Sunday, January 27, 2013

Maya of Arabia


What's bugging me about the Zero Dark Thirty controversy is how it has blocked any discussion of the movie's place in film history.  I'm not sure if this is the result of sexism, as if Kathryn Bigelow wouldn't be thinking in those terms, or just political sensitivities (my friends to the left are the ones condemning the film by comparing it to the work of Leni Riefenstahl - an incredibly sexist comparison) but when looked at within the context of Hollywood genre's, ZDT is the increasingly rare beast of an historical epic, at a time when every so-called-epic from Hollywood is a science fiction or superhero story.  The last great historical epic was, of course, Titanic, interestingly enough made by Bigelow's former husband.

Where ZDT fits is as the bookend to Lawrence of Arabia.  Each movie deals with the West's involvement with Middle Eastern politics, one from the start in the 20th Century, the other for the 21st.  Back then it's one British officer struggling through the desert, now it's batteries of U.S. soldiers flying in and out with impunity, but it both cases there's the sense of "other," that the West can never, no matter how embedded, truly understand or have a place in the desert worlds.  The threats to Maya's life are essentially urban - an assassination attempt rather than dying of thirst - but there's watching still the lone figure coming from a great distance (a fateful car rather than Omar Sharif), the hero putting on the local headgear to operate in the area, the lonely military outposts in a hostile land.

The question isn't whether the movie endorses torture, it's "Where do you want to go?" which Chastain outed on The Daily Show as the existential last line of the movie.  In Lawrence, a man is driven insane by his immersion into this Middle Eastern world.  In ZDT it's a nation (with Maya as the metaphor).  Lawrence posits that his Western influence helped create the desert nations.  ZDT asks if and how we want to be engaged with these very same nations - if, in another twist on the same theme in Lawrence, there a brutalization like torture involved.

ZDT's immediacy is blinding the arguers to the true nature (and greatness) of this movie.  Sorry, Bigelow and Boal didn't wait thirty years to tell this huge story.  They were brave enough -- and smart enough -- to tell a nine-year epic tale just moments after it concluded.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Take 86

Mainstream breakthrough jazz legend Dave Brubeck died yesterday at age 91.  I was lucky enough to see him perform live in the mid-1970's, already gray-haired and with at least one of his sons in his band.  He had tremendous graciousness as well as grace, and his music was surprisingly accessible, per this Ashley Fetters post in The Atlantic today:

There's another reason why the popularity of "Take Five" is remarkable: It's performed in a musical structure that people in the Western world often show cognitive resistance to.

Most Western music is dependent on a structure with two, three, or four beats in a measure—or some multiple of those—with even spaces between the emphasized beats.
...
"Take Five," though, is written and performed in a 5/4 time signature, as my jazz-fan colleague David Graham mentioned yesterday—meaning there are five beats per measure. (Hence the title.) When there are five, seven, eleven, or almost any number of beats in a measure that doesn't divide evenly into twos or threes, the beats can become non-isochronous—meaning the emphasized beats, the ones you would tap your foot along with, aren't evenly spaced. For example: Try clapping along with the intro to the Mission: Impossible theme, which is also in a 5/4 time signature.

Time signatures like these are often known as "irregular," "complex," or "asymmetrical" time signatures.

Here's that very number, performed in 1966, seven years after it's initial release.  Brubeck had a relatively early racially integrated combo as well.  Right on, Dave:


Timeless cool.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Political Actors

Janeane from Des Moines is an unusually and cutting new movie that essentially pulls a Borat on the GOP contenders for President in run-up to the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.  It opens with a clip from ABC News where Diane Sawyer introduces footage of a desperate and emotional Iowa housewife named Janeane Wilson begging candidate Mitt Romney to "save small families" because they are falling apart.  The rest of the movie tells the story leading up to this moment, as we watch Janeane, a religious conservative Republican simultaneously going to candidate events to decide how to cast her vote and trying to keep her personal life from falling to pieces.

The secret is that Janeane Wilson is actually Jane Edith Wilson, a highly-talented Los Angeles-based actress who grew up in Ames, Iowa, and who fearlessly plays this character and takes her straight into the belly of America's political beast, sitting down in a diner with Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Rep. Steve King, questioning Gov. Rick Perry's wife on her way to the campaign bus, lobbing questions to Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich on the campaign trail.  Off the trail, "Janeane" faces her husband's layoff and their subsequent loss of health insurance, her alienation from her grown children, the potential loss of her house and a serious threat to her own health.

All of this done with a straight face, no winks, the only clues to the deception being the end credits which lists both actors/roles and politicians playing "Himself" or "Herself."  Knowing that the politicians have been duped by Janeane creates an initial feeling that the enterprise might be unfair.  It's a grueling road through Iowa, pressing the flesh and trying to master retail politics.  But as Director Grace Lee had said, the politicians are themselves all acting.  When Bachmann attempts to pander to Janeane by blaming President Obama for the rise in tax prices we see that moment when Bachmann looks to King for affirmation of her contention, not sure if she should run with the lie or not.  She does.

The main question Janeane ends up asking all the candidates regards healthcare, and the GOP candidates give her nothing to go on, just platitudes about health savings accounts (not a solution for the laid-off) and lowering costs (which Obamacare attempts to address).  What Janeane learns is that Planned Parenthood, which she's disparaged as a death-factory, is her provider of last resort, and the Obamacare the candidates want to kill is actually the solution.  This may be the first feature film where Obamacare is kinda the hero.

As a friend of Grace Lee and family, I may be biased in favor of her sensibility by familiarity, but from what I hope is an objective filmmaking point-of-view, I think she's created something new.  It's a combination of documentary, mockumentary, drama and agitprop, all executed with technical skill and beauty.  When seen in the context of Lee's previous features, both The Grace Lee Project, a very funny documentary investigating the proliferation of Asian-American women sharing her name, and American Zombie, a metaphoric mockumentary standing up for zombie rights, Janeane for Des Moines is essentially an essay on "What's the Matter with Kansas?"  Why do conservative Middle Americans vote against their own economic self-interest and well-being?

While the passing of the recent election is probably not doing a ton of favors for Janeane's shelf-life, and already the 2012 GOP candidates feel like characters trapped in a time capsule as the media discusses potential 2016 candidates like Rubio, Christie and the younger Paul, conservative Middle America hasn't suddenly vanished with the reelection of their Antichrist, President Barack Obama.  This movie will remain relevant and cautionary.

Unless or until, of course, the Affordable Care Act becomes a part of everyday life and the benefits are felt by all.






Monday, October 22, 2012

Smoter-in-Chief

Obama smote Mitt.  For example, he won the navel war:


 A vote for Romney is a vote for a very shaky character as Commander-in-Chief.  That's the take home message of tonight's debate.

The rest is just spin.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Romnesia

President Obama is back on the case.  He's shaken off whatever sleeping sickness affliction he had in that first 2012 Presidential Debate way back whenever weeks ago and came out gunning with smarts and strategy for the second debate this past Tuesday night.  And now he really seems to be enjoying himself:



Whichever speechwriter came up with the phrase, "Romnesia," deserves a great position in the President's second term, if all goes well.  The President uses the phrase to capture Romney's pandering as well as his untrustworthiness.  What's key about the latter characterization is that it implies a not-so-hidden agenda, namely to ultimately serve the Republican objectives of privileged rules for the rich while shifting the most threatening burdens of risk from government onto a struggling American Middle Class populace, not to mention the poor.

Best of all, the President caps his diagnosis with a triumphantly received cure - Obamacare's coverage of pre-existing conditions.  Good luck to GOP strategists who thought saddling the Affordable Care Act with that moniker would be a net negative - if Obama wins his second term and the law remains intact, it will be a trademarked Democratic legacy for all time.

If so, I expect that Fox News will eventually revert to calling it the ACA or maybe some new negative term they invent.  You will see Republicans in 2024 or 2040 running on how they want to "preserve Obamacare" by turning it into a voucher system, and how dare their Democratic opponent threaten Obamacare by whatever mild reforms they may enact or advocate to keep it running.

Just like Medicare, the signature achievement of President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Democrat.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Envisioning America

The Democratic Convention looks like way so much more fun than the Republican event last week. The hall looks bigger, more populated and whole lot happier. It's a truly diverse crowd, the future of our country rather than it's insulated past. The faces on the dais were not radically different from the composition of the crowd, as was the case last week. And the total acceptance of gay Americans as full Americans, thanks to the President leading with his acceptance of gay marriage, by speaker after speaker is a refreshing change from...every other convention in U.S. political history.

By contrast, the GOP keep talking about "taking back" America, but the subtext lately has been a return to secession. If we can't "take it back," we won't play. Not exactly patriotic in the "union" sense. Just as the South seceded to create The Confederacy, so does the spirit emanate from our Southern states. It's the spirit of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's ironclad no-cooperation rule. Combined with the overwhelming whiteness of the Republican Convention (not to mention the peanut throwing incident), it carries the aura of racism.

But the most interesting aspect of the secessionist movement is how easily it has blended with the 21st Century Secession of the Wealthy, so perfectly embodied in candidate Mitt Romney. It's been coming for some time. As described by Mike Lofgren in The American Conservative:

I do not mean secession by physical withdrawal from the territory of the state, although that happens from time to time—for example, Erik Prince, who was born into a fortune, is related to the even bigger Amway fortune, and made yet another fortune as CEO of the mercenary-for-hire firm Blackwater, moved his company (renamed Xe) to the United Arab Emirates in 2011. What I mean by secession is a withdrawal into enclaves, an internal immigration, whereby the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot.

Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension—and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?

...

The objective of the predatory super-rich and their political handmaidens is to discredit and destroy the traditional nation state and auction its resources to themselves. Those super-rich, in turn, aim to create a “tollbooth” economy, whereby more and more of our highways, bridges, libraries, parks, and beaches are possessed by private oligarchs who will extract a toll from the rest of us. Was this the vision of the Founders? Was this why they believed governments were instituted among men—that the very sinews of the state should be possessed by the wealthy in the same manner that kingdoms of the Old World were the personal property of the monarch?

Were Mitt Romney to reveal his tax records, the electorate would learn that he has seceded with his money to Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and who knows where else. While it's completely against the interests of the grassroots secessionist whose economic situation won't be improved by the exodus of that capital from our ecosystem, it's a matter of faith.

So what makes this first night of the Democratic National Convention so powerful is how American it is. American stories of real struggle and moments of real triumph, the military wife, the mother of a child with a life-threatening birth defect, the First Lady who came from modest roots. Shared patriotism through trying to make the country just a little bit easier to struggle through for all.

As the chant goes, U.S.A., U.S.A.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

C'ryan

Yes, the Dems should not get complacent with Romney's pick of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Vice Presidential running-mate. Ryan is smooth like a used car salesman and fully committed to dismantling our government in order to save the rich even more money. His convictions will come through where Romney's do not. The Villagers - those DC media elite who fashion the news - like Ryan and have branded him as an intellect. It's not the same as Sarah Palin, although Romney's desperation is the same as McCain's was back then.

There's some buzz out there that Romney's own team did not want him to pick Ryan, or that Obama's team wanted to run against Ryan. Both may be true, but they still shouldn't underestimate the 42-year-old, even if it seems like Ryan could cost the GOP Florida.

What Obama For America and its allies need to do is exactly what they did to Mitt Romney himself - brand Paul Ryan nationally before the GOP has a chance to do it themselves.

After all, even Obama's 2008 opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has admitted that the ads defining Romney as unacceptable have been a success.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Mr. 0%

Is it possible that for ten of the past twelve years, Willard Mitt Romney paid no federal income tax at all?

According to an unnamed source known to both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and CNN's Dana Bash, that's the case. And Reid is not backing down when Romney tells Hannity that he oughtta "put up or shut up," he's doubling down:

“It’s clear Romney is hiding something, and the American people deserve to know what it is. Whatever Romney’s hiding probably speaks volumes about how he would approach issues that directly impact middle-class families, like tax reform and the economy. When you are running for president, you should be an open book.

The Dems are forcing Romney into a corner of his own making. Mitt keeps having to defend, primarily because whatever is in those taxes is obviously damaging to him, or else he'd release them. Since the wealthy live by different rules and have all the tax lawyers and tax accountants in the world to help them "preserve capital" it is not hard to imagine Mitt having skirted his civic duty, even if foolish for someone with designs on the White House.

This whole narrative has made it impossible for Mitt to carefully choreograph his introduction to the electorate - Obama For America has already introduced him to us all as Mr. Bain, destroyer of American businesses. Best of all for Barack, it plays right into Romney's policy choices, as demonstrated by this new, hard-hitting ad:



My only fear is that Romney is so weakened by the time the GOP Convention rolls around, they replace him with somebody who might actually win.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Very Good Night

Last night, Sunday, May 27, 2012, was maybe the best night ever for high-end television drama of the one-hour kind.  Both Mad Men and Game of Thrones had epic game-changing episodes.  Both are about power, in different ways.  Tonight I'll talk about the former.

In the antepenultimate episode of the season, "The Other Woman," Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is pitching Jaguar and all they need to seal the deal is for Joan to sleep with one of the three decision makers.  At the same time, Peggy, arguably the #2 character on the show, is feeling ready to leave.  It's a show about choices and prices paid for women to do men's bidding, as filtered through a Jaguar pitch tagline, "At last, something beautiful you can truly own."

So is Peggy owned by a new agency that picks her up for more than her asking price?  And is Joan owned or owner as she take a piece of SCDP for herself and her son?  And is there anything Christina Hendricks can't make us feel?

Then there's Don and his young bride, Megyn.  She wants to act, she's treated like chattel at the audition, and he's terrified that she's going to abandon him for her career.  Their fights are so much more awesome than Don and Betty's because they know each other's secrets, they're at way different points in their lives and they are both New York City sophisticates.  It feels like real adult fights - not TV adult fights.  A little S&Mish at times, which fits with the era.  Just as the Europeans were refinding the Marquis de Sade in literature and theatre.

If there's a project to this season it has to be revealed in the final two episodes.  This year's theme, according to creator Weiner, is "Every man for himself."  So will Don we left isolated - by Peggy, estranged from Joan by the knowledge of what she did and his adamant opposition to it, by Megyn getting the out-of-town rehearsals and previews gig?

We've had seasons with "the return of Don Draper" as the project.  Often with a diminishment of marital or family life.  Would that be a retread?  Or is there something deeper planned?

My pet theory: at the end of the season, Don quits.  Maybe goes West to design surfboards.  Maybe becomes the perfect mix on Don Draper and Dick Whitman.  Maybe quits being Don Draper.

More on Game of Thrones to come.  And if you think this season is big, the third book is oft considered the best.

Enjoy this time of plenty.  Over the next two weeks, it ends.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Still to Unravel

This painful, gaping 33-year-old mystery has yet to be full solved, not until we know the motive:
A former convenience store worker confessed to luring 6-year-old Etan Patz from his school bus stop in 1979 and choking him to death in a basement, police said Thursday, ending a three-decades long investigation into one of the nation's most baffling missing-children cases.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, N.J., was arrested on a murder charge after he told police he promised the boy a soda, took him to his store – just blocks from Etan's lower Manhattan home – and killed him there, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Hernandez told police he put Etan's body in some trash about a block from the store, Kelly said, where it's possible it was picked up by sanitation crews.

...

Hernandez was questioned by police for more than three hours after he was picked up in New Jersey Wednesday, and gave police a signed confession, Kelly said. His motive was not yet clear.

Just one child? Did he really only do this once? Makes it all the more incomprehensible.

Let's just hope the really got the right guy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not So Funny

It turns out that Mitt Romney is flat out lying when he says government spending has "exploded" under President Obama:



Ah, Willard. How do you know he's lying? His lips are moving. And then, of course, sometimes he laughs:



WTF with that? Garry Wills has some thoughts:

Everyone has noticed by now the non-laugh laugh of Mitt Romney, a kind of half-stifled barking. But what does it mean? It is blurted out as abruptly as it is broken off. Is it a kind of punctuation, part comma, part full stop, part interrogatory mark? What, if anything, is it trying to convey? Why does it seem more like coughing or burping than laughter?

Does it mean: “I know you are saying something critical about me, and I don’t know how to answer it, so I’ll just pretend that you did not mean it seriously”?

Or: “I want to show I am just a regular fellow, so I’ll try out my regular-fellow laugh”?

Or: “I hope you will take what I just said as something humorous, though I doubt it, but I’ll see if I can start a laughing chain reaction”?

Or: “I want to change the subject, but there is no natural way to do that, so I’ll just throw in this comic rictus as a non-sequitur”?

Or: “The Cheshire Cat could evanesce by leaving just a smile behind, so maybe I can avoid attention by disappearing away from my laugh”?

James Lipton has some ideas how Mitt can "fix" it:

He is so obviously "acting" after all.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Working on Iran

Is the Obama sanctions approach working?
Iran's parliament on Thursday approved President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's $462 billion annual budget, the official IRNA news agency reported, a drop in real terms from last year as international sanctions took their toll. 
Iran's currency has lost much of its value in recent months due to sanctions designed to curb the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, which the West suspects is a cover for making atomic bombs, a charge Tehran denies.
... 
The value of the rial began to slip in January, after U.S. President Barack Obama imposed fresh sanctions against the country's central bank and speculation rose over a possible military strike against Iran by Israel and the United States. 
The European Union has also toughened financial sanctions and on January 23 placed a ban on Iranian oil imports, but gave companies until July 1 to wind down their existing business. ... 
Tehran resumed nuclear talks with major powers in mid-April after more than a year and a second round of talks is scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.
... 
The country is undergoing what the government has called major economic surgery, in the form of cuts to the multi-billion dollar subsidies which for years have held down the price of essential goods like fuel and food. 
Inflation is now officially running at about 20 per cent, although economists say prices of the goods most Iranians worry about are rising at a much faster rate. 
"This budget will deflate the economy. To have what is almost zero growth with a growing population like Iran's, in real terms the country is going to contract severely. It is a truly bad situation," added Emadi.

Once again...underestimated by his opponents.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Baby What'd I Say

Oh, that Willard:
QUESTION: “When you did an interview with Sean Hannity in February, you said that you believed that Obama is trying to make America a less Christian nation. It was responding to quote that he had just played for you on the radio. Do you stand by that? And do you believe that President Obama’s world view was shaped by Reverend Wright and do you see evidence of that in his policies?”
ROMNEY: “I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was.”
Looks like that line will join the other Romney gaffest-hits, like "Etch-a-Sketch," "Corporations are People," "I like firing people," "I'll be you $10,000," "severe Conservative" and so many more. You're sure to be seeing this clip again:



He's been lying so much, it looks like truth to him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Only Way to End Gridlock

The GOP has abused the Supermajority rule by making everything a filibuster.  It's the Tea Partyfication of the Senate.  The tyranny of the minority.

Ezra Klein says...it's unconstitutional:

In 1806, the Senate, on the advice of Aaron Burr, tried to clean up its rule book, which was thought to be needlessly complicated and redundant. One change it made was to delete something called “the previous question” motion. That was the motion senators used to end debate on whatever they were talking about and move to the next topic. Burr recommended axing it because it was hardly ever used. Senators were gentlemen. They knew when to stop talking. 
That was the moment the Senate created the filibuster. But nobody knew it at the time. It would be three more decades before the first filibuster was mounted — which meant it was five decades after the ratification of the Constitution. “Far from being a matter of high principle, the filibuster appears to be nothing more than an unforeseen and unintended consequence of the elimination of the previous question motion from the rules of the Senate,” Bondurant writes. 
And even then, filibusters were a rare annoyance. Between 1840 and 1900, there were 16 filibusters. Between 2009 and 2010, there were more than 130. But that’s changed. Today, Majority Leader Harry Reid says that “60 votes are required for just about everything.”
At the core of Bondurant’s argument is a very simple claim: This isn’t what the Founders intended. The historical record is clear on that fact. The framers debated requiring a supermajority in Congress to pass anything. But they rejected that idea.

He goes on to talk about how the Framers were against a supermajority being used just to humiliate the President and block all his initiatives.  Sound familiar.

Somebody take this to the Supreme Court...ASAP.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Real Stakes

So Willard lost a donor, very publicly, over his embrace of "one man/one woman" marriage as the only one he'll accept:

"I feel that I no longer wish to support your presidential campaign and ask you that you please return the maximum contribution that I gave to you last year," Bill White wrote in a letter to Romney, according to a report by CNN. "You have chosen to be on the wrong side of history and I do not support your run for president any longer."

White, a registered independent who runs a New York-based consulting firm, had given $2,500 to the Romney campaign.

White made his decision following Obama's announcement last week that he supports same-sex marriage. While he clarified to CNN that he does not agree with the president on fiscal issues, White said that Romney's speech during Liberty University's commencement on Saturday led him to believe that Romney would press for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- a position that White simply cannot support.

"I feel like [Romney has] declared war on my marriage," White said. "And I could just sit back and not say anything. Or I could do something about it. And I've chosen to do something about it."

Meanwhile, in the African-American community, a leading heterosexual comes out in favor of Obama's stance:

“I’ve always thought it as something that was still holding the country back,” Jay-Z said, referencing the fact that same-sex marriage is not recognized nationwide. “What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. It's no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination plain and simple.”

Though he was in Philadelphia to appear alongside Mayor Michael Nutter and announce a two-day music festival in early September, Jay-Z sat down with CNN's Poppy Harlow to chat about broader issues. When he was asked if he felt Obama's decision to come out in favor of the right of same-sex couples to marry would cost him votes (particularly with the African-American community), he shrugged. "It's really not about votes," he said. "It's about people."

Hopefully Jay-Z's influence will be felt far and wide on this issue.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign - NOT a surrogate PAC - released this ad straight out of Karl Rove's handbook, attacking his opponent's supposed strength:



Ju-jitsu, Mr. Rove. And nice branding for Mr. Romney.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Duck Down

Another great musician has been taken from us, Donald "Duck" Dunn, legend:
Donald “Duck” Dunn, the bassist who helped create the gritty Memphis soul sound at Stax Records in the 1960s as part of the legendary group Booker T. and the MGs and contributed to such classics as “In the Midnight Hour,” ‘’Hold On, I’m Coming” and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” died Sunday at 70.Dunn, whose legacy as one of the most respected session musicians in the business also included work with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s Blues Brothers as well as with Levon Helm, Eric Clapton, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, died while on tour in Tokyo.News of his death was posted on the Facebook site of his friend and fellow musician Steve Cropper, who was on the same tour. Cropper said Dunn died in his sleep.
...
Cropper left to become a session player at Stax, the Memphis record company that would become known for its soul recordings and artists such as Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes and the Staples Singers.
Dunn soon followed Cropper and joined the Stax house band, also known as Booker T. and the MGs.
It was one of the first racially integrated soul groups, with two whites (Dunn on bass and Cropper on guitar) and two blacks (Booker T. Jones on organ and Al Jackson on drums), and was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
...
“I would have liked to have been on the road more, but the record company wanted us in the studio. Man, we were recording almost a hit a day for a while there,” Dunn said.
...
Dunn once said that he and Cropper were “like married people.”
“I can look at him and know what he’ll order for dinner,” he said. “When we play music together we both know where we’re going.”
Condolences to Cropper and to Dunn's family.  Thanks, Duck, for all the unforgettable baselines we danced to.
As for the Lord above, Dunn might as well be playing along to, "Hold On, I'm Coming."  R.I.P.


Friday, May 11, 2012

BULLY

"Scour Romney’s record for a single example of real political courage -- a single, solitary instance, however small, where Romney placed principle or substance above his own short- term political interests. Let me know if you find one ... His campaign has been an exercise in feeble appeasement. The only thing he appears to be dedicated to is abasing himself to the hard-right wing of the Republican Party. Consider the way he allowed a foreign-policy spokesman to be drummed out of the campaign simply for being gay ... Romney flunks the character test. He seems incapable of making the hard, sometimes unpopular, choices that are part of the job," - Gerald Rafshoon, former spokesman for president Carter.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Courage

President Obama did the right thing today. After a long period of saying his position on marriage equality was "evolving," he evolved. Unlike a typical politician, he let us know where he stands, which in legislative terms is against the Federal government interfering with states that legalize the right of two gay citizens to enter into the bonds of marriage. And there are plenty of jokes available about the challenges that come with those bonds.

Here's the statement that just changed the world:


Here's Andrew Sullivan, the blogger who first convinced me to take Barack Hussein Obama seriously as a Presidential candidate a little over four years ago:

Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That's why we elected him. That's the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to "cure" gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?

My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory. And after the darkness of last night, this feels like a widening dawn.

Can anyone imagine Mitt Romney taking this kind of political risk and changing history for the better? The notion is so absurd as to be beyond laughable. It's enfeebling. Has there ever been a more morally feeble candidate than Willard? Worthless as a leader, and a danger to the free world should he ever get that position.

You want to join the groundswell of tolerant Americans letting the forces of darkness, bigotry and anti-human rights know that you support our President?


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

WIld Man

Sad to see him go, but it's been a long, productive, influential life for Maurice Sendak, gone at age 83:

The popular children's book author wrote "Where The Wild Things Are" in 1963. He won a Caldecott Medal for the book in 1964, and was adapted into a movie in 2009.

According to The New York Times, a posthumous picture book, "My Brother's Book," is scheduled to be published in February 2013.

...

Sendak also created costumes for ballets and staged operas, including the Czech opera "Brundibar," which he also put on paper with collaborator Pulitzer-winning playwright Tony Kushner in 2003.

He designed the Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker" production that later became a movie shown on television, and he served as producer of various animated TV series based on his illustrations, including "Seven Little Monsters," "George and Martha" and "Little Bear."

...

"I write books as an old man, but in this country you have to be categorized, and I guess a little boy swimming in the nude in a bowl of milk (as in `In the Night Kitchen') can't be called an adult book," he told The Associated Press in 2003.

"So I write books that seem more suitable for children, and that's OK with me. They are a better audience and tougher critics. Kids tell you what they think, not what they think they should think."

During that 2003 interview, Sendak also said he felt as if he were part of a dying breed of illustrators who approached their work as craftsmen. "I feel like a dinosaur. There are a few of us left. (We) worked so hard in the `50s and `60s but some have died and computers pushed others out."

...

"Kids don't know about best sellers," he said. "They go for what they enjoy. They aren't star chasers and they don't suck up. It's why I like them."

As the tweet from McSweeney's said, "We'll be roaring our terrible roars today."

I've read a zillion of your books, Maurice, and used to eagerly anticipate each new Little Bear volume as it came out, while eating my Chicken Soup with Rice. Thanks for making all our childhoods -- and adulthoods -- all that much more imaginative and grand, and please R.I.P.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Better News in the Middle East

Possibly good news -- the chances of Israel unilaterally attacking Iran may have just lessened:

According to the media reports, Netanyahu forged an agreement with opposition leader Shaul Mofaz of Kadima shortly before parliament was set to vote to disperse.

Parliament Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a veteran of Israeli politics, said he had never seen such a last-minute political upheaval. “This is good for Israel because it brings stability, he said on Army Radio as he left parliament before sunrise.

The appointment of Mofaz, a former military chief and defense minister, is significant in Israel’s standoff with Iran, as he has been a vocal critic of Israel striking Iran’s nuclear sites on its own.

In the meantime, that pesky Al-Qaeda has evidently been foiled again:
The CIA and overseas intelligence partners disrupted an al-Qaeda plot to blow up civilian aircraft using an advanced explosive device designed by the terrorist network’s affiliate in Yemen, U.S. officials said Monday.
...

U.S. officials said the FBI is examining the device — modeled on the “underwear bomb” used in an attempt to bring down a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 — to determine whether airport security systems would have detected it.

U.S. officials said the CIA and other agencies tracked the plot for about a month before moving to seize the device in recent days in the Middle East outside Yemen, where the bomb was built.

Does Obama have another foreign policy or anti-terrorism success to achieve before the November election?

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Spare Change

News from France and Greece: austerity candidates lost. In France, it means the end of Nicholas Sarkozy's governance:

Exuberant crowds filled the Place de la Bastille, the iconic plaza of the French Revolution, to celebrate Hollande's victory. He will be France's first leftist chief of state since Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.

Sarkozy thanked his supporters and said he did his best to win a second term, despite widespread anger at his handling of the economy.

...

Hollande wants to renegotiate a hard-won European treaty on budget cuts that Germany's Angela Merkel and Sarkozy had championed. He wants more government stimulus, and more government spending in general despite concerns from markets that France needs to urgently trim its huge debts.

What does that mean for America? If the European debt deals fall apart, it could hurt Obama's reelection chances. But is it a harbinger of an anti-austerity vote that could cross the Atlantic?

Per Robert Reich, against socialism:

Socialism isn't the answer to the basic problem haunting all rich nations.

The answer is to reform capitalism. The world's productivity revolution is outpacing the political will of rich societies to fairly distribute its benefits. The result is widening inequality coupled with slow growth and stubbornly high unemployment.

...

And this is why a second Obama administration, should there be one, must focus its attention on more broadly distributing the gains from growth. This doesn't mean "redistributing" from rich to poor, as in a zero-sum game. To the contrary, the rich will do far better with a smaller share of a robust, growing economy than they're doing with a large share of an economy that's barely moving forward.

This will require real tax reform -- not just a "Buffett" minimal tax but substantially higher marginal rates and more brackets at the top, with a capital gains rate matching the income-tax rate. It also means a larger Earned Income Tax Credit, whose benefits extend high into the middle class. That will enable many Americans to move to a 35-hour workweek without losing ground -- thereby making room for more jobs.

It means Medicare for all rather than an absurdly-costly system that relies on private for-profit insurers and providers.

It will require limiting executive salaries and empowering workers to get a larger share of corporate profits. The Employee Free Choice Act should be an explicit part of the second-term agenda.

It will require strict limits on the voracious, irresponsible behavior of Wall Street, from which we've all suffered. The Glass-Steagall Act must be resurrected (the so-called Volcker Rule is more ridden with holes than cheese), and the big banks broken up.

And it will necessitate a public educational system - including early child education - second to none, and available to all our young people.

Is there the political will to reform capitalism -- in order to save it?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Drip Begins?

Is Murdoch finally in trouble in the U.S.?

Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, has written to Lord Justice Leveson, who leads the British judicial inquiry into media ethics, asking if he has uncovered any evidence relating questionable practices in the US.

"I would like to know whether any of the evidence you are reviewing suggests that these unethical and sometimes illegal business practices occurred in the United States or involved US citizens," Rockefeller writesin a letter released on Wednesday.

The development adds to the potential dangers facing News Corp, a publicly-traded company with its headquarters in New York. Rockefeller has taken a close interest in the unfolding phone-hacking saga, but it is the first time that a Senate committee member has acted in his official capacity.

...

The commerce committee covers all means of communications in the US – including telecommunications, free-to-air broadcasting and cable TV. It also has oversight over the Federal Communications Commission, the regulatory body that has final say on the issuing of broadcast licences, including the 27 licences issued to the Fox TV network that is the jewel in Murdoch's crown.
Will the UK investigation start opening the floodgates here in the U.S.?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Weak

The Romney Presidential campaign just had a high-profile resignation today, and one that should give them pause to make a fundamental change in his/their approach. But, having seen Willard kowtow to the rightwing Republican base thus far, he probably won't. As reported by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post:

Richard Grenell, the openly gay spokesman recently hired to sharpen the foreign policy message of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, has resigned in the wake of a full-court press by anti-gay conservatives.

In a statement obtained by Right Turn, Grenell says:

I have decided to resign from the Romney campaign as the Foreign Policy and National Security Spokesman. While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama’s foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign. I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.

According to sources familiar with the situation, Grenell decided to resign after being kept under wraps during a time when national security issues, including the president’s ad concerning Osama bin Laden, had emerged front and center in the campaign.

Most damning:
During the two weeks after Grenell’s hiring was announced the Romney campaign did not put Grenell out to comment on national security matters and did not use him on a press foreign policy conference call. Despite the controversy in new media and in conservative circles, there was no public statement of support for Grenell by the campaign and no supportive social conservatives were enlisted to calm the waters.
As I've written before, Romney is not a leader in the true sense. He appear incapable to taking a position unpopular to his base, making a convincing moral case, and either turning them around to his point of view or at least earning widespread respect for his rectitude. He's a loser, not a leader.

Per Josh Marshall, this is Romney playing into "bitch-slap politics" without the Obama campaign even having to try that hard:

The Obama campaign has spent days hammering the claim that Mitt lacked the fortitude to make the risky choice to launch a commando raid to kill Osama bin Laden. Either it was that he said it wasn’t sufficiently important or that he said he wouldn’t violate Pakistani sovereignty to launch such an attack. In either case, the core message was ‘I was right; he was wrong.’ But as I’ve argued, the ferocity of the attack itself was meant to diminish Romney as weak and helpless, a man unable to properly defend himself.

...

Against that backdrop, the sudden resignation of Romney’s new foreign policy spokesman Richard Grenell came at just the wrong time since it told just the same story about Romney as the Obama campaign has been telling all week: Romney is weak.

...

“It’s going to be difficult for Romney to take other steps like this. And that’s what’s really frightening to me,” Fred Karger, openly gay Republican candidate for president told TPM. “It’s just too tough to stand up to these groups because they have a lot of money and power. You’ve got to be able to do that, that’s leadership.”

...

In other words, Romney’s actions have spoken louder than his awkward replies to the original bin Laden smackdown. In the face of attacks meant to show he can’t stand up to Osama bin Laden, Romney shows he can’t stand down the far-right homophobes in his own party.

Or more simply, as Obama campaign's Stephanie Cutter tweeted out:
“How can voters trust Romney to stand up to the Soviets & Czechoslovakia if he's folding to rt wing on hiring gay staff?
Americans don't vote for weakies for President. There's still a canyon of time to fill between now and November 6th, so maybe Mitt can turn it around, but I believe this early imprinting is just the beginning of what's really going to fill the airwaves and, as I predicted months ago, Mitt Romney will make Bob Dole look like a winner.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Forward

Accomplishments, yes:


Per Seneca Doane at DailyKos, here's the list reeled off at the 5:00 mark:

The Obama campaign ticks off a list of accomplishments that they presumably think is aimed straight for the heart, mind, and gut of the electorate. Each one rotates up on a panel, one of them every 2.5 seconds. 32 of them over 80 seconds. Here's the entire list:

o 4.2 million jobs saved
o cut taxes for 160 million Americans
o Wall Street reform passed
o 18 tax cuts for small businesses
o Unfair credit card fees eliminated
o 466,000 new manufacturing jobs
o $1 Trillion in spending cuts
o Protected reproductive rights
o Stem cell research funded
o Fuel efficiency standards doubling
o U.S. oil production at 8-year high
o Natural gas production at all-time high
o Renewable energy production at 27%
o First Latina Supreme Court Justice appointed
o $100 billion invested in science and research
o Iraq War ended
o Libya liberated
o Osama bin Laden dead
o Incentives to hire unemployed Veterans
o "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ended
o Unemployment benefits extended
o Equal Pay for women protected
o Health care reform passed
o Seniors' drug costs lowered
o College Pell Grants doubled
o Guaranteed coverage for contraception
o Medicare and Social Security protected
o Auto industry saved
How could America not re-elect this President?