Thursday, March 27, 2008

Second verse, same as the first

Hillary Clinton doesn't want to rock the boat:

Sen. Hillary Clinton is planning a smooth honeymoon.

Her plan for the first 100 days of a second Clinton administration, traditionally a period of comity for new presidents, is made up mostly of practical proposals that are likely to succeed, analysts said.

But if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and general election in November, she doesn't plan to use the popular support new presidents typically enjoy as leverage for major battles over issues such as universal health care. (link)

Just like her husband -- play it safe, split the difference and allow our serious problems to fester. No thanks.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Here's an interesting statement:

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said Clinton had made the case superdelegates should exercise independent judgment about who would be the best for the party and the country.

"Few have done more to build the Democratic Party than Bill and Hillary Clinton. The last thing they need is a lecture from the Obama campaign," he said. (link)

Let's not forget that Bill Clinton was president in 1994, when the Democrats suffered their historic electoral route. I could be mistaken, but I believe there were not only fewer Democratic members of Congress when Clinton left office than when he assumed it, but fewer Democratic governors as well.

How is that building the party?

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Your Congress at work

The United States has been mired in Iraq for five years, and the economy is hurtling toward a recession. But Congress is focusing on what's really important:

Roger Clemens got some new Republican support in his dispute with Brian McNamee.

Reprising the partisan nature of last month's congressional hearing that examined whether the seven-time Cy Young Award winner took performance-enhancing drugs, the leading Republican on the committee that heard testimony from Clemens and McNamee released a report Tuesday questioning some of the Democratic majority's findings.

The 109-page report ``seeks to dispel conclusions that may have resulted from an incomplete consideration of the full record'' and contains details Rep. Tom Davis believes could challenge the credibility of McNamee, the personal trainer who testified under oath he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone from 1998-01.

Minority staff from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will pass along additional information to the Justice Department. The FBI is investigating whether Clemens testified truthfully to Congress. (link)

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another city, not my own

Why do I have the feeling that Camille Paglia has never been to Pittsburgh:

Current scuttlebutt -- a frail reed in this mercurial race -- is that the multiracial metropolises of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia will go for Obama, while the vast rural and small-town heartland will endorse Clinton, whose family roots are in coal-country Scranton. (link)

Multiracial? Metropolis?

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Truth, justice and the American way

Over the weekend I watched "Hollywoodland", a stylish piece of noir that examined the 1959 shooting death of actor George Reeves, who portrayed Superman in the TV show "Adventures of Superman." Reeves' death was ruled a suicide, but it has long fueled rumors that he was murdered.

The film mixes fact and fiction, and its protagonist is a fictional private investigator, Louis Simo (Adrian Brody), a publicity hound hired by Reeves' mother to prove that her son was did not kill himself. I give credit to the filmmakers and Brody for giving a fresh twist to the hard-boiled P.I. archetype. Simo is divorced and struggling to maintain a connection with his young son, Evan, who is distraught over Reeves' death. That struck me as something of a contrivance, but the death of Superman is nonetheless an apt metaphor for what the boy is really missing -- his father. Indeed, Simo begins to identify with Reeves, as both men are bitterly disappointed at the direction their professional and private lives have taken.

Simo learns that Reeves (Ben Affleck) was the paramour of Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of MGM studio executive Eddie Mannix. Reeves is horrified when he discovers that Toni is married to such a powerful Hollywood figure, but she assures him that she and Eddie have an understanding. They soon are dining with Eddie and his Japanese mistress, and Eddie -- portrayed with perfect menace by Bob Hoskins -- can barely bring himself to speak to Reeves. One senses his contempt springs less from jealousy than from the belief that Reeves isn't worthy of his wife's attentions.

By the time Reeves lands the role of Superman -- and the show, to his chagrin, becomes a hit -- he is a kept man, living in a house that Toni buys for him. She is unable, or unwilling, to use her influence to further Reeves' career, which flounders when "Superman" is canceled. (The film perpetuates what is apparently a myth that most of Reeves' scenes were cut from "From Here to Eternity" after a preview audience made derisive references to the actor's role as the Man of Steel.) Reeves ends up leaving Toni for a gold-digging actress named Leonore Lemon, who seems unmoved by his death.

"Hollywoodland" is a gorgeous picture, expertly capturing 1950s Hollywood glamor. It is, however, far too slow out of the gate, and once it gets going, it takes far too long to finish. The film is rescued by strong acting and detailed characterization -- though while Affleck's performance as Reeves is enjoyable, he never really looks the part of a washed-up actor. (Yes, Affleck arguably is a washed-up actor, but if you've ever seen the later episodes of the "Superman" show, you'll realize that he needed to have gained a few pounds to really get into character. Plus, he never seems to age, despite the span of time covered by the film.)

Brody, however, freed from the burdens of historical accuracy, gives a spot-on performance, and in the end, Louis Simo is a far more interesting character than George Reeves. Like Reeves, Simo stares into the abyss, but unlike the doomed actor, he has a lifeline -- his son -- to keep him from falling in.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Bush: Torture is A-OK

Wake me on Jan. 20.

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I liked it better the first time -- when it was called "Soul Man"

Apparently there's a bit of a row over Robert Downey Jr. appearing in black face in an upcoming Ben Stiller film. Of course, the film's conceit is that Downey is portraying an actor who takes on a role written for a black actor:

Downey Jr plays a worthy Oscar-winning actor taking on a role originally written for a black actor, and rather than re-write the part, he goes method.

Clearing anticipating a backlash, Downey Jr told a US magazine: "If it's done right, it could be the type of role you called Peter Sellers to do 35 years ago. If you don't do it right, we're going to hell."

OK, so it could be worse. But while Downey has his gifts, he's no Peter Sellers. (Sellers, by the way, appeared as Asian in "Murder by Death", in which he spoofed the offensive Charlie Chan films.)

That said, I think it sounds rather funny. Stiller, however, seems to have been in a lot of stinkers lately, so I'm not sure if appearing in one of his projects is the greatest career move.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Guns and butter

That liberal rag the New York Times has some good stuff on its op-ed pages today, one about our nation's gun laws -- or lack thereof -- and the other about its back-asswards farm policies.

From the former:

A short, smart public safety agenda would include:

¶ Requiring background checks for every gun purchase. That means closing the egregious loophole that permits unlicensed dealers to sell firearms at gun shows without conducting any background check.

¶ Limiting purchases to one gun a month in order to defeat traffickers who use straw purchasers to buy weapons in bulk and then resell them on the street.

¶ Once again banning the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like those used by the Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University killers. These magazines would have been outlawed under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, but President Bush and the Republican Congress recklessly let it expire in 2004 to please the gun lobby.

And from the latter:

The commodity farm program effectively forbids farmers who usually grow corn or the other four federally subsidized commodity crops (soybeans, rice, wheat and cotton) from trying fruit and vegetables. Because my watermelons and tomatoes had been planted on “corn base” acres, the Farm Service said, my landlords were out of compliance with the commodity program.

I’ve discovered that typically, a farmer who grows the forbidden fruits and vegetables on corn acreage not only has to give up his subsidy for the year on that acreage, he is also penalized the market value of the illicit crop, and runs the risk that those acres will be permanently ineligible for any subsidies in the future. (The penalties apply only to fruits and vegetables — if the farmer decides to grow another commodity crop, or even nothing at all, there’s no problem.)

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