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Tuesday, January 25, 2011


On January 1, I listed the best 2010 films -- with the caveat that I didn't actually see that many new films last year.

Apparently, I watched a really good sample of what was available. Of the 10 Best Picture nominees, I have already viewed 7. They were all ranked in my top 8 of the year -- I have "Easy A" ranked above "True Grit."

I'm yet to see "Black Swan," "127 Hours" and "The Fighter." I'm not a fan of boxing movies, generally, and my spouse wasn't really interested in the other two films. I'll see all of them eventually.

Here's a complete list of nominees.

Louisville's Jennifer Lawrence received a Best Actress nomination for her work in "Winter's Bone."

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Painting with a Broad Brush

Here's a great explanation of the hypocrisy I identified earlier this week. It's from Stanley Fish, in the NYT Opinionator Blog, August 30, 2010:
If the bad act is committed by a member of a group you wish to demonize, attribute it to a community or a religion and not to the individual. But if the bad act is committed by someone whose profile, interests and agendas are uncomfortably close to your own, detach the malefactor from everything that is going on or is in the air (he came from nowhere) and characterize him as a one-off, non-generalizable, sui generis phenomenon.
Fish was writing about the NY mosque proposal (which Sarah Palin and other Tea Party members oppose), comparing it to the original reaction to the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing -- before Timothy McVeigh was identified as the perpetrator.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

More thoughts about Palin

Wednesday, I noted that Sarah Palin had criticized many political opponents for trying to blame political rhetoric for the crimes committed by a lone gunman.

Flash back to October, 2010, when Fox talking head Bill O'Reilly said on "The View" and then repeatedly on other programs: "Muslims killed us on 9/11."

Did Sarah Palin use her Facebook account or Fox access to denounce the slur? Not that I can find. Rather, she defended Reverend Franklin Graham for using virtually the same words spoken by O'Reilly: "We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us."
Are we really so hyper-politically correct that we can’t abide a Christian minister who expresses his views on matters of faith? What a shame.
Moreover, Palin has been willing to join the Islam bashing at Fox -- like supporting TSA racial profiling:
I say profiling, in the context of doing whatever we can to save innocent American lives -- I'm all for it, then.
Moreover, she opposed the "mosque" (community center) last summer that was to be built a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center towers. Palin wrote at the time:
To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks.
As William Saleton points out:
Palin has never retracted this position. Indeed, she has persisted in her opposition to any mosque near Ground Zero. Her position is that the act of monstrous criminality on 9/11 doesn't end with the criminals who committed it. Its stigma extends to any mosque near the site. All Muslims should yield to that stigma. All Muslims are responsible.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sarah Palin's Hypocrisy: Fighting Words

When David Letterman made a flippant remark about Sarah Palin's daughter being "knocked up" by New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, the former Alaska Governor told NBC's Matt Lauer that such talk was unacceptable:
"I would hope that people really start -- really rising up and deciding it's not acceptable. No wonder young girls, especially, have such low self-esteem in America." Palin said that she could "connect the dots to a degrading statement made about young women, and that does contribute to some acceptance of abuse of young women."
Palin made similar connections several times during the interview, ultimately saying that Letterman's "jokes" contribute directly to violence against women:
But here again, the double standard when it comes to acceptance of a celebrity being able to get way with a disparaging comment that does erode a young girl’s self-esteem and does contribute to some of the problems that we have in society.

This so-called humor I don’t find it humorous. I think a lot of Americans don’t think that it’s–

...I would like to see him apologize to young women across the country for contributing to that–kind of that thread that is throughout our culture that makes it sound like that it’s okay to talk about young girls in that way. Where it’s kind of okay and accepted and funny to talk about statutory rape. It’s not cool. It’s not funny.
In the Lauer interview, Palin also accused the media of employing "double standards" in how it treated her family.

Any yet...

Palin today, on her Facebook page, reacts quite differently to the uproar about accusations that violent rhetoric and imagery contributed to 6 murders and the assassination attempt on Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords:
After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them...If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal....

In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women....Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.
Video here and here.

So, was David Letterman "blood libeled" or has Sarah Palin failed to "connect the dots" between her words and violence?

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Arizona Assassination Attempt

Saturday, a young gunman shot and killed 6 people at a scheduled political appearance by a Democratic member of Congress. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, but is apparently expected to recover.

The local Sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, took advantage of the national media audience to condemn the state of political discourse in his state -- though many of his arguments apply nationally as well. From CNN:
"We need to do some soul searching," Dupnik told reporters. "It's the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.

"When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this county is getting to be outrageous. Unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital," Dupnik continued.

"We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry," Dupnik said.
He continued:
"People who are unbalanced may be especially susceptible to vitriol," Dupnik said. "It's not unusual for all public officials to get threatened constantly, myself included. That's the sad thing that's going on in America. Pretty soon we're not going to be able to find reasonable people to subject themselves to serving the public."

Dupnik returned to the theme later in the press conference.

"People tend to pooh-pooh this business about the vitriol that inflames American public opinion by the people who make a living off of that. That may be free speech but it's not without consequences," Dupnik said.
Representative Giffords herself condemned the political discourse early last year when she pointed out the framing of Sarah Palin's rhetoric after the health care bill passed:
Last March, Giffords raised concerns about inflammatory rhetoric after her office was vandalized, and she cited how her name appeared on a website titled "take back the 20" as part of a list originally issued by Sarah Palin against vulnerable House Democrats.

A map on the site showed crosshairs over the contested Democratic districts.

Palin first posted the list in March 2010, naming 20 House members who voted for health care reform and represented districts that Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona won in the 2008 presidential election.

"The thing is, the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district," Giffords said in March. "When people do that, they've got to realize there's consequences to that action."
Palin's map created a minor-firestorm at the time -- the women on "The View," for example, were very critical of Palin, including outspoken conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

You can see the bullseye/gunsight map yourself on Palin's Facebook page -- or reproduced by others, in case Palin takes it down. On Twitter, Palin wrote,
"Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Pls see my Facebook page.
As Firedoglake has already noted, Giffords's Republican (tea party) opponent Jesse Kelly (shown in "military garb holding his weapon") announced a June campaign event with this ad:
Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M15 with Jesse Kelly.
Rachel Maddow has reposted a photo from the event, which showed participants aiming guns at human silhouettes.

Here's video from last March of Giffords raising her concerns about Palin's target map on MSNBC -- see especially the section beginning 2:10 into her interview:
The CNN piece includes a number of other quotes from political analysts and public officials criticizing the state of political discourse in this country -- and condemning the attacks. The latter point is bipartisan (who doesn't condemn the shootings?), while the concerns about the rhetoric are coming almost exclusively from Democrats.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Other writing

Posting here has been slow this past month, but I have written for other blogs.

At Duck of Minerva, I posted on January 5, 2011, a "Last call: 2012 Grawemeyer Award Nominations." In the article, you can find instructions for applying for the prize -- by next Friday.

On December 28, 2010, I posted "Dr. Strangelove's Mineshafts" in reference to the latest U.S. government report on surviving a nuclear blast.

At my e-IR blog on Climate Politics: IR and the Environment, I added a December 18 post called "American Doubt." As the title suggests, I discuss the declining U.S. public knowledge of climate change science.

Finally, in 2011, CQ Press published the 4th edition of Ralph Carter's Contemporary Cases in U.S. Foreign Policy: From Terrorism to Trade. Former student Sean Payne (no relation) and I have a chapter in that volume called, "The Politics of Climate Change: A Consensus for Copenhagen?"

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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Movies of 2010

As I frequently note, I watch a lot of movies, though most are viewed on DVDs (or from DVR recordings) on my television. Because I do not see many new films in the theater, I cannot at year's end write a credible post on the best movies of 2010.

Indeed, many of the best films I saw this past year were older films on DVD/DVR that I originally missed in the theaters -- or were 2009 films I saw in the theaters during early 2010.

To make this abbreviated 2010 list, I scanned the top 150 grossing movies of the year, as well as IMDB's most popular titles for 2010. In rank order of my preference, these were the only 2010 films I saw this year, so far as I can tell:

The Social Network **
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech **
Winter's Bone **
Toy Story 3 **
Inception **
Easy A
True Grit **
Cyrus **
Red Riding 1980
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish)
Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows (part 1) **
Red Riding 1983
Red Riding 1974
Hot Tub Time Machine
She's Out of My League

** I saw these films in the theater.

Note: The "Red Riding" and "Dragon Tattoo" films were released in a prior year, but were not available in the US until 2010.

And here's the annual list of movies I intend to see in the future (hopefully in 2011): 127 Hours, The American, Animal Kingdom, Another Year, Black Swan, Blue Valentine, The Book of Eli, Buried, Carlos, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, The Company Men, Despicable Me, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Fair Game, The Fighter, Four Lions, Get Him to the Greek, The Ghost Writer, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Green Zone, Greenberg, Hereafter, I Love You Phillip Morris, Inside Job, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work, Kick-Ass, Let Me In, Machete, Megamind, The Other Guys, Please Give, A Prophet, Rabbit Hole, Red, Restrepo, Salt, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Secretariat, Shutter Island, Somewhere, Tiny Furniture, The Town, Unstoppable, Unthinkable, and White Material.

Metacritic helped me form that list.

Keep in mind that I didn't get around to seeing many 2009 movies from last year's wishlist: Amreeka, The Baader Meinhof Complex, Broken Embraces, Bronson, Brothers, BrĂ¼no, Cloud 9, The Cove, Crossing Over, The Damned United, An Education, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Funny People, Humpday, The Maid, Paranormal Activity, Precious, The Road, A Single Man, Skin, State of Play, Taking Woodstock, The Evening Sun, Whatever Works, Whip It, and White Collar.

Two of those are on my DVR right now -- and the University library owns copies of several others.

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