Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My New Hero

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) on Tuesday:

His, um, apology on Wednesday:

Rep. Grayson owns Wolf, Alex and Gloria, with a bemused assist from James:

A star is born.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Next Option

So the Senate Finance Committee voted down both the Rockefeller and the softer Schumer Public Option amendments to the Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) health insurance reform bill, the one that his detractors believe has been written for insurance companies to benefit over the public. As in over a Public Option.

It's very simple: America supports a Public Option. Doctors support a Public Option. Just as we have both private and public universities, there would be choice for all, no one forced to go into the Public Option plan. Without the Public Option not only is there no competitive price check on For-Profit Insurance companies (as in 30% profit or more), any legislation will likely be a huge giveaway to these insurance companies, in essence rewarding them for decades of bad behavior.

While the loss on both Public Option amendments today wasn't exactly great news, two writers with more knowledge than I believe that the margins of loss, particularly for Schumer's version, were much smaller than expected, and this on the #1 most conservative committee in the Senate. Four other Senate committees have the Public Option in their versions, so today's bad news could mean good news later.

I've said it before and will say it again: passing the bill with a robust Public Option intact assures Democratic victory in 2010. Without it, watch the Democratic Party base crumble.

Which is why no political GOPer is supporting it.

Monday, September 28, 2009


It's the end of the Jewish High Holy Days, the atonement climax, Yom Kippur. And as much as I'd like to atone for saying not nice things about certain rightwing factions, I can't do so if their goal is assassination of our fairly elected Commander-in-Chief:

A poll was posted on Facebook asking users to vote "should Obama be killed?"

The responses include: "yes," "maybe," "if he cuts my health care," and "no.

Over 730 people had taken the poll, which was later removed from Facebook. The poll is now being probed by the Secret Service, reports the Associated Press.

This category of agitators for violence include all wingers who call healthcare reform anything approaching creeping Nazism, and advocate buying more weapons to battle oncoming Nazism and feminism:

Especially when now a part-time census worker appears to have been lynched, with the word "FED" scrawled across his chest.

For those who still need it, Garry Trudeau draws a picture.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Language Gone Silent

New York Times columnist William Safire, who was also a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon and, by extension, Vice President Spiro Agnew, both of whom left office in disgrace, has died at age 79. Safire is one of the more vexing figures for me, as I disdained his politics but loved his non-political column, "On Language," which ran regularly in the Sunday Times. The column was always informative and witty, and he will be missed for it.

The Times has also reprinted his classic farewell to his political column, entitled "How to Read a Column," well worth the few minutes to read including:
8. Cast aside any column about two subjects. It means the pundit chickened out on the hard decision about what to write about that day. When the two-topic writer strains to tie together chalk and cheese, turn instead to a pudding with a theme. (Three subjects, however, can give an essay the stability of an oaken barstool. Two's a crowd, but three's a gestalt.)

With that advice in mind, I'll just comment on the irony of losing such a dedicated language man on a day when it is leaked that one of the world's major communications companies may very well sell off the magazine publishing arm that gives it its name.

Time Warner without the Time?

More Last Express

Gamasutra does a terrific piece on interactive storytelling extolling the virtues of my favorite videogame producing experience, The Last Express:
In some ways, this is the most engrossing, convincing story space I’ve ever encountered, just as it is one of the better plotted (and better integrated with gameplay) stories I’ve played. It’s all well and fine to suggest that a vast, malleable space with an uncountable number of opportunities and options that is highly reactive to the player would make for a “great” story space.

Previous posting on the game here.

Buy it here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Iran in his Headlock

President Barack Obama made an public announcement today just before the G20 Summit with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicholas Sarkozy that Iran has been building a nuclear facility they've kept hidden thus far. Iran had gotten wind that this was coming and tried to get out in front of it, but it's a loser's game.

This means that:
  • Whatever Iran policy the Cheney Neocon Administration had been running was a MASSIVE FAIL.
  • Whatever the Obama Admnistration has been doing to repair our position in the world is working.
Per one of Andrew Sullivan's readers regarding what must be Neocon panic today:
It must drive them nuts to see a clear, if limited, victory for a strategy that is diametrically opposed to their own. Their ideology being discredited by events, and so they characteristically fall back into blind fits of intransigence, like screaming, foot-stomping children.

That Goldberg emailer fails to see what has happened. Obama has known about this facility from day one. At Cairo, he reached out the Muslim world, undermining the Iranian regime's ability to engage in arm-waving, fear-mongering anti-Americanism. He built himself a triumvirate with Brown and Sarkozy, who actually have an intelligence presence in Iran. He used that presence to build an airtight case. He cut a deal with the Russians. He reached out to Iran, knowing that they would likely reject or ignore his overtures. Then, when Ahmadinejad comes to New York, having to face Western journalists, Obama announces the the existence of the Qom facility, turning the spotlight on Iran when they are unable to hide behind state-controlled media. Obama, cool and calm, pulled off a near-perfect diplomatic pincer.
I'm looking forward to what happens next.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Finger Crossed

The Public Option headed for a Senate Finance Committee vote Friday, maybe even by the time you read this.

The U.S. public is for the Public Option that competes against private health insurance plans (NY Times/CBS News poll) 65/26.

Sen Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) are confident that it will pass.

The edge-of-seat suspense begins now.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Starting Gun of the 1960's

If you are not caught up on AMC's Mad Men, stop reading, because herein lie






That's enough.

So this week's episode, #5 of Season 3, ironically titled "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency," is the starting gun for the 1960's, and commencement of this season's "Act II." The previous episode climaxed with the birth of the new Draper baby, paying off a piece of business begun towards the end of last season. This episode shakes up things at the office but, more than that, strikes the ominous wild ride tone that was the 1960's.

We engage with narratives essentially on three levels: curiosity (who killed Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick?), suspense (what's going to happen next??) and, most damning, dread. Dread is when you know or are pretty damned sure that something bad is going to happen, and most tragedy has this element, as well as all horror.

Dread is when you see William Holden lying face down in a swimming pool at the start of Sunset Boulevard, then flashback to the beginning of the story. You know he'll die, but maybe you don't want to believe it, but you keep watching. Dread is every Hitchcock movie where you go in knowing he's going to take you the darkest place. It's when at the beginning of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer we see three tableaus of his victims, then see him pick up a hitchhiking girl with a guitar, then see him show up at a friend's house with the guitar but not the girl, and there's another girl, one we'll come to care about, at the house with his friend. We know that by the end of the movie, Henry will try to kill her and, based on his record so far, he's likely to succeed.

I believe that we watch Mad Men with a large dollop of dread. Creator Matt Weiner has said that the show is not about people getting what they want, "it's about people not getting what they want." We know this is true after two seasons, since Don has had trouble avoiding adultery, Peggy is not getting equal pay, Pete is not rising as he expects, and the Sterling Cooper buyout by the British is looking like a bummer for everybody at the New York office.

But the other layer of dread, the big one, is the historical aspect of the show. Anyone who's lived through or studied the 1960's knows that it was an exhilarating time, sure, but it was also a hellish time, when America firmly lost its innocence, beginning with the assassination of the virile, smart young President and continuing through the Vietnam War, draft and body bags. It was a time of marriages torn apart as women broke out of their established traps and the sexual revolution broke down traditional bonds. It was the first big automations beginning to displace American workers. It was a time of forced racial integration met by murder, of campus and ghetto unrest, capped off by our own National Guard shooting down four students at Kent State University and paralyzing a fifth, May 4, 1970 (my birthday).

It was the curse of living in interesting times.

Here's what we know: it's the beginning of July 1963. On November 23rd character Roger Sterling's daughter is to be married, but those of us from 2009 know that the wedding is scheduled for the day after President John F. Kennedy will be assassinated. The nuptials probably won't go as planned.

We also know that we're a year and a month away from the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, based on a falsified event in Vietnam that subsequent President Lyndon B. Johnson used to dramatically escalate America's involvement in that debacle, which led to over 47,000 American soldiers killed and unraveled one or two Presidencies.

So this is the first Mad Men episode (to my recollection) where a character mentions the Vietnam War in dialogue, and it's also the one where a gruesome act of mechanical maiming sprays bloods like a Scorsese movie, like the First Lady will be so iconically sprayed with the blood and brains of her husband in four and a half months.

The most disruptive shot in this disturbing series thus far:

The '60's zeitgeist ran from Dallas through Watergate. The Beatles are coming and going before it's over, and the War will drag on a few more years. I believe we're still adjusting -- maybe making final adjustments -- to the changes of that era.

And I think that Mad Men has us right where it wants us.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Healthcare Reform Advance

Pelosi announces she won't fold to the Blue Dog.

Anti-reform position is hurting Grassley's home state support.

Baucus appears to be moving away from the insurance companies.

Cantor is pressed by his home state audience for GOP healthcare plan specifics, falls short.

Cantor can't answer constituent who needs help in any helpful way.

Republican Rep. Tiahrt is laughed at by his Kansas constituents for his lies.

Republican Senate leadership rushes to defend insurance companies. As does Will Ferrell and fellow actors:

Momentum Obama?

Monday, September 21, 2009


Very easy, and the Public Option is just one of the twelve bullet points:

If he gets this passed, he's a hero.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shut Up Step Off

Although she gets right maybe once or twice a decade, can ex-Reagan speechwriter and somehow pundit Peggy Noonan is once again acting her class:

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan described President Obama's decision to go on five Sunday shows in one day as "boorish" -- in a Sunday show appearance of her own.

"He's doing it because he can," the former speechwriter told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos. "The media environment allows a modern leader to be something subtly damaging, and that is boorish. They get their face in your face every day all the time. It's boorish and it makes people not lean toward you but lean away from you, no matter what the merits of the issue."

Ms. Noonan speaks with what Nettertainment is fond of calling "American Bullshit" accent. It's quasi-British, upper-crusty, and is usually a key indicator of being wrong.

By the way, I'm behind Obama asking New York Governor David Paterson, who got the job when Spitzer resigned has unfortunately screwed the pooch too many times, to not seek full-term election. NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is kicking butt right now, and NY needs more of that.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

37 in 5770

L'shana tova tikatevu to all Nettertainment readers, regular, occasional or new. In case you're wondering, it's now the year 5770. I know, I expect to forget and keep writing 5769 on my checks for the next few weeks, too.

By the way, it may be 5770, but the U.S. is #37 in 2009:

Better luck this year.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quds Day Subverted

The annual Quds Day in Iran, something I'm quite against since it is the government-mandated anti-Israel day, was different this year. On Friday Holocaust-denying election-stealer Ahmadinajad gave his usual hateful speech, but the people used the traditional rallies as a means to protest the regime, which was responded to by state violence:

Supporters of the Green Movement gathered at 7 Tir square (a major intersection) and began moving toward Tehran University, where the Friday prayers and Ahmadinejad’s speech were to be held. Mehdi Karroubi joined the demonstrators and walked with them all the way to the vicinity of Tehran University.

To prevent the Green Movement’s supporters from penetrating Tehran University, public buses had been used to block all the streets around the campus. Security forces, the Basij militia, and plainclothes agents used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the demonstrators.

Former president Mohammad Khatami joined the demonstrators close to Palestine square, a short distance from the campus of the University of Tehran. He was then attacked by a mob led by Abolfazl Shariatmadari, son of Hossein Shariatmadari, the hard-line managing editor of Kayhan, the mouthpiece of the hardliners and security forces. Khatami was rescued by the people, and sustained minor injuries. He was then taken away.

The protesters, seeking as fairly elected representation -- something that some Americans take for granted -- don't appear to have been cowed by the horrific violence, both on the streets and in the prisons, dealt by the Basra:

In some cases, protesters stood their ground, hurling stones at security forces and chasing them to engage in bare-fisted sparring, witnesses said. “People seemed less fearful compared to previous demonstrations,” one participant said. ”This time, they were fighting back.”

Throughout the day, regular police officers reportedly stayed on the sidelines for the most part.

Police officers even protected the demonstrators in one instance cited by an eyewitness. ”Plainclothes forces attempted to attack a group of protesters carrying a long green banner, but the police intervened and prevented physical confrontation.”

Take a look -- green protest:

The thugs and regime-lovers they're up against:

More pix here. It's amazing the difference in the two sides. The opposition is completely male, segregated, and looks like the sorry past, while the so many of the protesters are women, always there.

Here's opposition leader (and likely the real election winner) Mousavi's supporters and aides repelling the thugs:

Ditto the supporters of protesting ex-President Khatami, where Basra tried to pull off his turban to humiliate him, and failed.

It's tougher than ever for a fascist regime to keep the lid on over the long haul, not with 2009's social media capabilities.

Still bad in Burma, though, and getting worse.

Death to tyrants and the thug class they license.

Say Wha?

They say that even a broken clock is right twice a day:

Key phrase:
I want that. I want, not for personally for me, but for working Americans, to have a option, that if they don't like their health insurance, if it's too expensive, they can't afford it, if the government can cobble together a cheaper insurance policy that gives the same benefits, I see that as a plus for the folks.

Have at it...folks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bottom Line

Looks like we've got a spirited debate going on in the comments section, and all I ask is that participants show respect for their ideological opponents and avoid namecalling. Otherwise, traffic numbers are up!

I was at a big Hollywood fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis tonight and was struck by one honoree who appears stricken with the disease but, as a historically successful entrepreneur, has created the Myelin Repair Foundation to bring scientists together in open collaboration with the goal of reversing the core progression of the disease. It made me think about the value of entrepreneurship in America, and health care's place in it, specifically health insurance.

America has the reputation for being a place where entrepreneurship can flourish. By the very act of emigrating to this nation of immigrants, those who come to our shores are entrepreneurial. They are taking risks and looking ahead to a better life for their families. The most successful entrepreneurs are usually those who have a vision of "changing the world," per the recent work of my uncle, Michael Maccoby and his book, Narcissistic Leaders: Who Succeeds and Who Fails. We're grateful (even with inevitable grumbling, jealousy and suspicion) when they do; i.e. Bill Gates.

However, as the centuries have progressed in the U.S. we've recognized that unbridled or unchecked entrepreneurship can lead to robber barons, labor abuses or even outright gangsterism. We accept, and I think even the most conservative readers would agree, that a Hobbesian state of uncontrolled selfishness would be a brutal and egregious one based on the principle of might makes right and loaded with suffering, pace the industrial 19th Century, child labor and all. We accept checks on certain (harmful or predatory) entrepreneurial behavior by laws and government, with the goal of creating a level playing field free of the basest fears.

I've come to the bottom line that health care is not an area for unregulated entrepreneurialism, and in particular health insurance is best provided by government, most simply in Single Payer form but obviously tough to institute in America at this moment. The reason is that health insurance, rather than an area best provided by corporations looking to improve the bottom line by taking 30% profits and above, is actually infrastructure, much as clean water, fire departments, meat inspection and creating the Internet are state responsibilities.

he state supplies these services because they actually help encourage entrepreneurial behavior. Imagine if you had not reliable Internet to work with, or that you had to get your clean water from robber barons or even more benevolent corporations. Our civil society is structured so that you don't have to worry about any of that, and with good reason, so that we don't waste our days trying to meet those basic needs.

Now, I recognize that there are some innovative drugs that come out of profit-motivated research, albeit paid for through the nose for the first X years of release. But even if we have a hybrid system which doesn't take all the worry away, at least there will be a competitor in place to keep any monopolistic or "robber baron" behavior in check.

With health insurance reforms enacted and everyone essentially covered, American businesses can beat out foreign countries where state health coverage is already in place, reducing their uncertainties as well as costs.

That means more hiring, more portability to take entrepreneurial risks, more reason to take that world-changing dream to fruition.

After all, would you be a happy entrepreneur if you had to worry that no fire fighters showing up the weekend that your house accidentally caught on fire?

The Meme Spreads

Former President Jimmy Carter, a man who knows the South, calls out the teabaggers:

Juan Williams, Fox commentator, in even-handed NPR fashion, asks the racism question:

On Morning Edition, NPR news analyst Juan Williams told host Renee Montagne that many in the black and Hispanic communities see what they think is a pattern that adds up to a "lack of basic acceptance of the stature that's to be accorded any president."

Among the elements of that perceived pattern:

-- Questions from so-called birthers about whether the president was actually born in the USA (he was; in Hawaii).

-- Objections from some to having the president address schoolchildren.

-- Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's shout of "you lie!" during Obama's address to a joint session of Congress last week.

Anderson Cooper calls out a "Tea Party" leader for calling Obama an "Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief":

Rush Limbaugh stokes racial fires with misinformation:

Limbaugh echoes Malkin:

"In Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, 'Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on... I wonder if Obama's going to come to come to the defense of the assailants the way he did his friend Skip Gates up there at Harvard."

I'm sorry but this is outrageous. The story was a classic schoolbus bully incident; it could happen anywhere any time and has happened everywhere at all times with kids of all races, backgrounds and religions. To infer both that it was racially motivated and that this is somehow connected to having a black president is repulsive. I know that is almost de trop with Limbaugh, but sometimes you have to regain a little shock. This man is spewing incendiary racial hatred. He is conjuring up images of lonely whites being besieged by angry violent blacks ... based on an incident that had nothing to do with race at all. And why, by the way, does someone immediately go to the racial angle when looking at such a tape?

Yep, the Police Chief in the town admits that he overreacted at first (Glen Beck fan?) and that the incident "does not appear to be racially motivated."

Looks like it, smells like it, feels like it, tastes like it... why the hell is America stepping in it?

Monday, September 14, 2009


Maybe the best description of what is going on with the psycho right, the ones crying about getting "my country back," comes from a reader of Andrew Sullivan, who goes Jungean talking about The Shadow Self and the psychological phenomenon of projection:
...Our ego wants to believe we are wonderful, and so cannot tolerate evidence to the contrary. Consider America. As good as we are, we have a dark side and our actions often have dark consequences. We are large and cast a large shadow. If we were a more mature people we would simply own our dark side, integrate it into part of our self knowledge, and act accordingly. However American mythology says that we are the good country, and to maintain that the pure version of that belief, we are willfully ignorant of our faults. In the minds of many “patriotic” Americans, we have no dark side. Unwilling to own our dark side, we project our shadow onto others...


Since the Iraq war we’ve looked for a new target onto which to project our shadow. Perennial candidates China, North Korea, and Iran don’t quite suit our needs, and “the terrorists” finally wore thin. I have wondered who our next victim would be. Now we know.

It is Obama.

The right is projecting its shadow onto Obama. The same qualities that make him a saint to the left make him the devil to the right - he is easy to project onto...


That is why he is the out of control spender when they sat on their hands through all of Bush's malfeasance. That is why his talking to schoolchildren is dangerous when our government wiretapping its citizens wasn’t. That is why saving the financial system from years of Republican regulation is taking away our future. The more evil revealed about the right’s excesses on torture, or wars of choice, or nearly destroying the economy, the more evil Obama will look in their eyes, as they cannot tolerate owning responsibility, because in their own minds they are only good.

That is why he is the Fascist/Communist/Socialist/Muslim… that is the list of our shadow projections over the last 60 years. In their minds he is now the USSR ("my grandchildren will have to stand in line for toilet paper!") or even the Anti-Christ. The Obama they see is a projection of their own psyche, not that actual man in the White House. Missing birth certificates, death panels, indoctrinating children, these are all the projections running in their own heads, not things happening in the real world...

The whole letter is fascinating, even debatable. It reminds me of the reason why organized crime wiseguys call themselves "goodfellas." If everyone essentially has to think of themselves as good, these criminals consider themselves honest as opposed to the hypocrites who pretend to lead honest lives (i.e. the rest of us law-abiding citizens). It's their own projection at work, and their self-justification.

By the way, U.S. physicians overwhelmingly support the Public Option (63%), even more (73%) when you add in those supporting Single Payer.

Another projection (LIE) dies hard...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Carroll Who Died

One of the last of the downtown NYC underground stars to make a record, a poet by trade who was first noted in his teens by the surviving Beat poets, joined the Andy Warhol Factory crew and wrote The Basketball Diaries, Jim Carroll, has just died at age 60. Not a shock in the sense that he always looked somewhat dead in large part due to a heroin habit, but certainly an inevitable irony considering that the one song he'll always be remembered for is, in fact, "People Who Died," which starts like this:
Teddy sniffing glue, he was 12 years old
Fell from the roof on East Two-nine
Cathy was 11 when she pulled the plug
On 26 reds and a bottle of wine
Bobby got leukemia, 14 years old
He looked like 65 when he died
He was a friend of mine

Those are people who died, died
They were all my friends, and they died...
NYC in the late 60's and through the 1970's was rife with danger and death, self-inflicted, crime-inflicted, overdoses being a big factor. Carroll's song was a litany of grotesque two-line tableaus mainly spoken within a rollicking rock 'n' roll number, the two or three hooks good for a lifetime of repeat listening. The song came on the radio a few months ago and still had that have-to-turn-it-up feel, before it gets away from you.

Back in college we used to play the song over and over and goof on it as well, satirizing the tidal wave of bad news and lines with way too many syllables jammed in. But you could still dance to it.

The passing of Carroll, like the deaths of Joey and Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, the closing of CBGB and the inability of Talking Heads to regroup is just one more nail in the coffin of the psychotically vibrant mid-to-late 1970's New York City punk rock scene. Many of the scene makers had their roots in Warhol, others came from the boroughs or the burbs, but it was sharp, spiky, oppositional, original and thrilling. I'm not sure where the next one is going to happen. Beijing?

Here's what appears to be the music video for the movie version of The Basketball Diaries, which starred a young Leonardo DiCaprio in the autobiographical Jim Carroll roll and features the album version of "People Who Died" although an older Carroll than when the song was originally released, by about fifteen years:

I guess with the passing of Jim Carroll that, in the metaphoric rather than literal sense, "I salute you brother."

The Ugliness

The teabaggers held a rally in DC on Saturday. Organized in large part by former House Republican Leader Dick Armey's Freedomworks, it was attended at a 5-7% level of what the organizers promised, claimed and even lied about, misquoting ABC News. What it did bring was the ugly lynch mob side of America, or so the imagery brought by the protesters would suggest.

This "classic" image they created and seemed to fetishize symbolizes the morbid contempt in which they hold those who oppose them, as well as the confusion of their message:

The sign is evil enough, printed and distributed, but the staged photo (see lynch link above) is confusing in that it can be read as a defication on their very own message, i.e. a negation, yet is clearly meant to equate Obama with feces, i.e. shitting on Obama.

Seriously, I don't recall any similar image from the anti-Bush/Cheney demonstrations this decade. But then again, they weren't African Americans, and as Maureen Dowd points out in her Sunday column, guys like Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson are implicitly reacting to that:

Surrounded by middle-aged white guys — a sepia snapshot of the days when such pols ran Washington like their own men’s club — Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at a president who didn’t.

But, fair or not, what I heard was an unspoken word in the air: You lie, boy!

The outburst was unexpected from a milquetoast Republican backbencher from South Carolina who had attracted little media attention. Now it has made him an overnight right-wing hero, inspiring “You lie!” bumper stickers and T-shirts.

The congressman, we learned, belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, led a 2000 campaign to keep the Confederate flag waving above South Carolina’s state Capitol and denounced as a “smear” the true claim of a black woman that she was the daughter of Strom Thurmond, the ’48 segregationist candidate for president. Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber.

And, back to the dissonance of the protest message, it is at once a confusion of political labelling, Obama is a Communist yet a Hitler (who, to inform the educationally-challenged teabaggers, imprisoned and killed Communist). At the heart of this enraged minority is what one TPM reader who went there calls out:
There were small groups huddled around the Glen Beck inspired flags and the usual disaffected white males wandering in groups with the American flag desecrated by being incorporated into clothing. Having been to the exact same location for the Obama Inauguration and other large political events, this was small fry in comparison. However, it was an angry group with a real sense of absolute entitlement. Something not focused on by many. This sense of entitlement that they deserve to be the dominant deciders and that it's being taken away.
As I've written before, I see this as trying to delegitimize a President elected with a larger electoral and popular margin than in two decades, I believe with the ultimate goal of inciting or legitimizing violence against him. My instincts say that if the President is harmed these forces will make sure it comes from a black man to help legitimize the act -- in front of our local Whole Foods today there was the same white youth manning the LaRouche "Obama as Hitler" table but this time with a young African American fellow traveler.

If you have any doubt that these protesters are on the psycho side of American history:

God bless freedom of speech in our United States of America.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Brilliant Complex

If you, like Nettertainment, you get excited at the nexus of movies, politics, sex, violence and history, then get to a theater by next Thursday or maybe the Thursday after, before this leaves town:

It may seem sacrilegious on 9/11 to be writing about the birth of modern Western urban terrorism, but it's actually a great time to be thinking about it, especially if we're ever going to defeat it. I can't write a better review of The Baader-Meinhof Complex than Dana Stevens here in Slate, and Christopher Hitchens writes authoritatively about the era in praising the movie:
Researching this in the late 1970s in Germany, I became convinced that the Baader Meinhof phenomenon actually was a form of psychosis. One of the main recruiting grounds for the gang was an institution at the University of Heidelberg called the Sozialistisches Patienten Kollektiv, or Socialist Patients Collective, an outfit that sought to persuade the pitifully insane that they needed no treatment save social revolution...

The Baader Meinhof Complex, like the excellent book by Stefan Aust on which it is based, is highly acute in its portrayal of the way in which mania feeds upon itself and becomes hysterical. More arrests mean that more hostages must be taken, often in concert with international hijackers, so that ever more exorbitant “demands” can be made. This requires money, which in turn demands more robbery and extortion. If there are doubts or disagreements within the organization, these can always be attributed to betrayal or cowardice, resulting in mini-purges and micro-lynchings within the gang itself.
All performed by brilliant and magnetic German actors, most notably Martina Gedick (The Lives of Others) as the leftwing bourgeous journalist and mother who interviews the gang before joining and writing their propaganda; Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run) as the juvenile delinquent turned notorious terrorist gang leader, Andreas Baader; and the amazing Johanna Wokalek as Gudrun Ensslin, the real co-leader and sexual mate of Baader, extreme and smart, the core ideologist, who along with Baader seems to be using Meinhof more than anything else.

The movie is extremely accurate to the events as well as the look and feel of the times (some scenes shot in the same places), and comes from a book of the same name written by Stefen Aust, who was a journalist colleague of Meinhof's from before she joined up. He advised on the picture, which was written and produced by Bernard Ettinger (Downfall) and directed by Uli Edel (Last Exit to Brooklyn). It's the most expensive movie ever made in Germany, covering ten years (1967-1977) in two and a half hours, and once it gets rolling (after the forebodingly paradisaical opening with Meinhof's family in a nudist resort), it's like a gangster movie on 1970's speed, covering a staggering train ride of events, sharply shot, with a forgotten late '60's to late 70's style that takes you back, one of those time machine movies where you actually think you're there.

Definitely for fans of The Wire, looks like repeat viewing will be in order. The "Complex" of the title refers to a number of things including the name confustion -- the press called it the Baader-Meinhof Gang but they called themselves the Red Army Faction (and Baader paid a designer to create their militant logo). The movie is also complex in not overtly judging the characters, rather letting the totality of the presentation, even to the last shot before it bang-cuts to the director's name, and your own conscience be your guide to how desperate they are, how bloodthirsty, even if the injustices they claim to be responding to need addressing. It's the mental complex Hitchens refers to.

The movie made me run to Wikipedia and other sources. People don't know or don't remember how scary the world was back then, with the Vietnam War, the first ever to be televised, such a neverending grievance that it seemed to infect every level and institution in American society. It became a prime rallying flag for unrest in Europe as well, where revolutionary Communist ideology (especially Mao) existed in the open, college youth and beyond, and at the fringe activism morphed into passionate and deadly "action", an idea that spread around the world through cells like this one and training camps run by the PLO. Strange bedfellows, like bands collaborating for an album or tour, or just supplying weaponry.

What's so fascinating is that this group of middle class intellectuals convinced themselves that blowing up buildings, kidnapping and killing would somehow spark a spontaneous or coalescing revolution, assumedly with them in charge, that they taught themselves how to do all this, and that they spawned generations who carried on under their banner, to the point where they don't even know the one trying to break them out of jail.

There's echoes of Jean-Luc Godard's La Chinoise (with Johanna Wokalek as the Anne Wiazemsky?) but of the two Godard-influenced pictures I saw this week...this was the keeper.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

End Times

Matt and Richard unleash their inner Bruce Conner:

A message for our apocalyptic (if you're watching Fox News) times?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Big One

This was the speech to define Obama's domestic legacy, should he succeed in getting some recognizable semblance of what he outlined to the nation passed. Once again, he showed more passion, dignity, equanimity and common sense than a roomful of Republicans. In fact, while Obama's immediate poll numbers and those for his plan shot up, the face of the opposition is now Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC):

Bringing teabaggin' townhall terrorism into a Joint Session of Congress, Wilson has already had to humble himself with an apology to the White House. He tried to get the President but got Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel instead. Imagine the Rahm-out he received...and his own party is unhappy as well. Way to overshadow the already pale GOP "response" speech. Wilson is now the official response in the minds of cable news and the public (with Fox alt-reality-news sure to spin it in his favor), and it not only painted a target on Wilson's back that has led to a surge of donations for his Democratic opponent, and put him in line for Congressional censure, it also reinforces the do-nothing GOP image they're cultivating.

Not a great day for a so-called "family values" party that had a "family values" state representative in California resign over an accidental hot microphone graphic description of sex (and spanking) with two different women -- neither his wife.

As for the speech itself, Obama once again gainsays the naysayers, reasserts leadership and shows his very smart fighting spirit, explains why Single Payer isn't for America this year and his desire (Obama the true smart conservative) not to try and tear down the entire system but to fix and add to it. Most of all, he called on the better angels of Congress and our nation as a whole, laying down a test just as his candidacy for President did:
We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.

Some, like Rep. Wilson, still fear. For the rest of us, yes, hope.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Countdown to the Prez

Here we go. As Robert Reich says, this soon will all be history, as he makes a clear, brief case for the public option, and against fear:

Meanwhile, one older Southern gentleman thinks our President has to somehow humble himself due to the teabagger summer antics:

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said today that, because of angry town hallers and the like, President Obama should show "humility" when he speaks to Congress Wednesday night.

"What you're seeing is folks on my side anxious to see what the president has to say tomorrow night," Chambliss said. "I think he's gonna have to express some humility based on what we've seen around the country this August and that's not his inclination."

Let me get this straight: ol' Southern white Republican thinks that our President, who's conducted himself with absolute dignity, has to somehow show humility due to the racist rabblerousers screaming down honest debate with their "death panels" talk and Obama-as-Hitler posters?

Did ol' Saxby ever call on ex-Presidente Bush to show humility after it was revealed that he lied us into a war and didn't prepare properly for the aftermath?

Would Saxby ever expect a white male President to humble himself, or wouldn't that be the very show of weakness all these GOPers decry?

Guess what, Saxby. Your screamers didn't stop the movement to reform. Sure, it'll be less than a full loaf, maybe egregiously so, but it's going to happen, and you and Sen. DeMint and all the Becks and Hannitys in the world won't have stopped it. Reform survived August.

And -- guess what? -- the Dems' plan is half as costly as the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Solution Week

He's back. Preview of Wednesday night at the AFL-CIO on Labor Day:

Andrew thinks Obama still has the winning strategy. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) revisits Single Payer, the biggest threat to the insurance-industrial complex, maybe a feint for Obama to Sistah Soljah against?

Obama may have pulled, for lack of a better analogy, a rope-a-dope on the GOP, letting them get their stupid stuff out and discredit themselves as those teabaggish arguments have lost credibility. America wants solutions and he's always been pragmatic, and he never rushes his endgame just because the rest of us get impatient.

So Wednesday night is a big deal. If he's successful getting something we recognize as reform passed, it may be an historic speech.

The crafting and politicking and voting doesn't have to all happen this week, but at some level this is the week he has to deliver the solution set.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Here's Why

I saw 500 Days of Summer last night and have some thoughts about why it's the only indie hit of the year (although The Hurt Locker should be and by Oscar time next year it may very well be). While there's a certain thinness to the material it plays as light with a little bit of irony instead. The lack of compelling supporting characters denies the picture any resonant reflecting subplots. So then, how does it work?

On the simplest level, it's been directed with a lively but coherent look that's appealing enough, embracing the fractured (but piece-togetherable) narrative that we've grown to handle in the DVR age. And the two lead performances are fresh and appealing enough to stand out over the typical Hollywood romantic comedy casts and emphasis on outfits, make-up, hair. I've heard a number of women tell me how much they liked watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I found myself most interested in Zooey Deschanel's choices. She's a quirky actress for the studio machine, but intelligent and credible for an indie like this, which needs to appeal to the same borderline-yuppie twentysomethings and their wannabes that they are portraying.

On the story level, I think some critics who compare it unfavorably against the film referenced as a character favorite in the movie, The Graduate.




This movie isn't trying to replicate The Graduate, it's trying to reverse it, in the sense that the scene that's shown is the very end of the earlier movie, when director Mike Nichols kept the camera rolling on Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross during that last shot escaping on the bus. Hoffman has rescued Ross from her wedding to a man she doesn't love, she's still in her bridal dress, and as the shot rolls long, Hoffman and Ross separate into their own post-acting worlds, the shot reading that the gravity of their sudden decision is sinking in, and maybe they aren't really suited for each other.

As Deschanel watches the movie with Gordon-Levitt she is crying, and after the movie he misinterprets her tears. That's when (in the mentally reconstructed narrative) she questions their relationship and essentially breaks up with him, or he storms out of the restaurant on her.

So here's the core interesting aspect of the story, the thing that hasn't been done quite this way before, or effectively in a long time: it's a coming-of-age story (Gordon-Levitt's) disguised as a romantic comedy. It's ultimately the story of a guy playing over his head, out of his league.

During the relationship, he's working at a greeting card job, not manning up to fight the good fight and get the architecture job he should. He's only driven to act when he discovers her engaged to another man, and in both the distant glance we get of him and the not-inexpensive look of her engagement ring, it appears that Mr. Right is maybe a little older, more mature, more successful than our protagonist.

For urban twentysomethings it's hard to make a movie about Mr. and Mrs. Right finding each other -- they get married later than their hometown peers. But it's also hard making a movie about a failed relationship pay off. This one's about the girl who got away, but she's also the girl who starts the guy on a long road to worthiness.

Maybe he's there at the end, or on the cusp. But the final ingredient that makes this movie a box office winner in its category is the final line, a witty send-off, if more clever than deep. It's wry enough to send the audience out happy but thinking they're pretty clever for getting it, too.

I'll be interested to see how much the movie resonates over time for the core audience. It'll be hard for it to define a generation like The Graduate did, but will it even be remembers for bits and pieces of connection like Reality Bites?

Now get off your couch and go see The Hurt Locker while it's still playing in movie theaters.

The Racist LaRouchies Descend

Saturday in Santa Monica had me running across two separate Lyndon LaRouche activists with Obama-as-Hitler posters hanging from their tables. I told them in no uncertain terms how filthy I found their posters, how offended I was that my kids would see them, and they loved it. They love getting argued with and yelled at. They are that smug.

A couple we know complained at one table, in front of Whole Foods, where the owner is already being tagged as perilously close in philosophy to these LaRouchies, and as she is Chinese-American and he's a naturalized citizen originally from England, they were each told by LaRouche supporters to "go back to their own country." Um, that would be this one.

So the LaRouchies reveal themselves, plain and simple, as racists. LaRouche himself is a known vile anti-Semite (he uses "British" often to code it) and gay-hater. And with Obama he's gone wild with the reverse-thinking comparisons to Hitler. As in, Americans must "quickly and suddenly change the behavior of this president ... for no lesser reason than that your sister might not end up in somebody's gas oven".

His brother-in-spirit is the Glen Beck, who's website has anti-Semitic and racist "skits." It's time to call bullsh*t on these people for their reactionary ways, the Fox News anti-Americanism. I don't know if this is the dying gasp of the deep dark racist America, the spiritual if not literal descendants of slaveowners, union-busters, Indian slaughterers, lynchers and Jew-killers, or if we'll always have them here in some force.

But America is changing, and my interactions yesterday make it clear that these scumbags want anger, want fear, want blood for it.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Better Debate

Libertarian Jon Henke writes in his blog today about the need for the Right to disassociate itself from the crazies:

In the 1960's, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being "so far removed from common sense" and later said "We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner."

The Birthers are the Birchers of our time, and WorldNetDaily is their pamphlet. The Right has mostly ignored these embarrassing people and organizations, but some people and organizations inexplicably choose to support WND through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration.
I agree, although to my own detriment, as I did not find myself in agreement with Buckley very often but do think the Conservative Movement will be a lot more powerful again if it can follow Henke's prescription.

On the flip side, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) shows not only how to chill out teabaggers with calm, sensible talk, but actually outlines in just under ten minutes most of the key issues in the health care/insurance reform debate, including the legitimate question of cost:

Good stuff -- Franken proving he's worthy of the office. Can you imagine Norm Coleman outlining the debate fairly, clearly, even while acknowledging the inherent complexities to be grapple with like this?

I didn't think so.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

(Yet Still More) GOP Lies

It turns out celebu-winger Sarah Palin is not even close to what she says she is. A small excerpt of what her son-in-law says in Vanity Fair:
People think that Sarah likes hunting, fishing, and camping, but she doesn't. She says she goes hunting and lives off animal meat -- I've never seen it. I've never seen her touch a fishing pole. She had a gun in her bedroom and one day she asked me to show her how to shoot it. I asked her what kind of gun it was, and she said she didn't know, because it was in a box under her bed.
That's what you get for for hiring a spokesmodel to speak at a convention.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Right and Wrong

Is this as close as Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal has come to giving President Barack Obama credit for doing something right, i.e. "U.S. Economy Gets Lift From Stimulus":

Much of the stimulus spending is just beginning to trickle through the economy, with spending expected to peak sometime later this year or in early 2010. The government has funneled about $60 billion of the $288 billion in promised tax cuts to U.S. households, while about $84 billion of the $499 billion in spending has been paid. About $200 billion has been promised to certain projects, such as infrastructure and energy projects.

Economists say the money out the door -- combined with the expectation of additional funds flowing soon -- is fueling growth above where it would have been without any government action.

Many forecasters say stimulus spending is adding two to three percentage points to economic growth in the second and third quarters, when measured at an annual rate. The impact in the second quarter, calculated by analyzing how the extra funds flowing into the economy boost consumption, investment and spending, helped slow the rate of decline and will lay the groundwork for positive growth in the third quarter -- something that seemed almost implausible just a few months ago. Some economists say the 1% contraction in the second quarter would have been far worse, possibly as much as 3.2%, if not for the stimulus.

For the third quarter, economists at Goldman Sachs & Co. predict the U.S. economy will grow by 3.3%. "Without that extra stimulus, we would be somewhere around zero," said Jan Hatzius, chief U.S. economist for Goldman.

Meanwhile, Dan Savage lays it on the line, as you know I agree:
"When you have a party that claims to speak for God, claims that God is on it's side, the rhetoric heats up and the anger heats up. It's not just a battle of ideas and positions and what's good for America and bad for the country. It's a battle of what God wants and what God doesn't want and you're, and it's easier to demagogue about your enemies and despise and to dehumanize in this really personal and vicious way, and the religious right is fomenting this kind of hatred in this country, and at our peril. I really do think that the Michele Bachmann's of the world and the Glenn Beck's of the world are actively, consciously or subconsciously trying to get, I'm just going to say it, they are trying to get the President killed. That's why they're setting this up as kill or be killed arguments. He's gonna kill you grandma, pull the plug on grandma, death panels children have to go in front of. This kind of rhetoric, this paranoid style on the religious right, from the birchers to the birthers doesn't usually end well, and we, somebody's gotta put the brakes on it, and unfortunately, in the Republican party, there are no adults left in the room, there are only the Michele Bachmann's and the Glenn Beck's and the Rush Limbaugh's running the show."

The President of the United States of America is coming to speak to schoolchildren in Florida, and this broken Republican party we have today is calling for a sick-out. Florida Republican chairman Jim Greer, official statement:
"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power."

There is some sickness out there in America right now. The fearful and hateful and those who rule with fear, who attempt to spread it.

As always, Nettertainment makes plenty of room for conservatives who aren't relying on those gimmicks, as I believe the President to be somewhat conservative in the sense that he chooses, when possible, to conserve institutions rather than letting them fall, and so far it's working. We'll know more after his first year in office. And I there are reasonable conservatives who aren't so comfortable with today's GOP distractionating:

“There are serious questions that are associated with policy aspects of the health care reform bills that we’re seeing,” said Gail Wilensky, a veteran health care expert who oversaw the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs for the first President George Bush and advised Senator John McCain in his presidential campaign last year.

“And there’s frustration because so much of the discussion is around issues like the death panels and Zeke Emanuel that I think are red herrings at best,” she said, referring to a health care adviser to President Obama whose views on some issues have been misrepresented by opponents.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group, is among those making policy-laden arguments against Mr. Obama’s plan that do not lend themselves to easily digestible catch phrases like “death panels” or false but sensational assertions that the elderly will be told to choose euthanasia as a cost-saving measure. But his critique is based on related fears that the plans being discussed would inevitably lead to increased government involvement in personal medical decisions and eventually affect vital services.

That's the ground that the Administration deserves to have to win the argument. Unless you're already 100% convinced, I mean not a shred of doubt, that any healthcare or health insurance reform is unacceptable AND are an Ends-Over-Means adherent, you've got to want a real debate on how to solve the very real problems of our current for-profit-only health insurance system. I actually agree that the President and Congress will need to convince the country that their ultimate reform plan is both worthy and workable.

The stifling of that debate, or of our democratically elected President in making that debate (and I mean by incitement, conscious or unconscious) to violence, is simply a matter to right vs. wrong.

And I say it's up to our mainstream media to admit it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


A few new tidbits as we prepare for September's return to health care reform.

For one, President Obama is about to lay down dealbreakers, so anyone who's called it "Obamacare" in the past may actually be right in the future.

For another, it seems that health insurance reform opponents are so often underinformed morons, even those given a seat on national television. Hello, Maria, do you even know what Medicare is?

And it turns out that in the first real test case that might match what's coming on the federal level, San Francisco's public health insurance option rates a record-breaking 94% approval. (I assume the other 6% will be the loudmouths at the next town hall.)

Lastly, for tonight, there are Republicans who want a public option. And their sticking it to Benedict Grassley of the near-defunct Senate "band of six":

Yep. My favorite political ad thus far this year.