Thursday, September 29, 2005

Shoring up the bigot base

I'm not surprised Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the gay marriage bill, since the man doesn't have a courageous bone in his body.

As Alicia correctly pointed out, this isn't too important in the long run. California is a state with enough rational people that we will grant equal marriage rights to all our citizens soon enough. Schwarzenegger simply chose to miss the opportunity to go down in history as somebody who took a courageous stand for civil rights and transformed the country by making California the first state to pass a marriage equality law through legislative means (rather than judician order, as in Massachussetts). That sets us back a few years, but ultimately, it's his loss.

But here's the thing that really annoys me about the press coverage. Check out this quote from the LA Times: "On September 7, the day after the Assembly passed Leno's bill, Schwarzenegger's office issued a statement saying, 'The governor believes the matter should be determined not by legislative action-which would be unconstitutional-but by court decision or another vote of the people of our state.'"

He seems to believe that this bill is unconstitutional. OK, fine. So here's the big question. IS THAT TRUE? The LA Times article doesn't answer. And, in fact, I haven't seen a single report anywhere. I would think the state legislature would have some mechanism to prevent it from wasting its time passing obviously unconstitutional laws. Either way, I would like to know if the governor's reason is legitimate.

Regardless, the Governor is still a pussy. If there's a chance it's constitutional, he should sign it and see what happens. If there's no chance, but he believes in gay marriage, he should veto it and state that. Instead, he declined to state an opinion, hiding behind the fact that a majority of the state voted for a proposition against gay marriage five years ago, even though polls show that today we are evenly split. And given that momentum, and the fact that every year we get a new cohort of young voters who are mostly pro-gay rights, there will almost surely be a majority in favor soon.

And Schwarzenegger will be back in Hollywood trying to get Terminator 4 made, since shoring up his bigot base with this veto is not going to be enough to get him re-elected.

An essay on "violence" masked as a film

As a pretentious type who is often seduced by ideas above all else, I should have loved "A History of Violence." It's a film devoted entirely to big ideas about how we manage to simultaneously deplore and celebrate brutality, how aggression transmits itself between generations no matter how hard we resist it, and how peace is often a facade propped up by violence kept out of the public eye.

But I really disliked the film. I almost hated it. The only reason I didn't was that some of the scenes were so artfully short (especially the violent ones) and a few of the performances (especially William Hurt) were so compelling. But how can you take a film seriously as a comment on America or culture or anything, really, when there's not a single truthful moment in it? Everything from the characters to the plot twists to the dialogue are so painfully phony and absurd that I was never drawn into what I was watching and never cared about what it all might mean (almost everything in the first paragraph only occurred to me later).

The reviews are so good that I might be wrong. So maybe you should see it anyway and find out if I'm stupid or obtuse. But to take just one example, Viggo Mortenson's teenage son confronts a bully who, get this, is mad that he caught his fly ball during gym class. He then makes plans with his good buddy to get back at the kid for daring to catch a ball that came directly to him. Has this ever actually happened outside of bad educational film from the '70s about bullying? We're actually supposed to take anything that follows in that conflict seriously?

That's probably the worst example, but that's the level of character and complexity of plot devices in which this film deals. Which makes all of the interesting ideas pretty much moot.

"A History of Violence" would make a much better essay than it did a film.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I've been bad

In that I haven't blogged. Luckily practically nobody reads this blog so what does it matter?
But for what it's worth, I'll hopefully get back into doing it more now. I've been super busy with Dateline Hollywood and submissions and a minor bout of depression. But it's all cool.
On the Dateline Hollywood front, read this post by my friend Michael Schneider for the craziness that has gone on there in the past month:

And if you want something to amuse yourself, check out this photo and text by Kevin. It's one of my favorite pictures of all time, and his clever commentary captures exactly what is so fantastic about it (namely, "joneliness")

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Powell: the buck stops with some other guys

I just watched Barbra Walters' interview of Colin Powell and was sadly not too shocked to see that the supposedly honorable former Secretary of State has the same attitude toward responsibility that the President and his top aides have: shifting it away when something bad happens.

Walters asked Powell about his embarassing speech to the United Nations, when he presented information about Iraq's supposed possession of and work on weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be wrong. According to the article on the interview, here are the two main things he said: "George Tenet did not sit there for five days with me misleading me. He believed what he was giving to me was accurate. … The intelligence system did not work well" and "There were some people in the intelligence community who knew at that time that some of these sources were not good, and shouldn't be relied upon, and they didn't speak up. That devastated me."

While Powell did admit it was "painful" to be so wrong, it's so very instructive that he's shifting the blame to unnamed lower level people in the CIA. Now I thought that one of the main tenets of the military is that officers have to take responsibility for the behavior of soldiers under their command. Powell was obviously no longer in the military as SoS, but it would be great if that same philosophy of responsibility held. But clearly it doesn't. When Colin Powell agreed to make this presentation to the U.N. and spend five days pouring over the intelligence, he was choosing to take responsibility for what he said. But he's not taking responsibility and he's not holding the person who ran the CIA responsible. It's just some unnamed low level guys that they never even bothered to identify.

So Colin Powell ended up playing a key role misleading Americans and some of the world into war. Oh well.

Let's also keep in mind that, as we showed in All the President's Spin, some pieces of evidence in Powell's speech are things he should have known were wrong at the time. He used a photo of an ammunitions storage site that the Iraqis supposedly cleaned up before U.N. weapons inspectors arrived, when the photo was actually taken before inspectors arrived. Similarly, he used video of Iraq's supposed unmanned aerial vehicles that could deliver biological weapons, but the video was shot before the first Gulf War. And the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002 (four months before Powell's speech) said that the Air Force intelligence director believed the UAVs were not beling developed primarily for biological and chemical warfare.

So, you know, out of some combination of dishonesty, negligence, and trust of others who failed him, a supposedly great American leader made a thoroughly dishonest case for a war that has so far killed nearly 2,000 young Americans, seriously injured nearly 10,000, killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, done little to nothing to make our country safer, and distracted us from much more important priorities like hunting Al Qaeda, stabilizing Afghanistan, and responding to national disasters at home.

But what's he supposed to do? Accept some personal responsibility? Don't be silly. Anybody who works for more than a year for George W. Bush, the most immature and irresponsible president we have ever had, clearly doesn't believe in the concept.