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Bean Counter
July 11, 2006

If Democrats win back the House in the midterms today, they'll owe an enormous debt to organized labor, which has spent more than $40 million--and sent millions of voters to the polls--to help the party take control of Congress. The AFL-CIO alone has targeted more than 200 contests in 21 states this cycle, and unions, despite their declining power, are still acting as difference-makers in many races.

Fallout
July 06, 2006

Amid the tension surrounding North Korea's unwelcome contribution to last week's Fourth of July fireworks, there were, fortunately, dashes of comic relief. There was John Bolton, who has been devoted to extracting the United States from its arms control commitments, lamenting that a nation transgressed a voluntary arms control commitment.

Redemption Film
April 26, 2005

Maybe--hopefully--it was just a one-time concession, an effort to get the Chinese censors off his back once and for all. Regular readers may recall my review last year of Hero, the gorgeous, innovative martial-arts epic by Zhang Yimou that concluded with an appalling paean to authoritarianism in general and the "one China" policy of Tibetan and Taiwanese subjugation in particular. Zhang's followup effort, thankfully, is less morally fraught.

Incorrect Answer
December 09, 2004

It took only a few sentences on Wednesday for Donald Rumsfeld to demonstrate why he is both morally and strategically unfit to serve as secretary of defense. In a townhall-style meeting at a staging area in Kuwait, Rumsfeld was asked by Specialist Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard why soldiers were forced "to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic [i.e., bulletproof] glass to uparmor our vehicles?" There was a short pause, and then many of the 2,300 troops in attendance erupted in cheers and applause.

Girls, Girls, Girls!
October 05, 2004

"Cutting social commentary"; "acutely hilarious sociology"; "a harbinger of hope ... for future feminist comedies." These were some of the peculiar accolades bestowed upon the movie Mean Girls when it opened in theaters. Why did critics accord it such stature? Doubtless because it was, in the words of one, the "best teen comedy ever adapted from a sociological study." In actuality, the source material--Rosalind Wiseman's book Queen Bees %amp% Wannabes--is not a sociological study but a parenting guide, and Mean Girls is in no meaningful way "adapted" from it.

Crap, Actually
April 27, 2004

Anyone seeking evidence of the death of romantic comedy will find it in abundance in Love Actually, which arrives in video stores this week. Written and directed by Richard Curtis (best known for penning Bridget Jones's Diary, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral), Love Actually announces its ambitions early: Too bold to offer us a thin, unconvincing romance, it instead offers us half a dozen.

Chop Socky
April 13, 2004

  In an interview following the release of Reservoir Dogs in 1992, Tim Roth ventured that "I honestly think you could take the same script but reshoot it with women and it would work. It would be the most controversial film ever. ... You could call it Reservoir Bitches." It took more than a decade, but with Kill Bill Volume 1 (out on video this week), Quentin Tarantino finally made his Reservoir Bitches. And while it's not the most controversial film ever (nor even of the past twelve months), that was clearly the director's aspiration.

Indefensible
March 08, 2004

On February 11, just days after a supposedly penitent Abdul Qadeer Khan confessed on Pakistani television, President Bush appeared at the National Defense University to describe how the father of Pakistan's atom bomb had for years run a global network that sold nuclear weapons technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea. Bush praised Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for "assur[ing] us that his country will never again be a source of proliferation," even though it was not clear Musharraf could promise any such thing, and lauded the U.S. intelligence community for its "hard work and ...

Flacks Americana
May 20, 2002

  It's five miles from Northern Virginia, where the Pentagon sets military targets, and a mile and a half from Foggy Bottom, where the State Department cobbles together coalitions. To look at it, you'd never guess that the ten-story glass-and-steel building at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and T Street, nestled amid the town houses and cafes of Dupont Circle, serves as one of the headquarters for the U.S. propaganda war against terrorism. If it doesn't look like a government office building, that's because it's not. Rather, it houses a public relations firm called The Rendon Group.

Sweet And Low
March 22, 1999

I. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperFlamingo, 546 pp., $26) Barbara Kingsolver is the most successful practitioner of a style in contemporary fiction that might be called Nice Writing. Nice Writing is a violent affability, a deadly sweetness, a fatal gentle touch. But before I start in on Kingsolver's work, I feel I must explain why I feel that I must start in on it. I do so for a younger version of myself, for the image that I carry inside me of a boy who was the son of a sadistic, alcoholic father, and of a mother who was hurt but also hurtful, and abusive.

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