Friday, January 20, 2006

Can I Be Of Assistance?

From Say Anything:

A recent supreme court decision upheld the Oregon assisted suicide law. This supreme court ruling effectively makes assisted suicide legal in all of the states whereas in most states it is currently illegal...Is the legalization of assisted suicide the first step down the slippery slope to the legalization of euthanasia?

What kills me about this article (no pun intended), and about the sudden rise of discussion about assisted suicide, is the way it illustrates a particular peeve of mine.

It seems to me that many of the people criticizing this decision are the same people arguing for a State's right to ban gay marriage. The same people who argue that people shouldn't be forced to accept a blanket Supreme Court ruling on an issue, because it tampers with Federalism.

The Justices who dissented on this opinion (Scalia, Roberts, Thomas) are, in fact, the same Justices that continually argue for less judicial oversight. I haven't read the opinion, and I'm sure there's solid legal reasoning behind the dissent - but still.

You can't have it both ways. If you want to favor the legal authority of the state in matters like these, you have to favor them across the board, no? If you're a proponent of limited government, then you should be in favor of allowing people to make their own decisions as regards their own lives, yes?

But I sort of see this guy's point, too. When terminally-ill patients have doctors giving them medical advice, you're going to get scenarios where that doctor would encourage assisted-suicide, and that thought is deeply creepy to me.

(courtesy of Oliverwillis.com)

Pickett's Ticket Punched

From CBS News:

Wilson Pickett, the soul pioneer best known for the fiery hits "Mustang Sally" and "In The Midnight Hour," died of a heart attack Thursday in a Reston, Va., hospital, according to his management company. He was 64.

When I was but a young lad, my family took me to see a film called The Commitments. I remember having absolutely zero interest in seeing the film, but I also remember being blown away by it.

Mostly, by the music.

Growing up as a white, suburban kid on Long Island with a father that listened to 8 Trak recordings of Johnny Mathis, and a mother who loved the Beatles, Lionel Ritchie, and 80's pop in general, my exposure to Soul music was....well....limited.

I still have a battered cassette tape of the Commitments soundtrack lying around, somewhere. And thanks to that ramshackle film, I have a deep and abiding respect for Wilson Pickett.

Watching the auditions for American Idol the other night with my girlfriend, I was struck by just how watered-down and passionless music has become. It's about how many notes you can hit - Mariah Carey style - not about the feeling of the song, or the artist's interpretation of the material. Given a song as iconic as "Mustang Sally," today's pop stars would, without deviation, over-sing, camp it up, or simply ape Pickett's singular style.

Pickett was an American original. He brought fire and passion to music that resonates somewhere deep down inside the soul and the nether-regions. He will be missed.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pop-Philosophy


Currently noddin' my head along with two new songs off the Philosopher Kings' upcoming album.

Join me in my appreciation for ex-jazz musicians turned canadian pop-stars HERE.

All Full Up On Kooky Crisps

I'm speechless.


From Decon's Dailykos Diary:

A known killer has attacked Hillary Clinton.

I know she bakes good cookies, but isn't time the press stopped treating Laura Bush with kid gloves. She routinely interjects herself into politcal [ed. - sic] matters, and in my view, is fair game. Go get her.


Okay...I'm full of speech again.

Decon, you are a horrible person. Insinuating that Laura Bush murdered her boyfriend? That's sickening.

If folks like good old Decon weren't spending all their time inventing vast conspiracy theories they'd have enough time to run for office and actually do something about the things they disagree with. Of course, considering Decon's apparent state of psychological well-being, I wouldn't want him within three-hundred feet of a government institution.

Nutjob.

Good for Laura Bush. Clinton's remarks were ridiculous, and they should be smacked down.

NSA Deployed Savion Glover Earlier Than Thought

From truthout:

The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

The NSA's vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups....

....According to the online magazine Slate, an unnamed official in the telecom industry said NSA's "efforts to obtain call details go back to early 2001, predating the 9/11 attacks and the president's now celebrated secret executive order. The source reports that the NSA approached U.S. carriers and asked for their cooperation in a 'data-mining' operation, which might eventually cull 'millions' of individual calls and e-mails."

Nice. Someone want to tell me why we're all expected to obey the law when the government appears to be so cavalier about it?

Truly, 80's one-hit-wonder Rockwell was a prophet and a seer. Indeed, his seminal pop song appears less a candy-colored confection, and more Nostradamus-set-to-synthesizers.

I'm just an average guy with an average life
I work from nive to five, hey hell I pay the price
All I want is to be left alone in my average home
But why do I always feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone

CHORUS:
I always feel that somebody's watchin' me
And I have no privacy
I always feel that somebody's watchin' me
Is it just a dream?

When I come home at night
I bolt the door real tight
People call me on the phone I'm trying to avoid
Well, can the people on TV see me or am I just paranoid

CHORUS

When I'm in the shower, I'm afraid to wash my hair
I might open my eyes and find someone standing there
People say I'm crazy, just a little touched
But maybe showers remind me of Psycho too much
That's why...

I always feel like somebody's watching me
Who's playing tricks on me
I always feel like somebody's watching me
Tell me it can't be

I don't know anymore
Are the neighbors watching me
Well is the mailman watching me
And I don't feel safe anymore, oh what a mess
I wonder who's watching me now?
Who?
The IRS?

I always feel like somebody's watching me
Who's playing tricks on me
I always feel like somebody's watching me
I can't enjoy my tea!


The man can't enjoy his tea! This madness must end!

(courtesy of chud.com)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Freedom From Dissent - Fortified With Iron(y)

UPDATE!
Sometime after I wrote this, the comment I'd been trying to post on Libertas mysteriously reappeared. Kudos to them for behaving like adults. Disagree, but don't censor. Not if your chosen name is "Freedom."


Original Post:
So I moseyed over to Libertas yesterday, a "conservative" film site, and wrote here at Codemorse that "Freedom," in the context of this particular conservative film website, appears to be the freedom to agree with their own views.

Is that judgemental? Probably. But it's also true, as evidenced by my attempt to have an intelligent discussion in their comments section.

Libertas posted this, originally:

So the word is now - and I’m not kidding about this - that Tim Robbins is considering adapting George Orwell’s 1984 into a film. Robbins is apparently directing a stage version of 1984 here in LA (how did I miss this?). Here’s Robbins from the Empire Online article:

“When we think about the authoritarian world that Orwell painted, the catchphrases are one thing, but when you read the book again, the specifics and relevance for now are stunning” says Robbins who confirms it could be some time off - “It’s really a matter of whether I can raise the money for it. We’ll see if there’s an appetite for it. Orwell may have been twenty years off, but I know that I find it incredibly relevant.”

Why do I think this would make a better Saturday Night Live skit than a film?

You can read the various comments about that post HERE, but they're well summed-up by this one:

“Why do I think this would make a better Saturday Night Live skit than a film?”

Yeah, that or a saturday morning cartoon.

Obvious Tim Robbins-hate aside, I had to wonder if anyone who'd posted had actually read 1984. Turning it into a cartoon seems a little like making Kafka's "The Castle" into a Disney musical. So, I responded:
Why do I get the feeling that no one here has actually read 1984?
Snarky? Yeah, a little. Still, my post was sincere. If you've read 1984, you know that Orwell's book is relevant, but not because of the Bush administration. I got this editorial response:
[Editor’s Reply: I don’t know, Matt Morse, why do you have that feeling? It might interest you to know that two people who write for this site have Ph.D.’s in literature (from Stanford and Oxford). So how about you, have you read the novel? Or are you more of a “Green Eggs and Ham” kind of a guy …]

Wow. They sure are sensitive over there, aren't they? But I notice that they didn't respond to the point of my post at all. Which means (a) they really haven't read 1984, Ph.D.s notwithstanding, or (b) they'd taken my post to mean that they were stupid, and so felt no obligation to respond.

So, I wrote back:

Oh, I tend to be a Green Eggs and Ham kind of guy. Big books intimidate me. I did manage to wrestle my way through 1984, though. The reason I posted the above is not because I think anyone here is stupid. It’s because if you’ve read the novel, then Robbins’ comments do make sense. 1984 remains relevant to today’s society. That doesn’t mean that America is “becoming” that book’s government. It means that the ideas Orwell played with are vital and significant. I have no doubt that two Ph.D.’s understand this.

Tim Robbins has some wonky views, so if what you’re really talking about is HIS attempt to make the movie, and your predetermined idea of what that film might end up being, then I guess I “get” it.

I thought that was pretty reasonable. I don't insult anyone, or make any ridiculous claims. In fact, I make a point of correcting any misunderstanding about my original post.

Two people responded reasonably to what I said, and I tried to respond with this:

Thanks for responding, Chris and Russell.

I think that perhaps you take the text of Orwell's novel as its message, Chris, whereas I tend to regard it as extreme windowdressing meant to carry Orwell's core ideas about how authority is exercised. Orwell was not the best at writing in any sort of exciting manner, and I know a lot of people who found 1984 to be a slog, myself included.

But with due respect (and I mean that), I think that the ideas Orwell discusses are not far fetched in the least. For instance, "doublethink," a form of trained, willful blindness to contradictions in a system of beliefs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublethink) and "newspeak," where two opposing sides string together phrases empty of meaning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak), are actually used quite often now in the media and in politics (on both sides of the political divide). It can be argued (and I would argue this) that newspeak and doublethink are harmful to the interests of the people being governed, because they effectively depower us.

I suppose my biggest problem with entertainers that hold forth on their politics is that, too often, they're all talk. I prefer to see a person with resources put those resources toward good works. If you're concerned about the homeless, help fund programs that put them to work. Don't berate the government for not swooping down to save everyone.

Thanks for responding so politely. It's appreciated. Too often, political discussions turn into "foot size" contests.

I think that sums up my honest opinion pretty well. There's just one thing: I'm apparently blocked from posting to Libertas now. Since neither of my posts were insulting, I have to assume that (a) the Libertas folk have an inability to deal with viewpoints that in any way threaten their own (Which is, ironically, a definition of doublethink), or (b) one of the editors visited Codemorse, read my not-so-kind review of their site, and banned me from posting. Which is ironic, because it shores up my statement that "Freedom" apparently means the freedom to agree with the views of Libertas.

If I can bore you a little longer, I think this says a lot about our country's inability to communicate. Nothing I said, snarky as it may have been, was untrue. If I've been blocked, they really don't tolerate dissenting views. They are elitist. That doesn't mean that they aren't good people, or that their views can't be correct. But someone over there can't tolerate the notion of someone piping up and offering an alternative, or asking for an explanation of their views.

I may be a heathen liberal, and you may disagree with what I have to say, but an unwillingness to hear it indicates a fundamental lack of faith in your own beliefs. Can they not be questioned? And what does this say about our political polarization in this country? I'd like to ask them about this, but I can't. In a public posting where Orwell's ideas are called "far-fetched," I'm prevented from responding.

That's, like, the definition of irony.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

LiberDross

Want to have the fun sucked right out of the moviegoing experience?

Have I got a site for you.

Hollywood’s awards season was once a kind of enjoyable horse race between films that everyone had seen and developed strong opinions about. Instead, awards like the Oscars and Golden Globes have now become marketing ploys for small, predominantly left-wing, ’specialty’ films that very few people have even seen.

Oh, wait, I also hear the Golden Globes were last night. I only know that because Govindini and I had dinner Sunday night with a charming person who happens to be one of the show’s producers. [We will not disclose this person’s name, to protect the innocent.] Here’s a link if you’re interested in who took home the statuettes. Since I’m trying to keep the readership high here at LIBERTAS - and since nobody out there’s actually seen the films honored - I’m afraid I can’t invest much time in blogging about all this.

Y'know, for a site that seems to want to be of "The People," Libertas is remarkably elitist. God forbid you be pointed toward films you might not otherwise have known about. It's not as if other awards shows don't exist to shower unnecessary praise upon "The People's" choices.

And I don't understand the point of politicizing film (which Libertas does ad nauseum), unless the film in question is explicitly political. Sites like Libertas seem to thrive off of shadow-boxing. Where there isn't a subtext to dicuss, they simply create one. The irony being, of course, that Libertas is Latin for "Freedom," which the site's author appears to advocate only when it aligns with his stringently explicated political views.

Tired Words On The New World

Dave Poland's an interesting guy. He runs a film website called the Hot Button, which amounts to an entertainment blog obsessed with the financial numbers of Hollywood motion pictures.

I'm not sure if the guy is actually a critic, or if he's a "professional commentator," but I like to drop by once in a while and read his ramblings. He's expanded his site to include an actual blog, which allows his readers to post their thoughts.

Yesterday's post was re: The New World, a film I've been seeing trailers for since what feels like 2002. He likes the movie, which is great (because I think it looks interesting and beautifully shot), but what made me post were the comments that his readers posted after his "review."

To wit:
If New World doesn't win the Oscar, the suicide rate in the Native American community will skyrocket.

Actually, "The New World" is part of the Movement. It has stopped being about how good the movie is. It's now about being about a cause or about Native American life.

Every Native American person will see it. Isn't it a requirement now in the Native American community? The List goes: Know every word of "Colors of the Wind." Geronimo sticker. Warpaint. See "The New World."

The Native American lobby is out in force on “The New World.” It'll get stronger and more desperate by the day especially before nominations come out. Some are using this movie as a movement and a referendum. You can deny it all you want. But the majority of Native Americans want this film to do well even if they don't like the film, haven't seen the film, or don't even care about film. It's more of a movement than a best picture contender.

Apparently, some of the above is supposed to be a "joke" of sorts. I'm not sure why it's funny.

Goreing the Opposition

Take it away Mr. Gore:

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.
It'll be interesting to see how many people dismiss this utterly rational thought process because Gore is "boring."

Hillaryious

From MSNBC:

NEW YORK - Sen. Hillary Clinton on Monday blasted the Bush administration as “one of the worst” in U.S. history and compared the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to a plantation where dissenting voices are squelched....

The House “has been run like a plantation, and you know what I’m talking about,” said Clinton, D-N.Y.

No, actually, Senator. I really don't. A plantation?

Christ. Not exactly subtle, are you?

I may happen to agree that the current administration is handling things in a way that strikes me as supremely un-American on some levels, but comparing them to a plantation on Martin Luther King day? That's not only grotesque, but an open invitation to be attacked by your enemies.

Stuff a cork in it, please. Instead of using your power and influence to make eye-rolling statements in the hopes of bolstering your political profile, use it to work for your constituents. No matter how many times your handlers tell you otherwise, there's simply no way you're getting elected to the Presidency.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Codemorse Conspires With Collider.com

I'd said I might have some exciting news for everyone, and while the excitement is probably more mine than yours, you'll forgive me for not caring much about the distinction.

I've been welcomed aboard Collider.com, the up-and-coming entertainment and technology website. I'll be reviewing new-release DVDs, as well as writing honest-to-god articles. The first, a piece on V for Vendetta, is almost completed, and should be up for reading sooner rather than later.

This means that posting at Codemorse may be slow for a day or two. I know, I know. It'll be hard not to have cheeky posts on the latest in florescent animals and political unrest, but we'll all manage together. Please keep checking back. I'll be sure to make it worth your while.

In the brief meantime, I encourage y'all to check out Collider by clicking their nifty logo above.

I Have A Dream, Too. But Mine Involves Taco Bell, Twelve Miss America Finalists, And A Garden Weasel

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. day, everyone. Thought I'd repost some thoughts on the man in honor of his federal holiday. I hope it provokes some thought and discussion.

Repost:

Alicublog pointed me toward a "critical appraisal" of Martin Luther King, Jr., which I thought was provocative enough to comment on - if only for my own benefit.

From the Claremont Institute:

But there is the other King conservatives loath—and with good reason. This King stressed unlawful action (civil disobedience) where bargaining with local notables might have prevailed. He lobbied for the extension of the welfare state, with all its disastrous consequences, in the claimants and in the growth of the bureaucracy. Moreover, he irresponsibly attacked his own country on the issue of Vietnam. He provided legitimate cover for a radical left that contained the worst elements of American life, posing as our true patriots. His crowning achievement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, turned out to be a vehicle for the centralized regulation of political life. A plain reading of it sought to relieve individual injuries to one’s civil rights; the bureaucratic interpretation (the one that has prevailed) established group remedies, hiring and promotion quotas, and the emphasis on race-based solutions that bedevil our laws today. Similarly, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has subordinated state and local governments to the whims of the Justice Department. Thus King's version of equality cut off the relationship between the civil rights cause and the ideals of the American Founding; far from protecting limited, constitutional government his vision led to unlimited government. And all this does not mention the plagiarism and infidelity that infected his character.

A lot of what Ken Masugi says above seems wrongheaded to me. It's not that Masugi does wrong by citing instances of action and character that he disagrees with. In fact, I think it's important not to whitewash the people of history. What bothers me is the implied assertion that King and his legacy are made less because of them.

The post-Clintonian era is an interesting one. Clinton was arguably the first President to have his sexual shenanigans outed by the media. Prior to Bubba, Executive trysts were considered unspokenly out-of-bounds. Jefferson fucked around. JFK had Marilyn Monroe on rotary speed-dial. Outside of the oval office, Ben Franklin spent long years in Europe getting down with the powdered wig hunnies, while his wife and daughter hung 'round the house in Philly. But somehow, Ben Franklin's business is excused, unmentioned, uncriticized.

Martin Luther King, Jr. liked the ladies. Does this lessen his legacy or sap his credibility? I think it does so only if you're willing to play character assassin. Jefferson founded a nation while barn-dancing with Sally Hemmings. Franklin did double duty as proto-Ron Popeil and colonial-Kenobi. King contributed a powerful voice to a long-overdue seizmic shift in the culture. What they did in their off-hours is, I think, their business. It's between them and God, not snippy moralists.

As for his attacking the U.S. on Vietnam, well, he was a Preacher. His first allegiance was to the creator and not to any country, even his own. God doesn't have a nation. If you devote your life to God as a man of any faith there are going to be instances where you come to disagree with the actions of your government. As a rule, Preachers advocate non-violence, and Vietnam was a war.

And while I have no business commenting on whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became "a vehicle for the centralized regulation of political life," I'm fairly comfortable objecting to Masugi's laying the responsibility for that evolution at the feet of one man.

Finally, America wouldn't exist without civil disobediance. The colonies lobbied Britain for representation in Parliament for years prior to revolution. It was Britain's resistance to representation, and their dismissal of the desire of the American people for a voice in government that directly led to the Declaration of Independence - an act of civil disobediance if ever there was one.

None of this is to say that King was a saint, or that his history should not be critically discussed. His problematic reliance on plagarism/appropriation in his papers and speeches is an area that does affect my opinion of the man, if only of his originality. But I think Masugi doth protest too much when he calls into question whether or not Martin Luther King day is necessary.

We must focus our attention on that cause. In doing so, it would be far better to honor the better angels of King’s character in the Presidents we honor next month—Washington and Lincoln.

If I read this correctly, Masugi is saying that it would be better to celebrate the spirit of King's cause in the holidays devoted to Washington and Lincoln, than to celebrate that spirit on a day devoted to the flawed King himself.

But Lincoln suspended habaeus corpus, unconstitutionally prevented the Southern states from recession, and liked to sleep (however innocently) with other men. Washington hated New Englanders, finding them dirty and uncouth. He was, in early life, a pretty questionable military leader. He levied one of the first, unwanted taxes on the American people. He grew hemp. Despite a laudable growing belief in the unjustness of slavery, he did not free his own slaves until after his death.

No man is safe from flawed character, or from mistake.