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Month: October 2004

Bad vision

Ron Suskind has a nice archive of Bush White House documents that he’s releasing now and again. Interesting stuff. One recent piece of interest was this projection of oil price rises following an invasion of Iraq. Suskind notes the optimism inherent in the assumption that oil prices will be the only thing affected. Me, I notice the optimism that $45 a barrel is the worst case scenario. We’ve beaten that by $7 a barrel, for reasons that the memo doesn’t even speculate on. Namely, terrorist action to prevent the flow of oil.

Poll position

Your article of the day is from Fox News, and it says that Bush is leading Kerry by 2% in the polls.

“Um, how is this good news for Kerry?”

The key paragraphs are paragraphs two and three, which read:

These new poll results show a slight dip in polling conducted Wednesday and Thursday night when Bush topped Kerry by 50 percent to 45 percent.

Polling was conducted Thursday and Friday evenings, so about half of those interviewed would have had the opportunity to hear reports of a new tape from Usama bin Laden.

So: the tape hasn’t helped Bush, which is not any great surprise, because the tape is a big fat reminder that Osama is still out there.

Now, that poll is from last week. You can get the current tracking polls here, and Fox News is right at the top of the page. There’s been an additional Fox News polling cycle since that article was written, and it shows Kerry up by 47% to 46% among likely voters. This is a big fat swing over to Kerry; as predicted, the undecideds are breaking his way.

Caped crusader

I’ve been intrigued by Ryuhei Kitamura’s Azumi since I saw the trailer back at FanTasia. I finally found a Korean DVD with English subtitles, and now I have watched it, and I am replete with satisfaction. More or less.

For the first hour or so, you could mistake Azumi for a fairly serious chambara piece. There’s cool action and swordplay and while your typical chambara movie does not star a teenage girl, the plot — ninjas must kill the warlords who threaten the Tokugawa Shogunate — is pretty straightforward. There are certainly some oddball characters, but the main thrust of the movie is your basic warriors wandering the land, facing the occasional moral crisis and fighting for what will hopefully prove to be justice.

Once Bijomaru shows up, though, the movie is freed from convention. He’s a poetic bishonen killer who lives for violence, waltzing through the movie in pure white robes; his sword has no hand guard, because he has never needed to block an opponent’s blow. High camp. In fact, it started to remind me of Cutie Honey. Azumi is an adaptation of a manga, and like Cutie Honey it is unabashedly over the top (although not half as, well, cute).

All in all, it gave me what I want out of an action movie. The only real quibble I had was that the swordplay wasn’t top-notch. It was OK, and it was well choreographed, particularly in Azumi’s last battle when she cuts loose against an entire town. I really liked the way she kept moving to minimize the number of people attacking her at once. I also liked the way every sword was treated as deadly; this isn’t a kung-fu movie where people take a lot of damage, it’s a chambara movie where one cut with a sword brings death. However, few of the actors were quick enough to make me totally believe in their martial arts ability.

Kitamura’s hyperkinetic camerawork made up for a lot, though. He compensated for any lack of fluidity on the part of the actors with elegant snappy cuts. I tend to expect quick cuts to detract from fight scenes, because you lose track of what’s going on. Kitamura’s cuts flow with the scene, punctuating the action rather than chopping it to pieces. His visual sense is very much on target.

So in the final analysis, it’s a thumbs up. Particularly if you’re fond of female action heroes with great costumes.

Not dean yet

I overheard the best conversation ever at my comic book store today. Two teenage girls were sitting around provoking the guy who runs the place, who was sitting around being amused. Teenager one picks up a copy of Transmetropolitan.

“Hey,” she says, “Is this guy a metrosexual?” She’s pointing at the cover, which is of course Spider Jerusalem.

“No,” says the comic book guy. “He’s completely not metrosexual.”

“Then why is he carrying a man bag?”

“He keeps his laptop in it. He’s a journalist!”

“Mmm,” says teenager two. “Then he should carry a laptop bag or a briefcase or something. That’s a man bag. He’s a metrosexual.”

“Yeah,” says teenager one. “And what’s with him not wearing a shirt?”

“He’s got tattoos,” says the guy. “He’s got a right to show ‘em off.”

“Yeah, well, he should take off the jacket, then. Instead of being some metrosexual Rico Suave.”

So there you have it. Spider Jerusalem, underground journalist and metrosexual Rico Suave.

Also, it will work out

Today we’re going to dispel the myth of chaos in the Democratic ranks. This is a really popular one, because everybody knows that the conservative movement has spent 40 years building a network of think tanks, foundations, funding, and so on. Progressives can’t compare. Wring your hands.

This apocalyptic vision fails to take into account the utility of the Internet, which makes a huge difference when you’re trying to build a movement. Thankfully, someone figured this out. Make no mistake: Howard Dean will be as responsible for a Kerry victory as anyone.

So what’s it look like in the field? I turn you over to Harold Meyerson, who says “Those liberal organizations that already knew how to do politics — the AFL-CIO, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and a few others — are doing it better than they have before. Those liberal groups that stayed aloof from elections or phumphered ineffectually are now playing the game like seasoned pros.”

He goes on to talk about the organizational umbrella provided by America Votes. I hadn’t been paying attention to those guys, and clearly I should have been — their membership list is startlingly comprehensive. As Meyerson says, this is a new high water mark for left-wing unity.

Why it will work out

Right. You’re going to get one of these once a day between now and Tuesday. They’re mostly directed at my friends who are feeling mopish about the potential for a Kerry victory.

Today, I’ve got an Al Giordano essay for you. Al is one smart cookie. He predicted Kerry’s victory in Iowa. He knows Kerry and Kerry’s people really well. He is not randomly making stuff up to make himself feel better.

See, here’s the deal. Kerry fits nicely into the frame of “another boring liberal from Massachusetts.” If you want to take the lazy way out, you just recycle all the Dukakis stories and you’ve got yourself a news cycle. Now, I liked Dukakis — but Kerry is simply a tougher candidate. He knows what it means to be on the national stage. He is the guy who refused to let go of the BCCI scandal, he’s the guy who defeated an incredible popular William Weld in his last election, he’s the guy who wins.

If Kerry wasn’t charismatic — if he wasn’t good at what he does — Nixon wouldn’t have singled him out for special attention in the 70s. Nothing’s changed. The media frame is wrong. Kerry is not Dukakis.

Read Al’s piece. More tomorrow.

Stat whiz

Because I could, I made a spreadsheet for the election night drinking game. You enter the predictions for each player, using the nifty little pulldown menus for the candidate choice, and then you enter the actual winner and their percentage over in those right hand columns. If the square in the “Glug” column goes red, that player has to drink.

No, I don’t expect anyone to actually use this or anything.

Fear factor

Lawrence Haws wrote me the other day and pointed out that Bush recently said it was “up in the air” whether we could ever be safe from another terrorist attack. He said this disproves my assertion that Bush pretends he can keep us safe.

True enough! And Kerry responded to Bush’s comment by saying that he was going to win the war on terror, which is just as ridiculous when Kerry says it as it is when Bush says it. Terror is not an opponent, it’s a tactic.

Of course, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, promptly said that “The president said we can win the war on terror and we will win the war on terror.” So it’s not as if Bush and his team are going to stand by their admission, any more than Bush stood by his comments at the GOP convention when he said he didn’t think it was possible to win the war on terror.

Bush wants us to think he can keep us safe. So does Kerry. Every now and then the truth slips out — I really liked Kerry’s comments to the New York Times, when he explained that he wanted to reduce the threat of terrorism until it doesn’t affect the fabric of our everyday lives. And every time it slips out, the other side pounces on it and uses it as a stick. I don’t particularly see either campaign occupying high moral ground here.

With one caveat: Kerry, so far, has not told Americans that they will be nuked if Bush wins.

Neck and neck

This scenario is not going to happen, because if McCain was going to take a shot at Bush he’s had plenty of opportunities to do it already. But it’s a fun little piece of speculation about an obscure piece of election law, so if you want to find out how McCain could be elected President this year, go read it.