Sunday, July 29, 2007

Flight of the Mule

I rented Maria Full of Grace recently. When I really like a film in the theatres, often I'll rent it when it comes out on DVD. It's interesting to see whether the movie holds up to a second viewing.

Maria Full of Grace does. It's the story of a feisty Colombian village girl who is recruited to become a drug mule. We see the circumstances that lead to her decision, how she has to swallow dozens of small packages of cocaine and keep them in her stomach for the length of a plane ride, and how she skirts past customs in New York. The story plays like a taut thriller. Sure, the plot skids a bit in the third act, but it never comes off the road, and the performances are excellent, especially Catalina Sandino Moreno as Maria.

For me, the story has resonance. It feels like a metaphor for the experience of a whole class of illegal Latino immigrants in the U.S.

Anyhow, it's a good flick. Catch it if you haven't already.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Work Update

Here's a link to a project I just completed called Day Zero. It's an animated version of the TV show 24... a prequel showing the day before Season One. I joke that Jack Bauer tortures Spongebob in it, but of course, this ain't a parody... it's the real thing.

The series is done in a limited animation, graphic novel style. Xeth Feinberg did a great job of directing; I contributed with editing and compositing.


Young Hillary

The New York Times has an article on some letters Hillary Clinton wrote to a high school friend back when she was in college. The letters show her to be a very bright, pretentious, self-absorbed undergraduate... not far from what you might expect.

As the piece says, "the letters contain no possibly damaging revelations of the proverbial “youthful indiscretions,” and mention nothing glaringly outlandish or irresponsible." True. But the fourth-last paragraph in the article does contain this:
Ms. Rodham skates earnestly on the surface of life, raising more questions than answers. “Last week I decided that even if life is absurd why couldn’t I spend it absurdly happy?” she wrote in November of her junior year. She then challenges herself to “define ‘happiness’ Hillary Rodham, acknowledged agnostic intellectual liberal, emotional conservative.

Of course it shouldn't matter, but she's going to have to explain the agnostic part at some point. She'll have to trace a personal journey from belief in God, to lapsed belief, to a return to faith. Why? Only 45% of Americans are willing to vote for an atheist for President. More people would be willing to vote for a homosexual.

By the way, if you've read me regularly you've probably picked up a certain anti-Hillary vibe. I have to say, I've been watching the debates and she has been very impressive... she's stood out every time I've seen her.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Contempt for the Contemptible

The Washington Post reports that the administration has made a bold new claim of executive authority. Under the conservative legal doctrine of the unitary executive, the administration is announcing that the Justice Department will not pursue cases of contempt of congress. This raises two possible responses by the Democrats: challenge the decision in court, and let the cases wind their way through the judiciary; or go back to the long-dormant practice of enforcing inherent contempt. Congress has the right to use the Capitol Police to jail people who refuse to testify, and it has used this power in the past -- most recently in the 1930s.

Apparently Conyers has already raised the possibility in a letter to the administration.

This issue has been floating around the liberal blogs for about a month now, but it hasn't broken through to the mainstream media yet. My guess is that with today's news it will soon.

UPDATE: And on cue, the Washington Post publishes a piece about inherent contempt today. Ironically, when the day is done, the administration's attempts to broaden executive power will have the opposite effect; as with NIxon, a new layer of statute and precedent will be established to tilt the balance away from the President and towards Congress.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fun With Regression Lines

How are Catholics and supply-siders alike? Kevin Drum has the hilarious answer.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

iPhone Murdered

Wrong, wrong, wrong. On so many levels.

And of course, it will turn a profit, probably.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Great Expectorations

Drudge reports that Katie Couric literally slapped around an editor when he slipped the word "sputum" into her text.

Long ago I worked at NBC News. Usually I was behind the scenes -- way behind the scenes -- but I remember a rare instance when I had to go to the studio where they shoot the Nightly News. Tom Brokaw was there in a corner, reading his text out loud to himself before the broadcast, rehearsing different emphases and intonations. I would suggest that if Ms. Couric takes her job seriously, which after all is nothing more than reading a script, she should at least read the thing beforehand.

Lead, Crime and Ancient Rome

Via Kevin Drum, here is a fascinating link from the Washington Post. Economist Rick Nevin has been able to draw a high degree of corelation between crime statistics and the lead levels of years before when the criminals were toddlers. Most impressively, the corelation seems to hold true in nine different countries with varying regulatory histories. This corelation is stronger and more consistent than other celebrated theories, such as the Freakonomics idea that the legalization of abortion was responsible for falling crime... or the Rudy idea that all credit belongs to Rudy.

Kevin uses the opportunity to agitate for lead abatement, pointing to research showing that a reduction in lead levels would improve IQs measurably.

Coincidentally, I just finished reading a book about Roman times -- Augustus by Anthony Everitt -- that repeatedly cites uses of lead that would shock us today: the metal was used in make up, water pipes, wine-making, weaponry, and even cooking pots. The ubiquity, moldability, and low melting point of lead made it very popular in ancient times. The sort of poisoning that must have come from such use would surely have dwarfed the contamination we saw in the 20th century. Could this explain the violent, unstable nature of Ancient Rome?

A google search shows that this is not an original thought. Different theorists have put lead poisoning forth as a possible cause of the Roman Empire's fall.

It's helpful to remember... societies are very capable of poisoning themselves to death.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Fred Consorts With the Devil

No matter what some idiot will tell you, Fred Thompson is not going to be President. Via Kevin Drum, here is an L.A. Times story about how he lobbied for an abortion rights organization... and now insists on denying it. The larger point, I think, is that Thompson was a lobbyist for 17 years. You can't spend that much time on a street corner asking the big boys whether they're looking for a date, and then turn around and run for homecoming queen. Too much embarassing stuff like this is going to crop up.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Oh Say! Marvin Gets It On

Ever heard a song about war sung in a way that makes you want to make out? Happy Independence Day.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Ask the Question!

From the White House press briefing today:
Q Tony, did Libby directly ask the President for --

MR. SNOW: No, there were no direct communications. And the President has not communicated directly with Scooter Libby.

Two things to note: first of all, Tony Snow doesn't let the reporter finish the question... does he not want to hear any clauses added to it? Second of all, notice the modifier: there were no direct communications.

There is reason to be suspicious that there was a pardon deal. The press needs to ask the question: did the White House have any communications with Libby or his representatives during or after his trial? If so, what was the nature of that communication?

Brooks In Three Acts

David Brooks writes in the Times today about the commutation of Libby's sentence. If like me you sometimes think of him as Dr. Brooks and Mr. Hack... well, he's at his hackiest today. To put his opinion in perspective, let's contrast it with some of the things he said about the Marc Rich pardon.

ACT 1 - Good and Evil
"This is the essence of Clintonism. The other politicians are shorted. With him the sleaze mongers are left gaping and applauding because it just goes to another level."
- David Brooks on the Marc Rich Pardon, February 9, 2001

"President Bush entered the stage like a character from another world, a world in which things make sense."
- David Brooks on the Libby Commutation, July 3, 2007

ACT II - The Disregard of the Inconvenient

"And this was the essential problem, it was the going around the Justice Department that created all the scandals that are now flowering."
- David Brooks on the Marc Rich Pardon, February 22, 2001

"For the first time in his presidency, Bush commuted a sentence without running requests through lawyers at the Justice Department, White House officials said."
- Washington Post, July 3, 2007

ACT III - Wishful Thinking

"And I think what the story does is it lasts."
- Brooks on Marc Rich, February 9, 2001

"The farce is over. It has no significance. Nobody but Libby’s family will remember it in a few weeks time. Everyone else will have moved on to other fiascos, other poses, fresher manias."
- Brooks on Libby, July 3, 2007

Monday, July 2, 2007

Thompson Dud?

I had previously considered Fred Thompson the likely Republican nominee, but after seeing a speech of his on C-Span, I'm having my doubts. He presented no rationale or distinguishing factor for his candidacy. There were no red meat lines. The only thing he got mildly excited about was states rights, and while that's always been a conservative hobby-horse, I doubt it's something he can ride to the White House.

McCain is fatally wounded; Giuliani is a disaster waiting to happen; Thompson is going to be a dud. Something tells me Romney's going to get the nod. Look for giant flip-flops at the Democratic convention.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Goracle Speaks

Al Gore in the New York Times:
The climate crisis offers us the chance to experience what few generations in history have had the privilege of experiencing: a generational mission; a compelling moral purpose; a shared cause; and the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict of politics and to embrace a genuine moral and spiritual challenge.

I never thought of it that way! It could be fun to be threatened with extinction.

UPDATE: What? Gore got an advance copy of the Sopranos finale? In a Halliburton-made lockbox?