Saturday, March 10, 2007

 

Marine Cpl. Matt Sanchez Speaks

Since I mentioned him in the midst of last week's Ann Coulter flap, it's appropriate for me to share his full viewpoint. My linking him with Coulter was meant to specifically reflect on her, not him. Regardless, here's Matt, discussing conservatism, gay porn and CPAC.

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Open Thread

By the power vested in me, I now declare you lawfully thread.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

 

Friday Comic Book Blogging: Captain America, R.I.P. Edition

Much, much more coverage on the death of Captain America.

1) The obituary in The Times was almost like a real Times obituary. Well, except they didn't refer to him as "Mr. America."

2) Veteran comic-book watcher Heidi MacDonald has a comics blog on the Publishers Weekly here. Mucho Cap stuff there.

3) More media and retail fall-out on the EVENT.

4) Slate talks Cap and reviews 300 (which has only gotten so-so reviews). Most interesting thing I found out this week was that the director of 300, Zach Snyder, is the man bringing Watchmen to the screen. Expect Alan Moore to hate this too.

5) In addition to his many other great powers, it turns out that Stephen Colbert is a major comic book geek (he was at the Convention two weeks ago, and apparently has a title of his own coming out later this year). He weighed in on the passing of Cap in his own inimitable style (click on "Comic Justice"). His ideas on who should be the new Captain America -- and who that person's archenemy should be -- is priceless.

6) Finally, my all-time favorite Captain America sequence is this Watergate-era story from the '70s. It's scripted by my favorite writer of that period, Steve Englehart (responsible for the "Silver St. Cloud" storyline in Detective Comics later in the decade). Anyway, in this sequence, Cap becomes a pariah to the public and is considered unpatriotic. Behind it all is a shadowy organization called The Secret Empire. Anyway, the entire story can be found in this compilation. It's Captain America (and the Falcon!) at his/their best.

UPDATE:
Oh, and as we might have hoped, The Onion "reported" on Captain America's death in an appropriate manner!

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Prosecutorial Misconduct

And, no, I'm not talking about Patrick Fitzgerald.

Paul Krugman (Yikes!), via Andrew Sullivan has the gory details. We're talking about the other side of the fired U.S. attorneys coin. And, no, this doesn't strike me as (typical) Krugmanian hyperbole.

To justify the numbers here, one would have to accept that Democratic local officials are seven times more corrupt than Republican ones. The behavior of Republicans over the last couple of years demonstrates how unlikely that is -- as much as I'm willing to believe the worst of Democrats (particularly in New York).

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A Message About Rudy

Despite his favorable view of Rudy's tenure as mayor, Jim Sleeper explains why voters should be wary of a President Giuliani:
Yet Giuliani’s methods and motives suggest he couldn’t carry his skills and experience to the White House without damaging this country. Two problems run deeper than the current likely “horse race” liabilities, such as his social views and family history.

The first serious problem is structural and political: A man who fought the inherent limits of his mayoral office as fanatically as Giuliani would construe presidential prerogatives so broadly he’d make George Bush’s notions of “unitary” executive power seem soft.

Even in the 1980s, as an assistant attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department and U.S. Attorney in New York, Giuliani was imperious and overreaching, He made the troubled daughter of a state judge, Hortense Gabel, testify against her mother and former Miss America Bess Meyerson in a failed prosecution charging, among other things, that Meyerson had hired the judge’s daughter to bribe help “expedite” a messy divorce case. The jury was so put off by Giuliani’s tactics that it acquitted all concerned, as the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus recalled ten years later in assessing Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s subpoena of Monica Lewinsky’s mother to testify against her daughter.

At least, as U.S. Attorney, Giuliani served at the pleasure of the President and had to defer to federal judges. Were he the President, U.S. Attorneys would serve at his pleasure -- a dangerous arrangement in the wrong hands, we’ve learned -- and he’d pick the judges to whom prosecutors defer.

As mayor, Giuliani fielded close aides like a fast and sometimes brutal hockey team, micro-managing and bludgeoning city agencies and even agencies that weren’t his, like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Board of Education. They deserved it richly enough to make his bravado thrilling to many of us, but it wasn’t very productive. And while this Savonarola disdained even would-be allies in other branches of government, he wasn’t above cutting indefensible deals with crony contractors and pandering shamelessly to some Hispanics, orthodox Jews, and other favored constituencies.
The whole piece is a good read.

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'Fessin Up

Newt confirms one of the worst-kept "secrets" in politics: He had an affair while Speaker, during and following the impeachment saga (with a woman who is now his wife).

Newt's distinction that there is a difference between his personal moral failing and the president's lying under oath about a personal moral failing is precise -- legally.

Whether that distinction will be considered fair in a political sense (particularly with the conservative base)remains to be seen.

In the big paicture of course, this could be said to help Mitt Romney who has managed to stay married to his first and only wife (with no skirt-chasing rumors dogging him).

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Friday Trivia! Headwear edition

Why headwear? Why not!

1. Which Prince song was covered by the band Hindu Love Gods (which was made up of the band members from REM and Warren Zevon) in 1990?

2. Who was the second female to rule Ancient Egypt as pharaoh, although is generally considered the first woman in history to rule as a monarch with all the powers normally reserved for male monarchs?

3. Which famous fictional character did Tom Petty portray in the music video for his song Don't Come Around Here No More?

4. What was the title of the next-to-last film Billy Wilder directed in 1978, which starred William Holden?

5. Which cape is the site of the tallest lighthouse in America?


ANSWERS:
1. Raspberry Beret
2. Hatshepsut
3. The Mad Hatter
4. Fedora
5. Cape Hatteras

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

 

McCain's War Blues

A new Wall St. Journal/NBC News poll underscores the problem John McCain is having with the Republican base (sub. required for full story) -- and that base's restlessness with Iraq:
The poll shows Mr. McCain's problems are partly personal, and partly the result of the Iraq war's shadow over the broader political environment. After years in which his maverick stance on issues from taxes to campaign finance grated on the party faithful, one in five Republicans express negative views of Mr. McCain and a similar proportion vow not to vote for him. That is double the negative views about Mr. Giuliani.

Some 30% of Americans overall, and 22% of Republicans express reservations about the fact that Mr. McCain, now 70 years old, would be the oldest president elected to a first term. More ominously, 72% of Americans and 50% of Republicans express discomfort with his support for sending more U.S. troops to Iraq.
But, McCain isn't just "supporting" sending more troops to Iraq: He has been front-and-center on the more-troops issue from the beginning. Indeed, his ongoing battle with Donald Rumsfeld was over the troops issue. But, what was the right idea -- policy-wise and politically -- on Day One, may not be the right one politically now. Sadly for McCain, the public isn't buying it. He's in the worst of all possible worlds: He criticized the Bush administration for going into Iraq without enough troops, but now that the administration is sending more troops in, McCain is suffering the political cost of a war that the public has given up on.

Another irony: even though McCain and Cheney hate each other -- as demonstrated by the Veep's defending Rumsfeld two weeks ago -- McCain is the one whom GOP voters may punish as Bush's VP-stand-in during the primaries.

Meanwhile, though Giuliani supports the "surge" idea, it's not "his" plan. He hasn't been out front commenting on it and offering strategic guidance from the Senate from the start; thus, as noted here last week, he hasn't had to suffer the collapse of GOP support for the war to the degree McCain is. He is free to offer a new perspective:
Mr. Giuliani's camp is counting on his strong security profile as "America's Mayor" after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks -- and that a restless public will seek change from outside Washington. The latest encouraging sign for that view: the criminal conviction this week of former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the CIA leak case.

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Captain America, 1941-2007

Well, Marvel Comics' red-white-and-blue Boy Scout bit the dust in issue #25 of his book , released Wednesday.



The incident was partly a ramification of the "Civil War" storyline that took over Marvel since last summer, and touched upon some of the real world's war on terror/"freedom vs. security" debates .

In the final issue of that series, the anti-super hero registration superheroes led by Captain America were on the brink of defeating Iron Man's pro-registration squad. At the last moment, Cap noticed the city-wide destruction that the battle was causing, called an end to hostilities and surrendered.




On the way to arraignment in federal court (for violating the registration act), an unmasked Steve Rogers is shot down, thus setting off the latest turn of events. This being the comic book world, however, are things exactly what they seem? I have to admit, even by the standards of the medium, as death "scenes" go, this one had wiggle room large enough for a Mack truck to get through. Still, according to Marvel, it will be a while -- if ever -- before the Steve Rogers Captain America re-appears.

However, that hasn't stopped the real-world media from playing this story very big.

New York's Daily News had a big banner headline on Page 3 yesterday, "Captain America Killed." While The Washington Post takes something of a tongue-in-cheek approach, the Daily News quotes the current Cap writer in a rather serious observation:
Series writer Ed Brubaker - who grew up reading Captain America comics while his father, a naval intelligence officer, was stationed on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - said it wasn't easy to kill off the character. The 40-year-old, however, wanted to explore what the hero meant to the country in these polarized times.

"What I found is that all the really hard-core left-wing fans want Cap to be standing out on and giving speeches on the streetcorner against the Bush administration, and all the really right-wing [fans] all want him to be over in the streets of Baghdad, punching out Saddam," Brubaker said.
Captain America was created just months before the United States of America entered World War II -- a living symbol of a nation's ideals and unified vision of freedom.

The story in Captain America #25 is entitled "The Death of The Dream." Sure, it's only a comic book story, but occasionally pop culture has the power to provoke an examination of larger, real-world truths.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

 

Talented Pals

My erstwhile colleague Ryan Sager has returned to his old stomping grounds to launch and edit "New York Sun Politics." Looks quite good.

Meanwhile, my comedic comradette in arms, Julia Gorin (and her partners in crime) have a new "America Show" segment up:


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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

 

Alberto In A Can?

Andrew Sullivan prints an e-mail from a lawyer following the fired-attorneys hearings.

The writer's conclusion: This administration attempted to politicize the U.S. attorney position to a level unprecedented in history.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall's TPMuckraker has been following this story from Day One and his site has great stuff from today's hearings. Bud Cummins' testimony is gripping; he's clearly a man conflicted between seemingly betraying members of his own administration -- yet is angered at the betrayal he and his fellow prosecutors have suffered. The accompanying e-mail to his fellow USAs is troubling.

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Ann of Green Unstables

This blog consciously avoided speaking of a certain blonde "author" outburst at CPAC last weekend. Blog "usual suspects" took up the conversation in the Open Thread comments section.

We saw this coming a while ago -- and said so at the time. I'm glad to see that some others on the right are calling this for what it is.

Ironically, her quote in the post from last summer references a certain golden-tressed heir-head, recently arrested for driving with a suspended license DUI (five weeks after being sentenced to probation for alcohol-induced reckless driving). And given the title of this conservative column, we appear to have reached a perfect storm of blonde meltdowns.

UPDATE: Oh the irony!!! It seems that someone our blonde friend has been palling around with at CPAC has an interesting background (and, according to some sites to which this family-oriented blog cannot link, an interesting "foreground" -- WINK! WINK! -- as well). I've met the gentleman in question a few times as I have a number of friends in the Columbia U. military community. I would never have guessed.

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Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Not Guilty, Guilty

Four out of five is bad for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

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When A Miller's Tale Is A Political One

If there is anything close to a demi-god in the world of comic books (as opposed to a living legend like Stan Lee), it's Frank Miller. The man who resuscitated both Daredevil and Batman in the 1980s explored the limits of the graphic novel format in the 1990s.

One of those was the Sin City series which produced a very well received film two years ago (co-directed by Miller). Another such venture comes to theatres this week -- The 300.

Unlike Sin City, this one has
spawned a political debate:
“Is George Bush Leonidas or Xerxes?” one of them asked.
The questioner, by [director Zack] Snyder’s recollection, insisted that Mr. Bush was Xerxes, the Persian emperor who led his force against Greek’s city states in 480 B.C., unleashing an army on a small country guarded by fanatical guerilla fighters so he could finish a job his father had left undone. More likely, another reporter chimed in, Mr. Bush was Leonidas, the Spartan king who would defend freedom at any cost.
Mr. Snyder, who said he intended neither analogy when he set out to adapt the graphic novel created by Frank Miller with Lynn Varley in 1998, suddenly knew he had the contemporary version of a water-cooler movie on his hands. And it has turned out to be one that could be construed as a thinly veiled polemic against the Bush administration, or be seen by others as slyly supporting it.
While the Times story ultimately dismisses the "debate" as a false one -- a marketing ploy for the movie -- one counsel not sought is Miller's. While it is true that the graphic novel was originally created in 1998, the movie has been brought into reality in a decidedly post-9/11 world.

At last year's New York Comic Con, Miller was one of the star attractions. In addition to discussing the making of The 300, he declared that his next project would be "Batman vs. Al Qaeda." He made no bones about the fact that he saw al Qaeda as pure evil and that a la the comics of the 1940s, today's popular culture had a duty to "take sides" against the threat to the American way of life. He noted how, in World War II, many super-heroes (not just Captain America) battled the Nazis as much as they did common criminals.

After Bush's annual address in January, Miller was one of several creative individuals asked by NPR
to assess the state of the union through their unique lens (Miller's segment begins around the 30:50 mark). He decried the failure of Bush to get the entire country (not just the military) to buy into the reality that our civilization is at war with an enemy wanting to destroy us. This wasn't a simple recitation of neoconservative talking points. Miller, politically, is probably more liberal in his basic beliefs.

Frank Miller of 1998 might not have seen The 300 through a political lens, but the one of 2007 certainly does. That doesn't mean he sees Bush as Leonidas; but he sure as hell doesn't see him as Xerxes either.


Miller is a Manichean: He believes that democracy -- whether that of the Greek city-states or that of the United States is a good, in and of itself -- and it is responsible for much more good in the world than evil.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

 

RAG on NPR

Okay, if I say so myself, I was on fire today: the NAACP, Hillary, Obama...strong opinions and some good one-liners too! Glenn Loury and Callie Crossley were quite on point as well!

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"Movement" Politics

Geez, between the upheaval at the NAACP and the brand-new "March on Selma", you'd think that Black History Month had been extended a few more days:

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), describing himself as "the offspring of the movement," paid homage Sunday to the civil rights protesters whose violent beatings here at the hands of state troopers and sheriff's deputies 42 years ago sparked national outrage and led to legislation ensuring the voting rights of African Americans throughout the South.

Just a few blocks away, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) claimed the same inheritance, describing the civil rights movement as "the gift that keeps on giving" as it propels new types of politicians onto the national stage. Their simultaneous appearances at the annual commemoration of one of the most famous moments in the civil rights struggle embodied the historic nature of a presidential race in which an African American and a woman lead the Democratic field.

The two presidential candidates spoke at separate Sunday morning services and later joined in the ritual march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, led by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who as a young civil rights leader was beaten on the bridge with other protesters on the morning of March 7, 1965, as they began a voting-rights march to Montgomery.

Clinton marched with her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who came to Selma to be inducted into the National Voting Rights Museum's hall of fame. It was the first time the Clintons appeared together at a major event in the 2008 campaign and an appearance much debated in Hillary Clinton's campaign before it was announced Thursday night.
It's very early, but "body language" is always important in political campaigns. Polls aside, the body language suggests that Obama, not Hillary Clinton, is setting the tone for this debate. It was Hillary's people who felt the need to "go negative" on Obama over the David Geffen comments (those statements themselves can't be construed as surrogate attack on Clinton -- even that's how her campaign chose to perceive them).

The result of that action was -- in last week's ABC/Washington Post poll -- blacks jumping from Clinton to Obama.

Now look at the Selma situation: Obama had been invited to give a speech weeks ago -- before he declared his official candidacy. Hillary later angled herself an invitation to give a speech at a nearby church -- and accept an award on behalf of Bill Clinton. Then, the campaign decided to bring the former president along as well.

I think that's a mistake: Not only does Sen. Clinton responding to Obama's moves look like "me-too"-ism, but dragging Bill Clinton along looks like overkill. Worse, Hillary will always suffer in comparison to Bill (as, in fact, do most mortal politicians). Bill is a natural master, whereas Hillary is a diligent student.

The problem Hillary faces is that she may be running against a natural master, someone as charismatic as her husband. Worse, Obama has swiped the "generational change" mantle in which the Clinton-Gore ticket draped itself 15 years ago.

I wonder how well Hillary's attaching herself to the civil rights movement will go over well with black audiences: It's not often remarked but the "bandwagon" jumping that has occurred over the decades since the civil rights movement was launched can be a source of frustration for blacks: First, it was the women's movement, then gays, and now immigrants -- all these groups that utilize much of the language of the civil rights movement, and often with much success.

But, many African-Americans believe -- rightly so -- that their struggle is sui generis. Nothing is quite the same as the history of blacks coming to America in bondage and battling for centuries for their equal rights. That's not to say that those other movements weren't important and didn't have their own unique tragedies and triumphs.

But, it is not the same as the black experience. Furthermore, both for women and some immigrants, arguably a fair bit of economic and social leap-frogging over blacks has occurred.

So, while Hillary Clinton was gracious to note the doors opened by the civil rights movement, but in doing so she may have accidentally raised some associations that might have been better left alone.

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NAAC(P) -Ya! Wouldn't Wanna Lead Ya!

Barely a year and a half into the job, Bruce Gordon is O-U-T as president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The reason? Well, if this were a band, it would be that old reliable --
"creative differences":

"I believe that any organization that's going to be effective will only be effective if the board and the CEO are aligned and I don't think we are aligned," Gordon told The Associated Press. "This compromises the ability of the board to be as effective as it can be."
Julian Bond, chairman of the board of the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Sunday that Gordon tried to quit just six weeks after taking the job in August 2005, but Bond convinced him to stay.
"There were occasions where it seemed just not to be a perfect fit," Bond said. "But he had many, many great qualities, and he exhibited those qualities when he worked for us. I'm
disappointed that it came to this."
Gordon will give up his duties before month's end, Gordon said in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where he attended the NAACP Image Awards Friday.
When selected in 2005, former Verizon executive Gordon was a surprise choice, coming out of the business community rather than the civil rights and political worlds that previously had produced NAACP leaders.

He was praised from the start as a great choice, but one could see where
there could be possible tension:
Black Enterprise wrote that Gordon has "a track record too impressive to ignore."
"He was an outstanding corporate executive and a spectacular choice for the NAACP as it goes into next era of leadership," Earl "Butch" Graves, Jr., president of Black Enterprise magazine, said in an interview before Gordon's selection. "It's a good fit in that I think the organization needs to be shaken up."
Graves said Gordon will appeal to younger blacks, many of whom question the relevance of the 96-year-old organization that had a broad impact during the civil rights movement but has lost prominence in recent years.
"They need to reach out to a younger, broader audience who will see the relevance of being associated with this very important civil rights organization," Graves said. "How they design that and how Bruce creates the architecture for that remains to be seen, but I think that's challenge number one."
Tony Lewis, president of Verizon's Washington operation, said Gordon helped Verizon's culture evolve into one that was focused on customer happiness — and loyalty.
"He always said we had to make them trust the brand," Lewis said. Similarly, the NAACP "needs brand. They need to continue to grow with their market base."
So much for that.

Gordon's singular "achievement" -- if it can be called that -- in his tenure was managing to convince President Bush to address the NAACP's annual meeting in 2006 after the White House boycotted -- rightly, in my opinion -- the conference during the previous five years of Bush's term.

Perhaps Gordon was too thin-skinned to run a non-corporate entity. The comment above that he was ready to quit six weeks into his tenure might suggest that. But given the leadership problems that the NAACP has had since Benjamin Hooks ended a 15-year run, it seems that the onus has to be on the organization.

Pardon the bluntness, but the NAACP ain't going to change while Julian Bond still runs the board. He is too dogmatic, too ideologically-fixed, in a 1960s political mindset to allow growth for the group in the 21st century. It was Bond that created much of the conflict between the group and the Bush White House,
personalizing policy differences with the Republican Party, not once, but repeatedly.

This tended to put the NAACP president -- whether Gordon or his predecessor Kweisi Mfume -- in the position of trying to smooth things over.

And don't think that Bond doesn't have considerable sway over the other board members. Thus, it's not surprising that the organization president and the board would be out of step.

Now, with Gordon's early departure, the NAACP still -- as Earl Graves, Jr. said -- needs to figure out how to make itself relevant to a younger generation. Bond certainly isn't helping any.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

 

Open Thread

Better thread than dead.

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