19 December, 2007

(Un)Reasonable Man

I was in PBS nerd-dom again last night, watching An Unreasonable Man on Independent Lens. It’s a fascinating little documentary on the career of Ralph Nader from the consumer crusader days up to the recent elections and scapegoat episodes. I’ll admit to not paying much attention at all to Nader in the previous two election cycles, knowing him only as the goofy Green Party Candidate or the “Consumer Advocate” dude with absolutely no chance whatsoever. The documentary had me hooked from the beginning and did an impressive job of painting a picture of raw American Idealism.

You’ll have to forgive me for the use of “American Idealism” in that last sentence. You see, I’m not a big fan of what passes for American Idealism these days. I shudder at the moral depravity we have justified in the name of protectionism and national security. I have a simmering pot of angst that I should really do something about regarding the American Popular Religion that equates the mission of Christ with the mission of the Holy Republican Party. I had nearly forgotten that there was an actual dream of American freedom divorced from corporate politics and K Street hubris. In that sense I can thank An Unreasonable Man for polishing the silver of my own increasingly tarnished view of American Idealism.

It’s important to note that the film is no whitewash of the Nader legacy. They provide ample time for criticism, especially regarding his quixotic presidential runs and their effect on the status quo political landscape. These criticisms for me came across as so much whine and blame shifting that they were nearly comical – watching the rage bubble to the surface in pissed off Gore supporters as they rail against Nader the spoiler. I was reminded of an appropriate exchange from The West Wing where Josh is ticked that a fellow Democrat is running a doomed campaign against the president in order to raise what he feels are important issues:

AMY: That's sweet of you to look out for me, but I liked the job I had. And when I lost it, I didn't pitch anything. I didn't stage a nutty. I fought you, I lost, I had a drink, I took a shower. 'Cause that's how it is in the NBA. You know what I do when I win? Two drinks! I didn't start consulting with Stackhouse to piss you off. There are things here I believe in. I didn't come out here to piss you off, either. I wanted to tell you that if the Senator responds on needle exchange, the President shouldn't take the bait.

JOSH: No kidding.

AMY: All right, I'm going back in.

JOSH: He's taking the President's votes. It's as simple... He is taking the President's votes.

AMY: Listen, I'm not indifferent to the situation, but that right there, that's the crazy part of your argument.

JOSH: Why?

AMY: They're not his votes.

Which is exactly how I feel when the subject of Nader as Grand Gore Spoiler comes up. Nader didn’t steal Gore’s votes - he earned the votes of people who were tired of the same dual corporate party Catch 22. There was a surreal moment in the documentary when he was denied access to even watch the first presidential debate when he held a valid ticket to watch from an overflow viewing room via closed circuit TV. After being told by police that if he did not leave the property he would be arrested he proceeded to give a pretty good little speech on the abuse of authority perpetrated by the debate commission against the State of Massachusetts for putting the hapless officer in that very un-democratic position. Not surprising given that the two decision makers of the Presidential Debate Commission were both corporate lobbyists themselves. The man who took on GM had no chance in a debate system itself controlled by business interests.

I’m a bit ashamed that it wasn’t until last night that I found out more about the events surrounding Nader’s early career as well as the events surrounding the 2000 election. It says something about my lack of interest in meaningful politics as well as the power of corporate media to shape debate at will in this country. While I would probably disagree with Nader on numerous issues, I can at least credit his story for restoring a notion of American Idealism that I thought I had lost forever.

The documentary is highly recommended, catch it on re-run or at the video store if you can. Another bonus: If you find Michael Moore to be an annoying jerk there is a wonderful flip-flopping moment of schadenfreude for you.

06 December, 2007

Pullman's Golden Compass: What's Up?

You may or may not have spent much time absorbing the simmering controversy over the movie version of The Golden Compass. I never read the books, but I trust the opinion of Amy Welborn a good bit and she wrote a nice little summary on the major issues that should allow you all to avoid any handwringing over whether or not to bother shelling out the clams to see the flic. I might pick it up from Blockbuster in the spirit of cultural awareness, who knows. From the few interviews I've seen, this guy has some serious anger issues that he does a poor job of concealing.

Also, +1 on the idea that the USCCB needs a new movie reviewer. Talk about being played like a cheap banjo...

I know I've been doing a lot of linking lately. Fear not, genuine original content is on the way!

03 December, 2007

Tim's New(ish) Digs

A belated notice that astute commenter Tim Jones has started his own little corner of the blogosphere - Old World Swine. Please frequent his fine site and soak up the seriously good art he's producing. I'm a big fan of the landscapes myself and I believe he's looking into some more liturgical art in the future - music to my ears.