We drink the milkshake.

Our Saturday-night plans changed due to illness, so we were able to finally see “There Will Be Blood” in the last days of its theatrical run here. With all due respect to the lemon cheesecake our would-be hostess was stuck with after being felled by the flu, I don’t think it could have possibly been as good as the movie.

[Aside to the hostess, if she’s reading: “You…eat…our…CHEESECAKE! YOU EAT IT UP!”]

If you’ve been waiting for the DVD and have a chance to still see it in a proper theater, don’t wait. Like “No Country For Old Men,” this is a lovely movie, and unless you have an excellent home-theater setup, it’s going to lose something in translation. About half of it seems to take place in firelight, and dark shadows don’t translate well to TV screens — they get all pixelated. But how it looks isn’t even half of it.

It’s a little familiar; Daniel Day-Lewis gave a version of this performance in “Gangs of New York,” right down to the mustache — loud, physical, over-the-top, bloodthirsty. His voice alone is terrifying, and his face is the perfect vessel for it; his crooked nose suggests a past you’d rather not know about, and his gaze is the one they’re talking about when people say “he stared daggers.” There are many long, long shots of Day-Lewis in extreme close-up, and you don’t have to know much about film acting to be impressed. When the shot is that tight, the subject can barely move without leaving the frame, so the actor has to sell the scene with about 10 square inches of face. (Needless to say, Day-Lewis does not mug.) The film’s leisurely revelation of its subject (Daniel Plainview, turn-of-the-century California oilman) still never makes its 158-minute running time feel too long — I was actually surprised when the credits rolled, and not because the ending is unorthodox; I just wanted it to go on a little longer.

I probably shouldn’t say more. The smartest thing I did with regard to this movie was not read anything about it beforehand, and if it were possible to do that with movies in general, I would. (If you, like me, enjoy gaping at photos of Viggo Mortensen and George Clooney, it’s hard to avoid skimming the copy, too.) But if you’ll indulge me a little more, a couple observations:

* Since I so recently visited the Ford House, I have early-20th-century plutocrats on the brain, and I was struck by the simple truth we find so easy to ignore — how often vast fortunes are made in filth and fraud and chicanery, and how quickly they go through the moral laundry of endowed chairs, hospital wings and impressionist oils donated to museums. Plainview scratches in the earth for wealth for years (his nails are filthy every time we see them) and when he finally finds it, it literally explodes in a tower of fire; it’s as though he conjured Satan himself. And we know the sort of deal that guy makes for his favors.

* I love the Coen brothers and always will, but Paul Thomas Anderson deserved the directing Oscar for this. He pulled off a much riskier, high-wire act of a movie, and did so beautifully. Maybe not a robbery, but a heartbreaker. (Another excellent take, with very mild spoilers: Roy’s.)

* Fun fact you probably know but just in case you don’t: Anderson is Ghoulardi’s son.

In other news at this hour, I talked to Mark the Shark about last week’s turnip bomb scare. Mark can tell a good story, but like a lot of people with specialized knowledge, he doesn’t know how to edit. I learned far more than I needed to know about the problems that can arise when a real-estate deal goes sour, but I also learned what I suspected from the beginning: No one seriously thought this thing was a bomb, but no one could definitively say it wasn’t, which made it a good training opportunity, and battle stations were never called off. Police lobby very hard to get all these toys — the little robot, the Klaatu suit — and if they don’t use them once in a while, they get rusty. It was a good day for a drill.

But today? Today, my friends, is a good day to go back to bed. Bear Stearns is leading us into a depression, and last night’s news-farming brought up this show-stopper, from a NYT report on the Food & Drug Administration:

The Institute of Medicine, the Government Accountability Office and the F.D.A.’s own Science Board have all issued reports saying poor management and scientific inadequacies make the agency incapable of protecting the country against unsafe drugs, medical devices and food.

How comforting! Either back to bed, or into battle. You choose.

Posted at 12:09 am in Current events, Movies |

71 responses to “We drink the milkshake.”

  1. Dexter said on March 17, 2008 at 1:34 am

    As I await the movie to come to DirecTV ppv, I also am hoping MSG Network or one of those other NY networks does the Live-Cam thing for the big parade later on today. I haven’t tasted flat soda or carted-in popcorn in a theater since Christmas, 1998. And my “home-theater” is very low-tech. But my daughter’s boyfriend has the whole set-up, and they even rent the movies. It’s just that it’s the gasoline to get over there that kills me. Cheap? MOI? NON !


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  2. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 1:38 am

    Gangs of New York is a spectularly great movie, I think. I don’t know what movie people call it, photography, but the settings are astounding, and every one of the principal actors is excellent. The establishing shots from above of the Four Corners are stunning. I know that sounds trite, but I can’t think of a better word. It kncks you for a loop. I think it’s very like The Godfather for creating a time in a scene.

    Leo was supposed to be some dumbass heartthrob. Pretty good actor. Daniel Day Lewis, mighty good. I mean, I thought it was us against the Brits when I saw My Left Foot. Positiveley terrifying amoral villain.

    I love the Coen Bros. but once they made Raising Arizona, it seems like an uphill struggle. That movie is about as good as Brazil and Blade Runner. But actually, nothing’s nearly as good as Blade Runner. But I’ve got no taste in movies. I love Princess Bride. My name is Inigo Montoya, and Wallace Shawn was awesome, as was Count Ruger.

    Try to ride your bike upright. You’re sort of an almost national treasure. I don’t know how you’d take this, but there used to be Fannie Flagg. I know that’s not your persuasion, but you might have a book as good as that in you. Sure would beat Five People.

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  3. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 1:56 am

    If I could be an actor I’d like to be the infuriating, logical villain. Or Harrison Ford. Or somebody totally jaded that understands logic just don’t get it , like Jake Gittes. Movies, where we’d live if we could.

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  4. Dexter said on March 17, 2008 at 2:07 am

    “[Lunch is served; it’s fish]
    Noah Cross: I hope you don’t mind. I believe they should be served with the head.
    Jake Gittes: Fine… long as you don’t serve the chicken that way.”

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  5. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 2:29 am

    Dexter. That’s obey the Dawg. My horse won. Inquisitions and suppositions. It‘s St Patrick‘s day.

    And Shane McGowan said:

    There was half a million people there of all denominations
    The Catholic, the Protestant, the Jew, the Presbyterian
    Yet there was no animosity, no matter what persuasion
    But failte hospitality inducing fresh acquaintance
    With me wack fol the do fol the diddle de idle day

    Failte translated from Irish, not Gaelic, means welcome.

    So Happy St. Patrick’s day to y’all.

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  6. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 2:40 am

    Oh Dexter. There is really no way to conceive of the evil that’s Noah Cross. When he’s staggering down the street in Chinatown, he has no idea he’s ever done anything wrong. But if anybody’s confronting evil, I’ll take Jack. Maybe what makes the movie so good is that the good guy is Jake Gittes, whose kinda slimy. And he doesn’t rely on morals, but he sure as hell has a personal code he won’t violate.

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  7. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 2:48 am

    Who’s cooler? Bobby Dupea, Jake Gittes, or Tom Hanks or Tom Cruise as anybody?

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  8. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Nancy. I hope I didn’t offend you with that reference to Fanny Flagg. But, Fried Green Tomatoes is pretty much what the dickhead Mitch Albom always wanted to write and was incapable of. And it made a superb movie. With the woman I don’t live with but I’m crazy about.

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  9. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 3:01 am

    Oh, shit. Is dickhead a curseword?

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  10. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 3:12 am

    And it’s not Kathy Bates. it’s the tomboy. But, I’ve said too much already.

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  11. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 3:18 am

    Get some sleep.

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  12. Harl Delos said on March 17, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Dexter, did you notice items on the bottom of that CafePress page? I wouldn’t mind having that “Woof! Dog is my co-pilot” sticker on my van (although $4.90 is too much.)

    It’s not that I have any animosity to people of faith. It’s just that the more people talk about Jesus, the less they seem to be a good advertisement for him.

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  13. nancy said on March 17, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Gentlemen, I am very loose about comments, but if two of you want to bat a single ball back and forth, could you take it to e-mail? Diversions from the topic at hand can be wonderful, but some of these threads are becoming unwieldy and repetitive. Just a friendly reminder to think before you post. (Not that I do, granted.)

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  14. brian stouder said on March 17, 2008 at 7:41 am

    michaelj, I may not often agree with you, but I always read what you have to say.

    Pammy and I finally added a premium movie channel to our mix….and it was the cinimax group of channels. We went for their miniseries The Tudors, which Pam was drawn to after reading the Other Boleyn Girl (and the other Boleyn book by the same author)….and over the past week we’ve watched several movies – including Babel (Brad Pitt) and Man About Town (Ben Affleck) and World Trade Center….which has been interesting.

    But now Pam is awaiting her boxed set of the previous season of The Tudors, before she will watch the new season (which premiers in two weeks)….which presumeably makes us official “white people”, according to Jeff’s funny link!)

    edit: Showtime!! It’s Showtime’s group of channels that we added! And – another (surprisingly) pretty good movie was Employee of the Month. Michaelj is on to something, when he says that most movies – including the stinkers – are pretty good

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  15. brian stouder said on March 17, 2008 at 9:39 am

    this is a lovely movie, and unless you have an excellent home-theater setup, it’s going to lose something in translation.

    I suspect that Babel fits that description, too. The movie is purposely and jarringly disjointed – both in time and space (movies that flashback and forward on the timeline always annoy me, a little), but it has some evocative cinematography, contrasting the throbbing, electronic modernity of Japanese cityscapes with barren, subsistence living on rocky mountains in Morocco. I bet the movie would have added power, on a big theater screen

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  16. Marie said on March 17, 2008 at 10:20 am

    “No one seriously thought this thing was a bomb, but no one could definitively say it wasn’t, which made it a good training opportunity, and battle stations were never called off.”

    Well, at least one live local TV reporter referred to it as a “bomb.” (Of course.)

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  17. Connie said on March 17, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Brian, did your upgrade include On Demand? The first season is right now available in On Demand, even for this HBO subscriber.

    I have heard several turnip jokes so far this a.m.

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  18. Sue said on March 17, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Someone please tell me how we go into battle. Everything seems to be coming down on us at once; everything seems to be coming to a head. I have gotten through the last four years by assuming that by this election, people would realize that the things that are being decided in Washington are resulting in danger and damage to individuals or the people they care about. I was one of only a few of my friends who had a good outlook, and I believed that the cycle had begun to come around again. Now I’m not sure we have enough time to wait for a new administration and the promised changes (whoever gets elected). What battle do you suggest? Writing to our elected representatives who are not interested? Voting them out only to have more of the same? Boycotting dangerous Chinese-made products that do not have substitutes because everything comes from China? Attending a protest that is placed three blocks away from the subject because of safety reasons? Our presidential candidates are all acting senators who have had the chance to make changes while in their current office; why do they think they can do anything different as president? I’m more depressed about our situation than I have been in five years. “You choose.”? Choose what? Help me out here, guys, I need some NancyNall comment community love.

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  19. moe99 said on March 17, 2008 at 11:16 am

    But Nancy, I purposely watch movies like this at home because I cannot stand the violence. I have had to leave movie theaters because of that. In fact it took me 5 years to steel my nerves to watch John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.

    So, is the violence in both A Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood in service to the storylines and not gratuitous? Then I can steel up again and watch them at home, possibly in a year or less….

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  20. Danny said on March 17, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Sue, everything is going to be OK. Even if the economy goes south for awhile, consider the following:

    If you –
    eat every day
    drink potable water every day
    have shelter, clothing, a refridgerator, a car
    have a television, computer and phone

    Then you are one of the richest 2% of the people on earth.

    Life, of course, consists of more than the things we have, but perspective helps.

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  21. Sue said on March 17, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Danny, I’m concerned about the economy, of course, but you misunderstand me if you think I’m trying to protect my things. After a lifetime of thinking that communication was the main ingredient for getting something done, I feel like no one is listening, or people are so overwhelmed by the constant bad news that there is no outrage left, or people are no longer listening to artificial outrage-mongers (ok, that’s not a word) and are ignoring everything. In the meantime, as you say the economy is going south, but in addition the agencies that should be overseeing basic safeties are being cut to the bone or led by incompetents (or both), and again, those who want the presidency have not really done much beyond posturing in their current elected positions. And it’s been going on for years. 100 years ago one man, with one book, put a stop to abuses in an entire industry (The Jungle). This happened because people read the book and were outraged and were listened to. Now hundreds of pets die due to a tainted ingredient, patients die due to a tainted ingredient, children are exposed to lead due to tainted ingredients in toys, hearings are held, people posture, and nothing changes. … Wow, I must be in bad shape. I didn’t know until about the past week that this had all been building inside. I should go take one of my pills but who knows what’s in it?

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  22. nancy said on March 17, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Here’s what disgusts me, and yes, I know this is my lizard brain talking, but go ahead and sue me:

    I live in a state full to the rafters with good, decent people who are simply going to fall like timber to the new economy. Go ahead and pile everything on them that you want, and it’s all true — they should have gotten an education when they could, it was foolish to count on union wages into the 21st century, they bought a leather La-Z-Boy and a flat-screen when they should have salted it away for a rainy day, it’s all true and it changes nothing. Any economy has always had to find a place for people who just want to go to work and sweat for eight hours and go home, and the plain fact is, these folks are losing their place.

    Meanwhile, we’ve had two solid decades of tax cuts for the rich, always with the sales job that they’ll lead to growth throughout the economy, and that’s true to some extent, but it’s also given us a new class of super-rich people who think they shit Godiva chocolates. Did you know there’s a yacht arms race going on in the world? The current leader in private yachts is 545 feet, and no one thinks it’ll last, because there’s a long line of rich assholes who wants the biggest one, and are willing to spend tens of millions to get it.

    Now, I guess this is good news if your blue-collar job is at a shipyard, but how about everyone else?

    Here’s the other thing: While these last few weeks have been unfolding, what is our fearless leader doing? Wandering around, patting himself on the back, wishing he could be part of the Afghan freedom fighters movement.

    Say what you will about Bill Clinton, but at least he showed up for work every day. He may have gotten a BJ or three, but he was under a lot of stress. After all, he was working.

    Meanwhile, I check around the far-right blogosphere, and what’s everyone talking about? Obama’s minister.

    I give up.

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  23. nancy said on March 17, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    As for the FDA, Sue, haven’t you heard? Government is evil. The free markets will sort these things out. That is all.

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  24. nancy said on March 17, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    And finally, my fellow Wireblogger, Athenae:

    Let me ask a couple of questions here.

    Does Bear Stearns have a big screen TV?

    What about bling? Any bling they could sell?

    Couldn’t Bear Stearns just get a job, already? I mean, I know of six or seven places that are hiring. I don’t know what they pay, but surely it would be enough to keep them in sneakers and Xbox games.

    JP Morgan Chase paid $250 million for Bear Stearns, but Uncle Sam backed it with a hillion jillion dollars? So what does that buy? I don’t want to be cynical, but as a commenter over at Roy’s said, JP Morgan gets Bear Stearns real assets like their headquarters building in NYC for 7 cents on the dollar, while the Fed gets all of Bear Stearns worthless paper for, oh, about $1 on the dollar.

    Sounds right to me. Market forces at work!

    Oh, I almost forgot: I have clean drinking water, THUS I AM LUCKY!!!!! AND RICH!!!!!!!

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  25. Sue said on March 17, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I work for local government, so I know all about how evil we are. That is, until we come in handy for screwing over a neighbor, or providing free moving help, or free civil dispute resolution, or on-demand plow/salt services (because even though you live in a cul-de-sac farthest away from the town center, you are the only person who needs to get to work the day of the storm). Then of course it’s just part of the exorbitant tax bill you are forced to pay by the nasty bureaucrats. Vicious, vicious cycle. Time for a pill and some alcohol.

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  26. brian stouder said on March 17, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Sounds right to me. Market forces at work!Oh, I almost forgot: I have clean drinking water, THUS I AM LUCKY!!!!! AND RICH!!!!!!!

    Good heavens!! What IS in the drinking water today, anyway?! (probably some microbial material known as michaeljococous)

    I confess that my understanding of what the hell is going on at Bear Stearns is minimal (which is to say – nonexistent)…but on the ‘short list’ of governmental entities that I would never diminish, the Federal Reserve is near the top!

    Unless you want to be a paleo-Democrat and champion Hard Money and anti-banking laws; and then we can all experience the joys of genuine economic Panics and Crashes, and runs on the banks, and bread riots, and Hard Times, 19th century style.

    Humanity is not much less stupid now than we were then, but we DO have more ‘shock absorbers’ in the system, and lots more warning lights and leading indicators (didja read any of the spate of articles on the ‘meds’ in our drinking water? And didja catch where thjey were talking about ‘parts per billion’ or ‘parts per trillion’?)

    As for Obama’s minister, I can honestly say that I could not care less if I tried my hardest!! And anyway, Bill Clinton is coming to Fort Wayne tomorrow, so we shall see what we shall see

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  27. Sue said on March 17, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    “they bought a leather La-Z-Boy and a flat-screen when they should have salted it away for a rainy day”
    Nancy, I’ve been pointing out for a few years now that people were made to feel unpatriotic if they didn’t spend themselves into oblivion. Haven’t you noticed the Christmas news stories? About a week after Thanksgiving the stories start that people aren’t spending enough for Christmas and the economy counted on consumer spending and people had better start spending, etc. etc. Put that together with banks that decide to raise interest rates to 30% on the credit cards that people are using to keep the economy going, a president who has pushed a guest worker program because we “need” it (Yay! Another invisible underclass!) and a national economy that celebrates the removal of jobs outside of our borders in the name of efficiency (so much more efficient to have our heparin manufactured in China) and you have got the recipe for disaster that we seem to be going through. I think I’m heading for a full-fledged panic attack.

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  28. Sue said on March 17, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Brian, maybe that’s what put me over the edge today: CNN described the Bear Stearns setup prior to its sale as a “classic run on the bank”. This stuff is not supposed to happen because there are protections in place. And apparently it did.

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  29. brian stouder said on March 17, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    This stuff is not supposed to happen because there are protections in place. And apparently it did.

    I don’t think such things will ever NOT happen; but containing things is a very good thing. If you’re a very high net-worth person invested in some high-risk hedge funds, and you hear a rumor that your investment bank is teetering on the edge of collapse, then, hell yes – you’re going to be part of a ‘run’ on that bank.

    But if you’re a working stiff (like me), and whatever you have in the bank is FDIC insured, and your mortgage is aboring old fixed-rate that you’ve had for 15 years, then news like this is troubling, as is much of the rest of the news – but not shattering.

    Bad economic news in 1974 (and forward) made a huge impression on me, despite being a 13 year old. It wasn’t remote – I could see the effects of the big downturn in my own life….and ever since then, ‘good times’ don’t seem like the way things naturally are (or have to be) , and bad times are not some alien thing that can never happen.

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  30. nancy said on March 17, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    No, the thing about Bear Stearns is, it allowed itself to get so preposterously overextended on subprime paper. The checks and balances don’t work when their half of the equation is so absurdly out of control that the banking industry can create a negotiable financial instrument based on mortgages that flimsy.

    Sue, take a deep breath and a big tumbler of wine, and you’ll be fine.

    What sent me over the edge today was, predictably, James Lileks, who brought his keen North Dakota sense-talkin’ to the matter and blamed it all on people who took out the wrong kinds of loans. Because they held all those bankers up at gunpoint and demanded that money, you know.

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  31. Sue said on March 17, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Ok, I’ll use the paper bag that the wine came in to help me while I hyperventilate.

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  32. brian stouder said on March 17, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Because they held all those bankers up at gunpoint and demanded that money, you know.

    A counter-intuitive thing I once read is that, to a bank, having all sorts of money put away is an over-capacity – just as when Ford Motor Company has factories and people capable of producing 1000 cars a day, when they can only sell 700.

    The prudent solution, then, when a bank is over-stuffed with cash, is to cut back, lay people off, consolidate operations, just as Ford (for example) would have to….and you can just SEE the young Masters of the Universe at those banks and investment houses thinking “Hell no!!”….and then they try and defy gravity.

    As a parent, I am convinced of the value of prudent rules, constant oversight, and consistent penalties for overstepping the guidelines

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  33. Harl Delos said on March 17, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I’m registered republican, but I’m a pretty independent one. I voted for McGovern rather than re-elect Nixon, and voted for Kerry rather than re-elect Dubya. We’ve had either a Bush or a Clinton as POTUS or VPOTUS for the last 28 years, and after the “100 years” comment, I was pulling for Barack. Pennsylvania has a closed primary, but I can still change my registration this week, and I’m very conflicted. For years, we complained that it was “tweedle-dum or tweedle-dumber” and you can’t say there aren’t real differences this year, but none of them seem very appealing, so I guess I will pinch my nose and vote for Ron Paul in the primary, and hope McCain dies peacefully in his sleep of old age, and Clinton/Obama ends in a deadlock, so that we end up with two entirely new tickets for this fall.

    Don’t think it’s gonna happen, but that’s the way it is; hope is audacious.

    Back in 1964, someone complained that the KKK was backing Goldwater, and he said something to the effect that there’s a difference between them backing me, and me backing them; they have the right to make an *intelligent* choice once in a while.

    And then I read a post elsewhere that quoted Luke
    6:24-26 (Scholars Translation):

    Damn you rich! You already have your compensation.
    Damn you who are well-fed! You will know hunger.
    Damn you who laugh now! You will weep and grieve.
    Damn you when everybody speaks well of you!

    and the speaker was Jesus of Nazareth. A minister’s job is to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable, and I guess Wright was doing his job very well.

    So I’m once again leaning towards being an Obamican. I don’t know that he’d be any better than McCain, but it’d open the door for other good men to run for office, and besides, I’d enjoy thumbing my nose at all the bigots I’ve ever known.

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  34. del said on March 17, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Sue, I’m with you. Everything’s gonna be alright — eventually. Bumper sticker sums it up: “If you’re not appalled, you haven’t been paying attention.” Since when has government turned evil? What’s with worshipping at the altar of the free market? Just plain bizarre. My elementary school kids now have a “market day” to show them how the world works. Adam Smith’s invisible hand is gonna make everything alright. A generation ago the Amway “visionaries” would recoil from the light in shame — now one of them comes to chair the Michigan Republican party and her husband runs for governor. Oh, and brother-in-law? He forms Blackwater. Quite a turnaround. And Danny’s advice, to focus on what we have, though rightly intended, sounds too familiar to the Fox News bromide — we’ve got flat screen TV’s, we’re rich! American obesity? Fox has an answer for that too — our great American bounty gives us too many choices. We are now in the land of absurdity. That’s why Jon Stewart and Colbert are such a hit. (like Thomas Paine?)

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  35. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Touche, Miss Crabtree. There’s something heavy on my heart. It’s just that framing and rebranding as “Progressives” gnaws at my soul. The self-serving grandiosity, the lock-step correctness implied, the unadulterated sanctimoniousness all have, kind of shallow, roots in the Dr. Dean candidacy. Anything promoted by self-proclaimed Progressives has been the aim of old-fashioned liberal Democrats for, well, decades. Why we went to Chicago, for instance.

    But it’s your journal, and we weren’t getting anywhere anyway. No more from me but movies and music and popular culture. I hope the inherent racism in bringing up Little Rascals didn’t offend anybody progressive.

    This is something well worth reading. Patriot games. Never having to risk your life if you’re born wealthy (and keeping the 111th Fighter Squadron OClub safe for Jack Daniel’s deliveries.). Makes me think of an old-school liberal on the subject of required national service.

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  36. moe99 said on March 17, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    You know, perhaps if we had not repealed the Glass Steagall Act and kept the division lines a little clearer between banks and securities houses, we might be in somewhat better shape. Because houses, despite splitting the income streams into tranches or whatever they called it, are not really the same as securities. But folks thought this was the next big ticket to riches without having to work for it and so…..

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  37. Jeff said on March 17, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks for the discussion. Last week our local Job & Family Services (our current Ohio euphemism for “the Welfare Office”) community review group, called the Planning Committee and named by the county commissioners, was presented with an interesting question by JFS staff. The straight cash assistance program, called here “PRC” (i could tell you what it stands for, but it wouldn’t help), has some local latitude, as opposed to “Ohio Works First” (yes, i know) and Medicaid and Food Stamps, which all have firm but varying federal guidelines for eligibility.

    For determining PRC eligibility, we (the caseworkers who are the face of what we do) ask for and verify income and assets. Those are measured differently for OWF, Medicaid, and Food Stamps, but when it comes to PRC, we needed to make a decision about the “tax rebates.” Do we count them as “income”? Are you accountable for how you spent that, before we hand tax dollars over to you to help maintain your housing or pay other basic living expenses?

    You might think that’s an easy one. And many of the case workers had my ear when they said we needed to affirm responsible decision making among our customers (formerly clients, who knows what next — call ’em people).

    But our county JFS director made an eloquent and ultimately convincing case that we can’t count this as “income,” since it’s not recurring, non earned dollars given to them — with the specific encouragement of the federal government to go out and [koff] stimulate the economy [hack-koff], so how is it fair to count having spent it against them in getting household assistance? When i asked about how we can reward paying down high-interest credit debt or saving it, i was reminded that we’re supposed to ensure that all income and non-essential assets are, by state law, required to be spent down to $50 before we can credit, so if they did put it in a savings account, we’d tell them to spend it on debt to start with, and there’s no way to direct or reward paying down certain debts before others, interest rates be durned.

    So i ended up voting with the (slim) majority to empower our caseworkers to NOT count the tax rebate as income for PRC purposes, even if they bought a flat screen or recliner with it. After all, our Dear Leader told ’em to.

    It’s hard work being a conservative, y’know? But Nancy, what “far-right wing” blogs do you read? You may be overcompensating — but while i was typing this, there was a piece on the NBC Evening News about Grosse Point Park “gold parties” which tells me that your neighbors may be getting on your nerves.

    But as a rightward leaning moderate, i haven’t read anything about Jeremiah Wright, whom i’ve spoken to in person, and he did not, for the record, call me a “white devil,” that doesn’t sound like his sermons are any different than more than half the knee-jerk liberal mainline Protestant sermons i’ve heard in my life. Anguish over Hiroshima, revulsion at patriotism, and the firm belief that you can only be well-off by having taken your wealth right from the hands of poor favela urchins is par for the course — he just wears a dashiki doing so, which seems to annoy all the right people. But i smell Hillary-crats stirring this pot more than McCainiacs. Rev. Wright is coming to Columbus in October for my denomination’s biannual meeting, and i’m looking forward to our having the common ground of “put not your faith in kings or in horses” whatever the candidate.

    Peace out, y’all.

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  38. LAMary said on March 17, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Danny, if I didn’t see people every day who don’t have most of the things on your list I might find some comfort in it. Not a couple of people, lots of them.
    I worry about how the free market has given us lots of cheap junk and created demand for stuff nobody needs. I worry about us being a nation that tortures people and runs places like Guantanamo. Our priorities are so screwed up I wonder how we will turn things around.

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  39. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    It’s possible the Glass Steagle Act might have mitigated the mess, but when you have an administration radically, and I think, unreasonably, opposed to any federal regulatory action, it’s pretty hard to see how it would have made any difference. Bankers and stock market cowboys were cut loose by W. Gramm Leach Billey contained tools that could have prevented the looting, but the Pretzeldent was more interested in establishing the financial Wild West, where Kenny-Boy and other GOP financiers could skate out of town with other people’s cash. Lot’s of which funded his campaigns.

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  40. Gena said on March 17, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I’m with you Nancy. As someone who’s up to the eyeballs, not for lay-z-boys and shit, but for reading tutors and flute lessons and other once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, I’ll accept some measure of responsibility. However, there’s no excuse for the balloon mortgage offers and introductory credit card rates that have clogged my mailbox every day for 10 years. And, as someone who took economics in 1977 and learned we were still paying for vietnam via inflation and oil prices, i’m thinking haven’t we been here before?

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  41. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Gena, Shock and Awe has never been on the books officially, doesn’t even count against the federal deficit, and it’s hard to see when that will ever be paid for. The bastards that engineered this had no interest in America or prosperity, or the commonweal. But hell, it‘s not all bad news.

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  42. del said on March 17, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    michaelj, just saw your bad news link & am reminded that Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s been on the board of ADP for ages. ADP’s a multi-billion dollar payroll/employee staffing (formerly employee leasing) company. Here in America, we have companies worth big $$ interposing themselves as “professional employers” so as to game employment laws and regulations. Land of opportunity indeed.

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  43. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    We buy books, and music, and occasionally Jack and pot. Two I-pods, a desk’top and a laptop. Six year-old Mazda convertible and an ancient F-150. We work hard doing real jobs very well. I don’t think we could be considered part of any consumer society. We never spent beyond our means. Bear Stearns sure as shit did, and they’re bailed out before folks in the Ninth Ward. We went to school and prospered more or less. Why should our futures be threatened by an institution of criminals making signing statements?

    Liberals are regularly accused of engaging in class warfare. Seems to me that most of us that actually think no man is an island are looking up at Shock and Awe crashing down. The situation seems to be some manipulated peristalsis, and the money’s migrating north. We’ll be fine. We have oysters, potable water and blackberry’s in abundance. And the most abhorrent version of the federal government won’t make it across the bridge.

    OK to talk politics when everybody else is?

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  44. Gena said on March 17, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    W is delirious as he rounds the final turn. But the rest of us are going to be paying for a very long time.

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  45. moe99 said on March 17, 2008 at 7:09 pm


    that is very, very scary

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  46. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Gena. Praying. I do. I’ve read Teillhard front to back, and it kind of convinced me my ridiculously devout childhood Catholicism makes sense. I’d like to see the world overtaken by liberation theology with RPGs,though. But praying might help. So I say prayers. I figure you can’t pray for personal enhancements. That’s counterintuitive to the whole idea. I guess I pray people would grasp that idea that forms the idea of every religion. We’re supposed to take care of each other.

    Love may fail (though I don’t think that’s possible, I pray that’s impossible) but courtesy will prevail. That’s Nancy Nall’s responsibility. Nobody’s called me a gentleman since Cissy Erwin at the Athens Academy prom.

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  47. nancy said on March 17, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    You’re our gentleman, MJ.

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  48. Gena said on March 17, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    MJ, you’re an enigma, but you’re hot.

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  49. del said on March 17, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    My senior thesis based on Teilhard. My favorite Teilhard title: Hymn of the Universe. From blogsphere to noosphere . . .

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  50. Danny said on March 17, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Sorry, been a little too busy today to participate, but just a little clarification though I think most of you got what I meant. I’m not saying that we should be happy because we are better off than others around the world in material ways, I’m trying more to appeal to the concept that “godliness with contentment is great gain.”

    I try to be content with a simple life. If I have the means to help others, praise God. But whether you call it cynical or realistic, I’m kind of past the idea that my vote is going to change anything or that I should get extremely worked up about some of the large and disappointing themes and trends of our times (though it is fun to hold forth with my friends on this blog and with coworkers at coffee).

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  51. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    That’s a nice thing to say Gena. I’m 56, and fairly handsome, I suppose. I mean, people have said so. How do you sort these things about yourself. How you look?How you think? I’d say I’m pretty decent looking and I’m smarter than just about anybody. That’s what I think about myself. What a crock. Or not.

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  52. Gena said on March 17, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    uhh… Nancy’s going to scold us now.

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  53. Danny said on March 17, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    uhh… Nancy’s going to scold us now.

    Right after she cleans up the puke off the floor around here. In the infamous words of Rosanne Rosanna-Danna, “What? Are you tryin’ to make me sick?” Hehehe.

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  54. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Why’s that exactly?

    Why’s that

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  55. del said on March 17, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Gena, did you hear about the guy in Japan who called for directory assistance 4,000 times? Seems he LIKED to be scolded by the female operators. Hmmmm.

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  56. Gena said on March 17, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    BTW, Bill’s coming to the Fort tomorrow.

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  57. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Actually, I think Rosanne said nevermind.

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  58. Jolene said on March 17, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    As you say, Danny, I suppose it is a little silly to hope, especially at my advanced age, that a new political leader could really make a difference, but I have indeed been holding that idea. Thus, I was really disappointed that the Wright flap arose.

    This conversation, though, allows me to hope that the damage won’t be too severe. After spending too much time listening to cable tv and reading blogs, it’s nice to read reasonable reactions from reasonable people. I hope there are more, although the small size of this community relative to the number of people foaming at the mouth about this topic isn’t entirely encouraging.

    More important than the Obama flap, though, is just knowing hearing the kindness, wisdom, and wit in all your voices.

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  59. Linda said on March 17, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Nope, Emily Litella said “never mind.”

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  60. michaelj said on March 17, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    I do attempt to be a gentlema., I was reared that way. Eagle scout, but you know, so was that guy on the Texas Tower. But there’s whack and then there’s whack.

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  61. Kafkaz said on March 17, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Jolene–Urgh, I share your dismay over the preacher business. It strikes me that the folks who are all up in arms musn’t have spent much time at all in any but the most sedate and snore worthy churches, lately (and probably weren’t paying much attention at all, even in those), and can’t possibly have done any reading to speak of in the religious realm. If they had, they’d surely have the “but of course” (a.k.a. “duh”) reaction to this further bit of evidence that religious leaders and thinkers routinely say extraordinary things. Harl’s examples are great–anybody disturbed by this fiery preacher should certainly not be allowed within reading distance of a Bible.

    In his Pulitzer winning God: A Biography Jack Miles says one jaw droppingly wonderful thing after another. Here’s one I particularly like: “Until just after the Exodus, God shows little sustained interest in ethics.” Hah! Sure does ‘splain a whole lot, that. Here’s hoping Miles and God have no political aspirations.

    Don’t have to get into the high falutin’ world of scholars to find fightin’ words, though. Even if you stripped away all but the most foundational stories of any given religion–the sorts of things children are taught–you’d end up with a collection of mighty strange and frightening notions, indeed.

    On a lighter note, I like to glance at the indexed blog now and then for a sanity saving take on things. See especially the Tuesday, March 11th card on the Vatican’s seven new sins. (Sometimes, I forget all about this blog, and then get the fun of discovering it all over again–good for poking around in when political depression sets in.)

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  62. michaelj said on March 18, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Meaningless point of style. If it were up to me, I’d insist on moustachios. And on which syl-la’-ble are you placing the accent.

    Years ago, I went with my erstwhile wife and our best friends to see Raging Bull. They thought it was great. I thought it revolting, in the way of glorifying a despicable pig. To this day, I don’t get it. I’ve got no problem with violence in movies, but that seemed entirely gratuitous, and the dialogue seemed to be more or less improvisations on the F word.

    I’ve got a Leonard Maltin movie guide (really handy for crosswords, and free from the discard bin at the library). That prig consistently underrates movies because he’s put off by explicit violence, but he loves Raging Bull and slags Taxi Driver. Incomprehensible. I think the murder of Mr. Tyrell by Roy Batty may be the most cinematically perfect act of violence, although retiring Zhora through all that plate glass and Leon beating the shit out of Deckard give a run for the money.

    “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!”. Harm no humans, but where’s the dramatic tension in that?

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  63. brian stouder said on March 18, 2008 at 8:05 am


    To: Republicans are evil/Democrats are virtuous crowd

    From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/17/AR2008031702969.html?wpisrc=newsletter

    Bear Stearns’s clients include some of Wall Street’s top investors, such as George Soros, the billionaire hedge fund manager.

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  64. del said on March 18, 2008 at 8:18 am

    George Soros — the most talked about billionaire evaaar. The exception demonstrates the rule.

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  65. Connie said on March 18, 2008 at 8:27 am

    All local government in Indiana is definitely evil these days, and the legislative session that just ended made it clear that the legislators believed IT was all local government’s fault.

    The property tax reform package will begin hitting my agency’s budget in 2010 and I can expect to loose at least 5% of my usual tax revenue and maybe as much as 10%.

    I have spent much of the last year trying to get a bond issue issued. Your Man Mitch’s new Finance Commissioner has decided to change the rules. I can’t even count the number of times in recent months I have heard this from most of my county’s county level elected officials: “It’s not that we don’t support libraries, but…”

    And yes the legislature did pass a law limiting sheriff income to no more than that paid to the county’s prosecutor.

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  66. nancy said on March 18, 2008 at 8:33 am

    But is Indianapolis still building another new stadium? Now there’s a real quality-of-life issue.

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  67. Connie said on March 18, 2008 at 8:57 am

    New stadium is about done, old stadium, still called Hoosier Dome by many of us, is being disassembled. Current brouhaha? Court briefs have been filed over the plan that the Colts would receive money from sale of seats and souvenir astro turf, all of which were paid for by tax dollars and owned by the City’s building authority.

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  68. brian stouder said on March 18, 2008 at 9:00 am

    But is Indianapolis still building another new stadium?

    I HATE that!!! The “old” stadium is 24 years old, and must be demolished and replaced!!

    But, Indiana members of the Republicans-are-all-evil/Democrats-are-all-virtuous crowd can rejoice: all the excitement generated by the still-alive Democratic presidential primary should (imo) buoy Jill Long Thompson into the Democratic nomination for governor, and then in the November race I think she has an excellent chance of defeating Daniels

    (actually, I don’t have a problem with Mitch, other than he DOES pop up in a sort of funny, 2-dimensional way, in Assassins’ Gate….and as bloodless as he is to begin with, he cannot withstand further diminution!)

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  69. Harl Delos said on March 18, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    George Soros — the most talked about billionaire evaaar. The exception demonstrates the rule.

    Some rich people get their money all at once by inheriting it, by winning the lottery, or by joining a Silicon Valley startup that is an incredible success. By definition, conservatives don’t want to take risks, so most of these seem to be Democrats.

    Most millionaires get to be millionaires by owning a small business, spending less than they make, and reinvesting the difference. If they take risks, sooner or later they lose, so it’s usually the conservatives that become the millionaires.

    George Soros got rich by speculating, mostly in companies located in the former Warsaw Pact countries. It would be unkind to point out that many companies in those countries are controlled by organized crime. However, I will note that if you remove the element of chance, gambling can be highly lucrative.

    Some other rich democrats got that way by being politically connected. In addition, some are quite good at eliminating unnecessary expenses. When Geraldine Ferraro ran for VPOTUS, someone pointed out that her husband, John Zaccaro, had forgotten to file any income tax returns. Gee, that forgetfulness would save you a lot of money. And more recently, he’s engaged in creative financing, “borrowing” money from the estates of old geezers.

    Republicans like to point to big city politicians, most of whom are Democrats, and most of whom appear to be corrupt. Democrats point to corrupt Republicans in private enterprise. It’s all Willie Sutton’s Law. If you’re looking for someone who’s corrupt, you will find they’re attracted to money like skeeters to a light bulb.

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  70. del said on March 18, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Noted Harl; as is the paraliptic insinuation that Soros is somehow connected to organized crime. But I otherwise generally agree with the content of your post. Your comment about Ferrarro’s husband’s dealings reminded me of Spiro Agnew, the VPOTUS himself, taking bribes. The letters of his name may be rearranged to spell? grow A peniS.
    Tacky, I know.

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  71. Harl Delos said on March 18, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Noted Harl; as is the paraliptic insinuation that Soros is somehow connected to organized crime.

    Note that it’s not my insinuation. I think it quite possible that he simply has cultivated good information sources. It’s not “insider trading” if you’re an outsider.

    The late John W. Campbell once pointed out that organized crime beats the hell out of disorganized crime. Organized crime mostly sells things to people who want to buy, although he noted there are exceptions, and they kill each other. Disorganized crime endangers the lives and health of ordinary people.

    Michael Dukakis was on C-Span (or perhaps C-Span II) a couple of months ago, pointing out that as a candidate for president, he was only the second person of greek ethnicity to run for national office, the first being Spiro. He said no matter where he went, the greeks came up to him and thanked him, because they had felt so ashamed when Spiro was found to be dirty.

    Dukakis came across very well in that broadcast. They say Hillary comes off better in person than in speechifying, and even an inspirational speaker like Barack come off much better when he just talks instead of giving speeches. Maybe that’s the secret to successful campaigning: you don’t campaign, you just go around meeting people and talking to them. If we could just get everyone to buy into that theory, this campaign would be much less unpleasant.

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