Thursday, June 26, 2008


I read an issue of this magazine for the first time in a long time recently. What a piece of shit. There isn't an original thought in it; it's Time magazine with anglicized spelling and a slightly heavier business and international emphasis. But the quality of it is essentially identical -- page after page of bland, conventional wisdom, even in cases where the writer has to know conventional wisdom has been proven wrong. They are, however, a little less free market oriented than they used to be, but that, again, is a sign of them bending with the times. The funny, and sad, thing is there are people who consider themselves smart and informed because they read Economist instead of American equivalents. Buy Newsweek instead. You'll be just as ignorant and misinformed when you're done reading it, but you'll save a few bucks.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lightning in a bottle

Vin Diesel is making a film about Hannibal, my favorite person in all of history. I like Diesel as a director, like him in some films, we look like we could be brothers, but I hate the thought of him, with his odd, droning voice and cunning but dumb onscreen presence, playing one of the most brilliant and enigmatic people in history. I don't think he can pull it off, not so much as a director, because his track record there is decent, but as an actor. And that's really too bad, because my own appreciation for
Hannibal aside, the outline of the man's life, and the fact that so little about him is really known, means you can do a lot with him, especially in times like these, kind of like Kirk Douglas did with Spartacus, which is actually a similar story in its own way. Diesel is probably going to go for a blockbuster, Gladiator, or worse, Alexander, type of film, and he will probably fail, in part because he'll be mucking things up in the lead role. But the real failure here will be not taking advantage of the opportunity to tell a really meaningful story that is both interesting and that says something about these times we live in. Hannibal, and us, deserve something fantastic. Here's hoping Diesel gets lucky, but I ain't holding my breath.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Three legged-race

I'm beginning to think we're giving Obama too much credit here. The assumption everyone (myself included) has been operating on is that Obama, in his heart of hearts, means well, he really does want to oppose telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping, but those darn cowardly Dems won't let him. Obviously, the first problem here is that Obama is his own man -- yes, he has to take into account the wishes of others, but leaders are also responsible to lead: he ran as someone who was going to "change the way Washington works" (just like George Bush did in 2000, by some strange coincidence), and yet he has shown absolutely no indication of how he will do this, or even what, exactly, he means by it. It's just a slogan, and given his behavior thus far, a particularly empty one. What if the truth behind the slogan is that Obama doesn't care about the rule of law, privacy rights, or even worse, what if he actually supports Bush's policies?

Saying one thing and doing another has become a pattern for Obama. He made bad noise about free trade, then sent back channel messages to other governments saying he doesn't mean it. There was another, similar instance of that regarding foreign policy. Flip-flopping on telco immunity is the worst example, but it's one in a string: Obama has a demonstrated record of, well, there's no other word for it: lying. About policy matters. Crucial policy matters. Crucial policy matters that are important to the liberal base.

I am reminded that in Israel, the settlements have expanded at a faster rate under the "dovish" Labour Party than under Israel's "hawkish" right wing parties. Labour says all the right things, then it gets into office and behaves like a hawk's hawk, with the excuse that it "has to be tough to establish credibility", "can't be labeled soft on terror" and so on -- phrases that are already familiar to our ears. And of course, as a result, the problems both parties claim they are going to solve never do get solved, and instead, Israel has been stumbling towards annexation of the West Bank for 40 years, now on the left leg, now on the right, but always moving in the same rough direction. The Republicans and Democrats are beginning to develop a similar dynamic: lurching towards the finish line of a paranoid police state, in a three legged race. Obama is showing he's willing to tie his leg to Bush's, just as long as he gets to run.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


An ugly, ugly read. Deals like this, so obviously well planned and well timed, do not fall apart -- just doesn't happen. The bill will go to the Senate, there will be a sham fight, in which Obama participates just enough to make his participation obvious without participating enough to actually kill the bill, it will pass, and then Obama will make soothing noises to the angry base of his own party and carry on with business as usual. And that, I suspect, will be the legacy of an Obama presidency: the smiling face and soothing voice of defeat and failure. He won't get anything substantial done, won't fight for anything, just sort of coast along, with a few modest "wins", like Clinton did after the defeat of healthcare reform. It would be a noticeable improvement over Bush, but then, what wouldn't?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert

One down, so many more to go. That's actually a mild version of what I thought when I found out. It's a perfect opportunity for NBC to retool away from what they, and the entire political media establishment, have become, but (excuse the Russert-inspired pun) fat chance of that. They'll replace him with another lazy, venal hack, and nothing will change except the face. That, at least, will almost certainly be the only improvement.

I bet the brass at NBC is already getting pressure from the plutocrats to make sure he is replaced with someone of reliable lack of character.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


If I were the Republican braintrust -- not the party hacks, but the moneymen who largely fund the whole machine and are the only beneficiaries of its policies -- I'd find a way to force the party to do a Fabian against Obama and the Dems. They will probably lose -- barely, but they will -- the presidential election, but they can blunt the damage by refusing to engage in specific policy debates, particularly with regards to healthcare, saving their energy for the actual policy battles that will ensue after the election, when they can spend huge sums on a media blitz that the Dems haven't shown the ability to counter. Engaging in those debates now, with an unappealing, awkward mouthpiece in McCain, against the charismatic Obama, and with the glare of the spotlights provided by the presidential election, means the weakness of their position, which is based almost entirely on fearmongering and lies, would be exposed in an environment where people are going to see it and take notice. When it came time to run those scary, Harry and Louise-type ads, people would have enough information, provided by the public debate of the election, to make rational decisions, and there goes the whole ballgame. Give the Dems a win on healthcare, and they will almost certainly have a congressional majority for a decade, maybe even longer. Deny them that win, and they could be back in the minority as early as 2010, and then you have gridlock, a la 1994 - 2002. The real problem the Republicans have is that they've simply fucked everything up; people need time to forget that, and then all the advantages the conservatives enjoy -- captive media outlets, a big lead in identification, money -- will have a chance to make themselves felt again. They just need to buy time.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bush's future career plans

Tony Robbins, look out:

Delivering the final commencement address of his tenure, President Bush told supporters and protesters at Furman University here Saturday that he was far from "a model citizen" when he left college but that "it is never too late to recover and get back on track."

In a lighthearted speech peppered with personal details, Bush also urged graduates to embrace "a culture of responsibility" and referred to his drinking problems as a younger man. The topic has become something of a touchstone for Bush during his last year in office.

I can see Bush, sitting on a few corporate boards, and traveling around giving speeches on how he turned his life around by giving up drink and embracing the Lord, collecting huge bucks all the while. Yes, he wrecked the country and demonstrated himself too massively incompetent to be anything more than a manager of a fast food restaurant, but that's a trifle. The important thing is the personal example he has set.

And continues to set. He ought to be derided. He ought to be held up as an example of everything wrong with this country, of pandering to cluelessness, empty flag waving, superficial gregariousness masking a rock solid core of venality, worship of the common and cheap, taking the easy road. But because he really is an example of what's wrong with this country, and because ugly people don't like looking in the mirror, the Bush presidency will not be subject to the scrutiny it deserves. People will want to move on with things, and sweep this fool under the carpet, where he will collect mega-bucks in return for telling people all he knows about "redemption," and how they can profit by doing the same thing. It's not the correct ending for the story of this charlatan of a man, but it's a fitting one.