The Lofty  

This blog has moved!

You Decide in 2004: Kerry or Scary?

A Breath of Fresh Air

News & Views

ABC News
Al-Ahram (Egypt)
Al-Jazeera (Qatar)
American Prospect
Arab News (Saudi Arabia)
Asia Times (Hong Kong)
Atlantic
BBC News
Blogdex
Boondocks
Chicago Tribune
Christian Science Monitor
CNN
Columbia Political Review
Dawn (Pakistan)
Deutsche Welle (Germany)
Dissent
Doonesbury
Drudge Report
Economist (UK)
Financial Times (UK)
Fox News
Google News
Guardian (Nigeria)
Guardian (UK)
Ha'aretz (Israel)
In These Times
International Herald Tribune
Jerusalem Post
Kurdish Media
Los Angeles Times
Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
MSNBC
The Nation
National Post (Canada)
National Review
New Republic
New York Times
New Yorker
NPR News
The Onion
Opinion Journal
People's Daily (China)
Progress Report
Reason
Roll Call
Salon
Slate
Time
Tom Paine
Times of London
Turkish Daily News
Turkish Press
UPI
USA Today
Village Voice
Washington Monthly
Washington Post
Washington Times
Weekly Standard
Zaman (Turkey)

(For a news source that requires a username and password, use "thelofty" for both.)

Blogs

(* means blog has been updated recently)

Books

Terror and Liberalism

The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria

Polyarchy

Polyarchy by Robert Dahl

The Nazi Seizure of Power

The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen

Terror and Liberalism

Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman

In Association with Amazon.com

The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck

Archive


 

This Blog Has Moved!
 
This blog now has a new home.  Please redirect yourself to http://kris.typepad.com in the future.  Update your links accordingly.  I hope you like the new site!
 
Note: this site will remain up for posterity.  All archives will remain active on this site for reference.
 
Enjoy!


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 10:24:00 AM


Friday, July 23, 2004  

 

The Ultimate Flip-Flopper
 
Back in February Bush appeared on Meet the Press and stumbled through a defense of his administration's exaggerations and falty evidence for war.  In the course of that interview Bush declared himself a "war president."  He was proud of being a "war president" and he seemed to come alive at the prospect of declaring his macho descriptive title. 
The 'Peace President'

"I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign policy matters with war on my mind."

But that was then.  This is now:
"Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president."

The flip, and the flop.  Bush went on to say he wants a pony for Christmas and for the Texas Rangers to go undefeated in the regular season.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 3:37:00 PM


Wednesday, July 21, 2004  

 

For the Sake of French Jews - or for Israel?
 
I understand where Sharon is coming from on this, but it seems extreme for him to say that French Jews "must" relocate to Israel to avoid the wave of rising anti-semitism in Europe.  Even French Jewish leaders say Sharon's comments are unhelpful.
Sharon's plan

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has urged all French Jews to move to Israel immediately to escape anti-Semitism.

He told a meeting of the American Jewish Association in Jerusalem that Jews around the world should relocate to Israel as early as possible.


But for those living in France, he added, moving was a "must" because of rising violence against Jews there.


France's foreign ministry said it had asked Israel for an explanation of the "unacceptable comments".


French Jewish leaders, interviewed on France-2 Television, said Mr Sharon's remarks were unhelpful.


"These comments do not bring calm, peace and serenity that we all need," said Patrick Gaubert, of the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (Licra). "I think Mr Sharon would have done better tonight to have kept quiet."

I suspect Sharon has some underlying motivations beyond the admirable goal protecting French Jews.  It is well known that the Israeli Jewish population does not have the same sort of gang-buster population growth rate as Israeli Arabs.  As a result, in the not too distant future Israeli Arabs could constitute a larger portion of the population than do Israeli Jews.  Arabs would be able to use democracy to their advantage in the "Jewish state" and, as conspiratorial-minded Israeli Jews might suggest, they could destroy the state of Israel from the inside out. 
 
Of course this suggestion of Israeli Arab collusion with terrorists is far-fetched, but having a larger Arab than Jewish population in Israel would throw quite a monkeywrench in the concept of Israeli democracy. 
 
I suspect Sharon may be trying to encourage mass migration to Israel by French Jews in an attempt to counter-balance the lopsided birth rate discrepancy.  If that is his goal, Sharon is fighting a losing battle.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 11:21:00 AM



 

Wages Lag In This Booming Economy
 
Is this the booming economy everyone is talking about? Last time I checked shrinking wages were a bad thing.  Having a recovery where only CEO's gain is not good for the economy in the long-term.
Keeping up with the wages

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that hourly earnings of production workers - nonmanagement workers ranging from nurses and teachers to hamburger flippers and assembly-line workers - fell 1.1 percent in June, after accounting for inflation. The June drop, the steepest decline since the depths of recession in mid-1991, came after a 0.8 percent fall in real hourly earnings in May.

Coming on top of a 12-minute drop in the average workweek, the decline in the hourly rate last month cut deeply into workers' pay. In June, production workers took home $525.84 a week, on average. After accounting for inflation, this is about $8 less than they were pocketing last January, and is the lowest level of weekly pay since October 2001.
 
...

"There's a bit of a dichotomy," said Ethan S. Harris, chief economist at Lehman Brothers. "Joe Six-Pack is under a lot of pressure. He got a lousy raise; he's paying more for gasoline and milk. He's not doing that great. But proprietors' income is up. Profits are up. Home values are up. Middle-income and upper-income people are looking pretty good."
Republicans will (correctly) argue that an economy is driven not by low-income consumers but by high end consumers and corporate investments.  That may be true, but if the vast majority of people do not see their incomes rise in accordance with the "recovery," is it really a recovery?  This graph which I posted a few weeks ago tells the story quite clearly.

Some economists warn that if wages remain depressed for a long time they may end up weighing on the economy. "The recovery will likely continue on despite the travails of lower-income households, but it cannot flourish," Mr. Zandi said.

So far, spending has been fueled mostly by debt, as consumers took advantage of bedrock-low interest rates to whip out their credit cards and refinance their mortgages. But as interest rates rise to keep inflation in check, continued growth in consumer spending will depend more on jobs and wages.

A full recovery requires an economy which is fully healthy. If jobs and wages don't go anywhere we aren't really gaining ground. Bush may not care about this type of discrepency, but it matters to the majority of workers who earn those low wages. They are getting pinched. That is what matters.




  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 2:21:00 PM


Monday, July 19, 2004  

 

PM Executed Prisoners

Understandably the new Iraqi government will need to prove its security credentials to a skeptical population, but should that really involve the Prime Minister himself executing prisoners?  This is chillingly similar to the deeds of a certain past president of Iraq (via Kevin Drum):
Yikes

Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.
They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".


The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.

But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister's personal security team watched in stunned silence.
Is this really what Iraq needs?  Another strongman who executes prisoners?  Expect to hear more on this in the coming days...


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 2:24:00 PM


Friday, July 16, 2004  

 

The Ultimate Homeland Security?

Now we know that there are at least 48 members of the U.S. Senate who favor enshrining discrimination in the U.S. Constitution.
Stupid

Today's vote - a procedural vote on the "Federal Marriage Amendment," not a straight up or down vote on the amendment itself since Republicans couldn't muster the numbers for it - closed debate on the amendment by a vote of 50-48.

Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum had this choice quote which highlighted quite clearly his lack of real priorities:

"I would argue that the future of our country hangs in the balance because the future of marriage hangs in the balance," said Sen. Rick Santorum, a leader in the fight to approve the measure. "Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"

No Rick, the real homeland security is actually called Homeland Security. I know, shocking. Protecting Americans from terrorism by allocating the necessary resources to law enforcement agencies, counter-terrorism efforts and state officials who deal with the threats that face our country - that's the duty of a senator, not to tell other people how to run their lives. Controlling the relationships of other Americans may be a favorite past-time of the Religious Right, but it should not be on the agenda of the U.S. government.

Personally I believe we are in an inextricable mess. Ever since the word "marriage" was first used as a legal term in secular affairs, we have been headed towards this "culture war" of nonsense. Marriage is a religious term and should stay as such. As far as any government is concerned, the relationship between two people should be called a "union." The state needn't recognize any religious relationship - that is for the church, and the church alone, to confer.

Unfortunately we have been calling the civil relationship "marriage" for far too long now for our whole society to backtrack to where we should be. As such we are stuck with this stupid battle between Religious Right fanatics - led by Senator Santorum - and committed, devoted and loving couples who simply want state recognition of their relationship. What a tangled web we have weaved.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 1:06:00 PM


Wednesday, July 14, 2004  

 

New State Polls

As of July 12, John Kerry is looking good.
Looking Good

According to a new round of Zogby state polls, Kerry would win all the states Al Gore won in 2000 plus Florida, Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio. Admittedly many of these swing states are within the margin of error and likely will remain so right up to Election Day, but the Edwards bounce seems to be real.

The numbers for Ohio are as such:

(MoE = 2.7%, N = 1,321)
Kerry - 48.6%
Bush - 47.9%
Nader - 0.8%

Zogby polls are known for their tiny undecided numbers. The Zogby method aggressively encourages poll respondents to pick a "leaner" or to otherwise make up their mind. That means that these numbers are quite volatile and could shift with the breeze.

One state of particular note is Florida. I was ready to give up on Florida and instead focus on other, easier states. Florida's size makes it an expensive state to campaign in and the hot button issues that will help Kerry, such as the limping economy or the Iraq War are not as pressing to the retired community. Nevertheless, Kerry has actually beaten the margin of error in Florida and is ahead by six:

(MoE = 2.9%, N = 1,156)
Kerry - 50.8%
Bush - 44.2%
Nader - 2.9%

Hopefully it will stay that way.

We still have a long way to go, but at least today things are looking good.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 9:15:00 AM



 

John Edwards' Secret Weapon

For no other reason than to enliven the Democratic ticket's spouses, John Edwards was a great pick. His wife, Elizabeth Edwards is the exact opposite of Teresa Heinz Kerry. She makes sense when she talks. While she does not give her husband much political advice, she does help keep him on the right track. She is the backbone to his smiley demeanor; the key to his success.
Campaign Backbone

Now that her husband has been picked as the Vice Presidential candidate, we can expect a flurry of new in-depth biographical sketches from the media about Elizabeth Edwards. One of note is in today's Chicago Tribune.

With her level-headedness and initiative she will provide a sharp contrast with the aloof, odd and unpredictable Teresa Heinz Kerry. For that reason alone, John Kerry made a great Vice Presidential pick.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 1:26:00 PM


Tuesday, July 13, 2004  

 

Pre-Edwards Ohio Poll

The latest numbers out of Ohio are from a June poll by Rasmussen. They show little change from a month prior, though they do not include the poll bounce that is expected from the Vice Presidential announcement of John Edwards last week. Here are the pre-Edwards numbers:
Tight Race

(MoE = 4%)
Bush - 46%
Kerry - 42%
Other - 5%
Undecided - 7%

I'm looking forward to the next round of polling. I'm expecting something around a 48%-44% for Kerry from Rasmussen. But regardless of what happens now, the smart money hasn't been bet yet. This one will go down to the wire.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 11:46:00 AM


Monday, July 12, 2004  

 

What about Mini Ditka?

I am optimistic about the future of the Illinois delegation to the U.S. Senate. The past few days have given us just a taste of what we can look forward to when Barack Obama joins Senator Dick Durbin in Washington.
Superfans

To start, Durbin offered up his assessment of the intelligence situation in today's Washington Post.

Then there was the news, released by the Obama campaign, that whoever the Illinois Republican party chose as their sacrificial lamb would need to bring a thick wallet with them. Obama's campaign has raised a stunning $4 million in the past three months. Of that he still has $3 million on hand. That will be quite a prohibitive obstacle for many of the prospective fill-ins.

Indeed, one of Jack Ryan's primary opponents, State Senator Steve Rauschenberger has already said he will not fill the void because he is afraid of going up against Obama's popularity and stack of cash. He said this soon after U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert endorsed him as the best stand-in possibility for Ryan. Oops.

Perhaps though, the stupidest idea yet from the Illinois GOP is to draft former Bears coach Mike Ditka. The invocation of Saturday Night Live sketches are unavoidable:

"If Ditka ran, Democrats would claim to vote for Obama and then secretly vote for Ditka," said Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) "It would immediately put Chicago in play."

Mmmnk. Kirk, of course thinks everything is in play after he was able to win the 10th Congressional District after spending $10 million of his own money. That sure makes things easier.

But that's beside the point. It seems the Illinois GOP has regressed into desperation where they think they can beat anything and anyone if only they got Da Coach. I imagine this conversation within the 19 member nominating committee:

Suit #1: "Who would win, Obama or Ditka?"

Suit #2: "Ditka, 98 percent."

Suit #1: "But what about Mini Ditka versus Obama, Kerry and the '72 Dolphins?"

Suit #2: "Da Coach, 86 percent."

Suit #3: "OK, OK, dat dere may be trues, but what about Mini Ditk... oh geez... anudda heart attack..."

Suit #1: "What my friend dere is tryin' to say is: What about Super-mini Ditka minus da Levitra versus Obama, Kerry, da '72 Dolphins, a 180 MPH hurricane, a healthy Ricky Williams, da Fridge, and Air Jordan?"

Suit #2: "Aww geez. Tough one. I'd say Da Coach by 77 percent."


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 1:22:00 PM


Friday, July 09, 2004  

 

Playing Politics With National Security

Cynical Democrats and left-wing loonies alike have made something of a parlor game out of guessing when the Bush administration will produce the head of Osama bin Laden or that of one of his Associates in Evil. Most have hysterically warned that, come October, bin Laden might suddenly show up in a body bag as the freakiest Halloween costume around.
July Surprise?

Personally, I think bin Laden will show up soon as well, though I tend to (naively?) believe the Bush administration is doing what it can to get him as soon as possible. Maybe he would have been captured by now if we hadn't started a war in Iraq, but given the resources committed, I expect him to show up as soon as he possibly could be captured.

Would the Bush administration play politics with national security? I would hope not, but according to the New Republic the trap is set for just such a thing. The New Republic has learned that Bush administration officials have exerted extreme pressure on the Pakistanis to deliver bin Laden, second in command Ayman Al Zawahiri, and/or Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar before the November election.

A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

That's blatantly playing politics with national security. There's no other way to describe it.

Is it reputable? First off, the New Republic is very well respected as a painfully middle-of-the-road political magazine. No argument there. Are the Pakistani sources reliable? These leaks come from ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service which tends to have more pro-Islamist leanings than the Musharraf regime. The ISI knows that if they don't start producing results they could face heavy pressure concerning its loose nukes. The ISI is feeling the heat.

The Bush administration has suddenly decided to push Pakistan for results this Spring and Summer. Curious timing. We should have been going after bin Laden this whole time. The fact that we have not been laying all our weight on Musharraf and his generals in the past is profoundly enlightening.

"Pushing Musharraf to go after Al Qaeda in the tribal areas may be a good idea despite the risks. But, if that is the case, it was a good idea in 2002 and 2003. Why the switch now? Top Pakistanis think they know: This year, the president's reelection is at stake."

For the Bush administration it's all about politics. All of it.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 3:17:00 PM


Thursday, July 08, 2004  

 

The Real Republican Party

You may have heard that the Republican Convention in New York will prominantly feature pro-choice, pro-gay rights California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former New York mayor and New Yorker-above-all-else Rudy Giuliani, and every moderate's favorite man of conviction Arizona senator John McCain. Also on the docket will be Education Secretary Rod Paige - a secretary who never sees the light of day save for the moments when the administration wants an African-American official for a photo-op.
Who's Speaking?

Why is the Republican Party pretending that this is who their party is? If this was legitimately the makeup of today's Republican party, the Democrats would be done for. Republicans would dominate by 60% or more. Those types of Republicans are the kind that moderate America can get behind.

Why is the GOP hiding Santorum, Delay and the rest of the right-wing loonies? What are they afraid of? Kevin Drum has some thoughts on this:

"Whenever you hear anyone — and you hear it from both liberals and conservatives — crowing about how conservative the country has become in the past couple of decades, just remember this: if America is so damn conservative, why is the Republican party afraid to put any red-blooded conservatives on prime time TV shortly before the election? Why are they so afraid of the social conservatives who make up the heart and soul of their party?

"...Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum deserves a prominent speaking slot at the convention — and he should be encouraged to speak his mind. Let's find out just how conservative America really is, shall we?"


The country is sooooo conservative, but Republicans won't let America see its conservative leadership? That makes no sense. Perhaps, just perhaps, America isn't so "red-blooded" as the GOP and many pundits would like to suggest.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 5:15:00 PM


Wednesday, July 07, 2004  

 

That's the Ticket

Kerry/Edwards '04

Kerry-Edwards '04


Good choice. I can't wait for that Edwards-Cheney debate...


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 8:58:00 AM


Tuesday, July 06, 2004  

 

Blunt

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
Less, Not Moore

"CLARIFICATION: It has come to the editor's attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission."

Oops.

That's an understatement if I ever saw one. This of course, wasn't an unusual position for most editors of southern newspapers back then, but it's still a very blunt admission of neglect. An admission that was needed.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 12:25:00 PM


Monday, July 05, 2004  

 

Fahrenheit 9/11

So I went and saw Fahrenheit 9/11 last night. It was a horrible film. Obviously not in a cinematic way, but I found his storytelling techniques so irritating and frustrating that for the first time ever, I considered walking out on a movie. It was a troubling movie on several points. One, the movie starts with a tactic stolen straight from the George W. Bush School of Misleading and Suggestive Innuendo: the alleged connection between the Bush family and the bin Laden family. Several days ago Kevin Drum had this to say about the shifty allegorical device Moore uses on the issue:
Less, Not Moore

"Take the first half hour of the film, in which Moore exposes the close relationship between the Bush family and the House of Saud. Sure, it relies mostly on innuendo and imagery, but then again, he never really makes the case anyway. He never flat out says that the Bush family is on the Saudi payroll. Rather, he simply includes "9/11," "Bush," and "Saudi Arabia" in as many sentences as possible, thus leaving the distinct impression that George Bush is a bought and paid for subsidiary of the Saudi royal family.

"Which is all remarkably similar to the tactic Bush himself used to link Saddam Hussein to 9/11. He never flat out blamed Saddam, but rather made sure to include the words "9/11," "Saddam Hussein," and "al-Qaeda" in as many sentences as possible, thus leaving the distinct impression that Saddam had something to do with it."


I find this to be incredibly dishonest. It irritates me to no end when Bush does it and I think it irritates me even more when Moore does it. Why play that game? Why should those who know better bank on the ignorance of the public? The problem with both the Bush administration and Moore is that they both know how to manipulate a largely ignorant public. What bothered me the most in the theatre were the gasps and jeers when something that was suggestive at best was presented as cold hard fact. The entire section about the Bush-Saudi connection was like this.

Then, what bothers me further is how liberal pundits respond to it. In today's New York Times, Paul Krugman:

"There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?"

Krugman clearly misses the point. If we want to end the partisan attacks and innuendo which caters to the lowest common denominator, we can't play that game. We shouldn't have to hold Moore to a higher standard than the president. But that doesn't mean we should let Moore get a free ride.

Moore had a segment in the movie where he pointed to the use of this juxtapositioning of Iraq, Al-Qaeda and September 11 by the Bush administration to prove how dishonest it is. Well duh! But if you do the same thing you're no better!

Other portions of the movie were in the same vein. Moore's underlying technique is to play on the shallow pool of understanding in the public mind. Moore suggestively questions why Secret Service patrol cars are hanging out at the Saudi Embassy in Washington. Why wouldn't they be? Those cars are all over the city. There is nothing unusual about them being between the Watergate and the Saudi Embassy. But of course to Moore this is all part of a vast conspiracy. It is incredibly dishonest.

At the beginning of the movie Moore chastised U.S. senators for not standing up for Al Gore in the 2000 election when members of the Congressional Black Caucus tried to continue the fight for the White House. Of course the reason no senator signed those petitions was because Al Gore didn't want to prolong the process. Gore wanted to bring the country together and not cause a divisive atmosphere. Moore painted the U.S. senate as a cold-hearted body of conspiracy-minded Republicans. Again, very dishonest.

Moore also went to great pains to show Bush at his worst. Of course this was intentional, but nevertheless unfair. He said Bush was on vacation 43% of his first seven months in office. What he doesn't tell you is that this includes weekends and holidays. It is still by far the largest period of vacation by any president in recent times, but is that necessarily an indictment? Even in the movie Bush is shown on "vacation" - meeting with Tony Blair. Is that really vacation? I mean, I might enjoy hanging out with Tony, but you can't really call that a true vacation. Furthermore, today's technology does make it possible to work from virtually anywhere. I have no doubts that the Crawford ranch has all the same amenities as the White House in terms of communications and other necessary tools of running the country. Moore of course showed Bush stumbling while making this point, and while I laughed at that and other Bushisms, the suggestion of Bush being away from the nation's business is a non-starter.

One thing that particularly troubled me was how Moore initially cast the American Soldier in a bad light. He showed servicemen tuning up heavy metal as they went on missions in Iraq - admittedly a questionable thing to do - but he seemed to depicted them in this way to show how uncaring and brutal the military is. Moore fell into the trap so many on the left fall into: he began to blame the soldiers for their mission. He suggested that infantryman Joe was nothing but a trigger-happy moron determined to crush the idyllic peace that was Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Oh, and that's another thing: The scene with Iraqi children frolicking with kites and women laughing in the streets as they enjoyed their pre-war lives? It was sickening. It seems Moore believes that Iraq was doing just fine under the benevolent genocide of Saddam Hussein. As one of my friends said, "you could actually hear the birds chirping." Now, I'm certainly not one to call anti-war activists just members of "the other side" but I have not yet come up with a reasonable explanation as to why Moore would depict Iraq as a happy, innocent funhouse. That isn't even dishonest, that's straight up lying.

Admittedly Moore does come back and embrace the American soldier and depict him as bait for military recruiters and suggestively, as a pawn of the CEO's who stand to gain from a war, but he does so using the same juxtapositioning which Bush uses. He shows hand-picked soundbytes of corporate kingpins doing their best Montgomery Burns impression. "It'll be good for business, bad for the people," was one quote which stuck out to me when I saw the trailer. In the trailer the clip is used to suggest that the people who the man is talking about are the American people. Then, in the movie it's clear that he's instead talking about the Iraqi people. Quite dishonest. But I'm sure it goes further. I imagine the man was talking about how war is bad for the people initially and how business will stand to gain from the machinery of war-making, but Moore dismisses all this by leaving it hanging - a hang which suggests that the people will forever be screwed by the invasion. This is simply not the case.

A few notes on what I did enjoy about the movie: I thought the section which highlighted the dead soldier's mother was effective and touching. It made a strong point about how little the American public has seen of the costs of the war. Every few days we hear of another two or three soldiers killed in Fallujah or Mosul, but that is usually the extent of it. Few Americans experience the ultimate cost of war. In that respect Moore was effective in sharing the sense of pain with the rest of us. That is something Americans need. If there are no costs to war, there can not be sound decision-making and opinion-making.

I do think that Moore hit some important chords when he highlighted the socioeconomic inequality of today's military. Unfortunately I don't think there is much which can be done about this - a draft is unnecessary and impractical and the military does not want soldiers who do not want to be there - but it is important that the public understand the true nature of the country's sacrifices.

I did enjoy how effectively Moore matched scenes with devastatingly appropriate music. It was timed perfectly. Though I thought the scene was quite deceitful, for Moore to have the lyrics "we see you when you're sleeping" from the a Christmas song play as U.S. troops wave flashlights around the streets of Iraq at night was quite well done.

I also thought the section about underfunding Homeland Security and the lack of cooperation with the 9/11 commission was particularly useful. These are things that I pay attention to, but to hear the gasps and disgust from others in the theatre made me remember that not everyone knows about this kind of thing. If only on that point, the movie did it's job.

However, I was struck by Moore's intentions in the opening scene where the main administration characters were being made up for the cameras. He used unguarded moments to show these officials as fake and, in the case of Wolfowitz, disgusting. But what was the purpose of this section? Why put Bush's face on the screen for a prolonged period of time in slow motion in order to make him look like a moron? It of course achieved its objective, but I think it's goal was nothing short of hate. Moore wanted viewers to concentrate on administration officials and stir their hate. As a friend of mine said after we got out of the movie, "That was like the two minute hate sessions from Orwell's 1984 where people were told to yell and boo traitors and criminals." The similarity is nothing short of frightening.

Ultimately though, what bothered me most about this movie was how effective it was in convincing its viewers that the suggestions and lies were actually cold-hard fact. It is a sad day when both sides of the political spectrum aim for the lowest common emotion in Americans in order to get them to go along with their view. I found Moore to be just as manipulative of the facts as the Bush administration. That is not a pleasant omen for the future of political debate in this country.

** (Out of Four)


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 9:22:00 AM


Friday, July 02, 2004  

 

The Handover

It came early. Paul Bremer couldn't even wait two more days before he got out of town. He must have been in a hurry to get away from the dangerous prosperity and freedom that he left behind. Or something.

Gettin' Out


But seriously, good luck to President Ghazi Yawar, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and the rest of the interim Iraqi government. They are going to need all the luck and support they can get.

Iraq'd


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 12:31:00 PM


Monday, June 28, 2004  

 

Jack Ryan, Meet Bill Clinton

Not that this will matter one bit, but Jack Ryan is officially out of the race. After a week of not so brilliant public relations moves, the pressure on Ryan simply became too much.
Clintoned

Ryan released a statement saying that his options would have been limited to a very negative campaign. I think that gives his chances too much credit.

"It's clear to me that a vigorous debate on the issues most likely could not take place if I remain in the race. What would take place, rather, is a brutal, scorched-earth campaign - the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play."

Ryan would have lost anyway, but it's interesting to see that he quit once he thought even his brutally negative campaign wouldn't have won. Apparently if negative could have won it for him he would have tried it. That's unfortunate.

I do think it is indeed "outrageous," as Ryan put it, that the Chicago Tribune would sue to get into his divorce files. It really is something that is completely irrelevant to Ryan's potential abilities as a representative of Illinois. I would much rather see Barack Obama dominate Ryan on the merits - which he certainly would have done - than to see Obama win over who ever replaces Ryan.

And on that note, the choices for the Illinois Republican Party are quite limited. The options include ice cream man James Oberweis and state senator Steve Rauschenberger who ran ads that completely centered around driving old people to Canada and a handful of blasts from the past such as former governor Jim Edgar. Oberweis and Rauschenberger have no chance at coming close to Obama. They lost to Ryan by at least 10% in the primary. Edgar would be the only candidate who could give Obama a real hint of competition, but even he would have a major uphill battle. And, oh yeah, Edgar says he won't run.

So, let's offer a nice warm welcome for Senator Barack Obama.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 8:48:00 PM


Friday, June 25, 2004