Monday, February 28, 2005

BLOG ROUNDUP SCOTUSblog summarizes Monday's court decision in the Padilla case, and Scaryduck has some interesting thoughts about the concept of infinity.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

MOVIE OF THE MONTH It isn't up for any Academy Awards tonight, and it grossed just short of $900,000 at the US box office, but INTERMISSION was surely one of the best English-language films to hit theaters this year.

Some viewers may balk at that description, or at least the English-language part of it: The script, by up-and-coming playwright Mark O'Rowe, is written in a colloquial Dublin-speak that makes no concessions to international audiences, and so the dialogue may be impenetrable to some American viewers.

But if you turn up your TV volume and watch aggressively, you'll be rewarded with a smart, fun, genre-busting ensemble film with great performances and some big laughs.

Friday, February 25, 2005

PARTY LIKE IT'S 1989 Something tells me that this website's best days are ahead of it. But it's pretty amusing already.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

CLEARPLAY WATCH Patt Morisson, writing in the Los Angeles Times, is less than enthusiastic about DVD filtering:
This is a techno-version of storming into a library and tearing out pages you don't approve of, or rewriting them to your liking. China, a country striving for capitalism without democracy, altered or cut politically sensitive bits--like references to human rights dissident Harry Wu--from Hillary Clinton's autobiography.

Hillary's Chinese publisher said the changes "do not hurt the integrity of the book." Listen for the same cant from the politicians tub-thumping for the ClearPlay crowd.
Here's the link.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

QUESTIONS FOR AARP BASHERS On Monday, The New York Times reported that the people behind last year's Swiftboat Veterans For Truth campaign have decided on a new target: Social Security privatization opponents, specifically AARP.

Later in the day, it became clear just how low those folks are willing to stoop when this over-the-top ad surfaced at the American Spectator website:

The ad is clearly offensive--for a whole slew of reasons. But it also begs a number of questions.

Namely, if the AARP is really a front group for soldier-hating fans of man-on-man kissing:

1. Why did the President brag repeatedly about the Association's endorsement of his Medicare drug bill?

2. Why did he send his wife to speak at its national convention?

3. Why did he appoint its CEO to a presidential commission and go out of his way to praise him, saying:

The groups that speak for the elderly did fantastic work on this legislation...

Bill Novelli, the CEO of AARP, stood strong in representing the people he was supposed to represent and worked hard to get this legislation passed.

And, Bill, I want to thank you for your leadership.
The President seems awfully comfortable aligning himself with these military-loathing, gay love fanatics.

What is he thinking?

Thursday, February 17, 2005


More proof that the Bush administration's vetting process is actually an elaborate, late night White House drinking game, played by staffers who debate--between sips--which conservative pols Democrats are likely to find most offensive.

At the end of the night, whoever emerges as the surest to be loathed by progressives gets nominated to the highest administration post currently vacant.

(It makes more sense, anyway, than the theory that the Bushies are actually hiring the most qualified people they can find.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

NETFLIX FESSES UP Turns out that the faster you return movies, the slower the service you're likely to receive.

Hacking NetFlix reprints a customer service e-mail that admits as much:

In certain instances, your next available DVD will not ship until the next business day following our receipt of your returned movie. This can occur, for example, when...the number of shipments to be processed by the distribution center on that day has been exceeded...

In determining priority for shipping and inventory allocation, we give priority to those members who receive the fewest DVDs through our service. As a result, those members who receive the most movies may experience next-day shipping and receive movies lower in their Queue more often than our other members.

By prioritizing in this way, we help assure a balanced experience for all our members. Those that rent a lot of movies get a great value and those with lighter viewing habits are able to count on our service to meet their limited needs. (Emphasis added.)
A "balanced experience?" Hmm...

NetFlix advertises itself as an "all-the-DVDs-you-want" subscription service: I'd be surprised if many customers understood that discs are often delayed strategically by the company--because of arbitrary daily quotas imposed by NetFlix on its own distribution centers.

The upshot of such a policy, of course, is that the service's most loyal patrons--and probably its biggest fans and popularizers--get second-class service.

That may make business sense, but I'm skeptical: It's hard to believe that the money being saved by reducing an active user's monthly rental total by a DVD or two is really worth the cost in lost enthusiasm.

GANNON GONE WILD Here's Atrios on the latest Gannon revelations:
It's odd that the media is suddenly skittish about this. Would they run under the table if it came out that on her free weekends [CNN White House correspondent] Dana Bash could be rented out for the small sum of $1200?
He's got a point. Still, I'm not sure it's quite that simple: Gannon has already been called out as a fraud--and he's resigned. So the public dissection he's now getting does, I think, risk seeming mean-spirited and prurient.

That said, if the shoe were on the other foot, can you imagine what fun the GOP would be having with this?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

RICE LIED And I don't use that word lightly:
"No al Qaeda plan was turned over to the new administration."
--Condoleezza Rice in The Washington Post, March 22, 2004
" '01 Memo to Rice Warned of Qaeda and Offered Plan"
--New York Times, February 12, 2005

Friday, February 11, 2005

A WRITING LIFE Arthur Miller is dead at 89.

MORE GANNON The Times finally climbs aboard. (Even
Drudge has broken his silence.)

Meanwhile, the folks over at DailyKos remind us that Scott McClellan needs to come up with a better story:

In a press briefing on Feb. 10th, White House Press Secretary McClellan claimed that Guckert was granted White House access because he "showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly." (emphasis added).

However, Talon News came into existence on March 29, 2003. It was granted White House Press Corps access just four days (approx. 96 hours) later. During that four-day time period, Talon News published a total of nine "stories."

Thursday, February 10, 2005

BUSH GETS IT WRONG It's not the first time the President has mislead the nation about Social Security--far from it. But he's rarely been this brazen about it. Josh Marshall has the details:
"The money -- payroll taxes going into the Social Security are spent. They're spent on benefits and they're spent on government programs. There is no trust."
--President George W. Bush, February 9, 2005
"The [Social Security trust fund] monies available have generally been invested appropriately in Government obligations at interest rates which are equitable to both the trust funds and the General Fund of the Treasury and have not -- as is sometimes alleged -- been spent for other purposes outside of the Social Security program."
--Commission on Social Security Reform report, January 1983

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

GANNON GOES MAINSTREAM A fascinating, convoluted and still-developing story about White House "correspondent" Jeff Gannon has been percolating under the radar for the last week or so. But my sense is that it's about to hit the mainstream media. Hard.

If you've never heard of Gannon, start here. And then you'll want to check in here and here.

UPDATE: It's worth noting that, more than a week into the story, salacious news junkie Matt Drudge has not invoked Gannon's name even a single time on his site.

Make of that what you will.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

WATCH THE BOX Regular readers may remember some discussion late last year about THE BOX, a film based on CONTRAPOSITIVE editor Dan Aibel's short play of the same name.

Photo by David Faithful.

Well, thanks to the Cinequest Film Festival, that film is now available for viewing online. (At least if you've got a PC and you're running Windows Media Player 9 or higher.)

Register here. And then download the film here.

The three shorts that receive the highest combination of downloads and positive comments will be screened during the festival this March in San Jose.

So if you like what you see, be sure to post a review.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

THE X FACTOR Is this man serious?
MR. RUSSERT: How many Iraqi security forces do we need fully trained and capable of fighting insurgents?

SEC'Y RUMSFELD: Well, the answer to that question is not complicated. We need as many as are needed. If you have an insurgency that's this level, you'll need X. If you have an insurgency that's that level, you'll need X-plus. And if you have an insurgency that's quite low, you'll need X-minus.
Glad we got that clear.

RANDOM THOUGHT Is there a worse job in American than spokesman for Taser International?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

CLEARPLAY UPDATE From the Salt Lake Tribune:
A bill clarifying federal law to protect a technology that filters offensive materials from DVDs has passed the Senate unanimously.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, includes provisions to put to rest a dispute over whether the "jump-and-skip" technology, marketed by several companies including Utah's ClearPlay, violates copyright laws.


"Parents should have control over what their children see, not movie studios in Hollywood," Hatch said. "This bill ensures that parents will have access to technology that filters through the crude and violent scenes that always seem to creep into what would otherwise be good films."
There's more.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

DEMS STRIKE OUT I don't know enough about Sen. Harry Reid to have formed an opinion of him. But his remarks tonight were awful.

Six paragraphs of biography? A "Marshall Plan for America"?

And then he followed with a litany of generic Democratic talking points.

Look: Everyone knows that Democrats favor, "Good, new jobs. World-class education. Affordable health care." How about telling Americans something they don't already know?

Spend a couple minutes exposing the social security privitization scam. Focus the nation's attention on the administration's profligate spending. Mention Osama Bin Laden.

But don't just sit there stringing together a bunch of stock phrases.

P.S. Pelosi was better, but not much. Can't we get Eliot Spitzer in front of the cameras? Barack Obama?

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.