Monday, August 31, 2009

Wish I Was Here

And by here I mean here. One of these years...!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

That Burning Season

Out of L.A. this weekend, and not missing the tower of smoke friends are posting about in their Facebook status updates. Two courageous firefighters have lost their lives already.

Are the fires worse than in the past, year upon year now, due to climate change?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Final Words

I don't have much to add to these select eulogies for Teddy Kennedy. It'll be a long time before we see another funeral for a Senator with the kind of bipartisan, heartfelt, buoyant words that were spoken on Saturday.

I never expected to feel so warm towards Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT):

And our President, who certainly owes a large part of his nomination and subsequent victory to the late Sen. Kennedy, delivers for Teddy:

More of 'em here. R.I.P., Teddy. You ultimately earned it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Night Stories

A beautiful story about Victoria Reggie Kennedy, new widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy, and the positive effect he had on the last eighteen years of his life.

The freakiest, hauntingest story of the year.

The heretofore untold story of enhanced interrogation techniques:

Is Using A Minotaur To Gore Detainees A Form Of Torture?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Good Ending

Ted Kennedy knew he was on the way out over a year ago and was determined to have a good ending for himself, which included lots of entertaining with a valedictory stream of dinner guests as well as working as long as he could. Admirable, to be sure, as was the overall arc of his life from unimpressive lad to statesman.

There's an interesting post on DailyKos by feldo, comparing how liberal Democrat Senator Kennedy died to conservative Republican campaign operative, the oft feared, subtly racebaiting Lee Atwater:

And then only weeks before dying, he wrote, in, ironically, Life Magazine,

My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.

Nice sentiment at the end, albeit more regret than satisfaction.

The choice is yours.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Gold from Junk

Having finally (if a week and a half after it's opening can seem like a long time) gotten to see the sleeper hit of the summer, District 9, last night, I came away as impressed with the movie, and rookie director Neill Blomkamp as I'd been hearing. There are a number of factors that make District 9 impressive, from being a science fiction thriller with more on its mind than just pyrotechnics -- although delivering a highly satisfying stream of those -- to actually telling a coherent story with characters worth caring about.

In fact, there's a list on Film Junk of the "5 Lessons Hollywood Can Learn from District 9" (the list with my thumbnail descriptions -- for the full thing read the piece):

1. Audiences Appreciate Originality

Yes, there are lots of elements from other pictures mashed into this one, but it has a new attitude, i.e. in the alien apartheid theme, resonantly set in post-real life apartheid Johannesburg, South Africa.

2. Experience Isn’t Everything

Director Blomkamp was backed by producer Peter Jackson to direct a huge budget version of blockbuster videogame Halo when Hollywood got nervous, backed out, leaving them to rebound with this proof of talent.

3. Blockbuster Budgets are Bloated

See the movie and try to wrap your mind around this: District 9 only cost $30 million to make, i.e. the equivalent of about fifteen minutes of Spiderman 3. Guess which one is richer and more entertaining.

4. Mystery Draws People In

And I'll try not to spoil too much, but there will be MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

5. Action is More Thrilling When It’s Rated R

No argument here.
I find it interesting that the site I've quoted has the word "junk" in the title because what I'll address in this post is the success of the "junk aesthetic" in the movie.

District 9 takes place in the midst of tremendous amounts of junk. This is the essential poverty experience, the Soweto of the movie, with Nigerians running black markets in the alien quarantine area as a reminder of the world's biggest slum in Lagos. In this incarnation of poverty, aliens pick through huge garbage piles to survive, decorate or build elements of their shacks with garbage, and even look something like collections of junk themselves, albeit in the "prawn" form that gives them their negative nickname.

Lead actor, an unknown until last week, Sharlto Copley, looks a bit of mess when we first meet him (and gets worse as the picture goes on) and is in essence a non-valuable item in Hollywood terms, i.e. a leading man with zero name recognition (or negative, considering how unusual and new to pronounce his name is to non-South Africans), i.e. junk. And director Blomkamp was junked by Hollywood prior to making this picture.

Indeed, District 9 is almost entirely shot documentary style, with surveillance camera POV's popping in for visual continuity here and there, as handheld is essentially the "junk" style of shooting, i.e. "run 'n' gun", rather than the majestic tableau shot of classic science fiction films from the 1920's through the 1950's, peaking with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey but just as much the dominant style of the Star Wars hexology. Prior to, say, Battlestar Galactica, which made space battle seem like documentary war footage, old matte technology and even motion control cameras required some degree of stasis or stability in shooting in order not to reveal the seams of the layered fx compositing. Here the jerky footage of CGI aliens picking through junk heaps or mixing it up in spasmatic, bloody confrontations with humans seem 100% genuine, a you-are-there feel.

In the real world, it's poverty that makes those stricken human beings appear expendable to the more fortunate. How often have we heard, "Bomb them all!" in reference to corruption infested slums or the poor-as-dirt terrorist breeding grounds of the Middle East? Clean people up and they suddenly have value, but in their most degraded state, starving and emaciated in Ethiopia, or refuges ravaged by war, how often is the reaction that they should just go ahead and die, we'll all be better off -- themselves included.

Here it's the aliens whose non-human, insect or shrimp-like appearance, caked in poverty, who seem infinitely expendable. So it is the linchpin achievement of District 9 that we develop empathetic feelings towards two in particular, father and son prawn. And herein lies the key to the movie's originality, actually a synthesis of underground or counterculture aesthetics that have been building from the hippies through the punks all the way to Burning Man and beyond, the turning of what other people discard into something useful, fascinating, useful, valuable, beautiful.

The core storytelling trope here is the second look, the reversal that comes from Copley's transformation from go-along mid-level bureaucrat to self-sacrificing action hero, the shack that can be a key, the weapons that are junk unless a being with the right DNA pulls the trigger (and then marvel at the plasmatic destruction that follows), the prawns who can be more than the drones you've come to expect. Like the magnetic powers of one particularly brilliant alien weapon that collects the bullets fired at it and then blasts them all back, Blomkamp revels in the expectations about himself and his "little" film that he fashions with whizzing speed and rock-solid cinematic expertise into a great big science fiction action classic.

Every once in a while there's this kind of independent triumph, recalling the sleeper success of the first Terminator movie, with "junk" actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, an unknown director and cast, that can instantly turn into a major franchise. Blomkamp pokes sly fun at the Halo debacle late in the picture when, in file documentary footage, Copley's character proudly displays a wallet-sized snapshot of his wife in her bridal veil, emphasizing how much it looks like an angel's halo.

Well, if any studio wants to resume making the movie version of Halo with Blomkamp I'm betting he won't come half as cheap as he would have the first time around. And Blomkamp would have to ask himself why bother with someone else's intellectual property, now that he has a not-dissimilar human vs. alien District 10 sequel squarely set up by the conclusion of this picture.

With the reversal of District 9 winning hearts, minds and box office, he's turned an original i.p. (i.e. "junk") into a potential entertainment industry. And with the same achievement, ironically, devalued Halo as late-coming movie competitor.

Junk into gold. Gold into junk.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Last Man Out

Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy (D-MA) has died of brain cancer at age 77 and with him goes the last of the famed, ill-fated, targeted Kennedy brothers: Joe in WWII, John in Dallas, Bobby here in Los Angeles. Teddy hadn't grown up as the smartest and he certainly had his personal failings, but as one of only two Senators in U.S. history to be elected nine (9) times -- the other being Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) -- and arguably the most successful legislator in U.S. history, this loss feels unexpectedly as large as that of his brothers.

Whereas their Presidencies, if completed and won, might have better rode the changing world of their times than those who took their place and had a more powerful immediate impact than that of a Senator, Teddy's record for sponsored legislation has profoundly modernized and humanized this country.

I like this line from the NY Times piece:
As James Sterling Young, the director of a Kennedy Oral History Project at the University of Virginia, put it: “Most people grow up and go into politics. The Kennedys go into politics and then they grow up.”
Key legislation:
He led the fight for the 18-year-old vote, the abolition of the draft, deregulation of the airline and trucking industries, and the post-Watergate campaign finance legislation. He was deeply involved in renewals of the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing law of 1968. He helped establish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He built federal support for community health care centers, increased cancer research financing and helped create the Meals on Wheels program. He was a major proponent of a health and nutrition program for pregnant women and infants.

When Republicans took over the Senate in 1981, Mr. Kennedy requested the ranking minority position on the Labor and Public Welfare Committee, asserting that the issues before the labor and welfare panel would be more important during the Reagan years...

...His most notable focus was civil rights, “still the unfinished business of America,” he often said. In 1982, he led a successful fight to defeat the Reagan administration’s effort to weaken the Voting Rights Act.

In one of those bipartisan alliances that were hallmarks of his legislative successes, Mr. Kennedy worked with Senator Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas, to secure passage of the voting rights measure, and Mr. Dole got most of the credit.

Perhaps his greatest success on civil rights came in 1990 with passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which required employers and public facilities to make “reasonable accommodation” for the disabled. When the law was finally passed, Mr. Kennedy and others told how their views on the bill had been shaped by having relatives with disabilities. Mr. Kennedy cited his mentally disabled sister, Rosemary, and his son who had lost a leg to cancer.

Mr. Kennedy was one of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s strongest allies in their failed 1994 effort to enact national health insurance, a measure the senator had been pushing, in one form or another, since 1969.

But he kept pushing incremental reforms, and in 1997, teaming with Senator Hatch, Mr. Kennedy helped enact a landmark health care program for children in low-income families, a program now known as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-Chip.

He led efforts to increase aid for higher education and win passage of Mr. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. He pushed for increases in the federal minimum wage. He helped win enactment of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, one of the largest expansions of government health aid ever.

Yep, he even worked with President George W. Bush. Dedicated to doing his job, even with political opponents, if he thought it was for the better of the American people. And Kennedy was known for his friendships across the aisle, most notably with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), with whom he shared what appears to be his final piece of legislation, should it become law.

A fitting epitaph, from Norm Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute conservative think tank:
“If his father, Joe, had surveyed, from an early age up to the time of his death, all of his children, his sons in particular, and asked to rank them on talents, effectiveness, likelihood to have an impact on the world, Ted would have been a very poor fourth. Joe, John, Bobby ... Ted.

“He was the survivor,” Mr. Ornstein continued. “He was not a shining star that burned brightly and faded away. He had a long, steady glow. When you survey the impact of the Kennedys on American life and politics and policy, he will end up by far being the most significant.”
It's been 41 years since the last brother died. Tonight the final star went out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Glenn Massah

The odious Mr. Beck is losing all of his quality advertisers for calling our President, who is of both African American and Anglo American heritage, a racist. Thanks to a protest organized by, where black Americans stand up for themselves as so many people have told them to do for so many years, his filthy invective has cost Fox his advertisers, and other Fox programs have lost some of these high-quality advertisers as spillover from the hate.

Now the clown prince of simpleton hate and fear is going after Color of Change co-founder Van Jones, who is an expert on sustainability, particularly in urban areas where it is so deeply needed, and an Obama appointee. Jones is an accomplished man and author of bestseller The Green Collar Economy, which posits that we can solve two economic problems with the same stone, i.e. green jobs that will employ more people while making our world more livable.

A far cry from the hate and fear-mongering of the clown prince. And now Beck is going after Jones, calling this special advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality a "revolutionary" due to Jones' social and environmental activism.

As I recall, revolutionaries work to tear down a system, not join to make it more sustainable. But then again, racebaiters like Beck have historically worked to cut down strong black men in their prime. When I was born they could do it with ropes and hoods in the middle of the night.

Maybe that's not Beck.

But what percentage do you think it might be of his audience?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Since 1927

Baseball gets slagged these days as too slow or uninteresting for our contemporary ADD nation. But which there are oddities of interesting achievement in all sports, there's nothing like baseball, with a history going back well over a century, and the rather Nineteenth Century rules which lead to moments like this:

NEW YORK (Associated Press) - It happened so fast, Eric Bruntlett needed a few moments before he realized he had just ended a game with an unassisted triple play.

Bruntlett became the second player in major league history to get the final three outs on his own, accomplishing the feat Sunday to preserve the Philadelphia Phillies' 9-7 victory over the New York Mets...

...Bruntlett turned the 15th unassisted triple play in big league history -- the second that ended a game. Detroit Tigers first baseman Johnny Neun also turned the trick on May 31, 1927, completing a 1-0 victory over Cleveland, according to STATS LLC.

The awesome moment:

It's been statistically determined that the hardest single thing to do in sports is to hit a major league baseball pitch, i.e. a 90-mile an hour fastball.

An unassisted triple play is harder. And a game-ending one only seems to come around once every 82 years.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Getting Real

There's an interesting a pertinent debate in the comments section of this blog, with Master Fu bringing up what may be the core philosophical difference between honest supporters and opponents of health insurance reform as currently being devised in Washington. This question, of whether it is better for the government of a modern, industrialized Western nation, such as every other one besides the U.S., to provide healthcare for all of its citizens, or whether the value of self-reliance trumps the common good.

Does the currently discussed healthcare reform mean we'd be turned into a "nanny state" with radically diminished natural (even Darwinian) incentives for our citizens to persevere and innovate? Or would a nationwide safety net of, say, a public option that keeps the private insurers honest and operates without profit motive along the lines of Medicare leave such entrepreneurial impulses unharmed -- or, some might argue, enhanced thanks to portability?

Some Nettertainment readers might disagree with me, but I do think this is a legitimate debate, worth exploring even if my own inclination is on the side of real reform. Ditto for debating how we afford the coverage, how pricing might be controlled, how the system could be fair but still allow those who can afford it to add to their coverage.

However, the conservative, Republican, libertarian, LaRouchie, wingnut, reactionary -- whatever you want to call it -- smokescreen of lies about the potential program are the types of sideshow distractions that obscure honest debate on merits. Death panels, abortion funding, public option for illegal immigrants are all fear tactics, none of which have a shred of reality within any of the legislation being discussed.

It's about time that President Obama strikes back forcefully and directly at the lies of reform opponents in this week's address:

Can the honest debate begin?

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Transcended Film Critic

I was fortunate enough to meet Roger Ebert several years ago atop Nob Hill in San Francisco, a few hours after he co-hosted an advertising award event at the Masonic Center. He was still in his tux and I was with the friend who brought me to the event, and when we stopped to congratulate him on a good job, he immediately turned the conversation to the quality of some of the work shown and, like a bunch of film fans meeting on a street corner, we traded lively views on our favorite spots.

Ebert is the best of the mainstream film critics because he's a populist epicurean, which is to say a popularizer of quality films both contemporary and classic. His Overlooked Film Festival (now called Ebertfest) is always brilliantly curated, and the Great Movies section of his website is full of fascinating gems of classic film descriptions and advocacy.

Every since being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing very difficult surgery, Ebert has been in a long, slow recovery. But he hasn't given up. It surely feels like a second life for him, considering that his partner in the iconic At the Movies show, Gene Siskel, didn't survive the disease. And now he's speaking out on the Obama health plan (in so much as Obama's principles for health care/health insurance reform are influencing the House and developing Senate bills).

He's making the moral case for this much-needed reform.

And he's not afraid to call elements of the plan socialism, because as he writes:
Readers have written about their belief in Federalism, Free Market Capitalism, strict Constitutionalism, personal liberty, Libertarianism, and so on. To one of these readers I wrote something like: "Do you think your views on federalism will be of much interest to unemployed wage-earners unable to obtain coverage for their families?" To another, I wrote: "I hope your philosophy will be of comfort if you develop a serious illness."
As I've said for awhile, the biggest problem with American Republicanism/Conservatism as it exists today is the theoretical nature of all the rhetoric. Nothing is based in hard evidence -- we weren't greeted as liberators in Iraq, we didn't bolster the economy with Bush's tax cuts for the rich, Creationism is not the practical equivalent of Darwinism, and even those who complain about certain health services in Canada and England do not, by and large, wish for a re-privatized system.

Thanks, Roger. I hope you live long enough to see this country implement a public health insurance option that keeps the private companies honest, and a system where when someone loses their job thanks to a high-level corporate cost-cutting decision made by hyper-rich CEOS and SVPs, their family won't suddenly be without proper health care.

Especially if something goes wrong.

Like getting cancer.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Right Again

So I was one of those so-called rabid George W. Bush haters who thought the whole terrorism alert thing was a political lever for the Administration to use when they needed to shock the monkey, a.k.a. public opinion. While some called folks like me irrational, I felt it was based on previous experience, i.e. Karl Rove's long history of political trickery, Dick Cheney's contempt for any oversight of the Executive going back to his first White House stint for Richard Nixon, Bush's own use of fear regularly in his own post-9/11 rhetoric.

The truth, now coming out from the first ever Secretary of Homeland Security, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge:
Ridge was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings; was "blindsided" by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld critical information from him; found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of the emergency agency blamed for the Hurricane Katrina disaster ignored; and was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush's re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.

Right again.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Real Story?

Nuisance Industry over at DailyKos has the most interesting analysis of the Republican health insurance reform kabuki that I've yet seen, "It's about the Republican death spiral." Very much worth reading the whole thing, but some key grafs:
What's happening now is a result of what's happened since 2006: Republicans are in a death spiral, and are increasingly incapable of making policy. Not only do Democrats need to work without them, Democrats need to make Republicans own their impotence in 2010...

...Should Grassley broker a deal for health care reform -- not single payer, not a public option, not co-ops, but any thing with the words "health" "care" and "reform" attached to them -- he will be primaried in Iowa...

...In recent days, it has become abundantly clear (not just to us, but to the media) that Republicans have no intention of working for any kind of health care reform. Grassley said as much, on the record. It is becoming clear that Republican officeholders are acting to block reforms that would benefit their states and districts, putting political strategy ahead of sound policy. Policy that, if enacted properly, could make the politicians who shaped it very popular with millions of constituents it aided.

That is the dilemma of the Republican death spiral. As fewer voters remain in the party, the die-hards become a larger proportion of the remaining voters. These die-hards become ever more important in determining who the Republican Party will nominate in its primaries.
Thus, four-term Senator Arlen Specter is chased out of his party by Pat Toomey. The party gets more Toomeys on the ballot as a result.

Toomeys are harder to elect amongst the wider population. Had 300,000 moderate Pennsylvania Republicans not changed their affiliations to vote in the Democratic presidential primary last year, Arlen Specter would likely still be a Republican, poised to win nomination for his next term. Except those former Republicans (many from his base in suburban Philadelphia) are no longer part of the primary voting population. They can't help a Republican Arlen Specter.

Those former Republicans can, however, vote against a Republican Pat Toomey in the general election if they think he's too extreme...

...The Republican Party is paralyzed in 2009, incapable of governing, incapable of even helping to govern. The party that once preserved the Union can now only preserve the fears of bigots and the profits of special interests. The party that let New Orleans drown has shown no indication of learning from its mistakes; the past four years have seen it even less willing or able to manage the very real needs of the American people. Democrats from Barack Obama to Max Baucus to Ron Wyden have extended their hands to see if Republicans could be engaged at any level on this issue. We now know that is impossible. It was never possible; the dance of the past few weeks confirms that the Republicans simply cannot afford to govern in any way, shape, or form lest they be tossed out by the party's rank-and-file. If Rahm Emanuel's on-the-record comments are any indication, the White House now knows that is the landscape.

I'm traditionally wary of any partisan, Dem or GOP, who believes that a final death blow can be delivered to the other side. However, either of the major political parties can be marginalized to various degrees over a decade-long period or more. Eventually there are generational changes that help retool a party and upheavals or shifts in the world that favor one side or the other.

However, the argument here is that if Dems stick together and stay strong (which I equate to adding a government pool to the health insurance competition -- no mandate without public option), they win bigtime. All that's left is the nihilism of our early 20th Century GOP hardcore driving their non-agenda -- they have to poke holes with whatever scares they can dredge up or invent in order to undermine public desire for the government to do any kind of reform. Or maybe come up with an 11th hour counterproposal that Tom Delay can dance to with the stars.

That's why we need debunking reference sites like this.

That's why I'm so glad the President is taking the suggestion I emailed to him to define health insurance reform as a moral issue.

I'm guessing I wasn't alone.

More Schoolin'

I believe we're seeing a turning point in the health insurance reform process sparked by the Administration hinting at a sell-out of the Public Option, which has sparked a wildfire amongst progressives as well as centrist supporters of such a plan.

Evidently, the Dems may be strapping on a pair and preparing to go it alone, without the GOP figleaf that either would never come or would mean watering down to the point of reversing intent and further enriching the usury insurance companies. After all, if you're going to be attacked anyway, better not to pretend bipartisanship with the vipers who will be attacking you.

The smart, tough, articulate and persuasive Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) talks about his citizens and teaches Chris Matthews what the goal is and what's going on -- in a very simple, understandable way:

On the other side: American reactionary anti-Semitic crazy:

Turn, turn, turn.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Here's two health insurance reform heroes. #1 is famed blogger and cancer survivor Jane Hamsher, known best for the group blog Firedoglake. Here she bats back Andrea Mitchell's latest media chamber line about the Public Option, particularly wailing on anti-real reform Blue Dog Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) for his wife's conflict of interest:

And taking the Morning Joe Show to school over their collective rush to declare the Public Option dead and the politics of the situation, welcome back, Dr. Dean:

He's the man who should be running the Department of Health & Human Services. Former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius appears either over her head...or too Blue Dog for the job herself.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


There's hints that the Public Option for health insurance reform may be in danger of being dropped.:

The “public option,” a new government insurance program akin to Medicare, has been a central component of Mr. Obama’s agenda for overhauling the health care system, but it has also emerged as a flashpoint for anger and opposition. Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, said the public option was “not the essential element” for reform and raised the idea of the co-op during an interview on CNN.

Mr. Obama himself sought to play down the significance of the public option at a town-hall-style meeting on Saturday in Grand Junction, Colo., when a university student challenged him on how private insurers could compete with the government.
Let us be clear: any reform without a public option will simply further enrich the for-profit health insurance corporations. Any government mandate or government assistance to citizens unable to afford health insurance without such help will simply be either a pilfering of the American citizen or another Bush Era-type raid on the U.S. Treasury -- citizen money.

If, like Nettertainment, you care about this issue enough that you would not vote for your Democratic Representative, Senator or President in any upcoming election should they fail to achieve this basic citizen right (see every other industrialized Western nation), then this is your fair warning, and maybe the only one you'll get.

Let your Congressperson know how you feel here.

Let your Senator know how you feel here.

Let the White House know how you feel here.

And, for good measure, tell these two men who hold so much of this in their hands:
Sen. Max Baucus (D - MT)
(202) 224-2651

Sen. Kent Conrad (D - ND)
(202) 224-2043
Warning to you delivered. Make your warning to them known, pronto.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fighting Back

Bully for Barack:

And he's got a big deal op-ed in the Sunday New York Times:

In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain. But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing. If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people.

That is not a future I want for my children, or for yours. And that is not a future I want for the United States of America.

We'd best move fast, if we don't want to see more scenes like what we have in L.A. last week and part of this, a kind of "tent city" of health care:

That was impossible last week when we saw pictures of thousands of people waiting stoically outside an improvised clinic in Inglewood, Calif., near Los Angeles. It looked as if it was happening in an underdeveloped country, where villagers might assemble days in advance for care from a visiting medical mission. But it was happening in a major American metropolitan area. This vast, palpable need for help is a shameful indictment of our health care system — one that politicians opposed to reform insist is the world’s best.

The operation was run by a group called Remote Area Medical, which was formed to deliver care to Indians living in remote areas of the Amazon basin. It soon found great need here. It started delivering free services in rural America, progressed to medium-sized cities, and last week set up a free clinic at The Forum in Inglewood, where the Lakers used to play basketball.

Teams of volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses and other professionals, using donated supplies, delivered free care starting Tuesday. They saw roughly 1,000 patients on the first day alone, but still had to give hundreds of people numbers to return the next day. By Thursday, they had committed all slots for the eight-day event and announced that they could not take any more patients.
Here's this week's Presidential address:

Let's hope the fight is finally on, and that there will be a "good enough" bill or better to start supporting right after the August Congressional recess.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Bravest Man

My father once said you have to be a little bit crazy to want to be President. You surely need a strong enough ego. And since Presidents all too often make targets (and not just for criticism, you do need some degree of courage.

But President Barack Obama must be the bravest President of all.

The ginning up of violence is well underway. Not that the most virulently racist element of American society, borne of slave owning, trading and abusing four hundred years ago, needs all that much prodding. They call it being anti-health reform, they call it fear of socialism, but when hysterical white folks are crying that the America they once knew is disappearing, that's simply code for non-white, non-straight, and even non-Christian, per Andrew Sullivan:

But the vicious anger from the far right, which is to say what is currently the right, seems totally out of proportion to these reforms.

Where does that come from? It comes from the same place as the tea-party protests. It's partisan, of course - most Republicans, including Glenn Reynolds, ignored the deficit under Bush, blamed Obama for it within minutes of his election, and never refer to the impact of the recession on deficits. But it is also surely cultural - an expression of the rage some in white America feel at the new social make-up of their country. I just sat through a PJTV segment on Sarah Palin, in which the host blithely referred to the heartland as "real America."

If that is what you really believe - that people in cities or suburbs, that minorities, that gays, that blacks and Hispanics are not part of "real America" - then of course, you are angry. You believe a fake America has taken over. You cannot understand this. So you start believing that we have a fascist/communist dictatorship, that there was some fraud allowing a non-citizen to become president, that the government is about to "take over" all healthcare provision ... and on and on. And no one is left in the GOP to challenge this, to calm it down, to present practical alternatives to the obvious crushing problems the country and the private sector have in paying for increasingly costly healthcare.

To me, this is a triumph of ideology. And conservatism is now an abstract anti-government ideology, fueled by cultural, racial and sexual resentment. This is a recipe for more violence, and more marginalization.

Even ABC News is noting the threat to the very first African American President -- and his family:
Experts who track hate groups across the U.S. are growing increasingly concerned over violent rhetoric targeted at President Obama, especially as the debate over health care intensifies and a pattern of threats emerges.

The Secret Service is investigating a Maryland man who held a sign reading "Death to Obama" and "Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids" outside a town hall meeting this week. And in New Hampshire, another man stood across the street from a Presidential town hall with his gun on full display.

Los Angeles police officers apprehended a man Thursday after a standoff with him inside a red Volkswagen Bug car in Westwood, CA [outside the Federal Building] – the latest disturbing case even though officials said the man had mental problems.

Ginned up by the usual suspects, including the most influential Republican:

Garrett said statements like one recently made by controversial radio host Rush Limbaugh comparing a logo for the White House plan to a Nazi symbol "legitimizes people who are on the edge to go do something or say something."

"And if you go and take a look at this, you will find that the Obama health care logo is damn close to a Nazi swastika logo," Limbaugh said.

Later, someone painted a swastika outside the office of Congressman David Scott of Georgia, one of Obama's supporters.

Lest we forget, one man has already paid with his life for crossing Operation Rescue. Obama receives 400% more death threats that his predecessor, and one man has been detained this week for making his violent feelings clear in public:
The Secret Service is investigating a man who authorities said held a sign reading "Death to Obama" outside a town hall meeting on health-care reform in western Maryland.

The sign also read, "Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids," referring to the first name of President Barack Obama's wife, said Washington County Sheriff's Capt. Peter Lazich.

Lazich said deputies detained the unidentified, 51-year-old man near the entrance to Hagerstown Community College about 1 p.m. Wednesday after getting calls from a number of people attending the meeting held by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. Obama was not at the meeting.

The sheriff's office turned the man over to the Secret Service, Lazich said.

Paul Krugman calls the current GOP alliance with the reactionary crazies over "death panels" lies a Republican Death Trip, and he's right. Just like the Nazi's they claim to hate and try to pin on a pro-health insurance reform left, they use fearsome imagery of death, essentially more classic KKK-style hate porn, to roil the blood and make reality recede through fiery eyes.

While there's a prairie fire of racist violence always ready to spark in America, hopefully burning out by the end of our lifetimes, those with the matches feign innocence when they're earning off the very target lists they create. Just ask mass murderer -- in a Knoxville church -- Jim David Adkisson:
This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence.
Rachel Maddow exposed it all last night, and everyone needs to watch, listen, and beware:

Lest we forget, the very first U.S. President to be felled by assassination was killed by a Confederate racist.

That's right, America. The first U.S. President to be assassinated was the President who freed the slaves.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hail Hail!

It is so rare that one person is responsible for so much goodness in this world. All hail the passing of Les Paul:

In 1940 or 1941 — the exact date is unknown — , Mr. Paul made his guitar breakthrough. Seeking to create electronically sustained notes on the guitar, he attached strings and two pickups to a wooden board with a guitar neck. “The log,” as he called it, if not the first solid-body electric guitar, became the most influential one.

“You could go out and eat and come back and the note would still be sounding,” Mr. Paul once said.

The odd-looking instrument drew derision when he first played it in public, so he hid the works inside a conventional-looking guitar. But the log was a conceptual turning point. With no acoustic resonance of its own, it was designed to generate an electronic signal that could be amplified and processed — the beginning of a sonic transformation of the world’s music.

Les Paul has passed at the age of 94. He's the man who brought us the modern electric guitar -- the essential cornerstone from rock & roll which has spread all over the earth like a wave and even into outer space, a revolution in music, aesthetics, style and thought, but Paul's legacy includes other pioneering work as well:
Paul also was responsible for changes in the way music was recorded with his advances in multi-track engineering, tape delay, close-in microphones for vocals and playback speeds.
A modest man about his achievements:
“Honestly, I never strove to be an Edison,” he said in a 1991 interview in The New York Times. “The only reason I invented these things was because I didn’t have them and neither did anyone else. I had no choice, really.”
If there's a rock & roll heaven, Les Paul is up there now making custom guitars for St. Peter and the Angels.

Hail hail the Thomas Alva Edison of rock & roll. And an electric guitar will get you through a day without a lightbulb a lot better than a lightbulb with get you through a day without hearing that sweet sustain of a strummed, picked or pummeled electric guitar string.

Thank you, Les!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crisis America

Yes, Virginia, America is being underserved in health care. Witness the clinic in the Los Angeles sports arena that took in overflowing crowds looking for basis health services:
Remote Area Medical Foundation is a trailer-equipped service that has staged health clinics in rural parts of the United States, Mexico and South America. It brought its health camp to urban Los Angeles County on Tuesday to begin an eight-day stint that the group's officials described as its first foray into a major urban setting.

Organizers expected big crowds, in a county with high unemployment and an estimated 22% of working-age adults lacking health insurance.

On Tuesday, the turnout was so large that hundreds had to be turned away.
Meanwhile, Joan Baez, awesome fifty-year career, shows the kind and compassionate -- and successful -- way to handle protesters.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Of Course

Of course Karl Rove had a direct and illegal hand in the firing of U.S. Attorneys for purely political reasons:

Aides to former President George W. Bush have asserted that the Justice Department took the lead in the dismissals, which set off a political firestorm that lasted months. Mr. Rove played down his role in the firings in a recent interview and in closed testimony last month before Congressional investigators.

But the documents, released by the House Judiciary Committee after a protracted fight over access to White House records and testimony, offer a detailed portrait of a nearly two-year effort, from early 2005 to 2007, by senior White House officials, including Mr. Rove, to dismiss some prosecutors for what appear to be political reasons.

Internal e-mail messages in the spring of 2005 at the White House showed that there was widespread unhappiness with David Iglesias, the United States attorney in New Mexico, because of the perception among top Republicans that he was dragging his feet on voter fraud and corruption investigations involving Democrats.

And of course that means Karl Rove committed perjury. Because he thought -- and surely still thinks -- he'll get away with it.

Will he?

Monday, August 10, 2009


What is grace? Is it f'real? Is it only possible after hitting rock bottom, spiritually or otherwise? Does it require something from us to trigger it, some sort of effort, or through exercise of will, or is it just a magical gift from a divine presence?

Is there a non-supernatural way to explain it in life's ebbs and flows?

Is it all about bettering ourselves, like the once savage Godric on True Blood?

Is it just as often thwarted or crashed as sustained, is grace fleeting or is true grace infinite once it arrives?

Does grace require humility?

Is it by nature "heavenly?"

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Good Week

You might not know it by the town hall ragers (and all their racial baggage) but last week was actually an excellent week for President Barack Obama and his Administration. There was a slowing in new unemployment (yes, not yet a recovery, but where it has to begin), the birthers/deathers/teabaggers are actually starting to boomerang in his favor, and he got his first Supreme Court Justice choice ever sworn in.

Best of all, he appears to have killed the Taliban chief of Pakistan, who was also their military leader:

Pakistan considered the al-Qaida-linked Mehsud its No. 1 internal threat. He was suspected in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and many other assaults. He claimed responsibility for some, including an audacious attack on a police academy in March that killed 12 people.

His death would be a victory for President Barack Obama and a nod to the Bush administration, both of whom have relied heavily on the CIA-controlled missile strikes to take out militants in Pakistan's wild northwest. The U.S. had a $5 million bounty on Mehsud, whom it considered a threat to the Afghan war effort.

Caught like a Somali pirate in the crosshairs of a CIA missile strike. And it appears that the ensuing power struggle to replace him is upping the body count:

According to sources, commanders Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, the two leading contenders for the chief slot, exchanged hot words at the shura meeting in Sara Rogha over the choosing of a successor to Baitullah. A shootout followed, leading to the death of Hakeemullah while causing life-threatening injuries to Waliur Rehman. A government official in Peshawar said that both Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman had been killed in the clash.
How crazy would it be if Obama's war strategy turned out to be the shining success of his Administration? Up next: Afghan drug lords:

The generals told Senate staff members that two credible sources and substantial additional evidence were required before a trafficker was placed on the list, and only those providing support to the insurgency would be made targets.

Currently, they said, there are about 50 major traffickers who contribute money to the Taliban on the list.

“We have a list of 367 ‘kill or capture’ targets, including 50 nexus targets who link drugs and the insurgency,” one of the generals told the committee staff.
As another President once said, "Bring it on."

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Reasonable Strike Back

Some good news on the town hall front, where some pro-health insurance reform citizens have been able to neutralize the brownshirts by the end of the week. From Indiana, a particularly good read:
  1. One woman said she had recently lost her job and her kids were on Medicaid but she didn't want the government controlling her health care! When reminded that Medicaid was "single payer" she said she'd rather not have her kids on it but she had to! Well, at least she could have that.
  1. Another guy was complaining about VA health care and all the cuts, I reminded him that we just had an historical increase in VA health and other benefits, he retorted that was for young vets and he wasn't going back to College. I questioned whether he wanted to help out vets coming home from Iraq/Afghanistan and he drifted off muttering of course.
  1. Another woman who had a sign that said "obamacare supports abortions and euthanasia" had an appeal to Senator Donely (sic), which was both misspelling his name and mistaking him for a Senator instead of a Rep. When I pointed out that the misinformation in her sign matched her knowledge of the Representative, she quickly lowered it in embarrassment. Later, I noticed she had torn off his name and title, and was holding the sign a little lower.
  1. I often used the phrase that "you are entitled to your own opinion but not to make up the facts" which seemed to really stun them. They were confronted with a view that someone respected their different views but challenged them on the misinformation and really couldn't respond to it.
  1. Many of them acted as if everyone held the same opinion as they did, and when I politely said I did not, it seemed to genuinely surprise them. In their circles, they don't know anyone who has a different view and who doesn't just nod at the same misinformed view they have. I always corrected them if they came up to me talking as if I agreed with them which happened at least a dozen times. They just assumed I was there like they were and for the same reasons.
Progress from Washington state, Massachusetts (they even have crazies there) and others. On the flip side, there's a pro-reformer car vandalized last night in Colorado and union members being threatened with violence, no doubt due to the rightwing gin-up from the Florida scuffle earlier this week, as expected completely turning on it's head who started what.

What may become more disturbing even than the wingnut disruptions is a question that ought to warm their hearts:

Did Obama already sell out true healthcare reform to the pharmaceutical industry?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Enlarge the Conflict

There's a philosophy that some follow in war that when you're losing, enlarge the conflict. That's essentially what the Bush Administration did in the Middle East after Afghanistan, and we didn't lose that one. It's the whole GOP corporate operative idea behind the Brooks Brothers riots in Florida 2000, the whole idea behind the GOP corporate operative anti-health insurance reform lobbyists who are ginning up the stupidest, most fearful, most easy to anger amongst the American population. They're hoping that it spreads like the plague.

They're delighted that some teabaggers mixed it up with some union people last night in Florida. (That state again.) They're delighted that Representatives are being hung in effigy, demonized, having their lives threatened. I'm sure they're thrilled to pieces that teabaggers are tweeting to bring your gun to the next town hall and "exercise your Second Amendment rights."

They want blood.

I believe we're seeing a replay of the demonization by a prejudiced, reactionary rightwing combined with corporate interests, the least moral among the wealthiest individuals, of the kind that was building before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who also happened to be the first Catholic to win the Presidency. I'm not saying that this is going to lead to the untoward loss of our current President, but does anyone in their right mind think it's out of the question -- or less likely now than a year ago?

Even Satan Palin is getting into the act, claiming that health insurance reform will lead to her Down's Syndrome baby being killed by government order. Who in the motherfuck does she think she is to say something like that? Oh, that's right -- a profiteer-in-waiting, hungry like the wolf she's shoot from a helicopter, jaws dripping with anticipation of her book deal money, her next play to hopscotch from Governor title (just long enough to keep it) to amoral rapacious vampire.

Yes, I do think this is having a deleterious effect on the Republican Party, and may even be the very thing that turns the debate into a must-pass. If GOP Senators and Congresspeople, after gutting true reform anyway (no Single Payer, no drug price negotiation, possibly no public option or even exchange) and likely setting up private insurers for more government largess or even a mandate without public option so they can just keep raping our bank accounts for mansions-at-the-top, if these GOP govern-people vote no then they'll be in the same swiftboat with the birthers 'n' baggers, the dregs of American brainpower, the most reactionary of the right, the cranks and the scamalongs, the ones so fearful of losing their right to own a gun that could someday be used to eliminate a President they've demonized in their minds with a 180 degree relationship to reality.

Obama and the rightful Dems must be getting close to actually passing some sort of health insurance reform.

Otherwise why would these people be going so insane?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hurt Me

Director Kathryn Bigelow made a name for herself thirty years ago as a Columbia film student with her thesis, a twenty minute scene of two guys beating each other up in an alley as two Semioticians deconstructed the lure of cinematic violence on the soundtrack. As a friend of mine pointed out, a similar scene of two men pounding on each other is a highlight (and humorous respite) in the middle of her current release, The Hurt Locker, while the deconstruction is now all in the rest of the pictures. Taking place during the most lethal stretch of our Iraq occupation, the film is, one one hand, an essay-like deconstruction of what it takes to be a risk-addicted soldier specifically trained and tasked to disarm IED's, the bombs anti-U.S. Iraqi insurgents use(d) to blow us up. On the other hand the movie is a highly successful entry into what may be my favorite genre, the serious action film actually about something real and significant.

Emphasis now on the action and, from the very first scene, monumental suspense.

I've had my issues with Bigelow's films in the past. Her proto-True Blood indie vampire flick, Near Dark, made her the potential punk crossover director to watch. However her follow up, Blue Steel, was made laborious with it's use of metronomically cut static/graphic shots and a plot that collapsed into numbing cliche by the end. She can be credited with giving us the compulsively watchable Point Break, which also gave us the Keanu Reeves persona that paid off in The Matrix, and while she's filled in with some admirable television directing assignments, her ensuing films seem mainly ill-fated.

Until now.

One hopes that Bigelow is at the start of a streak, because all of her talents and unique style -- often confused with being a "male" style when it's much more clinical, perhaps that of a woman fascinated like an anthropologist with male rituals and camaraderie -- have paid off. The superlatives are easy to come by. This is easily the most entertaining movie made about the Iraq conflict, without sacrificing an ounce of realism, and for me the best American movie I've seen in a theater this year. She's also introduced a new star, lead actor Jeremy Renner, and gotten a career-best performance (thus far) from Anthony Mackie.

What makes The Hurt Locker work starts with the setting, which is essentially a 24-hour livewire situation where literally anyone not in an American army uniform can be a deadly enemy, whether the local merchant or the kid with the soccer ball. The picture is structured as a series of high-suspense set pieces, each one essentially an escalating variation on man vs. bomb (or insurgent). By very nature this is a looping existential situation, where literally one moment to the next can be there you see him, there you don't. The actual story engine is a classic platoon tale, where a hotshot cowboy (Renner) joins Mackie and crew as team leader, a.k.a. the man in the barely protective bomb suit with the fingers free and vulnerable so they can do the detail work on the bombs themselves. And at the center is Renner's character, who is clearly better at war than he is at peace, which may be more dooming to him than any shrapnel.

One of the tricks and grammatical tropes of the movie is how we learn the geography of the bomb experts world, what it means to be 200, 100, 50 meters away. Bigelow does an expert job of keeping the geography straight in each individual set piece, no small feat considering the you-are-there handheld documentary shooting style. Another piece of grammar that grew with the picture is how during the defusion scenes there will be a cut to the point of view behind a high window, indicating that we're likely with someone who has the ability to detonate the bomb, locking the dread factor right in place.

I won't be surprised to see The Hurt Locker deconstructed further by filmmakers in the future who want to figure out how to put together their own action sequences for maximum impact. How did she do that will be the question each time, and one hopes they have a fraction of the serious content that Bigelow reveals. While there is nothing right/left partisan in the picture and no spoken words of political positioning, there are those moments where you just start asking yourself, if this is such a seemingly low value environment in the first place and everyone around seems so damned hostile to us, why the hell did we come here in the first place?

Finally there's the substance of the main character. Screenwriter Mark Boal was an embedded journalist in the Iraq War, which is what gives the characters and situations their foundation in reality. For Boal and Bigelow the courage of these servicemen and the lead in particular is unassailable. One could even interpret the ending of the film as as gung-ho as Top Gun, but which I believe would be missing the obvious point. Yes, these are America's bravest and most willing to sacrifice; however there's something about either what made them want to be there or something about the experience of the war that changes them, something that makes them not 100% whole as a human being. And it's that chasing after a piece that makes an IED defusion specialist.

The most reassuring aspect of the movie is that when the main character settles in we know he's the able rebel, the kind of John Ford character who can break the frontier where others can't, but will never be comfortable as a settler. As enigmatic as his character's inner life might be, we know him from movies of yore, he's in our cinematic DNA. It's to Bigelow and Boal's credit that we learn something new about this character, as grounded by the context of our nation's Iraq experience.

For larger metaphors you can take what you will, but if you're looking for the most gripping action film of the summer, it ain't Transformers 2.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Land of the Free

Every once in a while there's a special event that reminds us of the wonderful freedoms we do enjoy (and must be vigilant to protect) here in the U.S. of A. After 140 days in bullshit captivity by the North Korean government, the brave, young Current TV journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, have returned home to free soil thanks to the visit by President Bill Clinton.

It seems impossible not to be moved by this statement by Ling:

Impossible not to be moved except, perhaps, if you're a hardened Neocon Conservative with a worldview stuck in the Cold War:
But, since Bill Clinton has a hand in their release, someone's got to step up and naysay the effort, and predictably, that task has fallen to former UN ambassador and noted rage-walrus John Bolton, who says the "Clinton trip is a significant propaganda victory for North Korea, whether or not he carried an official message from President Obama."
Thank you, John Bolton, for once again demonstrating the completely theoretical nature of Neocon philosophy. Not only does it not take into account in any way the two American lives at stake (let alone Euna Lee's young daughter with whom she was reunited) vs. some "propaganda" belt notch, but since there's no Iron Curtain or Eastern Bloc anymore, and Kim Il Sung is as marginalized as a tinpot dictator can be, that propaganda victory may be limited to his own state-run television system.

Go play your mental games with yourself, John. This is America. You know, give us your tired, your hungry, your falsely imprisoned.

Welcome back, Laura and Euna.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

America vs. Our Brownshirts

The whole teabagging movement is a further development of the phony but devastating "Brooks Brothers Riots" that the GOP pulled together in Florida back in 2000 to disrupt the Presidential election recount. This was falsely reported as "populist rage" in the media and the result was George W. Bush as acting President with Richard Bruce Cheney as actual President and eight years of snowballing economic disaster (financial meltdown), catastrophic foreign policy (Iraq, isolation, clearing away Iran's enemies, continuing Israel-Palestine crisis), failure to deliver basic services (Katrina) as had been successfully executed under President Bill Clinton, fascistic practices (unauthorized wiretapping of Americans, torture of innocents along with any guilty) not to mention more and more Americans losing their health insurance or finding themselves not getting the benefits they paid for.

The danger is back.

With the fascistic shouting down of civil discourse by ignorant rightwing cranks both coordinated and egged on by the GOP and their proxy organizations and media, America risks dropping back into the rabbit hole that is decreasing our life expectancy against the rest of the world and threatening to permanently establish a class-tiered system for basic survival in the U.S. This threat cannot be understated. If the corporations behind and people in front in this brownshirt shout-down movement are allowed to succeed in scuttling real health insurance reform this summer, you'll see cowed Representatives, some dropping out for fear of violence, and status quo America as feeding trough for the parasitic rich for the rest of its history, until it collapses under the weight of it's own lack of foresight.

Here's how the DNC is finally laying it out and fitting the pieces together:

Here's the media struggling to reveal the truth, even if it's corporate parents would rather not:

It looks like they've picked up the Libertarian "LaRouchies" now, another crackpot group that used to be marginalized when I was growing up but, like birthers and Birchers, is poised for legitimization by Fox News and their fellow travelers.

Yesterday I called this fascist movement racist as well. Thomas Edsall backs me up today:

With Republican party leaders so constrained by ideological blinders that none of their positions is likely to produce gains among non-white minorities, especially Hispanics, the GOP is finding it has no real alternative but to revert to a "white voter" strategy.

To some extent, it's working. The party's opposition to President Obama's agenda -- particularly his cap-and-trade energy proposal and health care reform plan -- is resonating strongly with disaffected white Democratic voters. Republican grievances about Obama, combined with race-baiting commentary from the far-right ideologues who have become some of the most dominant voices of the modern GOP, have led to a precipitous drop in the president's approval ratings among whites.

It's all very reminiscent of the party's notorious Southern Strategy, which carried the GOP for decades.
Think I'm being alarmist? Think my racism charge is going too far?

Then why is our President receiving an unheard of thirty (30) death threats a day?

Even if you may consider yourself to the right of center, is this really where you want our Republic to end up?

All over a public option to guarantee all Americans health insurance?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Brownshirt Teabaggers

Psycho spokeslunatic for the racist anti-Obama birther movement, Laguna Niguel-based Dentist/Lawyer Orly Taitz, called the media "Obama's brownshirts" during her public breakdown on MSN today:

As a refresher, the brownshirts were a strongarm force of Hitler's Nazi Party -- his "assault division" -- known for violent intimidation of Jews and other political enemies during his rise.

Who's acting in quasi-violent fashion right now? Those racists "anti-tax teabaggers" promoted by Fox News and hate-mongering Michelle Malkins of the world. They are working in co-ordinated fashion to disrupt any serious town hall discussions between Congresspeople and regular citizens regarding health insurance reform over the August recess. As they did in Texas today:

The shouting down of open political discussion is by its very nature a form of fascism, and when I say organized I mean by FreedomWorks, the health industry-associated conservative front organization that pretends to be "grassroots" but organized both the no-nothing "Tea Party" rallies earlier this year as well as this more aggressive form of brownshirting.

While the corporate anti-public option, anti-single payer campaign is not inherently racist, the teabaggers and birthers are, and with the health care brownshirting now tying them all together, it's not even me who's painting them all with the same racist brush. Check out the coat of whiteface in this new poster cropping up anonymously in Los Angeles:

If you thought the irrational fear and hatred to Bill Clinton was bad, add race to the mix and someone's going to get hurt.

I only hope it's not our man.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Vs. Corporate Greed

Word from the NY Times is that Obama and team are going hard against the insurance companies this week:

The effort will feature town-hall-style meetings by lawmakers and the president, including a swing through Western states by Mr. Obama, grass-roots lobbying efforts and a blitz of expensive television advertising. It is intended to drive home the message that revamping the health care system will protect consumers by ending unpopular insurance industry practices, like refusing patients with pre-existing conditions.

“I think what we want to communicate is that this is going to give people who have insurance a degree of security and stability, the protection that they don’t have today against the sort of mercurial judgments of insurance bureaucrats,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, adding, “Our job is to help folks understand how this will help them.”
The tough talk, however, has risks. The industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, is urging members to confront Democrats at public meetings, and the rising tensions could make it difficult for the president to keep insurers at the negotiating table.
All I can say is, Gobama. The health insurance energy claims they will cooperate on reform -- as long as there's no Public Option. Which is why I wish they were threatened properly with Single payer, before Sen. Max Baucus and other Dems unilaterally took it off the table.

How corrupt is the top eschelon of capitalism in this country? There's the insurance companies about which, insiders like former CIGNA exec Wendell Potter admit, Michael Moore was right in his expose, Sicko. Then there's the Wall Street banks gaming the Federal Reserve by trading with them. Per Paul Krugman:
...some institutions, including Goldman Sachs, have been using superfast computers to get the jump on other investors, buying or selling stocks a tiny fraction of a second before anyone else can react. Profits from high-frequency trading are one reason Goldman is earning record profits and likely to pay record bonuses.

On a seemingly different front, Sunday’s Times reported on the case of Andrew J. Hall, who leads an arm of Citigroup that speculates on oil and other commodities. His operation has made a lot of money recently, and according to his contract Mr. Hall is owed $100 million.

What do these stories have in common?

The politically salient answer, for now at least, is that in both cases we’re looking at huge payouts by firms that were major recipients of federal aid.
Something has to be done to clean this country up, and it's either not going to be the Obama Administration or, more importantly, not that leader and team alone.

If it's a participatory democracy we live in here, it's time to participate.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Liars, Cheats and Yahoos

Sorry to keep slamming the Republican party, but their brand is basically characterized these days by obfuscation, fraud and stupidity.

For lies, there's nothing more pungent than the lethal canard they're telling seniors about healthcare reform, that it will somehow lead to the government going door-to-door asking the elderly how they'd like to die.

For cheating, there's the Tea Party organizers creating obstructionist protests to try and stifle healthcare and clean energy reform and falsely inflate their numbers, as well as forged letters belying the climate change crisis.

And for yahoos, there's the birther movement, so white, so Southern, so Republican in nature. From the folks that brought you slavery.

Here's Jon Stewart's take:

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Beware this party: no reason to negotiate with it in Congress anymore. Sorry.

Not our fault.