Friday, July 18, 2008

 

Open Thread

I'm not planning to Bale on you or anything -- just talking you back from the Ledge(r) long enough for you to have your say before interest begins to Wayne. Who said I had a one-track mind?

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

 

When Midnight Comes...

...three guesses where I'll be (the first two don't count):



UPDATE: Getting home close to 4 AM, so the impressions will be brief. Will shoot for a fuller review this weekend.

In a word, brilliant.

Iron Man was a great comic book movie. The Dark Knight is a great movie, period. Christian Bale doesn't get as much chance to shine as he did in Batman Begins because Bruce Wayne is rarely seen. The costumed crusader drives this production. But that is not to say that the humanity that was in the first is somehow lacking in the sequel. Quite the contrary. Indeed, a major question that threads its way through the film is "Who is Batman?" Many pretenders step forward to lay claim to the cowl -- with often tragic results.

Heath Ledger as The Joker is as advertised -- a fantastic performance. He is the anti-Jack Nicholoson, who camped for every scene in Tim Burton's Batman nearly 20 years ago. Ledger captures every scene by holding back, holding back, allowing all the action and violence to come to him -- even as he his the catalyst for all of it. There is a scene early in the movie where The Joker stands in the middle of road, even as Batman's cycle bears down on him. The Joker remains stock still, refusing to get out of the way, even as the city burns around him. There are many scenes of that nature.

Almost lost in the archetypal battle between protagonist and antagonist is a fantastic Aaron Eckhardt as crusading DA Harvey Dent. Those familiar with Batman lore know the place that Dent plays in the canon. However, the writing is so tight and Eckhardt's acting is so good that the Dent character is not permitted to fade into the background, eclipsed by The Batman and The Joker. A sub-plot of this movie circles around an existential battle for Harvey Dent's soul, and what both Good and Evil will do in order to win that battle. In fact, the questions of duality and life-and-death choices are never far away.

And the choices forced are made by both hero and everyday citizen -- not always with successful outcomes.

Not just because of the title or the cinematography, this is a dark movie. It doesn't end with the light, obvious happy ending in which most action/super-hero movies conclude. A major sacrifice is made and various noble lies are told -- to protect both hero and everyday citizen.

If one only wants to be entertained, The Dark Knight will certainly be able to do that. But, what makes this a great movie is that it also provokes and engages on many levels. A truly superior effort.

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Nancy Stew

Ooookay, without trying to sound like an apologist for the president, I just have to ask this question: If President Bush is, indeed, a "total failure" with a 29 percent approval rating, how is it that the Democratic Congress still manages to give him everything he demands?

War funding?
Check.

Eavesdropping authority?
Check.

(With the Democratic presidential nominee going along with the vote?
Check, check!!)

And, oh yeah, the public agrees with Bush (rather than the Congress) on
offshore drilling.

The man may not be popular, but he still seems to be "successful" in terms of getting his priorities through a hostile Congress -- while pretty much stifling theirs, except for a water bill and nominal Medicare spending bill (to the extent Medicare can ever be considered "nominal").

Maybe Madame Speaker should think a bit more carefully before tossing around phrases like "total failure."

After all, no one's perfect.

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Thursday Shorts

A few morsels for a busy Thursday:

1) Hmm...looks like May's fundraising dip for Barack Obama wasn't anything to worry about. Bounces back to $52 million haul in June (sorry, Hillary, don't expect much love from Obama's people on the debt-retirement thing).

2) The Bush administration and the Iranian regime start up an "on-the-DL" interaction -- with the possibility of a more meaningful relationship development (isn't that always the case though?).

3) Kudos to CNN's Roland Martin for commending McCain -- and knocking Obama -- on school vouchers. There is absolutely no logical reason why Obama can't stray from the NEA/AFT line on vouchers. Oh well, if the guy becomes president, here's hoping that this will be one of the first policies that he throws under the (school) bus. Whitney Tilson who is a pro-education reform Democrat -- and a big Obama supporter -- thinks that Obama can deliver the message that the teachers unions need to do. He occasionally does it at a rhetorical level, but I haven't seen anything yet resembling a real dynamic policy shift.

4) A Reagan-era conservative bails to Obama.

5) Two cable favorites from last year did well with Emmy nominations today -- "Mad Men" and "Damages." Glenn Close's performance in the latter was spine-tingling, and the flashbacks and flashforwards would have had even the biggest "Memento" fan's head spinning. Alas, my other summer guilty pleasure, "Burn Notice" wasn't recognized in any major category.

6) Finally, I've been drawn back to "Last Comic Standing" -- and actually know a few of the people who have appeared this season. Of the finalists, I know Adam Hunter the best. Adam can turn some folks off with aggressiveness that borders on arrogance, but his act never fails to make me laugh. Episodes available for online viewing.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

 

Newt endorses...Favre?!

I love it when someone in the political arena starts spouting football advice. It usually ends up badly (see Limbaugh and McNabb). But this one takes the cake: Newt Gingrich thinks the Green Bay Packers ought to take back Brett Favre, now that he's decided to unretire after finally retiring after threatening to retire after every season since Nixon was President.

Unfortunately, Newt has as much credibility on this issue as Al "I own stock in every alternative energy company" Gore has on Global Warming. Per Newt's own letter, posted on
Humanevents.com:

Paul Lubbers is my son-in-law, but we share more than family ties. He's also a fellow shareholder in the Green Bay Packers. And as responsible shareholders, we – like many of those invested in the Green & Gold - feel compelled to speak out on the turmoil surrounding the return of Brett Favre to the NFL and whether or not he should wear Packer's uniform.
Can you say "vested interest"?

Newt goes on:
Should Favre have taken some time (like he did the past few years) to rest, recover and reclaim some perspective? Yes. Did he make a bad decision to retire? Also Yes. Should Ted Thompson [the Packer's General Manager] and the Packers welcome him back to Packers family? Absolutely!!
All Newt needs here is a "Dean scream"

But Newt shows his true intentions later. He doesn't want Favre playing for one of the Packer's divisional opponents (which is about as likely as Global Warming, but I digress):

I understand that the Packers have made plans to build the offense around Aaron Rodgers, but plans are made to change. And in this case the Packers should adjust their plans quickly to bring back Favre. Can you imagine Favre as a Viking or even worse a Chicago Bear?
The best response to this was from Josh Alper over at Profootballtalk.com:

If you were unsure that a politician was writing this letter, there’s your proof. Who else would argue against a choice of action by stoking up the fear of the least likely potential outcome? I’m surprised he didn’t follow it up with a story about a strong American family he met while campaigning who told him about how they once had an opportunity to allow Brett Favre back onto their team but passed on it. Then the bank foreclosed on their house, the kids got Ricketts and Grandma ended up on food stamps.

...I just had a terrifying vision of Jimmy Carter on a plane to Green Bay to sit down between Favre and [Ted] Thompson which means I’m pretty sure we’ve reached the point of oversaturation for this story.
I should state for the record that I agree with Newt and I am personally in favor of Brett Favre coming out of retirement, and the fact that I picked up Favre on my keeper league team has absolutely NOTHING to do with it!

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Gritting & Bearing It

I was back on "GritTV" this week, hosted by Laura Flanders. Initially, I was told that they wanted to do a show with some of my "Laughing Liberally" friends, so they could combine politics and humor. I said sure.

Somehow, it ended up being about this week's upcoming "Netroots Nation" covention (formerly known as "Yearly Kos." As a conservative blogger, what do I know about that? Exactly.

Anyway, check out the fun and games. Highlight: Host Laura Flanders summarily dismissing my -- completely accurate, easily provable -- point that Republicans have historically had a greater percentage of small-contribution donors than the Democrats.

Oh well, at least, my suit, shirt and tie combo looked damn good!

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Monday, July 14, 2008

 

Coverin' Up

The Huffington Post interviews New Yorker editor David Remnick on this, to me, very funny cover.


Quite amusing is a response in this Wall St. Journal blog where a writer says that, because "there are too many ignorant people in this country to understand 'satire'," the cartoon can't count as satire. The writer adds "New Yorker=Fox News."

Oh, well, of course...

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Recessions -- Mental & Otherwise

Over the weekend, former Sen. Phil Gramm's comments about America being in a "mental recession" and Americans being a "bunch of whiners" sort of got lumped in with Jesse Jackson's "nuts" statement as examples of surrogates behaving badly.

The two statements, though, were rather different -- and Gramm's arguably of more importance (especially given the rush to distance the former senator from the campaign). For one thing, Jackson's seem more arisen from personal spite and generational jealousy -- and delivered in what he thought was an off-record situation. Gramm's were in a public setting -- and he likely thought he was doing McCain a favor. Still, it's funny to hear a trained economist refer to a "mental recession," given that one could technically call a mental recession a, well, depression -- in the clinical, if not economic sense.

Gramm should realize that the difference between "objective" economic criteria and a mental/subjective reaction to those facts is extremely narrow. Appropos to the connection between "mental recession" and depression, it wasn't the collapsing Wall Street that created the Great Depression -- there weren't enough people invested in the stock market at the time.

Rather than just looking at the technical aspects of a recession -- on "This Week" on Sunday, George Will agreed with Gramm that Americans were "whining" because there was no technical "recession" -- perhaps it would make more sense to look at the sectors that are facing instability.

In particulary, we should ask what those sectors say about what has been called "the American Dream."

What was later called the "American Century" arguably began after World War II. The war had left the leader of the previous century -- Great Britain -- in no where close to its previous power of influence. The bomb gave the United States unparalleled military influence. At home, the G.I. bill launced a generation of economic opportunity for returning conquering heroes. Years later, the international highway system helped spark American infatuation with the car. This, in turn, helped create the propsperity of the Big Three and the manufacturing jobs that went with it. All told, these factors helped create the biggest middle class the world has ever seen. It also sparked moves to the suburbs -- and the fabled white picket fences. (A general westward movement was also confirmed with re-location of New York baseball teams, the Dodgers and Giants.)

But what's going on now? The general pressures in the mortgage sector has now spilled into federal guarantors, Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac. Foreclosures are increasing. The idea of the stability of the American home becomes to be questioned. Meanwhile, oil and gas prices continue to soar. And, unlike the 1970s, this isn't as connected to temporary world political situations like Arab boycotts. This seems more like a long-term systemic problem based on demographic situations like the exploding Indian and Chinese populations. But, still, this forces Americans to recognize that sky isn't the limit any longer when it comes to long, car-based, road trips. For that matter, the sky isn't the limit any longer when it comes to cross-country flights either -- as the energy sector also upends air travel as well.

In short, for a longer mental sector of the American sector, these details add up to the idea of the American Dream -- highways, suburbus, open roads, home ownership -- seeming to run in reverse.

Phil Gramm can call that a "mental recession" if he wants. Others might call it a real genuine crisis that doesn't have any obvious end point.


UPDATE: So, it's not like the taxpayer isn't saddled with enough personal and shared public debt, let's add the "covering our Fannies" bailout -- which is already termed an "unmitigated disaster." Good times.

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