Ingmar Bergman and the cinema of self-evaluation…

ingmarbergman.jpg Ingmar Bergman, a giant of 20th century cinema, died yesterday. He was 89.

That’s the news. But that’s not what we should be talking about today as we enter the “re-evaluation” phase of the Swedish film maker’s distinguished career. I think we must ask a difficult question about Bergman’s films:

In a world that allows people to develop alternate lives in Second Life, The Sims, or even WoW via the Internet, does Bergman’s work still matter? Continue reading

FCC wireless auction: Google wins, AT&T wins, Americans lose

By Martin Bosworth

Today the FCC set its guidelines for how the newly available wireless spectrum frequencies are to be auctioned. In a nutshell, the FCC agreed that networks built on the new spectrum should enable any device to connect to services built on those networks–which is a win for anyone tired of paying hundreds of dollars for a phone you can’t use if you switch carriers.

But the FCC did not endorse Google’s call for complete “open access,” or the principle that the winner of the auction could sell the spectrum to other companies in order to build new wireless broadband networks–effectively dashing technologists’ hopes of creating a “third pipe” to compete with incumbent telcom and cable companies. Continue reading

Truth, lies and Alberto R. Gonzales

I’m a big fan of Al’s . . . I think Al has done a good job under difficult circumstances. The debate between he and the Senate is something they’re going to have to resolve. But I think he has testified truthfully.

— Vice President Dick Cheney during a July 30 interview with CBS Radio.

It is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.

— Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales during his January 2005 confirmation hearings when asked whether the Bush administration would ever allow wiretapping of American citizens without warrants.
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Reframing the Republican lie about wealth in America

In America, the Republicans are seen as the party of money and wealth. This perception is certainly accurate in one sense – the GOP is the favored party of the wealthy elite. Unfortunately, the party is also supported in large numbers by those who have no wealth, and thanks to the policies of the Republican party, no hope of ever attaining any. But they continue to support the party for reasons that seem irrational to us. Why?

In a nutshell, I want to argue here that they do so because the GOP has, through a long-term and exceptionally effective messaging campaign, drawn around itself the ideology of hope. Forgive a brief over-generalization, but they’re the party that preaches wealth and that tells people they can join the club (never mind that the message is a lie, given our current economic policy structure). In the popular frame, the Republicans are often seen as being about getting and having money while the Democrats are about taking your hard-earned money and giving it to people who didn’t earn it. Continue reading

Lowes: Bill O’Reilly is nuts and we can’t support him; Home Depot: complaining about Bill O’Reilly harms the environment

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A tale of two home improvement giants….

Daily Kos reports that Lowes, the giant home improvement retailer based in North Wilkesboro, NC, has pulled its advertising for The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly’s Faux News program that among its rhetorical flourishes liberally uses name calling and that, politically supports a theocracy based on racism and sexism. This was done after Lowes’ customers complained to the retailer about O’Reilly’s antics. Here’s the money shot from Lowes statement:

Lowe’s constantly reviews advertising buys to make certain they are consistent with its policy guidelines. The O’Reilly Factor does not meet Lowe’s advertising guidelines, and the company’s advertising will no longer appear during the program.

One has to admire a company that decides that a frothing mouthed demagogue who can’t debate ideas with a 16 year old without resorting to paternalistic hectoring ought not to receive its advertising dollars. Continue reading

Scroguely Works: American Gods

American Gods, Neil GaimanAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman, first published 2002, 624 pages, ISBN 978-0380789030

America inspires both awe and loathing. The scale of the place; its open spaces, wealth, ambition and ability to turn ideas into global phenomena.

The Iranian youths rioting against “The Great Satan” are wearing blue jeans and iPods. The stone-throwing anti-globalisation protestors listen to American music. The most fervent supporters of American-style capitalism are the survivors of pure communist states; like Poland and Lithuania.

American-leftie self-loathing and declarations that George W Bush is turning the US into a fascist dictatorship are vastly amusing to those of us who have survived brutal autocracies.

Some outsiders are drawn to the US, to explain her. Not just to others, but to Americans themselves. Continue reading

The Saudi arms sale + campaign cash = profit?

Controversy continues to emerge about the United States’ intent to develop a proposed $20 billion, 10-year arms sales package for Saudi Arabia.

Brighter minds than this one can dissect Israel’s concern about point-point, laser-guided weapons parked next door, whether the driving idea behind the proposal is meant “to act as a bulwark against Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East,” and whether the sale is the Bush administration’s way to make nice-nice with Arab nations as the United States plans to sell $30 billion in arms to Israel.

The more mundane issue explored here is cui bono financially? Given the few details reported so far about what weapons systems the Saudis might get, Raytheon, Boeing, Textron and Lockheed Martin may be salivating. Then again, they paid plenty for the privilege.
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Toyota’s new plug-in Prius

Hybrid vehicles are a big deal, reducing oil consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. But plug-in hybrids are even better, especially since electricity is cheaper and the CO2 is localized to a power plant where, theoretically, it could be captured and sequestered. Plug-in hybrid vehicles are like your standard hybrid, but you can plug your car into a 240 V wall socket to charge up the batteries so that you run the car for the first few miles exclusively on electric power. This would keep the car running on battery power for those 20 minute jaunts to the grocery store or liquor store. And now the first commercially-developed plug-in hybrid is being developed by Toyota. Continue reading

Everything’s coming up “progressive!”

By Martin Bosworth

Chris Bowers at OpenLeft (via commenter AdyBarkan) posts the news that Americans are self-identifying as progressive more now than any time in the recent past. This is great to hear, but as Bowers notes, the word “progressive” can mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean: Continue reading

Texas ranked No. 1 in teen birth rate

by Amaury Nora

The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any country in the industrialized world; Texas has the highest teen pregnancy rate (63 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19) of any state in the nation, according to a newly released study of children’s health, KIDS COUNT Data Book, issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Texas achieved this title in 2003 and it seems nothing really changed in 2004. More concerning, Texas surpasses the national average of 41 births per 1,000 teens by nearly 20 points. According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, in 2003 the number of teen births in Texas was 51,091. Continue reading

The Bush Quartet

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The war maestro’s magnum opus requires two more wars.

As a country founded on the principle of majority rule, most of us have yet to accept that a small cabal of extremists infiltrated and wrested control of our government. Despite Bush & Co.’s violations of our trust, we remain incapable of believing they’d commit an act as “befuddling,” according to the title of the incomparable Gareth Porter’s latest article, as attack Iran. Continue reading

Skip Prosser, RIP

Wake Forest University’s head basketball coach, Skip Prosser, died the other day of an apparent heart attack. He was only 56.

Tributes are pouring in. The university community obviously grieves the tragic loss. The coaching fraternity is heartbroken. Dick Vitale, whose entire life seems to be college hoops, was stunned. And so on.

As those around me know, I wasn’t a big fan of Prosser as a coach, but really, none of that matters right now. Ultimately, it never mattered, because as a Wake alum it has always mattered more to me that we do things the right way. Continue reading

The Internet is dead! Long live … television?

So says Mark Cuban. Now, I’m typically a big Cuban fan. But I’m looking at an AdAge report on his remarks from yesterday’s Cable Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) Summit, and I’m a little puzzled.

Speaking at the Cable Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) Summit in Washington yesterday, Mr. Cuban declared “the Internet is dead” in an otherwise subdued panel that included executives such as ESPN President George Bodenheimer and Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt.

Read the rest at Black Dog…

Protecting our nation’s secrets – why have deadlines passed with no apparent consequences?

Today is July 27, 2007. A little over a month ago, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (aka Oversight Committee), demanded that the White House and the Oversight Committee make some progress on scheduling interviews with White House officials about improper oversight of our national secrets. A little less than a month ago, Congressman Waxman also demanded that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales answer a set of questions about the legality of Vice President Dick Cheney’s claim to be part of the legislative branch and thus not subject to the oversight body responsible for safeguarding our national secrets.

In the June 26, 2007 letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Chairman Waxman demanded that several current and former White House officials be made available for interviews before the committee. And he warned that, if progress wasn’t made, he’d be forced to ask the full Oversight Committee to consider congressional subpoenas at the June 28, 2007 meeting following that day’s scheduled hearings. According to the Recent Hearings and Meetings section of the Oversight Committee’s schedule webpage, that business meeting was canceled. Continue reading

An appropriate theme for the ‘08 congressional campaigns …

The New York Times says today that the races for congressional seats in 2008 have as equally an early head start as the presidential campaign.

Reporter Carl Hulse’s story has this graf:

The political architects for both parties in the House and Senate are hard at work recruiting candidates, raising money, mapping the playing field and experimenting with campaign themes. Strategists say that given what is likely to be a turbulent political environment, neither side can afford to waste a minute and things are off to a fast start as Democrats try to retain their hold on the House and Senate. [emphasis added]

Experimenting with campaign themes? Are they kidding? Here’s a pithy campaign theme for our esteemed members of Congress, those of the 26 percent approval rating, and the wannabees:

We’ll fix all the crap Congress has broken or left broken for too long. If we don’t, we’ll resign.

Breeding for Christ, conservatism and consumerism

By Martin Bosworth

An interesting piece came across my desk the other day that paints a chilling picture of how strong the religious right’s death grip is on American culture and politics…and how that death grip is actually maintained by business interests who want to ensure that the American machine keeps rolling along. Continue reading

VerseDay: minimalism

After last week’s fun little exchange over poetry-related topics my fellow scrogues and I agreed to make Thursdays Poetry Day here at S&R. Let me kick things off.

Since we’ve also been chatting behind the scenes about the relative wordiness of things we’ve seen and written, I’d like to make today’s subject minimalism: let’s talk about poems that don’t use many words (a tough subject for me, because I love using too many words). Continue reading