I saw "The Green Zone" this weekend. Essentially, as AO Scott noted, the film did a pretty decent job of distilling the events and politics of wartime Bagdhad into the action/thriller genre:
To anyone who was paying attention in 2003 and after, this is familiar territory. Mr. Greengrass and the screenwriter, Brian Helgeland, deftly glean material from the historical record, and while they compress, simplify and invent according to the imperatives of the genre - this is a thriller, not a documentary - they do so with seriousness and an impressive sense of scruples. They have clearly studied journalistic accounts of the early days of the war, citing Rajiv Chandrasekaran's vivid "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" as a particular inspiration, and while the picture they paint of infighting among the Americans and growing factionalism among the Iraqis may not be literally accurate in every particular, it has the rough authority of novelistic truth.
At the movie's core is the discovery by an Army officer, played by Matt Damon, that the US government's justification for invasion - Iraqi WMDs - was manufactured.
And watching it made me feel outraged all over again. If anything, the movie should be a reminder of how awful, how devastatingly awful the last administration was, how sick the invasion was, how wrong its supporters were - especially after it was evident it was a sham, a setup, a con job.
Naturally the movie is irking conservatives, who are busy trying to resurrect Bush's reputation. Ross Douthat takes a novel approach for a conservative, and pines for someone to depict the "complexities" of the war, instead of turning it into some over-simplistic story of good vs evil. ("If only Hollywood could be more like George W Bush," writes FDL's Blue Texan, "and embrace a sophisticated, nuanced, shades-of-gray type of worldview - rather than so clumsily dividing the world into good and evil." Or read Daniel Larison's complete smackdown of Douthat.)
Of course, in a way - and not the way Douthat intends - the move is a little over simplistic. For starters, in "The Green Zone," there's much surprise when no WMDs are found and there's shock when it's revealed that the administration had a hand in manufacturing WMD intelligence. Of course, by the invasion, it was pretty clear that there were no WMDs in Iraq, and that the intelligence from the Pentagon was suspect, to say the least.
That is, the move is an over-simplistic flick that augurs how the American public will remember the war, how most are already processing it. Basically, people are remembering that they were hoodwinked, when, in fact, most people had the evidence, heard the dissenting voices, and still supported the war. The public and the media galloped headlong towards Iraq under Bush's banner willingly, despite the plethora of reasonable and well-informed voices that showed there was nothing there...
Check out the most recent issue of the journal Science which takes a look at ways to improve food security as the world's population is expected to top 9 billion by 2050. To best nourish both people and the planet, the journal suggests a rounded approach to a worldwide agricultural revolution by encouraging diets and policies that emphasize local and sustainable food production, along with the implementation of agricultural techniques that utilize biotechnology and ecologically friendly farming solutions.
Sylvia Banda started Sylva Professional Catering Services Limited in 1986, even though just 30 years ago women weren't allowed to own businesses-or even eligible for loans-in Zambia. She began her business by serving people food she cooked and brought from home on what she calls, a "standing buffet," because she didn't have enough money for tables and chairs.
Not having furniture didn't stop Sylvia's business from taking off; she made almost a hundred dollars after a few days. And with her husband listed as the proprietor of her business because land rights are limited if not inaccessible to women in Zambia, Sylvia was able to grow her small "standing buffet" into three subsidiary businesses.
Sylva Professional Catering Services Limited is dedicated to creating, selling and serving nutritious foods, made from indigenous and traditional products that are purchased from local farmers and merchants. Sylvia provides work for 73 people and has developed partnerships with local development organizations, using her financial and popular success to become a proponent of farmer and employee training. She calls it "economic emancipation."
Sylvia's success has benefited not just her own family, but the wider community as well. And Winrock International, an organization that collects examples of projects focused on sustainable food, improving livelihoods and preserving local food traditions, hopes to extend her positive impact even further still by making her case study available as a resource and model for potential entrepreneurs-and for policy makers and NGOs who support potential entrepreneurs-around the world.
For more information about Sylvia's work and other projects that are focusing on sustainable food, improving livelihoods and preserving local food traditions, see Winrock International's site on Community Food Enterprises.
Yes, the email is an incoherent mess riddled with puerile and racist remarks. Yes, yes, it's a long litany of rightwing rhetoric, an ugly peek into the garbage-addled, xenophobic, sexist, and paranoid mind of a Fox-News-Glenn-Beck-watchin' wingnut. And, yes, it's disturbing that a Boston police officer and National Guard captain thinks like this - and I'm glad he wrote the email, so he could be duly suspended from bothjobs.
All this is true. But what got me the most was the opening of his email:
"I am a former English teacher, writer..."
Yup. Justin Barrett, the author of this stunning incoherent rant, considers himself an educator and intellectual...
...so what's the under/over on this dude appearing on Beck's show as the victim of liberal elitism and reverse racism?
Deputies said two men brandished a baseball bat and a tire iron, used racial slurs and threatened migrant mushroom pickers at a Marion convenience store. One of the workers took a gun from his vehicle, fired two shots in the air and the parties went their separate ways.
About two hours later, deputies say up to seven white men attacked migrant workers at a campground, allegedly hurling racial slurs and beer bottles at the migrants. One white man had a rifle and fired five or six shots in the air.
So here's the question: how much does the rightie anti-immigration rhetoric spur this kind of thing? Or does the rhetoric flow from this kind of nascent anger?
No, I didn't go to Butte to get a glimpse of our next President, as cool as that would have been. No, I have two 4 yearolds who need more entertainment than just a political superstar and a parade. So we went to Seeley Lake, canoed, swam, ate crappy food, and saw a parade. I got pretty sun addled and passed out as soon as we got home.
And now the twins - their normal bedtime is 8pm - frolic in their bedroom waiting for tonight's fireworks at the mall.
Yes, the Fourth of July has been very good to me, and frankly I haven't stopped for much introspection. Thanksgiving is always better for stuff like that. The 4th is a big party.
I'm a big fan of the the document that kicked off the events that led to today's holiday. (Another reason to be p*ssed off about FISA.) I like baseball, apple pie, and my mother. Other things, not so much...like the rampant consumerism...our increasing militarism...institutionalized greed...trickle-down economics.
What does it mean to be an American, anyway? Is it a form of nationalism? A racial and cultural identity? Or the sharing of a common idea?
I admit I'm hit by this news, although given Carlin's health it wasn't a complete surprise. Carlin was the first standup I really liked. I remember listening to Carlin records in middle school in the basements of friends' houses, far from the prying ears of our parents.
...by the early '70s Carlin had completed a remarkable change, opened up a new audience for stand-up comedy and helped redefine an art form. Like Lenny Bruce - whom he idolized and who helped him get his first agent - Carlin saw the stand-up comic as a social commentator, rebel and truthteller. He challenged conventional wisdom and tweaked the hypocrisies of middle-class America. He made fun of society's outrage over drugs, for example, pointing out that the "drug problem" extends to middle-class America as well, from coffee freaks at the office to housewives hooked on diet pills. He talked about the injustice of Muhammad Ali's banishment from boxing for avoiding the draft - a man whose job was beating people up losing his livelihood because he wouldn't kill people: "He said, 'No, that's where I draw the line. I'll beat 'em up, but I don't want to kill 'em.' And the government said, 'Well, if you won't kill people, we won't let you beat 'em up.'"
The thing about Carlin that I liked was that I learned something every time I heard him. He had a great way of pointing out hypocrisy and illogic in our culture -- the things hidden in plain view.
That's what I get from Shane Mason's post, too - for Shane, Carlin had a forceful message about the power of language. I know what he means: direct, irreverent, and powerful language is the staple of your average blog - it's a nice antidote to the evasive periphrasis of politics and the humorless sterility of the professional media that reports it. And Carlin was an inspiration.
Now, I suppose comparisons with Tim Russert are inevitable, given the two men died so near one another, and they both were commenters on politics. But I've got to think, despite all the fanfare on the major networks for Russert, it's Carlin who, in the end, was the more important critic.
I'd wish Carlin a restful peace, but I know he'd rather be raising hell wherever he is.
So, if you're not a gamer, you're not aware that the biggest game of the year was released recently. That's right: Grand Theft Auto IV. Sales are brisk, to say the least.
Again, if you're not a gamer, you might not know the basic premise of the game: "Most of what you do in GTA IV still boils down to hustling jobs, stealing cars, trucks, and motorbikes of all makes and sizes, chasing and frequently stabbing, beating, or shooting enemies by land, sea, and air, and evading the law..." There's sex and violence galore. Only more realistic and disturbing than ever before:
Yes, concerned teenage boys of America, if your parents are irresponsible enough to let you get your hands on this, you can still kill and maim and plunder and screw until your heart is full. But there's a difference this time: The violence is no longer cartoonish. Shoot an innocent bystander, and you see his face contort in agony. He'll clutch at the wound and begin to stagger away, desperately seeking safety. After just scratching the surface of the game-I played for part of a day; it could take 60 hours to complete the whole thing-I felt unnerved. What makes Grand Theft Auto IV so compelling is that, unlike so many video games, it made me reflect on all of the disturbing things I had done.
The heck with Congress' big stimulus bill. The way to get the country out of recession -- and most people think we're in one -- is to get the country out of Iraq, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll.
Pulling out of the war ranked first among proposed remedies in the survey, followed by spending more on domestic programs, cutting taxes and, at the bottom end, giving rebates to poor people in hopes they'll spend the economy into recovery.
Another interesting aspect about this poll is that "cutting taxes" came in third among polled Americans as best solution to the current economic mess. First was pulling out of Iraq, at 48 percent; second was "increasing government spending on health care, education and housing programs," at 43 percent; third was "cutting taxes," at 36 percent.
Just a poll, folks, move along. Nothing to see here. I'm not listening, LA LA LA...
I don't know about you, but I was pretty disappointed that the New York Giants beat the Pack this weekend at Lambeau field. They ruined the dream matchup! Packers v Patriots, good and evil, The Gunslinger against the Evil Empire!
Now, it's New York v Boston. Zzz-zz-zzz. Now, it's another Manning quarterback. Don't we see these guys often enough in commercials? The media's doing their darndest, of course, to hype the game. Brady's got a hurtfoot! Brady's hurt foot is a ruse! Folks are trying to make the Giants into the GoodGuys, even profiling the Giant's "good-luck charm," a double amputee Iraq vet. But I don't see it. Who's rooting for the Giants and Baby Manning over a perfect season? I don't buy it. It'll probably be another 25 years before we'll see a similar shot at greatness again.
And frankly, while the Giants are winning on the road, against the odds, looking decent, not making too many mistakes, they're going to have to do better than just avoid losing. They have to beat the Patriots. Okay, so they played 'em tough in week 17, but the score was much more lopsided than the eventual 3-point margin of victory. The Giants played their best...and still couldn't do it. Who thinks the Patriots aren't the favorites in the biggest game of the year with two weeks to prepare, and their historical legacy on the line? The Patriots aren't a team that overestimates its opponents, takes days off, sleepwalks through practice, takes anything for granted. They have better game plans than anybody, they adjust better than anybody.
Here's a little New Year's cheer for all of you out there: the Recording Industry Association of America is going after citizens who copy their music CDs to their personal computers:
Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.
The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.
The RIAA has apparently lost its collective mind.
This isn't an isolated incident, either. An RIAA spokesman said that the industry will continue to prosecute folks who copy their CDs to their computers.
I suspect nearly all of you reading this have done exactly that.
A Billings Gazette poll released today shows that a large majority of Montanans disapprove of the Iraq war, some 58 percent of those polled, as opposed to 37 percent who still support it. The catch is, a small plurality -- 46 to 45 percent -- favor setting timetables for withdrawal.
And you wonder why our delegation -- at least the sane ones -- waffle on bold legislative action to extract us from Iraq. (The representative supporting Bush's incoherent policy wants us to stay a generation or two.)
And you wonder, what with all these contradictions tugging them this way and that, why Montanans drink so much?
The Patriots yesterday beat the New Jersey Giants, 38-35, in a game that was actually closer and more lopsided than the final score indicates. (You had to see it to know what I mean.) In doing so, they're the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to win all their regular season games.
And that's not all! Not only did they remain undefeated, but they broke three NFL records in the game. Tom Brady connected for his 50th TD pass -- a record -- with Randy Moss, for his 23rd TD reception -- a record -- and the team finished with 589 points for the season. You got it. Another record.
Now, I know that most of you hate the Patriots. I was born and raised in New England, so I'd like 'em even if they were quarterbacked by David Carr. But I'm not sure I understand your antipathy.
I mean, this is the most explosive NFL offensive, ever. And their perfect record in this era of parity represents all that's good about football: good coaching, execution of plays, selfishness, teamwork. It's not like the Patriots have such superior talent, other than Moss, Brady, and Seymour (who was hurt the bulk of the season). They don't have a running game. Their secondary is suspect. The linebackers are aging and slow. In short, they've won on discipline, good offensive line work, and game plan. I mean...does it get any better?
So now here's your chance to tee off on the 2007 Patriots. Why do you hate them?
I have two points to make. First, we are the center of the universe. Second, if you want to be the Democratic nominee, you have to win Missoula.
That's definitely true. What's also true is that Missoula politicians do have a chance to win the state, IMHO, if they run on a strong economic populist message emphasizing local and state solutions to national problems, like energy and education.
Missoula is a liberal haven, that's true. And certainly a lot of our pet social issues don't necessarily resonate with the entire state. (Although you'd be surprised what floats with the state - medicinal marijuana? Check.) But I'd argue that issues of corporate control of the government, preserving open space and access to our wildlands, trade, livable wages, alternative energy, budegetary responsibility, Iraq, and health care gibe with a majority of the state.
Solutions progressive Missoulians embrace are often local. Sustainable agriculture? Build a couple of community farms inside city limits. Alternative energy? Build "green" homes, create co-operative urban development organizations. Republicans used to talk a lot about states' rights -- until that rhetoric got a little awkward when compared with their actual policy-making decisions.
Do Missoula candidates have a reputation to hurdle? Definitely. It's a reputation that bears little resemblance to reality, one that's been nurtured by the right to nullify the city's political potential influence in state politics. And for good reason. A Missoula-influenced future would push the Republican party to the side.
And there's reason to believe that the perception of Missoula will change naturally. As Moy writes in a tossed-in afterthought:
Missoula is changing. Its borders are expanding. People everywhere are more environmentally conscious. Out-of-state residents are moving in, and bringing with them a wide variety of personalities and attitudes.
Missoula is already the second-largest city in the state, and some predict it'll soon be the largest.
With most of Montana's voters increasingly concentrated in western Montana, the rural Montana vote will hold less weight, [UM professor James] Lopach said.
Running as a candidate from Missoula may not be "the handicap it maybe once was," he said.
The state is changing, and probably aligning more towards the Garden City than it is towards traditional ranching communities. A couple of decades from now, we might be remembering Missoula's "reputation" with nostalgia.
This grisly report - on the conviction of Russian serial killer Alexander Pichushkin -- mentions notorious Ukrainian killer, Andrei Chikatilo, who killed at least 53 young women, girls, and boys in the most horrible ways imaginable. The interesting thing to me in the case was that Chikatilo was a suspect for his very first murder -- in 1978 of 9-year-old Lena Zakotnova -- but the police convicted someone else of the crime:
An eyewitness had seen Chikatilo with the victim, shortly before her disappearance, but his wife provided him with a cast-iron alibi that enabled him to evade any further police attention. A 25-year old, Alexsandr Kravchenko, with a previous rape conviction, was arrested and confessed to the crime under duress, probably as a result of extensive and brutal interrogation. He was tried for the killing of Lena Zakotnova, and executed in 1984.
Without the tortured confession from Kravchenko, who knows? Maybe the Soviet police arrest and convict Chikatilo for his first murder, not his 53rd. Police work is an inexact science, so it's impossible to say. What we can say, beyond all doubt, is that once the police extracted a false confession from Kravchenko through torture, Chikatilo was able to continue his ghastly work unimpeded for the next 12 years.
And when the police caught up with Chikatilo again in 1990, he confessed - not through torture - but to psychiatrist Aleksandr Bukhanovski, who had used a psychological profile to ease the killer into admitting his crimes.
Torture doesn't work. Those being tortured will tell their interrogators what they want to hear. And in the case of Chikatilo, torture had disastrous consequences. I know, I know. That's not how it works on 24...
Is Larry Craig going to un-resign? He is if he's cleared, he says. Yes, that's right, he's going to fight to reverse his "guilty" plea, and, if successful, he's going to run for re-election.
Where do I begin with this?
His own party hates him. The rank-and-file hates him. Not for the gay sex thing, mind you, but for being icky about it. Democrats want him to stay so Larry LaRocco has yet another advantage in the 2008 election. Kossak mcjoan: "Because what could be more fun than the prospect of Republican Larry Craig staying in the Senate race in Idaho?"
If Craig does manage to shuck off his guilty plea - and with the legal team he's assembled, it's very possible - do all the conservative nay-sayers back track, for political reasons? Do they buy Craig's story that he has a "wide stance"? (Still no word on why he peeks through the cracks into other men's stalls.)
The best thing about it, perhaps, is to watch a prominent figure struggle with his own sexuality. It's classic closeted behavior, isn't it? He'd rather put himself and his familythrough an intense sh*tstorm, a very public trial and an election where his sexual peccadilloes will be the main story, instead of 'fessing up. He'd rather destroy everything he has rather than acknowledge his sexual tendencies.
Maybe more folks will understand how difficult it is to come out, and that maybe - just maybe -- they're part of the reason why...
Politically speaking, this is a disaster for the GOP. Does rumored anointed successor, former Lt. Gov. Jim Ritsch, primary Craig? Don't count out Bill Sali, either. It'd be just like him to step in and make homosexuality the issue of the Senate race. In any case, while the right devours itself, Larry LaRocco is working his *ss off to take the seat.
Over at a loopy reactionary forest-management-related blog (vive la Internet!), on a post that uses Senator Larry Craig's bathroom hookup as an example of the "Moral Collapse of the USA," which the site then blames for the recent forest fires, or something (you gotta read it), Montana state senator Dave Lewis makes a guest appearance in the comments:
As a Republican state senator in Montana and as a human being, I am offended by Senator Craig's existence. Why oh why are most of the perverts that get caught Republicans? Are there more of them or are they just stupid? The thought of a US Senator chasing love in all the wrong places makes me think longingly of the Ayotollahs in Iran. They would just kill the turkey.
Yeah, that's it. Let's turn the United States into a fundamentalist theocracy. That'll keep our Republican Senators from blowing strangers in public bathrooms.
But seriously, it's hard to keep track of who we're battling. Let's see: we're now in a worldwide war with Islamo-fascists who want to kill us and convert us to Islamic fundamentalism because of all the easy-livin' loose values we wallow in, which we also hate, so the terrorists are on to something, actually.
Or something. You need a frickin' scorecard nowadays to keep track of conservative phobias.
Freaky jeebus! Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Maybe Larry Craig likes to blow men he meets in public bathrooms because he's creepy, and not because of Sesame Street , peanut butter cups, and pay-per-view softcore porn. H*ll, Craig's actions weren't even all that bad, historically speaking. H*ll, Craig's actions weren't even as bad as the sh*t some Republicans pulled this year!
Personally, I like America . I'd rather take my chances that softcore porn is creating David Vitters, Larry Craigs, and Jack Abramoffs than submit to a yoke of religious fundamentalism, thank you very much.
As for why the perverts "that get caught" are Republican? Well, Dave, I've got some theories...
As you all no doubt know, Barry Bonds is now the all-time home-run record holder.
Knowing that I'm a huge baseball fan, you've all probably been breathlessly waiting for my commentary on Bond's new status, and I admit I've been struggling to organize my thoughts on the matter. The problem is that this record was the Holy Grail of records for me as an adolescent baseball fan, and I would spend hours poring over the backs of baseball cards, calculating, projecting, and wondering who and when, if ever, would break the record.
And now someone has. Instead of jubilation or awe, I'm feeling ambivalent. On one hand, what Montana Headlines writes is absolutely true, "steroids don't give you the eye to see the pitch coming, the brain to decide if it's the one to swing at, or the coordination to actually hit it." True enough. And Bonds was an extraordinary ballplayer when he was skinny and small-headed, winning several MVP awards. There's no denying the talent.
On the other hand, steroids do increase strength. There's no doubt that Bonds' home-run rate increased dramatically after he's alleged to have started taking `roids, sometime around '98 or '99. (See Bonds' lifetime stats for reference.) He went from hitting one home run for every 16.11 at bats from 1986-98, to one home run every 9.12 at bats since - and one every 8.48 at bats from 1999 to 2004, the year many suspect he quit the stuff. If he did do steroids - and there's a preponderance of reasonable evidence that he did - it's like it nearly doubled his home run output for about five years, which comes to about 140 home runs.
As a preface, I think that censoring stimuli is perhaps the worst popular technique of controlling young folks' behavior. Young people are damn innovative at finding out what parents would keep from them. Most of the kids who I grew up with that were "sheltered" knew more about those things that they were "sheltered" from than I did. Morever, they were ill-equipped to deal with some of the stimuli, because rather than having guidance through the pitfalls of childhood--and adulthood, really--they were stuck charting their own course. There is a brilliant line in one of the Sopranos episodes where Anthony DeSando (Brendan Filone) looks directly into the camera and says, "Kids...you think you can protect them, but you can't." This in response to Tony's daughter and her idiot friend trying to score some speed, so that they can concentrate on studying.
I think that this is particularly true when considering the media. As some of you know, I am no big fan of Hilary Clinton for basically one reason: her asinine war on video games. There were a few bad eggs growing up in Billings, but Grand Theft Auto did not make any of them any worse than they already were. I would argue that it did make some of them better, by offering an outlet for their...ahem...unsociable tendencies. Another classic line from the comic book Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, "Any pile of stunted growth who doesn't realize that entertainment is just that, deserves the dank pit that they have doomed themselves to" (This might not be word for word, I lent my comic to a friend and so don't have it right in front of me. It is pretty close though, because I used to use this line in highschool debate all the time).
That aside, Vista and tougher parental control systems will not serve this purpose--good or bad--any better than what we have now. Why? First, parents are terrible at coming up with secure passwords. Just a hint: your child's birthday is not a good password to keep your child off of the internet, from watching graphic television or out of your secret home porno cache safe in your safe. Second, you cannot shelter your child from interaction with other children. The most forward step in this line of defense is home-schooling, a sure-fire way to socially cripple a child, and even it is not perfect, because there are plenty of heathen TV watchers that attend church or Sunday school or in the ball pit at the McDonalds. You cannot shelter a child from human contact outside your own. Finally, the innovation of youth for getting into the things that they "ought not be into" is imperturbable. Good luck stopping a kid from getting that hand into the forbidden cookie jar. It ain't happenin'.
Let's say you have done everything right...you have selected a password, which your kids could never decrypt, you have hidden your porno under lock and key which you wear on the inside of your breast pocket, etc.. Most safe children's movies, TV, and even video games are sewn thickly with adult innuendo and humor so that parents are not bored to damn tears when they take their kids to "Daffy Rides Again." Hell, even the Bible has its sordid moments, no?
Get to the point V, we could go on like this all day...A better form of contraception for young, gestating minds is a compass of some sort to guide them through the rabble that you cannot protect them from. Sometimes this compass will be informed by strong values or virtues, or information, religion, philosophy, creed, etc. Don't send your babes to the wild with only your solid steel, inhewable wall that stands proudly at one and one-half feet. Use their damn minds so that they can decide, and you may find that they follow much the same path that you did, with some pitfalls but are, ultimately, more interesting for it.