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Archive for January, 2006

LGM at the Movies

[ 0 ] January 24, 2006 |

Lists

Ten Flick that Define America
Scott, Ten Movies I Hate
Rob, Best Heist Films
Movie Scenes that Make You Cry
Movie Scenes that Make You Burst Out Laughing
Rob’s Top Ten, 2004
DJW, Best of the Oughts
Scott, Best of the Oughts
Rob, Best of the Oughts
Rob, Best of the 90s
Scott, Hollywood’s Worst Directors
Scott, Best of the 90s
Scott, Best of the 80s
Scott, Top Ten of 2004
Academy of the Over-rated: Directors

Reviews/Commentary

Farhenheit 9/11 (Rob)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (DJW)
Shattered Glass
Supersize This
She Hate Me
Hero
Before Sunset
Vera Drake
The Battle of Algiers
Shall We Dance?
The Motorcycle Diaries
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
House of Flying Daggers, Closer, Bad Education, A Very Long Engagement
Phantom of the Opera
Return of the King
Sideways, Closer, A Fond Kiss, Sex is Comedy
King of Comedy (by way of Colin Quinn)
Million Dollar Baby
Sideways
The Fog of War
Land of the Dead
Point of Order
Troy
Battle of Algiers (Dark Soul of Colonel Mathieu)
Duel
Cold Water
The Squid and the Whale, Good Night and Good Luck, Walk the Line
The Passenger
Point of Order (Redux)
Brokeback Mountain (Scott)
King Kong
Brokeback Mountain (Rob)
Match Point
Capote

Potpourri

Fun with Roger Ebert

Annals of Whoredom
The Stranger Recommends…
The Worst Argument About Michael Moore Ever
Elvis Mitchell
Worst Opening Ever?
Against Linklater
A Nightmare of Evil (Kevin Smith Edition)
Oliver Stone
Random DVD Purchases
Stalinist Criticism (Dogville Edition)
Academy of the Over-rated (Eastwood Edition)
Film Frustration
Presidential Acting
Stalinist Criticism Wears a Fedora
2005 Oscar Picks
Body of Work Award
Medved vs. Aesthetics
Contrarian for the Wrong Reasons
Ford and Wayne
Wolcott on Medved
Ozu Blogging
Bad Scenes in Great Movies
The Anthology Film
Odd Thoughts on Bizarre Topics (Or Innocence Lost?)
Ozon
Resistance is (Almost) Futile
Whatta Card
The Phantom Menace Effect
Podhoretz and Revenge of the Sith
Frank Galvin and Twelve Angry Men
Stalinist Critics of the World, Rejoice!
Peter Jackson’s Money
30s Movies
Piper Picks a Peck O’Pickled Peppers
Ozu
Stalinist Aesthetics Department
Right Wing Film Studies
Top 50 Movies of 1985
Curtis Hanson
Hollywood Having an Off Year?
Scenes from a Philistine
Why I am not a Studio Executive (Or a Populist)
Hollywood’s Revenue “Problem”
Kaus on Brokeback
Kaus on Brokeback (Again)
If You’re Going to be Pretentious, at least be Right
Medvedism with Bad Math
Oscar Context
Betting Brokeback
Bresson and Vigo
Going it Alone
Medved on Brokeback
Perverted Values (Brokeback and Utah)
Pajamas Media Reviewers
Spielberg

And don’t miss DJW’s film blogging at David’s Film Journal

Paging Lord Saletan

[ 0 ] January 24, 2006 |

Digby nails the ongoing kabuki of Roe‘s opponents perfectly:

That woman who believes that abortion is the killing of babies with knives is one slick political operator. She knows that this isn’t about any dialog. She knows that Alito will vote to overturn Roe. She knows that the minute Roe is overturned a whole bunch of states will make it illegal. She is lying about all of that.

Why in the hell is it necessary for some woman from Kansas not to tell the truth about her cause or her goals? What is she so afraid of? Why does the born again conservative president have to phone in his support instead of appearing proudly and openly before his pro-life supporters? If this is an issue of deeply felt morality that all Americans are having difficulty dealing with, why can’t they just admit openly that they want to outlaw abortion?

[...]

Could someone please inform the Democrats that when 66 percent of the public agrees with you on an issue that you can feel confident that you are not losing elections because of that issue?

Pro-life people even at the state level are savvy political con artists who are pretending to be more powerful than they are while lying about their goals. They are operating from a position of weakness not strength. Anybody in politics who is fooled by this crap should be fired.

This is exactly right. The fact that even state operatives in very reactionary states aren’t willing to be candid about their desire to criminalize abortion makes it clear that they don’t regard turning the clock back to 1972 is a popular policy. If only prominent liberal journalists could figure this out…

A Tiny Tremor

[ 0 ] January 24, 2006 |

As some of you know, major news in Canada today, as the Flames win another round of the Battle of Alberta! Oh, yeah, and there was an election too, and as predicted there was a Conservative minority. As you can see from this handy interactive chart, it’s a surprisingly narrow win, and it will be an extremely shaky minority government. And as you can see, irrespective of whatever spin you read tomorrow, it’s not any kind of major “shift to the right” or embrace of American policies or some such. Between them, the centre -left (Canadian spelling used for the occasion!) Liberals, socialist NDP, and left-wing-albeit with an unpleasant coating of secessionism and ethnic nationalism–BQ and left-wing Greens got almost 65% of the vote and 183 of 308 seats. What limited the Conservatives most were gains by the NDP. (Although, in fairness, the Christian Heritage Party did outpoll the Marijuana Party.) And obviously the Conservative government will be seriously constrained, especially on cultural issues, because they require to support of the secessionists to govern. The election is unlikely to result in any huge shifts, and as someone with a less-than-robust commitment to big-L Liberalism I’m not excessively upset about it.

One thing that many people won’t be aware of is that Canada is different from most European systems in true coalition governments (i.e. formal alliances with members from both parties in the cabinet) have generally been limited to wartime unity governments; rare minority governments have been ad hoc rather than formal coalitions. The Conservatives don’t need a formal coalition with the Bloq to form the government, although they will have to engage in constant informal agreements in order to govern. Another point is that Saskatchewan–home of the social democratic government that created the socialized medicine system–is now almost entirely conservative. Tom Frank should write his next book about it…

Detroit

[ 0 ] January 23, 2006 |

I like Detroit as much as the next guy. Hell, I probably like Detroit more than the next guy. I love the post-apocalyptic feel, although I understand that city planning decisions ought not to prioritize my own aesthetic preferences. I appreciate the need to demolish some building in the pursuit of urban renewal. Still, I can’t help feeling like the powers that be in Detroit are fooling themselves if they think that the Superbowl is going to be the key to transforming the city’s economic fortunes.

It’s fairly well established that the construction of new stadiums in downtown areas does not, in fact, result in increased economic activity. This is why cities are increasingly becoming wary of dishing out huge sums of money to extraordinary wealthy baseball and football owners. How, then, is one game, nevermind how important, supposed to turn a city around?

Strikes me as wishful thinking. I hope that Detroit doesn’t spend too much from its already light treasury and doesn’t destroy too much of its heritage in the effort to showcase its finest for the Superbowl.

+150?

[ 0 ] January 23, 2006 |

As in, if this Universe were to split into 100 universes and proceed forward from there, the rational collective hive mind of sports gamblers expect the Steelers would win on February 5th in about 60 of them? They’re a great team, I’m not surprised they’re here, I love Ben, this should be a great game, and they could certainly win. I could be convinced a pick-em is in order, but if there is a rational, serious analysis that shows the Seahawks as underdogs, I’d like to see it.

Can Con!

[ 0 ] January 23, 2006 |

Looks like a Conservative minority–suboptimal, but I can live with if it’s a majority minority.

…CBC (on C-SPAN now) calls a Tory minority.

Keeping a Close Watch on Eastern Kentucky

[ 0 ] January 23, 2006 |

Who knew?

Shockingly, Conservatives White Males Are Not Like African-Americans in the 50s

[ 0 ] January 23, 2006 |

I was planning to write a post ripping apart Stephen Bainbridge’s latest entry in the “the underrepresentation of conservatives in academia must be due to discrimination and not self-selection, although I have no actual evidence for this” competition, but fortunately the job has already been done well. The only thing I’ll add is that 1)the comparison of think tanks to academia leaves out little details like the fact that the former tend to pay very well without and teaching responsibilities, both rendering the fact that conservatives are in think tanks even more useless as evidence and making a pretty soft landing for purported victims, and 2)I’ll support affirmative action for conservatives in academia as soon as we also ensure that liberals and conservatives are equally well represented on corporate boards.

If You Just Stuck To What You’re Best At, All These Problems Would Go Away

[ 0 ] January 23, 2006 |

Shorter Peter Morris: “They lied to me about marriage and fatherhood! Who knew that childbirth was painful (and, really, more painful for the guy–sure, the woman is in red-faced agony, but I had to look at it!)? That your child could be an…ew….girl? That raising children required a significant amount of time and emotional commitment? That intense sexual ardor may fade in a long-term relationship? That sexual intercourse can lead to pregnancies, even if you’re trying the “having an affair approach”? Why did they keep it a secret? Being a father is so unfair.”

Please tell me that this is a joke. If not, paging Belle Waring. Belle Waring to the mythical waiting room where men pace around and hand out cigars and have nothing further to do with their children other than the occasional game of catch please.

Roe and Progressive Politics

[ 0 ] January 22, 2006 |

It’s the anniversary of Roe v. Wade today, and Jessica has put together Blog for Choice day. As a result, there have been many first-rate celebrations and eulogies for Roe. While most people are explaining why Roe is important, I’ll take a slightly different angle and discuss things from a political perspective.

With Alito about to be confirmed, reproductive rights are about to be seriously restricted in this country, and should Bush (or a Republican successor) get to replace Stevens or Ginsburg Roe is dead, whether the overturning will be open or sub silento. It is common, however, for people who are (at least nominal) supporters of reproductive rights to argue that overturning Roe is really no big deal. One variation of this argument holds that Roe being overturned (or gutted) won’t have a big impact on women’s access to abortion. This argument is utterly unserious, and it crops up mainly because of the apparently boundless appetite some sectors of the liberal media have for “contrarian” arguments no matter how specious they are. People making such argument either don’t care about the reproductive rights of women in different classes and geographic regions, or are badly confused about the political context. Either way, I don’t think it requires much work to show why such arguments aren’t useful.

Somewhat more serious is the idea that overturning Roe might benefit progressive politics (including women’s rights more broadly) because its overturning would be a disaster for the Republican Party. This argument has the advantage of not being obviously implausible on its face: after all, Roe is very popular, and one would assume that if it were overturned by Republican judges this would be bad for the GOP. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that it will be a net negative for the Republicans. Is this reason to believe that overturning Roe might not be so bad in the long run? I don’t think so; if you care about reproductive rights at all:

  • Most presidential elections aren’t close. Elections like 2000 and 2004 are very rare in American history. Even if the Dems gain something by Roe being overturned, in most elections they would win or lose irrespective of this anyway. Pace Will Saletan, individual stands on hotly contested issues have less impact on voting than one might think–the Republicans have less popular stands than the Democrats on many domestic issues, and this hasn’t stopped them from controlling every branch of the government.
  • In addition, whatever benefits that would accrue to the Democrats are severely limited by the various idiosyncrasies of the American electoral system. The states in which Roe being overturned would be the most unpopular are states where the Democrats are already dominant. If Roe was overturned the Dems might carry New York by a similar margin to which the GOP carries Texas–but who cares? It’s far from clear what state the Dems lost in 2004 that they would win if Roe were overturned. It’s the same elsewhere. The Senate’s gross malapportionment overrepresents states where overturning Roe would do little damage to (or actually help) the GOP, and gerrymadering in the House makes for few contested seats no matter what issues are in play. In other words, overturning Roe might help the Dems in generic national polls, but most of the benefits would be filtered out by the many counter-majoritarian effects of the American system (the same factors that will also greatly benefit anti-choicers in terms of policy outcomes.)
  • Some people will argue that there would be huge benefits in terms of mobilization. Maybe, but I’m skeptical. Again, most of this mobilization would have would have limited political effects for the reasons stated previously. And, of course, the prospect of banning abortion will also give reactionaries a permanent basis for their own mobilization. In addition, I think the alleged de-mobilization of abortion rights supporters has been greatly overstated.
  • Most importantly, any much benefits are premised on Roe being explicitly overturned, which I think is unlikely. Something like Rehnquist’s incrementalist strategy would produce the same results without even the minimal political costs that the GOP would incur by overturning it honestly–and Republican partisans like Alito and Roberts, as we know, understand this perfectly well.
  • And most importantly, I still don’t think the argument makes any sense even if the benefits are greater than I think they would be. Having the Republicans overturn Social Security would provide clear political benefits; that’s not a reason to hope that it happens. Again, all such arguments ultimately circle back to an assumption that reproductive rights aren’t important, a claim which is profoundly misguided.

On balance, then, I don’t think there’s any way the risks balance out. The costs of overturning Roe are serious and indisputable; the benefits are speculative and very likely to be minimal. Fighting to preserve Roe is crucial policy, and there’s no reason to think it’s bad politically.

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Beard

[ 0 ] January 22, 2006 |

Huh. I guess mine is of the Short Boxed variety? You know, a few years back DJW (who once possessed a Chin Curtain) and I tried to get Lemieux to grow a beard… I think he’d look good with some Friendly Mutton Chops…

Nothing is Unacceptable

[ 0 ] January 22, 2006 |

Matt hits the nail on the head with this:

It certainly makes sense as a negotiating tactic for the American government to appear open to military action. For similar reasons, efforts at diplomacy are probably strengthened insofar as Bush appears to be under domestic political pressure to use force. . .The trouble is that actually doing this stuff is a bad idea.

Right. Discussions of the Iran situation that fall on absolutes, such as the notion that Iranian nuclear weapons are “unacceptable” or that the United States should take whatever steps necessary to prevent a nuclear Iran are fundamentally unserious. A serious foreign policy analysis weighs that costs and benefits of a particular policy. We may decide that Iranian nuclear weapons are bad (I think they are, but feel free to disagree), but this does not mean that stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons needs to be the absolute final goal of US policy. The costs of such action may override any likely benefit that we can imagine; in fact, I’m inclined to think that this is the case.

An argument, like Bill Kristol’s, that treats a nuclear Iran as unacceptable is not an effort to open a discussion; it’s an attempt to close off a particular line of thinking. If Iranian nukes really were unacceptable, then a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and Iranian industrial targets would be entirely justified from a policy point-of-view. This is not, however, a position that even most self-appointed Iran toughs would express, at least in public.

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