Pew Poll Indicates People Think Sky is Blue

A Pew poll out today shows the bleedin' obvious, that Obama is more popular and more trusted around the world* than Dubya was.

Kevin Drum makes the point that the poll is a concrete reflection of Obama's "soft power". But, to be fair to Bush, "soft power" was never a weapon at his disposal because nobody around the world liked or respected him anyway.

Really, what choice did his neo-con puppetmasters have but to have him play the bully? It was the only role Bush could credibly play.

* - Israel is apparently the only country on the planet that trusted Bush to do the "right thing" more than Obama, albeit barely.

The Adult in the Room

Obama popped in front of the WH press corps just now, prior to the usual Gibbs-run briefing, to try and defuse the Gates thing.

He spoke calmly about how Sgt. Crowley seemed like a very good man, and a very good police officer, and how he regrets that his initial response to the Gates question at his health care reform press conference contributed to stirring the pot on the media coverage of the incident. He even related how he and Crowley, in their phone conversation, joked about Crowley asking the president for help getting the press off his lawn.

It was a necessary, and smart, and mature move. But here's the thing.

What Obama said at the press conference was absolutely correct.

Crowley arresting Gates on his porch, after being satisfied that Gates belonged in the home and that nothing much was going on, was utterly stupid.

That's not a statement on Crowley's motives (although for the record I think he was motivated by the desire not to be shown up by a civilian in front of his fellow officers.) It's simply a statement of fact. There was no good reason for the arrest. The public interest was not served by the arrest.

It was just plain dumb.

The Love Guru of Political Ads

I am firmly convinced that this is the worst ad in TV history.

Aside from the cheap-ass production values and skinflint budget that required not letting the actors talk (it costs less to hire three actors in non-speaking roles, plus a narrator, than it does to hire three actors in speaking roles)...

Aside from the fact that they hired bad actors for those non-speaking roles...

Aside from the fact that there may be no less threatening image in current North American culture than that of a bespectacled nerd holding a clipboard, and yet said nerd tries to menacingly loom over the doctor...

Aside from the recycled, discredited "Federal Health Police" joke of a meme that was last trotted out to fight the Clinton health care efforts...

Putting all that inexplicableness aside for a moment, I have just one question about the spot:

Is Tucker Carlson really so hard up for work that he'd take a job with the Federal Health Police?

Signs, Symbols and Portents

President Zelaya says he'll head back into Honduras on Simon Bolivar's birthday -- which is tomorrow, Friday the 24th.

Could be an interesting day.

Iowa Loves Katie Couric!

Everybody else, not so much. You'd think her vicious assault on Sarah Palin would have made her more popular in the Blue States.

Oh, and John Stewart has become the face of modern journalism. Which, really, is probably the biggest indictment of the degenerate state of the profession as anything else.

Yet More TIFF Sneak Peeks

New Todd Solondz!

New Gaspar Noe!

And, uhh, that's about all that grabs me from the Special Presentations and Vanguard programmes, which is usually a gold mine of awesome.

(Seriously - how bad does the new Almodovar have to be not to get a Gala slot, and get dumped into Special Presentations instead?)

In the wild card category, young Japanese star Kenichi Matsuyama (the star of Detroit Metal City) has a couple of films, playing a ninja on the run in Yoichi Sai's manga adaptation Kamui, as well as a farmer in what could be the wonderfully weird Bare Essense of Life (or, as it's listed on IMDB, Ultra Miracle Love Story.) Plus Hipsters looks to be some sort of Russian Dennis Potter riff and could be interesting, although I'm usually suspicious of Russian flicks.

Juan Cole States the Obvious

Too bad no one in the Obama administration seems to be listening.

Obama's failure (so far, he types with faint hope in his heart) to pursue an investigation into the monstrous abuses of the CheneyBush administration undermines, to one degree or another, almost every foreign policy decision he makes.

The "Honduras is Obama's coup" conspiracy theory, for instance, gains a little bit of traction when it's perceived that the old playbook is still in effect.

More TIFF Potential Highlights

First, the docs that jump out at me:

  • There's one following the White Stripes on their cross-Canada tour
  • American Movie and Yes Men director Chris Smith does another portrait of someone who'd commonly be labeled 'kooky'.
  • The directors of Gunner Palace do a sort-of sequel, following the lives of some Iraq War soldiers as they try to put together lives for themselves back in the States
  • A doc about Clouzot's unfinished film l'Enfer, including tons of newly discovered footage
  • A doc on the Pentagon Papers
  • Chris Rock examines hair
  • Director Vikram Jayanti follows a blind Iditarod competitor
And now, the Midnight Madness lineup:

Opening Night features Jennifer's Body, written by Diablo Cody. Megan Fox is a cheerleader who is possessed by a demon and eats people. 'Nuff said.

Panique au Village seems to be some sort of Belgian riff on Toy Story.

Rick Jacobson, best known for directing a bunch of Xena episodes, has made what appears to be a Russ Meyer film for the 21st century, Bitch Slap. Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor and Kevin Sorbo all make supporting appearances.

The Spierig brothers, who brought their first film Undead to Midnight a few years ago, return with Daybreakers -- a film with a much bigger cast, but a premise just as silly.

Romero's back, again, with his latest zombie opus Survival of the Dead.

Some little Aussie thing called The Loved Ones, which Colin describes as "a wild mash-up of Pretty in Pink and Misery".

Tony Jaa directs Ong Bak 2. If you need any more than that to sell you on the flick, you are beyond hope.

The original Spanish team behind [REC] returns for a sequel, imaginitively titled [REC] 2.

Someone has the balls to try and turn Robert E Howard's Solomon Kane into a movie, and they've assembled a hell of a cast to do it: James Purefoy (Mark Antony from Rome) as Kane, Max von Sydow as his father, Alice Krige, Pete Postlethewaite, and Rachel Hurd-Wood.

And the Closing Night flick is Symbol, from Japanese comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto (who brought Dainipponjin to Midnight a couple of years ago). I have no idea what it's about.

Political Equilibrium

Conor talks around what makes the US two party system viable, when it's firing on all cylinders.

In theory, conservative philosophy is one that fundamentally resists radical change. Liberal philosophy embraces it. As long as there are two parties espousing those respective philosophies, and those two parties are relatively evenly matched, the resulting struggle can uncover a sane, stable path forward, balanced between the two.

Unfortunately, the current version of the Republican Party isn't particularly conservative, and the current version of the Democratic Party hasn't been particularly liberal. The latter, at least, is changing, thanks to grassroots efforts from the likes of the Great Orange Satan, but there are still a lot of entrenched corporate Dems whose guiding philosophy is merely to gain and maintain power for themselves, regardless of which teat they need to suckle at to get it.

As for the Pubs... ugh. The neo-con philosophy has about as much to do with conservatism as the '60s definition of 'liberal' has to do with classic liberal economics, and what Sully calls the Christianist base isn't interested in a conservative path forward; they actually want a path headed backwards.

The Dems are still salvageable. I don't think the Pubs are.

Da Peeples is teh Dum

No, not Mario. I'm referring to a study by psychologist Emily Pronin in which psychology students fall into cognitive bias traps even when they get their noses rubbed in the fact that they have cognitive biases.

Perhaps the only thing more awesome than the multiple layers of irony that build up with each subsequent study:

Participants in one follow-up study who showed the better than-average bias insisted that their self-assessments were accurate and objective even after reading a description of how they could have been affected by the relevant bias.

Participants in a final study reported their peer's self-serving attributions regarding test performance to be biased but their own similarly self-serving attributions to be free of bias.

is the fact that a couple of commentators either engage in some world class snark, or genuinely defend the idea that all the students were just being honest about the fact that they're all better-than-average when it comes to bias susceptibility, and weren't biasedly biased about their bias towards being biased.

Eng-u-lund Swings

Anyone not rooting for Tom Watson right now is just a poopyhead. A stone poopyhead.

Dr. King Would Be Proud

Al notices a small, but symbolically important, front in the battle for Honduras.

As in Iran, time is on the side of the opposition. As long as they stay strong, united and refrain from playing by the oppressor/oppressed script, they merely need to wait for the illegitimate regime in control to crumble.