Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A'Courting We Shall Go

Per the top-notch blogging by Andrew Pincus on Talking Points Memo, on her first day responding to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court Justice nominee Elena Kagan did just fine. She actually had a great line that I heard replayed on the radio, to which I laughed out loud:
...during her discussion of terrorism-related legal issues with Senator Graham, he began a series of questions about the failed Christmas Day bombing of the plane headed for Detroit by asking where Kagan was on Christmas Day. Kagan: "like all Jews I was probably at a Chinese restaurant."

I have to say I was prepared to hear her remark that like all Jews she was at the movies, but now that everyone of all religions seems to go to the movies on Christmas, her answer was funnier.

Meanwhile, after slamming deceased Supreme Court Justice and Civil Rights giant Thurgood Marshall yesterday, it appears the GOP Senators who did so can't name a single decision of his as an example of the "activism" they alleged.

Kagen and Marshall

Looks like Obama's current Supreme Court nominee is causing division in the ranks. She doesn't have much of a record to attack and some (not radical) conservative judges she's worked with like her. But check out that link for the histrionics from the far right, especially blood-on-his-hands anti-abortion leader Randall Terry.

Meanwhile, the GOP Senators seem to think they are debating whether to confirm deceased Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Nice way to further alienate minority support for the party...kind of like arguing settled law that most people like. Except, maybe, racists. Since they have nothing else to do with this hearing, could this be a cynical play to the base?


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sociopathic Narcissism

My father used to say that you had to be at least slightly crazy to want to be President. That may go for other office-seekers as well:

Vote Clint Webb this November!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Getting Things Done

As the finance reform bill made it out of House/Senate conference committee today somewhat stronger thanks to CSPAN coverage that took it out of the backroom, now on to almost certain passage by both houses of Congress, and with our President once again asserting his authority in no uncertain terms, it's time to take stock again of how much is actually getting accomplished.

This is no do-nothing Congress; you may not favor the legislation they are passing, but they're stimulating the economy while getting started on 21st Century infrastructure, reforming healthcare including the elimination of pre-existing conditions and the creation of exchanges, passing some campaign reform to counteract the Supreme Court blank check for corporate influence, creating a financial Consumer Protection Agency with real teeth (depending which party and leader is in power) and regulating bank involvement with derivatives, working on Don't Ask Don't Tell, working on a climate change / energy future bill, passing the Lilly Ledbetter Act...and lots more I don't even know or remember.

The President accomplished a significant milestone when he fired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and reasserted civilian control (Executive control) over our nation's military, he got $20B out of criminally negligent BP just at the end of last week, he took Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Hell Burger and signed some technology deals, and is now at the G8/G20. There is no denying that he's getting things done. Per Taegan Goddard, "Not since FDR has a president done so much to transform the country." I'd argue that while some on the Left find the comparison to FDR wanting, he's on track to best every President since with essentially a (small-c) conservative form of Progressivism, very much a common sense form less interested in lofty ideology but still believing that it's the responsibility of government to lessen the suffering of its peoples and stand up against vicissitudes of nature, moneyed interests, criminal elements and global enemies.

With Republicans determined to stall another jobs bill, per 1930's W-shaped Depression Era history more than likely to cause another recovery stall, one can only imagine the Party as a whole is still betting on obstructionism in order to keep conditions from getting so good that they have no platform to run on. It's funny that they actually choose to do the opposite of what The Bible recommends, saving up during the seven fat years so as not to be boned in the seven lean ones (Genesis 41:27), i.e. cutting taxes on their wealthy patrons while spending insanely during the good times of the Bush Administration, then allowing the population to starve after the bubble burst.

I know they're feeling like their voter base is enthused and Tea'ed up, but I'm wondering what they actually will have to run on, especially if the jobs market continues to recover. Obama as Hitler?

Well, as of today, Palin's gone there.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Still Modern

I took my ten-year old to see Charles Chaplin's uber-classic, Modern Times, at the Aero Theater here in Santa Monica. He'd seen it on TV before but was adamant about going once I suggested it to him, and afterwards we discussed how you remember movies you see in the theater more than the ones you see on TV, on the couch, whatever. It was our first evening movie together and bodes well. After every movie he sees I ask him for a rating (ever since the first time he did so) and he's a pretty tough grader. Modern Times earned his first A+.

In fact, it's #77 on the IMDb list of favorites, ahead of The Kid (#193) and The Gold Rush (#175), just ahead of The Great Dictator (#94) and slightly behind City Lights (#68). The theater was 3/4 full and there was laughter throughout, building at the end during the wonderful restaurant sequence. My son and I talked a lot about the gibberish singing waiter scene afterwards, one of the most joyous extended moments in any Chaplin film.

What struck me, beyond the undying comic relevance, was how grim the movie was, political for its time, decrying both unemployment (released in 1936 to Depression Era America) and mindless factory work. The pre-Orwell Big Brother boss watching on TV, workers harassed by cops on horseback and shot in the streets, scrounging for kindling, bananas, hope. I noticed the grittiness of the poverty setting in The Kid which we saw last Sunday, evidently based on Chaplin's memories of an extremely poor childhood, but Modern Times has more of an edge on it. A mature man's movie.

Fortunately, the grim is leavened heavily with comedy and Paulette Goddard, who has a fair shot at most fetching movie actress of all time.

She was (per the photo) married to Chaplin during the making of the movie but didn't have a proper marriage certificate, which screwed up her chance to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind just a couple of years later. Her clever energy as the spirited "gamin" street girl is positively modern, and she's magnetic in her close-ups -- you don't want them to end. Smart casting having Diane Lane play Goddard against Robert Downey Jr. in Chaplin.

At the very end, when she has her first real moment of deep doubt, it's The Little Tramp's turn to buck her up. It's almost a parody of a Soviet propaganda piece, or a Hollywood slap-on happy ending, but their promenade down the road ahead into a non-urban pastoral future, seemed prophetic both of Chaplin finally leaving silent films and his character behind. the last time for both.

It also seemed eerily prophetic for our time, as did the unemployment theme of the movie. It made me wonder if we're not devolving to the Great Depression ethos, where soup kitchens will once again be frequented by good men in worn-out sportscoats as unemployment remains chronic. And the bucolic future for Chaplin and Goddard, is that not a haunting echo of the very post from last night regarding our over-reliance on microchips ready to fry at the first big solar flare?

Yep, Chaplin was a genius. Funny but thoughtful. Direct, entertaining, with no diminishment of power over an audience, even 74 years later.

We saw a brand new print, as are all the prints in this series. If it comes to your town, I highly recommend checking out at least one, and you can't go wrong seeing even more, on the big screen, with an audience, the way, yes, they were intended to be seen.

Even before TiVo.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In a Flash

My cousin, Nora Maccoby, has written a provocative and disturbing piece on the possibility of a massive electromagnetic pulse and how we're blindly unprepared for the possibility -- even though it's happened as recently as 150 years ago. That one was a "coronal mass ejection" from our sun, i.e. a particularly huge solar flare documented by Richard Carrington, and while solar storms happen all the time, a "solar superstorm," or, worse, terrorist deployment of an "EMP" are threats to our entire way of life, even our survival:
One potentially catastrophic disruption man is not prepared for is an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), or a burst of electromagnetic radiation – either from a military nuclear detonation or from a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun. A CME is an ejection of material from the solar corona – or “crown” of atmosphere surrounding the sun. In military terminology, an EMP bomb, detonated hundreds of kilometers above the earth's surface, is known as a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) device. Effects of a HEMP device depend on the altitude of the detonation, energy yield, interactions with the earth's magnetic field, and shielding of targets.

Either event would create a sudden, massive fluctuation in the Earth’s electromagnetic field. The resulting electric and magnetic fields would then couple with electrical grid systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges.

Our entire nation is dependent on computers for power - this includes the smaller microchips and circuits that also power our vehicles. In the event of an EMP nothing using these computer systems will function. This means no electricity to provide power for the pumps that pump gas into our cars or trucks and no electricity to pay for gas, food, or services. We would not even be able to withdrawal cash from an ATM, transport food, or provide minimal medical care.

As recently as 1989 we were hit with a geomagnetic storm caused by a CME, so it's not impossible to imagine more coming. Maybe it's an explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs. As far as preparing, Maccoby says the government is doing nothing and the only answer is to get survivalist:

Ideally, all modern electronics would be EMP hardened. Since this is cost prohibitive, Congressional measures to fund the 'lowest hanging fruit' - such as protecting the power transformers of our nation’s grid - must be implemented. Smaller components and communications equipment necessary to maintain continuity of operations also need to be protected from an EMP event. Without large-scale intervention to protect the electrical power grids, our modern civilization remains defenseless. Clean water, fresh food, liquid fuels for transportation - all would no longer be available or accessible without electricity.

Living with the reality that with the flick of a solar event, life as we know it can change in a matter of days or weeks has led my husband and me to prepare on a few fronts. We have bought property in the mountains, we are working out bartering arrangements with neighbors, and we are planting fruit trees and growing our own food. While nowhere near prepared, we are farther along than if we didn't do anything.

In the vast numbers of the sun's mass and the universe's chronology, as solar flare every 150 years seems like no big thing. And in the age of the (would-be) Times Square Bomber, it's not so hard to imagine an EMP terrorist attack.

Thanks, cuz. Something else to keep me up at night.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

You're Fired

Time for a Donald Trump moment. Gen. Stanley McChrystal is a crybaby and a whiner who was given the Afghanistan strategy of his choice and was stupid enough to allow Rolling Stone to follow him around and quote both himself and his aides while he was present saying disparaging remarks about those above them in command, as in civilian command, as in the President, Vice President, etc. The only person who seems to like McChrystal is corrupt Afghan President Karzai, end of story.

Per Juan Cole, this is Obama's Truman-MacArthur moment:

Obama has largely misunderstood the historical moment in the US. He appears to have thought that we wanted a broker, someone who could get everyone together and pull off a compromise that led to a deal among the parties. We don’t want that. We want Harry Truman. We want someone who will give them hell. We don’t want him to say one day that Wall Street is making obscene profits when the rest of the country suffers, then the next day say that the brokers deserve their bonuses. We don’t want him to mollify Big Oil one day then bash it the next. More consistent giving of hell, please.

If Obama doesn’t fire McChrystal, he will never be respected by anybody in the chain of command that leads to his desk. Moreover, moving McChrystal out now would be a perfect opportunity to pull the plug on the impractical counter-insurgency campaign that the latter has been pursuing, which probably has only a 10% chance of success. (A RAND study found that where a government that claimed to be a democracy actually was not, and where it faced an insurgency, it prevailed only 10% of the time. Sounds like President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan to me.)

Sure, there's more in the article more scandalous than the comments, i.e. the problems with McChrystal before all this, as well as what appears to be a bad war in Afghanistan. This isn't the first time McChrystal has spoken with insubordination in his voice. And there are replacements in the wings.

A large part of what we want in a President is a strong, solid sheriff. Yep, time for Obama to man up, as he appeared to do with BP last week. It's time for him to defend his turf -- the U.S. Constitution -- and fire Stanley in a clear and unmistakable way.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Case Closed

So for all the hand-wringing, naysaying and nabobbing by the rightwing pundits that somehow our civil judicial system is porous enough to allow terrorists to slip through, the U.S. Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder secures a guilty plea from Times Square would-be-bomber, Faisal Shahzad. In fact, a number of guilty pleas:
“I want to plead guilty 100 times over,” said Mr. Shahzad, who faces life in prison.

Thanks to the U.S. justice system, if it's guilt you want, Faisal, it's guilt you shall have.

Silly rightwing rabbits, publishing their silly rant just five hours before facts once again proved them wrong.

Justice of for grown-ups.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Those Fun French

If there's one thing that unites Americans it's having a good laugh about the French. Sure, Left and Right split on "Freedom Fries," but when those funny French folks get in their own way, hilarity ensues:

France's World Cup team refused to train Sunday in protest of striker Nicolas Anelka's expulsion from the squad, prompted by a profanity-laced tirade against coach Raymond Domenech the day before.

The latest round of turbulence also led to the resignation of France team director Jean-Louis Valentin, who said he was fed up with the team.

"It's a scandal for the French, for the young people here. It's a scandal for the federation and the French team," Valentin said. "They don't want to train. It's unacceptable."

Before getting in a car and driving off, he added: "As for me, it's over. I'm leaving the federation. I'm sickened and disgusted."

And to overstate the obvious:

"Everyone in the whole world is mocking us now," winger Franck Ribery said on television hours before training even started. "I'm gutted, because we're not playing football any more."

World Cup fever for all!

Friday, June 18, 2010

In the Pink

Hollywood is freaking out that the box office is tepid, starting to wonder if maybe we don't want to see second and third tier TV shows from our first childhood turned into yet another empty explosion-fest. There's a Battleship movie in production, for heaven's sake, a classic game but...how can I say this...not that deep. Narrative, character, theme -- you know, what books, plays and even real-life stories have that make them ripe for adaptation.

And now...this isn't even unimaginable:

I can't wait to buy my ticket.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saved by the Barton

I first discovered Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) when he appeared on The Daily Show during the Bush-Cheney Administration and had brought a pair of Texas cowboy boots for Jon Stewart's young child. Then Barton revealed that the shoes had "GOP" embroidered on them, like some sort of good ol' boy joke. You knew at that moment that Stewart would never give them to his kid. With that gloaty touch Barton revealed himself as the opposite of a generous spirit. As he continued to reveal in his thought-free, party-line conversation with Stewart, he's what my father used to call a horse's ass.Link
Today Barton did the unthinkable. A day after President Barak Obama's masterstroke of getting Gulf-killer BP to commit to a $20 billion fund as a start to cover people who are losing their livelihoods due to BP's criminal negligence, Barton apologized to the CEO of BP!

Yep, venal Republicans like Boss Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann and Haley Barbour are taking the stance that the $20B is a "shakedown." They want to see "due process" -- this from a party that has been Linkcomplaining that the President hasn't acted fast enough on the Gulf!

The only response now is incredulity and even the GOP leadership felt it today, reportedly threatening Barton with the loss of his top seat on the Energy committee if he did not apologize to the American people, first orally and later in writing. Yep, he had a worse day that BP CEO Tony Hayward -- who managed, as so many bad guys have lately, to say nothing substantive when called in front of Congress.

Both Hayward and the Democrats, especially President Obama, owe Barton a debt of gratitude. He made everybody else look good -- in the eyes of our every-so-easily distracted media. And have given great a hammer to use against the GOP in November.

In fact, although his speech may have taken up too much media time in negative analysis, our President is, as Andrew Sullivan puts it, "getting shit done." Those on the Left who are complaining, despairing and generally once again building their circular firing squad would do well to read Sullivan's piece and take note.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New President

I didn't watch the President's speech last night all the way through so I can't pass judgment, but the part I saw was not inspiring and the reaction, particularly on the Left, has been negative. I believe, and certainly hope, that we are experiencing the lowest point in the Obama Presidency. He's got an unwinnable hole in the Gulf and an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. North Korea is a powderkeg, Israel/Palestine is a powderkeg, Iran is a powderkeg, our economy is still fragile and misshapen.

None of these problems is of his doing, but he needs to get all magical on those first two. It's not fair, but life's not fair and we're starving for the paradigm change we voted for when we voted him into office. For Afghanistan, it'll mean withdrawal starting right after the Iraq withdrawal, stuff he can do that the unified Republican obstructionist block in the Senate can't impede or poison.

For the Gulf he should channel Rachel Maddow.

Best political speech of the year thus far.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On the Gulf

I don't have much comment on the President's speech except that he's right to use it to start shifting the discourse, a discourse that has long ago shifted for those who care about the environment but is coming late or maybe never to those who don't question the destruction of our planet through the pillaging of its very finite fossil fuels.

On this other hand, this moving piece by David Kurtz in Talking Points Memo lays bare the reality about the Gulf of Mexico, that it's been under assault and ruination long before this endless nightmare spill:
The Gulf is not a pristine environment. If your only exposure to the Gulf has been on the beaches of Florida, you might convince yourself that the Gulf is a deep blue aquatic wilderness. But as you travel west, the beaches give way to the marshes of the Mississippi delta, which are crisscrossed by oil and gas pipelines, manmade canals, and flood control levees. Further west, in Texas, the beaches reemerge, but shipping canals, giant refineries, and petrochemical factories persist. Over the horizon, in the Gulf itself, thousands of oil and gas wells pump night and day.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is as organic a product of human processes in the Gulf as Hurricane Katrina was a product of natural processes. Shipping, flood control, and natural resource extraction have taken a nearly century-long toll on the coast. The Gulf has been abused, exploited, fouled and taken for granted for so long and with such consistency that the shock and horror over this one incident becomes in its own way a salve for our consciences.
LinkCan our Earth ever be made right?

While we're still on it?

Monday, June 14, 2010

But of course

Of course they did:

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released dozens of internal documents that outline several problems on the deepsea rig in the days and weeks before the April 20 explosion that set in motion the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Investigators found that BP was badly behind schedule on the project and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars with each passing day, and responded by cutting corners in the well design, cementing and drilling mud efforts and the installation of key safety devices.

"Time after time, it appears that BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense. If this is what happened, BP's carelessness and complacency have inflicted a heavy toll on the Gulf, its inhabitants, and the workers on the rig," said Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Bart Stupak.

Of course, he isn't -- why would he:
Rand Paul, who touts his career as a Kentucky eye doctor as part of his outsider credentials in his campaign for U.S. Senate, isn't certified by his profession's leading group.

He tried Monday to bat away questions about it by calling it an attack on his livelihood, saying the scrutiny stems from his challenge of a powerful medical group over a certification policy he thought was unfair.

The libertarian-leaning Republican helped create a rival certification group more than a decade ago. He said the group has since recertified several hundred ophthalmologists, despite not being recognized the American Board of Medical Specialties – the governing group for two dozen medical specialty boards.

Of course they did. Do:
So, Halliburton creates offshore entities to circumvent the U.S. ban on doing business in Iran, and part of what passes through this truly ridiculous loophole is nuclear enabling technology. All of the profit ends up in a Cayman Islands shell company so there's no U.S. tax burden, and when we have to go interdict a nuclear armed Iran Halliburton gets paid again supporting our military in the conflict.

But of course!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Better Bush?

Young Barbara Bush, as opposed to the nightmarish grande dame of that family, seems pretty smart, or at least has her heart in the right place, dare I say progressive, per Huffington Post:

Barbara Bush, daughter of president George W. Bush, appeared as a guest on "Fox News Sunday" this week to discuss her non-profit Global Health Corps, whose mission is to bring health equity to the U.S. and Africa, and she made some comments that surprised host Chris Wallace.

"Why do, basically, people with money have good health care and why do people who live on lower salaries not have good health care?" Bush asked. "Health should be a right for everyone."

"What do you think about Obama health care reform?" Wallace asked.

"Obviously the health care reform bill was highly debated by a lot of people," Bush responded., "and I'm glad the bill was passed."

The link above gives video as well. Fox's Chris Wallace seems just on this side of patronizing, but like Megan McCain, there appears to be hope in the next generation of GOP scions, female.

Friday, June 11, 2010


The first HBO series from Executive Producer Martin Scorsese, who also directed the pilot, is arriving on HBO this fall. The new trailer looks like something we haven't seen before, at least not with this theatrical level of casting, detail and intensity:

Looks like Steve Buscemi has his leading role of a lifetime, a Tony Soprano-type bad guy boss role but of an entirely different flavor, including the historical setting. It's a logical connection, as the writing Executive Producer is Terence Winter of The Sopranos fame. Michael Shannon as his FBI nemesis looks like he's got his breakout role. And Michael Kenneth Williams, beloved as Omar on The Wire, is also back in a completely different role for him, as a crime boss rather than a fugitive Robin Hood. Michael Pitt, Kelly MacDonald, Gretchen Mol are all theatrical-level actors, with Pitt and MacDonald particularly early in their careers, and they're in it as well. Michael Stuhlbarg, indelible in the Coen Bros A Serious Man plays Jewish crime figure Arnold Rothstein, the "man who fixed the 1919 World Series."

More info, including synopsis, at Geeks of Doom.

I don't know that I can name an upcoming movie, with the exception of Christopher Nolan's Inception, that I'm now looking forward to as much as this series. I can name another TV series -- the Season Four premiere of Mad Men later next month -- but there's no Scorsese movie left to come out this year, maybe the Eastwood with Matt Damon although that's still way under wraps, maybe The White Stripes documentary...

But with this trailer playing just before Sunday night's True Blood Season Three premiere, I'm betting that anticipation is going to shoot through the roof.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Love America, Too

(Now with 50% less snark than yesterday's post.)

The late Verna Oller of Washington State understood the meaning of community:
There are two things about 98-year-old Verna Oller that just about anyone around her neigborhood in Long Beach, Washington can tell you. She was feisty, and she was frugal.


Oller never made much money, earning an hourly wage filleting fish until she was in her 70s. She cut her own firewood until she was in her 90s. But Oller was carrying a secret, a big one, and she entrusted the Glenns to keep it. It turned out she was a master investor.

"She went to the library and read Barrons," Guy Glenn said. "She read the Wall Street Journal."


The sturdy old lady with no formal education amassed a not-so-small fortune: $4.5 million. It was up over $5 million before the recession. Before she died, she directed Guy Glenn to spend every cent of it, but not on her, on her home town.

"She wants a swimming pool to be built, that was her main goal," he said.

Mission accomplished. Part of Oller's money will go to building the town's very first indoor swimming pool. The pool was important to Oller because as a poor little girl growing up there it frustrated her that kids often had no place to swim even though they lived on the ocean. But the shoreline can be dangerous in the Pacific Northwestern town. Money will also be set aside for scholarships and grants for local teachers.


When Oller died, she didn't want a funeral or even an obit. In fact, she didn't want any credit at all.

And then there's this America, always breaking the boundaries of homicidal behavior and language taboos, on the Today show, no less:

Kayla Manson, a 13-year-old Florida girl accused as an accomplice after her boyfriend allegedly attempted to murder her best friend, recalled the text messages that her friend and boyfriend exchanged before he attacked her.

Manson said she did not see the texts where her boyfriend, Wayne Treacy, threatened to kill her best friend, Josie Ratley, but rather only ones in which they called each other names.

Manson said the two text messages she saw were "the one where she calls him a rapist, and she calls him a cunt, I mean the one where he calls her a cunt."

"We just have to be careful with our language, but that's all right, sweetheart," Meredith Vieira said.

Reminds me of the classic Kurt Vonnegut short sci-fi story, "The Big Space Fuck," set in a future where all the words have been exposed, so the last obscenity left is "jizzum."

Thank you, young Kayla Manson.

Hmm. Any relation?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

I Love America

I love America because the Nevada Republicans lost not-ready-for-primetime front-runner Sue Lowden to Scientology friend and Tea Party, Oath Keeper cuckoo Sharron Angle, giving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid his best chance at re-election.

I love America because the California skipped intelligent, experienced, moderato candidate Tom Campbell and instead nominated the one who bought the nomination, failed-HP CEO Carly Fiorina, who claims she will run on her job-killing, value-dropping business record and is somehow, after running a major U.S. company, clearly not remotely ready for primetime. Add to that her calling her opponent, sitting Sen. Barbara Boxer, out on the political fringe when Boxer routinely is one of the top overall votegetters in the nations -- third only to Bush and Kerry in 2004.

I love America because the other not-ready-for-primetime Californian GOoPer winning a nomination, Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, has already spent $70+ million in the primary alone as she runs on her supposed ability to run a tight, cost-effective business.

I love America because one Republican Texas Congressman, John Culberson says that BP's poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico is a "statistical anomaly," without mentioning all the safety and prevention laws and practices it appears to have broken.

I love America because Illinois Republican Senate candidate Mark Kirk, who had been caught exaggerating his military resume, now appears to have campaigned while still in in active duty, a military crime punishable by up to two years in detention.

I love America because even while a South Carolina GOP runoff candidate is running on Christianity and marital fidelity, something that has failed that state in the recent past with (pious and conservative Gov. Mark Sanford), the Democrats manage to nominate a total anomaly, seemingly at random. If this were a Hollywood movie, he'd draw unlikely support and grow to become the total grassroots, left-field populist winner. But, of course, this isn't.

I love America because when Arkansas incumbent corporate Dem Sen. Blanche Lincoln wins re-nomination against a strong progressive, labor-backed candidate, Bill Halter, even the White House goes out of its way to slit the Party's own throat by insulting the labor constituency.

I love America because the Dems are now goading the GOP to run on healthcare reform repeal:

I love America because once you ditch public service halfway through the job the people hired you to do and instead have a $12 million payday year, you can get that cosmetic surgery you always wanted, no matter whether you had 4 or 5 kids.

I love America because I love democracy.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Stupid TV

It's not just Faux News but they lead the pack. I'd say America is stupid, but it's not really the people, per the calls in this video compilation, it's the pundolts:

Mission accomplished.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Cat Got Your Oil?

Yep, British Petroleum has been behaving badly -- perhaps criminally -- for years:

The confidential inquiries, which have not previously been made public, focused on a rash of problems at BP's Alaska oil-drilling unit that undermined the company’s publicly proclaimed commitment to safe operations. They described instances in which management flouted safety by neglecting aging equipment, pressured or harassed employees not to report problems, and cut short or delayed inspections in order to reduce production costs. Executives were not held accountable for the failures, and some were promoted despite them.

Similar themes about BP operations elsewhere were sounded in interviews with former employees, in lawsuits and little-noticed state inquiries, and in e-mails obtained by ProPublica. Taken together, these documents portray a company that systemically ignored its own safety policies across its North American operations - from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico to California and Texas.

Or, as performed by cats:

Bad kitty! Time to lift your liability cap.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


Laurie Anderson, groundbreaking performance artist and Lou Reed's better half, has put on a concert in Australia for dogs:
Anderson — who often plays music for her rat terrier Lollabelle — said the idea originated during a chat with cellist Yo-Yo Ma while the two were waiting backstage at a graduation ceremony.

"We thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if you're playing a concert and you look out and everyone's a dog?'" Anderson said. "So I thought if I ever get a chance to do that, I'm gonna do it. And today was it. So this is like a highlight of my life."

The music had varying effects on the pooches, with a series of high-pitched whale sounds working several into a frenzy. Many wagged their tails and barked in apparent encouragement, while others stared at the stage with glazed eyes.

Her original plan was to only play in the high octaves beyond human hearing but fine for communicating with dogs. The final decision was to give the owners some fun as well, coming down two octaves. One anecdotal result:
April Robinson giggled as her small dog Spot swiveled his head toward the stage, ears perked high.

"He loves it!" she squealed while Spot stared wide-eyed at Anderson.

My guess is that the dogs had some difficulty applauding afterwards.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Teachable Moment

More like this, please:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

We're in a rare seismic moment where something so horrific is happening that there's no way to hide the reality. Time for a major change, including manufacturing and behavior. Are we citizens first or are we consumers first? Is there a common good where we must come together to preserve this world for our children, or do we just grab whatever we can, build whatever security we can, and have our families hole up until the earth falls off its axis and mass suicide becomes the only logical alternative?

One thing I've read recently is how bad we are at imagining and preparing for the low-likelihood, high impact events, like the mortgage meltdown and deep-water oil exploration disaster. I feel like we were better at it in the middle of the 20th Century, but somehow we've grown so over reliant on technology, easy credit, comfort and Hollywood special effects that we're no longer preparing for the worst.

This is essentially a conservative argument in the classic sense rather than the mutated version of today. Conservatism shouldn't be "Drill, baby, drill," like some entitled moron, but conserve, baby, conserve. Conserve investments, conserve the planet, prepare for the seven lean years instead of, as Bush/Cheney did, spent everything saved during the seven fat years (when Clinton/Gore ran up a surplus).

While there's spending now to shore up our nation's populace during this horrific period of unemployment, caused by the policies of the previous eight years as well as practices begun under the Clinton Administration all the way back to the wildly irresponsible Reagan deregulation of the financial markets, in some sense President Obama is the last best hope for a conservative future, small "c." His handling of his personal life -- steadfast in marriage, writes his own books, self-made man, concern for community going back to his early organizer days -- is exemplary from a conservative viewpoints.

Moreso than, say, a GOP gubernatorial candidate in South Carolina.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Patti Graduates

Patti Smith received an honorary degree from Brooklyn's famed Pratt Institute, at which she gave the commencement address (transcript here):

She followed it up with two poem/songs with her longtime musical partner, guitarist Lenny Kaye:

This dovetails with her renaissance (again!) as her autobiographical book, centered on her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe from when she first arrived in NYC in 1967 through his death from AIDS in 1986, is a vivid and illuminating portrait of both those "interesting" times and her birth as an artist. Just Kids.

Speaking for the kids, never having lost the connection to youth, inspiration, reinvention, art.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Bittersweet Game

The rise of homegrown SFX continues with this resonant riff on World of Warcraft in RL -- what gamers refer to as "real life":

Avatar Days from Piranha Bar on Vimeo.

From the creator:
This is short film I worked on a while ago called "Avatar Days". What makes this one special is the fact that it was filmed, vfx'ed and comped all in just 4 days. It was made as part of the "4 day Film" catagory in the Darklight Film Festival.

It follows 3 MMORPG players taking about their online persona's. As they tell their stories we see them go about their everyday lives against the mundane backdrop of city life...but as their Avatars.

Pretty damned great for four days' work. Restores one's faith in humanity, even while showing the downside.