Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Smells Good, Too

This is pretty funny.

"That Sounds Terrible! I Have to See it Now!"

*Sniff* Aw, man, was that you?
New York Magazine has a funny piece about the new Will Smith movie, Seven Pounds: "How Bad Is Seven Pounds' Ending, Anyway?" Turns out it's pretty bad.

Don't read the article if you're planning on seeing the movie and/or just don't want to know the ending.

The comments section is also worth perusing. My brother and I agreed a few weeks ago that, as my brother put it, comments sections get us "to cynical, misanthropic rage or depression in mere minutes." But this one is pretty funny. Here are some highlights:
Holy crap! That sounds terrible! I have to see it now!

He *could* have given his eyes to Tom Cruise instead but alas, the eye patch persists.

The jellyfish part sounds like something I'd write. Yikes.

Haha. This is so wrong, yet so right.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Super Duper Q & A

Charles Kaiser lays out yet another failure on the part of The New York Times in his piece today in The Columbia Journalism Review. Vice President Dick Cheney admitted in an ABC interview that he approved the use of what the Bush Administration likes to call "aggressive interrogation techniques." That's a big story, and the Times ignored it.

Kaiser quotes Harper's Scott Horton as saying the following:
[Waterboarding] has been defined as torture by the United States since at least 1903, the first military court-martial. The United States views waterboarding conducted for intelligence purposes during wartime as a war crime, and it has prosecuted both civilian and military figures involved in the chain of approval of its use. Penalties applied have ranged up to the death penalty. The crime is chargeable under the War Crimes Act and under the Anti-Torture Statute. There is no ambiguity or disagreement among serious lawyers on this part...
The use of waterboarding (actually, a different technique) by some United States military personnel in the Philippines – you remember, when we were saving our "little brown brothers" from themselves – shocked the nation. Have we really slipped this far? Why are we not as horrified?

Oh, but that's just Harper's. You know, a bunch of liberals. Never mind that, as Kaiser points out, retired major general Anthony Taguba wrote, “there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.” (As Kaiser says, "the Times also ignored that one.")

Oh, but Taguba clearly has an axe to grind. He led the investigation into Abu Ghraib, and was subsequently thanked for his efforts by being put out to pasture. Never mind that we prosecuted Nazis for their use of waterboarding as a war crime.

And never mind that the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a bi-partisan report that found that this Administration's efforts to gather information "on how to use aggressive techniques, [redefine] the law to create the appearance of their legality, and [authorize] their use against detainees...damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority."

And never mind that intelligence experts have repeatedly and unequivocally said that torture – or "enhanced interrogation techniques," or "super duper Q & A," or "questions on steroids," or "a gentle tickle under the chin," or whatever you want to call it – does nothing but get false information and hurt our cause.

Never mind all of these things. If politicians can be viewed as tough and get a boost in the polls, by golly, we should undermine our international reputation and ignore our principles.

Good thing for this Administration that The New York Times is the "newspaper of record." But the Times should understand that it's gunning for irrelvance by continually dropping the ball. Worse than that, it's aiding and abetting criminals.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The "Bleeps" Are Redacted

Patrick Fitzgerald is my hero. He has just been kicking ass and taking names, and he has a clean-cut, Elliot Ness demeanor to boot. At a press conference a few days ago he read portions of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's expletive-spiced phone conversations, and concluded one such quotation with the statement, "...the 'bleeps' are redacted."

Gov. Blagojevich's behavior is appalling, and indicative of a sociopathy that is all-too common among the political and corporate leadership classes (for an example of the latter, look at the Big Three CEOs, who flew their private jets to DC to ask Congress for their bailout – that was not merely a PR blunder). When sociopaths finally get their comeuppance, they look completely clueless; their lack of awareness of other people, which is often what enables them to rocket forward in their careers, is also a type of stupidity, and, when they finally get nailed, they shrink, in our eyes, from intimidating figures to little idiots.

In Illinois, Fitzgerald comes out a hero, further raises his profile, and moves that much closer to his ultimate career goals, whatever they may be. While we can talk about the two men's ethics from a strictly moralistic perspective, I prefer to point out that this scandal is a lesson in short-term vs. long-term gain: the fat-cat pol demanding illegal cash vs. the hard-working US Attorney steadily building a case. Who comes out on top in the end? And I don't mean to ask who wins in this case; imagine that Fitzgerald and Blagojevich are completely unrelated. Nor do I mean to ask who gains in a karmic sense. Rather, the two men's different approaches to life can show us that we gain in the here and now by doing the right thing. Doing the wrong thing is a result of limited intelligence and imagination.

I realize that this may be a rather idealistic proposition; for one thing, as Mr. Rogers said, "good people do bad things," especially in difficult circumstances. For another, there are plenty of Blagojeviches in the world, and they distort the "doing well by doing good" input-output loop. I say this assuming that Gov. Blagojevich is not an example of a good person who did a bad thing, in which case it's troubling to think about what else Gov. Blagojevich has done that we will never know about. Reminds me of what they say about cockroaches: for every one you see, there are 10,000 others.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Prop. 8! The Musical

Here's a brilliant sketch on Funny or Die about Proposition 8 (AKA "Proposition Hate"). One thing that struck me is the little dig at anti-Prop. 8 forces near the end: having heard various arguments supporting legalization of gay marriage from Jesus (played by Jack Black) and Neil Patrick Harris, black-clad Fundamentalists, led by Allison Janney and John C. Reilly, exclaim, "We get it now! We've been such fools!" If only things were that simple. The eternal hope that one can reason with willfully ignorant, fearful people is a chronic failing of progressives. Or maybe it's a good thing?

Oh well. We can only hope The New Yorker is right when it says that Prop. 8 was one of the last gasps of the anti-gay marriage movement. This is one of the defining civil rights issues of our era in the United States.