Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Other Big Race

The Presidential race is so exciting this year, our blog has completely forgotten the Oscars!

Will there be a pool? A live-blog? Will Angelina show up pregnant? Shouldn't Cate Blanchett have been nominated under "Best Actor"? Did we even like any of these movies?

These and other questions to be answered soon.

Letter from Wall Street/Gruff Weighs In

My fellow Bloggers:
Because my current place of business does not allow my to access Betty and Bimbo (no, this is not a joke), I've been reduced to submitting my thoughts via email to Jasen. I've heard through the grapevine that there's been some bickering about which candidate, if any, "real democrats" should support. Let me put my cards on the table: I am supporting Barack Obama. I agree with my brothers and with this ( very smart blogger that he is the clear progressive choice. But I do not particularly agree that Hillary is not a democrat: quite the contrary, she is the democrat. Maybe in 1992 she and Bill represented a fringe of the party (a democrat executing Ricky Ray Rector? A democrat for Welfare to Work? A democrat pronouncing the left dead?), but this is, obviously, no longer the case.

In any event, there are democrats with all sorts of different beliefs--and that's fine. Actually, it's probably a good thing. I have no problem with making room for the so-called "new domocrats" of the party. Hell, I'm even excited about Al Franken, who worships the clintons like demi-gods. But, even if you're a moderate democrat, I still have trouble understanding why you'd want to bring the Clinton drama back to the center of our party and our nation. The article in the NYT today about Clintons sleazy dealings should serve as a reminder of the '90s, when such articles popped up more than infrequently. And it's not only the sleazy backroom dealing that turns me off. How about Bill's behavior in New Hampshire. I don't know anyone who didn't squirm when Bill made that loathsome Jesse Jackson comment. Is Bill a racist? Probably not. But he and Hillary are very opportunistic, and they were clearly--clearly--trying (as Dick Morris predicted days before) to "blacken" Obama and thereby pick up more white vote. And if you believe Hillary wasn't in on that--well, then you must be one of those people who thinks she didn't know about Monica, or Gennifer, etc etc. What's more, I am the only one disturbed by how anxious Bill is to get back into the white house? Is that appropriate? I tend to think not.

Finally, I don't think there's any way Hillary can win. Her negatives are just too high. And, after the way she's acted, I think it'll be nearly impossible for her to rally the African American community.

In other words, it's fine not to vote for Obama. But the Clintons again? Really? Those of you not content with Obama should consider supporting Nader. If Hillary wins, I hear he's definitely running.

Very truly yours,

the gruff australian

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Robert Mitchum

Betty, do you take songwriting commissions? Because someone needs to write one about Robert Mitchum. The Himmelbritts watched Night of the Hunter last night and were both awed and spooked. Mitchum rivaled his performance in Cape Fear in creating a truly sinister character who was both unpredictable and made your skin crawl. This movie is worth watching just for the incredible cinematography, but it is also one of the most disturbing stories about childhood trauma and children in danger that I've seen. In this movie, Mitchum famously wrestles his right and left hands, tattooed with the words "Love" and "Hate." He also wears an unforgettable hat and sings spirituals like nobody's business. The vision of his silhouette on the horizon line is enough to send your stomach churning.

In Cape Fear, Mitchum uses his body and bulk to create his character in a way that steadily increases his threat. One of the most exciting cinematic experiences I've had was watching the original Cape Fear and Martin Scorscese's remake back-to-back (Mitchum is in both!). They are both haunting in very different ways. In the original Cape Fear, Mitchum invokes a sense of sexual menace that is turned on its head in his role as a maniacal sex-disgusted preacher in Night of the Hunter.

He played a less threatening role in the very good Out of the Past, but I think I like Mitchum best at high creep factor. Any recs for other good Mitchum performances?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I won't do it

That's right. I really don't think I can. If Hillary Clinton is the nominee, it would take Obama/Edwards/Feingold as VP to get my support. I'll vote Green Party, in a heartbeat. We can't settle for someone just because she calls herself a Democrat. That isn't the ethical thing to do.

Before getting too deep into my rant, let me first say how thrilled I am to have Koko join the ranks of the Obama supporters. I have been working on Koko for what seems like years, and as much as I am saddened by John Edwards downfall, I am elated to have Koko in Obama's corner.

Okay, someone brought up "substantial differences" between Obama and Hillary in the comments of Koko's last post. I have a few!


Hillary is trying to say that the delegates from Michigan (a state in which all of the democratic candidates promised they would leave the ballot) should be seated!! She was the only one on the ballot! Come on, Hillary, who are you kidding! She originally agreed to go off of the ballot, and then when it was clear that everyone else was off and she could coast, she stayed on and cruised to victory. If this is how she acts now, can we really trust her once she is in the White House???????

When Obama said the thing about Reagan and Republicans having ideas, he was raked over the coals by Bill Clinton. Obama didn't say he agreed with the change and ideas of Reagan, he just said that he used his ideas to implement change. THIS IS TRUE. Reagan was awful, but he knew how to turn energy into change. To quote Doris Kearns Goodwin, "You know, it's a sad point in our history when a presidential candidate cannot look back over the course of our history and show admiration for a president who did what he said. He didn't really say that he had better ideas, he said that he had transformed the country, created a conservative movement."

It's now become obvious that Obama was not in the wrong here. It is also clear that his remarks clearly pissed off Bill Clinton enough that Bill decided to let loose and lose his wife a few more points with some very racist comments in SC.


*Hillary Clinton said this just three years ago:
"The jury is still out on the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs." UHHH, it is!!!??!?!!

*Also, for those democrats who don't prioritize welfare reform, you are in the wrong party. We are the party who cares about the little guy, the party who stands up for those that need help standing. We aren't the ones who enact welfare reform (did i say reform? the clintons slashed it.) They took pride in kicking single women off of the welfare rolls when they wouldn't work under terrible circumstances for Tyson Chicken...a company whose CEO was a huge Clinton donor. One might ask about my source's none other than Betty's "favorite teacher," Mr. Hitchens. I strongly recommend his book, "No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family."

Also, if we must bring Bill Clinton into this mess, I find it odd that he recently claimed to be against Bush's war from the start. Is this not the same man who senselessly bombed Iraq in the 1990's just to take the focus off of his own scandal? Come on, Bill, you really want us to believe that you, a man who himself is responsible for the displacement of thousands of Iraqis, were against going in and finishing off Saddam?


Uhh, in case you haven't read a newspaper in a year, over half of the country will under no circumstances vote for Hillary Clinton. Republicans hate her. Independents hate her. You cannot win a general election with someone who 51% of Americans say they will not vote for, especially when you are running against someone with such broad appeal as John McCain (he just sewed up the nomination with a win in FL and a Giuliani endorsement.)

Look guys, I'm as much of a hardcore Dem as anyone here (and I want to win in November!), but let's face the facts. Eight more years of the Clintons is not what we need as a party and it really isn't what we need as a country. It was after all, the lies and dishonesty of Bill Clinton that got us eight years of G.W.B. Republicans and conservative independents certainly can't dislike him for "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and "Welfare to Work." I don't know about the rest of you, but I found these policies offensive and very unlike anything that I would want associated with the Democratic Party.

As for John Edwards, he is a good man, his heart is in the right place. The bottom line is that Obama is more captivating to more people, he is the reason that more democrats than ever are coming out to vote in these primaries--people who have never voted before. Edwards would be a great president, and I hope that he serves in Obama's cabinet.

As much as I hope that this post convinces people that Hillary is the absolute wrong choice for president, if you haven't learned that by now, I'm not sure what it's going to take. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger said the other day that he very much likes Obama. Ted Kennedy and Arnold are supporting the same guy? Let's face it, Obama has a broader coalition of support than anyone thought possible of a Democrat, AND he has done it without compromising his progressive principles.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Edwards to Obama: Why I May Make the Move

Up until this point in the presidential campaign, I have supported John Edwards, as the candidate who I believe has talked most about the issues I care about – and who has taken positions which most comport with my own. But with an Edwards nomination increasingly implausible, I am considering a turn towards Barack Obama.

In his victory speech Saturday in South Carolina, Senator Obama made one of the most compelling cases yet that his focus on the process of politics matters as much or more than anyone else’s promises about what the product of their election might be:

And what we’ve seen in these last weeks is that we’re also up against forces that are not the fault of any one campaign, but feed the habits that prevent us from being who we want to be as a nation. It’s the politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon. A politics that tells us that we have to think, act, and even vote within the confines of the categories that supposedly define us. The assumption that young people are apathetic. The assumption that Republicans won’t cross over. The assumption that the wealthy care nothing for the poor, and that the poor don’t vote. The assumption that African-Americans can’t support the white candidate; whites can’t support the African-American candidate; blacks and Latinos can’t come together.

As a political campaign manager, I constantly have to make decisions about what direction our campaign and our message will go. The pressure to make decisions quickly and strategically often leads many in politics to accept the very same status quo assumptions that Senator Obama ticked off one by one last night. But it is also terrible to feel trapped inside of assumptions not only that our political process is deeply flawed, but also that there is not that we can do to change it.

Some observers deride Obama’s message of hope and optimism as reflecting political naivete. Another critique is that his shying away from the textbook political messaging of being a “fighter” means that he will give in too easily to the unyielding forces of the right wing.

But once we have completely fallen into the cynicism that sees such a message as naïve, why would we even invest ourselves in the political process? If the best we can hope for is a “fighter” who promises to accrue many bruises but little in the way of progress, then why would we be convinced to spend hours going door to door, let alone spend a half-hour to vote?

The brilliance of Barack Obama is that he has propagated a message of unity while still maintaining a more progressive agenda than Sen. Clinton. After many years the tired punditry which says that whoever captures the “middle” will get the most votes, Senator Obama has outdone Senator Clinton among Independents while outflanking her to the left on Iraq. After years of a post-9/11 consensus that the only way to win an election is to be “tough” on terrorism to the exclusion of all reason, Obama has beat Clinton among Independents while being less belicose about Iran. And after years of consensus that no one cares about issues like ethics reform, Obama has outdone Clinton by refusing to take any money from lobbyists.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has spent more time bashing George Bush, criticizing Republicans, and reminding voters that the right-wing has long loved to attack her. But when it comes to offering voters a real vision that would move the country past the division of the Bush era, it is Obama who has the most to offer of the pair.

Obama should be lauded, too, for asking voters to put something of themselves into the process. While Edward pledges to be the “voice” for those who support him, and Clinton says she will “stand up” on their behalf, only Barack Obama asks voters to stand up on our own - and not just so that they can elect him. In South Carolina Saturday he said:

Because in the end, we are not just up against the ingrained and destructive habits of Washington, we are also struggling against our own doubts, our own fears, and our own cynicism. The change we seek has always required great struggle and sacrifice. And so this is a battle in our own hearts and minds about what kind of country we want and how hard we’re willing to work for it.

The truth of this comment reminds me also of the tiff over Senator Clinton’s comments about Martin Luther King, Jr - and how it "took a president" (i.e., Lyndon Johnson) taking the action of passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for Dr. King's dream to "[begin] to be realized". While I do not believe that Clinton intended to be disrespectful to Dr. King's memory, I still think the comment reflected a top-down view of social change, a view that Obama rightly rejects.

For months before this scuffle, Obama has been telling voters that “real change happens from the bottom up.” If you consider for a moment that it was Richard Nixon who instituted affirmative action on a federal basis, you will know that change does indeed come from below. We need to elect the best leaders, but we also need to hold them accountable, and demand that they act on the pressing challenges we face. There is no one candidate or politician of the status quo – our political system, deeply flawed by the influence of money, pulls everyone in that direction. Even a President Obama would have to be held accountable. But at least he has called on us to do the job.

In the end, then, it is not what he promises voters but what he demands of them that makes Barack Obama’s campaign so inspiring. The president who Obama has been compared to famously said to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Forty-seven years later, your country needs you more than ever.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Things that Don't Suck

Betty doesn't like dealing with Things so much, that is, the man-made material world in which she's enmeshed here in New York City. For this reason, she was happy to read Wired magazine's funny list of "The 33 Things That Make Us Crazy" including Airline Travel, Subscription Cards, and Printer Cartridges. Hopefully (and this is the first time Betty has ever used "Hopefully" correctly at the start of a sentence!), the article ended with a list of things that don't suck:

Things that don't suck: TV screens in the back of airplane seats. Twice-baked potatoes. Dryer sheets. DVRs. The set design on Mad Men. Farmers' markets. Tap water. Touchscreens. Scissors. Pocketknives. Thumb drives. Kites. Strike-anywhere matches. Doorstops. Run-flat tires. Netflix. Noise-canceling headphones. Casual carpool. Guitar Hero. Salt-and-vinegar potato chips. Bicycles. Kevlar. Velcro. Carbon composite. Dradis. Flip-flops. The first half hour of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Seat belts. Zippo lighters. Spartan Laser. Heated seats. Public libraries. Remote control. Ice cream.

Betty's own list would include: Little dogs, fresh cookies, crisp paperback pages, an ipod that fits in your pocket, girl scout cookies, pay-what-you-will museums, canvas tote bags, batting cages, mechanical pencils, public libraries (overlap w/Wired), local apples, express subways, and clean underwear.

Indulge Things for just a moment. What's on your list?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Eli Maning, Giant and Hottie

Betty is in D.C. this week with a whole lot of nothing to do! So she watches football and patters around the house in her socks and jeans.

You never know where you will find passion in this little life, and today Betty found herself another one: the Manning family, and specifically the underappreciated Manning, Eli [Elisha], of the New York Football Giants. He is from New Orleans and he lives in Hoboken with his fiancee. They have been together since college! Betty also thinks it is cool that Eli just led the Giants to a huge upset victory over the perennially annoying Dallas Cowboys. For those who don't know, Eli's brother, Peyton Manning, is a HUGE football star, probably the biggest in the game, and is a cool and funny guy who led his team (from Indianapolis, no less!) to Super Bowl glory last year. But Eli was born just a month before Betty and is totally cute and unassuming and as graceful under pressure as any mortal could hope to be!

Now Eli and New York/New Jersey will go for the Super Bowl, next week against the Packers. It's been a long time since the Giants have made it this deep into the jaws of the post-season. We can't say who will win, but we can say this: Eli will be electric. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

There Will Be Blood = There Will Be ACTING!

We saw There Will Be Blood a long time ago (but not long enough!) and we've resisted posting about it to give the people out there with better things to do than see every movie the week it comes out a chance to amble over to the cineplex.

SPOILER ALERT!!! OK, so for the first hour, we were totally down. The film was visually overpowering and still rich with tiny details, and it also set scenes for a really interesting story to come. We liked the music just fine and where it all was going, and all the mystery, too, and we wanted to know what would happen next. It felt like no other movie, but it still felt self-assured and possessed with total direction.

TWBB really could have gone to any number of cinematic places-- some uncharted! -- from here, but guess where it went?! OMG you totally guessed right! When faced with a really strong set-up, and in need of secure prestige, dial *1 for ACTING. Then There Will be OSCARS.

For those of you who don't know Betty too well, this is not a compliment. The movie had some THEMES and some ACTING (the code is, when Daniel Day Lewis raises his voice, that means he feels real emotions) but no, you know, STORY. By the final scene, Daniel Day Lewis was phoning it in from Pluto, or maybe that other, really far away planet that just demoted and humiliated Pluto. He twisted his face up, he threw stuff around, we could just see P.T. Anderson (who we usually like) yelling "ACT!, Daniel, ACT!". So Daniel gives us Sir Laurence Pacino with a shotgun in a mansion. This movie is basically The Bucket List for the under-70 set. Hammy as pig farm, and it stinks.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Our Chihuahua of Mercy

Betty was reading this book about Mother Theresa yesterday, and Cocoa had a bath. The final impression left by each event was strikingly similar.