Saturday, October 21, 2006

Putting Out Fire With Gasoline

I'm stunned by the monumental change in America which has occurred, the fundamentals of Liberty thrown away as if it were a hot coal burning our hands, that we are in such unrelenting fear of the Bogeyman we approve of discarding hundreds of years of legal protection and in return, gain ... what?

Legislation crafted by our own representatives in Congress, eagerly signed by the President, allows for anyone to be held in a prison with no formal charge, no review by any court, only the whim of the president determines your fate.

How long before I too will be considered a threat for asking questions about the legality of these acts, for having doubts, for expressing them out loud, for not thinking in accordance with despotic demands?

It is slightly encouraging to note some Americans, other than wacky folks such as myself, see the critical dangers in what has happened. And they see the "national yawn" as a threat too. Jonathon Turley, Constitutional Law professor at George Washington University spoke with Keith Olberman about this -

And it'’s a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the president. In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn'’t rely on their good motivations.

Now we must. And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values.

It couldn'’t be more significant. And the strange thing is, we'’ve become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. I mean, the Congress just gave the president despotic powers, and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to, you know, '“Dancing with the Stars.'” I mean, it'’s otherworldly."

"Well, this is going to go down in history as one of our greatest self-inflicted wounds. And I think you can feel the judgment of history. It won'’t be kind to President Bush.

But frankly, I don'’t think that it will be kind to the rest of us. I think that history will ask, Where were you? What did you do when this thing was signed into law? There were people that protested the Japanese concentration camps, there were people that protested these other acts. But we are strangely silent in this national yawn as our rights evaporate."

Senator Russ Feingold was one of the few who spoke to prevent this measure -

At times of great adversity, the strength of a nation'’s convictions is tested and its true character revealed. If we sacrifice or qualify our principles in the face of the tremendous challenge we face from terrorists who want to destroy America, we will be making a terrible mistake. If we cloak cruel or degrading interrogations done in the name of American safety with euphemisms like '“alternative techniques,'” if we create arbitrary dates for when differing degrees of morality will apply, we will have betrayed our principles and ourselves.

Outside the U.S., this overwhelming reversal of Freedom and Liberty is likewise taking place, and fortunately, questions are being raised -

There will be many reasonable people among you who will argue that the fight against terrorism or some other compelling problem makes the removal of a fragment of liberty the best option available to us. A little bit here, a little bit there doesn't really matter, particularly when it involves somebody else's rights. Without thinking very deeply, we say to ourselves "if you've done nothing wrong you've got nothing to fear from these new laws". Not true. There is something to fear - because someone else's liberty is also your liberty. When it's removed from them, it's taken from you even though you may not be able to conceive of the circumstances when you might need it."

Today, I can freely express my grave concerns. As for tomorrow .....

Friday, October 20, 2006

Camera Obscura - Flags of Iwo Jima, TN Horror Movies, and Super Chicks of "Pussycat"

It makes me mad enough to bite a pig. This week I've learned there are remakes ahead for "The Birds" and the cult classic vampire film "Near Dark", all under the unsteady camera hand of producer Michael Bay. Yeah, take movies that are pitch-perfect and brilliantly made and screw them all up (see Bay's remake of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre.")

I know it's a time-honored Hollywood tradition to remake movies, but there is no way to improve Hitchcock. Period. (For example, Gus Van Sant's remake of "Psycho" was shot-for-shot the same and Van Sant said he remade it just for one reason - so it would be "in color". Lame, lame, lame.) And while "Near Dark" deserves wider audiences, the best way to see both of these movies is too just watch them.

I've got an idea for Bay - remake yer own drivel, like "Armageddon" and try and make it a good movie.

In the Good News Dept., I have really been enjoying the film reviews offered by Jim Ridley for Nashville Scene. His take on this weekend's release of "Flags of Our Fathers" by Clint Eastwood is a fine example, and his headline "Print The Legend", is reference to one of John Ford's best movies about mythmaking, "Man Who Shot Liberty Valence." Ridley writes of "Flags":

The landing on Iwo Jima is a master class in controlled chaos, as machine-gun bullets stream out of camouflaged Japanese pillboxes and mortar fire turns human bodies into sizzling piles of flesh and bone. But the most surreal, unsettling images in Flags come later, when Bradley, Gagnon and Hayes are pressed into reenacting their storied feat as a vaudeville spectacle -—and when, at a celebratory dinner, they see the huddled likeness of themselves and their fallen brothers transformed into an ice-cream sculpture."

Eastwood once again is offering a serious Oscar contender with this movie, which will once again pit him against Martin Scorsese and "The Departed." These two American legends duked it out at the Oscars with "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Aviator." I was amazed "Baby" won out - until I watched it and was blown away by Eastwood's skillful work. But c'mon - Marty deserves a win and has for some time. Since he is a New Yorker and Eastwood worked his way up in Hollywood, Eastwood has the edge. And if you haven't seen "The Aviator," you've missed a fine feature about movie-making, madness and one of the most interesting bio-pics I've seen in years.

Meanwhile, Ridley has another fine story on the locally made horror film "Blood Oath" and it's upcoming premiere. The movie will unspool as part of the October Comic Horror Fest 2006 which starts tomorrow. AnotherTennesseee-made horror feature "The Deepening," starring Gunnar "Leatherface" Hansen, will also be shown at the Fest. Ridley can tell how you chitlins are a vital part of horror movie effects.


Do whatever is necessary to see two movies airing at 2 a.m Saturday morning on Turner Classic Movies, as Rob Zombie hosts Underground, a collection of great American midnight movie style features. Tonight's double bill is cult hit "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" followed by "Mudhoney", both by Russ Meyer.

I saw "Pussycat" a few years ago in re-release and it is hilarious and innovative and - well, here, let the women who made the movies tell you about it --


TV and Anime fans rejoice. "Lost", "My Name Is Earl" and even two seasons of "Freakazoid" are now yours!!!

Super-toon extraordinaire
Freakazoid! Freakazoid!
Runs around in underwear
Freakazoid! Freakazoid!

Go here for the link to all the shows you can watch online.
UPDATE: Sorry, but that link is now dead and no sign of it anywhere online. Dammit!

Rides around in the Freakmobile
Freakazoid! Freakazoo!
Hopes to make a movie deal
Freaka me! Freaka you!


An onlne blog with info on what it's like to write for TV, write a spec script and many insider tips comes from writer Jane Espenson, one of the writers of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer", "Gilmore Girls" and much more. Her page is here. And you're welcome.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Scarlett Johansson Does Tom Waits?

Time for some pop culture.

Headlines and rumors are being made about actress Scarlett Johansson taking a turn as a singer, signing a record deal with Rhino Records for an album of tunes by Tom Waits.

Earvolution has some of the details of the story and includes an MP3 link so you can hear Scarlett getting all smoky-voiced in a rendention of the tune "Summertime."

Want this story to get even more weird? FOX News broke the story. Rumors also say she was very much in demand for a restaging of "The Sound of Music." Ugh. Tom Waits is much better.

Dear God, I've written a celebrity gossip post. And a link to FOX. I am going to Blogger Hell for sure now.

Election Time In Tennessee!

Some quick hits on the election now underway --

Enclave picks out a telling Congressional vote cast by Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr.:

After much thought, I have decided that I cannot in good conscience vote for a man who supports the notion of detaining American citizens without the writ of habeas corpus. My Democratic friends need not bother to tell me how important taking back Congress in November is. Taking back Congress matters little to me when we face a bleak future of omnipotent Bush-picked tribunals declaring anyone an "unlawful enemy combatant." Congress has made itself moot in such a world."

State pundits and bloggers participate in a lively political roundtable about the Tennessee Senate race. Go listen!

From Facing South, R. Neal has a post about the whirlwind Religious Right campaign via the dubious James Dobson to support a referendum on Tennessee's ballot to amend the constitution. The proposed change is totally unwarranted and unnecessary - there's already a law on the books stating that marriage is defined to be between a man and a woman. I see no reason for this referendum other than to scare up some voters who fear "The Gays". So vote no.

The other referendum to amend the constitution is a non-binding change that merely opens up the possibility of freezing property taxes for senior citizens -- which could lead to a different tax structure in every county. What's the point of this referendum? Maybe another effort to get a certain group of voters to the polls??

I was reading some numbers on this year's primary for the US Senate and noted that Harold Ford Jr received over 333,000 votes (total votes in the Democrat primary were 415,900) while Corker received just over 230,000 (total votes in the GOP primary were 481,187). This race is soooo close, but I would imagine keeping an eye on which candidate carries Hamilton County may show who the winner will be .... maybe. Ford's number will certainly increase the farther west you travel in Tennessee.

Your predictions are welcome.

Will the Hard Right Win in ET?

A truly lame endorsement for GOP congressional candidate David Davis was supplied by the Bristol Herald-Courier. It's hard to believe that after compiling some wrong-headed ideas Davis holds, they still decided, "hey he's better 'cause he's a Republican."

Some excerpts from their editorial:

David Davis isn'’t the perfect choice for Congress.

He pushes a hard-right social agenda that even Republican moderates will find difficult to stomach. He won the Republican primary by the narrowest of margins -– edging out several candidates, who although conservative were closer to the political center."

"We disagree with Davis on some of his most extreme social positions, including his desire to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to recognize the Christian God as '“sovereign source of law, liberty and government'."”

Democrat Rick Trent's failing, according to the paper, is that he isn't a long-time political insider. That's a detriment today??

I've said it before - since the 1st District has been the exclusive home for GOP candidates for over 100 years, I doubt any change will be made this year. Even though it is clear change is truly needed in Congress, this race continues to be the least debated and the least discussed.

Trent did get a brief chance to appear with Davis in public to debate issues -- however the event was only before a Rotary Club. Efforts by Trent to promote a televised or at least a "non-club" debate failed. Since Davis and his supporters already consider the race is his by a wide margin, why bother?

A report on the Rotary appearance, though, shows the two are in agreement on most issues - with some key differences. For example, Davis says a border fence will solve illegal immigration problems and Trent says the focus should be on employers who knowingly hire illegals. Trent also urged for a more comprehensive and strategic effort to resolve the war in Iraq.

So was there a fear in the Davis camp that a debate available to all the District might reveal to voters his weaknesses and Trent's strengths?

Sadly, Trent's chances at victory are slim. Public interest in the congressional race is beyond low. The status quo will limp forward from inertia.

A question to consider -- If Davis is elected but Democrats gain control of the House or Senate - can he work effectively to represent the 1st District or will his "hard right" views keep him out of the loop?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Battle of the Keyboards

Information is a weapon of war. Controlling the flow of battlefront details, propaganda made to elicit patriotic fervor or fear, and many other types of info control have been a part of battle since battles began.

Today the internet is part of that battlefield, part of the weapon of information. Blazing hot words have been searing the internet via the so-called warbloggers and peace-bloggers alike. 40 years ago, the battle of words took place on editorial pages of newspapers and magazines, penned by staffers and by the writers of letters to editors. Television took up the role in the 60s and 70s. By the late 1980s and 1990s, the emerging internet became the newest field of conflict and especially since 2001, Americans have been taking their verbiage to the instant, worldwide forums.

I notice it daily, even hourly. Talking points get web placement, and within hours those in support or in opposition repeat or rebuke the information. As Sen. Joe McCarthy proved - all that needs be done to establish credulity is something be said in front of cameras and reporters, fact checking comes much later. As long as it appears somewhere written down some folks take it as gospel truth.

Just last week I was pondering on all the typing at all kinds of blogs about North Korea and their claims of active nuclear programs. All the typing on foreign policy by folks who had an opinion without necessarily having any factual history was rather daunting.

Does all the rhetoric really affect any policy by the U.S. or Korea? I was having much doubt about that and then yesterday I saw some clips from "The War of the Words: The Story of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders" where Paul H. Henry skewers the "courage" and "sacrifice" of bloggers like InstaPundit who advocate war in the mideast. Two clips from the "documentary" are available here.

Or you can watch the first clip below (warning some language is NSFW):

As a longtime journalist who has written both factual reports and opinion pieces, I can assert that caution on the part of the writer is a virtue. Sometimes what you write and the views you promote can really backfire. Hot-blooded emotion has driven much of the writing since 9-11 about foreign policy. As for myself, I tend to wait and process information or learn more on a topic rather than firing off a polemic seconds after some story hits the cable news or the internet. First reports are often shallow and sometimes plain wrong.

But it is plain to me the "fighting keyboarders" are sheer knee-jerk wordsmiths. I see much effort to dredge details after an opinion is offered to shore up credibility. I don't doubt their sincerity, but I hope most readers spend the time to review info from a variety of sources before they worship at some blog altar.

Our government has for many years depended on "propaganda" and a recent creation of "perception management" can be read here in an award-winning report from 2005.

More on this "documentary" can be read here, here and here, where Michael Silence says much with a one-word comment: "Heh!"

Monday, October 16, 2006

Grim Ads In Knoxville Skyline

Anti-abortion protests took to the skies over Knoxville for the last few days with airplanes towing banners with images of a fetus and slogans like "Abortion is Terror." This political advertising has raised some questions in the blog world and this morning was a topic on WNOX-FM as Dave Foulk sat in the chair behind the microphone on the Hallerin Hill show.

Some pertinent questions were raised by the ad - was it appropriate or outside the bounds of taste and decorum? What happens when a young child, uneducated about sex, asks for an explanation of abortion?

Callers to Dave Foulk's show constantly framed their anti-abortion arguments with false language and false arguments, and an eagerness to control human sexuality. When someone calls abortion "killing children" they present a false claim. Children are not aborted. It also isn't "infanticide", as both child and infant are lifeforms outside the womb.

Certainly opponents to legal abortion procedures - and those who made and towed that banner across the sky - have the right to express their opinion. And they also have the right to express it poorly, which they certainly did.

The vast majority of cases involve the aborting of an embryo or a fetus. So I wish these opponents would stick to facts and not fictions like children being aborted. A child could be killed by abuse, but you can't abort a life outside the womb.

Is it or is it not a woman's right to choose? Of course it is - that is the law. And, yes, as some callers noted, is was a choice to have sex to begin with. What amazes me is how little effort is made to promote accurate education about sex, and instead opponents gather at the last stage of a process to demand a different outcome. And as Foulk said, protests outside clinics are rife with vile insults and damnation. Has anyone ever seen a group outside a clinic calmly and clearly informing a potential patient that their group would help find an adoptive home for a newborn? That they weren't there to judge but to help provide a home for a woman and child in great need?

I heard several callers mention "abstinence only" sex education. It is profoundly ignorant to expect humans to abstain from sexual activity. And the results of such activity by those who have never been educated about it clearly leads to not only pregnancy but to disease as well. Groups definitely want to bring images of abortion into the public forum, but no effort is made to insure the public forum includes frank, accurate communication about sex and sexual behavior.

As for the ad itself -- was it too much? If abortion is terror, why is it that the law calls abortion foes who hurl bombs at medical clinics criminals? It's as if they see sex as subversive behavior.

If these foes have the right to take their argument to the skies, then perhaps others should too. I heard several comments today that adults find images of abortion uncomfortable to consider, but that the public needs a non-sanitized perspective.

What then, would be the response if an image of the corpse of an American soldier killed in Iraq were flown in the skies, and the phrase War Is Murder were with it?