Conspiracies FTW

My favorite comment from one of the frequent Free Republic threads on how Barack Obama’s mom secretly flew to Kenya in July 1961 even though she never actually visited the country.

Good thing Bruce Springsteen didn’t sing “Born in the USA” while campaigning for BHO.

It’s probably no accident that he DIDN’T play it…he was probably told in no uncertain terms, to NOT play that song. That in itself is strange, insofar as that is one of the songs that he is best known for….

Yes. That’s the explanation. It’s not that “Born in the U.S.A.” is actually a depressing song about Vietnam, and that the only people who never noticed this are brain-dead wingnuts.

The Great Movie Catch-Up of 2008: Speed Racer

At the end of every year I try and max out my pop cultural knowledge by renting (yes, walking into a video store and clutching the plastic disc) all the movies I missed in 2008. Over the year I find myself skipping movies that are slightly too shitty to justify $10 tickets by saying I’ll see them at Thanksgiving and Christmas. But I don’t enjoy the movies quite as much this way. They’re played in succession in a binge. Unless the movie’s a real standout it sort of just gets absorbed into my trivia and quote deployment borg.

So: Speed Racer.

It’s not very good. As my friend Tim Brayton pointed out/tried to warn humanity, “fully three-quarters of a film about stylised racing is not about racing whatsoever, but about the treacly drama surrounding a sweet and loving nuclear family.” Indeed, a shocking proportion of the film’s 140-something minutes is spent in the Racer home, or with the Racer family on the road, as they sadly reminisce about their dead son Rex or muse about the corruption in their sport or… it’s all quite cartoonishly written so I didn’t pay attention.

We pay to see this movie because of the confounding, brighter-than-God green screen effects and action sequences. It didn’t remind me of anything the Wachowskis had done, as much as it made me wonder if someone had located Kenneth Anger circa 1973 and given him $120 million. The Wachowskis make no choices that I could detect. Every color, every explosion, every melting effect, and most importantly every scrolling shot, is deployed. The filmmakers tip their hand early on when Spritle (the “cute” kid who will make you crave hemlock) is offered candy from a massive display case. “Hey!” you say. “The rest of the movie is the color of all that candy!”

Behind all of my sarcasm you’ll notice I didn’t say “this sucked.” It didn’t! Speed Racer was always a ridiculous and (IMHO) boring cartoon, and if the film had been some 2 Fast 2 Furious clone (which seemed possible when it was optioned) it would have been a total failure, as opposed to an interesting acid trip.

– Why do the Wachowskis do the “we’re gonna kiss but something keeps interrupting us” thing with Speed and Trixie? They’re dating already. It’s odd.

– I’m enjoying the rise of Roger Allam as a character actor who personifies villainy, as he looks exactly like Christopher Hitchens.


Visiting your aging relatives rarely makes for good writing, unless you’re some Didion-level powerhouse. The temptation to mawkishness is too strong. But that’s what’s on my mind now, in Dewey, DE, blogging with a wireless aircard that no longer makes much economic sense for me. My grandfather is 87 and cannot remember if his wife is alive or dead.

“Do you remember what happened to Mom?” says my mother.

“She died in Florida,” he says with certainty.

Moments later, he asks her to clear this up. “Is Ida still alive?”

“No, she died in Florida.”

“Oh, yeah. I was there.”

This isn’t as excruciating as it sounds. The sadness pervades everything, so you move on. We bring magazines for him to read because the big books on the shelves—Fiasco, The Hammer, Pakistan—are too hard to follow. I bring an old book of Andy Rooney columns that I borrowed, I think, 15 years ago.

All we have left is sarcasm. Buck (his real name is Francis but why would you call him that) was always the most smart-assed member of the family, and my mother the least. She talks about a ne’er do well cousin (the only kind we have) who moved to Las Vegas to gamble.

“Dave, tell me you don’t gamble.”

“Only when I’m stoned,” I say.

“You don’t want to do that,” Buck says. “That’s how you lose your drug money.”

It’s de-stupid, it’s de-Lovley

I agree with my liberal friends and fellow travelers—this may be a light, pre-holiday article by Erika “so dumb I can’t even spell my last name right” Lovley, but it’s a poorly-written, poorly-reasoned, and stupid article, too.

The so-called Gore Effect happens when a global warming-related event, or appearance by the former vice president and climate change crusader, Al Gore, is marked by exceedingly cold weather or unseasonably winter weather.

For instance, in March, 2007, a Capitol Hill media briefing on the Senate’s new climate bill was cancelled due to a snowstorm.

On Oct. 22, Gore’s global warming speech at Harvard University coincided with near 125-year record-breaking low temperatures. And less than a week later, on Oct. 28, the British House of Commons held a marathon debate on global warming during London’s first October snowfall since 1922.

Wow! Three incidents! And a full 67 percent of them involved Al Gore! Now, if Gore had made two appearances, or even four appearances, in two years, this would be a stunning coincidence. But Gore, being an incredibly famous and in-demand celebrity, makes lots of appearances. Many occur on historically temperate days. Some occur on historically warm days. The “effect” is garbage.

The important thing is where the garbage comes from. Lovley, being dishonest and rather lazy, does not note that it’s Matt Drudge who came up with this. I read Drudge, as do you, although I read it less these days because news aggregation has become a mom-and-pop operation. I clearly recall Drudge’s hyping of these Gore appearances with images of snowy weather. And I remember last week, when he ran the headline

Not again! Global warming rally in DC faces unusual November snow and cold...

“Not again” because Drudge does this all the time.

I generally like the Politico, and think Ben Smith and Mike Allen are among the best political reporters alive, and David Mark is one of the best long-term numbers and ideas men. However, they often operate with the intent of attracting traffic from Drudge, which leads to some dumb, lowest-common-denominator horseshit. Thus: the “Gore Effect” piece.

I would have thought the humiliating embarrassment of Drudge in the last weeks of the election, what with the endless “SHOCK POLL: MCCAIN SURGE” stories and the Ashley Todd hoax, would temper this stuff. Maybe it did and Lovley was the last to know.

I Love This Barr

My exit interview with Libertarian presidential sacrificial lambdidate Bob Barr is up here.

I like Barr, but I’m biased towards good stories of reinvention and redemption. (I said good stories, Mitt.) Six years ago Barr was an unapologetic drug warrior and Iraq War booster. Today he’s an ACLU and Marijuana Policy Project consultant who wants the Libertarian Party to become a coalition of Jeff Flakes. Yes, I’ve heard Libertarians bitch about this, but really, if Barr didn’t believe in this stuff, don’t you think there was a more lucrative path he could have taken? Couldn’t he have built on his book The Meaning of Is and become a full-time Democrat-hater, hero of the Clinton impeachments, trading one-liners with Sean Hannity about how Democrats use the Constitution for rolling paper? Sure. But he got radicalized by the failed Bush presidency and did something about it.

Still tippin’

A sincere thanks to Spencer Ackerman for this. I know a lot of reporters, and I don’t want to put them down, but few of them make me go “damn, how did he get that story” like Spencer.

And another thing. I don’t know what precipitated his compliment, but if he’s pushing the Weigel brand, I appreciate it, because at the start of December I am leaving reason magazine, my journalistic home since April 2006. You could not concoct a better 30 months to be the political reporter for America’s flagship libertarian journal. I was there when the Republican party hit the rocks in 2006 (and I’m afraid I helped cost Jeff Flake his committee seat). I covered the Ron Paul r3VOLution from start to… well, is it finished yet? I was there when Bob Barr joined the Libertarian Party, there when he became its presidential candidate, and there when he ended his campaign by blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.

It’s an amicable parting. Starting last week, I’ve been writing at The Economist‘s Democracy in America blog. There are three Word files with freelance stories open in front of me, and there are e-mails about additional reporting gigs in my mailbox. And I get to keep living in and covering D.C., a much more pleasant place than it has the right to be thanks to people like Spencer.

Bizarro Romney No Want Am President Nomination!

If Mitt Romney really wants to run again in 2012, why is he writing articles titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”? He remembers that Michigan gets one of the first primaries, right?

Future articles from the Romney shop:

“Manchester: City of Assholes.”
“Suck My Dick, Des Moines”
“Dartmouth, Still Harvard for Stupid People”
“Florida: Smells Like Dead People”
“Why Nevada Should Ban Gambling”
“South Carolina: GAAAAAAAAAY”