Wednesday, May 23, 2007

why must the Democrats always blink first?

If the Dems don't take the next election, it will because they
don't have the guts to just fight it out. Generally I think it's rather admirable that the Democrats aren't willing to shred the government the way the Republicans will do, but right now I think they should just go bulldog stubborn and say, we were voted in by anti-war and anti-corruption voters, let's give the people what they want. And if the government screeches to a halt as Bush vetoes bill after bill, well fine. But instead the Democrats seem to want to make sure there is no reason to believe they are anything but wimpy, ineffective, pseudo Republicans.

No guts, no glory.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gilmore Girls: RIP

Hey look, the Gilmore Girls is over! I saw the ad saying "series finale" so I figured, I'll take a look and see how it all turned out. (Note: I was rereading some of my blog entries, and look, it sounds like I'm going to start talking about the final episode and then I never actually do! Sorry about that!)

I gave up on the Gilmore Girls months ago. After Amy and Dan Palladino left as the producers it just didn't feel right anymore. It was sort of like Invasion of the Body Snatchers; everyone in Stars Hollow looked the same, and sounded the same, but they somehow just didn't seem like they were really the same people.

I hope the folks at the CW network have now figured out how stupid it was to not give the producers the two-year contract they were asking for. The CW is a new network that needs content, and they've lost one of their two best shows (the other being Everybody Hates Chris) because they wouldn't bend a little for the Palladinos. And while ostensibly the show is going because the stars wouldn't come back, it seems probably part of the reason for that is the lack of the shows creators combined with the poor quality of the season.

They could have at least paid the Palladinos something to tell them where the show was supposed to be going; the story went off the rails, but Amy Palladino apparently did have a plan for this year and I'm sure she would have sold an outline to CW if they'd asked.

Classic killing-the-goose-that-laid-the-golden-egg behavior. Bye-bye Lorelei and Rory; sorry you couldn't go out on a high note.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Exactly how dumb would a Democrat have to be to believe George Bush? Let's ask one.

As the Democratic candidates for president wander from state to state speaking and debating, there is one question I would like to stand up and ask each candidate who voted to authorize the Iraq war: Are you a liar or are you an idiot?

It’s a fair question. Because the explanations the candidates have given are hopelessly inadequate.
There seem to be two basic excuses for voting for the authorization. “I was misled by the administration into believing Saddam had weapons of mass destruction” and “I voted for the authorization in order to give the president a stronger position from which to negotiate.” John Kerry used both explanations, and it worked out just great for him.

I’ll take the second explanation first, because it’s the most absurd. Very simply, anyone with an I.Q. of over a hundred who was paying attention knew that Bush was going to invade Iraq the moment he had the authority to do so. I knew this, and I was getting most of my news from the Daily Show and from talking to my news-junky mom. Bush was jonesing for a war. Everything he did, every action he took, every speech he gave made it abundantly clear that he was determined to go to war at any cost. About the only way that wouldn’t have happened is if Saddam resigned and left the country, and there was zero chance of that.

Now, if I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Bush would use that authorization for war the moment he got it, is it possible that canny Washington insiders could not figure that out? Am I really that much smarter than Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden? It is a terrifying thought, because honestly, I am not all that smart. And it raises the frightening possibility that Bush isn’t the only borderline moron in office.

Dennis Kucinich, my favorite not-a-snowball’s-chance-in-hell candidate knew it. He voted against the war, and has been quoted as saying “It must be really tough for Presidential candidates to come before the American people and claim that they were tricked, deceived, misled…by George Bush?”
Perhaps they are that stupid though. Kerry, for one, seemed to believe Bush’s lies at the time. Was the president taking senators into the oval office and hypnotizing them?

The argument that candidates simply believed Bush’s lies about WMDs is arguably slightly more credible. They certainly sounded convinced at the time; in Hillary Clinton’s floor speech on the authorization she even declared intelligence about Saddam and WMDs “undisputed.”

Of course, the WMD story was disputed at the time. And I myself was pretty sure the whole thing was a lie (once again I’ll mention that I was just barely following the news and am not especially brilliant or insightful). If you accept the basic premise that Bush wanted war at any cost it’s not hard to deduce that he was fudging information. And there were congressmen at the time, such as Kucinich and Jim Jeffords, who had enough sense to see through the charade.

Some people were even in a better position to see the lies, as recently indicated by Dick Durbin, who said that as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee he could see how Bush was lying to the public. John Edwards was also on that committee, but that didn’t stop him from voting for the authorization, possibly because his political advisers told him to.

Sure, they all regret the vote now, and Edwards has at least apologized for it (and put out a nifty ad telling congress to resend the vetoed Iraq funding bill), but the question is, why do they regret it? Is it because they have now realized that a preemptive strike against Iraq just to feel better about 9/11 is fundamentally immoral? I doubt it. Unless you believe that these seasoned politicians really did take Bush at his word, you have to accept the idea that they wanted to go to war.

They just wanted it to be a quick, well-run war that would boost their popularity. The only thing I believe from these people are comments like Joe Biden’s “The thing that I regret [is believing] that this administration had any competence” or Clinton’s “"How could they have been so poorly prepared for the aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein?"

These politicians don’t regret voting for a war; they regret voting for a bungled war. Their only mistake, in their own minds, is that they misjudged the administration’s level of competence. (Not to blow my own horn, but once again poorly-informed, less-than-gifted me believed that Iraq was going to be a huge disaster along the lines of Vietnam.)

All of which makes me think that people like Clinton and Edwards, when asked if their vote to authorize war was a cynical ploy to curry favor with the voters or a sign of their utter stupidity, should answer, “both.” They probably believed more than they should have of Bush’s lies, but they also probably knew this was a mistake and decided that the political fallout from voting against the authorization was worse than the possibility of tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians.

I will consider the possibility that if they had crystal balls and realized exactly how much damage their vote would cause that they might have voted the other way, but this may be too generous of me.

Of course, this makes Barack Obama look pretty good to the anti-war crowd, since he was at anti-war rallies in 2002. I give him points for that, although it does not actually guarantee that he would have voted against the war. In that bizarre, panicky post-9/11 period politicians were gutless and pandering, and who’s to say that with the hot and heavy breath of public opinion down his neck Obama might not have caved. Still, I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt since he spoke so forcefully at the time.

But the only two candidates I totally trust on the issue are Kucinich, because he did vote against the authorization, and Mike Gravel, because the guy’s as old-school liberal as they come. But the press has decided these two are joke candidates. I suppose Kucinich is hoping that his anti-war stance will seem prescient and get him some support, but being right when everyone else is wrong never gets you anything; all people really remember is you disagreed with them. Anyway, Kucinich will lose because he’s my favorite, putting him in the illustrious company of progressive losers like Paul Simon and Mo Udall.

The only thing in Kucinich’s favor right now is Gravel’s candidacy. I like Gravel, but his abrasive, take-no-prisoners style and justifiable fury at the mendacity of the major candidates has the press pretty much writing him off as the “crazy uncle” candidate. This means the press has someone more fun to pick on than Kucinich, but since the press has decided there are only four (or perhaps three) real candidates it seems unlikely the public is just going to go out and decide for itself.

Which means I’m going to have to vote for one of the other guys. Right now I’m leaning towards Obama if Kucinich and Gravel have dropped out by the time of the New York Democratic primary, but the election is long way off and the other candidates can still persuade me that they are the best choice. All they have to do is give a really thoughtful, well-reasoned answer to my question:
Are you a liar or are you an idiot?

as charming as a sewer rat eating the eyes from an alley cat: my review of Charm School

There's an entertaining British reality show called Ladette to Lady which takes a bunch of obnoxious, overly sexualized women and sends them to a finishing school to teach them to be ladylike. So when I heard about VH1’s Charm School, I thought, cool, an American version of Ladette to Lady.

But I was wrong. Charm School is instead a disgusting, puerile, putrescent monstrosity that represents the very worst television can possibly offer. Words cannot properly express the loathsomeness of this show; one would have to instead combine vomiting noises with the sounds of flies circling shit.

The ostensible premise of Charm School is to take the vulgar, trashy women who vied for Flavor Flav’s affections on Flavor of Love and send them to “etiquette boot camp.” The actual purpose of the show is to find new ways to humiliate these women; the winner is likely to be the craziest and meanest of the bunch.

There is nothing charming about Charm School. First off, the mistress of the school is comedian Mo’Nique, who is funny in her standup act and quite presentable on the show but is hardly the epitome of style and grace (be honest, Mo’Nique, if you had any real class you would never have agreed to appear on this show). Her assistants are some woman who, like Mo'Nique, seem strict but basically decent, plus some guy who's just a prick who delights in insulting women. I can’t find these cast member's names on VH1’s website, which shows you about how important they are to the show.

Charm School made its intentions clear in the first episode when the girls were forced to take a long hike and camp in the woods, then were divided into two teams that had to race through an obstacle course. What, you ask, does this have to do with etiquette? Nothing, although Mo’Nique makes some claim about measuring teamwork.

The team that lost seemed to lose primarily (at least as portrayed in the show, which is of course edited for effect rather than truth) because one of the girls chosen to be a team captain chose weak girls who she worried would feel hurt if no one seemed to want them. She was roundly criticized for this shocking display of decency by the judges, who told her that this was a competition and she couldn’t be soft. I’m sure Miss Manners would completely agree.

In episode two, which I foolishly decided to watch, some guy from The Bachelor got to decide which girl was most presentable. One stole another’s expensive dress to rattle her, then told her so right in front of the bachelor who, instead of being shocked at such creepy behavior, crowned her the winner.

This is all particularly horrendous because Ladette to Lady shows it is possible to make a cheesy reality show that has a little honor to it.

Ladette is not an especially classy show. Basically, they get a bunch of alcoholics, sexoholics, and tomboys together in an old etiquette school where they are taught skills that were popular amongst society women decades ago, like cooking and flower arranging. The show loves its drunken women. In season two, one woman flashes her breasts on every occasion (on English TV, and on the Sundance Channel, which shows it in the U.S., nudity is allowed, so there is none of the blurriness VH1 employs to hide the naughty bits), and not an episode goes by in which we don’t see an archival clip of her lifting her shirt. Ladette also is constantly sending the girls off to pubs or leaving them alone with bottles of booze just so they can go wild and then be chastised by the school’s teachers.

At the same time, the show really does reward graciousness. It does teach these women how to speak more eloquently and carry themselves more gracefully. The women who keep causing trouble get kicked out, the women who work hard and improve stay. Ladette is ultimately a show about transformation, and while most of it is in thrall to drunken debauchery, towards the end the show seamlessly shifts into something positive That glorifies hope and possibility.

But Charm School doesn’t want their cast to transform themselves; it wants them to abase themselves. The show seeks to find all the ways these women can be humiliated, and the women themselves are willing and eager participants in their own abasement.

This is a shame, because these women need help. Obviously VH1 reality shows are all as unreal as you can get, heavily scripted and cast with people with no interest in anything except gaining fame and fortune (I kind of liked some of these shows at first but the utter and complete falseness in every second of every minute of every show eventually drove me away). The girls of Charm School are all hoping that, like “New York” in the first season of Flavor of Love, they can parlay their shame into a career. I’m sure they would argue that it’s just an act, that they’re playing for the cameras and that this is not really who they are at all, and there would be some truth to that. At the same time, people with high self-esteem would never go on a television show in front of millions of people and grovel for success as these women do. The girls of Charm School could use some genuine lessons in etiquette and charm, but what they really need most is a good therapist.

This is what makes Charm School so odious. It takes very screwed up women and tries to screw them up more for the entertainment of the masses. It is not an American version of Ladette to Lady but rather a serialized version of the Jerry Springer Show. Like Springer, Charm School thrives on sleaze, and just as Jerry would end each show with a smug, hypocritical lecture on how disgusting his guests acted, Charm School wants its women to be revolting so it can wag its finger in their faces and say, shame, shame on you. And just as with Springer, the most immoral participants are not the guests, but the producers who exploit them and the audience that revels in their degradation and in a self-righteous sense of superiority.

hey, white guys just have a lot to say

If you want to see exactly how white and male news shows are, check out the handy-dandy charts from Media Matters. Note that the political leanings of the show don't seem to have much to do with anything; Countdown is actually more exclusively white than O'Reilly (although Countdown's host once did rather smugly note that his understudy is a black woman; when does she get her own show?).

I don't know who Paula Zahn is but she seems a bit more open to black guests, although it looks like she's not better on the other races than anyone else.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

hey you sitting there watching TV in your underwear; quit thinking you're a civilian

I didn't realize Paul Harvey was still alive, but after hearing him complain about Afghani women and children being labeled as civilians I think it's fair to think he's a bit senile. First off, the actual quote is quite disjointed and delivered in a weird, somnambulent tone; it really does sound like he's broadcasting in his sleep. Second, it reveals a bizarre point of view. He's basically suggesting, as best I can tell, that referring to women and children as civilians is keeping NATO from killing more people, or something.

The most fascinating thing is his comment that there haven't been any civilians since the invention of the aerial bomb. He doesn't just say, there's no such thing as a Muslim civilian, or a dark-skinned civilian, which I think is what a lot of right-wingers say; he's saying there are no civilians anywhere. Which means the folks who died in the World Trade Center weren't civilians, people blown up by suicide bombers aren't civilians, and little babies laying in their cribs aren't civilians. (A civilian, according to the dictionary, is "a person who is not on active duty with a military, naval, police, or fire fighting organization.")

Someone needs to wake up Paul Harvey, tell him what a civilian is and send him to a retirement home where he can ramble incoherently without bothering too many people.

Here's what he said. Make sense of it as best you can. If you think this must be a typo because it's so confused, you can listen to this quote here.

And hear this please. In Western Afghanistan, where NATO forces are involved in some of the deadliest fighting since January, among the 136 dead this morning suspect Taliban. But there are others, 51 villagers, mostly women and children. Might not the news media put a stop to such pulled punches wars as this, if we would just desist from categorizing civilians. It was civilians, for goodness sake, who decapitated New York City. Since the invention of the aerial bomb five wars ago, there have been no civilians.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

internet asshole faces real world consequences

We all know that the faceless anonymity of the internet allows people to be total pricks with a feeling of impunity. So even though I disapprove of violence, I can't help but take pleasure when a
a griefer is hunted down and beaten up in real life. Griefers are people who just enjoy ruining games for other people, and this one was not only obnoxious but stupid enough to give away too much personal info.

Is it right to break someone's fingers for ruining a game for them? Did these people try going through regular channels and trying to get the griefer banned before they went after him? I don't really know. I can't say it's right, and the masters of Warcraft should probably ban the violent people for letting their argument spill out into the real world like that. But still, if this sends a message that it's not okay to be a bullying creton, even when you're online, then I can't object.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Rolling Stone : THE LOW POST: The Imus Sanction

Just came across a think piece on the Imus blowup that does a good job of pointing out how full of shit pretty much everyone is. I'm not familiar with the writer, Matt Taibbi, but I think I've got to read more of his stuff, because he's sharp and savage. Here's a sample paragraph:

First of all, let's just get this out of the way: The idea that anyone in the media world gives a shit about the dignity of women, black or white, is a ridiculous joke. America's TV networks have spent the last forty years falling over each other trying to find better and more efficient ways to sell tits to the 18-to-35 demographic. They make hour-long prime-time reality dramas these days about shopping-obsessed sluts hitting each other with pocketbooks, for Christ's sake. Paris Hilton -- dumb, rich -- gets her own prime-time show. MTV, the teenie mags, the pop music industry, they're basically all an endless parade of skinny, half-naked brainless women selling makeup and jeans to neurotic, self-hating, weight-obsessed little girls.