Archive for December, 2006

December 31, 2006

By the way, happy new year. 2007 is going to be quite a trip.


December 31, 2006

Matt Stoller, who has always been pretty skeptical about John Edwards, seems to be warming up to him. I’m pretty much in the same position – I was unimpressed during the 2004 election, when he seemed like kind of a lightweight, but since then he’s really come into his own, and right now he seems to be the only one trying to make the nascent 2008 elections about actual issues.

Look at the other people who are running right now. Clinton seems to have decided that the best way to sway people who have already decided they don’t like her is by avoiding things like principles or convictions. Everybody loves Obama, but he seems to be banking more on star power, optimism and his winning smile than anything truly tangible. Biden … well, he’s always kind of been part of the problem.

Edwards is the only one not running away from a progressive platform. Hell, he’s the only one who even has a platform. It’s really refreshing to see a candidate whose campaign seems to have a basis in some very real issues confronting America. Not only that, his positions on those same issues actually make sense in a way that I haven’t heard any other candidates match.

December 30, 2006

This Mother Jones article has some pretty unfortunate examples of advertising and corporate sponsorship run amock, but this one has to be my favorite of the bunch:

Announcing Rumsfeld’s resignation, Bush said, “It’s tough in a time of war, when people see carnage on their Dell television screens.” Dell’s chairman is a major gop donor.

It’s a great metaphor for what the White House has been reduced to – essentially an apparatus of the private sector.

December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein’s execution was pretty much inevitable, but the way it was carried out still struck me as sudden, as if there was a rush to hang him within a certain time frame. And then I read Juan Cole’s mention that Hussein was executed on a Sunni holy day, and it started to make sense.

This execution was an obscenity, top to bottom. Let’s ignore my qualms about using the death penalty for anyone, even somebody like Hussein. Let’s disregard the extremely questionable state of the Iraqi courts, and the way in which this trial was prosecuted. Let’s even forget about the way that the media is covering this execution, attempting to strip Hussein of what little humanity he has left but instead just revealing something cold and disturbing in our national psyche.

What we’ve still got is a calculated slap in the face to what’s left of the Baathists in Iraq. You think “Bring ’em on” was bad for sectarian violence? See what happens next here. The timing was, of course, coordinated with the Bush administration, though they deny it.

And because Josh Marshall has the best take on the administration’s bloodlust for Hussein, I’m going to pretty much just quote his entire post here:

This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur — phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It’s a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us.

Try to dress this up as an Iraqi trial and it doesn’t come close to cutting it — the Iraqis only take possession of him for the final act, sort of like the Church always left execution itself to the ‘secular arm’. Try pretending it’s a war crimes trial but it’s just more of the pretend mumbojumbo that makes this out to be World War IX or whatever number it is they’re up to now.

The Iraq War has been many things, but for its prime promoters and cheerleaders and now-dwindling body of defenders, the war and all its ideological and literary trappings have always been an exercise in moral-historical dress-up for a crew of folks whose times aren’t grand enough to live up to their own self-regard and whose imaginations are great enough to make up the difference. This is just more play-acting.

These jokers are being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that the whole thing’s a mess and that they’re going to be remembered for it — defined by it — for decades and centuries. But before we go, we can hang Saddam. Quite a bit of this was about the president’s issues with his dad and the hang-ups he had about finishing Saddam off — so before we go, we can hang the guy as some big cosmic ‘So There!’

Marx might say that this was not tragedy but farce. But I think we need to get way beyond options one and two even to get close to this one — claptrap justice meted out to the former dictator in some puffed-up act of self-justification as the country itself collapses in the hands of the occupying army.

Marty Peretz, with some sort of projection, calls any attempt to rain on this parade “prissy and finicky.” Myself, I just find it embarrassing. This is what we’re reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there’s nothing else this president can get right.

What do you figure this farce will look like 10, 30 or 50 years down the road? A signal of American power or weakness?

December 29, 2006

Is it just me or has Lieberman got even worse since his general election victory? Take for example his op-ed in today’s Post, called Why We Need More Troops in Iraq. After trying to paint himself as anti-war candidate during the later days of the election, Lieberman is back as one of the war’s biggest cheerleaders. But since “stay the course” is no longer politically viable, he’s taking the most intellectually dishonest position possible.

Take this paragraph for example:

This bloodshed, moreover, is not the inevitable product of ancient hatreds. It is the predictable consequence of a failure to ensure basic security and, equally important, of a conscious strategy by al-Qaeda and Iran, which have systematically aimed to undermine Iraq’s fragile political center. By ruthlessly attacking the Shiites in particular over the past three years, al-Qaeda has sought to provoke precisely the dynamic of reciprocal violence that threatens to consume the country.

The implication that the civil strife in Iraq is just part of some master plot by Iran and al-Qaeda is completely absurd. Al-Qaeda, as he mentions in the op-ed, is Sunni, but Iran is overwhelmingly Shi’ite. But subtle distinctions like that are irrelevant to Lieberman, since they’re both, you know, evil, and therefore must be working together.

Besides, we’re talking about a country with several warring and ideologically disparate factions forced to coalesce into one country by the British Empire’s completely aribitrary partitioning. Under Hussein, the Sunni minority were given status while the Shi’ites were marginalized and Kurds persecuted. How are those not the perfect conditions for a civil war to erupt once the government collapses? Lieberman would have us believe, however, that civil war would not even be a possibility without some evil Dr. Doom-esque puppet masters pulling the strings.

And I just love this sentence (emphasis mine):

On this point, let there be no doubt: If Iraq descends into full-scale civil war, it will be a tremendous battlefield victory for al-Qaeda and Iran.

What the hell would you call what it’s in right now? I thought were past the point of pretending that this is anything but a full-scale civil war.

What really gets to me about this is that Lieberman isn’t an idiot. I’m a high school student and he’s a prominent voice on national security in the United States Senate – I don’t think he’s so detached from reality that he lacks a basic understanding of what’s going on in Iraq. So this is something else. It’s not a call for an actual solution – it’s Lieberman once again positioning himself where he thinks the center lies, regardless of whether or not that aligns with reality.

Senator Lieberman, your seat isn’t up for grabs again until 2012, and if you run for president in 2008, you’re going to lose again. So in the meantime, please try to find the basic human decency to try looking for actual solutions instead of cheap political points.

December 28, 2006

For those who don’t really understand what’s going on in Somalia right now, the always awesome Ze Frank has a great cliffnotes version.

December 28, 2006

So I saw The Good Shepherd last night, or as it was called in the early development stages, The Godfather for WASPs. Overall, a great movie, and well worth the three hours required to sit through the whole thing.

It’s taken me until now to figure out what I think of Matt Damon’s performance in the movie, but I eventually decided that I liked it. Every movie I’ve seen him in he’s been really restrained and somewhat emotionless, and in this movie moreso than in anything else he’s done. In most actors, I would call that just bad acting, but in Damon it actually does look like restraint. It looks like an actual artistic choice on the part of Damon and the director, Robert DeNiro.

And for the most part, it works. That kind of half-dead, emotionless man seems perfect for the CIA, especially the CIA portrayed in the movie. It takes some courage, I think, to make a man that emotionless and unsympathetic the protagonist of a film. Even Michael Corleone at least shed the occasional tear.

What makes this film really interresting and really disturbing is that it has the ring of truth to it. This is perhaps the only spy movie I’ve ever seen that I can buy taking place in our world instead of some parallel universe. Considering what the movie has to say about the Cold War, and the methods that the Americans used to fight it, that’s more than a little unsettling.

December 26, 2006

I’m something of a bad movie snob. A lot of people are content to watch Battlefield: Earth, Batman and Robin or Gigli and walk away from it thinking, “Wow. That’s the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”

Not me. When I set out to see a terrible movie, I want it to be truly atrocious. The kind of bad that just completely blows your mind. The kind of terrible that makes you think, “Who in god’s name could possibly think this would appeal to anyone except for people who like to watch bad movies for fun, like me?”

So imagine my excitement when one of the gifts I received on Christmas day was a copy of Robo Vampire. The movie so bad it’s actually two bad movies awkwardly stitched together to make an even worse movie. The movie so bad that when I first watched it with a friend of mine he couldn’t psychologically handle how terrible it was and had some kind of minor anxiety attack.

I can’t wait to watch this movie again. In the meantime, here’s a good review of it for the uninitiated. And a YouTube clip of one of my favorite dialogue exchanges in the movie.

December 24, 2006

Like a good little Jewboy, I attended Sunday school in preparation for my Bar Mitzvah, where I would ostensibly learn Hebrew. Hebrew is a difficult language, though, so the farthest I got was learning to read it phonetically, a skill which I’ve since mostly lost. That was enough for me to read from the Torah on the big day, and I haven’t really used it since then.

Anyway, when I was learning Hebrew phonetically I used to bitch (or kvetch, rather) quite a bit about how difficult it was, thanks to things like the vowels being optional punctuation, the existence of trope (additional punctuation that instructed one how to properly chant the words), etc.

And then I read this post and I realized how much of a giant pussy I really am when it comes to languages.

December 24, 2006

Happy holidays, everybody.

There’s not going to be much in the way of breaking news over the next week or so, so don’t expect much here. Although, a friend just recently got me to sit down and actually listen to the band Placebo, and they’re pretty good. That’s breaking news to me, at least.

For once I’ve got literally nothing going on today until Christmas Eve dinner. So I’m off to spend the entire day playing around with GarageBand and my newish keyboard, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I might post the results up here if anything, you know, musical comes out of it. The odds of that happening are pretty small, though.

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