A good article by Sudhir Muralidhar that, rather than attempting to project wingnut aesthetic Stalinism onto the public, wonders if anti-war movies are flopping not because the public loves the war and loves George Bush but because they…seem awful?
How else to explain Lions for Lambs, the most inert, predictable, and unnecessary political film to come out this year? Directed by Redford, the movie turns on the choices of three pairs of characters: A Republican senator (Tom Cruise) and a journalist (Meryl Streep) called to interview him about a new war strategy, two idealistic college graduates recently enlisted in the Army and deployed in Afghanistan (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) to employ that strategy, and a young student disenchanted with the American political process (Andrew Garfield) who must defend his apathy to his liberal political science professor (Redford). Lions for Lambs attempts to distill the debacle of the Iraq War through these characters, to demonstrate how the American public’s (students’) disillusionment with our political process allowed Washington elites (politicians and journalists) to deceive the country and send bright, well-intentioned men (young soldiers on the frontlines) to their death.
Such unsubtle frameworks usually work better in theater than in cinema, and it’s no surprise that Lions for Lambs feels much less like a Hollywood movie than a well-financed play. Not a good play, mind you, but a play written by a precocious high school student who watches lots of CNN. Matthew Michael Carnahan, the screenwriter behind this dreck, litters his dialogue with allusions to Abu Ghraib and Iran’s nuclear program but does little more than reference these real-world events. Cruise’s slick Republican senator speaks about his new war strategy in such vague terms that one cannot help but wonder if Carnahan has ever heard a real policy speech or even read an article on the war that was longer than an entry on the Huffington Post.
As I mentioned elsewhere, descriptions of this film remind me of nothing to much as the nightmarishly atrocious post-9/11 episode of The West Wing. (I know, I know, we wrote it in 24 hours or something. The problem is, virtually all of Studio 60 consisted of the same kind of position-paper reading, although at least they didn’t literally lock students into a room while Sorkin preached at them.)
Muralidhar does seem a little more sympathetic to Redacted but concedes its aesthetic failures. I’ll just add that I’m amused by people are talking about a Brian DePalma movie flopping as if this proves something about the administration and the war. People must love Bush if nobody sees Redacted following the incredible box-office success of Mission to Mars and Femme Fatale!
Do They Know They Celebrate Christmas In Warmer Climes At All?
Roger claims that Wham!’s “Last Christmas” is indisputably the worst Christmas song ever. Now, it’s certainly awful. But its awfulness cannot hold a candle to “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” an exceptionally lame song sung by mostly third-rate British pop stars that is also an unfortunate combination of self-congratulatory charity project and egregious racist condescension. Really, it begins and ends any such discussion. Indeed, it’s so bad that even the Canadian analogue (though not a Christmas song) is much better, if only on the strength of Gordon Lightfoot’s shades and Neil Young’s sideburns…
I’m not sure whether to be happy that the Flames are on national TV (well, quasi-national) tonight, or dismayed that hockey fans across the country will see them get destroyed by the Red Wings again…
In other news, apparently Dennis Miller has a new show that involves recycling lame Britney Spears jokes and applying them to sports. I’m sure he’s on Versus because of the same Hollywood blacklist that pretty much stopped Roger L. Simon from getting work several years before he came out as a reactionary…
Ramesh Ponnuru makes an interesting point about Ron Paul: “What strikes me is what a throwback Paul is among libertarians. Hard money and anti-interventionism move him, but he seems utterly uninterested in the lifestyle questions that have taken up so much of Reason for the past decade.” Indeed, he’s not merely indifferent to all such questions but in fact is a proponent of using state coercion to force women to carry pregnancies of term. Gillespie and Welch try to get around this by using the classic federalism dodge, asserting that Paul “nonetheless believes that federal bans violate the more basic principle of delegating powers to the states.”
As Ponnuru also notes, however, this won’t wash because he voted for the federal “partial birth” abortion ban. Moreover, from a libertarian perspective the “partial birth” ban is, if anything, less defensible than voting for a total ban. Libertarians could in theory justify a ban because most would see the protection of human life as a legitimate use of state power (although in practice criminalization does very little to actually protect fetal life, and Paul’s libertarian positions on other issues would almost certainly increase abortion rates by a massive extent.) The ban Paul voted for, conversely, does nothing to protect fetal life, but simply tries to force doctors to perform abortions using less safe methods in some cases. Even on its face, therefore, such legislation is about regulating female sexuality and punishing women for making choices the state doesn’t approve of, which is as inconsistent with any coherent set of libertarian principles as it is with “states’ rights.” Paul is more consistent than most Republican-affiliated “libertarians” — he’s not willing to make up ridiculous arguments in favor of the Iraq War, for example — but his libertarianism doesn’t seem to apply to these kinds of issues of individual freedom.
The lesson here is the obvious one: like libertarians, people willing to forego strongly-held substantive preferences in the name of federalism “are as rare as pieces of the True Cross.” And when almost anybody tells you that by advocating the overturn of Roe they want to “send the issue back to the states,” they’re almost certainly lying.
Partly because I think you should stick by your predictions as long as they’re still plausible, I still think that Mitt Romney has to be considered the favorite to win the GOP nomination. Matt, however, makes an interesting point about the biggest impediment Romney faces: the possibility that Huckabee will win in Iowa. Assuming (and I think this is right) that Huckabee has enough support to win Iowa but lacks the resources to be competitive in the front-loaded primaries even if he wins, the irony is that the most social conservative major candidate could hand the Republican nomination to the candidate least congenial to social conservatives. Although it’s conceivable that Romney could survive a loss in Iowa, it would be hard to argue that he should be favored over Giuliani if it happens.
Of course, this kind of strange scenario is that result of the fact that there is a prominent hawkish social conservative in the race — who’s uncompetitive largely because of his personal conflicts with social conservative leaders. Between McCain being DOA and the late-entering plain vanilla southern conservative seemingly emulating Wesley Clark’s 2004 campaign we have the current situation in which nobody seems logically capable of winning the Republican nomination. In that context, I still think Romney is the least illogical possibility.
They’re always hacks, Brad. Always. Yes even Milton Friedman. The more independent-minded ones will occasionally come up with a liberalish or fair-minded idea or two, but this is purely for display, not for ever doing anything about if to do so would run the risk of a higher rate of capital gains tax. The ideological core of Chicago-style libertarianism has two planks.
1. Vote Republican. 2. That’s it.
The Iraq War has obviously been useful in exposing bullshit libertarians. It becomes comical to assert that the state cannot be trusted to administer a pension plan it has successfully administered with low overhead for many decades, but can be trusted at a massive expense of lives and money to create a liberal democracy ex nihilo in a country whose prior insitutional arrangements were exceptionally inhospitable to the new form. I’m reminded of my favorite recent example, Randy Barnett. What’s especially rich is that you may recall Barnett questioned whether the state would be necessary to enforce contracts — but deposing a regime that posed no significant threat to the United States in order to pursue an exceptionally ambitious, quarter-assed social transformation scheme that will magically supply a security justification to the war is perfectly OK! And war against nation X is justifiable if stateless Islamic terrorists with no connection to secular state X come from the same region, because the miraculous, very consistent with libertarian premises transformation of secular state X will produce even more miraculous transformations in Islamic states Y and Z, through causal relationships better left unspecified! It all makes perfect sense! As d-squared concludes in re: Milton Friedman:
Why are American liberals so damnably obsessed with extending intellectual charity to right wing hacks which is never reciprocated? It reaches parodic form in the case of those tiresome “centrists” who left wing American bloggers are always playing the Lucy-holds-the-football game with. Oh, but their politics are sooo centrist! They’re practically 50% of the way between Republicans and Democrats! Yeah, specifically they’re right-wing Democrats in non-election years and party line Republicans any time it might conceivably matter (note that here, two years after the White House ceremony at which Friedman apparently “spent most of his 90th birthday lunch telling Bush that his fiscal policy was a disaster”, here he is signing a letter in support of more of the same).
I wouldn’t mind, but it’s clearly not intellectual honesty that makes American liberals act pretend that Milton Friedman wasn’t a party line Republican hack (which he was; he was also an excellent economist, which is why he won the Nobel Prize for Economics, not the Nobel Prize for Making A Sincere and Productive Contribution To The National Political Debate, which he would not have won if there was one).
Rob has already mentioned the untimely passing of Sean Taylor; hopefully those who shot him will be brought to justice. And although he’s a less prominent athlete, I should also note the death of Joe Kennedy. Most baseball fans have some sore-armed veteran trying to gut out a career that the root for, and Kennedy was always one of mine. Although I watch most games from the cheap seats, once or twice a year I would buy a really nice ticket, and in 2002 it happens that I saw a fantastic pitcher’s duel between Kennedy and Jamie Moyer from right behind home plate. Kennedy won 1-0 with a 4-hitter, and his stuff was very impressive (although admittedly pitching against Moyer probably makes your heater look better.) He was never the same after he hurt his arm the next year, but I always hoped he’d figure something out and stay in the league. R.I.P.
4. We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one’s associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to learn one’s living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.
5. We oppose and condemn the action of the Democratic Convention in sponsoring a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation, social equality by Federal fiat, regulations of private employment practices, voting, and local law enforcement.
6. We affirm that the effective enforcement of such a program would be utterly destructive of the social, economic and political life of the Southern people, and of other localities in which there may be differences in race, creed or national origin in appreciable numbers.
7. We stand for the check and balances provided by the three departments of our government. We oppose the usurpation of legislative functions by the executive and judicial departments. We unreservedly condemn the effort to establish in the United States a police nation that would destroy the last vestige of liberty enjoyed by a citizen.
8. We demand that there be returned to the people to whom of right they belong, those powers needed for the preservation of human rights and the discharge of our responsibility as democrats for human welfare. We oppose a denial of those by political parties, a barter or sale of those rights by a political convention, as well as any invasion or violation of those rights by the Federal Government. We call upon all Democrats and upon all other loyal Americans who are opposed to totalitarianism at home and abroad to unite with us in ignominiously defeating Harry S. Truman, Thomas E. Dewey and every other candidate for public office who would establish a Police Nation in the United States of America.
9. We, therefore, urge that this Convention endorse the candidacies of J. Strom Thurmond and Fielding H. Wright for the President and Vice-president, respectively, of the United States of America.
In fairness, after Lott’s claim that this platform would have effectively addressed “these problems,” which should have been unsurprising given his history of ties to racist origanizations, he was briefly demoted from being Senate Majority Leader to being only the powerful chairman of the Rules Committee…
I know you won’t believe this if you don’t live here, but on New York talk radio Roethlisberger vs. Eli Manning is treated as if it were a serious topic for debate, when in fact it’s sort of like debating about whether Houston is in fact generally hotter than Yellowknife. Even in 2006, Roethlisberger’s off year, he was better than Manning; the other three years he’s been very good-to-excellent while Manning has been below-average. (See here for the data.) What follows is an exhaustive list of the credentials Eli Manning has to be considered a quality QB:
He is related to other, much better quarterbacks.
That’s it. If we were named “Eli Leaf” or “Eli Dilfer” nobody would have thought it was a good idea to effectively trade Roethlisberger and Shawne Merriman to acquire him, let alone think that it was defensible three years later. Or look at it this way — Joey Harrington has (correctly) been seen as a colossal bust; his lifetime QB rating is 69.6. Manning’s is 73.6, and I don’t think that “marginally better than Joey Harrington after 3 years” sounds like a potential elite QB to me; indeed, it doesn’t even sound like a good QB. This year he’s got a 75, playing against a very weak schedule. He’s a lot more comparable to Jason Campbell than he is to Roethisberger at this point.
The latest from the War On (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs, a/k/a where the Constitution goes to die. Wheeler does a very good job of explaining the illogic behind claims that the government doesn’t need probable cause to get access to tracking data; if taken seriously, it would eviscerate large parts of the Bill of Rights. It would also make hash of existing Fourth Amendment doctrine; one doesn’t surrender their constitutional rights by using new private technologies to communicate with other people. As Justice Stewart correctly observed, “the Fourth Amendment protects people — and not simply ‘areas.'” People should be entitled to the reasonable expectation that the state will not have access to private tracking data, email, etc. without some independent reason to suspect wrongdoing.
On the other hand, this does give me another excuse to resist getting a cell…
Although I don’t think it undermines the key point here — it’s obviously completely irrational to give the majority of federal agricultural subsidies to meat and diary, and most of the remaining subsidies to things other than vegetables — GFR makes a good point about the “food pyramid.” Interestingly, the Canadian government’s recommendations call for lower numbers of servings. The real lesson here, I think, is that all such recommendations are hopelessly arbitrary; it’s pointless to talk about absolute numbers of servings when it depends entirely on what kind of food within the category is being consumed (9 servings of avocado a day probably isn’t a hot idea, whole grains are better than refined grains, etc.), how much you’re exercising, what your overall health picture looks like, etc. The only potentially useful thing is the ratios; all thing being equal you want to be eating more vegetables than grains and more of either than meat or diary, etc. I don’t see the serving-based food pyramid adding much value.
Michael Medved to join the Discovery Institute. Why doesn’t he deserve the wingnut welfare? It’s not as if his scientific credentials are worse than most other creationist wankers, and he can’t be worse at evolutionary biology than he is at film criticism.
Speaking of which, I was going to make fun of Medved for claiming that Redacted “could be the worst movie I’ve ever seen.” (Having seen Snake Eyes, I find it very hard to believe that it’s even the worst movie Brian DePalma has ever directed.) However, in defending his claim that the soldiers in Redacted “sound like the cast of Rent acting like roughnecks,” Owen Gleiberman cites this example of “cringingly false badass dialogue”:
”You’re so goddamn white you wouldn’t wear yourself after Labor Day!”
If I understand correctly that the picture is supposed to be going for gritty realism, I’m not sure that I can entirely rule out the veracity of Medved’s claim…