July 03, 2004

Maria Sharapova may well become the Tiger Woods of tennis, someone whose success catches the interest of casual sports fans and creates an alternative storyline (as in, who won? and how did Maria do?) to every tournament she plays in. Her dominating performance this morning in winning Wimbledon was reminiscent of one of Tiger's Majors: an efficient, methodical pasting of the best the sport had to offer that could only leave one in awe.

It is almost sad how quickly Anna Kornikova is going to be forgotten....

July 02, 2004

Eric Alterman raises an interesting point about Michael Moore: why are media critics more aggressive in fact-checking F9/11 than the various "misstatements" of the Bush Administration? BTW, for an interesting compendium of said falsehoods, check out this Congressional report on same.
I figured this sort of argument was inevitable: right wing moral relativism, in the form of a defense of Dick Cheney's dropping the f-bomb last week. As I wrote at the time, I was less outraged at the shocking fact that the Vice President swears than the fact that he was so unapologetic about it later. And when you have someone as sycophantic as Charles Krauthammer defending you, it's no wonder that the Bushies are so clueless when it comes to the way normal folks perceive them.

That Krauthammer is unable to distinguish between the angry use of the f-word by someone cut off on the 405, or a coach arguing a bad call, and its use by someone who is arguably the most powerful man in the country, who holds the positions of both Vice President and President of the Senate, on the hallowed floor of Congress, uttered within the context of a debate on a matter of public interest, is remarkable. Besides the fact that the odds are nil that the same justification would have been made if the recipient of the vulgarity had been Dick Cheney or Arik Sharon, it goes to show how one-sided the calls for civility in our public discourse have been. That it should not be surprising that this sort of conduct can be defended, in much the same way Southern slaveholders defended the caning of Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate by Preston Brooks more than a century ago. The breakdown in civility back then led to the Civil War; I only hope that there are still enough people of good will on both sides of the fence, who recognize that some sanctified arenas, such as a courtroom or the floor of Congress, should encourage polite, reasoned debate, and that f-bombs should be reserved for barroom quarrels between drunks.

July 01, 2004

Maria Sharapova: She's prettier, smarter, plays better tennis, and has more class than Anna K: What's not to love?

June 29, 2004

Idiot Son Update: Perugia club owner Luciano Gaucci denounced his team after it lost a home-and-home series with Fiorentina, relegating the team to the minor leagues (Italian Serie B). Promising that he would purge the players he deemed unworthy to play professional soccer at the highest level, he vowed that the only players who could be assured of employment next season were Italian superstar Fabrizio Ravanelli, and, of course, our old friend Saadi Ghaddafi. Apparently the one game he played this season must have made more of an impression on the boss than his frequent "injuries", carousing and positive drug tests.

June 28, 2004

Admittedly, I did not anticipate the impact Fahrenheit 9/11 would have on me after seeing it this morning. I've learned to take much of what Michael Moore says with a grain of salt, and his snarky humor usually undercuts his message. One didn't exit the theatre after Roger & Me wanting to overthrow capitalism. His newest film, however, stays with you long after you leave the cineplex. It must be experienced with a group of people to be understood, something that I can't recall saying about any recent film. There are two types of people in the world, Blondie: those who've seen the film, and those who haven't. Discussing the film with people who haven't seen Fahrenheit 9/11 yet, either because they hate Moore or hate his politics (or both), is like trying to have a discussion about sex with a priest; he may have some interesting thoughts on the subject, but he just hasn't been there.

The importance of seeing this film came back to me when re-reading the post below about Mr. Hitchens. When I first read his "review", I couldn't wholly comprehend the intensity of his hatred for Michael Moore, or fathom what could have been the source of his animus. Most of the piece consisted of nothing more than a string of clever insults about Moore, but almost nothing to justify them at a substantive level. Hitchens, however, had seen the film; at the time, I hadn't. After spending two hours in a packed Woodland Hills theatre Sunday morning, I got it. I understood.

This was, by no means, a perfect film. The first half hour is spent regurgitating standard lefty claims about Florida and the 2000 election, and drawing broad (and I believe unsupportable) claims about Bush's ties with the Saudis. And some of Moore's annoying personal tics make their unwelcome appearance in this film. Yes, politicians get pampered by make-up artists before they go on camera, and if we're before the unblinking eye long enough, all of us will reveal some pretty gross examples of our humanity. Let he who is without sin lick the first comb. And anyone who remembers John Ashcroft's defeat in his 2000 Senate bid knows that he handled an impossible situation with enormous class (unlike the Republicans after the Wellstone Memorial), and pretending that the voters were voting for a corpse in that election when it was clear that they were picking the very-much-alive widow of his opponent is not a high point. One can acknowledge the occasional acts of decency in our opponents and still disagree with the Patriot Act.

Where the film picks up steam, and becomes a powerful indictment of our nation's leadership, comes when Moore gets out of the way, and simply focuses on the actual reasoning used to justify attacking Iraq last year. For someone who, in good faith, supported the Bush Administration and their policies, viewing Fahrenheit 9/11 must be comparable to what it was like for some French career civil servant to see The Sorrow and the Pity thirty years ago, and then be forced to justify what he did in WWII. Even if one served the Vichy government with what started out being only the best of intentions, that famous documentary shoved the issue of collaboration right in your face. You either did some soulsearching, or you lashed out at the messenger.

Here, Hitchens lashes out. There can be no way anyone watching the last half-hour of F9/11 can not be moved by the patriotism of the least-privileged (whom Hitchens patronizingly refers to as "duskier than others"), or not be angered that their sacrifice was so arrogantly and mendaciously exploited by our government. Hitchens disingenuously asks whether the use of proxies, and the anti-draft riots, would have meant that Moore believes the Civil War should never have been fought, ignoring the fact that slaves, unlike WMD's, actually existed. He has nothing to say to the friends and family of the dead, other than que sera, sera. But as Hitchens admits at the end of his piece, "'fact-checking' is beside the point."
U.S. Transfers "Sovereignty" to New Iraqi Government: Thank God we don't have to worry about that anymore. No doubt, General Thieu Prime Minister Allawi will provide legitimacy. Maybe Senator Aiken was right.