Thursday, April 01, 2010

Barack Obama and the Seven Samurai

I don't have much to say today. Or, rather, I do, but I'm just too busy with other things to blog. I'll be back later with new posts, but make sure to stay tuned for more from my great co-bloggers.

I also need my anger and frustration to subside a bit. Consider:

1) NYT: "A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency's program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration's effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush."

2) NYT: "The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday."

Now, while I applaud the judge's ruling, a confirmation that Bush's illegal domestic surveillance program was (and is) indeed illegal, I oppose offshore drilling strenuously. But what especially angers/frustrates me -- and this is what links the two stories -- is how President Obama, whom I continue to support and whose victory, along with the Democrats', on health-care reform I consider an historic triumph, is essentially governing as, if not quite a Republican, a moderate-conservative Democrats in Republican clothing.

His health-care reform plan, a solidly moderate Republican effort, was hardly as progressive as it could have been, and ought to have been, but I accepted that political reality was what it was and that the plan itself was probably the best that could have been achieved -- not that Obama ever pushed for more, however, such as a public option. Meanwhile, the stimulus package was good but not enough and the Wall Street bailout was a concerted effort to reward some of those in the financial oligarchy who had helped cause the meltdown in the first place. And then there's the escalation of the Afghan War and... do I need to go on?

Well, Obama's been propping up some of the worst elements of Bush's national security state (even if he did away with some of the worst abuses), and now he's doing his best Sarah Palin impersonation on drilling. And for what? Bipartisanship? It's not like Republicans, excepting Lindsey Graham and maybe one or two others, are about to support a meaningful climate-energy bill, and it's not like they're about to go along with him, and his party, on anything else this year. They showed all their cards during the health-care debate, and all they've got is obstructionism and ideological extremism.

So what is it, then? Is Obama just playing the bipartisan card to win public support in anticipation of eventual Republican opposition? Is he just setting Republicans up to look bad? Maybe, but it's not all image. He really does seem to support domestic surveillance and he really does seem to want offshore drilling. His presidency, if we judge it on its record, is anything but solidly progressive, health-care reform (which is progressive only in relative terms) aside.

I know, I know. This is hardly news. Critics like Glenn Greenwald have been saying this all along, and they're right. I've been saying it, too, from time to time, though I've usually given Obama the benefit of the doubt, and I'm sure I'll continue to support him, not least because the alternative, Republican rule, is so much worse. But, while I realize he's in campaign mode and trending to the right in consideration of November, when running as bipartisan moderates could help Democrats stave off electoral disaster, there are real-world consequences to governing as a Republican lite. And for that Obama deserves our anger and frustration.

Alright, so I guess I did have a fair amount to say, and the time to say it.

But my intention here was not to riff off a couple of NYT articles but to say that I'm busy and, in belated celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the greatest film director of all time, Akira Kurosawa (who was born on March 23, 1910 and who died in 1998), to post the trailer for the greatest film of all time, Seven Samurai. Yes, I really think it's the greatest, tied with Kieslowski's Decalogue (which isn't really a single film) and ahead of, among others (and in no particular order), Ozu's Tokyo Story and Floating Weeds, Imamura's The Profound Desire of the Gods, Gance's Napoleon, Watkins's Edvard Munch, Girard's 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, Lumet's Network, Altman's Nashville, Lang's M, Allen's Annie Hall and Manhattan, Wenders's Wings of Desire, and another Kurosawa film, Ran.

Anyway, here it is -- a trailer that hardly does the movie justice, a movie that, to me, is about everything, as I often describe it. If you haven't seen, there's a massive hole in your life. So go watch it. All of it.

See you later.

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