Living Liberally Blog

Living Liberally Blog

Daily Digest: Join the Club

Rule 1) You will not eat fast food.

Rule 2) Everyone will be Tasered whether alive or not. (3 stories)

Rule 3) You do not talk about Fight Club.

Rule 4) Exxon Mobile will keep making record profits as Americans suffer from oil prices.

Rule 5) Israel will move the wall, and Prime Minister Olmert will announces his resignation.

Rule 6) Science fanatics must stop antagonizing Religious Fanatics

Rule 7) Iraq tours of duty will be 3 months shorter (says Bush).

Rule 8) The economy will keep growing, a little.

McCain: Because People Like Obama

While Obama's international tour showed America
that the world may have goodwill towards us yet,
McCain runs ads criticizing Obama's popularity.

While McCain's media buddies give him a pass
-- overlooking Mideast confusions & profanities --
he complains of Obama's coverage that he's left out.

And because artists, scientists & scholars
support Obama, McCain calls him "elitist"...
while McCain wears $500 loafers.

On one hand, a candidate liked by colleagues,
praised by his students, welcomed by the world.

On the other, a man who has run ads
reviving his 1960s war...against Woodstock.

Now...who is out of touch?

Come out tonight for a drink & a think,
share a pint and a pontification
with your local progressive social club.

DRINKING LIBERALLY
Find - or start - a chapter near you.

The Darkest Knight Before the Dawn

With all the Hype Hubbub and $450 million in worldwide sales, I can't help but wonder; is Osama Bin Laden allowed to see movies? My gut instinct says he can't, especially not the cinematic triumphs of the "Great Satan". But more to the point, I wonder if he is aware of the shifts that are taking place in American culture and the messages it is sending. Certainly George Bush must have taken a few hours out of his busy agenda to grab some popcorn and check out Gotham's Caped Crusader. How could he not with every reviewer linking the Bush administration to the Batman?

The question might then be, does he get it. Does George Bush feel the turning tides of the superhero genre, which emerged out of the American public clamoring for a world delineated into right and wrong, transforming into a complicated global awareness of cause and effect, sovereignty, pride, and hubris? Or does he simply salivate over the idea of complete SONAR surveillance of every citizen and the idea of an in flight pickup out of the top story of a Hong Kong Skyscraper.

Chances are everyone's favorite cowboy is more into gadgets and grenades than geo-political philosophy, but it seems that Hollywood is beginning to love both. There is no doubt that the media landscape has changed with the minds of Americans over the last 7 years.

As two wars rage on in the Middle East, people are starting to realize that American heroism (also known as colonialism) may be creating the very monsters that it is trying to fight. No doubt Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" is analogous to the situation we face with the Bush administration and its crusading in a nebulous War on Terror, but to call George Bush Batman is desperately short sided. If the emergence of Bruce Wayne's vigilantly alter ego is to be accredited to the emergence of the fanatical terrorist The Joker, we have to point out that Osama Bin Laden was bombing America long before George Bush was elected president in November 2000. We were bombing Saddam Hussain while Bush’s dad was in office, and funneling guns into Iraq to take down the Islamic Republic in the Iran-Iraq war under Regan.

In Christopher Nolan's first film in the series, Batman is told that the only way he can take on the corruption he sees, is to become more than a man. Henri Ducard tells him "If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, you become something else entirely… A legend". Batman is Neo-Liberalism driving its jet-black super-tank through the side of your building. In the first movie, multi-billionaire hero Bruce Wayne takes the law into his own hands after seeing the murder of his father, a man who worked to save Gotham on the back of the shiny silver commercialism of Wayne enterprises.

By the second movie we learn that the lawless fight for truth and justice in the name of citizens trying to make a good honest buck, has manifested into a criminal world of ever increasing violence. The mob ruthlessly defends its sovereignty from the crusades of an idealist who speaks of freedom while defending a still equally corrupt system.

Terrorism is bread when force rather than law is brought down upon the lawless, and in the end of the movie the fight for justice fails because the men of the law are still unwilling to purge them selves of the corruption in their own ranks. George Bush is only one more masked incarnation of the Neo-Liberal fanaticism, which feeds the madness of The Joker. The relatively sane corruption of the mob turns toward lunacy when confronted with the armored Batman. For us the legend which drives our enemies to extremes is an idea of a "The West" as the opposition, willing to root out both corruption and sovereignty with tanks. Where colonial Neo-Liberal policies have imposed them selves upon the Middle-East states, we have seen those people turn to fanaticism with increased vigilance.

Watching George Bush pack his suitcases at the end of this year will not be the same as watching Batman depart from Gotham. It is the idea of the masked avenger, which must take to the night, leaving us to respect the law even towards those we may disagree with.

Hanging upside down out of a building the joker tells us, "You just couldn't let me go could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object…I think you and I are destined to do this forever."

What is left to be seen is whether the release of the dark night is really a change in direction. Are people really looking to loose the Neo-Liberal ideals which have created Batman and the Joker? Or is Hollywood just responding to people looking out at a war they do not want and the heroic rhetoric of a commander and chief with an approval rating of 28%. Is public consciousness truly ready to turn towards the source of the issue?

I can only hope that viewers of The Dark Knight are perceiving an allegory a little more sophisticated than Bush Vs. Terror. Still with $450 million dollars and counting, the sequel seems to be an unstoppable force as well. I guess we will have to check back in with our favorite Dark Knight to see how we are doing in a couple of year.

Can't Decide Which Side You're On? Neither Can The Media

1.) Everybody's doing it: While remaining outwardly bipartisan, the Afghan Ambassador to the US expressed his support for key points of Obama's plan for Afghanistan.

2.) McCain's attempts to paint Obama as image-obsessed and disdainful of the military fall flat as Obama's persona continues to repel all the mudslinging.

3.) The free ride hits a pothole as McCain's media coverage becomes inconsistently adoring. The media's un-prompted airing of McCain's anti-Obama ad and the positive spin of Republican senator Stevens' indictment are ridiculously admiring, while the Washington Post article cited above is uncharacteristically negative.

4.) Offshore drilling won't deflate gas prices immediately, according to Obama and many experts. CBS' Chip Reid ignores this, bolstering McCain's love of drilling while failing to fully cite Obama's stance.

5.) Obama's not the only target of media misrepresentation: Deplorably, headlines continue to attribute blame to inebriated female victims of rape cases.

Screening Liberally: Why So Serious? Dark Knight Reviews Continue.

This is the second in our series of Screening Liberally reviews of The Dark Knight. Stay tuned for more.

Accolade for Christopher Nolan's newest Batman movie, The Dark Knight has been almost universal. The film has a 94% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a website which compiles and analyzes film reviews, and words like "inspired," "brilliant," and "Oscar-worthy" are being thrown around like so much confetti. Entertainment Weekly even offered Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker as evidence that the recently-deceased Australian actor would have grown up into "as audacious an actor as Marlon Brando and maybe as great."

Which isn't to say that praise for Nolan's film is undeserved--on the contrary, it's certainly one of the most interesting and well-made films to come out this year and, in terms of big, blockbuster movies, it's definitely a "game-changer": proof that a superhero movie can be subtle and introspective while still managing to be both totally thrilling and gross an enormous amount of money at the box office. It's also clear that The Dark Knight has touched a cultural nerve. Something about this bleak, unflashy portrait of a city in crisis and the moral decisions necessary to save it resonates with the American public. And much has been made of this already: check out Seth Pearce's earlier review, which presents a response to some critic's arguments that Batman and the rest of the good guys represent Bush and Cheney as they struggled to make the right decisions about how to combat terrorism.

As Seth pointed out, this is giving Bush a little too much credit. Batman--however weirdly egocentric dressing up as a bat and becoming a vigilante police officer might be--fundamentally wants to help as many people as he can, while Bush seems more concerned with keeping the rich wealthy and racing toy cars around a pond in Crawford. What's more interesting and offers more insight into our national character is how strongly allegorical the movie is, almost to the point of being epic. Reviewers have picked up on this, too, calling it alternately "Shakespearean" and "mythological." It's not a reflection of our reality; it's a reflection of the moral questions which, even in this time of political turmoil, are still relevant to us.

More after the jump!

Vote or Become a Social Outcast!

Justin has a new post up at Future Majority about how to peer pressure your friends into voting using new online organizing and social networking tools. Check it:

A recently-launched project of the American Democracy Institute and the National Campaign for Fair Elections, this site allows you to

  • send email and text encouragement to friends;
  • invite them to register;
  • remind them to vote;
  • track whether they've taken action.

That's right: you have your "My Voters" page which tells you which of your friends have followed through (they also tell me that they are savvy enough to prevent one person from receiving redundant invitations from multiple friends...I'm ambivalent on that -- maybe it cuts down annoyance, but hearing from multiple sources is a good way to feel peer pressure).

Click here for more!

Blogging Liberally: a small step for bloggers, a giant foot in the mouth for a certain country singer

1. Toby Keith makes being liberal in Texas even more difficult, believe it or not.

2. If neither of the candidates' economic plans tickle your fancy there's always a third option...

3. Decrease in diversity = decrease in violence...ah of course, Hitler must have had it right all along...wait, what?

4. It's good to know that Bush is branching out in his decisions.

5. Amnesty International has it all wrong.

6. Educational and informative, not your average McCain post.

7. Happy Birthday NASA.

The Future (Majority) of the Googlebomb

Last Thursday's Future Majority post on the future of one of the progressive movements favorite online action tools: the Googlebomb.

From Wikipedia:


A Google bomb (also referred to as a 'link bomb') is Internet slang for a certain kind of attempt to influence the ranking of a given page in results returned by the Google search engine, often with humorous or political intentions. Because of the way that Google's algorithm works, a page will be ranked higher if the sites that link to that page use consistent anchor text. A Google bomb is created if many sites link to the page in this manner.

For example, if I had wanted to Googlebomb, Laughing Liberally comedian Lee Camp, and associate him with a negative phrase, I would write something like "What a loser?" Where the word "loser" is linked to Lee's site Lee Camp. This would make Lee's site more likeley to come up under a google search of "loser". But we wouldn't want to do that because Lee Camp is not a loser, and is in fact a very awesome comic.

This trick was used in 2004 with George W. Bush's campaign site and the words "miserable failure." But according to WaPo's campaign blog The Trail this method of googlebombing might be done for:

That's right, the online behemoth best known for its search engine says that it has rejiggered its legendary and proprietary technology so that online efforts by bloggers to manipulate its top-secret search algorithm to create cheeky, offensive and decidedly off-message answers to searches will no longer work.

"It was fun" while it lasted, said Rick Klau, a member of the Google strategic partner development content acquisition team, at a search engine optimization training session for political bloggers in Washington, D.C., this afternoon. But, he said, "Google bombs don't work anymore."

...

That doesn't work anymore, said Klau, because the company today can spot these swarms and neutralize their effect. "We are far more perceptive when it comes to these link swarms that show up in a matter of hours or days," said Klau.

Fortunately, our good friend Chris Bowers over at Open Left has an answer:

So why haven't bloggers stopped trying to game the system? Work-arounds may be one reason. So might the increasingly sophisticated nature of today's Google bombs -- what Open Left's Chris Bowers calls a "2.0 version of the Googlebomb" -- where the goal is to influence the search rank of a slew of negative news articles about a politician rather than tie his name to a keyword.

...

As Bowers explained it, "What I'm doing isn't a Google bomb." It's a much harder to detect effort "to alternately optimize John McCain" in the Google search engine rankings, by linking his name to nine mainstream new organizations's stories that raise questions about the GOP presidential contender.

So, the blogosphere triumphs over the Google once again!

Jerk

Michael Savage gets about half of what he deserves. From ABC News:

Several big advertisers have pulled their commercials from the syndicated "Savage Nation" radio show, and now, thousands of parents and protesters are urging Savage to step down, calling his words "hate speech."

This is in response to Savage calling autistic children "brats, idiots and morons," on his nationally syndicated hate-fueled radio show.

Attacking children with disabilities. Real classy.

I guess we shouldn't expect much more from a guy who played a Dead Kennedy's song in celebration when the news broke of Senator Kennedy's brain tumor.

Waiting for a Train: Progressives and Country Music

Rocking Liberally Sound of Change
by Glenn W. Smith

If I said that country music holds a key to progressive political success, would it sound so out of tune that you'd stand up and walk out on me?

Hit the door then, or lend me your ears, because I believe that's the case. I prefer Americana or alternative country over mainstream, country pop. But I embrace the latter, too. There are important values and a profound combination of hope, community spirit, and wariness of authority in much of the music.

Despite the conservative, lily-white image of contemporary country, it's multicultural to the core. The steel guitar, a staple of the music, was imported from Hawaii. The banjo is from Africa. The guitar is of multi-ethnic origins. Barack Obama and country music are cut from the same tree.

"One of the lessons of the last several presidential elections is that he who has the most country music on his side has the electorate on his side," writes Chet Flippo. Lineage alone ought give Obama a leg up.

Progressives recognize the need to better communicate their values, especially values born of empathy and shared responsibility. But it's not enough to just describe them. They have to be performed, in two senses: demonstrated in thought and action and embodied in art and culture. American folk and country artists have been doing so for many moons. It's time to listen, and time to sing and dance the values, too.