Friday, June 16, 2006

 

History Unplugged

Wow, talk about weird timing. Or is this a possibility of reverse advertising?

The Smithsonian has pulled an exhibit of one of the
rare EV1 electric cars GM produced in the late-90s/early-80s.

The Smithsonian yanked the car just a week or so before a film about the short life of the EV1 is about to be released. Now, I have yet to see Al Gore's feature, but I would hazard a guess that Who Killed The Electric Car? has the possibility of being the more provocative and accessible documentary this summer.

For one thing, though coming from an obvious liberal point of view and featuring various "usual" villains like "greedy" Big Oil companies and "cowardly" automotive industry, the film also includes the perspectives of people like conservative national security expert Frank Gaffney and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey.

At the screening I attended, the presence of Woolsey elicited a dismayed response from at least one member of the audience; he wondered how a good liberal should feel about a film that included "pro-war" Woolsey saying good things about the need to look at electricity as a way to lower America's oil dependence. However, Woolsey's appearance shouldn't be too surprising given that the environmentalist-neoconservative hook-up has been developing for a while now. The Greens are worried about emissions, while the 'Cons are increasingly worried about the national security implications of America's "addiction" (as the president would say) to oil.

Secondly, it is a well put together movie, with an engaging narrative. It may tell you all you need to know about Americans, but a documentary about a car (even an eco-friendly one) just has a naturally larger potential audience than a film on global warming -- hosted by a politician -- no matter how earnestly it is produced.

Anyway, ironically or not, the EV1 has been "killed" again -- this time by the Smithsonian less than two weeks before the film's official release.

Weird timing, but completely above-board, everyone says:

In the movie, which premieres June 30 and goes into wide release July 21, writer-director Chris Paine celebrates the creation of the EV1, a nonpolluting car that generated so much passion among its fans that drivers staged a public funeral to say goodbye. Paine also excoriates GM for halting an experiment in gasoline independence under pressure from Big Oil in "one of the biggest blunders in the history of the automotive industry."

GM, which donated the EV1, happens to be one of the Smithsonian Institution's biggest contributors. A $10 million gift in 2001 paid half the cost of the history
museum's new transportation exhibition hall, which was renamed to honor the benefactor. But museum and automaker say the EV1 was removed from view with no thoughts of public reaction to the movie or the display.

"There was no pressure from GM to remove the car from display," spokeswoman Michelle J. Werts said. The museum, which closes for renovation in September, simply needed the space for another vehicle, she said.

"It's not that I picked up the phone," said GM spokesman Dave Barthmuss, who defends the company in the film. "There is no conspiracy to do away with the EV1 at the Smithsonian. There is no Oliver Stone-esque conspiracy at GM to do away with the EV1."

Paine, who was on his way to a screening in Detroit last night, was not happy that the EV1 was in the museum in the first place.

"It's so sad that EV1 is being portrayed as history," he said by phone. "It's not an example of 'failed' technology. It's an example of what the 21st century can be in this country, if we had the willpower to do it. The Smithsonian should take the car out of the museum and put it back on the road."
The Smithsonian "simply needed the space for another vehicle." And, of course, why would a museum even consider that the car's presence might actually boost attendance in the weeks immediately following the film's release?

Curious and curiouser.

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Open Thread

This worked so well last week, we'll make it a regular Friday feature. Comment as you wish on any of the blog entries we addressed in the last seven days in their appropriate place.

But, if you've got something on your mind of a random nature -- post away!

I'll be checking in from time to time over the weekend -- when I'm not blasting away at various stationary objects! Yep, kids, it's a shootin' weekend!!

Hasta la vista!

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What A Day for the CBC...

One member of the Congressional Black Caucus gets to be as happy as Karl Rove (in an unindicted sense) while another loses big time.

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Democrats Get One Right

Rep. William Jefferson got tossed from the House Ways & Means Committee today -- one day after the House Democratic caucus recommended that he step aside.

I'm actually sensitive to the members of the Congressional Black Caucus who say that this is the first time that a congressman has been stripped of his committee assignment before even an indictment. Yes, he's been caught on tape allegedly accepting the $100,000 bribe and $90,000 was recovered from his freezer.


Black Caucus members said their concern was the lack of any rule pertaining to lawmakers in Jefferson's situation. He has not been indicted in the case but could face serious charges. Jefferson says he is innocent of wrongdoing.
.....

"Our concern is that the rule is really political expediency," said Rep. Melvin Watt (N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rep. Danny K. Davis (Ill.) said the legal question was foremost. "I don't think this has to do with race," Davis said. "Members of the Democratic Caucus are above and beyond that."
Yes, politics has something to do with this. Jefferson's case has seriously screwed up the Democrats' "culture of corruption" plan. However, it's not exactly bad from a policy standpoint to say that Jefferson certainly has his due process rights intact. This action by Democrats and the full House is not incarcerating or dunning him unfairly: It just sends a message that House members should be held to a higher standard.

I have to give Nancy Pelosi some rare kudos here too. It couldn't have been easy to go up against the CBC and face accusations, subtle and otherwise,
of being racist. Instead, she stuck to her guns and did what she felt was the right thing (politically or otherwise) for the party greater good.

Jefferson apparently picked the wrong time to be caught redhanded in some major graft. Rather than being a double-standard, this action -- after the Cunningham and Abramoff scandals -- looks to be the first of many new rules governing congressional behavior that will be coming down the pike regardless of who wins control of Capitol Hill in November.


UPDATE: Clarence Page is exactly correct here.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

 

A Better Question...

Which one is the poor Jew?

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The New "N.W.A."

That would be some hard-hitting nerds with attitude dropping some mad "statz science" on y'all.

First came the
Spelling Bee-yotches! Now, some statz rappers. Can there be any doubt that this is the Revenge of the Nerds, Part 69?

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

 

Comic Book Blogging: A Different Outing

So, in the new company-wide storyline, Civil War, superheroes in the Marvel Universe are required to comply to the Superhero Registration Act. That means registering with the government as "living weapons of mass destruction" -- and revealing their identities. Superheroes line up on either side of the "freedom" vs. "responsibility" equation and decide whether to unmask or not.

The biggest name to do so --
Peter "Spider-Man" Parker who outs himself in Civil War #2 which hit the stands yesterday.

This is an interesting theme and one that DC has played around with in the past -- though to nowhere near this level. In DC history, the Justice Society of America disbanded in the 1950s rather than go along with a McCarthy-era demand that they reveal their identities.

Secondly, Marvel has often used the mutant X-Men as an allegory for civil rights or sub-rosa gay themes; this storyline is really a masterstroke to explore how a modern-day government, dealing with security and WMD issues would react to these superhuman beings in their midst (though Peter Parker's line, "I'm proud of who I am, and I'm here right now to prove it," could also work for a different sort of
"outing" too).

That theme has been touched upon in parallel universe/imaginary/Elseworlds type of stories like Watchmen, X-Men Days of Future Past, The Golden Age, Kingdom Come, Squadron Supreme and even Marvel's "Ultimates" version of The Avengers. But this is the first time that that this has been incorporated into the storyline of the "real" Marvel Universe. Of course, this is the first time that America and its society have become enveloped in a war on terror. The modern Marvel Comics were created in the shadow of the Cold War and the Atomic Age. Most of the early '60s heroes all had radiation in their background (including Spider-Man). In addition, the Fantastic Four rocketed into space trying to match up with the Soviets; Tony Stark's company was firmly entrenched in the military-industrial complex and was deeply involved in the Vietnam War. Bruce Banner became The Hulk because of the testing of a gamma-ray bomb. And so forth.


In a contemporary culture where friends and colleagues argue over the Patriot Act and the limits of NSA wiretapping, the Superhero Registration Act is an ideal taking Marvel back to its real-world roots.

Two other thoughts pop into the mind.

1)Is unmasking Spider-Man a way to make the comic book a bit closer to the movie world where -- after SM2 -- it seems like everyone knew who Spidey was (Norman and Harry Osborne, Otto Octavius, Mary Jane, anyone who was on that runaway train)?

2) This would have made a bigger impact if so many Marvel superheroes hadn't already revealed who they were by now (or permanently given up their other identities): Thor abandoned his Don Blake identity long ago; Tony Stark is publically known as Iron Man (or was, at one point); Daredevil was outed several years ago (and took over from uber-crimelord The Kingpin).

Still, this looks to be an interesting major development to follow over the next several months.


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Virginia's Tangled Webb

Virginia just became an interesting state to watch -- as we thought it might several months ago. James Webb won the Democratic Senate nomination last night. He now faces incumbent Sen. George Allen.

Webb's name recognition, standing as a former Secretary of the Navy under Reagan, while being a harsh critic of the Bush Iraq policy will force Allen to spend more time in the state on his re-election campaign than he would have liked.

Allen is still easily the favorite; the primary campaign exposed Webb as something of a halting, rookie, candidate. And John Kerry -- who supported Webb -- demonstrated that just being a veteran and an apparent "expert" on military affairs doesn't necessarily mean the voters will accept your anti-war narrative.

Furthermore, Webb will have to figure out where he stands on non-defense and security areas.

Still, Allen can't just raise money with an eye toward '08. And, the possibility still exists that Allen might be forced to ask potential '08 rival John McCain to come in to the state to help blunt some of Webb's military appeal. Won't that be a delicious irony?

The Washington Post's political blogger Chris Clizza has
further thoughts.

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Port-ly Pints & Punchlines

New York magazine followed me around recently to a couple of, ahem, liberal social events. Details can be found in this week's issue.

The reporter, Justin Rocket Silverman (yep, his real name), a staff writer for
AM New York, is a real good guy. We had some interesting conversations on the nature of political comedy. Alas, as is often the case in the writing world, much of his sterling copy (and my complete wry insights) ended up on the cutting-room floor. Glad my Bill Perkins line survived though. (An amusing follow-up to that was the young lady who turned to me and said -- I'm slightly paraphrasing -- "Could you help us with that? Please invite some of your friends to our next event!")

One thing I will add is that unfortunately the way the piece is edited, it dwells more on the more scatological comments from the Laughing Liberally show -- especially
Julie Goldman. However, what was most interesting about her act was just her explaining the wedding conversations she had with her very Jewish mother. Her bit about how "Mom" had accepted that her daughter was marrying a woman, yet still had to ask, "Yes, honey, but why do YOU have to be the groom?!?"

Very funny stuff. The mark of a good comic is to bring the audience into his/her world and get the crowd to marvel at the general absurdity of different parts of the human condition. Goldman is excellent at that. Great energy too.

Oh, most of the Drinking Liberally/Laughing Liberally folks were quite cool and welcoming to the oddball in their midst. Thanks to host/founder Justin Krebs for allowing me to imbibe -- "on the DL", so to speak. However, there was the one young lady who seemed quite aghast that a conservative was offering her a drink (from my pitcher of beer).

Some people...


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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

 

Wack F. Kennedy

Well, Rep. Patrick Kennedy who recently asked for no favortism because of his congressional status and to be treated like an "African American in Anacostia" (the primarily black southeast Washington, DC neighborhood).

Well, apparently this is what every African American in Anacostia who drives under the influence and crashes his car into the Capitol complex
has a right to expect from the law:

*In return for pleading guilty to DUI, reckless driving and driving without a permit charges will be dropped;

*A ten-day jail sentence will be suspended (provided he has monthly meetings with a doctor; weekly AA meetings and weekly contacts his AA sponsor, random drug screenings, and "have regular contact with a psychiatrist who will monitor his mood, use of psychotropic prescription medications, and other issues";

* Fifty hours of community service with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington and giving a $250 donation to the organization;

Kennedy also must pay $100 to a court fund for victims of crime, be on probation for a year.

The judge imposed and then suspended a $300 fine.

Phew! Thank goodness!


That outrageous $300 fine (on top of the donation to the Boys & Girls Club and the victims fund) would have broken a man of Kennedy's modest means.

He's treated as if he "were an African American in Anacostia"?

N***a, please!


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When More Than The Puck Was Black

Well, as the chiefly Caucasian NHL and the basically black NBA are both in each season's final days, this is a good time to take a peek at a forgotten period in professional North American sports -- the hockey version of the Negro Leagues (in more ways than one):

Comprised of the sons and grandsons of runaway American slaves, the league helped pioneer the sport of ice hockey changing this winter game from the primitive "gentleman's past-time" of the nineteenth century to the modern fast moving game of today. In an era when many believed blacks could not endure cold, possessed ankles too weak to effectively skate, and lacked the intelligence for organized sport, these men defied the defined myths.
A documentary on The Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes is in production and should see the light of day sometime next year.

I'm not even particularly a hockey fan -- and my knowledge of black players in the NHL doesn't extend much beyond
Grant Fuhr and Anson Carter (who is not, surprisingly, boy band veteran Nick Carter's young brother). But at a recent reception following the screening of a completely unrelated documentary, I heard about the existence of this league for the first time.

My interest was piqued.

Yours may be as well.


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Bush Blitzkrieg

At the risk of repeating myself, let's take a look at last Thursday's post: "[Democrats] need to make the case for taking control of Congress, because one can never underestimate the power of the incumbent party."

To slightly rephrase that point: Never underestimate the power of the White House to change the narrative -- especially during an election year.

In the space of five days:

1. The Republicans won a congressional special election.
2. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is slain through coalition air strikes.
3. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki finally forms a cabinet.
4. Karl Rove learns he will not be indicted by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
5. President Bush makes
a surprise visit to Iraq to meet with al-Maliki and U.S. troops.

Two very powerful political messages being sent today:

1. President Bush will stay with Iraq -- regardless of criticism from all sides and the war's unpopularity at home.

2. For the third election in a row, Democrats have to figure out how to combat the Bush-Rove strategy of war on terror/national security/Iraq. Haven't done it yet -- and given the events of the last few days, they are going to have a big struggle again this year.


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No Fitzmas This Year

The "culture of corruption" Democratic talking point takes another major hit.

This hardly resolves the Valerie Plame case, but in removing Karl Rove from crosshairs of a possible indictment, it distances the president from the "outiing of the CIA agent." Of course, the VP is still in the middle of it, but the White House doesn't have to worry about Bush's top adviser having to battle an indictment all summer -- which would also, of course, have necessitated his resignation.

This is now the White House on something of nice "winning" over the
last couple of weeks.

The flip side of this is that also strikes something of a psychological blow to liberals and Democrats who were eagerly anticipating a special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald
"Fitzmas" present in a Rove indictment. Alas, it looks instead like June lump of coal.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

 

USA-Czech Republic Match

A live play-by-play can be found here.

UPDATE: Perhaps "live" play-by-play wasn't the best choice of words. Czechs over USA 3-0. Ouch!


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Bonds of Steele

My review of Shelby Steele's latest book on America's enduring obsession.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

 

Axis Of Irritation?

So, who might, say, Ann Coulter root for -- or against -- the most? As THOTS reader/e-mailer ERA notes, in this afternoon's Iran-Mexico match: "Yes, true I realize that "Conservatives" distain"fer-in" shit like soccer but if they did care would they root for radical Islamists we want to wall off or the Hispanic immigrants we want to wall off?"

My answer: Most conservatives are just happy that all this is going on over in Europe and thus, out of sight, out of mind.

Interestingly, however, many Germans are
most upset about the Iranian presence.

UPDATE: Well, appropriately enough, the Iranians didn't pass their Nuremberg trial (heh, heh). Mexico wins 3-1.

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A Cup T'N'T Explosion!!!


Having qualified for the first time, Trinidad & Tobago's World Cup chances were considered "nil." Well, that turns out to be only partly correct. Saturday's nil-all tie with Sweden has to be considered a victory for the smallest-population country in the whole tournament (and the one that produced this blog's author!

Good job, boys!!!

An added observation: World Cup fever is in full effect in New York. Establishments where you didn't even know had televisions suddenly unveil 48" LCD screens showing the opening match on Friday. Restaurants (NOT sportsbars) have chalkboards outside advertising that the match will be shown inside!


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