Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The Ronald Reagan Horror Show: Don't forget to see on Sunday on Showtime at 8 p.m. the Mommy Dearest of political docudramas, the cheesy, over-the-top Reagan biopic. Even if you deplore CBS caving to pressure and despise Reagan's legacy, this show -- based on the script that's been circulated (see my Nov. 8 posting to read it ) -- is apparently filled with fabricated nonsense. My prediction: It will ultimately be shown at midnight in some Washington indie movie theaters -- and political junkies, along with drag queens dressed up as Nancy Reagan/Lady Macbeth, will shout along the choicest lines with the characters on the screen, just like cult movie buffs at showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Here's a parody spin-off on the gay marriage ruling:
Art Levine humor piece about same-religion Jewish marriages -- Beliefnet.com

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Media puff pieces on police: The national media was focused more on the protests in Britain against Bush and the Wacko Jackson spectacle. The local media gave only glancing coverage to police abuses in their boosterish coverage of the free trade summit and the protests. The result was a whitewash of a dry run for a quasi-police state in Miami. With the exception of Herald columnist Jim DeFede, the local media hasn't been telling us the full story about the police response to the protests. This AP dispatch gives a sense of the outrage the police actions have provoked:
My Way News. Jim Defede's Sunday column powerfully conveyed the brutality of some police, who used rubber bullets to shoot at peacefully protesting union members -- and roughed up and pointed guns at even elderly protesters. That's police "restraint," Miami-style.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Bad PR move of the week: Howard Dean 'fessing up that he probably could have served in the military despite his back condition, and his own mother conceding that it looks bad that he became a ski bum after winning his medical deferment. Why is his mother giving interviews that her presidential candidate son was a draft-dodger?
33 Years Later, Draft Becomes Topic for Dean

Friday, November 21, 2003

Surprise! Both sides are exaggerating NAFTA's impact in the trade debate:
Report Finds Few Benefits for Mexico in Nafta The Mexican economy and the average Mexican worker hasn't been helped, but neither has it cost us the 760,000 American jobs that activists say.

Forty years ago, Jimmy Breslin wrote a column that helped change American journalism. It was a simple enough concept, in hindsight, to tell the story of the grave-digger who buried JFK. You may have first seen it in anthologies, learned it in journalism school or read it when it originally came out. However people discovered it, it was a revelation to many who became writers and reporters. It showed us that you could tell the story of big events and important policies through the lives of the average folk affected by them. But in today's media focus on the glitzy, powerful and scandal-ridden, it's an approach that's too often been forgotten. For those who never read it beore -- and those who want to see what a great writer can do to create a powerful impact with well-chosen details -- Newsday has done us the service of reprinting it. Enjoy -- and learn from it.
Newsday.com - Digging JFK Grave Was His Honor

Thursday, November 20, 2003

So much for Operation Iraqui Freedom:
TAP: Vol 14, Iss. 9. Exporting Censorship to Iraq. Alex Gourevitch.

What do Southern whites with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks think about Howard Dean? A reporter goes to them to find out:
The New Republic Online: Flag Poll

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Anti-free trade's strange bedfellows: What do college-age idealistic protesters have in common with the fat cats of Big Sugar who are seeking to maximize profits, block imports from impoverished countries and ruin the Everglades? They both hate the prospect of a free trade agreement. See Herald columnist Fred Grimm's take on the issue today:
The Miami Herald | 11/18/2003 | Protesters are unwitting pawns of agribusiness

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Free trade mania and protests come to Miami: I've done a brief parody primer on the conference and protests that are coming to town this week, and it will be featured in our newspaper come Wednesday. Unfortunately for the Americas, most of the facts in the short q-and-a article are true:
This week, Nov. 17-21, the Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA) conference -- and an expected 20,000 protesters -- come to Miami. Here's an objective primer on the controversial issues at stake:
Q: What is this free trade conference all about?
A: It's a meeting of trade ministers from 34 Western Hemisphere countries (except Cuba) to create the world's largest free trade area covering 800 million people. The proponents, acting as lackeys for their evil corporate masters who seek to rule the world, contend that ending trade restrictions will boost national economies, create jobs and lower prices for consumers. At the same time, the agreement apparently has a hidden agenda: to increase the flow of desperate Latin American refugees to the United States to work as nannies and gardeners for rich white corporate executives and their pampered wives.

Q: Why are the protesters so angry?
A: Critics say that the proposed new free trade agreement will permit multinational corporations to ravage economies for their own profit, undermine public services, destroy the environment, exploit the poor and export American jobs to developing nations. On the plus side, it gives disaffected college-age youth a new rallying point.

Q: Does this have any connection to other trade agreements like NAFTA?
A: Yes. It's basically considered an expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) involving Canada, Mexico and the United States. This new agreement is known as "NAFTA on steroids," and that's considered a disaster by unions and other critics, because NAFTA allegedly robbed the U.S. of 765,000 jobs and worsened poverty rates in Mexico.

Q: How can I protect myself from those anarchists in black masks if I go to downtown Miami?
A: Don't worry. The violent anarchists, who caused $3 million in property damage in Seattle at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting, make up only a tiny fraction of the protesters who are peacefully advocating workers' rights and environmental protection. And they only aim to destroy property of big corporations and franchises, so just don't sit too close to the windows if you go to Starbucks.

For another perspective, look at the view of the official Miami FTAA organizers.
But the anti-FTAA groups seem to make a damning case against it.
And my progressive yet sensible friend, Mark Satin, author of a forthcoming book on "The Radical Middle" perspective towards politics, thinks globalization offers more benefits than downsides. Check out his perceptive piece written after the 1999 Seattle protests -- and anarchist rioting -- that brought these issues to the global limelight. In fact, as Satin has pointed out, the worthy anti-poverty group Oxfam believes globalization and free trade -- with safeguards -- can be a boon to third-world countries, while criticizing the rich countries for imposing high trade barriers to the agricultural and other products produced by poor countries. There aren't any easy answers on both sides of this heated, polarized debate; and if it wasn't for the black-masked anarchists, there probably wouldn't much media attention to the issue, either.

The pros and cons of Miami free trade summit: (Also see my other posting for a more thorough -- and lighter -- overview, with various links.) You decide:
The Miami Herald | 11/16/2003 | Free trade's promise: Sunny or gloomy?

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Culture tip of the day: Love music? Hate today's radio? Don't have a huge CD collection? Then look to the free Internet radio available at Launchcast that allows you to pick the genres and styles you like in your own radio station, or pick from dozens of genres listed. Here's my eclectic mix. To create your own go to the Launch home page at Yahoo, and since my radio station is already posted there, just click on the "Launchast Radio" tab, hit the "help" section and get simple instructions for setting up your station. If you don't want to spend any time on it, just click on any of the "stations" at the site with genres of music you like, hit play, and enjoy.

Friday, November 14, 2003

After the CIA buckled to White House and Defense Department pressure before the war to skew intelligence, it now seems the agency is giving a more unvarnished look at the growing resistance and deterioration in Iraq:
KRT Wire | 11/12/2003 | CIA: More Iraqis supporting resistance

Culture Tip of the Day: You may have read some articles recently about Ryan Adams, the hard-partying former alt.country wunderkind who has now turned to rock and roll with mixed results. He's been in Newsweek, Time, been championed by Elton John and featured in a CNN story:CNN.com - Ryan Adams: A man saved by 'Rock N Roll' - Nov. 12, 2003. But his best work, filled with rich melodies and plaintive lyrics with a voice to match, can be heard in such earlier albums as Pneumonia with his group, Whiskeytown, and in his solo debut, Heartbreaker.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

How to blow your state's revenues: In tight economic times, it's questionable whether states should be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to bring companies to their states that may then either a) pack up and go away or b) never deliver all the jobs and other economic goodies they promised. The New York Times published this week a tough-minded look at the siphoning of state treasuries in an effort to lure new businesses. I've looked at the same phenomenon in South Florida, where state and local governments are spending a half-billion dollars to lure the Scripps Research Institute to South Florida in the dubious hope of creating a thriving biotech economy here.

Culture tip of the day: For fans of roots music (from O Brother-style music to the great Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch), this website is good one-stop shopping. It's got reviews of the latest albums, its own Internet radio station, and links to the best of the Web in roots music.
Freight Train Boogie

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Washington's mistakes and the widows back home: Need any more reminders that the Administration's slanted intelligence (as noted in this week's Newsweek piece on Dick Cheney and Sy Hersh's look at the "stovepipe" process that cooked intelligence findings ) as well as its bungled post-war planning have disastrous consequences? Here, then, are the poignant last letters home from soldiers who died in Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (and the president who believed them) have plenty of blood on their hands:
Veterans Day: The Things They Wrote

Here's a reasonably balanced look at the hypocrisy on both sides of the "The Reagans" movie debate -- but, as I noted in a previous post, Reagan did hold religiously-based bigoted views abou gays and AIDS.
Boston.com / News / Boston Globe / Editorial / Opinion / Op-ed / Free speech or twisting of history?

Culture tip of the day: For Washington residents where there's an exhibit of Dick Waterman's blues photos, and for any lovers of traditional blues, check out blues manager and photographer Waterman's fascinating book of blues photos and reminiscences, Between Midnight and Day, the last blues archives. It gives us a living portrait through photos and words of the legendary bluesmen -- Son House, Skip James, John Hurt and others-- Waterman helped bring into public awareness.

Once in a Blues Moon: Rare Photos at Govinda (washingtonpost.com)

Monday, November 10, 2003

As a public service, I'll add nominees to the Dumb PR Response Hall of Fame in today's news. (Legendary winners include Richard Nixon's "I am not a Crook" statement and former Virginia Senator William Scott's decision to call a news conference to deny that he was the dumbest person in the Congress). This week I nominate Princes Charles' effort to squelch a previously unpublished, never-broadcasted and apparently baseless rumor. Now the whole world knows -- thanks to Internet websites and his own misguided press strategy-- that there were rumors circulating that there was a sexual encounter between him and a male member of his staff.

Prince: 'Nothing to hide or fear'

In the wake of the controversy over "The Reagans," there's another legacy of the Reagan era conservatives don't mention: the continuing spread of AIDS and rising HIV infection rates locally and abroad. Here's my look at the situation in South Florida, in case you missed it before:

Ooops....I was a little hasty in my earlier posts that Reagan didn't appear to be a religious bigot about gays. It turns out that Reagan did have religiously-based reasons that may have caused his indifference to the spread of AIDS among the gay population, even though his daughter says he was tolerant of gays personally, in part because of his Hollywood background. As Reagan biographer Edmund Morris, in his Sunday New York Times Op-Ed, points out: "The writers of CBS's canceled miniseries have invented a bit of dialogue to the latter effect [religious bigotry about AIDS victims], but historians might more seriously ponder Mr. Reagan's actual remarks, including, `Maybe the Lord brought down this plague [because] illicit sex is against the Ten Commandments.'"
Here's my view: the original dialogue quoted him as telling Nancy that those who live by sin, die by sin. So why couldn't the screenswriters use the real quote, rather than make one up that didn't appear to have any factual grounding? My guess: they did a sketchy job of research, and didn't want to wade through Morris's poorly received biography.
But the upshot is that his glaring indifference to the spread of AIDS, documented in Randy Shilts' And the Band Played On, is a blight on the historical record of Reagan. Also see Neal Pollack's hilarious take on the Reagan movie dispute in his blog, mentioned in a previous post.
Op-Ed Contributor: Too Big a Man for the Small Screen

Here's a witty novelist, Neal Pollack, with an offbeat, fictionalized, sarcastic and progressive take on today's news -- and a recent reader at the Miami Book Fair.. Well worth reading, as are his books.
The Neal Pollack Invasion

Saturday, November 08, 2003

For your amusement and understanding, here's a copy of the full Reagan shooting script, available in a .PDF file.
Blogcritics.org: The Reagans - Decide for Yourself

Friday, November 07, 2003

Here's a good progressive, anti-Bush/ anti-establishment news round-up from the Center for American Progress that's worth subscribing to ( go to their home page and subscribe to the Progress Report with your e-mail.) But if you do so, you might not need my blog. But it's worth knowing about anyway.

Center for American Progress - The Progress Report - Page

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

In case you missed this critically important New York Times magazine article that details how we got in the Iraq mess, here it is:
Blueprint for a Mess

Liberals, of which I'm one, won't admit there were some distortions in the Reagans series. Here's Patti Davis's look at her father's attitudes towards gays and what she claims are other distortions in the script:
TIME.com: 'The Reagans,' From One of Them

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