Thursday, March 25, 2004


"I believe...that security declines as security machinery expands."
--E. B. White

Lessons from the 9/11 Commission

In a way it doesn't matter what the commission comes up with after all of their hearings. No side, neither Liberal nor Conservative, Republican or Democrat, will emerge completely blameless or entirely at fault. Clinton had ordered Osama bin Laden assassinated. If that mission had succeeded would the world be safer or in more chaos? Bush pursued the invasion of Iraq practically the day after the terrorist attacks. If there had been no 9/11, does that mean the Bush administration wouldn't have found a pretext for going to war? I think we already know the answer to that question--they didn't really have a pretext for the war and occupation we're now in, but there we sit anyway.

So what then, are the real lessons from these hearings? The real lessons are real old lessons, things you probably see in your personal life every day if you're paying attention:
--Always put off until tomorrow what you can get away with not doing today.
--The more comfortable you feel, the less comfortable you should probably be.
--Good intelligence (information gathering) is only as good as the intelligence (ability to think and reason) that gets it.
--Finding solutions is never as important as finding someone to take the blame.

September 11th should be investigated and we should try to find ways of making sure that it never happens again...except that you can never guarantee that it will never happen again and that for every security measure, piece of intelligence or new public policy that arises to try and protect us, those that wish to attack and/or destroy the United States will develop some new way to counteract it. And of course, the best way to bring down the lion is to make it doubt itself.

The 44 Percent Solution

A recent poll (headlined in Fox News, no less) showed that 44 percent of those surveyed would choose John Kerry in the upcoming presidential election and 44 percent would choose George W. Bush. Those of us who have watched the economy stagnate for three years, seen hundreds of soldiers die in Iraq, thousands more civilians die there, watched thousands of jobs get shipped overseas and marveled at the hysteria over gay marriage and the erosion of our civil rights are naturally wondering why it's even that close. It's a long way to November, but the Democrats are angry, on message and actually mounting a fairly competent campaign so far. Shock, in the GOP camp, probably explains why they've been unusually bumbling so far in 2004. What a week to be a neocon--the 9/11 Commission, bad news in Iraq, you lose an ally in Spain, the economic numbers are going up except for the one that will most likely get your guy reeected--the number of jobs created. There's so much flop sweat on the Right now that even Bill O'Reilly was seen whipping out his umbrella.

Today Howard Dean (I can't help it, I still love the guy) endorsed John Kerry, as we all knew he would since, well, Dennis Kucinich is still in the race but just a leetle bit behind in the delegate count. Besides, all Dean and the other Democratic stalwarts want is to, in the words of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, "just win baby." Hopefully, Dean's base of "Deaniacs" can generate the same kind of lucrative grassroots campaign for Kerry that once made Dean the frontrunner. Former Reagan and Bush adviser Roger Ailes once famously opined that the real presidential race begins after the conventions and that's when the real mud starts to fly (he certainly flung enough of it himself). That's probably true. But for now, it's an unusually good time to be a Democrat. One can only hope that it will at least last until the summer.

The Friday Media Review - The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Deadwood

From now on, I will try to include a review of a new movie, TV show or book every Friday. I give this ambitious effort about three weeks, but what the hell?

The best movie I've seen so far in 2004 is Michel Gondry's The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This movie is inventively directed, with a modicum of digital effects, features terrific performances and, most importantly, has a terrific script that manages to be philosophical without being heavy-handed and melancholy while still holding out hope for romance.

In fifty words or so, the synopsis: Joel (Jim Carrey) discovers his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had all traces of him erased from her memory. Outraged, he decides to do the same to her, only to find out in the process that he doesn't want her erased after all.

Carrey doesn't do much mugging here--the role doesn't call for it and he manages to be believable as a good-hearted sad sack stricken with jealousy. Winslet is amazing as usual in a difficult role that calls for her to build a character almost exclusively through non-linear flashbacks. Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst and Tom Wilkinson all excel in well-drawn supporting roles.

The movie has heartbreaking moments, laugh out loud funny moments and head-trippy, "what-the-hell's-going-on-here-moments?", but the script, largely shaped by uberwriter Charlie Kauffman, is definitely the least gimmicky, most character based work Kauffman has ever done. This is science fiction--yes, it is a sci-fi movie--for adults, by adults and with a terrific premise.

TV's Deadwood, on HBO, plays like Gunsmoke if it were envisioned by David Mamet. The David behind the show is actually writer/creator David Milch, famously of NYPD Blue, and the dialogue certainly crackles, as does the character of Al Swearingen, played by veteran British character actor, Ian MacShane (now that's a good name for a Western character). Swearingen is that latest hot character type in "edgy" TV dramas, an amoral profit seeker who may not be all bad to the core but who is certainly willing to go pretty far to protect his little empire on the frontier.

Judging from the pilot anyway, only Swearingen, Calamity Jane (Robin Wiegert) and Wild Bill Hickock (Keith Carradine) stand out as characters so far, and the South Dakota of 1876 is so convincingly rendered I wanted to shower after watching the show, but potential is there and on television, potential is 9/10 of the battle. Or maybe 9/10 of the law. Perhaps that's possession. Anyway, it's not a wasted hour if you aren't bothered by extreme profanity, violence, darkness and female characters so dehumanized it borders on misogyny. (Calamity Jane is the token strong female character so far, but she does border on parody). We'll see where it goes.

Could This Posting BE Any Longer?

It could, but why torture the few readers I have? I'm going to peel a papaya, take a shower and call it a night. Until next time...