‘Brokeback’ Politics – Can a Movie about Gay Ranch Hands Change Hearts and Minds?

Cultural shift: “Brokeback Mountain” has the pedigree of a major hit movie: Two hot young stars, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, who are also great actors; an Oscar winning director, Ang Lee; a screenplay by Pulitizer-winning novelist Larry McMurtry (“The Last Picture Show” and “Lonesome Dove”) and is based on an incredibly powerful short story by another Pulitzer prize winner, Annie Proulx, author of the novel, “The Shipping News.”

Hint to the ladies: If your man refuses to go see “Brokeback Mountain” with you, go with a girlfriend. After you’ve seen it, you may want to check up on Mr. Macho’s “fishing trips with the boys” and his annual “trip to Talladega.”

The result of all this talent is a magnificent thing – one of the few truly great films Hollywood has ever produced. It will likely receive Academy Award nominations across the board, and could well score big wins on Oscar night.

It is a bona fide critical success, leading in nominations in most critics’ association awards from coast to coast, and in nominations for the Golden Globes. If it does well at the Oscars, it could become a “must-see” film.

Or maybe not. There is good reason to doubt the suburban and small town conservative enclaves are ready for a movie about gay ranch hands in love.

So “Brokeback Mountain” isn’t for everyone – what movie is? In 2004, for example, despite the fact that millions of us stayed away in droves from “The Passion of the Christ,” Mel Gibson’s S&M epic about the torture and killing of Jesus, the film made $370 million worldwide.

“Brokeback Mountain” could easily make $100 million and more, which would qualify it as a hit by most standards, without selling a single ticket to a NASCAR dad, a homo-threatened “straight” guy or a Christian torture fetishist.

(Hint to the ladies: If your man refuses to go see “Brokeback Mountain” with you, go with a girlfriend. After you’ve seen it, you may want to check up on Mr. Macho’s “fishing trips with the boys” and his annual “trip to Talladega.”)

No movie could convert millions of homo-haters into gay-friendlies, but this particular film will definitely open a few eyes.


Is Bush Worship a Cult? According to International Standards Defining Cultism, It Apparently Is

Have you noticed how hardcore Bush supporters talk about the president like he is infallible — the way the Moonies used to talk about Reverend Moon?

Next question: How do we deprogram 100 million people?

This makes me wonder – is Bushism a cult?

Check out this list of defining characteristics of a cult from the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) and decide for yourself :

  1. The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and … regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
  2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  3. Mind-altering practices … are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
  4. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel…
  5. The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar – or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).
  6. The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
  7. The leader is not accountable to any authorities…
  8. The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group…
  9. The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.
  10. Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.
  11. The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  12. The group is preoccupied with making money.
  13. Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
  14. Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
  15. The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

Next question: How do we deprogram 100 million people?

Bush Made Multiple Misleading Statements about Wiretaps

Dear Leader: President Bush’s misleading statement in April 2004 about wiretaps has been widely quoted:

“Roving wiretaps allow investigators to follow suspects who frequently change their means of communications. These wiretaps must be approved by a judge.”
— President Bush, 2005

Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.

After reviewing Bush’s speeches from the past few years, Hardball’s David Shuster has uncovered other instances when the president made questionable statements about wiretaps:

SHUSTER: It’s clear the president was talking about the Patriot Act. But the April 20th, 2004, speech wasn’t the only time the president tried to placate public fears about wiretaps. Dozens of other [speeches] reviewed by HARDBALL show he repeatedly addressed the issue in a broad fashion, while claiming his administration was trying to protect people by the book.


Can’t Put the Abramoff Toothpaste Back in the Tube

Great commentary at Indianz.com on the members of Congress who are now falling all over themselves to return the Abramoff money they worked so hard to get.

The money that Abramoff and associates funneled…already bought the access, consideration, help, favors and votes it was meant to buy. Giving away money won’t undo whatever these politicians did to earn support from Abramoff and his clients.

Members of Montana’s congressional delegation have joined politicians elsewhere in attempting to distance themselves from Abramoff.

This is silly and entirely for show.

The money that Abramoff and associates funneled to Burns, Baucus and Rehberg, et al, already bought the access, consideration, help, favors and votes it was meant to buy. Giving away money won’t undo whatever these politicians did to earn support from Abramoff and his clients.

For that matter, the money itself has been spent. “Returning” money to Abramoff’s clients or “donating” it to third parties qualifies now as a new campaign expense – more or less like buying an ad that proclaims, “We’re not in this guy’s pocket – honest.” Where’s this money going to come from? That’s right – from other lobbyists or big-money donors who will have their own demands, expectations and strings to pull.”

The editors also left a message for readers explaining there will be light posting until after New Year’s.

…we wish you a happy holiday season to you, your family and all of your lobbyists

Bush vs. the Bill of Rights

Funny what you see when you’re getting your oil changed: The waiting room had FOX News going, so I got a rare glimpse. The anchor, a scary-looking woman with way too much eye makeup, was trying to get the requisite two opposing sides to say that because “all” the people Bush spied on were “really bad guys” that what he did was O.K. And because Bush did the noble thing and admitted he was doing this, these “really bad guys” are going to get off on a technicality.

Illegal evidence – evidence obtained in an illegal search – is not made more legal in light of what it reveals

Our team explained that the 4th Amendment is not generally regarded as a technicality but a pretty important foundation of our society.

What he didn’t say was what I learned in Constitutional Law 101: illegal evidence – evidence obtained in an illegal search – is not made more legal in light of what it reveals. Murder cases have been thrown out over this fact. It’s not new, and it’s not directed at the Bush White House. It’s just bedrock law in America. Or it was until Bush came to town.

President Bush’s Illegal Spying Is, First and Foremost, an Affront to the Rule of Law – Not Just Civil Liberties

Felon-in-Chief: The Bush team is hoping that Democrats will go after the president’s illegal wiretapping as an abuse of civil liberties, rather than as a flagrant violation of a United States law – in this case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Attacking the president’s violation of FISA purely as an affront to civil liberties helps the Bush regime because they can easily contort this position – with the media’s help – into “Democrats prefer civil rights for terrorists over national security.”

Certainly, the wiretapping of U.S. citizens without a warrant paves the way for unchecked abuse of power. Who knows whether Bush operatives have eavesdropped on their political enemies, including Democratic and Republican members of Congress.

Leaving all that aside, however, the damage the president has done to our democracy is very simple:

President Bush broke the law.


Ralph Reed: The Rhinestone Choirboy

Did he fleece his flock? In the 1990’s, as the head of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed became the face of Christian conservativism. And what a face: Scrubbed and clean – innocent-looking as a choirboy. He had the unctuous, soothing demeanor of a televangelist but even when he spoke about God, his message was always politics.

“I used to tell people he was going to be either President of the United States or Al Capone. “
– Ralph Reed’s Mother

Since leaving the Christian Coalition in 1997, Ralph Reed has concentrated on politics, serving as chair of the GOP in Georgia and overseeing the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign in the South.

In the late 1990’s, Reed’s fortunes changed. He created Century Strategies, a political consulting and lobbying firm that offers its clients – politicians, corporations and others – access to fundraising and opinion-leading among to Christian organizations.

Recently, however, investigators into the Indian gaming scandals have uncovered evidence that Reed may have abused the trust of Christian groups by surreptitiously using their political clout to line his own pockets with millions of dollars.

The accusations come as Reed’s campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 2006 appears to be faltering. He has been ahead in fundraising but was recently behind even the Democratic candidate in the polls. The lieutenant-governorship was to have been his springboard to the presidency in 2012.

What could torpedo Reed’s chances for good is the allegation that disgraced GOP uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff secretly paid Reed to hoodwink the Christians using money from Indian tribes. And now Reed’s political fate, and maybe even his personal freedom, are shackled to the man at the bullseye of what could very well be the biggest political scandal of the decade.

Interestingly, Reed, Abramoff and rightwing anti-government activist Grover Norquist have worked together in political skulduggery since 1983, when they took over the College Republican National Committee. Back in those days, Abramoff, Norquist and Reed called themselves “the Triumvirate.” Today, all three members of the Triumvirate appear to be in very big trouble.


Today in History

On this day in 1831, Charles Darwin set out on his only trip away from England, aboard the HMS Beagle and eventually to the Galapagos Islands off South America. Little did he realize he could have just stayed home and read the Bible and known everything anyone would ever need to about how life works. Silly Darwin. We’re so much smarter than that now.