V for Vendetta

First 2006 release I’ve seen and it’s a great one – unless Hollywood has a sudden genius injection, I imagine it’ll make my top 10 in December. It does make a few un-Alan Moore concessions to manichean ethics, but for a $50 million film aiming to be an international hit, I’ll let that slide. One example: In the comic version of “V,” fascists took over the UK in the chaos brought about by a US/NATO-USSR/Warsaw pact nuclear exchange. (Labour had won the 1983 election and pulled out of NATO, so the country was spared.) In the film version, fascists start ascending in the generally turbulent first decades of the 21st century, and they consolidate power by … oh, I’m on the way to a spoiler alert. Suffice to say, the change of setting in the movie version makes it much clearer that V’s terrorism is a force for good. In the comic, since we knew the rest of the world was in tatters, it was anyone’s guess what the results of a democratic overthrow of the government would bring about in the long run.

Plus, there’s the free post-movie amusement of cultural conservatives whipping themselves up into a frenzy about “V”‘s crimethink. Imagine a gang of rhesus monkeys trying to do calculus. No – dumber.

More books

#7 – Planet Simpson
by Chris Turner

Extremely overlong history/analysis of the TV show.

#8 – The Outside Story
by Richard Brookhiser

Hilarious, Hunter Thompson-on- … well, not drugs. Tea? Hunter Thompson-on-tea blow-by-blow of the 1984 presidential race, told from the perspective of a media hack watching the debates and campaign rallies.

Occam’s rouge applier

(thanks, sf4dean.com)

So Katherine Harris, down 20 points in the polls and submerged in scandal, refused to exit Florida’s Senate race. Republicans generally slapped their foreheads and moved this seat into the “D” column. But here was the very first comment at Daily Kos.

How many Diebold machines can 10 million buy?
by WinSmith

There is a point when the conspiracy theory about Republicans stealing elections by hacking voting machines becomes impossible. Well, actually, that point was reached a while ago, but this should really do it. Let’s go over the possibilities that needed to be fulfilled for Harris’s campaign to be part of a grand GOP conspiracy.

1) The GOP can steal elections by hacking Diebold machines.
2) They have covered their tracks utterly, stealing only a handful of elections, purposely losing a few (like the Virginia governor’s race) in states with electronic voting machines to complete the illusion.
3) No one has been able to uncover this in two years.
4) No election-hacker has ever confessed his thievery, willingly or unwillingly – like being overheard in a bathroom stall.
5) None of the Republican hackers were part of the 10-20% of Republicans who’ve soured on Bush since the 2004 election, if you go by polls.
6) While Republicans knew that they could rig the 2006 Florida election, they nonetheless made a phony fuss about Harris’s electability.
7) These conspiratorial Republicans did not realize they could run a more palatable Republican in the primary, and then steal the primary election for Republican X over Harris. Instead, they decided to make a damaging public effort to oust her.
8) While she was struggling, neither Harris or her staff told skeptical donors or consultants not to worry, because she could steal the election if needed.
9) The hundreds of thousands, or millions, of conservatives who read and write online, were brought in on the conspiracy to pretend Harris was really in trouble. They commented and blogged about the need for a new candidate knowing that this would merely provide cover for the eventual Harris thievery.
10) Harris decided to spend her personal fortune on a race that she could steal without spending any money at all.

Oh, and then there’s the idea that our modern Republican party – that of Majority Leader Bill Frist and the awesome George W. Bush crisis-management team – is so wiley and devious that it can pull off, time and again, the greatest electoral fraud in history.

Liberal blogs delenda est

I’ve said it a million times: I neither expect or desire for this blog to become popular. That either gives me 1)more right or 2)less right to heap scorn on other blogs. I haven’t decided.

Either way, here’s some scorn!

1) Every year, the blog Wampum hosts the “Koufax Awards” for liberal weblogs. It’s not very hard to code web polls, even if you want to code them to restrict multiple voting or demand voters register before they vote. Why, then, does this preeminent blog award offer the stupidest voting system ever? Look at the link I just sent you. There’s a blog post with a list of a hundred (seemingly) blogs. If you want to vote, you either post your vote as a comment or email the Wampum blogger. That’s insane. When I copied and pasted this page with all of the votes into MS Word just now, it was 76 pages long.

2) Speaking of long … we have a new winner in the Amanda Marcotte Run-On Sentence Iditarod. This is all one sentence.

You know, I thought the whole Warren plotline on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” where the character who designed the sexbot, lost his girlfriend, decided to get the girlfriend back by casting an enslavement spell on her, accidentally killed the ex while attempting to rape her, and then ended the season by wounding the straight woman whose power threatened him and killing the lesbian with the gentlest soul imaginable was a tad over the top as a metaphor for a certain mentality that leads all too many men to call themselves “libertarians” and concoct ever stranger arguments for how “freedom” means the opportunity to put the boot to bitches.

It is 108 words long.

Book #6

Empire Statesman: The Rise and Redemption of Al Smith
by Robert A. Slayton, 2001

I’ve always had a soft spot for legendary New York governor Al Smith, mostly inspired by anecdotes I heard in stories about someone else where Smith made a cameo. Like the story of Smith threatening to run against corrupt NYC Mayor Jimmy Walker if the Tammany machine didn’t back FDR for governor. Walker (or someone) asked Smith what ticket he’d run on, and Smith said “I could run on a Chinese laundry ticket and beat your crew!”

My admiration increased tenfold after reading this book. Smith was a moral, naive, hard-working politician who never finished high school but became one of the best New York assemblymen in history by sitting up at night and memorizing the law. He was a progressive who turned against the New Deal because he viewed it as too big and too sloppy (or because he turned against FDR – pick your favorite reason). He was a wet (anti-Prohibitionist) and Catholic who boldly signed anti-Prohibition laws and took pictures with Cardinals, knowing that his enemies would use it against him but not caring.

Slayton’s book is the best history I’ve read of Smith’s life and of the 1928 presidential campaign, probably the nastiest in American history and certainly the only one wherein the KKK organized voters in swing states. It’s also a fine history of urban and Democratic politics in the early 20th century, as Al Smith played a starring role in creating that century’s Democratic coalition. As a presidential candidate he famously lost chunks of the racist South, but he destroyed the Republicans’ historical grip on urban voters and he registered millions of Catholics. For example, he was the first Democrat to win Massachusetts outright. (Woodrow Wilson won it in 1912 only because Taft and Roosevelt split the vote.) What was a solid “brahmin” Republican state voted narrowly for Smith on the strength of mammoth Boston Catholic turnout. And it’s voted for Republicans only four times since – twice for Ike, twice for Reagan.

Definitely one of the strongest political biographies I’ve read. It’s not in paperback, but used hardcover copies aren’t hard to find.

Money: Useful!

The Vermont Senate race is pretty much off everyone’s radar. Republican-turned-Independent Jim Jeffords is retiring, and Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders is running to replace him. Since Vermont only has one congressional district, Sanders has been elected statewide eight times – the last time with 67% of the vote. And since the Democrats made a pact with Sanders not to run a third candidate (a nutty fringe guy is running but the party didn’t endorse him), Sanders is expected to win walking away. The last poll had him leading the two potential Republican candidates by 45 frigging points.

However, one of those Republicans is the billionaire founder of IDX Systems, Rich Tarrant. Yes, he is a billionaire and his name is “Rich.” While he doesn’t wear a gold-plated dollar sign medallion, he’s flaunting his wealth in a highly amusing fashion with the most ostentatious ad campaign I’ve ever seen. Basically, he is running a serial history of his life, of which thus far four parts have been aired, taking us up to … 1969.

Obviously, the ads are cornier than 10,000 Lifetime Original Movies. I’m pretty sure this is a campaign first – a guy with enough money to waste thus far $2.1 million on TV ads about how he really, really kicked ass at basketball when he was a kid. It also leads to hilarity like this:

“For years, Congressman Sanders has railed against the rich and powerful buying access to our elected officials,” Tarrant campaign manager Tim Lennon said in the statement. “Now it seems that Congressman Sanders is doing the very thing he claims to find repugnant.”

Hortenstine noted that, according to new filing with the Federal Election Commission, Tarrant lent himself another $425,000 on Thursday[My emphasis]. Tarrant, the founder of a medical software company, has so far lent his campaign $2.1 million.

Yes, I know the difference between “being rich” and “being owned by the rich.” New Jersey’s fuzzy Gov. Jon Corzine straddles that pretty well. But come the hell on.