Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Best Movies of 2003

For what it's worth, here's my list of Best Movies of 2003:

Of the movies I've seen and in no particular order:

· American Splendor
· Capturing the Friedmans - excruciating, sad
· Shattered Glass - being a fan of The New Republic magazine, I couldn't miss this one
· 21 Grams
· Bad Santa - funniest movie the year, bar none
· Laurel Canyon (Actually from last year?)
· Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - nothing beats it for sheer spectacle
· Mystic River
· City of God
· The Station Agent - great trio for a cast - humorous, touching study of loneliness
· 28 Days Later - best "horror" flick of the year
· Finding Nemo - truly a gem
· Lost in Translation
· Angels in America - OK, so it was HBO, big deal: NYT's Stephen Holden named it his "number one choice."
· Secret Lives of Dentists

Coulda Been Contenders (unseen by me unfortunately):

· Marooned in Iraq
· Lost in la Mancha
· Fog of War
· Triplets of Belleville

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

"I am a human being. Nothing human is alien to me." - Terrence, Roman playwright, slave.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Apparently, the Catholic church has more compassion for the Butcher of Baghdad than for gays.

"I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures." Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Justice and Peace department, commenting on the photos and video released depicting Saddam's teeth a good going over.

My guess is the examination was likely to confirm his identity by comparing his teeth against dental records, so the criticism is kinda absurd.

Human rights should be the highest priority of the church, but when their regard for a bloody dictator like Hussein is higher than a whole innocent segment of the world's population, well, that's revolting. The malevolence with which the church regards homosexuals is contemptible, so their complaints about the treatment of Hussein strike me as eminently hypocritical.

Speaking of pre-emption, Senator Robert Byrd speaks out rather eloquently against it in the wake of Hussein's capture:

Early this morning came news of the capture of Saddam Hussein. That is good news. Despite his fall from power many months ago, the specter of a possible return to power had cast a constant shadow over Iraq and the Iraqi people. I applaud the tenacious work of the military and intelligence communities for their success today.

But that success does not diminish the challenges that remain in Iraq, and it certainly does not tamp the passions inflamed against the United States throughout the Muslim world by our actions in Iraq. The capture of Saddam Hussein will not be the keystone for peace in that volatile region. This day's news does not lessen the danger that the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strike poses to international peace and stability.
Contrary to what some would have us believe, it is possible to be firmly against Saddam Hussein and against pre-emptive strikes. Senator Byrd illustrates the point cogently.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Exile The Little Red Hen Already

I like Glenn Reynolds, but I'm sick of seeing this daft Lil' Red Hen metaphor:

"Years ago I compared the international community's behavior to The Little Red Hen. It's a comparison that just keeps working."

Reynolds uses the metaphor to comment on international response to Hussein's capture, but I've more often seen it used to justify divvying up the spoils in Iraq.

So, other than the fact that the Lil' Red Hen sounded like a self-righteous lil' bitch (and an Ayn Rand wet dream), here's the problem I have with that metaphor: She was creating and maintaining assets, cooking up a nice loaf of bread for herself, right? Well, I thought the US presence in Iraq was about liberation, not asset accumulation. The metaphor rots to high heaven in this context, my friend.

Furthermore, when folks apply the The Lil' Red Hen metaphor to who gets what contracts in Iraq, they insinuate that the United States should get the spoils (which the war wasn't supposed to be about), since the United States did all the work. Well, the people of Iraq should have some say in the matter shouldn't they? Otherwise, the Bush administration's desire to mandate and regulate every facet of Iraq's reconstruction smacks greatly of the very neo-imperialism so many of us have been decrying.

I hope Reynold's isn't applying the metaphor in this context; he does say the comparison "keeps working." It doesn't work, man, so quit it. All ya'll.

Thank god Saddam's gone. Thank god the people of Iraq are free. Pray to god this country doesn't continue down this same swaggering, self-righteous path again anytime soon.
On his recent hunting expedition--well, "killfest" might be more accurate--Dick Cheney shot more than 70 (seventy) ringneck pheasant and "an unkown number of mallard ducks: in one day. It's actually called a "canned hunt." So there's no pretense of any real sport being involved.

Now, I'm not entirely against all sorts of hunting, but how do you not consider that blood sport plain and simple? How disturbing that *anyone* (let alone the second in command of the United States) would derive pleasure from shooting and killing more than 70 animals in a single day. I mean imagine the man striding thrugh the underbursh, shotgun in hand, steely-eyed, efficient. Methodical. It's bizarre. Wouldn't you get tired of the whole game after shooting, say, seven or eight birds? But, no. Cheney went on killing and killing and killing. And killing.

The facts of this slaughter add another disturbing dimension to Cheney's character.

If I had the opportunity to interview him, perhaps I'd ask, "So how does it feel after the . . . 50th bird?"

"Do you still get the same rush?"

"Is the scent of blood and cordite just as rich?"

Matt Bivens writes much better than me on the same topic for The Nation.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

From the New York Times on Senator Paul Simon:

Barely two years into his Senate term, Mr. Simon began campaigning for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. In his announcement, he said he would not abandon Democratic principles. "I'm glad there is a Republican Party,'' he declared, "but one Republican Party is enough.''

Truly good and great politicians are few and far between. Former Sen. Paul Simon was one. He died today at 75 after undergoing heart surgery.

"Almost one-fourth of our children are living in poverty. No other western industrialized nation has anything close to that figure. This is not an act of God. There is no divine intervention that says children in America have to live in poverty more than children in Italy, or Denmark, or Great Britain, or Canada, or other western industrialized nations. It a result of flawed policy. It is a result of policy that panders to those who make campaign contributions rather than to needs . . . I want you to challenge us and to reach out to people within our nation. When we say the pledge of allegiance, we say 'one nation, under God, indivisible.' We ought to be achieving that goal and I want you to help us achieve it ." Then Senator Paul Simon in an address at the Wesleyan University Commencement May 25, 1997

A Google Search for miserable failure brings up George Bush's bio on the Whitehouse site as the first result. This BBC article explains how "Google bombing" works. You may have also noticed how typing weapons of mass destruction into Google takes you to a satirical error message. Same principle.

Using Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" feature takes you directly to those pages.

In other words, you could use words like drug addict to link to Rush Limbaugh's site, and if enough people did it, well, you'd type "drug addict" into Google and be taken to his site.

Cool, huh?

Why on earth would a woman--Rosa Parks--who so bravely stood up for freedom try to quash it now? OutKast's song "Rosa Parks" bears her name but only alludes to her in the lyrics. The Supreme Court refused to intervene. They should've thrown this out.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Loathing Disguised as Love

The sad thing about this column by Kathleen Parker is that she clearly thought she was displaying wisdom and tolerance when she wrote it. In the first half of the article she professes her profound love for her gay friends and for "well, the whole gay thing. I love my gay friends and relatives, not to mention my hairdresser; I love what gays do to urban neighborhoods; I love gay humor, gay style and whatshisname in 'My Best Friend's Wedding.'"

So, OK, Ms. Parker loves gays as long as they're entertaining her. In the second half of her piece, however, she reveals her truly virulent bias--a bias simply steeped in traditional thinking, which doesn't even begin to hold up under the lightest scrutiny. She says:

"Making homosexual unions equal to heterosexual unions -- the superior natural order of which cannot be disputed -- is not just a small step for equality. It is a gargantuan leap from a natural order that has served mankind throughout civilized human society."

Huh. Well, for thousands of years folks believed that men's superiority to women was part of a natural order too. And white people were supposedly naturally superior to blacks. Clearly, folks were wrong about those opinions, and they're wrong to believe that a heterosexual union is innately superior to a homosexual one, too OR that heterosexual parents are innately better than homosexual parents.

Elsewhere, Parker says, "Surely no one needs a scientific study to 'prove' what is written in our human DNA -- that sons and daughters need the qualities of both their parents, mother and father." Ignoring for the moment that she would rather ignore science and trust her gut, let's note that Parker says here that kids need the contribution of two parents, a male and female. Would she logically then say that a single parent couldn't raise a child as appropriately as a couple? If so, wouldn't a child of two gay parents be better off than the child of a single parent? Wouldn't the child of a gay couple certainly be far better off than the child of abusive heterosexual parents? In fact, don't the qualifications for being good parents have far less to do with traditional gender roles and whether one parent is male and one female and far more to do with specific qualities which should be valued in either gender: strength, tenderness, intelligence, tolerance, compassion, patience, and simple common sense, for example?

There are so many holes in Parker's arguments--arguments she declares beyond disputation--that I don't even know where to begin. Allow me to zero in on this one though: To pretend that a few thousand years of human tradition justifies discrimination is an outrage. In the larger scheme of things, ten thousand odd years of recorded human history is a drop in the bucket of time. Humanity is still young as a species and the sooner we escape the youthful trappings of hate and ignorance, the better.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Go to the Human Rights Campaign site and send a letter to your senators and state representative, asking them ot vote against any amendment that would discriminate against gay couples.

As the letter provided details, the successful passage of such an amendment "would be the first time in history that the Constitution was amended to restrict the rights of a whole class of people, in conflict with its guiding principle to provide equal protection for all."

These guys at MoveOn are great. They've even launched an online Fox Watch Group to track Fox News's partisan bias. Glad someone's gonna hold Fox to their "fair and balanced" mantra.

How on earth does Alan Colmes maintain composure whenever he says that? Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, I get. They may actually believe Fox News is fair and balanced.

Sponsored by MoveOn, the Bush in 30 Seconds contest invites folks to create their own 30-second political ad "that tells the truth about George W. Bush." The winning ad will air during the week of Bush's 2004 State of the Union address. Judges include Moby, Michael Moore, Jack Black and Margaret Cho.

Additionally, MoveOn encourages individuals to organize showings of Uncovered: the Whole Truth About the War in Iraq around the country this Sunday. You can pick up a DVD for about $15.

Some solid reading on Stephen Glass:

Columbia Journalism Review interview with for New Republic editor Charles Lane, who fired Glass. Lane talks about his assistance with and opinion of the movie, Shattered Glass.

CJR's Gal Beckerman also reviews Shattered Glass. Having also read Glass's fictionalization of the events in The Fabulist, Beckerman concludes, "Unlike the facile version in the film, Stephen Glass himself seems clearly to imply that he was brought down not because he was a striving journalist who violated the basic tenets of a noble profession, but, rather, because he always thought they were a joke."

Monday, December 01, 2003

Bush or Chimp?, a site comparing photos of George W. Bush with those of various chimpanzees may not show appropriate respect for the resident president, but it sure is funny.

Libertarian Radley Balko's now-famous post in which he succinctly skewers Bill Bennett for his enormous hypocrisy. "Your vices -- sinful, regretful, damnable. My vices -- not so bad. The guy lost $1.4 million in one two month stretch. But he doesn't have a problem. Cancer patients who want to smoke marijuana -- they're the ones who have a problem."

In this longer post, Balko really excoriates Bennett as well as the conservatives who refuse to acknowledge his hypocrisy. (Apply same algorithm to Rush Limbaugh.)

· The estimated number of diagnoses of AIDS through 2002 in the United States is 886,575.

· Adult and adolescent AIDS cases total 877,275 with 718,002 cases in males and 159,271 cases in females.

· Through the same time period, 9,300 AIDS cases were estimated in children under age 13.

· Estimated number of deaths of persons with AIDS is 501,669, including 496,354 adults and adolescents, and 5,315 children under age 15.

The above statistics were taken from the Centers for Disease Control site.

Learn more about World AIDS Day.