The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar


Movie review - Across the Universe

I'm pleased to say that I've had the enjoyable experience of watching "Across the Universe," a movie in which, as with that foul, disgusting piece of excrement "Forrest Gump," each character is there to represent the typical experiences of many millions of people during the 1960s ("Gump" continues on well into the 1970s whereas "Across" includes a British citizen and scenes from England).

The primary difference is that "Across the Universe" views people as making rational, intelligent choices. It treats people during that tumultuous era as young grown-ups who grapple the best they can with the situation they've got and who certainly run into their share of bad experiences. Is the whole experience ultimately helpful or hurtful? Depends really on how you view the Sixties. There's no question that "The Sixties" is shorthand for all sorts of emotional reactions, both good and bad.

"Forrest Gump," ultimately views people as dupes who are simply too stupid and easily influenced to be considered adult, rational human beings. The writer there takes so many liberties with basic human nature (A policeman is able to cut off the microphone for Gump when he arbitrarily deems Gump's speech offensive and no one is able to restore the sound until after Gump delivers a simplistic and insulting speech to the crowd, people take up jogging en masse when Gump starts running and somehow he never needs to stop for food or rest or a shower or even a change of clothes for what appears to be several weeks, etc., etc.), that it's difficult to see the characters in "Gump" as anything better than cardboard cut-out caricatures.

"Across" delivers full, rich characters making choices and living with the consequences. There are no easy answers. Prudence never gets to express her love, Jude goes back to England to find his former lover married and pregnant, Max goes to war and ends up badly wounded, but the choices are never simple black and white ones, straight good or bad. They're simply the choices that people made at the time. There's much joy to be had along the way and many of the choices turn out to be very positive ones.

"Across the Universe" is a worthy capsule history of the Sixties.


Open letter to a columnist

Re: "Enough Afghan debate" by David Broder WaPo Nov 15

In going over the various options for Afghanistan, David Broder claims that President Obama has "stretched the internal debate to the breaking point." What? What is Broder talking about? What exactly is threatening to "break?" America has a bunch of crazy warmongers who want action NOW and the majority of the population that sees no point in staying any longer and feels that we should leave Afghanistan to those who live there.

"Given that reality, the urgent necessity is to make a decision -- whether or not it is right." This is a completely insane idea, that we need to approach life and death decisions in any sort of hurry or that there's any urgency to the decision. The Taliban are native to Afghanistan and represent a substantial portion of the population there. Al Qaeda is neither here nor there in this debate as the Taliban are angry with al Qaeda, blaming al Qaeda for the Taliban's loss of power in the first place.

Broder claims US allies are "waiting impatiently." Sorry to hear that, but there's still no obvious reason as to why the US needs to rush pell-mell into a decision. After the many, many years that the US has had troops in Afghanistan without any clear strategy or direction, one would think that our allies could cool their jets a bit and help US official figure out just what we can reasonably hope to accomplish there.

Broder has no effective answer to Karl Eikenberry's very sensible and obviously-accurate objection to delving deeper into Afghanistan, that Hamid Karzai is "too weak and corrupt to govern the country effectively." Broder doesn't even try to come up with any real answer to the objection of progressives, that General McChrystal can't suggest any way to really end the war in Afghanistan other than by simply leaving.

As the "dithering" talking point was clearly taken directly from the poisoned pen of Karl Rove, Broder should at least credit his source for his article and admit that the "dead-enders" of the failed neoconservative movement are the people behind this column.

A good leader is not someone who simply stays the course because that's the course he's on. A truly good leader is someone who takes a thoughtful approach to problems and who thinks "Do we really need to do it this way?" I am 100% in favor of Obama's more careful, thoughtful approach and urge that Broder's advice be rejected entirely.


The House health care bill and reproductive choice

Huzzah! The House of Representative passed a reasonably decent health care bill. Now it's on to the Senate, where simply avoiding a filibuster is the major problem.

Major problem with the House's bill, though. Women and their reproductive choice got "thrown under the bus" so that the Democrats could get the bill passed. As Jane Hamsher explains (And yes, her language is a bit raw in this piece, but her anger is clearly justified), NARAL and Planned Parenthood were informed on July 1st that Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) and his merry band of anti-abortionists wanted the health care bill to explicitly exclude coverage for reproductive choice. When the day came that the House could either pass the health care bill with the poison pill of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment or watch several months worth of work go down the drain, NARAL and PP had nothing in the works, nothing had been planned or positioned in advance, no money had been saved up, no lobbying had been done.

Well, will PP and NARAL at least "score the bill", i.e., will they make voting for the bill as it's currently written an offense sufficient to cause a Congressperson to be "downgraded" and denied reelection help?

Wel-l-l-l, er, um, no.

Is it a good idea for Democrats to toss aside the female, single, childless demographic?

No actually, that would be utterly suicidal. That would guarantee that Democrats would lose the 2010 midterms and that Obama would be a one-term President.

As to the plan of using all 60 Senators in the Democratic caucus to overcome a filibuster... Nuh-uh. Ain't gonna happen. The choices are stark. The Democrats can use the reconciliation process to get around the inevitable filibuster, or they can compromise the bill so much that it won't be worth passing. It'll be the Stupak problem all over again.

America can get a good health care bill, but we're coming down to the crunch time where we learn whether or not it will be a bill worth passing.