Saturday, December 31, 2005

When the rain starts to pour

My pal Corey has shamed me with his generosity. He went and sent me that book on Terry Gilliam & The Brothers Grimm that I posted about a couple of weeks ago. Along with (from my Amazon list) a copy of Stay Awake: Various Interpretaions of Music from Vintage Disney Films, which I've been wanting to get replaced on CD for years.

It was really fortuitious timing, too, as I'd been in a miserable mood most of the day. A nosebleed, a computer than runs like toothpaste being squeezed out with the cap still on...Just started the book, but I think it's a good bet I'm going to enjoy a volume with the words "In Hollywood, No One Can Hear You Dream" printed in large letters upon the back cover.

ETA: The book tells me something I either didn't know or had forgotten about Gilliam's aborted Don Quixote film, as documented in the movie Lost in La Mancha. Christopher Eccleston was to have been among the cast.

So let me get this straight. Eccleston almost works with my favorite director, he gets paid to lie naked on top of an equally naked Kate Winslet, and he helps restore Doctor Who to a place of honor in television.

Lucky old bastard, or what?

But I digress...You know, every once in a while Corey and I get along like sand in oil. Usually because I'm being an overly-sensitive, "difficult" writer or he's being an insensitive or glib actor (and vice-versa, most likely).

But we like each other; at least, I like him, I assume he likes me...anyway he still takes my calls. We have a lot of fave TV shows in common; in fact we "met" via an online Dr. Who forum. This past year I badgered him into watching Veronica Mars and 24 and he became addicted; he tried to turn me on to Freaks & Geeks but it didn't take.

And he's always been incredibly supportive of my writing; as I mentioned last month he's my first reader on most of it. An idea I came up with in recent weeks and really like is that as we get older, he and I are going to turn into The Sunshine Boys, from the Neil Simon film and play of the same name.

I think I'm George Burns and he's Walter Matthau.

Raging John Kerry and his Grumbling Ground Troops in "The Curse of the Flinging Mudskippers"

There's a bit of a debate going on in the blogs about just how much service in the military does or does not add to the "electability" of a Democratic candidate. As I argued about with a GOP blogger last month, the service record of Democratic leaders unquestionably puts that of Republicans to shame. But the Democrats famously don't seem to be able to get any credibility with the voters from it.

The argument of those who think military service can and should gain them that credibility (like Neil) seems to take something of a beating from the experience of John Kerry. Kerry had a record that no ethical person could rationally have been expected to complain about. And you all know how that went.

But was Kerry the exception that tests the rule, or a big warning flag to others not to try selling Americans that ploy; they just ain't buying it? After all, Bill Clinton rather famously did not serve, but it doesn't seem to have affected his electability much.

NCHeartland writes in Daily Kos:
When Bill Clinton defeated veterans George H.W. Bush then Bob Dole, the era of required military service to serve the people was declared dead. Why is the Democratic Party trying to revive a dead era? Because there's a war on? Because they need a public relations face-lift? Stacking the House (and our party) with vets may sound like a good idea superficially, but what's the actual message? Is there any other kind of Democrat but a fighting one? Apparently not according to the "Fightin' Dems" brand. Forget education, jobs, privacy, community responsibility--our values and what we stand for; all we want now is 'boots on the ground' experience to combat Bush's war. The tactic looks cynical and reactionary--Why? Because it is. If many of us in the Democratic Party are turned off, what do you think swing voters (not to mention republicans) will think?

So do Democrats really "need" to be Veterans of any war? I think another possible reason for the deceptive appeal of the "fighting Dems" is that it's another excuse for Democratic "leaders" to say anything and everything but the plain and simple truth:

The President of the United States is a liar and a coward.

I believe, almost as an article of faith, that if John Kerry had stood up and said that, over and over and over again, people would have lined up to vote for him. I believe there were people who knew that to be true, knew it in their bones, even before the gradual unraveling of Bush's garments this year. And all they were waiting for was for someone to SAY IT.

But Kerry didn't. Why? I dunno. I only know his failure to do so led to the frustration that Jon Stewart expressed for me after an all-too typical clip of Kerry from the campaign.

"You're trying to lose!"

I think the "Swift Boating" of Kerry said more about him than it did about the "electability" of Democratic veterans. David Mamet wrote an op-ed last September in which he suggested

A possible response to the Swift boat veterans would have been: "I served. He didn't. I didn't bring up the subject, but, if all George Bush has to show for his time in the Guard is a scrap of paper with some doodling on it, I say the man was a deserter."

But as we all know, Kerry never said that or anything like it. For good or for ill, it's not the uniform, it's the man or woman inside it. Media Girl comes to a similar conclusion, and also links to several more voices in the debate.

Heydily-ho, abuserinos!

Digby has a short but good post making the point that if there's nothing wrong with the NSA spying, how come they kept it secret for so long?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Fast Times at Bush High

Krugman has a heck of a column laying out just how much of an incompetent Bush has been revealed to be in the past year. On a scale undreamt of in Peter Jackson's wildest imaginations, this has been a year of "The Emperor has no clothes" moments.

It's behind the NY Times stupid pay-firewall, but word has a way of spreading. Like that list last month of the service record of prominent Democrats vs. that of the GOP, these are things I think we all knew, but it almost takes your breath away to see it all laid out in black-and-white.

Herewith a few excerpts.

A year ago, Mr. Bush made many Americans feel safe, because they believed that he would be decisive and effective in an emergency. But Mr. Bush was apparently oblivious to the first major domestic emergency since 9/11. According to Newsweek, aides to Mr. Bush finally decided, days after Hurricane Katrina struck, that they had to show him a DVD of TV newscasts to get him to appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

A year ago, Howard Dean - who was among the very few prominent figures to question Colin Powell's prewar presentation to the United Nations, and who warned, while hawks were still celebrating the fall of Baghdad, that the occupation of Iraq would be much more difficult than the initial invasion - was considered flaky and unsound.

A year ago, it was clear that before the Iraq war, the administration suppressed information suggesting that Iraq was not, in fact, trying to build nuclear weapons. Yet few people in Washington or in the news media were willing to say that the nation was deliberately misled into war until polls showed that most Americans already believed it.

Another awards ceremony? What is this, Hollywood?

Ultimate Wingnut Contest. Your nominees are:

John "Hindrocket" Hindrocket
Michelle Malkin
Ann Coulter
Pastor J. Grant Swank, Jr.
Dr. Mike S. Adams, Ph.D.

If you're not familiar with all of their work, the link above includes representative samplings. I voted for Ms. Malkin, on the grounds that I really don't understand why so many people read her.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

As you may have heard, among the revelations in the recent NSA scandal is that they've been inserting "cookies" on computers that visit their website and that of the White House. According to Business Week...

In a 2003 memo, the White House's Office of Management and Budget prohibits federal agencies from using persistent cookies -- those that aren't automatically deleted right away -- unless there is a "compelling need."...

Daniel Brandt, a privacy activist who discovered the NSA cookies, said mistakes happen, "but in any case, it's illegal. The (guideline) doesn't say anything about doing it accidentally."

Meanwhile, the online WSJ has an article that would seem to support my theory that big business may be turning against Bush. Not because he violated the law (don't be silly, this is big business I'm talking about) or even the Constitution; no, it's because he's hurting them where they live: He's costing them money.

In firedoglake, ReddHedd concludes...
Saving the President and the party's political ass because you got caught with your hand in the Constitutional cookie jar is an understandable reaction -- after all the 2006 elections are fast approaching. But for Republicans and Democrats, this is a moment of truth: are you elected to represent the interests of your constituency for the long-term, and do you take your oath to protect and defend the Constitution seriously? Or is it truly all about holding onto power and covering each other's asses? You choose.

But know that we will be watching your choices. Now is the time for true patriots to stand up and be counted, regardless of party.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


I missed this somehow, but a couple of weeks ago the AFI (American Film Institute) announced their selections for movies and TV programs of the year. Good Night, and Good Luck was among their film selections and among the TV programs we find 24...and Veronica Mars.

The AFI is (quoting from their website)
[A] national arts organization dedicated to preserving the heritage of film and television, identifying and training new talent, and increasing the recognition of the moving image as an art form.

They're the ones who've been coming up with those "100" lists of best-loved moments from the movies; quotes and so on, for the past year or so. And they host retrospectives, film festivals, etc.

They're pretty well established in the film & TV world, so for Veronica Mars to get noticed after less than two seasons on the air is something of an achivement. Especially considering they did it with (realistically speaking) no one watching...

I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this rein

Shakespeare's Sister wants to know:
Recently, rewatching Sideways, I was thinking that few directors manage to capture what life really looks like as well as Alexander Payne (with help from his fantastic production designer Jane Ann Stewart, who worked with him on Election and About Schmidt, too). Granted, not all films are meant to look like real life, but of those that are, Payne's are near-perfection. It makes his characters that much easier to empathize with, though I'm not a great deal like any of them.

I started thinking what characters I am like, and which films feel the most familiar, which brings us to the QotD: What film feels most like your life?

To which I answered: Oddly enough, Sideways, and yeah, Paul Giamatti. I'm a writer who knows the scar of checking that mail again every day and finding nothing but rejection and no love.

You wouldn't think it would be so hard to sell a lesbian love story in the US in 2005, would you?

But anyway, Sideways is...uncomfortable. At least for me. And, I suppose, to anyone who likes to close their eyes to reality and inhale a bouquet (sometimes a wine is just a wine, but not in this movie).

And it is sorta kinda not fair that they made a movie about a failed writer whose possible/probable salvation is represented by Virginia Madsen. I have had a crush on Virginia Madsen since 1984. It ain't fair to mess around in my dreams like that.

A little taste of that old computer-generated...

The Washington Post has a story about how damnit, George Bush wants his big stage back. In AmericaBlog, Joe observes how you can kind of tell who's spinning the Post by who doesn't come off well in it (Karl Rove).

But Media Girl sifted through it and found some truly shocking revelations.
The lessons drawn by a variety of Bush advisers inside and outside the White House as they map a road to recovery in 2006 include these: Overarching initiatives such as restructuring Social Security are unworkable in a time of war. The public wants a balanced appraisal of what is happening on the battlefield as well as pledges of victory. And Iraq trumps all.

"I don't think they realized that Iraq is the totality of their legacy until fairly recently," said former congressman Vin Weber (R-Minn.), an outside adviser to the White House. "There is not much of a market for other issues."

The words They finally figured it out come to mind...and then are just as quickly replaced by: Oh. My. God. They finally figured it out? Bush's advisers didn't realize until just now that nobody cares very much about other issues as long as you're sending the nations young men and women to die?

Sometimes I think this is St. Elsewhere and it's going to turn out to have all been a dream of an autistic child as he stared at a snow globe of the White House...

Hey kids!

Know anyone who supports the sacrifice of personal freedom for security from terrorism? You might want to invite them to sign this pledge and e-mail it to the White House. It simply states that they
...waive any rights of privacy in my person, property, association, thought and/or expression that I have, had or claim to have under the federal and state constitutions, statutory law or regulation of the United States or any political subdivision thereof, decisional law, common law and/or any other source of authority, real or imagined, to the extent the waiver of such rights is, in the sole judgment of any military, law enforcement or national security employee of the United States, deemed necessary to prosecute the war on terror.

As Benjamin Franklin used to say: They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

And as Bill Hicks used to say: Let's see how comitted you are to this fucking premise.

It's gonna get ugly. Oh wait, it already is.

Via Jane Hamsher at firedoglake, we find more evidence for my growing theory that this president is going to be taken down not by the "opposition," (such as it is) but by his own party.

Bob Barr writes:

...we get a president bobbing and weaving like Muhammad Ali. He knows he can't really tell the truth and he knows he can't rely only on lies. The resulting dilemma leads him to veer from unintelligible muttering to attempts to distract, and then to chest-beating bravado and attacks on his accusers.

John Dean adds:

I think it's dangerous for some Republicans, and I think some Republicans have realized that....They know the politics of this. They know the American people do not like to lose their civil liberties. It's still a story that is just starting to catch on and be broadly embraced and understood. It's a complex story. But people do get wiretapping. That's one of those issues they understand.

Say what you will about the modern Republican party, but (at least when it comes to electoral politics) they can get things done. If enough GOP leaders get together and decide they have to take out George W. Bush for the good of the party...he'll be out with one punch while the Democrats are still trying to get their gloves on.

And then John McCain (or whoever) can run in 2008 by saying See? We Republicans correct our mistakes. And, at least in the last few elections, evil and efficent seems to trump good but clueless every time.

More awards season results

Winners of the first annual Kippie Awards for Distinguished Wingnuttery:

Chickenhawk of the Year Award: Jonah Goldberg.
This blog supported: Jonah Goldberg. I know a poster child for chickenhawkery when I read one.

The Fluffy: John "Assrocket" Hinderaker "for, among other things, using the word ‘genius’ in a sentence about GWB."
This blog supported: Harriet Miers, who beat Joe Lieberman for second place.

The Purple Teardrop with Clutched Pearls Cluster

Winner: Bill O’Reilly.
This blog supported: Bill O'Reilly. Because the man needs more enemies on his list than Jon Stewart and the New York Daily News, and I'm proud to participate.

The Soggy Biscuit Award

Winner:The War on Christmas!
This blog supported: The War on Christmas. Because I've heard of nonsense, but this made Dr. Seuss look like Rudyard Kipling.

Wank of the Year

Winner: Barbara Bush - the victims of hurricane Katrina “were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle)–this is working very well for them.”
This blog supported: Ann Coulter, who didn't even place in the top three. I guess posting a blogger's personal contact information and questioning New Yorkers courage because they didn't support Bush isn't what it used to be.

The Palme d’Hair

Winner: Bill O’Reilly.
This blog supported: Bill O'Reilly. Because inviting terrorists to blow up my hometown isn't the kind of thing I'm gonna get over anytime soon.

I'm not "a card-carrying member of the ACLU"

...but ads like this make me think maybe I should be. Via AmericaBlog:

The ACLU ran the following advertisement in the December 29, 2005 edition of The New York Times:

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

And speaking of The Fantastic Four

A new meme:

Four jobs you got fired from, or quit under a cloud: Only two: Bookstore and video store clark.

Four places you've lived that aren't in New Jersey: Seattle, Sunnyvale, San Jose, Palo Alto.

Four movies you'll [probably] never watch: The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, High Fidelity, Serenity, The Fantastic Four. I added the "probably," because you never can tell what I'll watch on cable.

Four bands [or performers] that people say are great, that actually basically aren't: Eminem, Madonna, Destiny's Child, Rod Stewart.

Four bands [or composers] that nobody seems to like much, comparatively speaking, that are often superb: Fairlight Children, Prefab Sprout, Double, Joe Jackson

Four foods that you like, that other people are appalled by: Probably too many to list, starting with Burger King...

Four TV shows that you're vaguely familiar with, from folks talking about them all the damn time: The various CSIs, House, Monday Night Football, The Apprentice

Four blogs that you don't understand why a lot of people read them: Michelle Malkin, Hit & Run, RedState, Michael Yon.

Four places you've been on vacation: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle (before I lived here), Sacramento

Four wonderful kinds of oyster: n/a

[*] Four beautiful things: Breasts, actors who want to serve a script instead of going for an award, Keitha & Annabel if I do say so myself, The Mamas & the Papas' best records.

Names have emotional value

Last year I wrote, in a post on the old blog about a young Republican man kicking a female protestor while she was being held on the ground: of the other Young Republicans is named "Taylor Bickford." I think if your name is "Taylor Bickford," you pretty much have to be a Young Republican.

Today we find throwing a little pity party for a fella who claims he was harassed in college because he is a conservative.

"When I was on campus, I had no help," the recent Ohio State University graduate told "I was harassed, intimidated, shouted down."

The recent Ohio State University graduate's name? Christopher Flickinger. See, it's something about the names, man, people with funny-sounding names just naturally gravitate to conservative Republicanism.

"Taylor Bickford." "Christopher Fickinger." "Moya Huff-" No wait, scratch that.

Happy Birthday, Stan Lee

Today is Stan Lee's birthday; Mark Evanier has a short birthday greeting and an anecdote about how he didn't run Lee over with his car recently here. Lee, of course, is best known for his cameo appearances in films based upon Marvel comics and an episode of The Simpsons.

I'm kidding, of course. He's the co-creator (with artists including Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko) of the Marvel Comics characters (The Fantastic Four, Magneto, the X-Men, Doctor Doom, Spider-Man...).

He's revered by most as an elder statesman of comics and known by more than one generation for his chatty, informal "Bullpen Bulletins" style of quality hype. But he also put a lot of heart into the comics when he was writing them. He was responsible for a lot of what we think of as the Marvel Comics "tone."

You notice how I got through this whole thing without saying Excelsior...doh!

Hoo boy.

In a firedoglake entry, ReddHedd lays out the legal ramifications of the domestic spying scandal. Not so much for the government....but for any number of charged and/or convicted terrorism suspects whose defense counsel are now obliged to challenge their cases.

If ReddHedd is correct (and she is an attorney so I'm assuming she knows more than I do about this): Nearly all of them now have grounds to claim that they might have first attracted federal attention through an illegal, improper wiretap.

If we were to believe government spin, Bush was only trying to make it easier to catch bad men and put them away. But what he chose to do about it is about to turn into a legal nightmare. One that may make it more difficult to catch new criminals and stop any that we already have from walking. As Redd puts it:

This is what happens when you play fast and loose with the rules. It comes back to smack you right in the ass. And all of us will be paying the price for it: in court costs, in energy that will now have to be expended on this issue rather than on further needed prosecutions (because manpower only stretches so far), on the possibility that a bad actor will be set free because the President of the United States authorized a segment of our government to cheat the law because to follow it was too much work for him.

Thank you, President Bush; it's as if you ran out and whacked the statue of justice right on the knee, a la Nancy Kerrigan.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Oh dear.

In Feministing, we learn that the Abstinence Clearinghouse, which, as it sounds, is a group that promotes saving sex for marriage, has come up with a dandy little piece of merchandise. To spread the good word (about not spreading your good legs)...they're selling lollypops.

Cherry-flavored (they have got to be kidding me) lollypops. Cherry-flavored lollypops with the words "Don't Be a Sucker! Save Sex For Marriage." written on the stem. Well, that ought to do it, especially since there's no way for a lollypop to be nibbled on provocatively...

Seriously, is it just me, or does anybody else think this idea was thought up by some bright spark getting off on the idea of budding young virgins licking and wrapping their moist lips around and sucking on hard...

Sorry, I was miles away for a moment...

Monday, December 26, 2005


Alexander Cockburn via Egalia:
But who would do the impeaching? The Democrats have lost as much credibility as the President and the Republicans. Ever since the New York Times loitered a year late into print with its disclosure about the NSA spying program (only the latest in a sequence of unconstitutional infamies by that Agency stretching back for decades, mostly against domestic political protesters) I've seen it argued that if the Times had gone with the story last year, Kerry might be president.

But if the Democrats had cared about the Constitution they could have broken the story themselves last year. Democratic congressional leaders knew, because the whistleblowers from the NSA desperately tried to alert them, only to get the cold shoulder. Kerry's prime advisers ­ Richard Clark and Rand Beers ­ on such matters knew, because they'd previously been Bush's top functionaries in the war on terror.

We're heading into a year when the Democrats could be making hay, by actually doing the right thing. In 2005 is a pointer, they never will. The latest evidence is that Rahm Emanuel, in charge of selecting Democratic Congressional candidates for 2006, is choosing millionaires and fence-straddlers on the war. He shunned Christine Cegelis, who nearly beat sixteen-termer Henry Hyde in 2004, and whom Illinois polls show to be a popular contender to succeed Hyde. But Cegelis has the disadvantage in Emanuel's eyes of not being very rich and of agreeing with John Murtha on immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Emanuel picks Tammy Duckworth, who embodies the cynicism of the "Democratic strategists", being a double-amputee woman Iraq veteran who is not from the district, has a hot-air position on the war and is thought to espouse a "pro-business/centrist platform".

Guess that's just more ammunition for those occasional members of my vast reading audience who think I only mention it when Republicans do retarded things.


Sorry to hear this afternoon of the death of actor Vincent Schiavelli. He was one of those "that guy" character actors who turns up in a hundred films or TV shows whose distinctive looks always made him recognizable.

He was one of the inmates in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and, in a radical departure from playing a mental patient, a network executive in Man On The Moon. Something of an inside joke there, because over 15 years earlier, he'd done a few great guest appearances on Taxi as Andy Kaufman and Carol Kane's reverend.

He was also memorable in Better Off Dead as a teacher who asks a recently dumped teenager if they'd mind if he took out their ex-girlfriend. In Ghost, he was the tormented spirit who teaches Patrick Swayze how to use his incorporal being. He was one of the Penguin's gang in Batman Returns and an untrustworthy magician in Lord of Illusions. Buffy fans will remember him as Jenny Calender's gypsy uncle.

I don't have much personal to add, I can't claim that he was one of my favorite actors or even that I knew very much about him. I remember he was once married to the woman who played the cabbie that had an affair with Latka on Taxi and who also played Mrs. Beasley on Moonlighting, but they later divorced.

I guess I just wanted to say that I always enjoyed his work, and I'm sorry he's gone.

Why I won't miss Ted Koppel

I mean, apart from his being a spin doctor for the party line, fatuous, unfair, unbalanced and untrustworty...he said this:
I mean, the only difference between the Clinton administration and the Bush administration was 9/11...If 9/11 had happened on Bill Clinton's watch, he would have gone into Iraq.

What an idiot. No wonder he confused The Daily Show with real news. Which it's not...more's the pity.

"Hat tip" to PSoTD, who adds
This should be Exhibit A as to why the news media has to quit interviewing itself. Why? Because the news media is full of people that are full of themselves, and that bear very little responsibility in their real jobs for what they say. How could Ted Koppel presume to know what would have happened if Clinton was President during 9/11? Does he have any idea what a Republican Congress may have done to Clinton after such attack...Perhaps Koppel...would have invaded Iraq, perhaps [he] would have shown the same kind of diligence to detail that George W. Bush did, the same kind of interest in what the U.N was saying that Bush displayed, the same kind of diplomatic skills that Bush brought to bear.

Or in the immortal words of the Banana Junior 6000--"Ted Koppel is a waffle."

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Hanukkah to Steven Spielberg

On Thursday, November 18, 2004, I wrote:

...about the refusal of a third of ABC televisions stations to air "Saving Private Ryan," out of fear the FCC would come down on them. Apparently the film dares to suggest that soliders might occasionally use profanity, or that blood is spilled and bones are broken in war.

You know what I've been idly wondering? Whether Spielberg will have anything to say about this apparent censorship of a film that by most accounts is near and dear to his heart. It would seem that if anyone in "liberal Hollywood" has the power and wealth to stand opposed to the Bush empire, he would be the one. Or Tom Hanks, for that matter. He's supposed to be as hot as any actor can get ("Polar Express" notwithstanding). And again, he's made it clear in the past that "Private Ryan" was more than just another film to him.

But so far, near as I can tell with a quick "Yahoo!" search, niether man has had anything to say on the subject. Maybe they remembered they're going to have movies opening in the red states in the next four years. Maybe they remembered what happened to Lenny Bruce & Mort Sahl.

On December 25, 2005 Roger Ebert wrote:

Spielberg said he has been particularly struck by charges that his film ["Munich"]makes him "no friend of Israel."

"I am as truly pro-Israeli as you can possibly imagine. From the day I became morally and politically conscious of the importance of the state of Israel and its necessity to exist, I have believed that not just Israel, but the rest of the world, needs Israel to exist.

"But there is a constituency that nothing you can say or do will ever satisfy. The prism through which they see things is so profound and deeply rooted and so much a part of their own belief system that if you challenge that, you challenge everything they believe in. They say the film is too critical of Israel. The film has been shown to Palestinians who think it is too pro-Israel and doesn't give the them enough room to air their grievances.

"Some of my critics are asking how Spielberg, this Hollywood liberal who makes dinosaur movies, can say anything serious about this subject that baffles so many smart people. What they're basically saying is, 'You disagree with us in a big public way, and we want you to shut up, and we want this movie to go back in the can.' That's a nefarious attempt to make people plug up their ears. That's not Jewish, it's not democratic, and it's bad for everyone -- especially in a democratic society."

"My film refuses to be a pamphlet," Spielberg said. "My screenwriter Tony Kushner and I were hoping to make it a visceral, emotional and intellectual experience, combined in such a way that it will help you get in touch with what you feel are the questions the film poses. He said he was taught by his parents, his rabbi and his faith that discussion "is the highest good -- it's Talmudic."

He repeated that he was wounded by the charge that he is "no friend of Israel" because his film asks questions about Israeli policies. "This film is no more anti-Israel than a similar film which offered criticism of America is anti-America," he said. "Criticism is a form of love. I love America, and I'm critical of this administration. I love Israel, and I ask questions. Those who ask no questions may not be a country's best friends."


"[Emerson's article] brought together some sources and some criticisms I hadn't seen," Spielberg said, "and it made me want to be more specific about the responsibility of a Jewish artist.

"Everybody is sort of saying they wish I would be silent. What inspired me by what I read in Emerson's article is that silence is never good for anybody. When artists fall silent, it's scary. And when Jewish artists fall silent about Israel, it's maybe not so much because we think asking questions will do damage to Israel, but because we're intimidated by the shrillness and hysteria with which these questions are received sometimes.

Of course, in November 2004, George W. Bush had just been elected (not reelected), we were all holding a funeral for our liberalism, and asking questions just wasn't done. And by the time "Saving Private Ryan" had been censored, it had already won all the Oscars it was going to.

Maybe those are just a couple of the reasons why, on that point, Spielberg was remarkably silent. Now, with "Munich" in play, suddenly he's the poster boy for Talmudic discussion. To paraphrase Bart Simpson: I'm not calling him a hypocrite, but...I can't think of a way to finish that sentence.

Merry Christmas for...

...The commander of American-run prisons in Iraq. Courtesy of TPM:
The commander of American-run prisons in Iraq says the military will not turn over any detainees or detention centers to Iraqi jailers until American officials are satisfied that the Iraqis are meeting United States standards for the care and custody of detainees.