Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Those Funny Candidates and the Convention

Gotta love Michele Bachmann Turner Overdrive:

According to a tweet from NBC News’ Jamie Novogrod, Bachmann responded to the recent raiding of the British embassy in Iran, by saying that if she was President, she would close down the U.S. embassy there.

There’s just one problem: The U.S. has not had an embassy in Iran ever since the Iranian hostage crisis, when revolutionaries from the budding Islamic state held 52 Americans for 444 days.

But that was so long ago, how is she expected to remember??

How about Rick Perry White:

The Associated Press carried the following report on a speech he gave to a crowd at Saint Anselm college in New Hampshire:

[H]e appealed to students who will be at least 21 before Election Day to vote for him. As for those younger than 21, he merely asked them to work hard on his behalf. Doesn’t he want their votes, too? It turns out Perry didn’t know or had forgotten that the voting age in America is 18. The flub caused some whispers in the crowd.
No biggie. In Texas what really matters is the drinking age!

And, finally, Jon Stewart goes all out on Herman "Adam Raised A" Cain, who finally gets nailed on the consensual affair:

Bachmann was never a serious contender, she just had her flash paper moment before confirming to the Republican electorate exactly what everyone else has known for years. She's not a reliable in the political sense. Or the honesty sense.

Cain was another flash, maybe on route to a Vice Presidential candidacy (take that, Barry Obama!) but that won't happen now. Oooh yeah.

And Perry is most interesting of them all, because he's a very successful politician in Texas, the second largest state in terms of both population and landmass, right near the end of the qualifying period he came riding high to save the day, and all leading up to this, earlier in the year, David Axelrod and the Obama Campaign was always very excited whenever anyone mentioned Perry, then not on the heavy radar, as a possible candidate.

It clear that the Obama Campaign was relishing the idea of running against Rick Perry. And maybe they knew something that wasn't general knowledge, like how much Rove and the Bush people hate Perry going back to when he was Lt. Governor under W. Because his implosion as like a series of Japanese nukes going off one after each other, the last revealingly stupid moment just getting to the dying embers before he did something else even more obviously not ready for any 3:00am calls.

We'll miss these clowns when they're gone for the race, but they'll be sure to pop back up again at the GOP Convention next summer, and if Newt does indeed win, or Ron Paul (which would be the smartest Republican choice, the apotheosis of Ayn Randianist), they'll get Administration positions. I always thought Herman Cain was running for Secretary of Commerce, anyway.

Newt will be funny in a different way -- he's got such a sure sense of self, he can instantly rationalize his way out of any of his shenanigans. I think Newt vs. President Barack would be a classic -- Newt as replay/last gasp of the 1990's vs. an Obama who looks all the more young and together because of the contrast. Newt shut down government and then failed to even make that work. Barack has been working his ass off to make government work, from healthcare to terror defense. His gotten a bill passed and taken out Bin Laden et al.

Could he possibly beat Newt by ten percentage points (55%/45%) or better? Could Newt make John McCain look like an Electoral College overachiever?

As for Mitt, don't worry about him:

As Mr. 1%, I now don't expect him to win the nomination -- unless he turns his trajectory around very, very quickly, and not just with the Bush wing of establishment old-school, but with the rank and file Republicans. Remember, if Mitt becomes President, the clock turns back a generation.

Then there's one other possibility. If the Tea Party is strong enough, and Newt manages to damage his electability profoundly (I say 70% chance) by the Convention, you could see a true political rarity, the brokered convention, most famously held by the 1924 Dems, torn apart by the rural/urban Prohibition conflict. In this case it's the Reagan deal with the Southern Religious Right, come home to roost in Tea Party garb, versus the money side, the hawks and the hardcore Libertarians. Aside from the hawks, the other two can get along on the Libertarian cry for smaller government.

Which is exactly what the Paulites a waiting to have happen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

OWS Changes the Conversation

The payroll tax cut used to be a Republican idea, but now that President Obama is for it, they're against extending it. That is, until Occupy Wall Street made clear the division between the 1% and the 99%:

If Republicans block the measure, as expected, Democrats would paint them as the party of the rich.

Trying to get ahead of the game, McConnell proclaimed Republican support for the payroll tax cut extension and told reporters his party would soon propose its own ideas for covering the cost of the tax cut.

"The Democrats put them in a box," said Andrew Taylor, a North Carolina State University political science professor. "I think many Republicans realized this is a bad side of the argument to be on."

Thanks to the protesters, there's media buzz highlighting the GOP's behavior and allegiances. It's common knowledge now, nothing anyone can obfuscate with rhetoric. And you know #OWS matters when the new GOP frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, calls on President Obama to repudiate the movement and its message of wealth inequality.

As Robert Reich tells us, the Basic Bargain holding our society together and creating growth in the 20th Century has been torn apart by greed and must be restored:

For most of the last century, the basic bargain at the heart of the American economy was that employers paid their workers enough to buy what American employers were selling.

That basic bargain created a virtuous cycle of higher living standards, more jobs, and better wages.


The latest data on corporate profits and wages show we haven't learned the essential lesson of the two big economic crashes of the last 75 years: When the economy becomes too lopsided -- disproportionately benefiting corporate owners and top executives rather than average workers -- it tips over.

In other words, we're in trouble because the basic bargain has been broken.


Corporations don't need more money. They have so much money right now they don't even know what to do with all of it. They're even buying back their own shares of stock. This is a bonanza for CEOs whose pay is tied to stock prices and it increases the wealth of other shareholders. But it doesn't create a single new job and it doesn't raise the wages of a single employee.

Nor do the wealthiest Americans need more money. The top 1 percent is already taking in more than 20 percent of total income -- the highest since the 1920s.

American businesses, including small-business owners, have no incentive to create new jobs because consumers (whose spending accounts for about 70 percent of the American economy) aren't spending enough. Consumers' after-tax incomes dropped in the second and third quarters of the year, the first back-to-back drops since 2009.

The Dems are proposing to pay for the payroll tax cut with a surtax on millionaires -- affecting 0.2% of the U.S. population.

I hesitate to ask what 1%-favoring counterproposal GOP will come up with themselves.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bunch of Endings

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) announced his retirement from Congress today -- he won't be running again next year -- at age 71. This is a huge bummer legislatively, but hopefully he'll turn up on news commentary a lot more, especially as he promising not to become a lobbyist. Consistently the smartest and wittiest guy in the House, Frank was no different today:
[Barney Frank] on the House under Republican rule: “It consists half of people who think like Michele Bachmann and half of people who are afraid of losing a primary to people who think like Michele Bachmann and that leaves very little room to work things out.”
Goodbye to Ken Russell, legendary British film director known for his combination or erudition and over-the-top visuals. Classics include: Women in Love (Oscar for star Glenda Jackson), Altered States, Tommy, The Lair of the White Worm, The Devils. Who can ever forget Tina Turner as the Acid Queen?

Goodbye to pre-IPO Facebook, between April and June 2012. The stock options will never mean the same thing again, the innocence lost, time for quarterly analyst calls and big annual reports. Guaranteed to have more investors than anyone imagines.

Goodbye to 2000's European prosperity. And maybe the Euro.

And, as much as we all hope not, we may be saying hello to a new global depression.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Art Pepper-Spray

Gotta love the new meme of the U.C. Davis pepper-spraying cop making his way through art history. There's this article, this blog post and then then Tumblr. My personal faves:


Modern art masterpieces, one and all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mitt the Liar

Is there anything that Mitt Romney will not lie about? Twice in one day, starting with his willful distortion in a campaign attack ad of a phrase spoken by President Barack Obama four years ago quoting John McCain's campaign, making it seem like Obama is speaking about his own current campaign:

Then, in tonight's GOP debate, he actually lied about his first name:

It's actually Willard.

Not to be trust. Certainly not with the Presidency of the United States of America.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Saul Bass

The Title Design of Saul Bass from Ian Albinson on Vimeo.

Evidently in honor of a new book coming out about the work of Main Titles designer extraordinaire, Saul Bass.

What's striking is how modern his work seems -- still. With most of his work created pre-CGI, it's shocking how visionary and vivid so much of it is. Vertigo, of course, is a favorite, along with Psycho which I recently saw in the theater again -- the opening credits with the Bernard Herrmann music really set you on edge from the start, give the sense that something really twisted is already underway. And the work for Otto Preminger as well as Martin Scorsese is ingenious.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Flashpoint: UC Davis

Fascinating chain of events starting on Friday when a police officer blanketed a row of sitting protesters on the University of California Davis campus with military-grade pepper spray. This video has now been viewed over a million times -- the spraying is near the start:

It's not quite Kent State -- no students were shot to death -- but appalling in its own right. These were peaceful protesters, not throwing rocks or threatening anybody, and the now famous Officer John Pike chose to douse them like roaches. No doubt the students who endured this silently are heroes to their classmates now.

Even move compelling is this video from later the next night, when the Chancellor who is responsible for putting the police on this, Linda Katehi, does what is essentially a perp walk past silent students. She had been in the administrative building for a meeting, this after various faculty called for her resignation, and evidently claimed the students outside were preventing her from leaving. In response, the organizers promised her safe passage and, as you can see in this video, called upon the protesting students for peace:

The walk of shame. Katehi has put out a statement today that's rather different from the day before, acknowledging what she's learned of the atrocious police action and promising some sort of change.

I wonder if she'll be able to keep her job, but it will only be by showing total growth and bending to the will of the people. If so, I believe she may become a model for others.

If not, she stands condemned with the 1% and their enablers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy Two Month Anniversary

At two months in, Occupy Wall Street is now occupying the world, especially today, after being kicked out of Zuccotti Park but taking over NYC and parts of other cities as well. Some of the highlights include:
And, best of all perhaps, now to morph the movement into political demands - what Jesse LaGreca calls PHASE 2:

It is time to TAX THE RICH

It is time to END THE WARS

It is time to restore Glass-Steagal

It is time to repeal Citizens United

It is time to get the money OUT OF POLITICS

It is time to invest in infrastructure and education

It is time to STOP busting labor unions, whether private or public

It is time to defend Medicare and Social Security tooth and nail from phony reforms or baloney cuts

It is time to STOP the spending cuts and start investing in America, and if we have to raise taxes on the rich and corporations in order to force them to invest in America, then so be it.

It is time to make higher education affordable, to offer students debt relief, and to provide funding for education, and stop blaming honest teachers and educators and for the failures of an underfunded system.

It is time to STOP the racist and discriminatory practice of "Stop and Frisk" and other tactics of racial profiling

It is time for civil rights for ALL, and that means equal rights for LGBT Americans to serve our military and marry whom ever they will

It is time for ACCOUNTABILITY for the men who lied us into war and crashed our economy

It is time for immigration reform that does not punish workers, but provides a clear pathway to citizenship for everyone

It is time for investigations that lead to prosecutions on Wall Street in response to the crimes that have been committed in the last decade.

It is time for a serious discussion about the Federal Reserve and it's role in this economic disaster

It is time for universal health care that everyone can afford. It is time to talk about Single Payer Health Care.

It is time for alternative green energy instead of Oil and Coal.

It is time to protect our civil liberties and our constitution.

It is time for a discussion about free trade and how it has undermined the working class while enriching only the wealthiest among us.

It is time to end corporate personhood.

I'd say Mayor Bloomberg did the movement a favor. Time to move on from tents -- by moving it all on up to the legislative bodies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lies and the Lying Liars

It seems that the GOP Presidential hopefuls are spreading more lies about something President Obama said -- again. For the record, the President did NOT call American workers "lazy." In reality:

But when you examine what Obama said on Saturday -- to business leaders at the APEC summit in Hawaii -- it's pretty clear that his critics are taking him out of context. He wasn't calling Americans lazy; rather, he was callingU.S. business practices to attract foreign investors lazy. In fact, you could interpret his full remarks as a call to arms to improve on that front.

MR. McNERNEY: I think one related question, looking at the world from the Chinese side, is what they would characterize as impediments to investment in the United States. And so that discussion I’m sure will be part of whatever dialogue you have. And so how are you thinking about that?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is an issue, generally. I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity -- our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture.

But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted -- well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America. And so one of things that my administration has done is set up something called SelectUSA that organizes all the government agencies to work with state and local governments where they’re seeking assistance from us, to go out there and make it easier for foreign investors to build a plant in the United States and put outstanding U.S. workers back to work in the United States of America.

Meanwhile, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has been lying about the difference between his healthcare plan enacted for that state and the one enacted by Congress under President Obama -- so says his own former advisor, not mincing words:

He credited Mitt Romney for not totally disavowing the Massachusetts bill during his presidential campaign, but said Romney's attempt to distinguish between Obama's bill and his own is disingenuous.

"The problem is there is no way to say that," Gruber said. "Because they're the same fucking bill. He just can't have his cake and eat it too. Basically, you know, it's the same bill. He can try to draw distinctions and stuff, but he's just lying. The only big difference is he didn't have to pay for his. Because the federal government paid for it. Where at the federal level, we have to pay for it, so we have to raise taxes."

The danger is that lies become memes and they harden into "truthies" in the minds of low or mid-information voters. Hard to battle, but it must be done.

Otherwise you end up on the swiftboat.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy the Holidays

I was hoping to take the kids to see Occupy Wall Street in NYC next week, but that tourist attraction is now undetermined. It turns out the Federal government colluded with over a dozen cities to set the movement of the parks today, most notably NYC where the 12th richest man in America, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, must be cleaning up in advance of the first wave of holiday tourism next week.

The good news is that it isn't working everywhere and, more importantly, the protesters have already changed the national conversation from the GOP deficit talking points. Deficit reduction is for the 1%; taxing the rich is for the 99%.

To top it off, the movement occupied the offices of the owners of NYC's Zuccotti Park tonight in Washington, DC:

The conversation continues.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Clowntime Still Ending

Here's yesterday's GOP frontrunner attempting to recall U.S. foreign policy:

Herman, we hardly knew ye. Good luck on the rest of your book tour.

Just like every two weeks, there's a new GOP frontrunner. I kid you not.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mic Check: Eric Cantor

I have disagreements about interrupting speakers, but if you're going to do it, this is the way, with an exit after you make your point. My God, the #OWS movement is public in a way the same kind of protest action never could be in the past, thanks to the wonder that is YouTube.

So to me, this is all kinds of awesome:

Eric Cantor put the full faith and credit of this nation at risk for his ideological goals and for his billionaire classmasters. As the protesters say, voting against the interests of the people. No one believes the job creator myth anymore, not when guys like Mitt Romney have a raw capitalist history of coming into a company and reaping monstrous profits before downsizing or offshoring it.

We've entered a new Robber Baron age and the economy can't support it. The people don't want the end of capitalism, they just want it to work properly, which ended under Bush. Labor has a different face now, white collar or flannel collar, but it's Labor rising up just as it did a hundred years ago when the rich went too far.

The biggest threat to Capitalism right now is not #OWS or Anonymous, it's Climate Change. That's the phrase Republican communications guru Frank Luntz invented to stave off Global Warming, and it's actually worse for the GOP because it's more accurate. Catastrophic early winter may not be quite as bad as a tsunami or a fracking-caused earthquakes, but it's all part of how our collective appetite for things and comfort is so ravenous and, currently, so critical to the economy, that unregulated Capitalism is essentially riding straight at a series of cliffs, and nobody really knows how far down's the fall.

Earth: Too big to fail?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Redemption through Recovery

The story of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) is about to become as inspiring as possible. She will become a living memorial and reminder of those who did not survive the psycho assassin's bullets that day. She will become a powerful symbol for the Left of resilience and, ultimately, courage in the face of dark, reactionary forces that sometimes scare us out of our convictions.

However, as her mother so correctly notes in the upcoming Diane Sawyer piece with Giffords, her astronaut husband, family, doctors and therapists, she now has a message that rises above, that is larger than politics:

A special person made that much more special by the calamity visited upon her, and by her character as revealed in her recovery from it.

A living symbol and beacon.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Stupid Person

Bye, bye, Rick:

Enjoy all the money you raised.

Oh, and Herman?

You're stupid, too.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Great Day for Sanity

Wow, for an off-year election, Tuesday, November 8, 2011 turned out to be a doozy of a setback for the reactionary GOP forces that swept the elections one year ago. Sanity has prevailed like wildfire:
  • Arizona State Senate President and architect of the absurdly strict immigration law, Republican Russell Pearce, was voted out in a recall election after spending crazy amounts of dough
  • ...and Pittsburgh got referendum approval of a city library-supporting tax (.25/$1000 of property value)
It sure seems like proof that Republican overreach and partisanship has awakened the non-reactionary Americans from their electoral slumber. I'll be interested to see if they guys like Kasich "moderating" their positions or at least pretending to from here to the next election. Is this the beginning of the Obama "comeback?"

Because in non-Election Day news, Obama's healthcare reform just won a big court test (with conservative judges included), and the GOP's "front-runner" is making his own disaster much, much worse. Daily.

Is there a tide turning?

God bless democracy.

God bless these United States of America.

Monday, November 07, 2011


Moneyball is the best kind of throwback movie, one that feels completely new because it's tackling a subject that hasn't been done by a big movie before and it doesn't bobble the ball. It's a 1970's movie in tone, the kind of high end Robert Altman-type picture with long lenses, a quasi-documentary feel, but looking at great, unvarnished performances.

It feels very, very honest, not just for the naturalistic shooting style, but also because it's a true baseball movie, one of the rare true baseball movies, because it isn't about winning. Baseball, as anyone who really knows the game will tell you, is really about losing and how you handle that, how you tackle that, how you come back from that, and how it happens over and over again. No team in baseball is World Champion forever, no manager has a perfect record, and if you're successful only 1/3 of the time you get up to bat, you're the best player in the game most years.

Brad Pitt carried this project, this adaptation of Michael Lewis' book, from when Steven Soderbergh was going to direct it with a Steve Zaillian script to the current version directed by Bennett Miller (building nicely on his debut feature, Capote) with the Aaron Sorkin rewrite, and he was smart to do so. His Billy Beane, the major league draft who turned down a full Stanford scholarship to underperform all expectations as a player and sought redemption moving up the scouting ranks to General Manager of the then-hapless Oakland A's, is a great, driven, relatable movie character. We're with Pitt the whole way, infusing the leading role with character touches, an easy, flawed guy to root for, especially when he picks up Jonah Hill's Peter Brand character, based on a real-life Ivy League Economics Major who taught Beane the Bill James way of looking at evaluating players, capsizing the entire value proposition of the player salary game.

I'm sure this movie will work fine on a big TV with your Pay-Per-View, HBO, Academy Screener, whatever. It's not spectacularly filled with special effects. It doesn't rely on a throbbing soundtrack or familiar pop tune. It's all about character, story, and how we battle big to make good on regrets.

And it's a pleasure to be in a theater with Beane, Brand, Coach Art Howe and rest of the players. It's actually about something.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Global 99%

Noted economist and Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz had this to say about the Occupy Wall Street movement in an article in English language Al Jazeera this weekend:

The protest movement that began in Tunisia in January, subsequently spreading to Egypt and then to Spain, has now become global - with the protests engulfing Wall Street and cities across America. Globalisation and modern technology now enables social movements to transcend borders as rapidly as ideas can.

And social protest has found fertile ground everywhere: A sense that the "system" has failed, and the conviction that even in a democracy, the electoral process will not set things right - at least not without strong pressure from the street.


The rise in inequality is the product of a vicious spiral: The rich rent-seekers use their wealth to shape legislation in order to protect and increase their wealth - and their influence. The US Supreme Court, in its notorious Citizens United decision, has given corporations free rein to use their money to influence the direction of politics. But, while the wealthy can use their money to amplify their views, back on the street, police wouldn't allow me to address the OWS protesters through a megaphone.

The contrast between overregulated democracy and unregulated bankers did not go unnoticed. But the protesters are ingenious: They echoed what I said through the crowd, so that all could hear. And, to avoid interrupting the "dialogue" by clapping, they used forceful hand signals to express their agreement.


The protesters have been criticised for not having an agenda. But this misses the point of protest movements. They are an expression of frustration with the electoral process. They are an alarm.


On one level, today's protesters are asking for little: A chance to use their skills, the right to decent work at decent pay, a fairer economy and society. Their hope is evolutionary, not revolutionary. But, on another level, they are asking for a great deal: A democracy where people, not dollars, matter, and a market economy that delivers on what it is supposed to do.

The two are related: As we have seen, unfettered markets lead to economic and political crises. Markets work the way they should only when they operate within a framework of appropriate government regulations; and that framework can be erected only in a democracy that reflects the general interest - not the interests of the 1%. The best government that money can buy is no longer good enough.

Amen, brother. And how about Stephen King in Florida a few months back:

#OWS is about speaking truth to power. If markets are not regulated properly, if the disparity between rich and everybody else gets too great, if the wealthy seek only to protect their own capital and bleed the rest of us, we know historically that empires fall and revolutions arise. For example, the American Revolution.

So, leaving aside a noble sense of civics: will greed or self-preservation win out?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Tucking in for a Long Winter

Here's how much I love the young activists at the core of making Occupy Wall Street work:

I know there was violence in Oakland (subsequent to earlier police violence). My instinct is that the troublemakers are government or rightwing plants. We've seen as much before, going back to the 1960's in the U.S. and the 1930's in Germany.

In any case, it doesn't discredit the entire movement, it's goals or general innovations in democracy. And with guys like this one inventing their winter power source, I feel a glimmer of hope for this country politically down the line.

Most of all, I'm excited to see where this particular protest goes.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Brutal Coming Attractions

Nice to see the Dems already hitting hard:

No use being namby-pamby anymore not after your leader has been called both Hitler and Mao as well as African, and lies spread like memes that he somehow hates America, apologizes for America or has made us weaker internationally.

No use waiting too late to brand the likely opponent after watching John Kerry take the high road to getting Swiftboated.

This is likely to be a brutal campaign...and you don't bring a knife to a gunfight.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Clowntime is (not quite) Over

Herman Cain is executing a business plan, not running for President. Per Jonathan Chait:

The plan involves Cain raising his profile as a conservative personality, which he can monetize through motivational speaking, book sales, talk shows, and other media. Cain’s selling point is that he’s a black conservative who can capitalize on the sense of white racial victimization that has mushroomed during the Obama era. Accordingly, Cain assures conservatives that they are not racist, as proven by their support for him. Indeed, it is the liberals who are racist, as evidenced by their opposition to Cain.

If Cain were campaigning to be president, the scandal would hurt him. Since he is instead campaigning to boost his profile, it will help him.

Cain is exploiting a loophole which allows a person to declare their candidacy for president, and then attract free media coverage and participate in nationally televised debates simply because the media can’t prove that they’re not really trying to win.

And thus Herman Cain enters that special class of Republican, the Grifter class. He's out there in full-throated competition with Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich and the rest competing for the Conservative dollar. And more power to him. Since, barring major catastrophe, the GOP are going to lose the 2012 Presidential Election to President Barack Hussein Obama, why not let the reality TV show run its course.

Just how clownish is Herman Cain? Here's a video covering the life, so far, of his sexual harassment scandal, which I agree will not harm him even if it hasn't ended yet:

As Elvis Costello once sang,
Clowntime is over
Time to take cover
While others just talk and talk
Somebody's watching where the others don't walk
Clowntime is over
Whatever that means, it seems to make particular sense for Mr. Cain...and perhaps the rest of his GOP Presidential wannabes.