Friday, November 11, 2005

Is it possible?

I'm not inquiring about the possibility of talking cars on the market in a couple of years, but that's cool, too. Nor the miraculous possible reprieve of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. What's truly implausible is the notion that Pride & Prejudice -- that new one that sports the hideous tagline "Sometimes the last person on earth you want to be with is the only person you can't be without" -- can be any good. Could it be? I'm a pretty big fan of Austen's novels, and I'm not immune to the charms of Austen adaptations. And I even (embarrassingly) succumbed to the banal pleasures of Bridget Jones's Diary (feel free to ridicule me in the comments section below; I've heard all before, even from the girlfriend).

Austen credentials now firmly established, I've got to say the trailer of this latest version of Pride had me gagging. Obligatory Judi Dench role? Check. Stock footage of the English countryside? Check. Close-ups of a wooden British hunk glowering for no reason in particular? Check. The lovely but utterly vapid Keira Knightly as an Austen heroine? I'd sooner watch Orlando Bloom thow a pillow on his back and exclaim "a kingdom for a horse!" Look, I'm not looking for drumming raccoons and homeopathic frogs in this picture, but I just don't see any way that this movie could be good.

But today, after two weeks of belittling this movie, I scanned MetaCritic only to discover, to my astonishment, that it's one of the most acclaimed films this year. Even the estimable David Edelstein, who had mocked the ad campaign in his column, gave this film serious props, exhorting his readers to not "judge a filmmaker by the vulgarity of his distributor's marketing." Can it be?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Election post-mortem

Finally, California voters did something right and torched all the initiatives on the ballot, but not before the state wasted $ 50 million taxpayer dollars to administer this retarded election. To top it off, various political groups spent upwards of $250 million mounting dishonest campaigns to try to confuse voters, certainly not the productive use of money.

These campaigns are very clever. On Monday, I finally examined the heaping pile of campaign flyers I've received over the last couple of weeks. A couple jumped out at me. In one, a "Democratic Voter's Guide", a beaming Angelides (the state treasurer and gubernatorial hopeful) urged me to vote down the Arnold initiatives. But at the bottom was this: VOTE YES on 78 and NO on 79, with a message directing me to the Yes on 78 website. Very strange, since that endorsement directly contradicted the positions stated on the official California Democratic Party voter's guide, which I had read just a few minutes earlier. 78 is a Big Pharma bill designed to counterfeit and pre-empt Prop 79, a consumer group-supported measure that aimed to reduce drug prices and cut into drug company profits. Prop 78 supporters produced another flyer called "COPS support 78" which showed a group called COPS ("a group that supports the interests of sheriffs and law enforcement officers" according to the flyer) that tells you to vote yes on 78 and no on 79. On the face of the flyer are a bunch of other quotes from labor unions slamming the Arnold initiatives. Most voters won't catch this, but the flyer basically uses a front group that makes it appear as if the Yes on 78 campaign is allied with the unions. Undoubtedly Big Pharma targeted those flyers to reliably Democratic voters like myself, hoping to bamboozle them into taking their deceptive "voters guide" into the voting booth. On a scale of dirty politics, this probably ranks only a 3 or a 4, but it's the first time such tricks were directed at me.

What does the election debacle portend for Arnold? Michael Hiltzik, blogging for the LA Times, thinks Arnold will call it quits, since his ego won't be able to take an electoral drubbing in 2006. I agree with everything Hiltzik says about Arnold's pathetic governing skills, but I'm not so sure Arnold sees defeat in 2006. Arnold's probable opponent will be either Angelides and Westly, a couple of colorless technocrats no more formidable than the unfortunate Cruz Bustamante. If Arnold can move to the center and start triangulating, he may still recover. An Arnold that's wedded to the winger GOP agenda will not prevail in California. A "Arnold: beholden to special interests, and a typical Bush Republican" campaign will crush him. However, a chastened and centrist Arnold, projecting a pragmatic image and showing that he's not in the pocket of the Chamber of Commerce and anti-tax zealots, may yet look good next to the charisma-challenged Democrat. And if he does win, he'll have the sorry state Democratic party to thank for its collection of Gray Davis clones (they work their way up the state party machinery and win statewide offices by virtue of having the (D) next to their names). Gavin Newsome and Antonio Villaraigosa, a Blue State turns its lonely eyes to you.

And please, Warren, don't do it. Don't turn California into a bigger joke than it already is.

The national picture finds the GOP in deep trouble, as every pundit has noted. While I've learned not to ever misunderstimate the GOP machine or read too much into off-year elections, this New Donkey post, on the lessons of the Tim Kaine win in Virginia, makes me pretty optimistic. The race illustrates that GOP dirty tricks and demogoguery don't always work, even in a fairly red state (now trending purple). The Dems are still not favored to recapture even one chamber of Congress, as only a blue tsunami will wash away the advantages of gerrymandered districts in the House and the 6 seat GOPer majority in the Senate. But the disasterous GOP policies are now impossible to ignore. Bush is damaged goods and Republican scandals will continue to dribble out daily. Scooter's trial. Darth Veep's bottomless evil. Weekly Abramoff nuggets. Tom DeLay drowning in his cesspool of corruption. The Iraq Group's intelligence deceptions. Continuing revelations on officially sanctioned torture. Etc.

And that's just background noise.

In the foreground will be the continuing "catostrophic success" of the Iraq occupation, high gas prices, the deflating of the real estate market, stagnant wages, a ballooning budget deficit, and Bush's bald incompetence. The GOP will try to change the topic, but Bush's tax reform panel's suggestions are not politically viable, and we've got no troops left to attack other countries. They've run out of ideas, and most likely will be left to doing what they do best, repeating the old canard of GGG (guns, god and gays), and the usual warmongering and taxmongering.

It's easy to knock the Democrats. I bitch about their feckless ways all the time. But under the wily and fearless Harry Reid, they seem to be finally finding their stride and just in time for 2006. Run culturally conservative types like Tim Kaine in red states and competent liberals like Corzine in blue states. Tie Bush like an anvil around GOOPer necks. Come up with some actual positions and stick to 'em. Don't back away just because something didn't test well in a focus group. Take a gun to a knife fight instead of the reverse. For more, please view Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive. Pay special close attention to the ending.