Friday, December 31, 2010


Wednesday, December 29, 2010


It's snowed hard back East and it's making a couple of careers, tarnishing a few others.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in NYC didn't seem prepared, and there's some accusations of budget cuts having left the city that way. Thank God for Twitter, relief for people stuck on tarmacs.

Meanwhile in New Jersey, not only did battlin' Gov. Chris Christie spend his blizzard in Florida with Mickey Mouse, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno took vacation in Mexico at the same time and didn't bother returning. Useless, I guess.

It's been all to the benefit of NJ State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat acting as Governor by law in lieu of the two Republicans. He's handled himself well and it may give him more power against Christie in the new year.

But the best PR has been self-generated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker who used Twitter with great effectiveness to help target snow relief in his town. Per Sean Gregory at Time:
Booker's frantic Twitter feed reads like an action novel. "I have a snowpocalypse crush on @CoryBooker," wrote one of Booker's million-plus followers. "He's like a superhero with a shovel." The mayor was out clearing snow until 3 a.m. on Dec. 28 before heading back out three hours later after a few winks. "This is one of those times you're just pushing," Booker told TIME while riding around Newark early Tuesday evening, anxiously awaiting a Twitter response from a Newark resident who said her 82-year-old grandmother was shut in by snow. A few minutes earlier, Booker, who played football at Stanford, helped dig out a New Jersey transit bus. "It's an endurance test." This is not the first time Booker has responded to distressed citizens on Twitter. He shoveled the driveway of an elderly man last New Year's Eve after the man's daughter tweeted about his predicament. He also hit the streets during snowstorms last February.
Check out his Twitter stream here.

Yes, social media is the hero once again. Tweet-tweet!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's the Media

So I finally broke down a week and a half ago and benched my broken Blackberry (charger port loose again, only this time they wanted to charge me $100 on top of the monthly insurance I've been paying), and bought my first iPhone, an iPhone 4. As advertised, it changes everything, really a whole different way to think about the hand-held device.

On a Blackberry, email is king. Email and calls. On the iPhone 4, they're just another form of media. Still pretty easy to use, if with a less tactile keyboard and missing some arrow keys for highlighting and moving through text, but not the worst trade-off in the world. But the most notably thing is that the iPhone, often called a hand-held computer, is actually the greatest hand-held media machine I've ever seen.

The iPad, in it's current incarnation, is nothing but a media consumption device. At least the iPhone manages contacts and makes calls. But what's striking is how everything on it is media. You can do Facetime videochat over Wi-Fi, take a picture of it, go into your Camera Roll and send it, post it, whatever. Take it into another app and edit it. You can take a picture anywhere and tweak it into Instagram, which you can immediately share on Facebook and Twitter etc etc with just a few checkboxes.

Email is treated not as "email" but each one as just another piece of media, with other media sent inside of it that can be played, click-linked to, taken out and resent elsewhere.

If it's been said that we're all just data, then data is the molecules and media are the differentiated cells. They all function in the same system, the same body, but they have different purposes, generally built around the speed of apprehension. Video is perhaps the highest form of media, an instantly playable YouTube video as a result of a Shazam music search, or the deepest point in a museum app exhibition module. Now you can shoot your own video and edit it in the iMovie app, then download to your Mac for the full iMovie menu of commands, finish and send back to your phone, other phones, etc.

Now the camera does more than just shoot video. It's a search tool as well -- for the first time in planetary history. The Google app contains a camera icon for "Google Goggles," where you take a picture of a label or object or book cover or whatever piece of commercial or trademarkable product or iconography and Google does an image match that results, after just a few seconds, with links to learning more and, of course, buying.

It's got camera's front and back (front for video chat, back for higher resolution) and HDR for still photography, providing two options with each snap, different lighting values. Unlike with my Blackberry, I can actually blog from it.

I'm sure Blackberry is catching up with an improved browser experience (I hope for their sake) and larger screen, and I'll be Android sweeps the world next year with Microsoft possibly elbowing to #3. But the iPhone leads the way by making it all easy-peasy media accessing and sending off.

Into the social media ether.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Here Come the Nasties

The GOP plans to try and stifle President Obama's Executive Branch power via "Congressional Review" which I'm sure they'll overuse just like the filibuster.

They're bringing on health insurance industry lobbyists to take down the recently enacted healthcare reform act our nation so desperately needs.

They're even changing the House rules to make it easier to slash spending and give tax cuts to the rich.

Get ready for all their nasty stuff - hello 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Two Good Movies

I had the pleasure of two excellent cinematic experiences this past week. The first is the one most likely to leave theaters soon, as it scares too many moviegoers who should be checking it out: 127 Hours (8.5 on IMDB). If you're put off by anticipation of the severing scene, don't be, as it's not very long and (reportedly) much less difficult to endure than Black Swan. Director Danny Boyle does use a screeching electronic sound to emulate the feeling that James Franco's character is experiencing during the act, so it may make more sense to cover your ears than your eyes, but the movie is so much more than that scene, that it's a shame people will take awhile to discover it.

The vibrant visuals, the glory of the orange-hued Utah landscape, the easy and convivial presence of Mr. Franco, and the remarkable spiritual journey of this man is what blows you away, with an incredibly uplifting ending, a real-life triumph of the human spirit, it's all very inspiring. Boyle keeps things moving even when Franco is trapped, via visions and flashbacks that follow his thought throughout the ordeal. I particularly enjoyed the sense of youthful freedom, in an early sequence where he runs into two lost female hikers as well as a later flashback to a winter scene.

Most of all, from the very first minute, it is the first movie I've ever seen that has the visual agility of a new iPhone 4, that is to say, it moves it's imagery with speed, accuracy and grace.

The other great movie experience was the Coen Bros' True Grit (also 8.5 on IMDB). Regular readers know I've been anticipating this one, and I took my equally excited 11 year-old son. Call it a father-son bonding experience. The upshot was another movie with the audience applauding at the end, a terrific remake with much more darkness than the Henry Hathaway original, and a much better cast Maddie Ross, an actual 14 year-old actress rather than Kim Darby at age 20.

Audiences are starving for simple stories made up of great solid characters, well-told, and ours loved this one. This is easily the most accessible Coen Bros movie, but the love of literary detail is still there, along with just enough of their patented detachment to make the emotional closing scenes feel earned rather than maudlin.

Aside from the big screen-filling beauty of the production (Roger Deakins should be favored for the Cinematography awards), it's the interplay between newcomer Hailie Steinfeld who proves herself early in some negotiation scenes, Jeff Bridges submerged in a non-Wayne interpretation of Rooster Cogburn and Matt Damon as Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (originally the Glen Campbell breakout role) that makes the movie a pleasure. They're out on the range, long before Facebook, a credible recreation of the historical Western setting straight out of John Ford, with several shot quotes (My Darling Clementine, The Searchers) for good measure.

There you go, two positive recommendations. It seems that there's some real movies out, finally, saved for end of the year as in times past, but maybe a little edgier than usual.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Liar of the Year

Always so many to choose from, never such a clear winner:

At least since Dick Cheney was co-President.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Main Man

President Barack Obama once again flipped the story around with his now patented strong finish, closing out this session of Congress with a flurry of wins that have him looking pretty darn strong again. His press conference today was excellent, the best in ages, as he touted the wins, spreading the credit and dropping the type of answers we didn't hear in the previous eight years, including this one in response to a Jake Tapper question regarding the future of marriage equality in light of DADT repeal:
As I've said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this. I have friends, I have people who work for me, who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people, and this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about. At this point, what I've said is that my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think that's the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough. And I think this is something we're gonna continue to debate, and I personally am gonna continue to wrestle with going forward.

I'll take that as a yes. For the record, here's a list of some of his biggest accomplishments in just two years, with the latest being DADT repeal, START missile treaty ratification and the 9/11 responders bill passage (two of those much thanks to the also underestimated Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) who just got a nice NY Times piece on her accomplishments).

Here's our President and VP Biden with the emotional audience at the DADT repeal signing:

And, as a final treat, this incredibly moving video of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) both when he received Lt. Dan Choi's West Point ring in July and today, after passing the bill, he gave it back:

God bless America.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I've certainly criticized him (roundly) in the past, but Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has been the biggest mensch on DADT repeal, even beating back the GOP attempt to slip a mickey into the defense appropriations bill.

Credit where credit is due. I don't expect Joe to be on my side for a lot else, but this could be enough to earn him reelection. It makes for good politics but he certainly didn't seem to be playing politics, at least none of the posturing of the other side, including his buddy, John McC.

Meanwhile, could Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) be more cruel and political on the 9/11 Responders bill?

Beware the Winter Cannibals.

Monday, December 20, 2010

More Winning to Come?

So is Obama about to get Senate approval of his START nuclear treaty with Russia, now that enough Republicans are saying they'll support the President? Even with bitter, twisted John McCain taking out his anger over DADT repeal on it?

And he's getting some his judicial nominees passed, finally, even if a few good ones have to fall as bargaining chips?

I know many of my friends on the Left are unhappy with Obama compromises, but he's not looking very Jimmy Carterish this week. Not at all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Second Huge Win

The repeal of DADT (which, let's remember, will take some time to implement) is a huge victory for gay Americans, particularly gay service people, and for the growth of tolerance in America. We don't seem to evolve smoothly so much as plateau, and this was a big one. Can anyone really doubt that marriage equality is far behind? I give it four years for a majority of Americans (if not a majority of states).

Here's our cool President:
Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.

As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.

I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law.

Here's the guy who elevated Sarah Palin from nowhere to his Vice Presidential nominee, with another reason why he should never have been President:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), once a voice of optimism for repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, reportedly called Saturday "a very sad day" before the Senate voted to lift the military ban.

"I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage," said the four-term incumbent before the vote, according to ABC News. "Today is a very sad day."

Sad, indeed, Sen. McCain.

As he has from the start, Andrew Sullivan gets Obama, "The Tory President":
Now, there's little doubt that in contrast to recent decades, Obama has nudged the direction leftward - re-regulating Wall Street after the catastrophe, setting up universal health insurance through the private sector, recalibrating America's role in the world from preachy bully to hegemonic facilitator. But throughout he has tried, as his partisan critics have complained, not to be a partisan president, to recall, as he put it in that recent press conference, that this is a diverse country, that is is time we had a president who does not repel or disparage or ignore those who voted against him or those who have grown to despise him.

This is particularly important since so many of his opponents are white and disproportionately affected by this long recession. Trying to get them to see him accurately through the haze of Fox propaganda and cultural panic is not easy. But he seems to understand that persistence and steadiness are better tools in this than grand statements, sudden moves or grandstanding attempts to please his own base. He really is trying to be what he promised: president of the red states as well as the blue states. And a president who gets shit done.

The results after two years: universal health insurance, the rescue of Detroit, the avoidance of a Second Great Depression, big gains in private sector growth and productivity, three stimulus packages (if you count QE2), big public investments in transport and green infrastructure, the near-complete isolation of Iran, the very public exposure of Israeli intransigence and extremism, a reset with Russia (plus a new START), big drops in illegal immigration and major gains in enforcement, a South Korea free trade pact, the end of torture, and a debt commission that has put fiscal reform squarely back on the national agenda. Oh, and of yesterday, the signature civil rights achievement of ending the military's ban on openly gay servicemembers.

I'm betting that voters will want to give him more time to get things done from 2012-2016.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Win is a WIn

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

So maybe we took some hits on the rich getting richer (again), a Republican concept. I'm glad it's chalked up as a bipartisan victory for our guy.

New narrative for the silly MSM.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I have mixed feelings about the whole Wikileaks business, assume the U.S. soldier who passed along the recent mass leaks will be punished - possibly with the death penalty for treason - but I do love this one quote by Julian Assange:

"Which country is suffering from too much freedom of speech? Name it, is there one?”

Here's his statement upon making bail, thanks to Michael Moore among others:

Freedom of speech or undermining of world governments?


Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Terrence Malick, major American filmmaker with one of the oddest careers ever including his monstrous double-decade gap between feature releases, but the list of pictures is incredible and indelible: Badlands, Days of Heaven and then 20 years until and now The Thin Red Line, The New World and, voila, The Tree of Life:

Wow. And he reportedly has yet another film in the can, and wants to make a Jerry Lee Lewis movie with Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman.

Talk about second acts.

Two Good Guys

Richard Holbrooke would likely have become our Secretary of State under President Al Gore, in that alternative universe where we didn't end up in two long nightmare wars unprepared. He's gone now, with George Packer writing from a very close and personal position to this great American diplomat.

This guy, fortunately, is still alive, a $6 billion dollar man, Swiss philanthropist Hansjorg Wyss, who is spending his money in amazing ways:

In recent years the publicity-shy billionaire has quietly donated tens of millions of dollars to the preservation of pristine areas of Idaho, Nevada, Utah and other states.

Now, what appears to be his most ambitious project to date has come to fruition as conservation groups this month closed a deal to purchase vast tracts of Plum Creek Timber Co. land in western Montana. Backers say the deal – which included $35 million in donations from Wyss – could shield an estimated one million acres from future development.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Wyss, 75, said he first became enamored of the Rockies as a college student who toured the region in 1958. And he defended his actions against those who chafe at the prospect of an outsider buying up land that in some cases has been logged, ranched or farmed for generations.

"Look, these are beautiful landscapes," Wyss said. "There was controversy when Yellowstone (National Park) was created and when they declared the Grand Canyon as a National Monument. But there are areas in the United States that must be protected."

Good guys there are. Nothing better, nice when it's some powerful ones.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The First Challenge

Is Obama's healthcare reform plan in trouble? A federal district court judge in Virginia just declared the individual mandate unconstitutional. This is a key element of the plan, and if removed the entire plan could collapse.

But wait. There's something about Judge Henry E. Hudson that might, just might, have bearing on his decision:
Federal judge Henry E. Hudson's ownership of a stake worth between $15,000 and $50,000 in a GOP political consulting firm that worked against health care reform -- the very law against which he ruled today -- raises some ethics questions for some of the nation's top judicial ethics experts. It isn't that Hudson's decision would have necessarily been influenced by his ownership in the company, given his established track record as a judicial conservative. But his ownership stake does create, at the very least, a perception problem for Hudson that could affect the case.

The rules are pretty straightforward: if a judge is invested in a company that is a litigant in a case, he or she can't be involved. But in cases where a company owned by a judge has an interest in the outcome of a case but is not a direct litigant, the lines get much more murky.

Murky it is.

A.k.a. the fix is in.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Social Media 101: Facebook Profiles

So there's something new and confusing going on: Facebook's new picture-centric profiles! Has it got you hunting around your friend's page for buttons and features that used to be elsewhere? Per Larry Magid:
To begin with, your profile photo, which appears in the upper left corner, is now bigger. And information such as where you live, where you work, your hometown, where you went to college and your birthdate are now directly under your name near the top of the screen. Speaking of friends, if you click on a friend's name you can view your relationship with that person including all of your interactions on Facebook going back to the time you became Facebook friends.

Facebook is also featuring your friends and family. Family members are now listed in the left column along with some of your friends. And, if you decide you want to feature some special friends, you can create a list and feature that list directly in the left column your profile.

Facebook is quick to point out that nothing has changed when it comes to privacy settings and that's true. Any limits you've put on who can see information will be respected on the new profile page. But what has changed is that information that was once somewhat obscure now jumps out at anyone who visits your page.

Yes, per Facebook Founder & CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, privacy is a thing of the past. Or maybe you just need to update your settings. I haven't figured out yet how to pick the pictures it shows, because they may not be the ones you want. As for what Zuckerberg said on 60 Minutes about the new look:
"It gives you this amazing connection with that person in a way that the current version of the profile that we have today just doesn't do."


Current Facebook profiles list personal information such as birthday, relationship status and city of residence in a left-rail column underneath the user's single profile photo. The new design moves that information up higher, in a more conversational format -- offering a quicker, more readable mini-portrait of a person.

In Sunday's interview, Zuckerberg called the change an effort to put the most important details about a user front-and-center for new friends or friends looking to catch up.

"I work at Facebook, and I spend all of my time there, right?" he said. "I mean, here are my friends. I grew up in New York, and now I live in California, right. Those really kind of basic, important things."



Dave Knox posts what he thinks is the real reason for the changes, and it's not (mainly) to improve user experience:

One of the major reasons Facebook is emerging as such as an intriguing advertising platform is the targeting capability that it gives brands. An advertiser is able to specifically target a person through the information that is available in their Facebook profile. This information goes far beyond simple age / sex / location and includes everything from music tastes to political views.

But the problem is that very few people spend the time to update their profiles on a regular basis. As a result, much of the information that marketers are using to target is either out of date or not as reflective of the person as it could be.

I personally think that the new profiles are an attempt to change that. By elevating and enhancing the way information is displayed in the profile, Facebook is hoping to trigger people to update their profiles. Obviously Facebook would like people to keep the profiles updated, but this release at minimum provides a trigger to get people to make the change this one time. And with that update, people will be providing more valuable data to Facebook and its advertisers.

Whichever it is, it is unavoidable. Perhaps you may want to do this to change your profile picture yourself -- use a cartoon image from your childhood (yes, a form of piracy) to indicate your support for awareness against child abuse.

Which might help cause targeters find you as well.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What It All Means

Itdoes the heart good to see the House Dems standing up to the President. Maybe they'll get a better deal. If they don't, however and the deal falls apart, who really wins? Per Robert Creamer:

Back in 2008 Democrats won voters who reported that their personal economic situation was worse by a margin of 40 percent. In 2010 Democrats lost that same cohort of voters by 29 percent. From the standpoint of swing voters, the election was all about one thing: the voter's feelings that their own personal economic outlook was bleak.

To win reelection in 2012, the president had to do something to substantially improve economic growth in general and job creation in particular. That translated into the need for more economic stimulus to jump start sustained economic growth.

But the outcome of the election had also made the prospects that the new Congress would pass new economic stimulus remote. The Republicans who would control the House had no interest whatsoever in providing more economic stimulus. That's not mainly because they have a different economic philosophy. It's primarily because they have no political interest in near term economic recovery. It's just fine with them if the economy continues a slow slog, and the jobless rate is 8 percent or 9 percent in November 2012. After all, no president has been reelected in the last century when the unemployment rate was above 7.2 percent. Reagan was reelected in 1984 with a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, but at the time of the election, unemployment appeared to be -- and was -- in sharp decline.


The tax deal addresses each of these two core interests. It gives the Republicans tax breaks for the rich. And It gives the president and Democrats a major shot of economic stimulus that they -- and average Americans really need. All told the package costs $900 billion over two years. About 60 percent to 75 percent of that could be considered real stimulus, since the balance goes to the rich and has very little stimulative effect. But the money for $70 billion or so of unemployment compensation, the $120 billion for a payroll tax holiday, and the extension of middle class tax cuts -- including the refundable tax cuts from in the original Obama stimulus program -- actually do have increase aggregate economic demand.

Now with the exception of unemployment compensation -- which most economists think generates two dollars of GDP growth for every dollar of spending -- many of the other provisions are not as stimulative as infrastructure construction, a direct federal jobs program, etc. But they definitely increase growth. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress (CAP), the package may generate or save up to 2.2 million jobs. And most importantly, these measures are far better than no stimulus at all.

The Republicans have basically held the rest of the country -- and economic growth -- hostage to their demand for two years worth of tax breaks for the super-rich, it's that simple. That has infuriated progressives -- and it should.

But that is the basis for the tax deal. It meets to the core, overriding self interests of each of the two protagonists.

The unsung story is that Obama stopped America's economic slide. Period. It's natural to argue that it could have been done better this way or that, but since he succeeded, that's all just Monday morning quarterbacking and sour grapes.

The question is whether you still trust him to make the best decisions for the most Americans.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It Was Thirty Years Ago Today

He took us from black & white to color:

Lennon put himself on the line for peace during one that most volatile of eras, the 1960's, and as it all tails out with the end of the 1970's he's assassinated by the kind of madness he fought so vocally against. He'd be 70 now. What a different world it would be with him still there all these years, a generational voice of authority. People always wanted to know what John Lennon thought about political issues, and he was always able to write a hit. Maybe even a duet with Elvis Costello.

Mark David Chapman was out John Wilkes Booth. The fatal shot that came after the end of the Civil War.

What a huge rip-off for his family and what a huge rip-off for us.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I Love Actors

They can be crazy in real life but the good ones are so good, understand human behavior even if they aren't book smart, and some (Jesse Eisenberg, obviously) are both. The grand old man on this one is Robert Duvall, arguably the best living American movie actor, but the guy I relate to the most is Mark Ruffalo:

Annette Bening has rank here, but all smart smart actors, better exchange than the men on balance. Helena Bonham Carter seems like she'd be a blast to hang out with and Nicole Kidman has more depth than I expected:

One of the pleasures of awards season: the roundtables.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Easy for You

It's easy to say that President Obama folded if you have a job, as he did it to continue unemployment benefits for another year, benefits that were due to expire at the end of this one.

That said, it sure would feel better if he stood on principle and fought, instead of giving the GOP another victory.

Yep, he may have consigned himself today as a one-term President. Or he may have a Democratic revolt that kills his compromise. There's few who stand on principle like one (outgoing) Republican Senator, however, George Voinovich of Ohio.

One thing I will say is that I do not believe that Hillary Clinton would have somehow had the more perfect Presidency. She folded on the Iraq War vote and ran a chaotic, hubristic and wastefully spending campaign.

But we just want our champion to fight and maybe, just maybe, she'd be fighting harder.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Does Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) really want to go down in history as the last man standing between the bankrupt policy of DADT and its repeal? Does he really want that to be his legacy? Even his bosom buddy, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is strongly (and admirably, tough as it is for me to admit) for repeal.

Here's what I'm wondering: What the hell is his reason? A list of possibilities:
  • Political: He's so nervous about alienating the dominant rightwing votership in Arizona - because in six years he'll have to run again?
  • Personal: He's homophobic, like a lot of older dudes.
  • Misinformed: He has a complete misapprehension of how service people who are gay and those that know they are gay interact with each other professionally?
  • Egomaniac: He's a grump who just wants to thwart something and act like he's the military expert?
Per the Andrew Sullivan post link above, he's acting anti-Constitutional, on one hand denying civilian command of the U.S. military (which I do doubt he'd be doing under a Republican President) -- that's called fascism -- and, on the other hand, somehow making the military a democracy where majority rule of soldiers would dictate with whom they would serve, rather than their orders.

I always thought that soldiers were supposed to follow their orders without question. But maybe that's only the order John McCain personally approves of. Yep, that last reason is looking more and more likely every day.

Enjoy your legacy, Sen. McCain.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Behind the Col-Mask

Stephen Colbert lays it all out in reddit, answering questions from that audience thanks to a promise he made if the site raise over a half million dollars for DonorChoose.

It's a pleasure to learn about the guy, his method, his training, his doubts. This one is my fave answer:

When you are young and single, there really isnt anything to worry about.

Will you starve? Not likely. I worried that I didnt have enough gumption to get work. That I wouldn't know how to network or something. But at a young age several people, some professors and directors, told me I had talent, and that it was mine to husband if I was willing to work. Those kind words sustained me, many times.

I mostly just said yes to any opportunity to get on stage. Pay or no pay. Equity, amateur, comedy, avant garde, and improv especially. Chicago has a great improv community, and I could get up on stage a lot after I got to know the other members of the community. I called it getting in trouble. You say yes to something, then you are in trouble. You have to deliver. Each mini-crisis I forced myself into made me work hard.

As for true doubt, it got under my skin deeply only once. I was newly-married and I was offered a part I would have loved, but no pay. I had worked for six years doing anything, but had made a deal with myself that if I ever was to have family I could support, I would have to insist on pay. A small rule, right? But hard for a young actor to keep. Mostly you don't really get paid.

I said no to the part and immediately (I mean within minutes) went into a spiral of panic that lasted for months. I was sure I had made the wrong decision (I hadn't) and would never get a part like it again. But the worst feeling was that I knew I truly wanted to be an actor and there was no turning back now. I was too old to do anything else. This was a feeling I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Yep, Stephen Colbert once again proving himself a man of his word -- and a man of the people.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Spanked Birther

Anderson Cooper, God love him, performs journalism on a Republican Texas State Representative birther. Guys like this are either craven or moron -- or both:

The relentless lies of these people. I'm less inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt of sincerity each successive time. They're a blight on society.

And, yes, I think if they're still doing this after so much public evidence to the contrary, they're implicitly racist.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Leaky Ships

I'm concerned that the WikiLeaks diplomacy bomb released today will lead to some sort of crackdown on Internet freedom and provide misdirection in support of anti-Net Neutrality legislation. I'm worried that the sharing of information between government agencies that began after 9/11, which was in part allowed to happen by a lack of inter-agency information exchange, will be squelched.

On the other hand, I'm loving this:

According to Le Monde (in translation), a cable relayed to Washington a conversation between the emir of Qatar and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) last February: "Based on over 30 years of experience with the Iranians, the emir concluded the meeting by saying that we shouldn't believe but one word in a hundred that the Iranians say." The prime minister of Qatar told Kerry later that trip that Ahmadinejad told him: "we beat the Americans in Iraq, the final battle will be in Iran."

The president of the Upper House of the Jordanian Parliament, Zeid Rifai, was said in a cable (translated) to have told the U.S. that "the dialogue with Iran will go 'nowhere', adding: 'bomb Iran or live with a nuclear Iran: the sanctions, the carrots, the incentives, have no importance.'"

The Omanis were similarly concerned, according to cables relayed by the New York Times, as an Omani military official told officials that he could not decide which was worse: "a strike against Iran's nuclear capability and the resulting turmoil it would cause in the Gulf, or inaction and having to live with a nuclear-capable Iran."

The United Arab Emirates' deputy defense chief, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, called Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "Hitler" to U.S. officials, also "stressed 'that he wasn't suggesting that the first option was 'bombing' Iran,' but also warned, 'They have to be dealt with before they do something tragic.'"

The Saudis, the Bahrainis and even Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were all similarly inclined, as has been widely reported -- El Pais reported that Mubarak's hatred for Iran was called "visceral" and the New York Times reported the existence of cables referring to the Saudi king's "frequent exhortations" to engage in military action against Iran. The Bahrainis, too, are said to be keen to see Iran's nuclear program halted, and King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is said to have blamed problems in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Iranian government -- and both Kuwaiti and Yemeni officials reportedly told U.S. diplomats similar things about Iranian involvement in fomenting dissent in their own countries.

For far too long the Arab countries in the Middle East have acted like it's Israel against Iran and "Not I! Not I!" What these leaks prove is that there is certainly reason for common ground between Israel and it's neighbors, that they are not afraid of Israel but, rather, Iran, and that their hypocrisy knows no bounds on this issue.

I'm also not against the reported (by Forbes) revelations to come from WikiLeaks regarding the evil at the high end of the contemporary banking industry:
“You could call it the ecosystem of corruption,” he says, refusing to characterize the coming release in more detail. “But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest.”

Oh, and by the way, nobody knows what they hell is really going on in North Korea.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shirley, You Can't Be Serious

Leslie Neilsen, R.I.P.

Anyone else have such a complete 180 degree late career switcheroo (from unremarkably stolid dramatic to spoofy comedic actor) and have it last as long?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Haiku Week #6

Black Friday numbers
The best way to determine
Our nation's value?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Haiku Week #5

Tom Delay found guilty
Five to life imprisonment
Dancing Behind Bars?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Haiku Week #2

Divided nation
Will the Civil War not end
Until the South wins?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Haiku Week #1

At two months distance
Video of her on Skype
Who was this woman?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Just Patti

Patti Smith won a National Book Award. David Ulin writes smartly, and with feeling, about it.

She's an American treasure. Who'd have thought!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baggin' with the Stars

I'm not a fan of this show, so it's somewhat hilarious to me that their money-grubbing decision to enter the Palin Family Enterprise may backfire bigtime:
At first, having Bristol Palin participate in 'Dancing With The Stars' seemed like a brilliant idea. Just like Kate Gosselin before her, casting an admittedly bad dancer who was shrouded in controversy has raked in big ratings and tons of press. But now the joke is on the show's producers, as they fear Bristol is actually going to win this thing.

"This will be a disaster for the show if Bristol wins," one TV insider tells me. "Any creditability the show had will be over. It will go from being a dancing competition to a popularity competition where whoever has the most rabid fan base will always win no matter how little talent they have."

"Another problem the producers foresee is that after Bristol wins no one in Hollywood will ever want to be on the show again," a well-placed ABC source tells me. "Why would a real star want to compete and lose against someone like [former U.S. Senate candidate] Christine O'Donnell or Levi Johnston."

A friend of one of the judges tells me Bristol has made a fool out of all of them. It's now painfully obvious that the judge's scores and opinions mean nothing.

I'm sick of hearing people say that Palin is winning because people identify with her failings. This is the exact opposite of what Conservatives claim to believe, that it's all a meritocracy and we shouldn't be dumbing down classrooms to make it nicey-nice for the less talented. No, this is massive Tea Party drone voting, making their political point, whether or not they're using computerized means to generate "legitimate" email addresses and flood they system. Does anyone, anywhere, honestly doubt this is all about Sarah?

I'm starting to think that Palin's world and that of her drones is an even more self-aggrieved subset of the Glenn Beck audience, your true talent is, ostensibly, your adherence to the Sarah-approved ideology, no matter have provisional or acausal the selection. Because the apparatchik reason isn't even what it's all about; the only ideology that matters is that which reinforces the vanity production of Sarah Palin that is her politelebrity career.

And this is where Sarah Palin is, for once, a true pioneer. Her grifter roots are clearly Amy Semple McPherson, Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy but no one has ever done what she's doing before in world political history, mainly because there wasn't a mass media quite like this one before. With so many outlets, so much hunger for content, this rapacious time of widening rich-poor gaps as our corporate feudalistic solidifies for what may be centuries, with so many buyers out there, mass media networks of books, cable, digital, social, Sarah Palin has engineered the very first political campaign where the networks have paid candidate for the honor of creating their long-form campaign commercials and giving them huge hours of airtime, frosted with dominating amounts of free publicity

TLC has given Palin her biggest TV deal, paying her production company to make the shows, with their staged scenes and obvious cutaways, semiotics gone haywire in the ultimately lumpen service or reinforcing Palin's brand messaging and image, endlessly tiresome, endlessly smug, endlessly mean high school girl in the big leagues.

The Obama Family and the Democratic Party had better start adapting immediately. If you think this is polarized nation now, just wait until we're watching entirely separate television shows.

Wait, we already are:

I don't care how serious a candidate, politician or statesman you are. You have to at least acknowledge that this new evolution of bullshit is the most significant since Sen. John Fitzgerald Kennedy bested Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon in the first nationally televised Presidential debate.

One can only hope that, thanks to some combination of narcissistic ambition and aggrieved venality, just as Nixon ultimately lost control of his brand image Palin and her family will lose control of theirs. I mean, even the type of vile use of "gay" and "faggot" as a vicious insult by a teenager, the type of language parents are generally held responsible for teaching their children is wrong, hasn't led to a single admonition of Sarah Palin's mothering skills. Is this the kind of language Mama Grizzlies teach their little grizzlies? Grrr.

The fact is that Palin is media ascendant. There's a rule in Hollywood that you're only a superstar for three years, then the public moves on. You can still be in the firmament, even at your peak earning, but the audience for and against you is already formed, and you're not dominating their fantasy lives anymore.

So can we date Palin's superstardom from when she spoke at the 2008 Republican National Convention? I think maybe from when her book came out last year, her first purely commercial endeavor (and a huge success -- her big step-up that caused her to ditch her elected office about halfway into her commitment). If that's the case, she'll peak next year, and start fading in 2012, just in time for the GOP Primaries.

But is the answer more ominous. Is the TLC show where she really starts, taking over the airwaves? Even on Fox, she's not in control, and you can see the short-circuits behind her eyes, her hard little smile growing tight or tipping downwards when O'Reilly catches her out as is his sport.

This is the playing field now. The killing field. The battleground. This is where political war is now being waged. Politicians on the Left may develop a different flavor, maybe one that doesn't seem so constructed, really candid and unedited as Obama can be in ways she never will. The key is to leverage your celebrity as a brand that attracts curious, interested and engagement-starved viewers. If you're not already a politelebrity you need to become one, and if you already are then you need to exploit it with speed and savvy to get control of your image and blast away with your messaging.

This will also become a new discipline in political consulting. I recommend the talent agencies getting their Blue and Red political teams on and integrated with production and network sales. I even mean Below the Line crew. Control everything.

It's post-1984. 1984 has nothing on this. Orwell meets McLuhan. Makes you want to burn the whole mother****ing thing down.

Vote Bristol.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Snap Judgements

F*** you.

Yeah, right.

Right on.

Brinksmanship, Please

I sense this decoupling of the tax cut for everyone from the tax cut just for the rich (they get their first $250k/year exempted with the general cut just like everybody else) is a threshold issue for core Dems, or should I say the kind of old loyal and new potentially loyal Democrats that Obama and Kaine forgot to market to this past election.

Here's what America's Republican Party leadership is planning:

The Republicans' top tax guy in the House threatened in the clearest possible terms today that he and the rest of the GOP would vote to block any tax cut for the middle class during the lame duck session unless tax cuts for the wealthy are extended for the same period of time.

In a policy speech at the business-friendly Tax Council today, incoming Ways and Means Committee chairman David Camp called the Democratic plan for tax cuts -- a permanent tax cut extension for all income up to $200,000, and a temporary extension for income above that level -- "a terrible idea and a total nonstarter."

"We would be foolish to fall for it," Camp said.

Of course not -- don't fall for helping all Americans when you can disproportionately help those billionaire Lords who fund your think tanks and your campaigns, your millionaire Dukes and your close-call wannabees. You know, the Top 2%. Instead of everyone.

They're even scared of meeting en masse with President Obama again, getting more time for preparation lest they endure another Baltimore:

The roots of the partisan standoff that led to the postponement of the bipartisan White House summit scheduled for Thursday date back to January, when President Barack Obama crashed a GOP meeting in Baltimore to deliver a humiliating rebuke of House Republicans.

Obama’s last-minute decision to address the House GOP retreat – and the one-sided televised presidential lecture many Republicans decried as a political ambush – has left a lingering distrust of Obama invitations and a wariness about accommodating every scheduling request emanating from the West Wing, aides tell POLITICO.


Stung by the Baltimore fiasco, Republican leaders carefully stage-managed a televised health care summit at Blair House in February, helping to choreograph every conceivable detail, from the order of speakers to the precise configuration of the horseshoe table occupied by Obama and Congressional leaders. Wary of what they perceive to be potential traps when it comes to appearing with Obama, that kind of precautionary behavior is likely to continue.

Which he kicked their asses in anyway. I say let them prepare, but more such meetings, please.

The GOP sense fold. Please don't reward them with it, Obama and even you most Blue Dog Dems. Not when you have a chance to win the Lame Duck session and slightly redeem yourselves.

Show me something.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Post-WWI Masks

I started my very first Facebook discussion thread here, on Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), the mysterious and lethal disfigured WWI veteran taken in by Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) in the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire. We don't see much to Harrow even when he's in a scene, due to his habit of hiding in the shadows and, mainly, behind the mask that shields the world from the true horror of his injured face. If you can handle it, here's how Harrow looks on the show without his mask. And here's with the cover-up (and Jimmy):

Thanks to the Facebook discussion, I've been connect to this fascinating article, "Faces of War" (by Caroline Alexander in Smithsonian magazine 2007) on the origin of these masks in two studios, one in England and one in France (the latter run by an American sculpter, Anna Coleman Ladd), which went to painstaking ends to help make these wounded soldiers as whole as possible. It was the new technologies of the war which gave rise to this need:
The large-caliber guns of artillery warfare with their power to atomize bodies into unrecoverable fragments and the mangling, deadly fallout of shrapnel had made clear, at the war's outset, that mankind's military technology wildly outpaced its medical: "Every fracture in this war is a huge open wound," one American doctor reported, "with a not merely broken but shattered bone at the bottom of it." The very nature of trench warfare, moreover, proved diabolically conducive to facial injuries: "[T]he...soldiers failed to understand the menace of the machine gun," recalled Dr. Fred Albee, an American surgeon working in France. "They seemed to think they could pop their heads up over a trench and move quickly enough to dodge the hail of bullets."

The detail work of these studios were huge and actually took a lot longer than today's plastic surgery to achieve the desired results:

In Ladd's studio, which was credited with better artistic results, a single mask required a month of close attention. Once the patient was wholly healed from both the original injury and the restorative operations, plaster casts were taken of his face, in itself a suffocating ordeal, from which clay or plasticine squeezes were made. "The squeeze, as it stands, is a literal portrait of the patient, with his eyeless socket, his cheek partly gone, the bridge of the nose missing, and also with his good eye and a portion of his good cheek," wrote Ward Muir, a British journalist who had worked as an orderly with Wood. "The shut eye must be opened, so that the other eye, the eye-to-be, can be matched to it. With dexterous strokes the sculptor opens the eye. The squeeze, hitherto representing a face asleep, seems to awaken. The eye looks forth at the world with intelligence."

This plasticine likeness was the basis of all subsequent portraits. The mask itself would be fashioned of galvanized copper one thirty-second of an inch thick—or as a lady visitor to Ladd's studio remarked, "the thinness of a visiting card." Depending upon whether it covered the entire face, or as was often the case, only the upper or lower half, the mask weighed between four and nine ounces and was generally held on by spectacles. The greatest artistic challenge lay in painting the metallic surface the color of skin. After experiments with oil paint, which chipped, Ladd began using a hard enamel that was washable and had a dull, flesh-like finish. She painted the mask while the man himself was wearing it, so as to match as closely as possible his own coloring. "...Details such as eyebrows, eyelashes and mustaches were made from real hair, or, in Wood's studio, from slivered tinfoil, in the manner of ancient Greek statues.

Here's one of the before-and-after photos accompanying the article:

The success of these masks were huge, per this testimonial:
"Thanks to you, I will have a home," one soldier had written her. "...The woman I love no longer finds me repulsive, as she had a right to do."

Facial disfigurement is one of those topics that grows in the imagination. So much of how we communicated, how we recognize, how hold our self-image has to do with what's above the neck. Appearance seems to matter almost as much as functionality, as the loss of an eye may be hidden with a patch or prosthetic eyeball, but a severely disfigured face calls attention to itself, especially on first apprehension.

I wonder if this is one of those, "there but for the grace of God" type emotions it evokes. Dear Lord, please spare me in your mercy. In a certain way, aging disfigures us in slow motion. I recently looked at photos of myself from twenty-odd years ago, and wondered where that confident-looking young guy was when I was in my twenties.

As for the show, so far Richard Harrow has only killed someone who richly deserved it. We have yet to see him in actual rage, and perhaps he has none, just a technical approach to assassination. Perhaps the development of his character will lead to his disfigured face somehow becoming mirrored by a disfigured soul.

For now, Harrow is our angel, if an angel of death. We're in sympathy to him, and we like Jimmy more for bringing Harrow aboard, even if for self-serving purposes. Loyalty does count for something, after all.

I leave it to the creators of Boardwalk Empire to make the most of Harrow, and continue to surprise us.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Now Totally Psyched

Continuing with our Jeff Bridges theme, here's a contender for best movie 2010, if it's anything close to the trailer's impact:

Love the use of the late-career Johnny Cash number.

C'mon, Coens.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

GOP Conservative Tea Partying Hate Mongers

They love branding their Democratic and Liberal enemies as "Hitler" while acting like little Goebbels themselves. Hard to say who the worst is, but the current king seems to be Glenn "Protocols of Zion" Beck:
Nazi propaganda called Jews drahtzieher—wire-pullers. They constitute a power above and beyond ordinary government authority. “There is a super-government which is allied to no government, which is free from them all, and yet which has its hand in them all,” Henry Ford wrote in The International Jew.

If you know this history, you’ll understand why Glenn Beck’s two-part “exposé” on George Soros, whom Beck calls “The Puppet Master,” was so shocking, even by Beck’s degraded standards. The program, which aired Tuesday and Wednesday, was a symphony of anti-Semitic dog-whistles. Nothing like it has ever been on American television before.


Beck’s implication is that there was something sinister in Soros’ support for anti-communist civil society organizations in the former Soviet Union. Further, he sees such support as evidence that Soros will engineer a communist coup here in the United States. This kind of thinking only makes sense within the conspiratorial mind-set of classic anti-Semitism, in which Jews threaten all governments equally. And as a wealthy Jew with a distinct Eastern European accent, Soros is a perfect target for such theories.

You can read The Daily Beast piece and see for yourself how Beck smears Soros. But he's not alone in his prejudiced hate mongering. There's a hate-spewing Jewish woman herself, from Florida, with a radio following, who was slated to be Chief of Staff for a newly-elected Representative - until her words sparked plans for violence:

As you might recall, someone emailed Kaufman's radio station, WFTL, declaring that he or she was planning a violent act against some kind of government building, possibly a school. A phone call to the station yesterday, from a woman identifying herself as the e-mailer's wife, later warned that this man could potentially commit a terrorist act against a public school. That prompted a countywide lock down of all public schools.

The local Fox affiliate since reported that the threat-maker had said he was inspired by none other than Joyce Kaufman, who had received publicity in the last few days for her previous calls for violent action against the government in order to protect citizens from the tyranny of the Obama administration.


The negative publicity had centered around video of comments that Kaufman had made at a Tea Party rally this past Independence Day, on how to change a government that has become destructive of the people's rights: "And then the Founding Fathers were ever so brilliant -- and I don't care how this gets painted by the mainstream media, I don't care if this shows up on YouTube, because I am convinced that the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was they gave a Second Amendment. And if ballots don't work, bullets will."

Pure evil. She'll probably become a Fox commentator now that she gotten her publicity.

And, of course, there's Massa Limbaugh:

"We've got the Democrats worried that Clyburn's getting the shaft because he's not going to have a car, he's not going to have a driver, he's not going to have security, he's not going to have any of the stroke, or the perks," Limbaugh said. "A white, racist leadership of the Democrat party trying to ace out Clyburn." Limbaugh got his information on Clyburn's driver from Martin Frost, who appeared on MSNBC.


"Clyburn's new position: driving Ms. Nancy," Limbaugh said. "He's not in the back of the bus, he's in the driver's seat. And she's in the back of the car being chauffeured."

Racist fucks. Rabble-rousing hucksters all. The fact that mainstream media hasn't called them out, that their networks and stations haven't fired them, that the public outcry isn't huge, is what our times are all about. Fake news, faux controversies, Southern strategy in bloom.

Watch out, America. They're eating your soul.

My Pet Bush

Some-body has a new memoir out:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Decision Points
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

Try this yourself.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Not So Tiny Bubbles

Nice to know there's still a little mystery left in the universe. I smell a sci-fi screenplay coming our way (if not an onslaught):

A group of scientists working with data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope said Tuesday that they had discovered two bubbles of energy erupting from the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The bubbles, they said at a news conference and in a paper to be published Wednesday in The Astrophysical Journal, extend 25,000 light years up and down from each side of the galaxy and contain the energy equivalent to 100,000 supernova explosions.

“They’re big,” said Doug Finkbeiner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, leader of the team that discovered them.

The source of the bubbles is a mystery. One possibility is that they are fueled by a wave of star births and deaths at the center of the galaxy. Another option is a gigantic belch from the black hole known to reside, like Jabba the Hutt, at the center of the Milky Way. What it is apparently not is dark matter, the mysterious something that astronomers say makes up a quarter of the universe and holds galaxies together.

“Wow,” said David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton who was not involved in the work.

Wow, indeed. Let me offer another theory: these bubbles are actually the product of alien technology, a planet that ran out of fossil fuels and has created a star-fueled power source to run their home planet.

Only problem with this theory: the stars can't last forever.

Then they'll be coming for ours!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Truth Will Out

So much for Tea Party principles. Rand Paul has flipped his flop for earmarks, as any politician interested in re-election will do from the day they're sworn in:

One Tea Party hero, Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY), jumped on the anti-earmark bandwagon early, making “a ban on wasteful earmark spending in Washington D.C. one of the key points of his campaign” in March. Lambasting lawmakers who opt for “photo-ops with oversized fake cardboard checks,” Paul vowed to “dismantle the culture of professional politicians” even if he “ruffled a lot of establishment feathers” while doing it.

But after joining the GOP flock on Election Day, Paul is singing a different tune. In a Wall Street Journal profile this weekend, Paul signaled an about-face on his earmark position, committing to “fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork.”

Truth will out: Texas conservatives suck at governing, and their state is about to feel massive, massive pain:

Texas faces a budget crisis of truly daunting proportions, with lawmakers likely to cut sacrosanct programs such as education for the first time in memory and to lay off hundreds if not thousands of state workers and public university employees.

Texas' GOP leaders, their eyes on the Nov. 2 election, have played down the problem's size, even as the hole in the next two-year cycle has grown in recent weeks to as much as $24 billion to $25 billion. That's about 25 percent of current spending.

The gap is now proportionately larger than the deficit California recently closed with cuts and fee increases, its fourth dose of budget misery since September 2008.

Maybe if Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) can somehow (as he's asking) succeed his state from Social Security and Medicare, he can finish turning it into a Third World state. The potential upside: illegal immigrants fleeing across the border back into Mexico. With plenty of Texans following.

The best thing may have happened -- best for President Obama and the future Democratic Majority. Now he can even get tough on Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal.

Now with an opposition force screwing up in the House daily, he's got everything he needs to run against in 2012.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fighting Back

So nothing has changed. Anyone who thinks last week's election is some sort of cry to slash government spending is misreading the divided electorate. On the Left there's dissatisfaction that there hasn't been more audacious action, per Paul Krugman. In the Middle, everyone is frightened that the economy is not recovering fast enough. On the Right, there's the lies. Obama didn't raise taxes -- he lowered them. And he's not spending $200 million/day in India -- another GOP lie, he's opening up markets to bring more jobs to America.

Rachel breaks it down:

They lie about the growth of the public sector vs. private under Democrats -- when the evidence of the past year is that we've been shedding government jobs while (no thanks to the George W. Bush GOP tax cuts) we're growing the private sector -- under Obama. Their biggest lie is that now they've learned their lesson and will cut the government spending that ballooned under W. and his GOP Congress. Even Tea Leader Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) can't name specifics of what he'd cut, other than "entitlements." If this means privatizing Social Security or, as likely Presidential aspirant Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) would like to do, getting his state to opt out (stranding their needy seniors), good luck, boys.

Here's the truth: Obama has helped people in ways Bush never did. Read this post where a regular American enumerates the money his family has saved under Obama. Read this piece by William Saletan in Slate about how huge the wins of this past Democratic Congress has been. Who cares what the hell Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) thinks about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) staying on as House Minority Leader? And, per Rep. James Clyburn (D-NC), just let them try to kill healthcare reform now that it is already going into effect:
Clyburn said, "Let them try to prevent a family who has a child with diabetes from getting insurance. Let them tell a man that has paid his premiums on time for 30 years that his policy is canceled because he just got prostate cancer. Let them tell a woman who has breast cancer, sorry you're policy is cancelled."

So booyah, Rep. Clyburn, and keep on fighting, Speaker Pelosi. The lesson of this election for President Obama shouldn't be for Dems to go back to being Republican Lite and losing elections. The lesson should be, yes, bigger, better, clear and simple message, tout your accomplishments loudly and, most of all, fight. No boxer can expect to have the crowd on his side if he shrinks from a fight. Let your principles be known, stand your ground, offer the handshake and when it is refused, put up your dukes.

That's the guy we voted for, the candidate who fought tooth and nail through the primaries and then the general election, with skill, intelligence and determination. Who could take a punch (New Hampshire, anyone?), learn from it and come back stronger.

If this week's Presidential address is any indication, he's already moving in the right direction:

Now just stick to is, BaRocky, and we'll stick with you.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Jill Clayburgh

Always classy and working until nearly the end, actress Jill Clayburgh has passed at the relatively young age of 66, after a twenty-one year struggle with leukemia. She made her name as a new kind of archetype in the mid 1970's, every-woman feminist roles that emerged trailing the movement, neurotic and flawed and human, resistant to caricature, overdue to reach American screens. Her signature film, Paul Mazursky's An Unmarried Woman (cheekily named in homage to Jean-Luc Godard's A Married Woman), for which she received an Oscar nomination, was important to women like my mother during that era of emerging/emerged liberation:


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Back to Jersey

Now that the midterm election is finally over, and as we wait for the inevitable GOP overreach, it's time to return to the arts, specifically the television arts, and a new show that, eight episodes in, has become an addiction for the past several weeks.

I speak, of course, of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, which takes place in Prohibition Era Atlantic City and follows the web of crime surrounding and often led by Enouch "Nucky" Thompson, County Treasurer and king of the town.

There's the noted pedigree, of course, of Creator and Executive Producer Terence Winter of The Sopranos fame, and no less than Martin Scorsese, Executive Producer and Director of the tone/look-setting first episode. Like many HBO shows (including The Wire and Six Feet Under) it took sticking to it through a number of episodes before the hooks caught. I trace my first perking up to episode four, when Michael Kenneth Williams (all hail Omar from The Wire) finally received a great monologue to deliver in his role of Chalky White:

The final hook was the end of the following episode, when Kelly MacDonald as Margaret Schroeder brings the FBI to raid lead character Nucky Thompson's (Steve Buscemi) big private event and he responds by showing up at her door and initiating their romance. Since then the intrigue has heightened, the violence and sex ramped up, and whether it's entirely accurate or not, they makers are doing a notable job of creating a 1920's atmosphere, if in a way we've never quite experienced before. I expect they looked at films like Scarface and The Roaring Twenties for inspiration, 1930's pictures that basically depicted the crime scene of that era. It's particularly strong in the grotesques, most notably a disfigured World War I veteran sharpshooter wearing the type of mask that had to do in that pre-plastic surgery era, just introduced (with a bang) this past week:

It doesn't hurt that the character, Richard Harrow, is played by Jack Huston, grandson of legendary Director-Writer-Actor John Huston, known for him crime films himself. The show may also be a turning point in respect for Gretchen Mol, who goes the distance and then some as a showgirl with loose morals. In movie-actor-studded cast, Michael Shannon is another standout, playing sexually repressed (or perhaps heavily sublimated into his work) FBI agent Nelson Van Alden. Michael Stuhlbarg, coming off his genius lead in the Coen Bros A Serious Man, plays legendary Jewish mobster and World Series fixer Arnold Rothstein. And English actor Stephen Graham (Public Enemies, Snatch, This is England, Band of Brothers) plays a convincingly insecure, unpredictable and violent young Al Capone.

But the guy you really can't take your eyes off is Michael Pitt as James "Jimmy" Darmody, Nucky's protege and maybe (it seems hinted at) his son by way of Gretchen Mol's Gillian. Pitt first received notice in sexually provocative material, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers. He's also worked with Gus Van Sant playing a Kurt Cobain-modeled character and has his own band, the Brooklyn-based Pagoda, where he leads as vocalist and guitarist. Not a typical career for a major leading man in the making, but that's what he feels like on this show.

Pitt's Jimmy is a war vet himself, carrying hidden wounds, having thrown away half a Princeton education and an out-of-wedlock child. His trajectory thus far has taken him from a backwoods booze hijacking gone wrong to Chicago where he's gotten in with Capone and his mob bosses, but it looks like he's headed back to A.C. soon (per this trailer for Episode 8):

Pitt is so period in his looks, the tempo of his movements, his voice and demeanor that you can easily imagine yourself watching this character, this actor in a silent movie from that era. His profile, in particular, seems straight out of the type of drawings found on magazine covers of that era. The perfect R-rated movie star -- every moment, you're wondering what he's going to do next.

If there's more to say about the show's themes or that of individual episodes, that'll have to be for another post. I'll just leave it that we're watching a world pretending to be on the up-and-up on the outside but drenched in corruption just through the door, where Prohibition is a public fig leaf but merely enables the powerful to dilute their liquor ten-fold and makes exponentially more money than they would have under full disclosure.

Come to think of it, sounds a little like post-Citizens United America. A little like the election that just kicked it off.