Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Rightwing Cartoon Watch (11-27-06)

In this week's installment of Rightwing Cartoon Watch, conservative cartoonists grapple with the mess in Iraq, attack those dastardly Democrats, rail against (liberal) indoctrination in our schools, excoriate O.J. Simpson, and make some unfortunate arguments about the prospects of a new military draft and national service. Some prime contenders for "most offensive cartoon of the week" emerge!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Voice of Attack Ads

(crossposted at The Blue Herald)

Posts earlier this month examined ”Political Attack Ads” and ”Imaginary Candidates, Ideal and Dastardly.” However, even though the election season is over (for now), if you missed it this NPR story deserves a listen, as “Melissa Block talks with voice-over artists Dennis Steele and Scott Sanders about how to make a threatening voice for a political ad.” It’s NPR at its best —both informative and funny. The webpage also links several attack ads, but it’s the brilliant way this segment ends that makes it essential listening.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rightwing Cartoon Watch (11-22-06)

This week's installment covers cartoons from 11-12-06 to 11-18-06. Will conservative cartoonists offer an olive branch after their stunning defeat in the midterm elections? See for yourself!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Film Viewing List

The film and rental recommendation conversation is a staple of life (or has been for me this past week!). It's always fun to discuss favorite films, overloooked gems, and “what have you seen recently that you like?” I haven’t written about film nearly as often as I’d like or I originally intended to on this blog.

What follows is a short film viewing list I was asked to compile as part of a high school summer reading list for 2001 (thus The Lord of the Rings didn’t make it). As the introduction advised:

Due to space limitations, this list is hardly comprehensive; in most cases, a single film from a given director is listed, so feel free to make substitutions. Ratings and content are not listed, so if you have such concerns, please look up more information on the film before viewing.

Foreign films are listed as they are most commonly known in the United States. If there are multiple films of a given title, I’ve included the year in parenthesis.

The original list was meant to fit on a single sheet, and I had to exclude a great deal. I’ll expand and update this list later, and make it interactive (and add links to other good lists). However, here it is as is to serve in the meantime. I don’t even touch on TV, and of course now there’s the fantastic option of renting an entire season of a series. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments for me to consider for a more comprehensive version.

Hollywood Classics (pre-1960s)

The Adventures of Robin Hood
All About Eve
All Quiet on the Western Front
Bringing Up Baby
Citizen Kane
The Court Jester
The Day the Earth Stood Still
East of Eden
The Gold Rush
High Noon
His Girl Friday
The Maltese Falcon
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
A Night at the Opera
The Ox-Bow Incident
Paths of Glory
Rear Window
The Searchers
Singing in the Rain
Sullivan’s Travels
12 Angry Men
The Wizard of Oz

World Cinema

Alexander Nevsky
The Bicycle Thief
Claire’s Knee
The Conformist
Children of Paradise (Les Enfants du Paradis)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Cyrano de Bergerac (’90)
Das Boot
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Europa, Europa
Fanny and Alexander
Farewell My Concubine
The 400 Blows
Grand Illusion
La Strada
Life is Beautiful
Les Misérables (’95)
Pather Panchali
The Seven Samurai
Wild Strawberries
Wings of Desire
Tokyo Story
Toto the Hero

Shifting Visions (1960-1989)

All the President’s Men
Annie Hall
The Apartment
Blade Runner
Bonnie and Clyde
The Conversation
Cool Hand Luke
Dead Poets Society
The Deer Hunter
Dr. Strangelove
The Elephant Man
The Godfather, parts I&II
Harold and Maude
Judgment at Nuremberg
The King of Comedy
Lawrence of Arabia
The Manchurian Candidate
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Once Upon a Time in the West
The Princess Bride
Raging Bull
The Star Wars “trilogy”
To Kill a Mockingbird
2001: A Space Odyssey
Young Frankenstein

Recent Films (1990-2000)

American Beauty
Boys Don’t Cry
Bullets Over Broadway
Dancer in the Dark
Dead Man Walking
Edward Scissorhands
The Fisher King
Gods and Monsters
Hoop Dreams
The Insider
L.A. Confidential
Letters from Home
Lone Star
Malcolm X
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Piano
Rob Roy
Saving Private Ryan
Secrets & Lies
Shakespeare in Love
The Shawshank Redemption
The Silence of the Lambs
The Straight Story
The Talented Mr. Ripley
To Die For
Toy Story
Waiting for Guffman
Welcome to the Dollhouse

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Rightwing Cartoon Watch (11-16-06)

The latest installment of Rightwing Cartoon Watch is finally up, here. This installment covers cartoons from 11/6/06 to 11/11/06, and focuses on the midterm elections.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans' Day Cartoons

(crossposted at The Blue Herald)

Daryl Cagle has collected some fine cartoons for Veteran's Day. You can see the rest here.

11/11 Armistice Day 2006

(crossposted at The Blue Herald)

(Click on the comic strip for a larger view)

In 1959, Pogo creator Walt Kelly wrote:

The eleventh day of the eleventh month has always seemed to me to be special. Even if the reason for it fell apart as the years went on, it was a symbol of something close to the high part of the heart. Perhaps a life that stretches through two or three wars takes its first war rather seriously, but I still think we should have kept the name "Armistice Day." Its implications were a little more profound, a little more hopeful.

Amen, brother.

Thanks to all who have served or are serving.

(This post is a repeat from last year because I don't see how to top Kelly.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day: Dirty Tricks Watch

(crossposted at The Blue Herald)

I know many folks read Josh Marshall's excellent assorted blogs, but he's been in the lead documenting some scary crap. Many other liberal and non-partisan outlets have been doing a great job as well covering the last rounds of GOP dirty tricks. Here's Marshall's main page. "Blue" is also doing a splendid job at The Blue Herald.

Here's what I figure. The GOP is scared shitless. They're pulling out all the stops. And it's absolutely imperative that all this crap gets investigated, and the villains serve jail time. Those that can't be prosecuted need to be exposed and shamed. I want everyone annoyed by an RNC robocall posing as a Dem call in the middle of the night, or repeated deceptive RNC robocalls to the same house, to know who the real culprits are. I'd like to see all nefarious moves widely talked about and the culprits imprisoned. No weekend political talk show should fail to cover this. No major newspaper or television network should not make this a headline. Al Franken just had Simon Rosenberg (founder/president of the New Democrat Network) on, and Rosenberg was pointing out that Dems really need to hammer home how the GOP disenfranchises voters, and that the Dems are the party that wants all votes counted. Make the Republican "franchise" take a well-deserved hit. The Republicans need to pay a price for this, and the only way is exposure, discussion, and criminal penalties.

The encouraging news is that people are documenting this BS on blogs, on YouTube videos, and even the MSM is covering some of this. Some of the better outlets are covering this quite well. The Washington Post has an article on the RNC robocalls and how they violate FCC guidelines. Their political chats have been flooded with readers asking about them about the deceptive robocalls and urging investigation. People are justifiably pissed off and are taking action.

However, it's up to television networks especially, specifically the craven false equivalency crowd in the media, to grow a conscience, some courage and integrity and cover this relentlessly, because these GOP moves are in many cases illegal and are in all cases unethical. This is Republican villainy (and if there's any Dem villainy, condemn that, too!). This is not time for the sort of ludicrous mindset that dictates that if George Bush knifes a man to death the media must report for balance that John Kerry must have meant to trip over that kitten.

I am sick of disingenuous arguments from knaves who cannot win a debate on substance. I am sick of the dumbest, meanest, most short-sighted and selfish people being in power. I am sick of people who cannot govern preventing those who actually want to help our country from making it better. Voting is the American secular equivalent of a sacred right. No citizen entitled to vote should ever be denied or deliberately impeded. I am sick of this mendacity and these election day tricks.

How dare Bush preach freedom while simultaneously attacking civil rights and the Constitution. How dare he adopt a tone of moral purity when across the country his party is trying to suppress the vote. Being a true patriot means honoring why America was founded to begin with, not the consolidation of power. Americans have died to secure the right to vote, and to give that right to other Americans. How dare Bush and his party disrespect their sacrifice. America is an ideal and a promise to keep striving. Freedom is more than a buzz word.

And no civility is due those who would rob us of our civil rights.

Regardless of the outcome of any given single election, evil cannot prevail indefinitely. The party of FDR, JFK, MLK and Wellstone cannot be stopped by these motherfuckers.

Get out that vote!

Imaginary Candidates, Ideal and Dastardly

(crossposted at The Blue Herald)

NPR had a great feature on Friday (emphasis mine):

We revive an All Things Considered tradition from 1994: Robert Siegel talks to three political professionals to design the ideal Congressional candidate for 2006. We even make a campaign commercial for the ideal candidate.

Here’s the segment.

Meanwhile, Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter urges readers to take out their election frustrations with political scoundrels “on the fictional. Let's cream the five most annoying politicians in movie history.”

Due to peculiarities of the Post web set-up (I suspect for the sake of photos), the piece appears over six separate web pages.

Here’s Stephen Hunter’s brief introduction to his piece “Negative Campaigning: Cinema's Most Loathsome Politicians.” Here are his candidates, with excerpts from his comments (click on the character names for the full versions):

JOHNNY ISELIN, The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Known for: Demagoguery, venality, stupidity, treason.


Iselin is a stand-in for Joe McCarthy, but Gregory, a skillful character actor, took it a step further; he didn't simply and lazily count on McCarthy's reputation to build his character. What I loved about his skankiness was a certain fleshy, blurry, alcoholic rolling of his head, as if his neck had been dissolved in the spirits loading his system, and had turned to suet.

JOSEPH HARRISON PAINE, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Known for: Weary acceptance of corruption.


[Claude] Rains has a delicacy, a weight of grief, an almost eerie perfection of gesture and voice that so vividly (and tragically) evokes Sen. Paine. He is not so much the man you love to hate as the man you hate to hate. In Stewart's idealistically hot and burning eyes, you can see the man Paine once was. Now he is what he is and it's not pretty, and being self-aware and ironic, he knows exactly what that is. Rains conveys this so subtly, yet so profoundly, it's almost a miracle, and it's really the key performance in the film, the performance that establishes the moral tone of the picture.

TRACY FLICK, Election (1999)

Known for: Utter certitude, complete lack of self-awareness and mindless ambition.

How wondrously monstrous is the fabulous Reese Witherspoon in Alexander Payne's "Election." She's one of those perfect American girls who gets up at dawn, bakes cupcakes, carries a 4.0, is president of the French Club and captain of the cheerleaders. You hated her in high school, unless she smiled at you, in which case you loved, adored, worshiped, were enraptured by, were enslaved by, would do anything for her -- until the next day, when she ignored you again, and that rapture turned to bitter, rancid hatred that lasted a lifetime. Unless she smiled the next day. However -- she never did.

FRED VAN ACKERMAN, Advise & Consent (1962)

Known for: Unction, moral preening, ruthlessness.

Now, from the other side of the aisle, George Grizzard as everybody's favorite peacenik-we-love-to-hate. Otto Preminger directed this 1962 classic of the old Washington, where civility reigned and compromise was the name of the game -- but he also projects its demise. The scandal that he unfolds presciently looked into a future composed of the politics of personal destruction.

CHARLES FOSTER KANE, Citizen Kane (1941)

Known for: Sense of entitlement.

It's really Kane himself who represents something rotten in politics, something that has too long dogged our shores and tainted our institutions. That is the sense of entitlement and moral superiority that the rich have, the sense that they are vouchsafed entry into the higher levels of the ruling profession based on nothing more than a shrewd selection of extremely wealthy people as parents.

Why do such people assume a natural right to rule?

Why indeed?

Scold for Senator

(crossposted at The Blue Herald)

Everyone has the candidate they’d really like to see win — and even more so, at least one candidate they’d really like to see lose.

Watching a clip of Clinton “rallying the troops” for Jim Webb, it occurred to me I’d really like to see George Allen and Joe Lieberman lose. I’m well aware Lieberman’s currently favored. And Allen may well win. But I can’t respect either of them.

Both men are horribly, delusionally wrong about Iraq. Allen has his racism, his arrogant sense of privilege, his good ol’ boy faux populism shtick and his awful positions on issues. Plus, he’s a bully. Lieberman has been a suck-up to Bush, insensitive to women’s reproductive rights, utterly gutless, and has a soporific speaking style more dry than a piece of burnt toast left in Death Valley for three days.

However, in addition to all that, I dislike both men because whether through political posturing or a true gap in their souls, they are scolds, they are prudes, they are twits when it comes to culture (in the case of Allen) and pop culture (in the case of Lieberman). They are hypocrites at worst, blowhards at best. They actually believe the youth of America would be better off listening to them on such matters. They believe there is nothing they need to learn in return. They may have their uses, but I can never trust such men. Allen is Bush without the brains. Lieberman seems to think that kowtowing to an opponent without receiving anything in return is advanced statesmanship, and that the obtuse, dull lecture is the most elevated form of human discourse.

Lieberman’s fuddy-duddiness is not as big an issue in this election, but if you need a reminder, here’s his moralizing about Clinton on the Senate floor, and here’s a compilation of some of his greatest hits.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post had a withering, witty op-ed slamming Allen for attacking James Webb’s novels. Here’s the link, and here’s a substantial excerpt:

Mr. Allen, a Republican whose campaign professes profound moral shock that actual sex should occur in fiction, has spent months trying to extract himself from his own "macaca"-inspired tailspin. When all else failed -- including an Allen ad in which a woman accused Mr. Webb of misquoting her, although he never quoted her at all -- Mr. Allen apparently decided that what he needed was a sex scandal crafted to smear his rival and timed for the campaign's fourth quarter. Lacking such material in real life, he turned to Mr. Webb's novels, most of which concern the wartime experiences of soldiers and international intrigue. There he found -- horrors! -- sex. And what better place to spread the word than the Web site of Matt Drudge, the online gossip-monger. That ensured the story would be echoed by radio talk show hosts in high dudgeon.

Mr. Allen has spent months disparaging Mr. Webb as a writer of fiction, as if a novelist's experience is any more divorced from everyday reality than the life of a U.S. senator. His campaign suggests that because some female characters in Mr. Webb's books are portrayed as sleazy or servile Mr. Webb must himself see women in that light. Please. Maybe Mr. Allen also believes that J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, takes too soft a line on wizards.


Mr. Allen certainly is an inspiration -- to anyone who believes that political campaigns may be won by diversions and dirty tactics, even as the candidate calls high-mindedly for a discussion of "the issues." Win or lose, he'll be remembered for his performance during this race, and not fondly.

There’s also a brilliant letter to the editor about Allen’s attacks on Webb’s novels:

Sen. Allen, what do you think of a writer whose works include scenes depicting the violent deaths of children, a 30-year-old man with an incestuous fascination with his mother's sex life, the blinding of an elderly gentleman by a married couple (who are his houseguests, no less!) and teenagers who defy their parents in order to become sexually active?

Given the affront these works present to good Virginia families, should we not ban from schools, bookstores, libraries and theaters Shakespeare's "Macbeth," "Hamlet," "King Lear" and "Romeo and Juliet"?

Allen is an outright knave, playing prude and attacking a book as a political gambit. He deserves to lose. The same goes for Lieberman, who (as others have noted) possesses a campaign slogan that says it all: “Connecticut for Lieberman.” Joe has long ago forgotten it should be the other way around.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ballot Propositions and Get Out the Vote!

(crossposted at The Blue Herald)

The website Vote411.org, run by the League of Women Voters, is a good resource for looking up ballot propositions and other voting information (h/t Mike’s Blog Round-Up).

The Left Coaster and Firedoglake also have a series of links for volunteering, if you can do so. Get out that vote!


For California residents, The Los Angeles Times has a good page detailing the usual deluge of ballot initiatives. You can see who supports which measures and find links for the proponents and opponents of the measures, as well as some neutral assessments.

Meanwhile, Warren Olney did a special edition of Which Way LA? on NPR station KCRW today. If you go to this page, you can hear the show, which does a last-minute overview of the ballot initiatives. The webpage also provides a host of other links.

Rightwing Cartoon Watch (11-6-06)

I have the latest installment of Rightwing Cartoon Watch up at The Blue Herald. You have three guesses about what captured the fancy of rightwing cartoonists this week, and the first two don't count.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Political Attack Ads

(crossposted at The Blue Herald)

This post could be called “GOP Attack Ads,” but that would be redundant. A handful of good articles on political ads have been making the rounds. The Washington Post’s Michael Grunwald reported on 10/27/06 in “The Year Of Playing Dirtier” (emphasis mine):

The result has been a carnival of ugly, especially on the GOP side, where operatives are trying to counter what polls show is a hostile political environment by casting opponents as fatally flawed characters. The National Republican Campaign Committee is spending more than 90 percent of its advertising budget on negative ads, according to GOP operatives, and the rest of the party seems to be following suit.

Post columnist E.J. Dionne observes how the GOP has shifted completely from hope to fear as a selling point in ”Republicans' Double Negatives” (10/31/06). He also decries false equivalency:

It's common to gather all political attacks under one large rubric called "negative campaigning" and to condemn the lot. But this is misleading.

A conservative who attacks his opponent for wanting to raise taxes and a liberal who accuses an adversary of favoring cuts in Medicare or environmental programs are both being "negative," but legitimately so, presuming that the criticisms are rooted in fact. If candidates can't air their disagreements, what's the point of free elections?

But this year Republican campaigners and their advocates in the conservative media have crossed line after line in sheer meanness, triviality and tastelessness. Conservative optimism and its promise of morning in America have curdled into the gloom of a Halloween midnight horror show.

But Post media columnist Howard Kurtz still manages to manufacture a false equivalency in his 10/26/06 column, ”Down in the Mud”:

Let's review the rather low state of this campaign season:

A GOP ad against Senate candidate Harold Ford -- featuring a white seductress who says she met the black lawmaker at a Playboy party and that he should call her -- is so odious and racially tinged that Ford's Republican opponent, Bob Corker, denounces it.

Republican Wyoming congresswoman Barbara Cubin tells a wheelchair-bound Libertarian candidate after a debate: "If you weren't sitting in that chair, I'd slap you in the face."

Hillary Clinton's opponent says she used to be ugly -- and why did Bill marry her, anyway? -- but now looks okay thanks to millions in plastic surgery.

Rush Limbaugh says Michael J. Fox is exaggerating his Parkinson's in political ads.

A John Kerry spokesman calls carping liberal bloggers "cowards."

Anybody out there feel like taking a shower?

When I read this column, I was astounded and appalled. It’s blatantly obvious that Kurtz added the Kerry spokesman item to placate his conservative audience and that it has absolutely no relation to the other items. Glenn Greenwald had the same reaction and dissected the column at more length, quipping “As we all learned to inquire from Sesame Street -- which of those examples does not belong on that list?”

Howard Kurtz seemed to come to his senses a week later with his 11/3/06 column ”Nattering Negativity,” if only because he read and quoted Slate’s Jacob Weisberg and his piece, ”Poisoned Politics.” Weisberg’s article possesses the refreshing subtitle, “The ads this year are worse than ever. Both sides aren't to blame.” After surveying several abhorrent Republican ads, Weisberg writes:

The other familiar excuse for negative advertising is that "everybody does it." Newspaper stories about attack commercials usually include a sampling of harsh Democratic spots in an effort to appear evenhanded. But there's really no comparison between what the two parties and their respective surrogates are doing. According to factcheck.org, a respected site that reviews the accuracy of various ads, "the National Republican Campaign Committee's work stands out this year for the sheer volume of assaults on the personal character of Democratic House challengers." Negative Democratic ads tie Republican candidates to President Bush, and to the Iraq war, or accuse them of being in the tank for the oil or pharmaceutical industries. But Democratic ads do not charge that their opponents "prey on our children"—even though one recently resigned following accusations that he did precisely that. One can only imagine the ads Republicans would have made this year if Mark Foley had happened to be a Democrat.

In fact, the form, style, and content of the contemporary attack ad are a specifically conservative contribution to American politics.

It’s a relief to see that many journalists can indeed accurately report the facts rather than succumbing to one side berating them as referee to slant things for them. As for Kurtz, I think he believes he is unbiased, and he occasionally makes good points, but after reading him closely for about three years now, I have to conclude he is more conservative than he thinks he is. (While he does quote liberal and neutral bloggers at times, his column almost always starts and predominates with a conservative blog round-up, and he quotes some really stupid and disingenuous conservatives. It would be more valuable if he challenged their obvious factual inaccuracies and failings of logic more often.)

But enough of such matters! Let’s see some ads and you can judge for yourself!

Exactly how bad are those dastardly Democrats?

They work for the mob!

(More information on this ad here.)

They're gay!

(More information on this ad here.)

The dark-skinned ones have sex with white women!

(Most people have seen the Harold Ford ad above already, but Crooks and Liars has a pretty exhaustive archive of the coverage on this ad, including Ken Mehlman’s craven spin, here.)

Gay illegal immigrants are crossing the border to steal your jobs, prevent prayer in school, and to piss on an upside-down American flag they've set on fire!

(Well, that's exaggerating a bit. But not by much!)

Slate also has a feature called “Damned Spot,” covering and annotating political ads. They now have selected ”The Slimiest Campaign Ads of 2006: Slate crowns this year's worst of the worst.” It’s not surprising that the contenders include at least one of the above candidates! But who will win the title?

See you next time, when a Democrat and his meth-dealing gay lover strangle a puppy!