Ending World Poverty, One Movie at a Time
Alessandra Stanley reviews an HBO movie for Saturday's Arts section -"The Girl in the Caf," a quirky-sounding production about a civil servant's crush on a girl he meets in a London coffee shop and takes to a G8 summit meeting in Iceland.
Tracking the plot (the girl harangues his colleagues with liberal political statements, to the mortification of her older date) Stanley makes solving world poverty sound amazingly simple: "And that is the real fantasy behind 'The Girl in the Caf,' one rooted in a Great Man theory of economics: one famous person, Bob Geldof, Bill Gates or the economist Jeffrey D. Sachs, author of 'The End of Poverty,' could shame penny-pinching governments and selfish voters into wiping out disease and extreme poverty in the third world. Gina actually is Mr. Curtis's id. In the flash of a keystroke, she is transformed into the conscience of the G8, the voice of the voiceless masses denouncing politics-as-usual conducted over Champagne and caviar at vast summit banquet tables."
Stanley insists on the truth of the vision of more money as a panacea: "The film may seem preachy and quixotic, but actually, celebrity finger-pointing seems to work. A week ago, the world's richest nations formally agreed to cancel at least $40 billion of debt owed to international agencies by the world's poorest lands, most of them in Africa. The agreement followed a compromise reached in Washington between President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, and was welcomed by debt-relief activists as a good portent for the Gleneagles summit. Realpolitik played a role in the breakthrough, but so did the enormous debt-relief campaign waged by such odd allies as Bono, Brad Pitt and the pope."
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Rove vs. Durbin: "What Goes Around Comes Around"
Patrick Healy's short essay "I'm Shocked And Outraged" for Sunday's Week in Review section, spins a statement by Bush political adviser Karl Rove, as if it was equivalent in outrage to Sen. Dick Durbin's remarks on the Senate floor comparing U.S. military prisons to Nazi concentration camps.
Healy starts the short piece about political cynicism like this: "When, in Washington, is outrage truly outrage? Republicans rained hell last week on Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, for comparing the treatment of detainees at Guantnamo Bay to the actions of the Nazis. Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, called it a 'monstrous attack'; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for censure. But what goes around, comes around. A day after Mr. Durbin apologized, the president's political adviser, Karl Rove, said that coddling the enemy and putting American troops at risk came naturally to liberals like Mr. Durbin. 'Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers,' Mr. Rove told a conservative gathering in New York."
For the rest of Healy's Week in Review write-up, click here:
Justice Anthony Kennedy, "Genial Apostle of Tolerance and Consensus"
As the Supreme Court's session winds down with possible retirements in the offing, Monday's front-page story by veteran writer Jason DeParle focuses on the conservative battle to get a like-minded justice on the Supreme Court - not one like Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee who has disappointed conservatives for years.
DeParle's "In Battle to Pick Next Justice, Right Says Avoid a Kennedy - Conservatives See Him as a Turncoat on the Bench" is written with an assist from David Kirkpatrick, who covers conservatives for the Times.
It's nice to see these issues being discussed on the front page, but DeParle's prose rather loads the labeling deck, beginning: "When Anthony M. Kennedy was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987, he took the place of a fallen conservative icon, Robert H. Bork, whose defeat in a Senate conflagration still shapes judicial politics. Sunny while Mr. Bork emanated gloom, clean-shaven while Mr. Bork was bearded, Justice Kennedy was above all philosophically undefined while Mr. Bork's conservatism was chiseled."
He writes: "For more than a decade, Justice Kennedy has infuriated the right, writing decisions in cases that struck down prayer at public school graduations, upheld abortion rights, gave constitutional protections to pornography and gay sex and banned the death penalty for juveniles."
DeParle clearly approves of Kennedy: "A genial apostle of tolerance and consensus, Justice Kennedy, 68, is an unlikely lightning rod, one whose traditional Catholic background has little in common with the flag-burners, pornographers or abortion advocates his reading of the Constitution protects. In an interview last week, he responded to a question about what it was like to be cast as a Judas justice."
(When a Times reporter uses such endearinglanguage to describe someone, it's a safe bet that the subject of the encomium isn't a conservative hero.)
DeParle sees "conservatives" all over the place but is ambivalent about the existence of liberals: "Organizational battalions are now in place, with conservatives saying they are playing defense against what they call a powerful attack machine on the left that took down Mr. Bork, and nearly Justice Clarence Thomas. Encouraged by White House advisers, C. Boyden Gray, a former aide to the first President Bush, has set up the Committee for Justice to coordinate strategy and run advertising campaigns. Leaders of the Federalist Society, the premier network of conservative lawyers, have started another group, the Judicial Confirmation Network, to rally support.
Again, while DeParle eagerly spreads around the "conservative" label, he doesnt label anything "liberal," claiming only that conservatives are calling something liberal, or putting the word in quotes: "Some conservatives blame the judicial selection pool, which is largely confined to graduates of elite law schools that they describe as liberal (Justice Kennedy studied law at Harvard). Some say the Senate confirmation process weeds out strong conservatives. Many critics argue that justices drift left after reaching the court, in the hopes of pleasing 'liberal elites.' Virtually all the court's conservative critics say that Republicans have not fought hard enough on behalf of philosophical purists."
DeParle clearly likes Justice Kennedy's style: "In a wending conversation last week, he touched on topics as diverse the Enlightenment (he likes it) and the television free-for-all 'Hardball' (he doesn't). The partisanship of Washington seems alien to him."
"His admirers see in him the essence of a judicial temperament: good judgment, fair-mindedness and a willingness to disentangle his own moral values from the law.In his agonizing over many social issues and his ability to empathize with those outside his own moral code, Justice Kennedy's admirers see courage. 'Kennedy has the ability to generalize from his own freedom to the freedom of other people,' said Robert Gordon, a professor at Yale Law School."
For the full DeParle, click here:
Sanger on "Bush's "Increasingly Difficult Time" on Iraq
David Sanger covers Bush's Friday press conference with the Iraqi Prime Minister: "President Bush promised the Iraqi prime minister on Friday that he was 'not giving up on the mission' in Iraq despite rising pressure from Congress and the public to describe a strategy for gradual American withdrawal. And he shrugged off suggestions that the military and members of his administration fundamentally disagree on the strength of the insurgency."
Sanger puts Bush on the defensive and works in a near-obligatory Vietnam reference: "With American casualties showing no signs of tapering off, Mr. Bush is having an increasingly difficult time convincing even members of his own party that his strategy is working. The White House is having to contend with televised images each day that reinforce an image of constant carnage, along with public remarks from military leaders reporting an increase in the flow of foreign fighters and no letup in the pace of attacks on American forces. And military commanders in Iraq have acknowledged that the training of Iraqi forces is progressing with painful slowness.He acknowledged the political fragility of the moment when he was asked by a reporter whether he was 'in something of a second term slump,' and he shot back with 'a quagmire, perhaps.' The line drew laughter, but the perception that the situation in Iraq has deteriorated to that Vietnam-era description is exactly what the White House is responding to, especially in Congress."
Sanger also assumes a remark Karl Rove made to a conservative fundraiser was a gaffe that is hurting Bush: "Mr. Bush's cause in Congress was hardly aided when his chief political adviser, Karl Rove, told the Conservative Party of New York State this week that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, liberals wanted to 'prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.' That statement has stirred angry Democratic complaints. The president was not asked about the statement at the news conference, but his senior aides defended Mr. Rove's comment."
The Times has yet to suggest that Sen. Dick Durbin's comparing U.S. prison camps to Nazi concentration camps is hurting the image of Democrats with soldiers or the American people in general.
To read the rest of Sanger, click here:
Advice for Democrats: Watch Cartoons
Magazine reporter Matt Bai pens "'King of the Hill' Democrats?" for the Sunday edition, a take-off on Brian Anderson's book "South Park Republicans," in which Anderson argues that the right is winning, or at least not losing, the culture war.
Bai sniffs: "Anderson's book has very little to say about 'South Park' itself; it's really just a retread of the argument that the mainstream media is losing its grip on world domination, marketed rather cynically to appeal to the same red-state radio hosts and book clubs that make so many right-wing polemics best sellers."
But he likes the new concept of "'King of the Hill' Democrats," perhaps because it's on an issue dear to his heart (he's writing a book on the subject): How the Democrats can start winning in red states again.
Here Bai describes protagonist Hank Hill: "Like a lot of the basically conservative voters you meet in rural America - and here's where Democrats should pay close attention - Hank never professes an explicit party loyalty, and he and his buddies who sip beer in the alley don't talk like their fellow Texan Tom DeLay. If Hank votes Republican, it's because, as a voter who cares about religious and rural values, he probably doesn't see much choice. But Hank and his neighbors resemble many independent voters, open to proposals that challenge their assumptions about the world, as long as those ideas don't come from someone who seems to disrespect what they believe."
As RameshPonnuru of National Review Online puts it, "Apparently Democrats should watch King of the Hill, where they'd find out that Democrats can win over red-state voters if they show respect for them and their exotic values. Trashing their values, apparently, is not as good a strategy. Who knew? Also, it turns out that red-state voters believe in taking care of their brutish veteran fathers, and are therefore natural supporters of Democratic health-care policies. Thank goodness a cartoon show is there to explain that red-state voters like their fathers, and Bai is there to translate those odd values of theirs into public-policy terms."
To read the rest of Bai, click here: