Friday, March 02, 2007

Pinkerton draws six-gun on Eastwood, shoots self in foot

Before James Pinkerton became a columnist for Newsday, he “worked in the White House under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.”

This perhaps goes some way to explaining Pinkerton’s motivation in writing this hatchet job on Clint Eastwood and his movies, but it doesn’t quite explain the glaring absence of a basic grasp of his subject.

Pinkerton sets the tone ominously with...

Clint Eastwood is “growing” as a movie director. We know what that means — he is going to the politically correct left.

Cue eerie, foreboding music. Pinkerton is uncloaking the “real” Eastwood — or so he would have us believe.

His “growth” was notable in 1992 when Unforgiven, his nihilistic deconstruction of the western, won a bunch of Oscars ...

One could spend all day unpacking what Pinkerton means by “nihilistic deconstruction”, but such a label is surely a matter of opinion. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Unforgiven, but I would have thought an equally valid interpretation is that the film attempts a bleak realism in the depiction of human behaviour in the extremity of frontier anomy. Or something.

And surely deconstruction of such a hackneyed genre as the western is not some kind of cultural crime.

But next comes the following jarring clanger of a statement:

In 2003 his Mystic River gave audiences a curiously sympathetic portrait of a child-murderer...

Leaving aside that loaded “curiously sympathetic”, it is immediately apparent that Pinkerton either hasn’t seen the film, or is being just plain malicious. Mystic River portrays a troubled man who is mistakenly suspected of being a child-murderer.

Pinkerton notes that their performances in Mystic River gained Oscars “for the liberal lions Sean Penn and Tim Robbins,” upon reading which his primed readers will no doubt become convinced of a “liberal Hollywood” conspiracy to sap the nation’s precious bodily fluids.

Then Pinkerton describes Eastwood’s 2004 Million Dollar Baby as a “tribute to euthanasia.” I haven’t actually seen that film, but by now I wouldn’t be surprised to read that Bridges of Madison County is a “tribute to adultery”.

Having cast a handful of specious aspersions at Eastwood’s work to date — and, by implication, impugning Eastwood’s character — Pinkerton turns to the ultimate target of this hamfisted hatchet piece, being Eastwood’s latest offering, Letters From Iwo Jima.

I haven’t yet seen this new movie, and I rather doubt Pinkerton has seen it, considering his performance so far, and the fact that he quotes a third party to actually can the film:

Reporting on the rapturous reception given to Letters From Iwo Jima at the Berlin Film Festival, The Financial Times was clear-eyed enough to call the film “gaga with political correctness”, depicting the Japanese as “lovable, misunderstood victims of history”.

Call me hopelessly perverse, but I’ll forgo the collective wisdom of Newsday and The Financial Times, and wait to actually see the movie before coming to any conclusion.


Goat Friday

image source

... F**k but that’s sooooo f**kin’ cute !!!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

ICJ dissenting opinion on Bosnia v Serbia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that Serbia failed to use its clear influence with Bosnian Serbs to prevent the genocide of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica; however, it also exonerated Serbia of direct responsibility for or complicity in those crimes.

Those who are fond of migraines may care to examine the Summary of the Judgement issued by the ICJ. I’ve only had time to skim the document, but the following dissenting opinion of Judge ad hoc Mahiou kind of leaps off the page:

... I cannot subscribe to most of the substantive findings reached by the Court by way of what I believe to be: a timorous, questionable view of its role in the evidentiary process, a deficient examination of the evidence submitted by the Applicant, a rather odd interpretation of the facts in the case and of the rules governing them and, finally, a method of reasoning which remains unconvincing on a number of very important points. ... In my view, the Respondent’s responsibility appears clearly established... Even assuming the findings in respect of these charges to be problematic, the evidence before the Court appears sufficiently strong and convincing to have at the very least justified a finding of complicity in the crime of genocide; serious weaknesses and contradictions clearly emerge in the reasoning of the Court, which exonerates the Respondent from such responsibility.

I could be wrong, but something tells me Mahiou’s dissenting opinion may become more significant than the majority judgement.

By the way, Ahmed Mahiou so far as I can determine is from Algeria, which I’m not sure would be one of those countries that abide by the rule of law.

Shadowy scientists prescribe hope

They are scientists.

They say “there is still time to stave off the worst consequences of global warming.”

They are “from 11 countries”. They have “called for” dramatic action, “urged” strictness, and “recommended” a whole heap of stuff.

With thanks to the LA Times via the Sydney Morning Herald, this is all very heartening — if somewhat prescriptive — but who the f**k are they?

Hmm, a lead… They “were funded by the non-profit UN Foundation and the research society Sigma Xi.”

Alright then, this is about a new report, Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable, which is the final report of the Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Developmentahah! — so they were the they.

Read it and be comforted!

Universe declines to comment

Former Nine Network producer, Rhonda Byrne, is doing very well in her new career as a self-help guru.

Her book and DVD outlining the secret of success are selling well, and Byrne has made headline appearances on Oprah.

The secret is, apparently, to exploit “the law of attraction” whereby “positive thoughts” attract success in life. One has only to “ask the universe for something” and the universe will “deliver”.

Seems simple enough, so I’ll run with it and demur on buying the book and/or DVD for now — thanks all the same, Rhonda.

Do bear in mind, however, that the secret is quite evidently now out, so get in for your chop with all haste. If the universe is finite, I’m not sure that it could indefinitely keep up with strong and increasing demand.

I’m also not entirely convinced about the universe’s ability to come up with the goods, when it doesn’t even respond to requests for an interview.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Government can’t be expected to act apolitically

In the Federal Court case launched by a legal team acting for Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, Solicitor-General David Bennett QC has argued that the Government has no legal duty to protect Hicks:

“There is no duty on the executive government to sit down every day and consider whether any particular request should or could be made to a particular foreign government,” Mr Bennett said.

As nearly as I can unpack Mr Bennett’s statement, I think it means that the Government has no legal compulsion to act, and may do so or not at its whim. Thus, the Government’s intercession on behalf of nationals who get into trouble overseas may be entirely subject to political considerations.

Essentially, the Government seems to be arguing that it can’t be expected to act upon each and every call for help from each and every Australian national who gets into trouble overseas.

Hmmm... just as the Prime Minister can’t be expected to give a running commentary on each and every issue of the day.

So, whether it’s foreign intercession or running commentary, the PM’s and the Government’s rule of thumb seems to hinge on the political imperatives case by case. At least there’s a certain inner consistency there, I guess.

Thick plottens in Aussie political iconography

First there was Government junior minister Christopher Pyne blathering that “the cast of characters behind Kevin Rudd would make the Addams family blush.”

  • The Australian, 15 January 2007

Next we had Glenn Milne quoting an unidentified Liberal MP who likened the ALP leadership team of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard to the 1970s British sitcom George and Mildred.

  • The Australian, 5 February 2007

This was soon followed by shadow Attorney-General Kelvin Thomson invoking the 1970s sitcom Happy Days to characterise the Prime Minister as “the Fonz of Parliament”.

Then this week comes the most lurid pop-culture reference of them all:

Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce accused Mr Rudd of playing Hannibal Lecter to the Prime Minister’s Clarice Starling in his bid to “play with the Prime Minister's mind”.

  • The Australian, 27 February 2007

This is perhaps the most sensational claim to underdog status in Australian political history. Joyce has evoked an image of Kevin Rudd/Anthony Hopkins monstering John Howard/Jodie Foster that just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Poor widdle Pwime Minister Clarice Howard wilts as Hannibal Rudd drools over culinary recollections of liver, fava beans and a nice chianti...

Where will it all end??

Lazy morning in sleepy Melbourne

Such, such are the joys of public transit in Melbourne...

The morning train departs an outer south-eastern station three minutes late.

But hey ... why not let’s stretch that out, incrementally as we approach the City, to a lazy ten-going-on-fifteen minutes?

Shut up!

It’s a pleasant day, isn’t it?

You haven’t got anything better to do, do you?

Connex Connex staff will not disturb you in your reverie; you won’t be bothered with gratuitous announcements over the disused PA system as to why your train inexplicably sits idle at this or that station for minutes on end.

Or why your train saunters in fits and starts between this and that station.

Shut up!

Connex knows you’re enjoying this respite.

They’ve prescribed it specifically for you and your fellow travellers.

You don’t need to know any more.

Shut up, sit back (if you can find a seat) and enjoy one of life’s unexpected pleasures.

You’ve won the MetLotto today.

Like it or not.

Shut up!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Milestone celebrated

Just a few minutes ago this blog clocked up it’s 1,000th visitor since sitemeter was installed on 30 January.

Yay !!! If you’ll excuse me, this calls for a drink...

Scepticism and KSFR revisited

A week or so ago I mentioned a public broadcaster, KSFR public radio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, whose news director had directed his staff to “ignore national stories citing unnamed government sources.”

Readers may recall that KSFR’s rationale for this policy is the view that

“High administration officials speaking on the condition of anonymity,” “Usually reliable Washington sources,” and others of the like were behind the publicity that added credibility to the need to go to war against Afghanistan and Iraq.

I’ve noted that such a policy might “rule out a lot of the reporting of people like Seymour Hersh, who broke a number of big stories, from the My Lai atrocity during the Vietnam War, to the Abu Ghraib abuses in Baghdad, and much else.”

As it happens, this week has seen another apparent scoop by Hersh, in which he cites “unnamed current and former US officials” disclosing that the Bush Administration has been planning fast-response bombing attacks, under various scenarios, on various Iranian targets.

The source article by Hersh is a good read — perhaps even a must-read — but I’m curious as to whether KSFR would allow such a story, sourced from “unnamed officials”, to be run on their news service.

Given the public’s right to know as a fundamental journalistic imperative, how could you not run it?

And if you run this story, then where do you draw a line — on which stories citing “unnamed officials” get a run, and which don’t — without one’s editorial policy crossing a line into censorship?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Tooradin evenin’

Tooradin dreamin’ . . .

Mangrove swampin’ . . .

Tooradin, Victoria, Australia
images by jacob

Eagle dock landed

image by jacob

Eagle, by raptor sculptor Bruce Armstrong, looms over Melbourne’s Docklands precinct.

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help observing that the proboscis seems less aquiline and more tawny frogmouth.

Iraqi war toll at just under 10,000

A recent US opinion poll has found that respondents’ median estimate of Iraqi deaths resulting from the March 2003 invasion is 9,890.

This is considerably less than the most recent Presidential estimate in December 2005, that 30,000 Iraqi civilians “more or less” have perished as a result of the invasion. (But then who could blame US citizens for not particularly heeding this President.)

On the other hand, the poll found that respondents’ estimation of US military deaths is “right on target” at about 3,000. And...

Given a range of possible words to describe their feelings about the overall situation in Iraq, people were most likely to identify with “worried,” selected by 81 per cent of those surveyed.

It’s, of course, possible to overstate the sagacity of popular wisdom. While the numbers remain and are forever in flux, commonsense seems increasingly uncommon.

Cheney’s got a front

It’s been amusing to see the fawning over US Vice President ‘Deadeye’ Dick Cheney during his late visit to Australia.

And it’s intriguing, to say the least, that a man who has been so consistently wrong wrong WRONG in his assessments about Iraq, should be given serious media coverage with his latest pronouncements. A lesser scoundrel might simply shut the f**k up, or deftly change the subject to one more attuned with proven expertise, such as hunting etiquette.

And yet it’s profoundly unsurprising that a certain Australian Head of Government (who shall remain mentionless, for a change) should fete Mr Cheney, taking said late pronouncements as somehow vindicating said Australian Government’s boneheaded position on the war.

Scoundrels all. The best that can be said is that at least we’re in the presence of bigtime, quality scoundrelry.