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Friday, February 27, 2004

OSCARS
Who I'm rooting for, as opposed to who I think will win (below):

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Ben Kingsley in HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (DreamWorks in association with Cobalt Media Group)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Djimon Hounsou in IN AMERICA (Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Charlize Theron in MONSTER (Newmarket Films)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Shohreh Aghdashloo in HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (DreamWorks in association with Cobalt Media Group)

Best animated feature film of the year
FINDING NEMO (Buena Vista) Andrew Stanton

Achievement in directing
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line) Peter Jackson

Best documentary feature
THE FOG OF WAR (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best documentary short subject
FERRY TALES

Best motion picture of the year
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line)

Adapted screenplay
AMERICAN SPLENDOR (HBO Films in association with Fine Line Features)
Written by Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman

Original screenplay
IN AMERICA (Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox) Written by Jim Sheridan & Naomi Sheridan & Kirsten Sheridan
SUPER WILD-ASS OSCAR GUESSES
Full list here.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Johnny Depp in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (Buena Vista)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Tim Robbins in MYSTIC RIVER (Warner Bros.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Charlize Theron in MONSTER (Newmarket Films)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Renée Zellweger in COLD MOUNTAIN (Miramax)

Best animated feature film of the year
FINDING NEMO (Buena Vista) Andrew Stanton

Achievement in art direction
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line)
Art Direction: Grant Major
Set Decoration: Dan Hennah and Alan Lee

Achievement in cinematography
COLD MOUNTAIN (Miramax) John Seale

Achievement in costume design
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line) Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor

Achievement in directing
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line) Peter Jackson

Best documentary feature
CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS (Magnolia Pictures)
A Hit The Ground Running Production
Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling

Achievement in film editing
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line) Jamie Selkirk

Achievement in makeup
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line) Richard Taylor and Peter King

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
BIG FISH (Sony Pictures Releasing) Danny Elfman

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"You Will Be My Ain True Love"
from COLD MOUNTAIN (Miramax)
Music and Lyric by Sting

Best motion picture of the year
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line)
A Wingnut Films Production
Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Producers

Best animated short film
DESTINO (Buena Vista)
A Walt Disney Pictures Production
Dominique Monfery and Roy Edward Disney

Achievement in sound
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line) Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges and Hammond Peek

Achievement in sound editing
MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD (20th Century Fox) Richard King

Achievement in visual effects
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line) Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook and Alex Funke

Adapted screenplay
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line)
Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson

Original screenplay
LOST IN TRANSLATION (Focus Features) Written by Sofia Coppola

Best documentary short subject
FERRY TALES
A Penelope Pictures Production
Katja Esson

And Two Super Super Wild-Ass Guesses:
Best foreign language film of the year
THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS
A Cinémaginaire Inc. Production
Canada

Best live action short film
DIE ROTE JACKE (THE RED JACKET)
(A) TORZIJA [(A) TORSION]
A Studio Arkadena Production
Stefan Arsenijeviæ

Thursday, February 26, 2004

TIMES KERRY ENDORSEMENT
As for the Times' endorsement of Kerry, this is just bizarre: "What his critics see as an inability to take strong, clear positions seems to us to reflect his appreciation that life is not simple."

Uh, yeah . . . strong leadership there: "Well, I appreciate that life is just not simple."

Continuing: "While he still has trouble turning out snappy sound bites, we don't detect any difficulty in laying down a clear bottom line."

Interesting . . . I'd love to see what that bottom line is . . .

And: "His campaigning skills are perhaps not as strong as his intellectual ones, but they are pretty good and getting better. Early in the race he alienated some audiences with brittle, patronizing lectures. But he has improved tremendously over the last few months. His answers are focused and to the point, and his speeches far more compelling." [Emphasis mine]

I guess if you say it enough it becomes true . . . very Bush-like, in fact.

UPDATE: I'm heartened to see that my two favorite Kerry bashers have picked up on this item. I'm just a passive observer, of course, and not as rabid as these guys.
NEW YORK PRIMARY
Haven't heard a lot from Edwards in New York City. There is a debate on Sunday morning, however, and it will be carried on network television. As someone who doesn't have cable, this is significant -- it will be the first debate I've been able to watch, I believe. We'll see how the press covers it, too. The New York Times is sponsoring it, so it should be well covered on that front. But does it strike anyone else as odd that the Times op-ed board endorsed Kerry today instead of Monday or Tuesday?
SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FOR SCOTT
Consider the free milk supply cut off, goatface.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

MACHIAVELLIAN, BUT COOL
While reading the Oxblog guys' tally of Senators for and against the FMA, two big names jumped out and a big light bulb went off in my head: by endorsing a constitutional amendment, and fast, Bush will be getting Kerry (and Edwards -- at least until next Tuesday) on record as either opposing it (likely) or supporting it (unlikely). Fucking brilliant!

Don't get me wrong -- I agree with the Note when they talk about their fictional "Gang of 500" "cast[ing] the President's decision in purely political terms -- rather than a response to the tens of millions of real Americans who are fundamentally freaked out by what is going on in (Nancy Pelosi's) San Francisco and (John Kerry's) Massachusetts" and "the notion that this election is going to be decided on gay marriage -- rather than the economy and who can keep America safe -- seems loopy to us."

And to reiterate: as someone who lives in sin and gets the milk for free, I don't give a flying fuck about the institution of marriage!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

EDWARDS
Also, sorry no links here, but this will be quick: Nader, gay marriage (especially in CA), Bush's assault on Kerry, Haiti, Iran, Israel and A-Rod (especially in New York) -- just to mention seven things right there -- have all conspired to undercut media exposure for Edwards the last couple of days; I think he's done for after Tuesday. What happened to that Dean endorsement?
GAY MARRIAGE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
I'll say it only once: please America, do not enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

As an unmarried person, I don't give a shit what happens to the "institution" of marriage. I'm half serious, of course, though I do wonder if that at least partially explains why younger people back gay marriage. I happen to think that gay marriage is the right thing, by the way . . .

Follow-up Question: Will Bush also endorse some sort of civil union idea? Was it Peggy Noonan or Andrew Sullivan who predicted this on Sunday's (network) Hardball show? I honestly can't remember. If it was Peggy, expect it to come to pass; she was one of the Catholic conservatives Bush spoke with behind closed doors at the White House the other week.

What is Bush's strategery here? He has disappointed his conservative base by being too wishy washy about gay marriage, so it could be that he's shoring up support on that front. And if Kerry (and Edwards -- there's an outside chance of Edwards, I suppose) also opposes gay marriage, then this issue is effectively neutralized. I hope so, because I don't think it's the most pressing issue in the upcoming election. Although it is interesting that it's an issue that neither candidate wants to campaign on . . .
STATE OF THE UNION
Ah, so that's what happened with the State of the Union speech -- it was accidentally switched with last night's speech to the Republican governors.

Monday, February 23, 2004

YOU'RE NOT HELPING!
Part, what, Part like, Twenty-Five Hundred? Monica Lewinsky, when asked about the Kerry stuff, saying things like "I would really hope people are finally starting to smarten up about this and are starting to judge a candidate for his knowledge and accomplishments, rather than his personal life."

Thursday, February 19, 2004

CHECKING UP ON THE HOMELAND
My hometown of Phoenix hosts Aryanfest. At least get a load of the first couple of paragraphs.
EDWARDS-DEAN CABAL
CNN's The Morning Grind lays out the evidence and it's veeerrrry interesting. It even includes a Gore-Idaho angle. Things to look out for: Edwards in the city this weekend (he was at Columbia today) for an important Sunday morning meeting. I know for a fact Balthazar is booked solid for brunch. Maybe we'll just stay on the UWS then?
POTENTIAL FIRST LADIES
Evaluate this statement: Theresa Heinz Kerry (a former Republican), Laura Bush (who is apparently quite moderate on social issues) and Elizabeth Edwards (who apparently became rather spiritual after the death of her 16-year-old son) all represent moderate influences in the U.S., and in the case of at least the first two, perhaps on their husbands. How significant is this?
CATCHING UP
Edwards profile in the Raleigh News-Observer.
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
I'm linking to this partly to get Jen's goat -- she's always saying people in Utah are so backwards, but here's an op-ed telling Utahans to get with program.
EDWARDS ON TRADE
Bruno, I need your help again. How serious are these Democrats about protectionism?

Last time we spoke about this, we were talking about Dick Gephardt's anti-NAFTA position, but now Edwards has been really hammering away at NAFTA, too, and he's slamming Kerry for his NAFTA vote. Is Edwards as anti-trade as he's presenting himself? Should we be concerned?

Check out his trade-economy ideas on the campaign website. Just a bunch of stuff about not giving tax breaks to companies that move jobs overseas. Fine, I'm down with that.

His generic job creation ideas are fine, too. Economic Revitalization Zones, Venture Capital -- looks good to me -- fine moderate ideas.

So what's up with it?
NOTE TO DAD
Dear Dad,

Please coordinate talking points.

Love, Mel

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

THE KIND OF GUY KERRY IS
Strong on the environment.
DEAN BOWS OUT
OK, so it's official. It's noteworthy that he didn't go so far as to endorse Edwards, but here's the thing -- he doesn't have to! This is where that whole internet thing might come in handy: now is the time for Dean's blogging minions to take up the debate and throw their collective weight behind whoever is the superior candidate (ahem).
DEAN, EDWARDS, ELECTABILITY AND DEATH WITH DIGNITY
By calling out to Dr. Dean, Bruno is on to something. And he knows Edwards is much more electable than Kerry. I'm telling you Bruno, HHS! Dean may have been a piss-poor campaigner, but his squishy cupcakes tell me he's probably an OK person. I think he'll do the right thing today.

Now, take a minute and contrast that with General Clark . . . the DeskJockey matrix leaves us with this:

BAD MEN: Kerry, Clark and probably Sharpton.

GOOD MEN: Edwards, Gephardt, Lieberman and now hopefully Dean.

PRINCIPLED MEN: Kucinich.
THE EDWARDS CHARM
Don't forget which unlikely candidate's Iowa caucusgoers rallied behind Edwards after not reaching the 15% viability threshold. Dennis Kucinich's, that's who. Picking up on a theme here?
DEAN
Read Reena Singh's piece which the Note excerpts today. It's touching: "What politician helps his staff unload his plane at 2 am after a crushing defeat?"

There's more about the Dean-Edwards synergy there. Actually, they both seem like good guys.

Howard Dean, endorse John Edwards already! And if Edwards wins, I would not be totally opposed to seeing Dean as Edwards' Heath and Human Services cabinet member.

Remember, it's about your gut. And your gut is usually correct.
DEAN-EDWARDS CABAL
Crazy Uncle Bill outlined it this morning, and this AP article foreshadows it: "Dean was mulling whether to endorse one of his rivals. John Edwards has been reaching out to Dean for several weeks, and the former Vermont governor has been impressed with the North Carolina senator and grateful that he has not criticized Dean, the officials said."
ELEPHANT'S IN THE HOUSE!
John Ellis is right: "I don't think Edwards 'opposition' to NAFTA or the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's endorsement of Edwards moved the dial that much. The 'game changing event' of the last six days was the Drudge Report. As far as I can tell, no analysis of the Wisconsin results points to the elephant in the room. Bad journalism."

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

STEVE PERRY IS TURNING IN HIS GRAVE RIGHT NOW
Except I don't think Steve Perry is dead yet. Yup, I just watched Journey's Behind the Music and confirmed it. Anyway, here's a pop quiz: Which Democratic Presidential candidate knows all the words to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'"? Is it A) Wesley Clark, B) Howard Dean, C) Wesley Clark, D) Dennis Kucinich, E) Wesley Clark, F) A, C and E, or G) Unknowable, since there's nothing to comment on because there's nothing to report?

Give up?

The correct answer is F). Sorry I made it trickier than it needed to be. See Ryan Lizza's Campaign Blog for more.

Streetlights, peopul-ul-uuulllaaahh!
KERRYSEX
Wonkette's exit numbers are even better for Edwards: 41, 33, 17.
AND (Just because I love to hear myself type.)
Drudge: "KERRY 42%, EDWARDS 31%, DEAN 15%..."

Zogby (2/13 to 2/15 three-day poll): Kerry 47, Dean 23, Edwards 20

If Zogby is correct, and those numbers seem OK, at least based on the other ones at Real Clear Politics, Edwards is taking away from both Dean and Kerry. Like I said, imagine what could have been . . .
FURTHERMORE
Just think if that Dean guy wasn't in the race! Edwards might be ahead right now!
THAT INTERN THING
So she's not an intern. So her parents and she categorically deny there was anything going on. Drudge (yeah, I know -- that guy again) is reporting exit polls showing Edwards closing in on Kerry in Wisconsin. Is it newsworthy now?
NARCISSISM
I'm remiss in missing this Christopher Hitchens piece about the narcissism of viewers who think Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers is somehow relevant to the situation in Iraq: "Unless I am wrong, [the revival] will lead to a torrent of pseudo-knowing piffle from the armchair guerrillas."

Is there any analogy? Yes, says Hitchens: Algeria in the 1990s.

Friday, February 13, 2004

RADIO SILENCE
A word about mainstream and not-so-mainstream press outlets' reluctance to discuss Kerry: it's fine to be hesitant to fan the flames of an unconfirmed rumor. That said, it's shirking one's duty to write negative stories about the other candidates' strategies without at least mentioning the possible fallout of the Kerry story.

For example, the other day The New Republic's Noam Scheiber wrote a scathing commentary about Howard Dean's flip-flop on whether he would stay in the campaign past Wisconsin. After the Drudge item came out and it was suggested that Dean decided to stay in the race based on the pending news, Scheiber never went back to update the post. This information was obviously relevant, and it's dishonest for Scheiber not to supply more context to Dean's decision.

If the other candidates are adjusting their campaign strategies based on the Drudge information, then it's absolutely newsworthy to report on that. And it's not "fanning the flames" to mention the story. It's a no-win situation for them, but I think they're painting themselves into a difficult corner by not reporting the story. And although I can't prove it with numbers, it sure seems like the number of posts is down over the last two days. This is definitely true at the tnr.com site.
HEY! HOW ABOUT THAT!
Well, I clicked on the link below like I kept telling you to do, and lo, a UPI wire report run in the Washington Times appeared.

Thank god most responsible journalism outlets are not covering the story, if this is what they come up with.

The reason it's running now is because Kerry was on Imus this morning:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., front-runner for the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination, Friday denied he engaged in an extra-marital affair.

"Well, there is nothing to report," Kerry told the talk radio show Imus in the Morning. 'So there is nothing to talk about. I'm not worried about it. No."


Fine so far, I suppose.

The story, widely covered by U.S. and British media Friday, was based on a report on the Internet tabloid site DrudgeReport.com, run by Matt Drudge. Drudge's report alleged Kerry had been seeing a former Associated Press employee who has left the country at his behest.

Well, the problem here is that it actually wasn't "widely covered" by the U.S. media. That's definitely overstating the case.

Kerry is married to ketchup heiress Theresa Heinz.

Oh, I get it -- you have to remind everyone that he's married.

Drudge also said retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who dropped out of the race Wednesday after poor results in the previous night's primaries, told reporters earlier this week, "Kerry will implode over an intern issue."

A spokesman for Clark, however, told UPI Drudge's reporting of his comments was inaccurate. Clark was expected to endorse Kerry later Friday in Wisconsin.

Also Friday the Chicago Sun-Times reported former Vice President Al Gore knew about the allegations, which was why he endorsed former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean instead of Kerry.


There you go . . . that's the extent of it for now.
KERRY, FURTHERMORE
Keep clicking this link to see where the media are with this story. So far it's been mostly the British press. The silence from the mainstream U.S. press is like that elephant in the room, or whatever the cliche is.

It's reasonable to assume that the mainstream press is being responsible, but I expect a little more from some of the internet/blog types, who are less careful about putting forward rumors. In this case, I think it's OK to speculate, or to qualify and speculate. Just because when you don't say anything about it, it comes off as kind of strange. People on the internet often write about things that they can't corroborate with two or more sources. We're all smart enough to evaluate that information. Give us some credit.
THAT KERRY STORY
If it's true, of course, then I think it speaks to Kerry's character . . . and one thing I expect from these guys vis a vis "character" is simply to refrain from humping young women. That's not a lot to ask, I think.

And if they can't -- if they're willing to sacrifice their career and/or place in history because they want to get laid, then I think it's fair to assume that they lack proper judgement. It's fair to assume that someone who is truly serious about higher office can keep his dick in his pants for at least some reasonable timeframe before and after a campaign.

If this is true, I think he's let down (in reverse order, although none are more or less valid) 1) his campaign, 2) the Democratic party and 3) if what these guys all say is true, and they are truly concerned about the welfare of the nation, then the entire country.

It reminds me of the recent West Wing story line that dealt with Josiah Bartlett's VP's indiscretion. When President Bartlett got him alone (with Leo, of course) on the terrace outside the Oval Office, he out said to him "How could you do this to us?!"

Even as someone who has Kerry Fatigue, I think it's fair to ask him how he could do this to us. Infidelity is a non-starter, to put it diplomatically. Voters -- even those opposed to Kerry -- deserve more than that. We deserve to have an election based on issues.
DO YOU BLAME THEM?
Do you believe the Russians didn't blow up this guy's car? Would you blame them if they did?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

PUSSIES
TAPPED had a post about the Kerry/Drudge story and then deleted it. It basically said something along the lines of "Isn't it disappointing to focus on Kerry's sex life when all this crazy stuff in the world is going on?" You know, we shouldn't be worried about who is bonking whom when Gazans are being killed, Iraqis are being blown up, etc. The permalink doesn't work anymore.
DRUDGE! EXCLUSIVE!
OK, so I guess it's juicier than the Edwards junk from the other week. And if true, it's better than Gennifer Flowers, too. If true, it's the reason why Dean reversed course and pledged to stay in past Wisconsin (which also puts this snarky Noam Scheiber post in perspective). Buyer's remorse, anyone?
DRUDGE!
Aha! "KERRY FIGHTS OFF MEDIA PROBE OF RECENT ALLEGED INFIDELITY, RIVALS PREDICT RUIN." As Matt Drudge is fond of saying, it's "developing."
KERRY'S YOUTHFUL PAST
And I'm not talking about his career as a 1960s prep-school garage rock uber-hip stud, but rather his comments about the Vietnam War and perhaps the medal-tossing incident. It's not germane. James Lileks explains why in the second half of today's Bleat.
DRUDGE! EXCLUSIVE!
Uh oh, "CAMPAIGN DRAMA ROCKS DEMOCRATS!" A "World Exclusive Developing!" Let's hope it's A LOT BETTER THAN THAT CRAPPY ONE THEY PAWNED OFF THE OTHER WEEK ABOUT EDWARDS!!!!
IRAQ
Two good Iraq stories today.

The first is Thom Shanker's piece in the New York Times about miscalculations on both sides. It, I think, comes from the Pentagon's postmortem of the war. Fascinating stuff about what worked and what didn't. Apparently Saddam thought Coalition troops would come from Jordan, not Kuwait.

The second is Jonathan Rauch's piece in the Atlantic Monthly, which comes to the conclusion that the war was "premised on a mistake."

"Does that mean the war itself was a mistake?" he asks. "Yes. But it was a special kind of mistake: a justified mistake."

I think it's still too soon to work out the WMD stuff, and I want to repeat the scenario I brought up from before: what will we do or say when Bush gets voted out of office and then they find the WMD? What will the storyline be like for that PBS American Experience special?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

BIG IDEAS, CONTINUED
Frank, Jen -- evaluate Virginia Postrel's notion of the "in-box presidency." It's written in April 2000, which means that it may be outdated in this post-9/11 era, but then again, maybe we're getting back to a pre-9/11 time. (NB: "President Bush" refers to I, not II.)

She introduced this old article on her blog by asking how "President Kerry" sounds, in the sense of a gut reaction.

Which brings us to the meat of the argument that follows: "Voters have learned something from the last 12 years that the candidates haven't yet grasped: Nowadays, you never know what the president is going to do from what he says on the campaign trail. This isn't simply a matter of empty promises. It's a reality principle. Presidents don't plan civilization. They react as it changes rapidly and unpredictably. Presidents face questions, challenges, and constraints that never came up in their campaigns: The Soviet Union collapses, Iraq invades Kuwait, the Internet booms, Asian economies crash, tax receipts pour in and wipe out the deficit. It's the age of the in-box president."
CHRISTIAN-LIKE, TOO
Frank responds -- good stuff. Also, check out this op-ed by a Presbyterian minister along these same lines. He sees a split between the one side that follows the biblical ideals of the "Great Command (progressives)" and the other side that follows the ideals of the "Great Commission (evangelicals)." This divide, he says, mirrors the larger political debate between (take out broad brush) Democrats and Republicans. This I think goes part of the way in explaining it:

"Great Command Christians try to ground their faith in biblical teachings such as love, acceptance, refusal to judge others, the Golden Rule, forgiveness, justice, peace, nonviolence, social responsibility and defending the poor and oppressed (teachings that have historically influenced the Democratic Party).

" . . .

"Meanwhile, Great Commission Christians ground their faith in biblical teachings that emphasize salvation, redemption, morality, obedience, righteousness, discipleship, evangelism and defending the fundamentals or essential tenets of faith (teachings that serve as a basis for much of the present Republican ideology thanks to the involvement of evangelicals in the Republican Party)."
KERRY UN-INEVITABILITY
Jonathan Chait writes eloquently about the Kerry bubble. The only question is whether it pops before or after the nomination process is over.
DEAN, AGAIN, BUT HOPEFULLY FOR THE LAST TIME
Check out today's Note: "Howard Dean taught us that it's safe to drink pee out of the toilet."
PLEASE, PLEASE, THERE'S STILL TIME!
Will Saletan outlines why Democratic voters' meta strategy of electing based on the basis of electability is flawed: The Myth and Math of Kerry's Electability.

In short, exit polls show that Kerry earned the support of those who voted for a candidate based on whether he or she felt their candidate could defeat Bush, but lagged with those who supported a candidate based on who he or she agreed with on the issues. If that's too convoluted, here it is in plain English: voters chose Kerry on the highly suspect and ephemeral basis of how he would "sell" to the rest of the nation. Plainer English: Edwards scores a lot higher with moderates. Even plainer English: it's not over yet.

Saletan argues that those who will decide this election -- independents, conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans -- "aren't principally trying to figure out which Democratic candidate can beat Bush, because they don't necessarily want the Democratic nominee to beat Bush." And if it's "which Democratic candidate, if any, would be a better president than Bush," then it's not clear to these voters that Kerry is the guy.

The most solid meta take of the piece comes at the end:

"Could I be wrong about all this? Sure. We pundits have been wrong before. Punditry is a dangerous game. But according to the exit polls, that's exactly the game Democratic voters have played in nominating Kerry. And if they're as shaky at it as we are, the price isn't just embarrassment. It's defeat."

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

DEMOCRACY AND/OR CHRIST
Once again, Scott agrees with me in a roundabout way after unfairly portraying my views. Sigh.

For the record: Evangelicals do not think it impossible to construct a government that does the work of improving society, but they do think that their churches can do it better. This is partly because their goals for society are not secular, and partly because government is generally big, impersonal, inefficient, etc. Perhaps we can all agree on the latter point, but the former is problematic.

Here's where I think Scott doesn't make the case. An example: Evangelicals oppose family planning - and we'll define that as freely available birth control for all seekers rather than abortion, avoiding the hotter button. The fact is family planning is objectively good for society in several ways that are too obvious to list here. Should a Democrat go along with Christian ideology? If it gets votes? If she believes it personally? No, they should serve the best interests of society.

I contend that the goverment must enforce secular, humanist values rather than accept the random teachings of a religious community, however large or voal that community might be. It is "Christ-like" to have a humanistic outlook but "Christians" often have a dogmatic approach that differs widely from the good Golden Rule.
BEING A LITTLE MORE CHRISTIAN-LIKE
Bruno responds to the call from yesterday. He notes Alabama Governor Bob Riley's failed taxation plan, which was framed in Christian rhetoric (and which I meant to mention but neglected to). It may not have ultimately worked, but it could be that people just don't trust government -- any government -- to raise taxes. And I'm guessing -- just wildly speculating, really -- that the margin was less than it would have been had Governor Riley not appealed to the voters' sense of Christian justice.

Frank adds that "the easy answer is that most people are hypocrites when it comes to religion," which is what Jen said the other day when I mentioned it to her, although she went one further, saying that Evangelicals especially believe that we are all doomed, and this negative worldview colors what they feel is possible with worldly institutions. I would just like to say for the record that I don't agree with Jen. That said, I think Frank is somewhat correct -- perhaps many of us -- perhaps because we are all "sinners," as the President has said (I'm perverting the concept, of course), we don't always walk the walk and talk the talk. But if the President can't use the bully pulpit to get us to think more Christian-like, then what purpose does the bully pulpit serve? I don't think everyone rushed out to ask what they could do for their country when Kennedy said that, but it at least helped set a tone.

Frank adds that it's not enough to be more Christian, since that leaves out the rest of us who aren't. Understood. But there is a way to build on the religious/moral message of social justice that transcends one particular religion. There is a coherent message that binds all religions -- even the most insular of the bunch. It's often said that Bush speaks in code when he's pandering to the Evangelicals -- why not speak in a similarly ecumenical code?

Frank continues, saying that the current crop of Democratic candidates aren't able to bring themselves to pound on a religious message. I say that's their own fault, and perhaps shows some intellectual failings on their part. I don't consider myself religious at all but I think I have a full, rich and deep appreciation for what drives religious people to make their church, their communities or their world a better place. And that's what a Democrat/liberal/progressive should instinctively tap into. If they can't bring themselves to at least make even a lame attempt, then I doubt they actually do understand what the mass of the country believes. That may be their biggest liability.

Frank concludes, "In the end, though, a Bible-based progressivism will have to convince people that the government is better than the local church at caring for the least among us. And that's going to be a hard sell. Too many people believe the government is too inefficient to do that kind of work effectively." Yes, absolutely -- but at the same time it also lowers the bar for what people expect government can do! And if we elect Presidents on the basis of hope or character or whatever intangible factor it is, then the least we can expect from an elected leader is that he or she can lead in this direction.

Bruno, thoughts?
NARCISSISM
If you were wondering what I meant when I wrote that reviving certain plays and movies from different eras reeks of narcissism, read this Robert Scheer column.

Here's what I'm talking about:

"For those requiring a refresher course in that previous folly, which so fractured our country while devastating three others, check out filmmaker Errol Morris' new documentary, The Fog Of War, in which the Vietnam adventure's prime architect, Robert S. McNamara, tearfully concedes it was all a grand mistake.

". . .

"Today, we again have been battered senseless by the argument that it is 'irresponsible' to leave Iraq, even when it is clear we are no longer welcome. Those who dare suggest that our continued presence as an occupier is actually part of the problem — like Democratic presidential contender Dennis Kucinich — are pilloried as unrealistic."

Incidentally, why do I sneer at Scheer? Gratuitous lines like this: "What was all that about the imminent threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's ties to 9/11? All lies, it turns out."

Please. Spare me the Krugman-esque hyperbole and nakedly partisan bullshit. Fucking write something for a change.
BUSH: AWOL!
If the Bush-went-AWOL story is meant to pump up Kerry rather than destroy Bush, as Mickey Kaus speculates, then I'm cool with it. Otherwise, I don't give a flying fuck what he may or may not have done 30 years ago regarding military service during a trying and divisive era. I really don't. It may speak to the character of a twenty-something kid, but it just isn't germane now. And it's tiring to keep reading about it.

So in that spirit, I'm making a deal with myself. In return for not giving a shit about this retarded Bush-was-a-deserter story, I won't think twice about the charge that Kerry threw someone else's medals away.
RYAN LIZZA
The New Republic's Ryan Lizza has some great stuff in his campaign blog, which has been focusing on the more lyrical moments of the respective Democratic campaigns. I'm just catching up with this Saturday tidbit about Kerry lying to African-American churchgoers -- lying in church, of all places! -- and today's piece on Wesley Clark's deathwatch is just brilliant. An excerpt: "[Campaign Chair Eli] Segal says he talked to one of the campaign's fundraisers. 'He's still raising money,' he tells Clark optimistically. 'He is?' Clark answers quietly, a touch of surprise in his voice."

Monday, February 09, 2004

THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS NEEDS TO SUCK ON THIS
Why don't the Democrats co-opt the Republicans' flirtation with the religious right by reframing social policy issues in a religious manner? Wouldn't Jesus want every American to be covered by health care? Wouldn't a Christian want to see his or her neighbors pulled out of poverty? Or are they too blinded by the so-called secularist elite agenda to triangulate?
MOBY
Does it go without saying that Moby isn't helping any either? This is supposed to appeal to people in some way?

Friday, February 06, 2004

THE FRIDAY QUESTION
Is John Edwards running interference for John Kerry in exchange for VP nod on the Kerry ticket? What's the evidence?

As ABC's The Note pointed out, he's running advertisements in Wisconsin -- not strange, but aren't Virginia and Tennessee more important for him at this point? And isn't he running out of money? Remember -- Wisconsin is Howard Dean's last stand.

The Note also noted a quote from a senior Edwards advisor in the Washington Post: "beating Clark in the coming week is a higher priority than stopping Kerry."

So . . . is Edwards clearing the way for Kerry, making it a two-man race and solidifying his VP chances? Does this ever happen? Would it be crazy to think that it did?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

THE INSIGHT ONE GAINS AFTER SERVING 13 YEARS IN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS

We have two major strains of pro-life sentiment: the first objects to abortion purely because it is the taking of a life and the second objects because legal (easily available) abortion tears at the social fabric. Most so-called pro-lifers think themselves motivated by a mix of the two.

In fact, very few pro-lifers actually feel that all life must be protected. They often feel free to support capital punishment or war, for example, although lives (even innocent lives) are deliberately taken in both instances. Some extremists even support the killing of doctors who perform abortions. The hypocrisy is obvious. Clearly, all life is not sacred because if it was we should kill no one and let fate/God/? decide…

The second sentiment is the most powerful, especially when you consider that most pro-lifers are religious people. They often feel that premarital sex is sinful and that birth control is suspect. Abortion is simply the worst manifestation of the triumph of sexual immorality over the innocence* of a baby's life.

Now, take away the "sin" that lead to the unwanted pregnancy, and the relatively reasonable person has to rethink their position. They may be anti-choice, but not if it means that no one can ever get an abortion even in cases of rape, incest, threat to health, etc. It is only the hardliner (I dare say misogynist, as it is a form of violence against women) that demands that an 8 year old have the child of her rapist.
If you ask me, people who would love to see babies born to parents that don't want them are not in any way humanitarians. They are religious zealots.

*I might add that it is not reasonable to say that a fetus is "innocent" (to contrast with a guilty criminal or a person on the wrong side of a war/conflict) unless you buy into a religious ideology that assigns some value to a life not yet lived. It is a religious issue, not an ethical or moral one.

THE MOST DEPRAVED THING EVER
Humans do a lot of disgusting things -- Uday Hussein, I'm looking at you -- but impregnating your girlfriend's eight-year-old daughter is among the worst. The Post notes that the victim in this case is probably the youngest rape victim to be impregnated in the history of New York City.

I was curious as to whether the girl had an abortion (she did). Which led me to wonder -- is there any pro-lifer out there who would have objected to terminating the pregnancy? You always hear "except in cases of rape or incest," but aren't there some pro-lifers who disagree with the rape-and-incest exception? And if so, wouldn't forcing an eight-year-old child to carry the baby be not only dangerous but psychologically devastating?

Furthermore -- not to be provocative or anything -- but why do pro-lifers feel that abortions in the case of rape or incest are acceptable -- isn't that baby a life, too?
IRAQ
How fragile is the situation there? It's easy to see how if this assassination attempt on Ayatollah Sistani, the Shiite leader the U.S. is desperately trying to satisfy, had succeeded, Iraq might have quickly collapsed into civil war. Mark Danner aside, it's still important to follow what's going on over there.
METROPOLITAN DIARY OUTTAKES
Nice to see that someone has picked up on how obnoxious the Times' Metropolitan Diary feature can be.
DEAN'S GOALPOSTS
After passing over the February 3rd primaries for contests in Michigan and Washington this weekend, then passing over those for Wisconsin on the 17th, Dean announces that Wisconisn is the do-or-die vote for his candidacy.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

SPECIAL INTERESTS
I wonder who these guys bankroll. I'm looking at you, Howard Dean.


WELL
Well, I guess I was a little off in my prediction, wasn't I? I guess the rule of the undecideds is more that if they haven't supported an insurgent (like Dean) early, then they're unlikely to break for him or her. That apparently doesn't hold true for more mainstream guys like Edwards, who won South Carolina and finished strong in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

THE DREAMERS
Last night, Jen and I saw Bernardo Bertolucci's new movie, The Dreamers. If you haven't already heard, it's getting an NC-17 rating, basically because it is the film equivalent of a Serge Gainsborough album.

Parts of the movie are excellent, and there's some very lyrical stuff. Other parts are unintentionally funny in the way Last Tango in Paris was unintentionally funny. What's with this Bertolucci thing of locking people in an apartment and being perverted anyway?

The movie is set in Paris during the tumultuous months of 1968 as it functions as a homage to cinema; the two seemingly dissimilar topics merge after the French authorities make moves to shut down the Cinematheque. In other words, world events conspired to encroach in the bastion of escapism, the movies.

After the showing, Bertolucci spoke about wanting to connect the youth of today to 1968, noting that the three young members of the cast in particular had little clue about what went on. An interesting phenomenon these days is to narcissistically view current events through the filter of past tumult. You see this with The Battle of Algiers, The Fog of War, the revival of Wallace Shawn's Aunt Dan and Lemon. Too often people want to look back to try to understand what's going on today, but it's not that easy, and every one of these examples ends up falling short.

Why not take a look at what's going on right now? I bet the best stuff will look more like the 1940s than the 1980s.

Monday, February 02, 2004

THE SCORECARD UNTIL NOW
If you've been on Mars for the last month or so, Philip Gourevitch's campaign journal piece in this week's New Yorker is as good a place to start as any.
IRAQ AND BEYOND
Last Friday, Jen and I got to see debate sponsored by The New York Institute for the Humanities, The New York Review of Books, and The Writing Program of The New School that featured Christopher Hitchens, Mark Danner, Samantha Power and David Frum.

We had never seen Hitchens speak live. He was incredible, which was to be expected. Samantha Power was good, too. David Frum offered an interesting perspective. Mark Danner, on the other hand, was just insufferable.

The moderator asked at the outset to address the theme, which was "Iraq and Beyond." Danner just kept repeating a litany of bad news about the war as if to say that it was self evident that Iraq was a monumental failure. He kept admonishing the audience -- who I would have thought were generally supportive of his position -- "don't you read the papers?" At one point Hitchens said that if Danner said that one more time he would throw up. By the question and answer session at the end, I was about ready to throw up.

It was generally interesting, but I wished Danner could have gotten beyond the immediate security situation in Iraq to address the topic. Frum attempted to do this at one point, only to be scoffed at by the audience. (I'm always impressed by speakers who go into seeming hostile territory to participate in debates like this -- although he was pimping a book, of course.) Frum suggested that Iraq could be a society with low taxes and free markets. (The "low tax" line was what elicited jeers.) That's the kind of stuff I wanted to hear, though. What did Danner see for Iraq? The idea that Iraqi society is, policy-wise, somewhat of a blank slate is a fascinating topic. Should it be a capitalistic model? What about elements of socialism, e.g., an Alaskan oil trust fund? There were many places to start from. Danner just sat there saying that Bush Lied, that elections were not going to be free, etc., etc. Disappointing.
FEBRUARY 3 PREDICTIONS
I'm going to turn in my homework a little early and make my prediction right now: Kerry sweeps tomorrow night.

According to the polls, the only two states that look contentious are Oklahoma and South Carolina. Kerry is obviously the frontrunner nationwide, and I think that given this busy news weekend (Super Bowl -- especially in the Carolina region, Kay Report, Janet Jackson's tit, Bush's announcement of an investigation, grounded flights), even those who might have been curious about Kerry's legislative record were probably distracted.

As for Oklahoma, I just think that Clark's slim lead over Kerry will disappear once the undecideds break for the frontrunner.

In the case of South Carolina, notice how Edwards support has remained steady while it appears that the undecideds have broken for Kerry. Also note that two major South Carolina papers have endorsed Lieberman -- that makes me think that Kerry will win South Carolina, too.

I might try to figure out an over/under for total delegates later . . . stay tuned.
WHY DO WE HAVE TO BE IN THE MIDDLE OF EVERY FUCKING JACKSON FAMILY PSYCHODRAMA?
That was no pasty!

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