Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Middle of the week mini-roundup

I know, it's a strange time to be doing one of my trademarked roundups, but the alternative would be to write four or five little posts, which I view as cheating.

1. It seems that the New Yorker article about Obama was actually pretty damned interesting. Nate from FiveThirtyEight recaps:

Ryan Lizza's 15,000-word epic by no means paints the most flattering picture of
Barack Obama. His Obama is remarkably intelligent and very level-headed, but
also understands every lever of power, and is ambitious to the point of being
ruthless.Well, no shit he's ambitious. For any American to go from a relatively
unprivileged childhood (or a privileged one for that matter) to be on the
doorstep of the Preisdency by the time he's age 46 requires a perfect storm of
luck, intelligence, and ambition. Obama has ample amounts of each.

But the article is more remarkable for revealing what Obama is not.

One, he's not some Pierre Trudeau type of academic. Obama became interested
in politics very early, and seemed to have some keen understanding of his upside
potential. The sometimes languid pace of academia was not really compatible with

Two, Obama was not corrupt. He knew how to navigate the rules of the
system. But he didn't cheat the system. Obama succeeded, for instance, in
disqualifying Alice Palmer from the ballot in the Illinois State Senate because
she faked hundreds of signatures to get her name on it, and then Obama called
her out. That's maybe not the most mannerly, tea-and-crumpets way of doing
things. But Obama didn't cheat. Palmer had cheated. What Obama did was to
exploit some of the inefficiencies of the Chicago machine system. Tony Rezko
donates, though legal channels, a bunch of money because he expects you to
behave like a typical machine politician and do him illegal favors? What to do?
Well, you take his money. And then you don't do him the favors.

I'll have to give it a read, but 15,000 words is too many to handle right now.

2. I also missed this during my brief break from blogging and the internet:

'Heroic' fighting repels Afghan militants

Apparently there was a big huge battle in Afghanistan that resulted in 9 US dead and 15 wounded, as well as dozens and dozens of Taliban killed, as hundreds of militants attempted to capture a coalition outpost in eastern Afghanistan. This was the deadliest single day for US forces in that country in 3 years.

If the Taliban is able to carry out an operation involving hundreds of men and mount a credible attack against a US military base, I'd say that means the situation is not improving.

3. Ooh, the plot thickens. An expert hired by Stephen Harper says there isn't enough evidence to conclude that Tom Zytaruk's interview tape was doctored, contradicting the others that Harper got to examine it. I gotta say, Harper is really pushing this lawsuit. I guess it's possible that he simply doesn't remember what he said about the Cadman deal, but he's playing it hard the other way.

4. Big financial worries on Wall Street, amid impending bailouts of major mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and ominious comments from Ben Bernanke. And an idiotic run on IndyMac isn't helping things. What part of "deposit insurance" do these people not understand? And for those who do understand it, what kind of moron keeps their entire life savings in deposits at a US bank? In Canada, it's different. The chances of one of our chartered banks going poof is practically zero (the World Economic Forum rated our banks the second safest in the world, behind only Switzerland). But in the unregulated and free-wheeling US financial sector, don't you dare trust all your money to one bank.

Anyways, bad shit all around.

5. What is with all these snooty New York critics bashing The Dark Knight? The film currently has four negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, all of them courtesy of New York magazine critics. This one faults it for not being a masterpiece. This one faults it for being too serious. This one says it's "noisy and sadistic". This one thinks it's too violent and "isn't necessarily fun".

Jesus Christ, if you don't want a sadistic, noisy, violent, and serious near-masterpiece, go watch Space Chimps, you pretentious fucks. Another recurring theme with these negative reviews is that it isn't enough like Tim Burton's movies. The last reviewer even says this:

In brief, Warner Bros. has continued to drain the poetry, fantasy, and comedy
out of Tim Burton’s original conception for “Batman” (1989), completing the job
of coarsening the material into hyperviolent summer action spectacle.

Well I don't give a shit about "Tim Burton's original conception for Batman", because it was a very flawed conception. Fun and entertaining, but I don't even put it in the same league as Batman Begins. The critics sure liked the pretty set design, but beyond that, Jack Nicholson had too much screentime, the action was clumsy, and the Joker killing Bruce's parents was just stupid. And by Returns, it was clear that Burton had no respect for the source material, preferring to apply his own quirky style and sensibilities to Batman's world.

Check out Berardinelli for a real review of the movie written by someone who isn't a hack. More reviews should be flooding in pretty soon.

6. I think I'll wait for the paperback, but The Dark Side by Jane Mayer looks really interesting. It appears to be an in-depth examination of the US torture regime that developed after 9/11. Must be a disturbing and anger-inducing read.


basil said...

If Mayer's book doesn't do it for you, try this:


How about this less graphic depiction?


Shaking with rage yet? Mine seems to be based upon shame and disgust.

Still read Greenwald? He's angry.



Desmond said...

Honestly basil, your first link makes me more mad at the suicide bomber than anyone else and the second link describes a tragic mistake.

The difference between mistakenly bombing civilians and sanctioning torture and holding prisoners indefinitely with no legal rights is that the latter is a conscious decision made by those in power, not a targeting mistake made in good faith.

basil said...


What? Did the pilot break his pinky-nail?

I suppose the murders of detainees at Bagram caused some PTSD in the torturers too, no doubt.

Ever wonder where suicide bombers get their motivation? Doubtless some are blackmailed, coerced in many terrifying ways, drugged. Then there's always the promise of paradise and the virgins.

But I would wager a good many do it for revenge, maybe even through a lack of the will to live anymore without their "mistakenly killed" by an occupying military force.

How do you suppose the surviving member of a family whose daughter is raped and killed with her parents would feel? Haditha?

What would you do, if you could put yourself in the situation of such tragedies?

That's the trouble with using military force to intervene in other nations, for whatever reasons.

Sometimes it's damn difficult to determine who's the terrorist.

That's one reason to have war crime tribunals and justice. Very complicated when everyone was "waggling guns" at each other.


Desmond said...

"That's the trouble with using military force to intervene in other nations, for whatever reasons"

Bingo, but invidual tragedies do not invalidate the use of military force in all cases. Sometimes it's the only option. An American pilot mistakenly dropping a bomb on a wedding party does not significantly change my feelings about the overall mission in Afghanistan.

And if the suicide bombers in Iraq are doing it out of revenge for lost family members or so forth, isn't it a bit strange how they target their own countrymen? How is vengeance served by atrocities like that?

basil said...

Oh, I'd bet you can come up with a couple of reasons why SBs might blow up their fellow countrymen instead of the outsiders.

Hint: Timothy McVeigh, although he wasn't an SB.

I'm a firm believer in Karma, pay-back, the reward gotten in this life or the next, what goes around comes around, etc.

All this tragedy in southern Asia is the result of bad policy, incompetence and lies.

Very pathetic background for busting up a wedding party in Afghanistan.