20 July, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

If you haven't seen Dark Knight yet, better hop to it - you're losing your chance to make history:

Fevered fans pushed “The Dark Knight,” the sixth in Warner Brothers’ series of “Batman” movies, to record three-day ticket sales of $155.3 million over the weekend, shoring up what so far had been a wobbly year at the movie box office.

By Warner’s estimate, the film narrowly eclipsed opening-weekend ticket sales last year of $151.1 million for Sony Pictures’ “Spider-Man 3,” the previous record holder.


“It just took on a life of its own,” said Dan Fellman, Warner’s president for theatrical distribution. “You never expect anything like this.”

You know why it took on a life of its own? Because they got it godsdamned right. The story, the acting, the production, every damned thing was spot-on. And it's got something for everyone: a little hint of romance for the sighers, huge sweeping issues with no easy answers for the thinkers, utterly fantastic visuals for the artists, virtualy non-stop action for the adrenaline junkies. If I can find a weakness in this movie, it's that it's too damned short. I could've stayed in that theatre for five hours (although my friend George couldn't - someone really needs to design more ergonomic theatres).

As a die-hard Batman fan who always pissed and moaned about how the movies were way too fucking campy, I'm now a very happy geek indeed. Finally, we have a set of movies that live up to the mythology, that let the Dark Knight be dark, and deliver a set of performances that deserve Academy Awards. Heath Ledger fucking well deserves one. Do you hear me, judges?

(Why, yes, yes I am obsessed over Dark Knight. However did you guess?)

Moving on, then. There's always political fuckery to be found, even when I'd rather be reliving the best moments of the greatest film so far this year.

McCain has an amazing habit of surrounding himself with slimeballs. The latest bit of corruption dripping its ichor all over his campaign comes by way of Stephen Payne, Mr. "I'll exchange face time with powerful people for a lot of money." He made one of his infamous offers to a Kazakh politician known as Eric Dos. And here's where it gets interesting:

The Times reported that Dos had previously worked with Payne to arrange a 2006 visit by Vice President Dick Cheney to Kazakhstan. Dos claims that in exchange for arranging Cheney’s trip, “a payment of $2m was passed, via a Kazakh oil and gas company, to Payne’s firm.” Payne denies that any such arrangement existed.

But the Times reports today that Payne may be lying about his business dealings and that the money may have been funneled through a sister company to Payne’s lobbying firm:

The Sunday Times, however, has discovered the existence of a channel through which funds from the Kazakh government could have been readily transferred.

A sister company to WSP, Worldwide Strategic Energy (WSE), of which Payne is also president, has a subsidiary, Caspian Alliance, which is the sole US representative for KMG.

The Times reports that a top adviser to Sen. John McCain, lobbyist Randy Scheunemann, has direct ties to the company that is alleged to have funneled the funds...

As we say in my circles, the plot sickens. For a man who claims to be against lobbyists, McCain certainly surrounds himself with plenty of 'em, don't he?

McCain's problems only get worse. You remember what Prime Minister Maliki said yesterday. Here's just how badly this is going to go for McCain's campaign:

This could be one of those unexpected events that forever changes the way the world perceives an issue. Iraq's Prime Minister agrees with Obama, and there's no wiggle room or fudge factor. This puts John McCain in an extremely precarious spot: what's left to argue? to argue against Maliki would be to predicate that Iraqi sovereignty at this point means nothing. Obviously, our national interests aren't equivalent to Iraq's, but... Malik isn't listening to the generals on the ground...but the "hasn't been to Iraq" line doesn't work here.

So how will the McCain campaign respond?

(Via e-mail, a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign said, simply, "We're fucked."...)

That line is destined to go down as the most succinct and accurate bit of political commentary this campaign season. Fucked, indeed.

The cons are trying desperately to discredit the PM's unequivocal statement by throwing up a smokescreen. It's really not working:

The new, political response is that Maliki didn’t actually say what he was quoted saying. A statement released by U.S. Central Command on the Maliki government’s behalf suggests Maliki was “misunderstood and mistranslated.”

Der Spiegel, the magazine Maliki spoke with, not only released a detailed transcript to bolster its report, but issued another statement today standing by its story.

Obama is pleased, but McCain certainly is not. In an interview with SPIEGEL, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki expressed support for Obama’s troop withdrawal plans. Despite a half-hearted retraction, the comments have stirred up the US presidential campaign. SPIEGEL stands by its version of the conversation. […]

A number of media outlets likewise professed to being confused by the statement from Maliki’s office. The New York Times pointed out that al-Dabbagh’s statement “did not address a specific error.” CBS likewise expressed disbelief pointing out that Maliki mentions a timeframe for withdrawal three times in the interview and then asks, “how likely is it that SPIEGEL mistranslated three separate comments? Matthew Yglesias, a blogger for the Atlantic Monthly, was astonished by “how little effort was made” to make the Baghdad denial convincing. And the influential blog IraqSlogger also pointed out the lack of specifics in the government statement.

I think the fact that the "clarification" was issued by the US Central Command says it all, really. The rest is just icing on a very tasty cake. Note to propagandists: at least make some effort to obscure where the propaganda's issuing from, or you really make it too easy to identify as a pathetic yet brazen attempt to head off a political catastrophe.

It doesn't help McCain's chances one whit that Maliki is not the only one playing "follow the leader" when it comes to Barack Obama:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown thinks Barack Obama has the right approach on counter-terrorism. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki thinks Obama has the right approach on Iraq. The Bush administration seems to think Obama has the right approach on Iran. And none other than John McCain thinks Obama has the right approach on Afghanistan.

The conventional wisdom has told us for a year and a half that Obama’s biggest weakness is background on foreign policy and national security. But if that’s the case, why is everyone following this guy’s lead?

Heh, heh. Why indeed?

Somebody Photoshop me a picture of Obama as the Pied Piper, with all of the poor little neocons helplessly dancing to his tune.

And finally, for your Sunday entertainment, allow me to present this delightful Moveon.org video of McCain's "it's all in our heads" approach to economic woes:

Too fucking right. It's no Dark Knight, but still: Encore!

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