Friday, July 31, 2009


Ever since the beginning of the democratic rebellion over the sham election in Iran, with the simple and effective green color association, I've thought of the newly deceased Corazon Aquino, Cory to her people, who by some historical accident ended up leading the "people power" overthrow of dictator Ferdinand Marco in the Philippines in 1986, and her trademark yellow dress:

Mrs. Aquino played the dutiful wife as her husband’s political star rose. In less than 20 years he became the country’s youngest elected mayor, governor and senator, emerging as one of the chief potential rivals of Mr. Marcos, who was then president.

When Mr. Marcos declared martial law in 1972, extending his presidency beyond its two-term limit, Mr. Aquino was arrested and charged with subversion and illegal possession of firearms. He spent the next seven years behind bars. During that time, Mrs. Aquino’s political education began in earnest. As her husband’s only link to the world outside, she memorized his messages and statements and passed them on to the press.

In 1980, Mr. Marcos allowed Mr. Aquino to go to the United States for a triple-bypass heart operation. Mr. Aquino accepted academic posts at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the family settled in Newton, a suburb of Boston, for what Mrs. Aquino later recalled as the happiest three years of her life.

But despite warnings from Mr. Marcos’s powerful and eccentric wife, Imelda, Mr. Aquino pursued a sense of mission and returned to the Philippines on Aug. 21, 1983. He was escorted from his airplane by two soldiers, who gunned him down on a side stairway leading to the tarmac.

Mr. Marcos was widely blamed for the assassination, although no proof has emerged, and a huge antigovernment protest took place at Mr. Aquino’s funeral.

It was at his funeral, dressed in black and standing beside his open coffin, that Mrs. Aquino became a national symbol, showing the dignity and composure that would characterize her most difficult moments as president. Her popularity reached its peak during her presidential campaign against Mr. Marcos in January 1986, when she was surrounded by enthusiastic crowds chanting, “Cory! Cory! Cory!”

Cory Aquino, who survived six coup attempts during as many years in office, may not have been a perfect President of the country but she was what was needed to vanquish Marcos, who's name goes down in history as a crazy egomaniac asshole. Her reputation as a good leader is secure, and it shows how wise, compelling leadership can arise from where least expected.

With the traditionally commemorated 40th day after Neda's slaughter by Iranian basiji or Revolutionary Guard having turned into a police riot at her funeral this week, the eyes of the world are once again turned towards the movement there, if more fleetingly this time than last. There need to be some high-level army defectors as there were for Cory, but these people are not giving up in their quest for a fair democracy, even if they risk their lives:

Power to the people.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Glug Glug

As Homer Simpson once said:

“Here's to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.”

And the media -- like many of us -- can't get enough of it:

If only Muslim's drank, Obama could solve all the problems in the Middle East with a single Happy Hour!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


That was easy, eh?:
Efforts to pass sweeping health care legislation took a big step forward on Wednesday as House Democratic leaders reached an agreement with fiscally conservative party members that would cut the bill’s cost and exempt many small businesses from having to provide health benefits to workers.

The agreement, brokered by aides to President Obama, overcame a 10-day impasse and would allow a pivotal House committee to resume work on the bill, with an expectation that the panel could approve it later this week.

Under the deal, the Democratic leaders promised to defer a vote by the full House until September, so lawmakers could test public sentiment on the measure, which could fundamentally restructure one-sixth of the nation’s economy.
So maybe the bill has enough imperfections to cause the progressives to vote against it, or maybe it will be even further gutted by the time it finishes markup and reconciliation with the Senate, who knows. At least there's something that reads like progress, and I have a lot of faith in my Congressman, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).

On the Senate side, however, the arguably corrupt Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) continues to create garbage and impasses that only helps his insurance company donors. Check out this chart of his connections here. Sickening.

Obama and Reid: replace him on this ASAP, if it takes getting the bill out of Baucus' Finance Committee to do it.

America's not getting any healthier waiting.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bill Genius

There's much to write about at this critical moment in the development of a moral healthcare system in the U.S. There's the Senate possibly dropping the public option for their Republican and (in the house) Democratic health insurance donors, with Sen. Max Baucus's bad, bad math. There's freshman Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) kicking ass with his statement as he voted to approve Judge Sonya Sotomayor from Judiciary Committee to Senate floor vote.

And there's my resistance to giving any more Internet ink to the quitter from Wasilla. But William Shatner is just too good to resist:

His certifiably terrible spoken-singing albums from the early 70's have paid off.

Sleight of Hand

Once upon a time a single player health plan for America was at least an option for discussion. Now insurance industry shill Sen. Max Baucus (R-MT) and his Republican buddies are cutting out a public health insurance option that competes side-by-side with for-profit private plans:
Officials say that a bipartisan group in the Senate is edging closer to a health care compromise that omits a government insurance option that President Barack Obama favors. Nor is it expected to require businesses to offer coverage to their employees.
Whatever happened to the moral question?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Big Healthy Week?

Is this the week that the Obama Administration pulls the healthcare chestnuts out of the fire? I'm betting they had a busy weekend.

They managed to get one Blue Dog Democrat to support the Public Option and "put patients first."

They have their latest demon, Sen. Jim (Demented) DeMint (R-SC), calling the calmest politician in national office "out of control."

And if you want to know all the variables in the debate, read Paul Krugman.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Comic-Con: The Dissent

I'm always a big fan of the annual San Diego Comic-Con, the largest such event in the world. The comics industry taught Hollywood about giving fans access to the creators and talent. There is still an Artists Alley on the main floor, which is several football fields long. And the coverage is everywhere, particularly where the entertainment industry at large is driving the economy.

However, the Hollywood-ization of Comic-Con has brought it's dissenters, and none more eloquent than Keith Boesky in his always insightful, funny, pointed A Tree Falling in the Forest blog, where he takes aim and makes another one of his all-too-likely predictions. The set-up:
Every year I start to get calls around this time asking whether I am going to attend comic con. As you may have read in last year's post about the rise and fall of the con, I've been going for over twenty five years and have seen some change. This year I am noticing the change in the people who are calling and I am starting to wonder whether it is a good thing. I used to get calls from artists or comic fans who could not afford to pay the fee. Then I got calls from writers and directors who did not know where to look to get a badge. Now I get calls from game folks, agents, executives, all thinking I can get them a badge to the sold out show. Sure, hold on a second, I'll just lift Shakespeare's head, push the button, and pull one out of my ass, just give me a second to clean it up for you. Let's just stop right here for a second. Sold Out. For years, Pre-Hollywood Takeover, tickets were always unspokenly voluntary. By that I mean you never really had to buy them. We would buy tickets because it supported the Con, but if you didn't and just kept walking, the security guards never stopped you. Because in the PHT days, the Con was inclusive. The concept of fans being turned away from a convention where sales in the tens of thousands of units are celebrated is somewhat wacky.
I say read it all.

Be seeing you.

Single Players

Forget the Republicans -- they're admitting they're not interested in true healthcare reform. It's the Blue Dog and bought 'n' sold Democrats I want to see flipped.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is knee-deep in entrenched healthcare provider interests. Lots of campaign contributions, staffers gone to work for these anti-public option institutions, weenie roasts together. He's all about secrecy, pissing off his fellow Dems. If true healthcare reform goes down, Baucus should be challenged hard in his nomination next time around and, ideally, removed from future Senate power. Now would be good as well.

The House Blue Dogs -- Southern and other pro-industry obstructionists, the "go-slowers" who need the time to neuter or can the legislation -- need similar challenges as well, right now. If true healthcare reform is defeated, the must be swept from office, even (especially) if it means significant losses for the Dems in Congress. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA, and my rep, I'm proud to say) who's Chairing the committee with the action right now is threatening to bring the bill to the House floor without a committee vote. Risky move, possibly not the silver bullet he needs to garner votes, but it's hardball time, every day until this gets passed or dies.

Bumps today, Friday, but Blue Dog talks back on. If they defeat true reform, expect to see the Dems become the minority Congressional party within six years.

Meanwhile on the GOP side, they're brazenly lying again, this time calling a study supporting their deadly position "non-partisan," when in fact is that the organization which conducted the study, The Lewin Group, is actually owned by UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest insurers.

GOP Reps: Unrepentant liars.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Another Day...

...another hypocritical "family values" Republican elected official in a tawdry sex scandal:

Meet Tennessee state senator Paul Stanley. He's a solid conservative Republican and married father of two, who according to his website is "a member of Christ United Methodist Church, where he serves as a Sunday school teacher and board member of their day school." (Check out the religious imagery on the site -- the sun poking through clouds, as if manifesting God's presence -- which of course shows Stanley's deeply pious nature.)

Stanley recently sponsored a bill designed to prevent gay couples from adopting children. And when a Planned Parenthood official recently sought his support for family planning services for Memphis teens, Stanley told her, according to the official, that he "didn't believe young people should have sex before marriage anyway, that his faith and church are important to him, and he wants to promote abstinence."


In a sworn affidavit, a Tennessee state investigator has said that Stanley admitted to having a "sexual relationship" with a 22-year-old female intern working in his office, and to taking nude pictures of her in "provocative poses" in his apartment.


Late Update: It gets worse. In 1994, Stanley's first wife, Judy Martin, filed for a restraining order against him, charging that he had physically assaulted her three times. She wrote: "He was going out the door to leave our house and he hit me with a tremendous blow and then he proceeded to turn and run away from me outside the garage to the street." Stanley and Martin divorced the following year.

According to the Nashville Post, Stanley met his current wife, Kristi Stanley, soon afterwards, while both were working for Bill Frist's U.S. Senate office in Memphis. She was working as -- an intern.

Yep, The Party of No can say no to healthcare reform for struggling Americans...but they sure say yes between the sheets!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Michael Piñata

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has made himself into a joke with his zany comments and flounderings. It's so pronounced now that newsheads interviewing him just take for granted that they are going to smack him around like a piñata. At this point, they lose their street cred if they don't. It's not just that he's an easy target, he's made the meme jump to piñata so that's the role he plays every time he shows up on the air. Like as he spread more filth and foolishness opposing health reform on CNN today:

He's not even prepared enough to know the answer when the newsheads ask him what health insurance company he's covered by. He's so much a punching bag that even Joe Scarborough, a Republican ex-Congressman, takes his pokes and grins with contempt at the mo-ron as he does so. Joe Scarborough!

The other day Steele said he doesn't "do policy" which is the essence of The Party of No. It's not that they stopped doing policy when Obama got elected, they stopped when George W. Bush was appointed to the Presidency by the Supreme Court back in 2000 and Karl Rove took over policy for purely political gain. They aren't just The Party of No right now, they're The Party of Nothing. The Party of Stupid, Stupid Lies. Which is to say, The Party Against the People. They are simple a fundraising apparatus with nothing of value coming out of the other end...unless you count extramarital affairs.

I'll take morons like Steele spouting "government takeover" all day like a fountain, when our President leading the health reform charge is sounding smart, measured and concerned about actual Americans, whether or not he gets everything locked in correctly by the end of the nearest news cycle:

Keep it coming, Michael, and maybe you can fill some of your fellow know-nothings with delicious candy.

I'll bring the wooden sticks.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Health Shot

I know that the milestone news of the day is the 40th Anniversary of the first human being ever walking on the moon. Awesome accomplishment, looking forward to more space exploration. We're like ants in the universe right now, good luck to us.

It may have taken 10 years from the start of space travel to land on the moon, but it's taking fifty years to get a public U.S. healthcare system, even one that co-exists as an honest-broker side-by-side with properly regulated private health insurance, and there's legitimate reason to be concerned about it passing this year, this time, sixteen years after the last serious attempt.

If you favor something in the direction of what's being developed in both the House and the Senate, if not all of the particulars, then the only possible way to take heart is to look at the still relatively new man at the top. Barack Obama has been President for barely two quarters, not even a full year, and this is the biggest domestic test he's yet faced. Remember, of course, that he faced the stimulus test. Remember that he faced pirates. Remember that he kills flies with impunity.

Most of all, remember that everyone has always underestimated him, going back less than 18 months ago (really), except for his closest allies.

Obama is not walking away from this fight. He's taking Republican South Carolina Sen. Jim "Waterloo" DeMint's words and fashioning them into a whip, driving the progressive horses of the left, slashing back at the enemies of a citizen-friendly national health plan. Men like this and William "This is the Week to Kill Health Care" Kristol are now Obama's weapons, the bad guys for whom it's all just barefaced political.

Today (Monday) Obama turned on the blogger switch. Of all the candidates in last year's primaries, Obama attracted the bloggers and reached out to them with posts on Kos at well-chosen points during throughout the campaign. Usually his voice was that of David Plouffe, especially in the emails you got for joining. And sometimes even Michelle.

But while Obama always showed bloggers respect, now the first President to call on a blogger to ask a question during a press conference (Nico Pitney of Huffington Post for his coverage of the Iranian democracy protests), he's never pandered to them, even indicated where he expected disagreement -- and welcomed debate.

It is this implied intimacy of the blog medium and his stature in it that enabled the President to do something extraordinary today and in sharp contrast to El Presidente Bush convening the sycophants of the adoring rightwing noise machine to his White House not so long ago. He convened the nations top progressive bloggers in a conference call where he called on them for their vital support at this moment and answered their direct questions mano a mano. The man:

"It is important just to keep the pressure on members of Congress because what happens is there is a default position of inertia here in Washington," the president said during an invitation-only conference call. "And pushing against that, making sure that people feel that the desperation that ordinary families are feeling all across the country, every single day, when they are worrying about whether they can pay their premiums or not... People have to feel that in a visceral way. And you guys can help deliver that better than just about anybody."

In a roughly 25-minute session with a handful of prominent progressive bloggers, the president also asked for help combating disinformation about his health care plan.

"I know the blogs are best at debunking myths that can slip through a lot of the traditional media outlets," he said. "And that is why you are going to play such an important role in our success in the weeks to come."

That's right. Remember Harry and Louise the first time around? There was no public media with the instantaneous power of the blog to tell you immediately that the health insurance companies paid for that propaganda. Or to counter the assumptive lies of the ads. This is a potential watershed moment because not only can these blogs debunk the slimy insurance company ads designed to block a public option this time around, or expose the Foxified lunacy of the screaming babies, but because our nation's leader is calling on them to do so.

It this thing passes and saves the day, imagine the Hollywood movie ten years down the line where the President calls the nerdy bloggers who band together as their hope grows and the music rises:

President Obama strongly reiterated his basic principles for a reform bill:

  • Cover all Americans
  • Drive down costs over the long term for both the private and public sector
  • Improve quality
  • Strengthen prevention and wellness
  • Enact real insurance reforms that end exclusions for preexisting conditions, etc.
  • Relief to small businesses
  • Create a robust public option

But the main message of the call was the urgency of getting this done sooner rather than later. In answer to John Amato's first question about the latest push for delays from Democrats and Republicans alike, President Obama answered that "we've been debating this for 50 years, that now's the time to make the tough decisions" with the options now on the table. In a followup question after President Obama left the call, Axelrod reiterated that message. This issue has been "talked to death for decades," and we've been "circling around the same issues"--what matters now is getting it done. He added that if you needed a demonstration of the urgency of getting it done, it's that those who want to stop it are counting on delays that will give them enough time to kill it. He also suggested that those pushing for delays, be they arguing in good faith or not, listen to their constituents who call and e-mail every day with their insurance horror stories.

The media is already starting to call itself out for de facto siding with the status quo big money interests by making it seem like Obama is sliding. Republicans are either trying to make their name opposing it (get a piece of beating Obama to get a seat at the 2012 primaries) or treating this huge and pressing facet of "the people's work" like a chore. It is essentially contempt for the suffering of millions of Americans, a willful ignoring of the stress and fear the current system has riddled our nation's population. A stress and fear completely absent, yes (per my friends and family), in Canada.

That's what he's up against. But he's the current champion, and there hasn't been a comer yet to beat him, not in eighteen whole months. And here's the historic moment, today's "moon shot," the day that the first President to harness the power of the blogs to pass a landmark policy initiative spoke to the newest, most grassroots mass media force in history:

If he is successful.

If you believe, are you doing your part?

Sunday, July 19, 2009


For the first time I've actually gone to see a Harry Potter movie in the theater and, thankfully, had a great time. I've been reading the books to my eldest son for, say, a million years, very close to finishing the final one, and the current film, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, adapts the penultimate volume, #6. However, there will be two more movies from the final book since it's huge, and even this one is getting reamed by some of the hardcore book fans who are as upset about the missing plotlines and characters necessary to fit into even the 153 minute running time as the hardcore Lord of the Rings book fans were about the absence for Tom Bombadil. And how much did the regular moviegoer miss old Tom? That is to say, not at all.

I know that some of my readers are non-fans and perhaps take a haughty view of the entire series by J.K. Rowlings and filmmaking collaborators. Too bad. The books become increasingly interesting and, yes, political, as Rowlings wrote many of them during the Bush/Blair aftermath of 9/11, with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix feeling particularly dark, Hogwarts under a Cheney-esque repression where rights are removed one-by-one in the name of defense. As for the movies, I wasn't a huge fan of the first two Christopher Columbus-directed flicks, as his middle-of-the-road Hollywood style has always seemed as safe as it gets. However, Columbus deserves credit for establishing the look and pace of the pictures, the mix of action and character, and most of all for whatever role he had in casting the three leads.

The difference between the first film and this one, ten years later, is the difference between this:

And this:

Much of the pleasure of the latest film is watching these kids we've followed since childhood now interacting as young adults familiar both to us and to each other. This is the funniest of the films so far, with the three main cast members garnering large audience reactions with a glance or an eyebrow due to the length of the relationships. They seem like fine, unspoiled people in real life -- Daniel Radcliffe taking a risk appearing onstage in London and on Broadway naked in Equus, Emma Watson accepted at Columbia University and considering her options, and Rupert Grint seeming very regular. Grint, in particular, appears to be the most natural of the actors and, based on his quidditch playing in this picture, appears capable of maturing into an action star to match his natural comedic talents. There's plenty of great English actors providing all kinds of pleasure in supporting roles (Jim Broadbent being the new, very welcome edition), but it's the kids who are most alright, and the focus of attention.

While I'll forever hold a special place in my cinematic heart for the third film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which thanks to the direction byAlfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá también, Children of Men) feels more like a standalone dark fantasy classic than the two Columbus predecessors, this is a terrific cinematic experience. Multiple-Potters screenwriter Steve Kloves and second-time Potter director David Yates work wonders with the unwieldy material, but the cinematographer new to the series, Bruno Delbonnel (Amelie, Across the Universe) creates strong, brilliant images. And unlike most action blockbusters these days, the shots hold long enough to satisfy, with a minimum of shaky hand-held overcompensation.

This movie is essentially setting the table for the final two-parter, ironic considering Helena Bonham Carter (the most fun she's been since Fight Club) as the evil Bellatrix Lestrange kicks every glass and table setting to shattered pieces as she strides atop on of the long dining hall tables near the end of the picture. Arch-villain Lord Voldemort doesn't even appear in his macabre adult form in anything more than a few montage frames during a special effect. But the final mission falls into place in the last scene, where our heroes realize they've never really appreciated the beauty of their boarding school's setting.

It's childhood's end, to be sure, and assuming all goes well with the final filming this movie series will do what none other ever has, not The Lord of the Rings, not James Bond. It will have matched the full length of the literary series with watching these characters age naturally from childhood to adulthood, kind of a fantasy version of Michael Apted's documentary Up Series, which has followed a number of English children from Seven Up! and every seven years hence to the upcoming 56 Up.

How fitting that both are English endeavors -- from the nation that brought us democracy and bureaucracy -- a type of cataloging in the free world, if that's not too much of a stretch.

I look forward to seeing how it all ends.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Love

I love books. I may not read as much as I used to or should or wish I did, but I can't pass a bookstore without thinking of stopping in, particularly an independent or used book store. My latest love is the legendary Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon. My latest skepticism is Amazon's Kindle.

While a used paperback can cost a couple bucks, you need to spend three hundred bucks to buy this electronic book device, the Kindle, and then pay more money for the actual books. And while it may add in convenience, it's not the reflective light-on-paper experience, it's pixels jetting at your eyes, an entirely different brain stimulation. Sure, you can load it up and it's lighter than the same number of novels, but it's not the same level of affection or attachment one has for a tome.

And even worse, you can buy an e-"book" for your Kindle, then have Amazon remove it without your knowledge or consent:

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said.

Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said.
Appropriately enough, these were works by George Orwell, who invented the concept of the "memory hole" where the past is deleted by a totalitarian government in his classic dystopian tale, 1984.

So what happens when there's another 9/11 and, under massive political and social pressure, Amazon chooses to delete books found offensive to current society? Or what if some form of the intrusive Patriot Act leads to wireless auditing of your Kindle for seditious material?

Or what happens if a magnetic wave hits and the juice runs out?

I miss the daily newspaper in it's old form but I'm not as emotionally attached, in part because the massive amount of (wasted) paper it traditionally consumes seems obscene in these eco-scarcity conscious times. But books?

If it's on a Kindle, maybe it shouldn't be called a book anymore. Maybe it needs a new name.

How about: "data."

Friday, July 17, 2009


Back when I was growing up in the 1960's, when the Vietnam War raged, boys came home in boxes every week, college campuses were filled with protests, Watts burned and heroes were assassinated, there was one man nearly everybody in America turned to for a half-hour a night: CBS News Anchorman Walter Cronkite, the man for whom the title was invented covering the 1952 political conventions, who passed away today at age 92.

It's impossible to imagine today that one person on television was such a trusted authority and that our nation had the collective attention to turn to him like that. Maybe having only three broadcast networks pre-cable made it possible, but Cronkite was a unique guy. Smart, firm, well-read, aware, he seemed the most evenhanded man in America. Not cool, not hip, but not square. Not a source of much parody by the college kids of the time, save for his standard closing line, "And that's the way it is." Even in his terrific historical dramatization show, You Are There, but with the historical date appended.

He got his start on local radio in the 1930's but made his bones as a war correspondent in North Africa and Europe during World War II. He was recruited by legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow to join his pioneering television news team and went on to anchor the CBS Evening News for 19 years. Not only did Cronkite break the news to America of the President John F. Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King assassinations, but his courageous 1968 commentary on the Vietnam War after the Tet Offensive, where he told viewers that he has come to the conclusion that the U.S. could not win that war, was perhaps the major turning point in national public opinion.

Here's a man married to his wife for 65 years who kept faith with family and country. And enjoyed sailing -- I once saw him driving around Martha's Vineyard, where he was a longtime seasonal resident, during the summer I spent there in college. Couldn't wait to call the folks and tell them I had spotted a real legend, the goosebumps kind.

Take a look at this pivotal broadcast in television history, when Cronkite announced JFK's death, incidentally with Dan Rather on the scene making his name known for the very first time, later to succeed Cronkite as CBS News anchor. The confirmation of Kennedy's death begins around the 5:00 mark, with Cronkite uncharacteristically, albeit very briefly, cracking a little emotion:

Contrast to learning about Michael Jackson's death on Twitter.

And how much less coverage Cronkite's passing will receive in the media today.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


After days of silliness, posturing, litmus testing and anything other than a penetrating exploration of a legal mind, the newest Senator asks a key question so obvious but so overlooked, and gets something of a moving response:

Confirm, bitches!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Love Tommy

Maybe Al Franken is proving that comedians can become United States Senators, but it sure doesn't go the other way. Take Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who channels Ricky Ricardo of the I Love Lucy show, somehow more than inappropriate when questioning Judge Sonia Sotomayor:

To which one can only reply, "Tooooooooooooooooooooommy!"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Oh, Snap

What do I like best about Judge Sonia Sotomayor, currently acing her Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice?

Is it her coolness, her judicial temperament under fire?

Is it her supersmart answers to many, many pointed questions?

Nope. It's the accent. The little touch of a New York City accent. The accent that ought to remind Senators like Jeff Sessions that they are dealing with someone who shows up to a rumble prepared:

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), seeking to discredit Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy, cited her 2001 “wise Latina” speech, and contrasted the view that ethnicity and sex influence judging with that of Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, who “believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices.”

“So I would just say to you, I believe in Judge Cedarbaum’s formulation,” Sessions told Sotomayor.

“My friend Judge Cedarbaum is here,” Sotomayor riposted, to Sessions’ apparent surprise. “We are good friends, and I believe that we both approach judging in the same way, which is looking at the facts of each individual case and applying the law to those facts.”

Cedarbaum agreed.

“I don’t believe for a minute that there are any differences in our approach to judging, and her personal predilections have no effect on her approach to judging,” she told Washington Wire. “We’d both like to see more women on the courts,” she added.

Enjoy it for yourself:

As DailyKos blogger Upper West points out, it's her Annie Hall/Marshall McLuhan moment:

If life were only like this, especially when it is.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Secret

Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney a.k.a. The Grand Vizier had at least one secret group inside the CIA doing his bidding. It now appears that he personally ordered them to lie to Congress about their activities. And while the cover story seems to be a revelation that it was an anti-Al Qaeda assassination ring, that's not exactly as scandalous as this conjecture, should it turn out to be true:

But two former ranking CIA officials have told TIME that there's another equally plausible possibility: The program could have required the Agency to spy on Americans. Domestic surveillance is outside the CIA's purview -– it's usually the FBI's job – and it's easy to see why Cheney would have wanted to keep it from Congress.

Both officials say they were never told what was in the program, and that they're only making calculated guesses. But their theory gibes with other reports, quoting ex-CIA officials, that say the program had to do with intelligence collection, not assassinations.

I've always thought that the warrantless wiretapping was actually political ops, ideally for Karl Rove's perusal. After all, Cheney was in Richard Nixon's Watergate White House and never once admitted that there was anything wrong with the illegal eavesdropping -- only that Nixon should have stonewalled all the way. And it was on Nixon's crime-ridden reelection campaign that young Rove made his bones as a dirty trickster.

If there's any justice, let's get to the bottom of it and air it out for all to see.

If there's any justice, Cheney in the docket.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fit to be Ignored

Sarah is one, John is the other. If McCain can still say with a straight face that, "I know she would make an excellent President," he's doing more than just being loyal to the woman he put in the spotlight, he's doing the CYA of all time -- covering his own ass for having made the disastrous choice of her as his running mate.

If I ever thought Sen. McCain might be relevant again, or ever felt those who questioned his past performance were churlish, this interview puts those notions to rest, while turning my stomach:

Make me vomit, John. The truth about Palin is that she's never going to be qualified to be President because she couldn't handle the job of governing a state of just 627,000 people and enough oil production tax revenue to give each of those citizens a dividend of $3,200 this year. In Internet terms: MASSIVE FAIL:
In late March, a senior official from the Republican Governors Association headed for Alaska on a secret mission. Sarah Palin was beset by such political and personal turmoil that some powerful supporters determined an intervention was needed to pull her governorship, and her national future, back from the brink.

The official, the association’s executive director, Nick Ayers, arrived with a memorandum containing firm counsel, according to several people who know its details: Make a long-term schedule and stick to it, have staff members set aside ample and inviolable family time to replenish your spirits, and build a coherent home-state agenda that creates jobs and ensures re-election.

Like so much of the advice sent Ms. Palin’s way by influential supporters, it appeared to be happily received and then largely discarded, barely slowing what was, in retrospect, an inexorable march toward the resignation she announced 10 days ago.
As the time between her quitting (emulating, perhaps, rightwing idol Richard Nixon) and the next vote of any import increases, she will become more and more of an embarrassment to "legitimate" Republican politicans. I believe that even a book deal or Fox show will fail to wipe the stain of FAIL and she might even have difficulties sustaining a television engagement anywhere other than a religious channel due to her implosion, which is surely deeper than the mainstream media lets on. Her future is with the hardcore anti-abortion right. She should become (figure)head of Operation Rescue and reap those bucks. After all:

Hope for the intervention’s success soon faded. Despite advice to stick close to home and focus on an Alaska agenda, the governor accepted an invitation to attend an anti-abortion dinner in Indiana in April, even though the state budget was hanging in the balance in the Legislature.

When Tom Wright, chief of staff for the speaker of the Alaska House, suggested that the governor would catch heat for leaving, Ms. Palin stormed into his office and, according to a person familiar with the conversation, “proceeded to ream him out.”
I guess chief of staff Wright won't have Sarah Palin to kick him around anymore.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Only One

Oddly enough in 2009, we have only one woman on the United States Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While that is likely to change within the next few months as Judge Sonia Sotomayor moves through the Senate confirmation process, it's still completely odd that 51% of the U.S. population has only 11% representation on our nation's highest court.

There's a nice interview with Justice Ginsburg in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, including this exchange regarding historical barriers to entry for women:

Q: Do you think if there were more women on the court with you that other dynamics would change?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: I think back to the days when — I don’t know who it was — when I think Truman suggested the possibility of a woman as a justice. Someone said we have these conferences and men are talking to men and sometimes we loosen our ties, sometimes even take off our shoes. The notion was that they would be inhibited from doing that if women were around. I don’t know how many times I’ve kicked off my shoes. Including the time some reporter said something like, it took me a long time to get up from the bench. They worried, was I frail? To be truthful I had kicked off my shoes, and I couldn’t find my right shoe; it traveled way underneath.
There's some good stuff on Sandra Day O'Connor as well as Ginsburg's warm feelings towards deceased Chief Justice Renquist. Towards the end she lays out her very clear views on a woman's right to control her own body over the state's right to make decisions for her. She sure doesn't seem like an old lady.

Here's to her having Sonia on the bench with her as well.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Up on the Roof

The sweet sounds of rebellion against a fascist regime, collected. For example:

Per The Drifters:
When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it's peaceful as can be
And there the world below can't bother me
Let me tell you now
Allah-o-Akbar, baby.

Greedy Greedy Greedy

So AIG wants to reward themselves for deep-sixing the economy:

American International Group is preparing to pay millions of dollars more in bonuses to several dozen top corporate executives after an earlier round of payments four months ago set off a national furor.

The troubled insurance giant has been pressing the federal government to bless the payments in hopes of shielding itself from renewed public outrage.

I'd say, I've got your blessing right here.

The greed of Wall Street predates Gordon Gekko, as Matt Taibbi hilariously and pointedly nails Goldman Sachs in Rolling Stone, who claims that it "has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression," and lays out:

The history of the recent financial crisis, which doubles as a history of the rapid decline and fall of the suddenly swindled-dry American empire, reads like a Who's Who of Goldman Sachs graduates. By now, most of us know the major players. As George Bush's last Treasury secretary, former Goldman CEO Henry Paulson was the architect of the bailout, a suspiciously self-serving plan to funnel trillions of Your Dollars to a handful of his old friends on Wall Street. Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton's former Treasury secretary, spent 26 years at Goldman before becoming chairman of Citigroup — which in turn got a $300 billion taxpayer bailout from Paulson. There's John Thain, the asshole chief of Merrill Lynch who bought an $87,000 area rug for his office as his company was imploding; a former Goldman banker, Thain enjoyed a multibillion-dollar handout from Paulson, who used billions in taxpayer funds to help Bank of America rescue Thain's sorry company. And Robert Steel, the former Goldmanite head of Wachovia, scored himself and his fellow executives $225 million in golden-parachute payments as his bank was self-destructing. There's Joshua Bolten, Bush's chief of staff during the bailout, and Mark Patterson, the current Treasury chief of staff, who was a Goldman lobbyist just a year ago, and Ed Liddy, the former Goldman director whom Paulson put in charge of bailed-out insurance giant AIG, which forked over $13 billion to Goldman after Liddy came on board. The heads of the Canadian and Italian national banks are Goldman alums, as is the head of the World Bank, the head of the New York Stock Exchange, the last two heads of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — which, incidentally, is now in charge of overseeing Goldman.

But there's three greedies in the title of the post, and the last one for tonight is a couple, Doug and Cindy Hampton, which is increasingly looking like an Indecent Proposal variation where the reveal is looking like Doug pimping out his wife to Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) for a long period of time in hopes of the big score:

Senator John Ensign’s wealthy parents gave almost $100,000 to his former lover and her family, ostensibly out of concern for their welfare and as part of a “pattern of generosity,” his lawyer disclosed Thursday...

...“After the senator told his parents about the affair,” the statement issued by Mr. Coggins said, “his parents decided to make the gifts out of concern for the well-being of longtime family friends during a difficult time. The gifts are consistent with a pattern of generosity by the Ensign family to the Hamptons and others...

...The disclosure of the $96,000 gift came a day after Doug Hampton said on a Las Vegas television program that Mr. Ensign had paid Mrs. Hampton more than $25,000 in severance pay.

Y'know, a good couple is a good team. Working together towards common goals. And not too possessive -- his wife was bending the marital contract for nine months (December 2007 - August 2008).

On the Ensign side, isn't he getting a little old for his folks to be bailing out his adultery?

Grifters, grifters everywhere. Wall Street and Washington.

Who could have predicted that?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Pelosi Vindicated

The rightwing smeared with glee, but Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was correct:

CIA Director Leon Panetta told lawmakers in a recent briefing that the intelligence agency he heads misled Congress on "significant actions" for a "number of years," a group of Democrats revealed on Wednesday.

In a letter written to Panetta on June 26 by seven Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee, the CIA chief is urged to "publicly correct" an earlier statement he made in which he insisted that it was not agency policy to mislead Congress.

As the letter details, Panetta apparently acknowledged in an earlier briefing that this statement was not, in fact, true.

Trust...but verify.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Break Dam Break

Here's Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) laying it down on a public health care option:

It looks like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally agrees:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday ordered Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.

Reid, whose leadership is considered crucial if President Barack Obama is to deliver on his promise of enacting health care reform this year, offered the directive to Baucus through an intermediary after consulting with Senate Democratic leaders during Tuesday morning’s regularly scheduled leadership meeting. Baucus was meeting with Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) Tuesday afternoon to relay the information.

According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans.

Let's hope that some measure of peace of mind -- the kind enjoyed by my Canadian family and friends -- is on its way to our citizens as well.

Monday, July 06, 2009

McNamara's Dead

Robert McNamara, he corporate leader who became architect of the failed U.S. war policy in Vietnam for Kennedy and Johnson from 1961-1968, is dead at 97 years old:

Half a million American soldiers went to war on his watch. More than 16,000 died; 42,000 more would fall in the seven years to come.

The war became his personal nightmare. Nothing he did, none of the tools at his command — the power of American weapons, the forces of technology and logic, or the strength of American soldiers — could stop the armies of North Vietnam and their South Vietnamese allies, the Vietcong. He concluded well before leaving the Pentagon that the war was futile, but he did not share that insight with the public until late in life.

In 1995, he took a stand against his own conduct of the war, confessing in a memoir that it was “wrong, terribly wrong.” In return, he faced a firestorm of scorn.
He lived long enough to get multiple helpings. Check out Errol Morris' masterpiece of McNamara intimate and unsettling non-confession, The Fog of War. A cautionary tale for the ages, but also what Derosaworld says about Robert Strange McNamara:

President John F. Kennedy was surrounded by some very strange men. Men who were the ‘best and brightest’, but who also had dark secrets and responsibilities beyond what previous generations of government leaders had experienced.

The atomic bomb ended World War Two, but it also ended a sense of terrain: mountains and seas, protecting people and countries from the total devastation of warfare.

Now, we were all potential victims of the bomb. We could blow up the entire planet in a day if we wanted to.


The best and the brightest. Robert McNamara looked the part. Young, nerdy, glasses, slicked back hair, the President of The Ford Motor Company. The New Frontier was here. Camelot was bivouacked in Washington, D.C.

A question for historians is why was McNamara selected to be the Secretary of Defense. Was it a Kennedy strategy to bring the various defense departments (air, sea, land) under White House managerial control? Was McNamara the loyal corporate man who would take orders from his Commander in Chief?


The Johnson/McNamara era of the Vietnam War brings out the demons that brought America on the brink of insanity and Richard Nixon. The many locked doors in the White House became too scary for McNamara to open by 1968. He had to get out or was asked to leave. The nastiness was not over. Another Kennedy was going to be killed.


Robert McNamara was in the center of the American maelstrom from 1961 to 1968. Decisions made on his watch have led us to the place in history we stand now, on a precarious precipice. Robert McNamara was a watchman at the gate and he let too many bad things slip under our defenses…either by accident, mismanagement or on purpose.

To give the man credit for even having thought about this stuff after committing it and coming up with the prescription the Cheney Administration was too Nixon to follow:

R.S. McNamara's eleven life lessons

  1. Empathize with your enemy
  2. Rationality will not save us
  3. There's something beyond one's self
  4. Maximize efficiency
  5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war
  6. Get the data
  7. Belief and seeing are often both wrong
  8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning
  9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil
  10. Never say never
  11. You can't change human nature

Guaranteed as much my parents generation hated McNamara when he was in office and the boys started coming home in boxes, I'll bet he comes out looking at least more reflective than this war criminal.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

So Sue Me

No, I'm not referring to Sarah Palin's threatened lawsuits against a blogger (or more?), I'm talking about having taken my family to see Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs today and laughing enough that I embarrassed my dear wife. About two minutes into the movie I had a feeling that this was a bit Wile E. Coyote and by the middle I realized that Blue Sky Studios, based in the far-from-Hollywood Greenwich, Connecticut, was basically taking all the best animation gag values from Warner Bros/Looney Tunes and turning it into 3D graphics. If I had any doubt, the Porky Pig-esque closing iris shot made it clear.

If you want great animated story, a Pixar tale is best for you. The first ten minutes of Up is more poignant than any animated family flick I've ever seen. If you want sight gags, elastic physical humor and throwaway jokes for the adults in the audience, Ice Age 3 delivers. Now, I've never seen the first two, and we saw this one in regular 2D, not with the glasses. And I was grateful for that.

My theory is that movies already are 3D. The glasses are basically a gimmick, not really deepening the emotion of any story. The conquering of 2D space with 3D perspective is the historic project of Western art, and the best movies feels 3D -- think the tracking shots in the ballroom in Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons. The battle scenes of Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. The sudden dollies-in of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. Would any of those be enhanced by 3D vision, or would we just get weary, as tends to happen over the length of even the best 3D picture. And I'd argue that Coraline was the best use of 3D projection I've seen to date. Maybe that one was o.k.

What the intent of 3D projection has done for the good, however, is made a 2D screening of the new Ice Age movie visually very dynamic. 2D filmmakers can take lessons from the 3D technique and make their shooting more...three dimensional.

But beyond the visuals, the new character in this one is a buccaneer played by Simon Pegg, a weasel named Buck. His dialogue is the best, very Ahab/Moby Dick, the kind of "helper character" rogue that enlivens adventure stories with gung-ho humor.

So sue me if I enjoyed this movie currently scoring a 42% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The IMDB crowd knows it's a highly respectable 7.6. Not an earthshaker, and maybe only worth seeing if you either need a family movie that you can enjoy along with (or more than) your kids, or if you're a Looney Tunes fan.

Hey, it's no Transformers.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Excellent 4th

I hope yours went well. Mine was enhanced by the secure knowledge that this guy is our President, our first Independence Day with him in office:

Hopefully the first 4th in a series of eight.

Friday, July 03, 2009


If I were anyone of note in the Republican party, I'd want this woman buried as deep as possible after this speech:

If she's the party, whether on Fox on in a 2012 Presidential Primary, the party is over. She makes Mark Sanford's meandering public confessions seem a little saner. Or maybe she just earned herself the next room in the sanatorium.

From Josh Marshall, quoting the speech:
Life is too short to compromise time and resources... it may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand: "Sit down and shut up", but that's the worthless, easy path; that's a quitter's way out.

Quitters stick to it. Winners quit.

The potential real reason:
I've now been able to get independent information from multiple sources that all of this precedes what are said to be possible federal indictments against Palin, concerning an embezzlement scandal related to the building of Palin's house and the Wasilla Sports Complex built during her tenure as Mayor. Both structures, it is said, feature the "same windows, same wood, same products." Federal investigators have been looking into this for some time, and indictments could be imminent, according to the Alaska sources.

The BRAD BLOG has not been able to receive confirm from any federal sources on this. Our information comes from local Alaskans who follow Palin, and who have been keeping an eye on this for some time, while keeping it quiet at the request of federal investigators.

She'll spin it, to be sure. Federal Obama government intruding into Alaska and personal life, political vendetta, blah blah. And her stupid, I mean committed fans will eat it up.

Bottom line, though: same ol' same ol'. If true, just another narcissistic corrupt pol.

With a 'cuda smile.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Pretty Fascist

Back when I was in a Semiotics in college, one professor, Michael Silverman, said to think of it more as an "anti-Semiotics" course, in that we were learning how those in charge of political imagery used basic, resonant symbols such as those of nationalism to sow a message that would bring them to power or keep them there.

Like wrapping oneself in the flag:

Or wrapping oneself in the military:

Laugh now at Sarah Palin, but I see her as a clear and present danger to our republic until she is neutralized or vanquished in electoral politics once and for all. Check out why here.

And to think we have John McCain to thank for it. It didn't just disqualify him from the Presidency. It makes his entire judgment system suspect as well. Like on healthcare reform.