Archive for March 6th, 2006

The Oscars! I watched ‘em even though I hadn’t seen any of the nominated movies, except Murderball, which kicked *ss and, therefore, won nothing. Still, I’d seen nothing like this. No two major awards were given to the same movie!


Best pic: “Crash”
Best director: Ang Lee, “Brokeback Mountain”
Best actor: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”
Best actress: Reese Weatherspoon, “Walk the Line”
Supporting actor: George Clooney, “Syrianna”
Supporting actress: Rachel Weisz, “The Constant Gardner”

Each one of these flicks (and they’ve all gotten decent reviews) has something to offend our conservative Christian friends. “Brokeback” has gay sex, “Capote” was just plain gay, “Walk the Line” has drugs and alcohol, “Syrianna” indicts the petroleum industry, the administration and foreign policy, “The Constant Gardner” sympathizes with AIDS patients and attacks pharmaceutical companies.

If you don’t believe me, check out this letter from a conservative Christian author (scroll down a little):

Blue States values were the big winners at this year’s Academy Awards rewarding blatant anti-family themes of homosexuality, prostitution, pimping, drugs, crime, and the overall demonization of America as a bunch of bigots and oil mongers. Virtually absent from the podium was anything supportive of hard work, self-responsibility, charity, faith or family. The two exceptions were that the supporting actress Oscar went to Reese Witherspoon, who actually deserved the honor but probably won the extra votes necessary due to her blatant real life Bush-bashing, and the best documentary going to a bunch of penguins who were neither blue nor red. They were values neutral: black and white but the fact that it was a pro-environmental film probably didn’t hurt.

Ouch! That smarts!

The letter quotes Katharine DeBrecht (you know, the Orwellian “genius” behind “Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!”):

The movies garnering the most Oscar nominations included films about feature sympathetic terrorists, gay cowboys, communist sympathizers, and transexuals. How bad is Hollywood out of touch with mainstream values? None of the best picture nominees were even in the top 20 highest grossing movies of last year!

Um…forget the fact that “Brokeback Mountain” was released on Christmas weekend, giving it only a week to accumulate ticket sales. It did, however, set a record for most gross per showing during its initial release. Oh yeah, and it’s made over $120 million world-wide as of March 5, 2006. That’s before it won the Oscar for best director.

And then consider the highest grossing flicks of 2005: “Star Wars: Episode III,” “Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire,” “The Chronicle of Narnia,” “War of the Worlds,” “King Kong,” “Wedding Crashers.” Um…with the exception of Narina, none of these movies are Christian fare, either. In fact, #2, Harry Potter, is labelled by fundamentalist Christians as satanic.

During last night’s ceremonies, when movie after movie rolled by winning awards, each of which was sure to offend some fundamentalist Christian, it hit me.

Hollywood isn’t out of touch with American values.

Christian fundamentalists are.

Oh, it's all perfectly legal, to have a lobbyist run your re-election campaign.

Helena lawyer and registered lobbyist Mark Baker is heading up Burns' 2006 re-election campaign and served early on as a spokesman for the campaign. Baker is also a former Burns staffer, having worked for the senator off and on since 1989. He left in 1998 as Burns' legislative director.

Baker lobbies as part of his own firm, Anderson & Baker law firm in Helena, and with the D.C. firm of Denny Miller Associates.

Anderson & Baker has reported just over $3 million in federal lobbying income since 1999, records show. At least $2 million came from global telecommunications companies such as AT&T and MCI and the National Cable Television Association.

During much of that time, Burns was either chairman or ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications, where many laws dealing with telecommunications begin – and can die. Today, the Communications Subcommittee has been absorbed into the full Commerce Committee, of which Burns is a member.

I certainly understand why Mark Baker wants Conrad Burns to be Montana's senator. Three million in federal lobbying income? Baker owes his job to Conrad Burns.

But, enmired as he in a corruption scandal, why would burns hire Baker? Does he think Montanans are that stupid?

No. It's his d*mn campaign message! From his own website:

With a seat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Burns has been able to bring in over $1 billion in federal funds to the state since he took office.

Got that? He's boasting about his corruption! He's telling us he does it for Montana! A billion dollars' worth! Having a lobbyist run his campaign only reinforces his message.

Thing is, it the message working? The polls don't bear it out…


Ed Kemmick has found a great article on Montana’s energy deregulation “mess.”

Amnesty International says we’re still torturing detainees in Iraq.

Bush too stupid to get an absentee ballot, so he charges taxpayers with a private jet flight back home.

The Army reopens the friendly-fire shooting death in Iraq of former NFL player, Pat Tillman. Apparently Tillman’s family believes evidence of a crime exists.

The government can yank federal funds from schools that bar Army recruiters from campus, says SCOTUS.

Excellent post by Digby on how conservative pundits are just now realizing how stupid our president really is.

The sentencing of Jack Abramoff to begin on March 29th. The prosecutor promises “to name names”! Hm. Is a certain junior senator a little nervous?

Recently, The New Yorker ran a story about a group that is trying to do away with the Electoral College. The group, Campaign for a National Popular Vote, isn’t trying to change the Constitution (which would be extremely difficult and politically infeasible), but is trying to use the constitutional power of states to appoint electors in the manner they wish.

Here’s how the plan would work. One by one, legislature by legislature, state law by state law, individual states would pledge themselves to an interstate compact under which they would agree to award their electoral votes to the nationwide winner of the popular vote. The compact would take effect only when enough states had joined it to elect a President—that is, enough to cast a majority of the five hundred and thirty-eight electoral votes. (Theoretically, as few as eleven states could do the trick.) And then, presto! All of a sudden, the people of all fifty states plus the District of Columbia are empowered to elect their President the same way they elect their governors, mayors, senators, and congressmen.

I’ve always waffled about the Electoral College and its role in selecting the U.S. President. I do understand the reasoning behind it – it ensures that smaller aren’t ignored during the campaigns. If the Electoral College were abandoned, goes my reasoning, then big states like California and Texas will decide the elections.

But then Hertzberg points out that if a state is solidly red or blue, it’s ignored, whether it’s small or large. Thus the battle for the presidency takes place in the battleground “purple” states where neither candidate is highly favored. Because of the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College, if you happen to live in one of other, non-battleground states, your vote doesn’t really matter:

The worst of [the Electoral College process] is the death of participatory politics in two-thirds of the country. If you live in a spectator state, it might be fun to persuade your neighbors to vote your way, or ring their doorbells, or hand them leaflets. But it can’t make a difference. And it doesn’t matter which side you’re on or which color your state is. Widening your ticket’s margin of victory or narrowing its margin of defeat is equally pointless. In this sense, our Presidential campaigns are not only not national; in most of the country they’re not local, either. They’re just not.

This makes sense. And this argument has entirely convinced me that it's time to do away with the Electoral College.

And I think this article doesn’t go far enough describing the problem the Electoral College creates: not only do some states (like Ohio or Florida) decide the presidential elections, certain counties within those states do. And these counties are usually middle-right of the political spectrum. Do you wonder why the American left has steadily gravitated rightwards over the past decade? It’s because presidential candidates are trying to win the votes from a few, select conservative-leaning counties in Ohio and Florida.

Imagine, then, presidential campaigns liberated from their subservience to a handful of Midwest suburbs. The Democrats could work to regain and electrify their base. We could finally tackle issues that are popular with the majority of Americans – national health care, election reform, gay rights, choice – most of whom sadly live in “spectator” states.

And getting rid of the Electoral College would prevent illegal voting tactics that would ensure a candidate’s election – like, say, putting easily hacked electronic voting machines in key counties, or adding Miami’s inner-city African American voters to felon lists on the eve of elections.

And, of course, that’s probably why the Campaign for a National Popular Vote will meet with stiff opposition.

But still, the movement has a chance.

For fifty years, polls have consistently shown that seventy per cent of the public favors direct election. Nevertheless, the National Popular Vote plan will meet with a lot of resistance, some of it from battleground-state politicians. But in all those spectator states there are scores of millions of voters, and thousands of politicians, who would like to get in on the game. They might prefer to see our Presidents elected not by red states and blue states and purple states, and not by big states or small states, but by the United States.

Perhaps Montana should be in the vanguard of this movement.

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