I bother reading? A jokey, almost hilariously superficial 550-word toss-off from the N&O's lead political columnist? Or an in-depth, highly readable, 7,400-word debate between the editors of two intelligent political magazines? Decisions, decisions...

Don't get me wrong, Rob Christensen's a great reporter who's generally being wasted on the grind of superficial day-to-day political coverage. But it's been years now and Christensen still can't seem to get the hang of writing a political column. What's up with that? His attempts almost always come across as stiff and shallow, and are often needlessly insulting (except when he's writing another of those history pieces that work well for him). It's a shame the folks at the N&O don't seem to understand that there are different skills involved, and that Christensen simply doesn't seem to have what it takes to be an engaging columnist.

Meanwhile, that debate between Chapel Hill-based Jason Zengerle and Garance Franke-Ruta, editors at The New Republic and The American Prospect, respectively, is an entertaining, well-written and highly informative exploration of Edwards' very poor chances at higher elective office. There's simply no reason to bother with a phoned-in 550-word column in the local daily when much deeper analysis is available at the click of a mouse. [link]

*****

9.24.03 - For obvious reasons, I don't like it when people use "monkey" as an insult, but I'd still love more political protests that are as funny and creative as this one, please. [Thanks, tengu.] [link]

*****

9.24.03 - Mystery writer Sara Paretsky's recent op-ed about the Patriot Act is up at Truthout.org (whose managing editor William Rivers Pitt, by the way, will be speaking at UNC's Carroll Hall this Friday at 7pm). Paretsky's essay is a must-read, from her discussion of "the cloud of unknowing" that surrounds three disgusting episodes of overzealous law enforcement through the memories of her chilling experience during the Cold War, "when religion and patriotism were conflated." It's actually a shorter version of a very engaging speech, "Truth, Lies and Duct Tape: Writing in an Age of Silence," available at her Web site, which includes fascinating info about her interest in the Taliban pre-September 11th. For those too busy to read even the shorter of the two, here it is in a nutshell:

A few years ago, I was almost arrested in the middle of the night. The police stopped a hit man just before he reached his target. The hit man had a card with my name and the title of one of my books on the seat next to him, and the police were sure I was involved. But they had to get a warrant, and the assistant state's attorney wouldn't issue it. Today, though, the cops could just come and get me. And U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft thinks that's fine...

I think of Patrick Henry's cry to the Burgesses, "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?" and William Lloyd Garrison's cry to slavery forces, "I am in earnest. I will not equivocate; I will not excuse; I will not retreat a single inch; and I will be heard." I don't want ever to face the choice the U.S. Congress gave Dashiell Hammett: choose between prison and betraying my friends. I don't want to be pilloried in the papers, as my parents were, or have my books blacklisted. But even more, I hope if I am put to the test for my beliefs, I will be strong enough to stand with our true patriots, with Patrick Henry and William Lloyd Garrison, with Dashiell Hammett--and my parents.

I've never been much for mystery fiction (don't mind it, just too busy with robots and elves, I guess), but I think the next genre book I read is going to feature V. I. Warshawski. Perhaps even the new one, Blacklist, due next week. [link]

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9.22.03 - Want to know more about General Wesley Clark than 99% of the population? When you've had your fill of the smiley-faced spin in the Clarksphere, take a few minutes to read this transcript from last Thursday's Democracy Now radio show. Turns out Mr. Clark is about as anti-war as I am heterosexual - i.e., not much. Steve Rendall of FAIR sticks to the reality, not the current spin:

Our problem is not with Wesley Clark's campaign, it's with the media's portrayal of him. One point I'd like to say, your listeners should go look at the daily column that Clark wrote for the Times of London, right around the time of the fall of Baghdad. He wrote there, for instance, the day after the fall of Baghdad he wrote "Liberation is at hand. Liberation, the powerful bomb that justifies painful sacrifices, erases lingering doubts and reinforces bold actions." He also wrote that George W. Bush and prime minister Tony Blair "should be proud of their resolve in the face of so much doubt".

This is the day after, this is on April 10, the day after the so called fall of Baghdad. He was cheering this event, and it's very hard for us to see reporters casting him as antiwar candidate.

FAIR offers more specifics at its own site, including this gem from the "anti-war" general's column in the London Times on April 11:

"The campaign in Iraq illustrates the continuing progress of military technology and tactics, but if there is a single overriding lesson it must be this: American military power, especially when buttressed by Britain's, is virtually unchallengeable today. Take us on? Don't try! And that's not hubris, it's just plain fact."

Yeah, that's not hubris. Whatever you say, General. Be sure to read the entire transcript, in which Zoltan Grossman and Robert Fisk share some interesting info about Clark's handling of the reprehensible NATO bombing of Yugoslavia:

...over and over again when NATO has bombed the target, it was clearly illegitimate. Or when they killed large number of civilians, they were either silenced, or they lied. We had the...infamous occasion when American aircraft bombed an Albanian refugee convoy in Kosovo...NATO claimed later it was probably Serb aircraft. It was only when we got there and found the NATO markings on the bomb, that NATO fessed up admitted that they had done it themselves and had been confused...

NATO, in its war against the Serbs, committed a number of acts which I think are very close to war crimes, and General Clark was the commander.

Michael Moore appears to have overlooked an awful lot of dead bodies before begging Wesley Clark to save the left in America. For a sharp contrast try this less gullible take, which makes a decent case that the Clark/Clinton/NATO campaign, yes, involved war crimes. Indiscriminate bombings? Lying about and covering up civilian casualties? Depleted uranium? Cluster bombs blowing up marketplaces? Gosh, is any of this sounding familiar?

I haven't made up my mind among the Democratic presidential candidates yet, but one piece of conventional wisdom I know is garbage is the one that says Dems can only win by running a military Daddy figure. Puh-lease. Anyone with the guts to call Bush a blatant liar on the campaign trail - and to aggressively attack him for entangling us in Iraq at the absolute stupidest possible time - should find the 2004 election a slam dunk. And it's not at all clear that Clark (who comes with lots more baggage than you might think) is the best guy for the job. In fact, the more I read about the General and his familiar crew of handlers, the less I like him.

Apparently, we're supposed to think that Dems are so out-of-touch with Americans that they have no choice but to take as their savior a man who once voted for a clown like Ronald Reagan for president. Yeah, I'll get right on that. My favorite part of that last link is where Clark declines to clarify his Republican past by using the phrase, "I imagine that I voted for Reagan at one time or another." He imagines he voted for Reagan. Well, I imagine I'll be voting for someone other than you, Wesley. Do the folks advising Clark really believe they'll be able to get away with weasely garbage like that?

To be clear: I'm not dead-set against a Clark nomination - hell, I'd vote for the rotting corpse of Harry "what the hell, let's bomb Nagasaki too" Truman over the current crop of White House liars. But even as we acknowledge that a guy who "took four bullets from the Viet Cong" will be useful against everyone's favorite fake fighter pilot, let's not kid ourselves about what a Clark nomination would mean: another triumph for the wealthy, business-as-usual wing of the Democratic Party.

Screw 'em. As far as I can see, no one has yet demonstrated that what the Democrats most need is a general who is also an almost unbelievably inexperienced campaigner. The guy can't even get his own message straight:

What has puzzled some political professionals is that the general's expertise is supposed to be as a military commander, strong on preparation and organization, and yet he does not seem to have a structure or strategy in place for a campaign.

This was immediately evident last week when he announced his candidacy. He did so before hiring a campaign manager and filling other important slots — and before he seemed to have thought through his positions. This was apparent as he reversed himself on the issue on which was perceived to have the most credibility — the war in Iraq.

On Thursday, the day after he announced his candidacy, he said, "I probably would have voted for" the resolution. On Friday, he backtracked, saying, "I never would have voted for war." But last October, according to The Associated Press, he said he supported a Congressional resolution to give President Bush authority to use military force against Iraq.

Christ, what a boneheaded move. In one fell swoop (probably due to his desire to step on Edwards' announcement), Clark completely punctured his image as a thoughtful alternative to Lieberman and Gephardt, while at the same time obviously trying to weasel out of his past Republican voting record. Assuming he's not a complete political moron, his forked tongue has to be seen as a deliberate strategy to blur his positions and win over conservative voters. Pissing off the left while tepidly reaching out to the right is, after all, the centrist Democrat way. Worked real well in those 2002 Congressional elections, didn't it?

Make the candidates work for your primary vote, please. Especially you liberals looking for a military Daddy to take care of you. [link]

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9.22.03 - Out of the mouths of citizens...

Atrios links a recent letter to the LA Times:

I heard an estimate that it would take $8 billion per year to inspect all shipping containers coming into U.S. ports. At $160 billion and climbing for Iraq, this means we could have inspected all those crates for 20 years. Feel safer yet?

Now there's a Democratic ad I'd like to see. Simple, to-the-point, and deadly to the re-election chances of our neocon-owned president. [link]

*****

You can't stop now.

September 2003

Second half of August 2003

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First half of June 2003

May 2003

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