Monday, July 31, 2006

Allow myself to promote myself

I try to minimize the self-promotion on here. But I realy do feel like we've got some of our best content in a while on Dateline Hollywood this week, so I thought I'd provide links to all of the fresh showbiz-satirizing goodness on Dateline Hollywood this week...

-Woody reviews Miami Vice: Our weekly video review from clueless critic Woody Wittman this week focuses on the new action movie from controversial documentarian Michael Moore.





The last one may be my personal favorite, if only because I went onto YouTube and did a lot of "research" on YCDTOTV (aka watching old pirated episodes) that brought back a flood of memories from my too-much-TV-watching youth. That show was really surprisingly sophisticated for an '80s kids TV series. I had forgotten how it was full of meta-commentary on itself. Who knew Nickelodeon was a post-modern programming pioneer?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Instapundit hackery

If there was any doubt left that Instapundit is a complete shill for the Bush administration when it comes to defense related issues and especially the war in Iraq -- he obviously isn't an administration mouthpiece on issues like gay marriage, stem cells, domestic spending -- I think this recent post seals the deal:

THIS IS INTERESTING: "Half of Americans now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded the country in 2003 -- up from 36 percent last year, a Harris poll finds. Pollsters deemed the increase both 'substantial' and 'surprising' in light of persistent press reports to the contrary in recent years."

Apparently, trust in "persistent press reports" isn't what it used to be.

Let's get this straight. Half of Americans think that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, an assertion that is wrong. But the fact that half the country is apparently unaware that the Bush administration's primary (no, not only, as Instapundit constantly reminds us) justification for invading Iraq turned out to be wrong isn't the interesting part of the story???

I read this earlier today in a post on Brendan's blog and clicked through to the Washington Times story that both Brendan and Instapundit link to. I was dismayed, if not amazed, to see the GOP spin-disseminating Washington Times never assert directly that there were no WMD in Iraq, instead using the weasel phrase that there have been "persistent press reports to the contrary in recent years."

This phrase is obviously just the WT's way of getting around having to assert that Bush was wrong about WMD. But then Instapundit, amazingly, picks up on that phrase and uses it as the main peg of his analysis. The issue, you see, is not that half the country believes that the disproven justification the Bush Administration used to (mis)lead us into war is true. The issue is that people are losing credibility in the "mainstream media." (probably Instapundit's #1 favorite issue)

That, of course, is meant to get the reader thinking about the media's failures rather than just how effective the Bush administration PR campaign supporting the Iraq war has been.

Coming soon on Instapundit: Why growing public concern over the Bush administration's use of torture is a sign that the media is pro-terrorism

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Why raising the gas tax is a terrible idea

This Los Angeles Times story should be required reading for the elites who want to deal with our Middle East / energy problems by hiking the federal gas tax.

As should be obvious but this story spells out in detail, high gasoline prices can be economically devasting for working- and middle-class people with long commutes. Here in L.A., for instance, a gallon of gas has been hovering between $3 and $3.50 a gallon for almost a year. (Back when gas was $1.50, I probably would have been amenable to a reasonable hike in the tax)

It's not too big a deal for people like me and Alicia, who live in the middle of the city and both have a commute of under 5 miles to work. But for middle class families who, in order to afford a house, live 50 or 100 miles away from their job -- you have to go well outside of Los Angeles to find a decent house for under $500,000 -- it's a betrayal. I understand the arguments about lowering demand for oil and, thus, reducing our energy dependence on the middle east. But this can't be the way to do it. For better or worse, millions of people organized their lives around the idea that they could afford to commute their job and have a house -- the basis of the American dream. And then there are people who live in rural areas and literally can't get anywhere without driving a long way.

How to deal with the sky high (compared to what they were just 2 years ago) gas prices currently set by the market is a whole separate issue. But for the government to purposely make gas $1 more expensive is grossly unfair.

It's no coincidence that it's elite, urban dwelling political opinion-havers like Thomas Friedman and Andrew Sullivan who support high gas taxes. They are in major cities with good public transportation. Most middle class families can't afford to live in safe neighborhoods with good public schools in cities like New York and D.C. Thus, they commute. And need gas.

And yes, I know there are proposals to have some sort of tax rebate for lower income people. But I don't believe that would work our fairly for everyone and it would either be incredibly inefficient or corrupt. The last thing we need to enact is more complicated social engineering via the tax code.

I'm all for reducing our dependence on Middle East oil for the obvious reasons. But the way to do that is to make cars more efficient by raising minimum mileage standards, investing in alternative energy, building better public transportation, etc. Until you offer those kinds of positive alternatives, you can't go changing the rules on middle class families.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Andrew Sullivan sees the light

Congratulations to Andrew Sullivan for coming around to what I would call the light. Or, more precisely, for finally, in mid-2006, echoing the argument that Brendan, Bryan and I formed from 2001 through 2004 on Spinsanity and wrote as a book-length argument in 2004:

In the last few years, I have gone from lionizing this president's courage and fortitude to being dismayed at his incompetence and now to being resigned to mistrusting every word he speaks. I have never hated him. But now I can see, at least, that he is a liar on some of the gravest issues before the country. He doesn't trust us with the truth. Some lies, to be sure, are inevitable - even necessary - in wartime. But when you're lying not to keep the enemy off-balance, but to maximize your own political fortunes at home, you forfeit the respect of people who would otherwise support you - and the important battle you have been tasked to wage.

Incompetence aside, this President has indeed been misleading, deceiving, and dissembling to (or, to put it more bluntly, "lying to") America on most major issues since he took office. Most egregiously, of course, in the case of the Iraq War. That was the argument of All the President's Spin and I think the evidence has only continued to pile up since publication.

And Sulivan is most precisely right when he points out that Bush's dishonesty forfeits him the support of people who would otherwise respect him. As we said endlessly in the book and on the site, this is not a partisan issue. You can substantively support all of President Bush's policies, yet you still should be appalled by his disdain for honest democratic debate.

It's sad that more journalists like Sullivan didn't pick up on this fact years earlier, but I still welcome him to the truth. And I mean that in all honesty. I really do hope he'll continue to analyze the devastating impact that George W. Bush's use of manipulative PR tactics to deceive the nation for his own short-term political gain has wrought.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Finally a fun summer tentpole

Though I hate to think of myself as a curmudgeon, I have to admit that it's rare I can drop any critical stance and just have fun at a summer tentpole. Whether it's "Superman Returns," "M:I:3," "Spider-Man 2," or any of the "X-Men" films, I always end up thinking they're just not very good movies and I don't enjoy myself much.

The only summer tentpole I thoroughly enjoyed last year was "Batman Begins," but virtually everyone with any intelligence admits that that was a just plain excellent movie, regardless of its big budget and franchise aspirations.

Many people say I don't know how to just have fun at the movies, but I really don't think that's true. I'll have fun if the movie is fun, and not so actively bad that I can't ignore the faults.

I also honestly think that a lot of summer movies actually aren't much fun because they don't have enough action. Look at "Superman Returns" or "X-Men: the Last Stand" or "M:I:3" or "Fantastic Four." Those movies actually only have 2 or 3 set pieces each. Unless you have a great plot, that simply isn't enough.

That's why I'm very happy to report that I had a lot of fun at "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." Yes, the plot is unnecessarily convoluted and at at least one point, doesn't make any sense. And no, it is not about anything at all besides characters trying to get stuff they want. But the set pieces are frequent and spectacular, the performances are all great (with one notable exception who has become a star despite a total lack of talent), the score is rousing, the effects impressive, and the characters are set up to play off each other really well. I particularly appreciated that the protagonists don't get along and are often at cross-purposes. That's unusual for a studio tentpole (especially from Disney) and made the movie even better.

So yes, I like fun summer movies. When they're fun. And "Pirates" is. I should note that Alicia didn't enjoy it, even though she loved the first one. But then she thought "Superman" was perfectly fine. I should probably dump her.