Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 12/25/08

Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah

Cantillation with the Orchestra of the Antipodes, conducted by Antony Walker (thanks to Buck for the coding). The Robert Shaw version is also quite nice, and Steve Audio passed on this great version by the Roches:

Eclectic Jukebox

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Political Aristocracy

Glenn Greenwald posted a good piece back on 12/3/08 on "Nepotistic succession in the political class." Digby linked it and two of her older posts on the subject, "Populist Monarchs and Subjects" and "Noble Neocons." Do check them out.

I'll add an overdue follow-up to my similarly-themed "Cokie's World," on social mores inside the Beltway and kinship ties. I had been wondering about Cokie Roberts' relationship with Al Gore, given their similar Beltway pedigrees and the press savaging of Gore during his presidential campaign for 2000. Naturally enough, Bob Somerby's covered the subject, including Cokie Roberts perpetuating a misleading account of Al Gore and Love Story, and Roberts falsely accusing Gore of distorting Bill Bradley's record.

My favorite, though, is a segment from October 2000 on ABC's This Week. As Somerby writes, "In this segment, Cokie starts by reciting the Standard Press Theme: Al Gore doesn’t know who he is. The requisite mockery about Dingell-Norwood followed close behind." Here's the relevant transcript (via Somerby, with his emphasis):

DONALDSON (10/22/00): Cokie, who's the real Gore?

ROBERTS: Well, who knows? And I'm not sure he does, and that's the other problem is that not only is he—was he—did he come across as unlikable in the debates, which was a problem—you say, a messenger problem, it's that his message can't get through because of the messenger. But it's also that he did come across as sort of changeable and all of that so that people couldn't—couldn't figure out who he was. And—and I think that—that in the long run, it's clear that they heard him, even though everybody says he won them, that—that in the long run, that he was heard. But George is right. Bush sits at our poll, for instance, right at 48. Every day he's at 48 percent.


ROBERTS: And Gore's numbers go up and down, up and down, up and down. Now maybe at some point, he goes over that 48 and wins.

DONALDSON: Well, you talk about the message. I mean, remember during the last debate, Gore kept talking about “the Dingell/Norwood bill, the Dingell/Norwood bill?” And we thought, as a public service, we'd just show you who Dingell and Norwood are. Let us tell you about them.

Representatives Dingell and Norwood introduced the Patients' Bill of Rights favored by Gore in the House of Representatives. John Dingell, from Michigan, is the longest-serving Democrat in the House. His father, who was a House member before him, was a sponsor of Social Security in the '30s, and pioneered the idea of national health insurance back in 1943. Charlie Norwood from Georgia, a Republican, is a dentist. He served in Vietnam and was first elected to the House in 1994 as part of the Republican revolution. So that's who Dingell and Norwood are. Now I'll tell you—

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the important—

ROBERTS: Yeah, but—

DONALDSON: But there's a guy named Greg Ganske who's also on the bill. It's actually the Dingell/Norwood/Ganske bill.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the important—the important point—

DONALDSON: But I don't have time to start telling you about him.

ROBERTS: He's from Iowa.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The important point there is that George Bush didn't answer the question about the Dingell/Norwood bill, which is a Patients' Bill of Rights that allows people to—the right to sue.

ROBERTS: Actually, I don't think that is the important point there.


ROBERTS: Because that's not what comes across when you're watching the debate. What comes across when you're watching the debate is this guy from Washington doing Washington-speak.


ROBERTS: And you know, it's having an effect not just at the presidential level, but at the congressional level as well. Because the Republicans did a very smart thing, which is that they voted for their version of a Patients' Bill of Rights, and they voted for their version of prescription drug coverage. So they get to go out and tout all these issues, and then the Democrats are left saying, “But you didn't do Dingell and Norwood.”

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, then they—but what gets lost there—wait a second, what gets lost there is that George Bush did oppose a Patients' Bill of Rights in the state of Texas. And he did—and he's not for the Dingell/Norwood bill.

ROBERTS: It was lost, because Al Gore didn't say it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, well, he did say it, actually, in the course of the debate.

DONALDSON: This is very cerebral. George Will, you are, but it doesn't be—helping Gore.

WILL: It's not helping Gore in part because people find him overbearing and off-putting and all the rest. But also the fact—I think the issues are beginning to break, finally, for George W. Bush...

It's no surprise as to which style of "journalism" triumphed and still dominates. (Facts, policies and competency versus psycho-babble and marketing spin? Please!) Cokie Roberts' attitude toward Gore suggests that pedigree and kinship ties alone don't always lead to Beltway acceptance. However, as looked at in the earlier post, that may be a special case due to so many Beltway insiders being scandalized by Bill Clinton's affair, and determined to punish Gore for it until he denounced Clinton. It's an ongoing struggle to make our system more of a meritocracy. And as it currently stands, of all the rules of the game, the appearance of propriety still seems to reign supreme.

(Cross-posted at Blue Herald)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Kurosawa Exhibit

(Two of Kurosawa's pictures for Ran.)

If you're a fan of filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and in the Los Angeles area, I'd highly recommend checking out the free exhibit of his work at the Motion Picture Academy. I just saw it this past weekend, and it closes after this upcoming Sunday, December 14th. It's been ten years since his death now. Apparently, some of these materials were compiled in anticipation of his centennial in 2010, so there's a chance something similar will return then (and I hope, tour a few other places in America). Here's information about the exhibit and hours and about parking and directions. There's also a recap of some related events they held.

All of Kurosawa's thirty-one films (more depending on your count) seemed to be represented in some fashion, if briefly. However, the highlight is the many reproductions of his pictures for three of his last films, Kagemusha (1980), Ran (1985) and Dreams (1990). Most are the original size, while some are blown up. Kurosawa used a mixed media technique, employing different combinations of pencil, ink, crayon, pastel and watercolor. Some pieces are quick sketches, but most are more finished works. Some of his Dreams pictures favor watercolors and a softer feel, while at least one blown up Ran portrait features bold slashes of color in crayon.

As Kurosawa describes in his book Something Like an Autobiography, he originally studied to be a painter, and his idol was Van Gogh (who features in the "Crows" segment of Dreams). Never one to do anything by half measures, when Kurosawa moved into filmmaking (winning a competitive apprenticeship), he burned his old paintings, reasoning that an artist has to focus. He also attempted suicide in 1971 after his first commercial failure, Dodes'ka-den (1970). Here's how Kurosawa himself explained his return to art, in the introduction to the book for Ran (paintings and the screenplay):

I intended to be a painted before I became involved in film. A curious turn of events, however, brought me to cinema, where I began my present career. When I changed careers, I burnt all the pictures that I had painted up until then. I intended to forget painting once and for all. As a well-known Japanese proverb says, "If you chase two rabbits, you may not catch even one." I did no art work at all once I began to work in cinema. But since becoming a film director, I have found that drawing rough sketches was often a useful means of explaining ideas to my staff.

There were difficulties from the start with budget negotiations for Kagemusha. For a while it seemed that this work would never see the light of day. Exasperated, because I wanted people all over to the world to understand what ideas I had for the film, I began to draw almost daily, turning these images into "still pictures." I completed several hundred pictures at the time.

The same thing happened with Ran. A long time passed before production got under way. As I had done earlier, I used this time to draw pictures illustrating the images I had for the film. This book contains those works. Are they worthy of being called art? My purpose was not to paint well. I made free use of various materials that happened to be at hand. At best, they are remnants left from making the films. My experience with Kagemusha, however, did teach me that drawings can be extremely useful in filmmaking, as a way of giving concrete expression to my ideas for the movie, which is why I redoubled my efforts with the drawings for Ran.

When I was young and still an art student, I used to dream of publishing a collection of my paintings or having an exhibition in Paris. These dreams were unexpectedly realized with the publication of my pictures for Kagemusha. Life is strange indeed. Now the drawings for Ran have been made into a collection. Inquiries about exhibitions are coming in from all over the world. It all seems like a dream.

I cannot help but be fascinated by the fact that when I tried to paint well, I could only produce mediocre pictures. But when I concentrated on delineating the ideas for my films, I unconsciously produced works that people find interesting.

(translated by Margaret Benton)

Some of Kurosawa's pictures have been exhibited before, and some books of his work have been published in English, but most have been out of print and hard to find (my copy of the Ran book took a while to track down). The exhibit does feature a slim book with pretty representative samples of his work for $25. It was produced by this Japanese company, which has some other merchandise (but the exchange and shipping rates might be steep).

(Picture for Kagemusha.)

The exhibit features plenty of other materials, but you can give them all a thorough look-over within two hours, less if you don't want to read through all the letters or scan through all the photos included in a biographical interactive display. Many of the Japanese posters for Kurosawa's films are displayed, as are some pretty interesting Polish posters. Several of his many awards are present. Video displays show Kurosawa's lifetime achievement Oscar presentation, as well as clips from Ran, Throne of Blood, Dreams and other films. Several copies of his shooting scripts are on display, all of them covered with handwritten notes and tiny sketches. They also have his watercolor and calligraphy kits, stone stamps and wooden sandals. His storyboards for several films are there, most notably for "Crows" from Dreams, and there are several paintings for an un-filmed sequence, "I Fly," for the same film. There's not much armor displayed, but several costumes from Ran are there (some, like Kyoami the Fool's kimono, had designs hand-painted on them by Kurosawa, which I hadn't known before). There's a funny cast photo of Rashomon with actors Toshiro Mifune and Machiko Kyô hamming it up for the camera. George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola helped Kurosawa secure funding for Kagemusha, and letters from them about suggested cuts and an opening scroll for the American-released version can be read (Lucas is more deferential). One of the neatest items for me was a small picture for Ran, where Kurosawa had sketched the swirling routes of entry and exit through the courtyard for the armed forces in the first, epic battle sequence.

(Polish poster for Rashomon.)

The section on Tora! Tora! Tora! covers some of that sad chapter, and has several of Kurosawa's Tora sketches. Kurosawa wrote the Japanese scenes and was slotted to direct them as well, but there was a contentious fallout, in part due to differences between the American and Japanese studio approaches, and (it was charged) Kurosawa's well-known perfectionism. I've read some very contradictory accounts on this. Several letters are on display in the exhibit: a glowing letter from 20th Century Fox praising Kurosawa for his screenplay, a gracious note in reply, a complaint from Fox about escalating miniatures costs, a plea for more pre-production time and funds from the Japanese studio (they apparently felt rushed and penny-pinched on paying the art director and such), and a rather disconcerting letter from a Japanese studio exec to Fox praising them and blaming all fallout on Kurosawa and his "illness" – he appears to be accusing Kurosawa of being intractable if not incurably mentally ill. Kurosawa was dubbed "the emperor" by some, was definitely strong-willed and passionate, and later did have a famous falling out with longtime collaborator Toshiro Mifune (with a late-life reconciliation). But footage of him working shows him as very gracious to actors and crew, and in his writings he's often effusive in praise of them. Most of his ire seemed reserved for studio execs. During his lifetime, Kurosawa often seemed more appreciated outside of his native Japan. Kurosawa was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for Ran, and it won for Best Costumes, but wasn't even nominated for Best Foreign Language Film because Japan chose to submit another film instead, in part (some believe) to snub Kurosawa.

(Akira Kurosawa.)

Obviously everyone isn't a Kurosawa fanatic, but he had such a great eye the exhibit isn't bad for just a quick, casual tour. In my case, my dad took my brothers and me to see Kurosawa's films at a young age at D.C.'s Biograph theater (a pox on the scoundrels who wouldn't allow renewal of its 30-year lease and let it become a CVS). It's testament to the energy of Kurosawa's storytelling that young American kids found his films so appealing (the swordfights helped, but the comedy and drama played well, too). As I grew older and started looking at film more seriously, I found plenty to study in his technique, from the dynamism of the earlier films to the more stately compositions of the later works. Toshiro Mifune's still one of my favorite actors, and I wound up writing part of my undergraduate thesis on Kurosawa. So seeing some of these materials was quite a treat.

I imagine anyone eager to see the exhibit needs no introduction to Kurosawa's films. And even people who haven't seen his films have probably seen a film or two influenced by him. Thankfully, most of his films are now on DVD in good versions, and the same is increasingly true for other "classic" Japanese directors such as Mizoguchi, Ozu and Kobayashi. But for the hell of it, here's my cursory overview of Kurosawa's films, in chronological order. Most of the films in the first set are period films, and specifically samurai films (although if you see films of the same genre from the same era, Kurosawa's really stand out). As with Bergman, Kubrick and a handful of other directors, Kurosawa's remarkable for the number of standout films he made. If you can, see these on a big screen, particularly the scope films and later epics.

The Key Nine

(Toshiro Mifune, in a detail from the Yojimbo poster.)

Rashomon (1950): A rape and murder occur in the forest, but the four different accounts of these events conflict. What's truth and what's perception? This film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and an Academy Award, establishing Kurosawa's international reputation. Its core device has been copied many times since.

Ikiru (To Live, 1952): A petty bureaucrat discovers he's terminally ill, and turns first to hedonism but then struggles to find some deeper meaning or last gesture. This one starts slowly, but is well worth the time, with a great performance by long-time Kurosawa collaborator Takashi Shimura. There's some funny and occasionally very dark satire in this one, including a wonderful bureaucracy montage. (There's also a scene of overacting that makes me wince, but hey, it was the young actress' first film.) The story cycles around and ever closer in on Kanji Watanabe (Shimura), building in emotional power. There's a scene in a park near the end that's one of the most moving I've ever seen. It's true of many Kurosawa films, but this one will really stay with you.

Seven Samurai (1954): One of the greats. Poor farmers recruit samurai to protect them from 40 bandits intent on stealing their harvest. This was often called an "eastern Western," and many an action film and buddy film owes it a debt. Even though the full version runs 207 minutes, it clips along, because there's so much energy, humor in between the drama, and we really come to care about the characters and their fates. Takashi Shimura as the unflappable lead samurai Kambei and Toshiro Mifune as the manic Kikuchiyo are standouts. This one's been remade several times, most notably as The Magnificent Seven. (A Bug's Life also borrows from it, although very loosely!)

Throne of Blood (1957): Kurosawa's version of Macbeth, incorporating elements of Noh theater. It features an intense Toshiro Mifune and very controlled Isuzu Yamada as his wife. The supernatural scenes are effectively creepy (with some great lengthy camera shots) and the climax is unforgettable. Many critics consider this one of the great Shakespeare films, probably because Kurosawa keeps Macbeth's core story and drama but delivers the visual equivalent of poetry. Noted stage director Peter Brook hated it, however, because it didn't use Shakespeare's actual text. I've read that this was one of T.S. Eliot's favorite films, but have never been able to confirm that. (The actual title in Japanese translates closer to "Castle of the Spider's Web.")

The Hidden Fortress (1958): Kurosawa made this one as a fun romp, and it was his first film in scope (Tohoscope, in his case). It was one of Lucas' inspirations for Star Wars, and you'll see the plot similarities. Many of Kurosawa's films center on camaraderie, honor and heroism, and several feature mentor-student relationships, all of which fit nicely with Lucas' Jedi storylines.

Yojimbo (The Bodyguard, 1961): A nameless, scruffy ronin hires himself out to two rival gangs who've overrun a town nominally run by corrupt officials. He plots to set them against each other and themselves, and as Pauline Kael put it, he becomes a bodyguard who kills the bodies he's hired to guard. As with many Japanese "action" films of the era, this has long stretches of drama and anticipation, punctuated by short bursts of action and violence. The same rhythm's in most of Sergio Leone's films, who remade this one as A Fistful of Dollars (and Walter Hill remade it as Last Man Standing, inviting Kurosawa to the premiere). I never get tired of this film, which has some very dark comedy, starting with the very tiny dog near the start (you'll see). Kurosawa really exploits the scope format in this one, and luckily the old, horrible pan-and-scan video versions are largely gone now. I've read one analysis that makes the case that Kurosawa was in part satirizing the film studio heads with whom he often clashed. Mifune's character was a strong departure from the then-common portrayal of samurai as upright, clean, and outwardly noble. He reprised his cool, unassuming warrior in many other films even if his character name changed, and John Belushi based his SNL samurai sketches on him.

Dersu Uzala (1975): This was Kurosawa's second film in color, and it centers on the friendship between a Russian explorer in Siberia and a trapper-guide, Dersu Uzala. Much of it is shot outside in the wilderness, and sequences involving a river and racing to survive a blizzard are especially memorable. Dersu doesn't fare as well with encroaching civilization, and is haunted by thoughts about a tiger he feels represents his fate. This poignant piece won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Be warned that the Kino DVD for this is not a good transfer. Also, Dersu's failing eyesight was something that was happening to Kurosawa at the time, quite a scary prospect for a filmmaker (apparently his sight stabilized). Kurosawa shot this in Russia with Russian funding, because he was having difficulties getting backing in Japan.

Ran (War/Chaos, 1985): Kurosawa does King Lear, mixed in with some Japanese history, a new invented subplot and some of his own notions on loyalty. This one starts slowly but builds in power. Seriously, see this on a big screen if you can – the use of color and the scope of the first epic battle sequence and its aftermath are simply stunning. Several sequences and images are unforgettable, and Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada) is one of the great screen villains. (Lady Macbeth ain't got nothing on her – watch that grasshopper! And don't forget the tale of the stone fox.) Kurosawa considered this one his masterpiece, but also noted that while it was the culmination of his life's work, it was not the conclusion. DVD notes – the Fox Lorber transfer is notoriously bad. The Masterworks version is much better, but Amazon reviewers rate the Criterion version (which I don't currently own) as the best. That DVD package also includes Chris Marker's documentary on the making of the film, AK, which is worth a look.

Dreams (1990): This is a series of eight short films with a rough through-line based on actual dreams Kurosawa had, with some references to his own life peppered throughout. Most are fantastical in some fashion, from a young boy illicitly spying on a fox wedding to a ghost platoon to a spooky mountain encounter in a blizzard to a man walking into and through several Van Gogh paintings. Some of the later sequences aren't as strong, but all are visually arresting. I know several people who saw this film first of all of Kurosawa's movies, and it seems to receive quite a bit of affection. You may be familiar with the poster of a young boy underneath a rainbow (shown further below).

Other Noteworthy Films

Stray Dog (1949): A policeman loses his gun, which is later used in a crime. He's obsessed with getting it back and bringing the man to justice. This stars familiar Kurosawa faces Mifune and Shimura, and also offers an interesting look at post-war Japan.

The Bad Sleep Well (1960): An unconventional revenge tale set in a corporate world, with elements of Hamlet, and again starring Mifune. It ends a bit abruptly for my tastes, but has some great scenes.

Sanjuro (1962): This sequel to Yojimbo sees our hero as mentor and protector to a group of young, inexperienced samurai. It's not as good as Yojimbo, but still fun. It may be most famous for the final duel's "explosion of blood," which a generation of Japanese filmmakers copied. Kurosawa was dismayed that they ignored the rest of what he was trying to do. There's yet another sequel of sorts, Yojimbo meets Zatoichi, not directed by Kurosawa but starring Mifune alongside the star of the popular Zatoichi series (a blind warrior).

High and Low (1963): Based on an Ed McBain crime novel, this film focuses on a rich businessman and an attempt to kidnap and ransom his son. However, the criminals accidentally capture the gardener's chauffeur's son instead, and the businessman (Mifune again) is faced with a moral dilemma about paying or not. This film really breaks down into two acts, the ransom showdown and searching for the criminals. (If you're a filmmaker or cinematographer, the first section features several long, intricate dolly shots that are pretty damn impressive.)

Kagemusha (The Shadow Warrior, 1980): Partially based on historical events, a warlord with two rivals is injured and a peasant is pressed into serving as his double. The double becomes increasingly entangled in the growing major military and political struggle, while also growing closer with his "family," particularly a young boy. It's gorgeously shot, with a nightmare sequence probably my favorite part. This won the Palme d'Or at Cannes. The American-released version is a bit shorter and tries to provide some historical overview for unfamiliar audiences. It's a good film in its own right, but it also feels a bit like what Kurosawa later said it was – a dress rehearsal for Ran.

Rhapsody in August (1991): Children visit their grandmother, who's a survivor of Nagasaki and still sometimes troubled by nightmares of it. There's a memorable sequence where she describes the explosion as a giant eye opening. Richard Gere appears as an American cousin visiting. This is a smaller, personal film, and Kurosawa's focus isn't on the war per se, but its human impact, particularly on one family. It has a fair share of funny and light moments as well as poignant scenes.

Feel free to pass on your own comments and recommendations.

(English-language poster for Dreams. Click for a larger view.)

Friday, December 05, 2008




We do not

We do

is not

Even if
is torture
it was

Even if
it was illegal
it was

Even if
it was





Water Mouth

(Images snapped from an Amnesty International video. Coding assistance by Buck. Cross-posted at Blue Herald.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 12/4/08


Here's three selections in two videos. For the first video, from 1969, "the first song she performs is based on a Negro "field blues" song known simply as "Black Woman," then [she] duets with Cash on "Shame And Scandal In The Family," which was written by a calypso artist who went by Sir Lancelot, in the 40s." The second video is a live version of Odetta performing "House of the Rising Sun" from 2005.

Meanwhile, here's the Washington Post and NPR obituaries, a 20 minute New York Times video interview (via Paul at Impolitic Eye) and a clip of a radio interview.

Eclectic Jukebox

Roundup 12/4/08

Sara Robinson's "Talking Turkey: Ten Myths Conservatives Believe About Progressives" over at the Campaign for America's Future is a good overview of the subject, especially for surviving the holidays. (I believe Right-Wing Cartoon Watch has a dozen cartoons at least for each of those ten myths.)

Media Bloodhound catches the latest example of a major media outlet trivializing the Iraqi death toll, a serious and persistent problem.

On a related note, Mock, Paper, Scissors has a CNN video about another back door draft. Great family values, indeed.

Over at Newshoggers, Cernig looks at some dangerous assumptions in "Mumbai: Tortured Confessions and The Justification For War" and examines dangerous framing in "Manly Men And Hard Power" (bringing to mind an earlier post here, "Brave Cowboys of the Junior High Lunch Room"). Also, Fester takes on Bernard Finel's defense of Bush on WMD. It's a subject I hope many people revisit, especially since Bush is embarking on the revisionist no-fault legacy tour.

Over at skippy's, there's important but discouraging information about a possible Screen Actors Guild strike, and a reader survey if you've the time. Remember, blogging is better in a skippy t-shirt.

FranIAm commemorates a sad anniversary.

Blue Gal has a good meditation on the not-poor contemplating the poor and outsiders examining insiders who contemplate outsiders.

I'm overdue for linking Jesse Wendel's post on the Obama job application going over the line.

Meanwhile, Lance Mannion is a vampire snob and an elitist who values reading habits. Oh well, that's the fashion these days. And while an Interview with Obama about Vampires is probably out of the question, when it comes to musing about Obama and creature of the night Batman, well, the outlook is good.

Update: Bernard Finel's e-mailed a correction:

Actually, I didn’t defend Bush. I did, however, defend people who in 2002 might have supported the Iraq war resolution. There is a notion going around that everyone who supported the war was either a dupe or a Bushie fanatic. That just isn’t true, and it oversimplifies what was actually a complicated issue of intelligence assessment and strategy.

I've had a polite exchange with him, and may post more on these and related issues later on. But you can read the Bernard Finel post Fester was critiquing here and an article with a more comprehensive explanation of his views here.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Prop 8: The Musical

Quite the cast in this one! Music by Marc Shaiman. Via Mahablog.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 11/27/08

The Beatles - "Two of Us"

This seemed like a good pick for Thanksgiving, although Dido's "Thank You" still works well.

Eclectic Jukebox

Advice to My Son

I've liked this poem ever since I was introduced to it back in high school. (For a class presentation on it, two other guys and I did a little skit riffing on Polonius' advice to Laertes from Hamlet and a Reeses' Peanut Butter Cup ad. It worked surprisingly well.) In any case, this seemed like a good pick for the season.

Advice to My Son
By J. Peter Meinke

The trick is, to live your day
as if each one may be your last

(for they go fast, and young men lose their lives
in strange and unimaginable ways)
but at the same time, plan long range
(for they go slow; if you survive
the shattered windshield and the bursting shell
you will arrive
at our approximation here below
of heaven or hell)

To be specific, between the peony and the rose
plant squash and spinach, turnips and tomatoes;
beauty is nectar
and nectar, in the desert, saves –
but the stomach craves stronger sustenance
than the honied vine.

Therefore, marry a pretty girl
after seeing her mother;
show your soul to one man,
work with another;
and always serve bread with your wine.

But, son,
Always serve wine.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Regulation Showdown

I have a new post up at the Campaign for America's Future giving an overview of the Bush administration's last-minute efforts to strip safety and oversight regulations.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 11/20/08

Michael Franti and Spearhead - "Say Hey (I Love You)"

Eclectic Jukebox

Right-Wing Cartoon Watch #33 (9/26/08 – 11/21/08)

Head on over to the overdue, over-sized 33rd installment of RWCW, covering eight weeks of important economic developments and a historic campaign. Who among our usual gang would rise to the occasion? Who would flirt with reality-based satire? And who would stand athwart history saying, “Stop! Everything is the Democrats’ fault”…?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 11/13/08

Tom Paxton – "I'm Changing My Name to Fannie Mae"

Tom updates his classic. Boy, some things don't change, do they? Will Rogers made jokes about "trickle down" economics... Meanwhile, here's a good fan video of Arlo Guthrie on Precious Friend covering Tom's original:

Eclectic Jukebox

Maya Angelou on Obama

Jezebel has a great clip of Maya Angelou talking about Barack Obama's win (via TRex). Jezebel's clip skips the intro (and is lower-res) than the full segment below, but still has the good stuff. I'll just add that was a real treat to hear Maya Angelou speak at my college years back, and I always love to hear her talk. But let's turn it over to the poet herself:

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

11/11 Armistice Day 2008

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.

- Walt Kelly

In earlier years, I've featured Kelly's words and one of his 11/11 Pogo strips. I've also previously highlighted some of Wilfred Owen's poetry. World War I remains one of the most horrific of any wars, and is the reason 11/11 (Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veterans' Day) is observed. I continue to wish it was studied more. Owen, who fought in WWI, is still probably my favorite war poet, but his friend, fellow soldier and war poet Siegfried Sassoon possessed a dark, biting wit. Their friendship has been depicted in several fictionalized accounts, including the award-winning novel Regeneration. Here's a selection of Sassoon's work.

The Effort
By Siegfried Sassoon

"The effect of our bombardment was terrific. One man told me he had
never seen so many dead before." --War Correspondent.
"HE'D never seen so many dead before."
They sprawled in yellow daylight while he swore
And gasped and lugged his everlasting load
Of bombs along what once had been a road.
"How peaceful are the dead."
Who put that silly gag in some one's head?

"He'd never seen so many dead before."
The lilting words danced up and down his brain,
While corpses jumped and capered in the rain.
No, no; he wouldn't count them any more...
The dead have done with pain:
They've choked; they can't come back to life again.

When Dick was killed last week he looked like that,
Flapping along the fire-step like a fish,
After the blazing crump had knocked him flat...
"How many dead? As many as ever you wish.
Don't count 'em; they're too many.
Who'll buy my nice fresh corpses, two a penny?"

One of the common themes in WWI memoirs such as Robert Graves' Good-Bye to All That is how terrible trench warfare is and how cloistered the public back home is from its dread realities. Sassoon focused a fair amount on this dynamic:

Editorial Impressions
By Siegfried Sassoon

He seemed so certain ‘all was going well’,
As he discussed the glorious time he’d had
While visiting the trenches.
‘One can tell
You’ve gathered big impressions!’ grinned the lad
Who’d been severely wounded in the back
In some wiped-out impossible Attack.
‘Impressions? Yes, most vivid! I am writing
A little book called Europe on the Rack,
Based on notes made while witnessing the fighting.
I hope I’ve caught the feeling of “the Line”,
And the amazing spirit of the troops.
By Jove, those flying-chaps of ours are fine!
I watched one daring beggar looping loops,
Soaring and diving like some bird of prey.
And through it all I felt that splendour shine
Which makes us win.’
The soldier sipped his wine.
‘Ah, yes, but it’s the Press that leads the way!

Even more acidly:

Suicide In The Trenches
By Siegfried Sassoon

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

In Good-Bye to All That, Graves relates the story of a soldier shot for going AWOL. The man hadn't been trying to desert, and was in fact set on fighting, but just couldn't take the waiting. Air bombings, especially with sirens affixed to plane wings, played havoc with troop nerves in the trenches. A faceless enemy could seemingly kill them at any time, with life and death a matter of random chance. Any possibility at direct retribution for a buddy's death was similarly unlikely against a faceless foe. Studies of PTSD and general troop morale show that anyone will break eventually if given no respite. And even if given some rest, or if one makes it all the way home, there's still the question of what awaits there:

Does It Matter?
By Siegfried Sassoon

Does it matter? - losing your legs?...
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter? - losing your sight?...
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.

Do they matter - those dreams from the pit?...
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won't say that you’re mad;
For they know that you've fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.

After publicly protesting the war, Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital to be treated for shell shock. He was fortunate to be treated by Dr. W. H. R. Rivers, who practiced a more humane form of treatment than was often the case at the time. PTSD or shell shock was generally seen as a failure of nerve, as cowardice. (Mrs. Dalloway provides a memorable fictional depiction of this attitude.) The following poem and a Rivers paper (that makes for striking reading) share a title:

Repression of War Experience
By Siegfried Sassoon

Now light the candles; one; two; there’s a moth;
What silly beggars they are to blunder in
And scorch their wings with glory, liquid flame -
No, no, not that, - it’s bad to think of war,
When thoughts you’ve gagged all day come back to scare you;
And it’s been proved that soldiers don’t go mad
Unless they lose control of ugly thoughts
That drive them out to jabber among the trees.

Now light your pipe; look, what a steady hand.
Draw a deep breath; stop thinking; count fifteen,
And you’re as right as rain...
Why won’t it rain?...
I wish there’d be a thunder-storm to-night,
With bucketsful of water to sluice the dark,
And make the roses hang their dripping heads.
Books; what a jolly company they are,
Standing so quiet and patient on their shelves,
Dressed in dim brown, and black, and white, and green,
And every kind of colour. Which will you read?
Come on; O do read something; they’re so wise.
I tell you all the wisdom of the world
Is waiting for you on those shelves; and yet
You sit and gnaw your nails, and let your pipe out,
And listen to the silence: on the ceiling
There’s one big, dizzy moth that bumps and flutters;
And in the breathless air outside the house
The garden waits for something that delays.
There must be crowds of ghosts among the trees, -
Not people killed in battle, - they’re in France, -
But horrible shapes in shrouds - old men who died
Slow, natural deaths, - old men with ugly souls,
Who wore their bodies out with nasty sins.

You’re quiet and peaceful, summering safe at home;
You’d never think there was a bloody war on!...
O yes, you would ... why, you can hear the guns.
Hark! Thud, thud, thud, - quite soft ... they never cease -
Those whispering guns - O Christ, I want to go out
And screech at them to stop - I’m going crazy;
I’m going stark, staring mad because of the guns.

This piece is far less sardonic and more sincere than some of the earlier selections:

By Siegfried Sassoon

When I was young my heart and head were light,
And I was gay and feckless as a colt
Out in the fields, with morning in the may,
Wind on the grass, wings in the orchard bloom.
O thrilling sweet, my joy, when life was free
And all the paths led on from hawthorn-time
Across the carolling meadows into June.

But now my heart is heavy-laden. I sit
Burning my dreams away beside the fire:
For death has made me wise and bitter and strong;
And I am rich in all that I have lost.
O starshine on the fields of long-ago,
Bring me the darkness and the nightingale;
Dim wealds of vanished summer, peace of home,
and silence; and the faces of my friends.

This last selection may be the most appropriate for 11/11:

By Siegfried Sassoon

Have you forgotten yet? ...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same - and War's a bloody game ...
Have you forgotten yet? ...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz -
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench -
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, "Is it all going to happen again?"
Do you remember the hour of din before the attack -
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads - those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet? ...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Using Justice Against Us

I have a new post up at the Campaign for America's Future about Guantánamo, John Yoo and the Bush administration. I've been kicking around this one for an embarrassingly long time, actually. But if dissecting the deceptive rhetoric used to sell monstrous villainy is your thing, it might be worth checking out.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 11/6/08

Marvin Gaye – "His Eye Is On the Sparrow"

This version is the one from Marvin Gaye: A Musical Testament 1964-1984. There's another version out there that's better known and smoother. It's great too, but I like the rawer edge to Marvin's vocal in this version. To me, it's always expressed the fervent yearning of someone desperate to believe, but plagued by doubt. He's trying to convince himself. Identity is often not a static thing, but defined by tensions like that. Societies and political movements can be like that, too. Here's to all that yearning and striving, and to one hell of a week.

Eclectic Jukebox

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I Just Realized...

All seven of the states I've lived in went for Obama.

Two of them went for Bush in both 2000 and 2004.

(Wisconsin, Virginia, Maine, Minnesota, Florida, Connecticut, California)

A Joyful Blue Note From Chicago

Mrs. Tarantino: Are you the police?

Elwood: No, ma'am. We're musicians.

We're putting a band together.

You in?

Plenty of new band mates, lots of new blood, and all of that's good. We're putting together a hot playlist. Just for starters, there's…

"A Liberal Shock Doctrine" by Rick Perlstein

Take the Bold Progressive Pledge

…and there's much more already out there, with still more on the way. We need a New New Deal. You may have your own ideas. Share your best stuff. We've got some great policies, but we're not afraid to keep exploring to find something better. For instance, there may be creative alternatives to solve the energy crisis:

Donald 'Duck' Dunn: We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline.

Keep those ideas comin'! Democracy is a rock 'n' roll anthem, but it won't play itself.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

What It Was Like (Election Night)

What It Was. What It Is. And What It Will Be.

(I'm sorry to see the great civil rights photo version of this last one has been yanked, but the song remains astounding.)

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Game On!

To get in the mood:

If you feel a duty to vote, but also occasionally feel disgusted with your fellow Americans (ahem), this video is for you. (Via Blue Gal.)

Meanwhile, as a general rule, the folks with the better music have better policies and are much cooler. True enough!

Here's an extended, updated version of a video I featured before, Obama Reggaeton:

And since I am in California, let me keep 'em coming - Viva Obama 2008 (Mariachi):

Viva Obama (Norteño):

I linked this one before, but via FranIAm, here's Obama Zydeco:

And remember this one?

Some other tunes are waiting in the wings, depending on the outcome of the presidential race and a few other contests...

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Election Predictions 2008

Feel free to make you election predictions in the comments. What will be the electoral vote count? What will the popular vote percentages be? How many Senate or House pickups will there be? Any ballot proposition predictions?

CNN allows you to make your own map (some other sites freeze up).

Slate has spreadsheets you can use to track your picks as well for a weighted contest (extra points for picking battleground states correctly, etc.).

Five Thirty Eight's projections show the most common results are 311, 338, 378, 353, and 291 for Obama.

FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver has a very good piece in Newsweek on what to watch for in the election returns.

The yellow states on CNN's map plus Pennsylvania and Nevada are those that have or will likely see the most voter suppression or dirty tricks. Democracy Now and Brad Blog have more details.

The number of true battleground states varies from source to source, but we'll go with these 15 (the CNN map lists abbreviations if you need them):


Some people would add AR, ME and WV to that list. Add anything you like. In any case, feel free to make any predictions in the thread. Mine are in the comments below.

(I'll probably spend more time over at the Blue Herald version of this post, but feel free to leave comments here, if you prefer.)

Another Look at No on 8

We've already taken a pretty detailed look at Prop. 8, which attempts to outlaw gay marriage, but the vote is going to be close. A number of new ads have also cropped up.

If Yes on 8 succeeds, it will be largely because of outright lies. As we examined before, Prop. 8 seeks to change the state's Constitution, and has nothing to do with education. California has broad opt-out laws, and parents who object to parts of sex ed, for example, can have their kid pulled out of those classes. Defeating Prop. 8 is important not just for California, but the nation.

I received a "Yes on 8" flyer last week with some interesting spin. The language to "Protect Marriage" is intentionally deceptive, as are the pitches that "A 'Yes' Vote Restores Traditional Marriage" and "A 'No' Vote Means Gay Marriage is Still Mandated." The language implies that "traditional marriage" has somehow gone away, and that people have been forced into gay marriages. It's ridiculous, but this sort of prejudicial language is typical of the right-wing, and it's a deliberately irrational appeal.

But perhaps they have a point. After all, we can all look back to when interracial marriages were made legal. Remember that? Suddenly, whites were no longer able to marry other whites! And who can forget how all those whites who were already married saw their marriages cheapened and sullied, because other people were allowed to marry! Imagine, other people marrying, and without their permission. And sure, they wouldn’t have given their permission, but that's beside the point. Arranging an interracial marriage was terribly rude. Didn't any of those people engaging in unnatural unions think of the children? Especially the impressionable white children, who might get the awful notion that such things were all right? Surely we can all remember how America fell apart from that travesty, never to recover. And that is why gay marriage is the greatest threat our nation has ever faced. (Even worse than that Negro devil music, rock and roll.)

Let's start with a look at the Yes on 8 ads.

"Have You Thought About It?" ad:

Why yes. Yes, we have thought about it. And many of these claims are illogical or false. As we've previously examined, there are churches who support gay marriage, and no church is forced to perform a gay marriage. If there's any conflict with "religious freedoms," it's the Yes on 8 campaign's attempts to ban gay marriage, stopping gay-friendly churches from performing gay weddings. Domestic partners do not have all the same rights as married couples. Your little moppet won't be taught that gay marriage exists if you chose to object – although you're free to teach her it exists and it's evil, evil, evil at home if you want.

I stumbled upon this on YouTube. "Marriage, It's Simple":

So here, your happy, heterosexual white daughter will have her childhood innocence destroyed by gay marriage, will turn into a lesbian, or even worse, play with same-sex dolls. Or, as Blue Gal puts it, "The rationale of this ad is, if we let the homos win, we are denying little blonde girls their natural inclination to play wedding with Ken and Barbie." Oh, for more innocent times, when teen girls practiced kissing. And lost their virginity on their wedding nights to their husbands, who always knew best.

Let's turn to this New York Times account now on Prop. 8:

“This vote on whether we stop the gay-marriage juggernaut in California is Armageddon,” said Charles W. Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries and an eminent evangelical voice, speaking to pastors in a video promoting Proposition 8. “We lose this, we are going to lose in a lot of other ways, including freedom of religion.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobby based in Washington, said in an interview, “It’s more important than the presidential election.”

“We’ve picked bad presidents before, and we’ve survived as a nation,” said Mr. Perkins, who has made two trips to California in the last six weeks. “But we will not survive if we lose the institution of marriage.”

That would be convicted Nixon felon Chuck Colson. I'd have more respect for him if he wasn't lying here. His freedom of religion isn't infringed upon in any way by gay marriage. He just doesn't like it, and he wants to dictate to other people – and other churches – what they can do. He's happy to attack others' civil rights, and if we adopt his framing, their freedom of religion. Colson either doesn't acknowledge, or doesn't understand, that there are Christians who support gay marriage, and that he has no exclusive claim on piety or godliness.

As for Tony Perkins, his statement is hyperbole as well as illogical. Since gay marriage is (duh) marriage, it cannot erode "the institution of marriage." It just offends Perkins' conception of it. It's extraordinary he would claim that gay marriage is more important than the presidency, and that somehow, equal treatment for gays will destroy America. Of course, the cries of religious persecution are particularly silly:

“The idea that we would be forced as clergy to perform a marriage that was against our conscience, or that a church would lose its tax-exempt status, is ridiculous,” said the Rev. Karen Sapio, the minister of Claremont Presbyterian Church in Southern California. “If you look dispassionately at the record, there are a lot of churches with policies that are at odds with civil law.”

She continued, “I have not heard of a single Catholic church forced to marry someone who has been divorced, or a rabbi forced to perform an interfaith marriage or an evangelical church forced to marry a couple who has been living together.”

Then there's these guys:

Preachers from other parts of the country have dropped everything and moved to California in recent months. Lou Engle, who leads TheCall, a charismatic prayer ministry in Washington and Kansas City, Mo., with a large following among youth, moved with his seven children to California in September. He is holding large prayer rallies up and down the state, urging people to pray and fast for the 40 days leading up to the election. Some people are giving up solid foods; others are giving up clothes shopping or their favorite television shows.

Here's their web spot, via Digby:

Yikes. It goes well with Colson's Armageddon rhetoric and Perkins' survival of the nation blather, doesn't it? Somehow, I find this ad scarier than gays marrying.

Over to the No on 8 crew now. Incertus has a good spot posted making the interracial marriage comparison, and Balloon Juice has video of the Republican Mayor of San Diego giving an emotional speech against Prop. 8. Happily, some of the No on 8 ads I posted before that I'd only seen online have aired on TV now, including the Latino and one of the Mac-PC type ads. Meanwhile, these two ads have also run quite a bit.

While I'm not a big fan of Dianne Feinstein, this is a good spot:

And Samuel L. Jackson really brings it home, in an ad that's been running often:

Make sure to vote!

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Take the GOP Talking Point Quiz!

You've seen Howard Kurtz cheerlead "the Surge" in defiance of the facts. You've seen him cover for Michelle Malkin's campaign of hatred against a severely-injured 12-year old boy. You've seen him quote Malkin to push a false equivalency about hatred on the left and continue to ignore the eliminationist rhetoric commonplace on the right. You've seen him write a puff piece on Malkin. Oh, then there's all the Obama non-scandal scandals that could have been made into a bigger deal. So here's a little quiz. How many right-wing talking points can you spot in his write-up on Barack Obama's infomercial?

It was like a well-produced "60 Minutes" report on the struggling middle class, if those who are struggling all happened to live in swing states. Call it "30 Minutes."

Obama did the voice-over, playing the role of correspondent, and the goal, of course, was to intertwine his personal story with the difficulties and aspirations of ordinary Americans whose votes he needs to put him over the top.

The Obama infomercial last night began in a faux Oval Office -- the desk, the tree behind the windows, the flag pin on the man who once disdained them -- that to my eye seemed a tad presumptuous. It was, naturally, designed to get you to envision him as the 44th president.

The mini-portraits -- the injured tire worker in Missouri, the retired railroad worker in Ohio, the widow with two jobs in New Mexico, the teacher in Colorado, the auto worker in Kentucky -- were polished and, at times, quite moving. Obama wants it known that he is fighting for them.

What also worked was depicting Barack in people's living rooms, talking about what he wants to do for them. (Although how did the tax cuts suddenly move down from people earning $250,000 to those at 200K?)

What didn't work were the brief tributes by senators and governors -- who might as well have been touting the slice-o-matic -- and the snippets of Obama's Greek column convention speech. We've already seen that, and it was out of sync with the tone of the ad.

Which brings me to the final three minutes. The idea of moving from the safety of a videotape to a live event was inspired. But doing it in a cheering Florida stadium with Obama going to the overblown rhetoric and vowing to "change the world," not so much. The whole idea of the show was to bring Obama down from the clouds and into the street. The big rally came close to canceling out the man-of-the-people image so carefully constructed in the previous 27 minutes.

Still, the show was on CBS, NBC, Fox and four other networks -- the biggest such splash since Ross Perot's pie charts -- and it probably helped at the margins. Even if it didn't, I don't get some of the advance criticism that the show would boomerang because of its excessive nature. No one had to watch. They could always switch over to "Pushing Daisies" on ABC.

If the press were inclined to hammer the Democratic nominee for buying the election after blowing off public financing, the infomercial would be Exhibit A. But the press is giving him a pass on the issue.

One other observation: Has Obama been watching too many Palin speeches? He kept talking about "workin' families" and was in full g-dropping mode.

How many GOP talking points did you spot? I see at least four. In paragraph 3, Kurtz writes about a "faux Oval Office." Other commentators did as well, which I suppose is fine, although you'll notice it's all brown wood versus the white of the Oval Office, and I don't think appearing in an office is the slightest bit remarkable for a political ad. But Kurtz calls this move "a tad presumptuous." Gosh, we've never heard that one before, have we? It's awfully "presumptuous" for Obama to think he might actually be elected somehow? Kurtz also accuses Obama of 'disdaining' wearing a flag pin. This is a common right-wing talking point, and Kurtz repeating it is unconscionable bullshit. After the flag pin idiocy was finally pretty much dead back in July, Kurtz repeated the smear by agreeing with a disingenuous National Review piece that resurrected it yet again. At the time, rather than blogging about it, I actually wrote Kurtz a detailed e-mail with links (such as this one) debunking the claims. He never replied, and that's fine. But he really, really should know better. At best, it's a contentious charge that shouldn't be presented as fact, but the truth is it's an ugly smear. Yet he clearly has no compunctions about tossing it off, facts be damned.

In paragraph 5, Kurtz expresses confusion about Obama's tax plan. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that Sarah Palin and other McCain surrogates have been making this attack for the past week or so. Seriously, how can Kurtz possibly be ignorant on this subject? Biden did make a misstatement within the past two weeks his critics seized upon, but the campaign immediately corrected it, and it's not as if Obama's tax policies are some big secret. Obama's described them in at least two debates, and his nomination speech, among other places. (Update: Per CNN, Biden didn't even really misspeak, unless we define "misspeak" as "saying something accurate that an opponent can quote in misleading way." McCain's just lying.) Here's one chart that explains the Obama-McCain differences, and a Hilzoy post that goes in more depth. Basically, Obama is raising taxes on folks making over $250,000 a year. Those making between $200,000 and $250,000 will not see their tax rate move much at all. Those making less than $200,000 will see a tax break – and it's a larger break under Obama than McCain, who is giving bigger breaks to the wealthiest Americans (like his wife) than even George Bush did. Thus, as Obama has often said, roughly 95% of Americans will not see their taxes go up under an Obama presidency, and most of that number will see a tax break. Seriously, how could Kurtz not know this, or not research it to refresh his memory? Does Kurtz just have a crappy memory, does he not want to do research to solve his confusion, or does he just take most of his cues from Republicans attacking Obama?

In paragraph 6, I'd say Obama's decision to cut to his nomination speech was an effective choice. It reminded people of the power of the speech, and it reinforced that he's been saying this stuff for a while now. Kurtz is free to disagree on that. But mentioning the Greek columns is just pathetic. As you may remember, right-wing blogs were obsessed with this, even though Bush accepted his nomination in 2004 in front of Greek columns. Apparently Kurtz missed the many mentions of that hypocrisy on liberal blogs and establishment outlets such as The Politico, or the terms "nomination speech" or "convention speech" just didn't appeal to him.

As to the public financing charge, while it's a conservative talking point, it's a fair criticism up to a point. Still, Kurtz has never to my knowledge pointed out that McCain has violated campaign finance laws (Talking Points Memo, a blog Kurtz typically reads, has done numerous posts and at least one video on this subject). I don't remember Kurtz hammering the Republican Party for its massive spending advantage in 2004, or criticizing how the GOP hit Kerry with the Swift-Boat ads at a point in the campaign cycle when Kerry's funds were curtailed by finance laws. Kurtz buds Mark Halperin and John Harris wrote a whole book extolling the virtue of Rove's sleazy, win-at-any-cost, bigger war chest brand of politics. Now, Kurtz isn't too blame for their book, of course, but he shares many of their views, and the whole gang are pretty selective when it comes to fairness.
Kurtz is entitled to his other opinions. The Florida rally wasn't live out here in California, so its special nature was lost on me. I don't have an issue with the old speeches and the new rally being intercut with the informercial stuff, which also intercut Obama speaking directly to the American people, mini-docs on families, and Obama listening to and talking to American citizens. But hey, Kurtz is free to feel differently.

All that said, if Kurtz isn't aware of what he's shilling, boy, he's been duped, and if he is aware, it's even more shameful. I think it's a mixture of both. In any case, while Kurtz has his moments, his blog's main virtue is as a conservative blog round-up, but Kurtz still affects a persona of being fair and balanced, ample evidence to the contrary. Once again, he's adopted a right-wing framing and legitimizes bullshit.

(Oh, and Pushing Daisies is a good show, but I don't think even Ned could resurrect McCain's campaign at this point.)

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)