“We don’t leave our First Amendment rights in the hands of FCC bureaucrats”

Although I support Elena Kagan’s confirmation on the grounds that it is certainly the best that we could hope for from an Obama presidency, stuff like this really concerns me.  Please listen to the audio at the link.  The quote comes from Justice Alito.  When General Kagan was questioned about infringements on speech and banning books, her response is that the government’s never actually applied it to books, as if that somehow makes the ability to ban them OK.  If the framers of the Constitution had thought “just trust the government” were a good strategy, I don’t think they would have bothered with the First Amendment at all. 

In today’s hearing, she attempted to make the argument that books were somehow different from movies, something about traditional electioneering methods.  It still doesn’t work.  How about we just don’t ban any speech at all?

What part of “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech” doesn’t work for her?


Sticks to the Facts, and Shows Loyalties Towards Dictators

A disturbing review of the Oliver Stone film “South of the Border.”

Here, Stone sticks to the facts, and makes it quite clear where his loyalties lie, namely, with Chavez in Venezuela, with Castro in Cuba, with Morales in Bolivia and with other South American leaders of populist movements. Why? Because he ostensibly admires how these freedom fighters have somehow managed to break the cycle of exploitation of their countries’ people and natural resources for the benefit of white Western nations.

Over the course of the film, Stone not only narrates, but interviews 7 democratically-elected presidents in order to highlight how they ascended to power as a consequence of a mandate from the majority. Ad infinitum, he drives home the point that we aren’t dealing with dictators or strongmen as is often suggested by the mainstream media so fond of vilifying these working-class heroes.

Hugo Chavez jails judges that make decisions he dislikes, prosecutes dissenters, and controls broadcasters.  He’s being sued for “terrorism, torture, violation of human rights, and crimes against humanity”  by a man who tried to counter the state-approved media and expose corruption, and was forced to flee and rely on the U.S. for asylum.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reports:

In the report, the IACHR identifies a series of issues that restrict the full enjoyment of human rights. Among other issues, the IACHR analyzes a series of conditions that indicate the absence of an effective separation and independence of the public branches of power in Venezuela. The report finds that not all individuals are ensured full enjoyment of their rights irrespective of their positions on government policies. The Commission also finds that the punitive power of the State is being used to intimidate or punish people on account of their political opinions. The Commission believes that conditions do not exist for human rights defenders and journalists to be able to freely carry out their work. The IACHR also detects the existence of a pattern of impunity in cases of violence, which particularly affects media workers, human rights defenders, trade unionists, participants in public demonstrations, people held in custody, campesinos (small-scale and subsistence farmers), indigenous people, and women. 

And so on. 

As for Castro, here’s what Human Rights Watch said upon Fidel’s resignation:

For almost five decades, Cuba has restricted nearly all avenues of political dissent. Cuban citizens have been systematically deprived of their fundamental rights to free expression, privacy, association, assembly, movement, and due process of law. Tactics for enforcing political conformity have included police warnings, surveillance, short-term detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically motivated dismissals from employment.

Cuba’s legal and institutional structures have been at the root of its rights violations. The rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and the press are strictly limited under Cuban law. By criminalizing enemy propaganda, the spreading of “unauthorized news,” and insult to patriotic symbols, the government curbs freedom of speech under the guise of protecting state security. The courts are not independent; they undermine the right to fair trial by restricting the right to a defense, and frequently fail to observe the few due process rights available to defendants under domestic law.

“Since Fidel Castro first turned power over to his brother, the Cuban government has occasionally indicated a willingness to reconsider its approach to human rights,” said Vivanco. “But so far it hasn’t taken any of the steps needed to end its abusive practices.”

Wikipedia has an entire page, with sources, devoted to “Censorship in Cuba,” in addition to its page on “Human Rights in Cuba.”  (Wiki’s not a good primary source, of course, but if you check the links, they provide a wealth of sources that are generally accepted as reliable.) 

I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Bolivia or Morales, and my research suggests that he doesn’t belong with the other two.  But he’s only been president for a few years, and hasn’t had time to amass the totalitarian power of Chavez and Castro, so perhaps time will tell.  But I am not criticizing Stone for liking Morales. 

Per the review, Stone’s love for these enemies of freedom is based on the fact that they were “democratically elected.”  Even if that is really true (This Wikipedia page has a number of links that question the legitimacy of Chavez’s election, and it is well known that Cuban elections are largely meaningless), an election is certainly not free and democratic when media and information is controlled with an iron fist.  Saddam Hussein was “democratically elected,” too.  That didn’t stop him from being a dictator of immense evil.  Ask an actual Cuban who has escaped to America about life under Castro-  it’s not pretty.  (Miami has plans to throw a rockin’ party when Fidel finally kicks it; real mandate from the people there.)

Oliver Stone is a very accomplished filmmaker.  He is not a dumb man, so I can only assume that he knows of the human rights abuses under Castro and Chavez and simply doesn’t care.  Perhaps he believes that artists of his prestige would be rewarded under such a system (provided they toe the government’s line), perhaps these men fawn over his work in such a way that strokes his ego in just the way he needs, perhaps he is as bloodthirsty and totalitarian as the men he admires.  Either way, the way that Stone thinks is not in line with American values, nor are they compatible with freedom.  Stone’s work has been influential; it is important to know what he values when we consider it.

What would a “real black president” do?

I would expect that he would do one of many things, depending on the type of president that he is and situation.  Because I believe that black people are individuals who can think for themselves.  Bill Maher, however, thinks that all “real” black people are a cartoon stereotype

“I thought when we elected a black president, we were going to get a black president. You know, this [BP oil spill] is where I want a real black president. I want him in a meeting with the BP CEOs, you know, where he lifts up his shirt so you can see the gun in his pants. That’s — (in black man voice) ‘we’ve got a motherfu**ing problem here?’ Shoot somebody in the foot.”

Now, I realize that Maher is just a shock jock without the radio show, and we’re really just giving him what he wants by paying attention to him, but I really want to know when society is going to stop finding these types of stereotypes funny or “edgy” or whatever adjective is describing Bill Maher these days.  We’ve had two black Secretaries of State.  We have a black Attorney General.  We have numerous black CEOs, bosses, neighbors, and employees.  A black man (yeah, he’s real!) is the president of the United States.  None of them act like a cartoon stereotype. 

The other day I caught the movie “Soul Plane.”  (Dont’ ask why.)  While it had a few funny parts, the whole theme was that, if there were a “black” airline (why, 55 years after Brown v. Board of Education, would we even want such a thing?), it would be like this cartoon stereotype (but with more degrading images of women).  If I could count all of the times that I’ve heard the N word in my life until then, it wouldn’t be as many times as it was said in the movie (and I live in the south).  Throughout the weekend, I’ve been trying to think of something that I could say about this movie that wouldn’t be racist, and I couldn’t.  If I believed that blacks were really like they were portrayed in the movie (which I absolutely do not), I would want segregation, too.  And I’m sure that the producers of that movie weren’t a bunch of honky redneck southerners. 

Why do people keep snickering and accepting these ridiculous portrayals of black men?  How much does this impact our ability to move past thinking judging people by the color of their skin?  And why does this stuff keep coming from people who are supposed to be “enlightened?”

Breast-possesser Wins Oscar

This article from NewsBlaze is basically a summary of the Oscars, but the headline caught my attention: “Kathryn Bigelow Advances Achievement of Women with Hurt Locker”

Now, to be fair, I’m glad that Hurt Locker got a lot of good attention.  I personally haven’t been to the movies since Sweeney Todd was in theaters (what can I say, I’ve got a thing for offbeat, uber-violent musicals.  And Johnny Depp*.  I’m not asking you to understand.)  But I’ve heard pretty good things about Hurt Locker.  If I wanted to see a movie, maybe I’d consider that one.  (OK, I do really want to see Alice in Wonderland, but we’re getting off track.) 

It’s just that I want the best director to win; not the best woman.  Was the academy swayed by the urge to pick the first woman winner?  I guess we’ll never know whether Ms. Bigelow legitimately earned this award. 

* It’s not that I find him attractive; I don’t. Far too pretty for my tastes.  I just like him.  Again, not asking you to understand.

I don’t know what this means, but it troubles me.

The present White House has a tendancy to shoot from the hip, so I’m hoping that this is just some flunkie’s idea of  strong sounding phrase that doesn’t have any real meaning or intent behind it.  Yet, the more I think about it, the more it troubles me, and I’d like to remember that it was there in case of future reference. 

The White House’s official response to this week’s Supreme Court decision upholding free speech rights in Citizens United (Via Ann Althouse):

With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.

(bolding mine) The Supreme Court’s decision was on constitutional grounds.  It ruled that the law which forbid distribution of a movie is invalid, under the constitution.  The president has no power to change that.  The congress has no power to change that.  The constitution says what it says. 

What, exactly, is Obama proposing to do here?

Added: Really good description of the issues at play in this case here.

Doesn’t this basically prove a lack of sexism?

Feminist Blog Women and Hollywood has their pants in a bunch over the fact that The Hollywood Reporter’s Top Ten Movies of the decade forgot to include a directors with special needs section any films with women directors. 

Here’s a list that caught my attention, The Hollywood Reporter’s Top Ten Movies of the Decade and not surprisingly, there is not a single female directed film on the list.  You can tell from the list that it was not a US based list so that opens is up much wider.  I seriously cannot believe that a single woman directed film in the last decade is not worthy of being on this list.

So, with the exception of a big deal director like Spielberg or James Cameron, who really looks at the name, and therefore, sex, of the director of a movie when naming it the best?  I’m looking over the list, and I can only name one director off the top of my head of any of the movies, and even that’s just a guess I can’t place a single one to a director off the top of my head. 

Now, I’m sure that a true movie buff of the sort that puts together top movies of the decade can note the directors better than I (I’ll admit that I haven’t even seen any of the movies on the list), but even so, do the nice folks at Women and Hollywood really think that the reviewer was sitting in the theater, judging the movie on the basis of whether or not the director had a penis? 

If the reviewers had specifically included a female directed movie just to include one, that would have been sexist.  If they simply made a list of the “best movies” (based on whatever criteria they wish to base it on), with no real consideration of who directed them, and the list happened to include only movies directed by male directors, well, that is exactly what I want to happen.  If a woman, or anyone, is going to get acclaimed for her directorial skills, I want it to be because she made a great movie as compared to all the other great movies, not because she made a great movie, for a girl. 

(via Double X)

Where’s my flying car?

More than anything else, “2010” sounds incredibly futuristic.  As I child, I imagined 2000, perhaps even further, but I’m pretty sure my planning stopped by the time I would pass my 20’s (an event I will be celebrating in just a few weeks). 

 A few months ago, I happened to catch the second Back to the Future movie on cable (and I watched it. and I enjoyed it).  Do you realize that the future as imagined by Robert Zemeckis, with flying cars, hoverboards, holograms, and dehydrated pizza, took place in 2015?  That’s five years away!  Life still seems more like the 80’s than it does like the world of Marty McFly’s idiot child.  (She said as she typed on her 3 pound laptop computer information which would be instantly communicated to the rest of the world via wireless internet, while her husband plays Playstation 3 on a wireless controller and a plasma TV.) 

I feel so disappointed in you, future.