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Archive for November, 2008

The Restoration?

‘You could have had an administration with a sprinkling of Clinton people, it would have been fine,’ said Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect…’But when so many of the top people are holdovers, and he’s promoting change, you have to say, wait a minute.’” As the official Cabinet appointments file in, some left-minded folk cast a wary eye upon the Clintonian tinge of the Obama cabinet. (If you haven’t been keeping up, among those announced by the transition of late are Eric Holder at Justice, Tim Geithner at Treasury, and Larry Summers(!) as in-house economic guru, and word has leaked of Bill Richardson for Commerce and You-Know-Who for State.)

To be honest, with a few exceptions — After his egregious stint at Harvard and his hand in forging the economic mess we’re in now, I’m not altogether sure Larry Summers deserved to “fail up” — I’m not only fine with so many experienced Clinton-era officials in the Obama cabinet, I expected it. This was the great fallacy of the McCain campaign — For all his talk of maverick independence, there was never any substantial trough of non-Dubya Republicans out there from which McCain could’ve picked a government. A few cosmetic changes in the Cabinet aside, a McCain Washington would by necessity have been run by the same jokers who brought us the last eight years. And, for better or worse, we Dems also don’t have a different farm team of any kind. As Robert Borosage well puts it in the article above, “It hasn’t surprised me that he’s chosen stars from the Clinton bench, because that’s the bench we have.

All that being said, I’d be lying if I didn’t note that the probable choice of Sen. Clinton for Secretary of State gives me pause. Part of my qualm, I suppose, is just a temperamental defect in my grudge-carrying Irish character — I’d be the first to admit that I lean towards “the Chicago way” in these sorts of things. (If it were up to me, Joe Lieberman would be working the Senate cloakroom after his behavior this election cycle, and, imho, Sen Clinton still has quite a bit to answer for as well.) But even allowing for my own petty vindictiveness, I’m not feeling the pick. Notwithstanding her dubious qualifications for State — don’t we have any career diplomats who would fit the bill? — Sen. Clinton’s record in foreign policy matters thus far is not what you’d call stellar. (See also: the Iraq vote, the Iran vote.) And, to put it delicately, if we learned anything from the Clinton campaign this past cycle, it’s that management skills may not be her forte — Wouldn’t we all be better served with Sen. Clinton replacing Ted Kennedy as the new liberal lion of the Senate?

Mind you, I can see the political merits of the pick, both in terms of its Lincolnian magnanimity (it enhances Obama’s “goodbye to all that” post-partisan prestige, and completes the Seward analogy) and its Johnsonian shrewdness. (As LBJ said of J. Edgar Hoover, ““I would rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.“) And, if the president-elect believes Sen. Clinton to be the woman for the job, despite everything that’s happened over the year, I’m inclined to trust his judgment on the matter. I just hope it works out better than I fear. (Pic via Sullivan.)

Clearing the Court for King James.

Following up on his stated intentions to free cap space and pave the way for acquiring LeBron James in 2010, Knicks GM Donnie Walsh pulls the trigger on two big trades, sending Zack Randolph (and trade-filler Mardy Collins) to the Clips for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley (pending a heart issue) and Jamal Crawford to the Warriors for Al Harrington, all of which will be off the books during the crucial free agent season in question.

I guess it seems a bit distasteful to embrace so openly the hired-gun philosophy of winning a championship…but, hey, that’s the way the game is played. So, with that in mind, kudos to Walsh on a job well done (and good luck moving Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry.) Besides, we Knicks fans have slogged through the past eight years since the cap- and karma-destroying trading of Patrick Ewing. At this point, we can probably eat another two.

Paging Wallace Beery.

If that’s your man, then tag him in: Darren Aronofsky of Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain takes his stab at the ‘rasslin form in the new trailer for The Wrestler, with Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood. Looks interesting enough, if a bit Sunday-afternoon-on-IFC-ish.

Midnight Agents, Superhuman Crews.

Among the bountiful harvest that is the Quantum of Solace trailer crop…

  • Trailer rights to use Philip Glass and Muse? Several thousand dollars. Lawyers to haggle out an armistice among warring studios? Millions. Finally getting a Watchmen film up and made? Priceless. Costumed heroes (the Voice-of-Mastercard among them) investigate the death of a Comedian in the story-heavy second trailer for Zack Snyder’s Watchmen.

    I’m all over the place on this one. There are some real red flags here — all the Snydery slo-mo shots of Malin Ackerman’s hair, for example — and some of the dialogue feels as stiff and expository as the ponderous take-a-meeting scenes in 300. Then again, as with the first trailer, I’m still having trouble just wrapping my mind around the fact that they finally made a Watchmen movie. So I’m inclined to be charitable, and the little flourishes throughout (Rorschach’s mask moves!) appeal to my inner fanboy regardless. (Also, while Jackie Earle Hale’s Bale-Batman-growl may be a tad distracting, it’s hard to imagine Rorschach with any other kind of voice.) For now, I’ll call it a push.

  • Bad Boy Kirk! Angry Spock(?)! Alluring Uhura! Villain with Ridges on Face! J.J. Abrams introduces his new-and-improved Enterprise babies in the crowd-pleasing trailer for the Star Trek reboot. I can’t say I’m expecting all that much from this venture, and this clip, particularly in its 2 Fast 2 Furious opener, doesn’t shy away from bringing the summer movie dumb. Still, I’m forced to admit this looks more fun than I’d earlier envisioned, and I’m looking forward to more of Simon Pegg’s Scott and Karl Urban’s Bones. (And Bruce Greenwood (Pike) and Eric Bana (Big Bad) are generally a welcome touch of class in any event.)

    Also out of late:

  • A stiff, robotic alien promises to destroy life on Earth in order to save it…oh yeah, and he brought Gort along too. Keanu Reeves get threatening in the new action-centric trailer for next month’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, also with Jennifer Connelly and Jon Hamm.

  • Speaking of threatening, Harrison Ford looks to uncork the finger of doom for the cause of immigration reform in the trailer for Wayne Kramer’s Crash-like Crossing Over. (I hope his wife and family are ok, at least.) Joining Indy on this border-crossing adventure: Summer Bishil, Alice Braga, Cliff Curtis, Alice Eve, Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta, and Jim Sturgess.

  • Immigration, Schmimmigration. According to the teaser for Roland Emmerich’s next forgettable summer jaunt, 2012, we’ve only got four years left anyway…and it’s all Dubya’s fault. Strangely enough, John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Woody Harrelson are all along to surf this improbable Himalayan-swamping wave, but I wouldn’t expect much of a splash at the box office.

  • Finally, the revolution may not be televised, but it’ll soon be hitting at least a few screens here in America anyway: Witness the a international teaser for Steven Soderbergh’s Che (or, more to the point, Ches — I believe this project is still two films.) Word of mouth on this one has been highly variable, but I remain curious to see what Soderbergh and Benicio del Toro have come up with. Still, this strangely disjointed teaser — Ken Burns by way of Oliver Stone — doesn’t really get the job done.

  • No. 9, No. 9, No. 9, No. 9…

    As of this weekend, Ghost in the Machine is now nine years old. [0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.] With an incoming Obama administration, an expanded Democratic Congress, and, perhaps most startling, the Knickerbockers actually two games over 500, it’s looking harder than usual to find things to complain about around here. Even amid the twilight realm of the ABD, that faint orange glow in the distance is looking less like troubling fires ahead and more and more like an approaching dawn. Nevertheless, whatever the future holds, GitM (hopefully) rolls on. As always, whether you’re a longtime reader or just a lost/adventurous Googler, thanks for stopping by.

    Ashes of the Phoenix.

    The last Twitter post said it all: “01010100 01110010 01101001 01110101 01101101 01110000 01101000.”” Or, in other words, Ground Control to Phoenix Lander: You’ve really made the grade. Having seemingly succumbed to the Martian winter at last, the Mars Phoenix Lander is pronounced deceased by NASA. “NASA official Doug McCuistion counseled people to view Phoenix’s end as ‘an Irish wake rather than a funeral. It’s certainly been a grand adventure.’…While some followers said farewell to Phoenix in computer language today, others kept it simple. ‘Good bye Phoenix, I love you :(,’ said user patach.

    Priority #1: Gutting the Gitmo Gulag.

    “Announcing the closure of the controversial detention facility would be among the most potent signals the incoming administration could send of its sharp break with the Bush era, according to the advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for the president-elect. They believe the move would create a global wave of diplomatic and popular goodwill that could accelerate the transfer of some detainees to other countries.” In the WP today, unnamed Obama advisors make the case for the president-elect closing the Gitmo gulag next-to-immediately. (The ACLU has echoed similarly, and the UN Human Rights Commission suggested thus back in 2006.)

    Nevertheless, while agreeing Gitmo is a catastrophic mistake that needs to be rectified pronto, Slate‘s Jonathan Mahler and Newsweek‘s Dan Ephron sense some implementation problems ahead. “[T]he prisoner mess created by Bush with the stroke of a pen in November 2001, and made messier over seven years, will take time and resourcefulness to clean up…[T]he controversial facility will probably still be open for business a year from now.

    However the national embarrassment at Guantanamo is handled by the new administration, it seems a safe bet that some of the intelligence officials that have carried water for Dubya on Gitmo, torture, warrantless wiretaps, and other issues will soon be sent packing, namely Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and CIA head Michael Hayden. “McConnell and Hayden, both career intelligence professionals, interpret the Obama team not reaching out to them as a sign that they will not be kept on, intelligence officials said.” But, hey, heck of a job, Mikeys.

    Kaplan: The Good News Abroad.

    “It’s a truism that Barack Obama faces the most intractable set of challenges that any president has faced in at least 50 years. But on a few issues in foreign and military policy, he’s caught a break. Whether by luck, the effect of his election, or President George W. Bush’s stepped-up drive to win last-minute kudos, Obama will enter the White House with some paths to success already marked, if not quite paved.” Having covered six diplomatic priorities for Obama right after the election (the link was buried in this post), Slate‘s Fred Kaplan takes a gander at five foreign policy arenas primed for good news under the coming administration.

    Bin Laden Long Enough.

    “‘If you think of this as sort of a combination of [the hunt for] Eric Rudolph, who was the Olympic bomber, and the movie ‘Deliverance,’ multiplied by a factor of 10, that’s really what you’re focusing on in trying to find bin Laden,’ said Robert Grenier, the former CIA station chief in Pakistan.” Also high on the foreign policy to-do list for President-elect Obama: bringing the war on terror back to Osama bin Laden.

    Alas, despite Dubya’s occasional bouts of half-hearted bluster, it seems the bin Laden trail may well have gone ice-cold over the past few years, while we’ve been focused on Iraq. “Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer, told CNN he’s talked to ‘a dozen CIA guys who’ve been on the hunt for him, and half of them told me they assumed he was dead, the other half said they assumed he was alive, but the key word here is assume. They don’t know.’…[Commander of special operations at Tora Bora Dalton] Fury says the best route for the president-elect to take would be to change the dialogue about bin Laden…He believes taunting the al Qaeda leader may force him to prove he’s relevant and, in the process, lead the United States right to him.

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