Thursday, March 31, 2011

Larry Wilmore Kills It in DC

Long overdue recognition for stand-up, writer and senior black correspondent Larry Wilmore who is very, very funny at Wednesday night's Congressional Correspondents' Dinner. Love the Obama jokes he justifies by saying, "He's not here, right?" and the Martin Luther King joke:



Funny, funny on race, taboo stuff for the room. Another triumph for the Jon Stewart political comedy brand, like when Stephen Colbert jet-fueled his career at the White House Press Correspondents' Dinner.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Best Season Ever

American Idol has never had this level of talent this early in the game, and no obvious frontrunner this late. The drama last week, which Michael Slezak masterfully shows in his smart, genius-ly edited week 4-part video report on TV Line, with the judges save of early fave Casey Abrams after three weeks of grow-ly performances and now all 11 contestants going on tour rather than the traditional 10, is only heightened this week when two singers will be eliminated.

Tonight's performances of Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs were, as a whole, more consistently good than any other season. In other years actually singing ability started to fall off, weaknesses revealed that weren't brought out by the audition process, only now on the big, live TV stage. This year it's mainly about preference, who you find more or less boring. However, I found that this night actually crystallized some things for me.

The best singers, most interesting, most imaginable as recording artists after the show, are, in the order that I think they'll finish:

1. Pia Toscana: Young, gorgeous Howard Beach woman with arguably the best instrument of all the singers, real conviction and wow moments while still seeming so humble, radio-ready version of Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me tonight. At the moment, the one to beat, especially if she comes back and rocks convincingly, brings Howard Beach soul to River Deep Mountain High as she promises for next week.

2. Scott McCreery: Solid country skills, showing growth this week nailing Elton in a pure country vein. However this turns out, he will have a career.

3. James Durban: Brings the rock and roll sorely asking everywhere else but needs to do another controlled performance after two fun but not 100% consistent performances. But I think he's a top three, if there's any justice, and if he can show some real growth over the next two weeks, he could set himself on a trajectory to win it all.

4. Casey Abrams: Finally got musical again this week, and had my second favorite performance on Your Song. Casey can change it up more than anybody else without bending the songs out of recognition, and tonight he dug so deep post-save to show it was justified. And that last note was, per Randy, a Major Ninth. Could usurp James' position in the top three -- a month and a half from now.

5. Haley Reinhart: Best performance of the night, and a new classic version of Bennie and the Jets that bears rewatching more than any of the others tonight:



She could be the Lauren Alaina smoter, a nice girl who may have a country career in her future, but is not the second coming of Carrie Underwood. I'm sure the producers want to keep her around as long as possible for the country audience, maybe even scoring a top three position for herself, but I don't see the depth. She has a huskiness that makes her and Haley somewhat duplicates, especially as the weeks weave on. Top six and then duplicate elimination round.

Haley is the wild card. Can she keep growing, bringing her tone, moves and style without falling into Broadway? Could she be a top three or even win? I don't see that yet, but I like the Chicago vibe and the bluesiness. If she gets the chance to do a Janis Joplin song that hasn't been overdone or done better (i.e. by Crystal Bowersox last year) and makes an all-time great idol version of it, she could set a killer trajectory. She commits more than Lauren, but the smokiness can sometimes get overpowering.

Tonight it worked.

Tomorrow night, results night, is all about justice. While they are all good, the rest are cannon fodder. Thia (great voice with an interesting, almost adult character, but ultimately too young for the show, missing some essential life experience), Stefano (charming and talented but ultimately Vegas), Jacob (talented, remarkable instrument and energy, missing some depth), Paul (interesting voice but now the weakest singer remaining) and, finally, Naima, whom I love the best of this bunch and better than some of the others, but who needs an Idol Moment and has not had one yet. I'm hoping she survives at least a couple more weeks to see.

So if you're an Idol hater you probably haven't read this far, but if you've ever been a fan, now's the time to tune in again. So much of the goodness has to do with the new judge line-up as well, with Jennifer Lopez making a real name for herself anchoring the panel from the middle. You'd have expected Randy, moved over the top the far right Simon Cowell position, but while he's brought a little of the veteran harshness, it's Lopez who really feels for the singers and gives them the consistently smart, useful, professional feedback.

Steven Tyler was better in the audition rounds when he was more honest and willing to cut, now he's Mr. Affirmation, the old Paula role, with some crazy sayings that are either funny-brilliant or funny-Paula crazy. Occasionally he says something positive but professionally helpful, but I think everyone would like to see him step up his game.

Change is good. Interesting real people recently discovered and playing out their future week-by-week on the national stage of the highest rated show on U.S. television, and all the social media being generated and swirling around it.

And Ryan Seacrest, the other survivor of all 10 seasons including the Producer, cements his dominance as the best host-repreneur in the business since his idol, Dick Clark.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fox News Exec Started a Big Lie

During the 2008 presidential campaign one Fox News executive repeatedly tried to smear Barack Obama with charges of "socialism."

Liberal watchdog group Media Matters has uncovered audio that indicates Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon was just engaging in what he called "mischievous speculation."

In 2009, Sammon told an audience aboard Mediterranean cruise sponsored by a right-wing college that his 2008 attempt to link Obama to socialism was "a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched."

"Last year, candidate Barack Obama stood on a sidewalk in Toledo, Ohio, and first let it slip to Joe the Plumber that he wanted to quote, 'spread the wealth around,'" Sammon said. "At that time, I have to admit, that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched."

During the 2008 campaign, the then-Washington deputy managing editor repeatedly suggested that Obama had socialist tendencies.


The lie is admitted and do you think for a second he'll be fired?

As would happen (oh the Conservative outcry) were the situation reversed and he was on NPR?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Family + Wrestling

Win Win is a one of those movies you can overpraise too easily. It'll probably play great on Netflix, shot fine but not memorably, a deft suburban comedy with issues of real pain but ultimate faith in family and community, even if you're taking your lumps. Just a very solid and engaging character-driven story in the best sense -- never character-wallowing, but thankfully about recognizable people, and inhabited by a very, very fine cast of mainly New York actors.

Paul Giamatti, one of the greatest character actor leading men of all time (I mean, American Splendor and John Adams?), is just so naturally empathetic, even when he's making a questionable decision. Amy Ryan is great as his wife and they're great together, his friends Bobby Carnavale and Jeffrey Tambor are hilarious, and as the alternate family, Melanie Lynsky (starred and started in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures with Kate Winslet) is by turns infuriating and moving, the legendary Burt Young is the grandfather with early dementia, and the new kid, the wrestling prodigy, Alex Shaffer, has big, big future ahead of himself.

Director Tom McCarthy made The Visitor and The Station Agent before this (neither of which, I'm ashamed to say, have I seen through yet) while acting in things like The Wire and Little Fockers. He's clearly carving out a very nice spot for himself as a solid storyteller that great actors want to work with, and he gives them plenty of time to rehearse. A less juiced version of the Woody Allen model? Good for him, what a relief from all the superhero movie trailers and 3D kids animated movies. And anything with a thin young waif-warrior throwing a punch and knocking out a 250 lb guy. One with 1000 movies, sure. Not 100.

If you believe stories are being moral tales, tilted reflections that in some way inform how we live our lives, teach us certain choices, and you want to laugh a little and be moved a little, this is a flick for you. You'll think about it afterwards, about Kyle and how he handles himself. About what the grandpa wants and how important that is.



About paying someone to fix that water heater.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The War We Can Win?

Is Obama following that old dictum that a new(ish) President should pick a small war he can win? Even the rightly skeptical Andrew Sullivan is starting to admit that Obama (or Obama-Clinton-Powers-Rice) may have made the right choices regarding military intervention in Libya. The latest:
American and European bombs battered Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s most important bastion of support in his tribal homeland of Surt on Sunday night, as rebels seeking his ouster capitalized on the damage from the Western airstrikes to erase their recent losses and return to the city’s doorstep.

Their swift return, recapturing two important oil refineries and a strategic port within 20 hours, set the stage for a battle in Surt that both sides say could help decide the war for Libya.

There were unconfirmed reports early Monday that rebel forces had entered Surt and routed pro-Qaddafi defenders, but there was no corroboration. Even so, rebels in Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi, reacted by running into the streets and firing weapons into the air to celebrate.


The difference between this and the Bush version of Middle East war is that we are very deliberately taking a supporting role (i.e. getting NATO to take command), while surely involved diplomatically behind the scenes.

And if we should be so fortunate that the Administration successfully unseats Qaddafi, I expect the rhetoric that ensues from Fox News and GOP meat puppets will be quite the spectacle.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Good Woman

Liz Taylor, RIP. She proved that she walked the walk, from early gay friends (McDowell, Clift) to her unmatched contribution to AIDS awareness back in the dark days of the 1980's.

And her friends remember her for it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hilarious

I can't say that I'm 100% aboard the Libya action, but I'm willing to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt. However, for Republicans, even when he follows their prescription for creating the No-Fly Zone, they're never happy with him!

Thankfully, Salon has a useful flowchart of GOP response to our President.

The Mitt Romney dig may be the best.

Thank the Good Lord

My role model will return:

AMC, Lionsgate Close To Deal With Matt Weiner For 'Mad Men'

The negotiations, I believe for the final two seasons (leaving us where, say, with Nixon getting elected in 1968? New Year's Eve 1969/1970?), took a long time, so we probably won't see new episodes until into the Fall at the the earliest. It'd be interesting to see Don Draper competing head-to-head with all the fall big network shows, as it's always been the summer up until now.

But he's back. The only bummer is that it'll be more than 39 weeks since we last saw a new episode -- closer to 52.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Caught

Nic Robertson, correspondent for CNN in Libya, tears into the Fox News lies of the week:



Glad to see him standing up. It's barely news now that Fox News lies (while the Fox Network has some great shows) except to the rubes who follow it and let it form and/or reinforce their fallacious opinions.

Except they never seem to get that news.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Change

We're witnessing huge tectonic shifts right now, changes that one needs to step back to realize are bigger than the November election, bigger than we've had in awhile. Not only is our entire communications system in the process of becoming a subset of social media, but the Middle East and North Africa are shifting politically as has not been seen for many decades. Even Syria is having serious protests. And Qaddafi's compound was just hit, it appear by one or more cruise missiles.

AT&T just announced that they are buying T-Mobile, which will make them the largest carrier in the U.S. -- and give us one less choice of carrier, albeit the smallest of the majors. The clear upside to people like me who own AT&T iPhones will be better coverage, assuming that's the reason for the acquisition.

Meanwhile, President Obama is wisely opening up business channels on a major trip to Brazil, a potential winner of the 21st Century, and the earthquake/tsunami death toll is mounting (18,000 and counting).

Welcome to interesting times.

May they not be a curse for you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The New War

So the U.N. okayed going after that ruthless megalomaniac klepto-fascist psychopath, Qaddafi, and that means the U.S. is entering it's third war at once (or second, if you think 50k troops in Iraq is strictly advisers, no longer war). The most interesting discussion of this has been on Andrew Sullivan's blog, with Andrew taking his mea culpa for supporting the Iraq sell-in to war while airing plenty of dissents, as he does so well and daily on his blog:

You should be applauding the way Barack Obama is handling the Libya situation. It is realpolitik in a most self-aware, calculating, interest-driven, human rights driven, cold-blooded form. It's something you claim to want in our foreign policy.

The US is not leading this, and probably won't, ever. That is why Barack Obama is not making a public drive for support. In fact, we were moved toward a no-fly zone by Arab countries largely, and Europe, decisively. When was the last time that happened? Ask yourself why Obama is acting this way.


Evidently both Clintons wanted this action, likening it more to that Administration's success in Bosnia, particularly getting NATO to take their part, than invading with mainly American troops. But Obama may have done the Clinton's one better:
But notice that unlike Clinton in the case of Bosnia, and unlike Bush in the case of Iraq II, Obama has managed to get something his predecessors could not: UN support for what could be a major multilateral intervention led by states other than the U.S. Doesn't this remind you in some ways of how he handled healthcare, and succeeded where his predecessors had failed, to do something of real significance through patience, reserve, and a commitment to process?

And then there is, interestingly enough, an important ally in Egypt:

Egypt has an open border with the rebel-controlled east of Libya, and just one brigade of the Egyptian army would be enough to stop Gaddafi’s ground forces in their tracks. The Egyptian air force could easily shoot down any of Gaddafi’s aircraft that dared to take off, especially if it had early warning from European or American AWACS aircraft. The Egyptian army would probably not need to go all the way to Tripoli, although it could easily do so if necessary. Just the fact of Egyptian military intervention would probably convince most of the Libyan troops still supporting Gaddafi that it is time to change sides.


This is the first war President Obama has chosen that wasn't a remnant of previous Presidents. To me it's where we'll see his true Commander-in-Chief character, as even Afghanistan, for all the talk of him now owning it, was essentially a mulligan from the Bush Administration's failure to capitalize on their initial success, due to their pathological and Oedipal focus on Iraq.

I don't know if Sullivan's fighting the last war (a common error) and I don't want the U.S. in another long slog either, but I really want to see Qaddafi at The Hague, if not hung by rope or meathook first. Bad is bad, and he's essentially paying a mercenary army to do his dirty work -- yours and my gasoline credit card purchases paying for the leveling of villages controlled by the rebels. So I like the idea of making Libya's neighbors do the policing.

With weapons they bought from us.

Hee-yah!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nightmare in Bahrain

It's bad -- the monarchy taking a citizens revolt and reframing it as sectarian violence, bringing in Saudi troops and indiscriminately killing average people.

The following video contains cold-blooded murder by the faceless soldiers of a guy in a polo shirt. You've been WARNED.



There's even worse video out there. These fascists in Libya and Bahrain seem to be winning now. Bad news, so sorry for their people, but at least this time, thanks so mobile and social, evidence of the rulers' crimes are documented and disseminated immediately, globally.

It's going to be a huge moral issue -- by all rights should become a traffic jam at The Hague.

Which Means It Did



Headline in the NY Times tonight:
Japan Says 2nd Reactor May Have Ruptured With Radioactive Release
D'you think?

The vessel had appeared to be the last fully intact line of defense against large-scale releases of radioactive materials from that reactor, but it was not clear how serious the possible breach might be.

The announcement came after Japanese broadcasters showed live footage of thick plumes of steam rising above the plant.

We're making toxic radiation holes in the Earth. Are we living in The Simpsons?

Only fifty committed workers are bravely standing between us and total nuclear meltdown:

They crawl through labyrinths of equipment in utter darkness pierced only by their flashlights, listening for periodic explosions as hydrogen gas escaping from crippled reactors ignites on contact with air.

They breathe through uncomfortable respirators or carry heavy oxygen tanks on their backs. They wear white, full-body jumpsuits with snug-fitting hoods that provide scant protection from the invisible radiation sleeting through their bodies.

They are the faceless 50, the unnamed operators who stayed behind. They have volunteered, or been assigned, to pump seawater on dangerously exposed nuclear fuel, already thought to be partly melting and spewing radioactive material, to prevent full meltdowns that could throw thousands of tons of radioactive dust high into the air and imperil millions of their compatriots.

If that's not insanity, that's courage.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meltdown Approaching

On another day it would make sense to write about the the economic injustice in Michigan, where newly elected Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has given his corporate buddies an 86% tax cut and is making it up with, I kid you not, a 31% middle class tax hike. You know, class warfare.

Or maybe I'd write about newly elected Gov. Scott Walker (R) being heckled by large crowds everywhere he goes in Wisconsin. Or about newly elected Gov. John Kasich (R) in Ohio whose approval ratings are now completely upside down. Get ready for another seesaw election in 2012.

I wanted to write about the wussy National Rifle Association, who's Chief Executive, Wayne LaPierre, declined to meet with President Obama to discuss a sensible approach to gun control. He's probably a birther.

Then there's the news that the king of all LSD makers, Owsley Stanley, just died in an auto accident in Australia. Flashback while driving, perhaps?

But all that news is dwarfed by the nightmare of multiple nuclear reactor failure in Japan, radiation leaks, plant evacuations and impending meltdown:
Japan faced the likelihood of a catastrophic nuclear accident Tuesday morning, as an explosion at the most crippled of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station damaged its crucial steel containment structure, emergency workers were withdrawn from the plant, and a fire at a fourth reactor spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air, according to official statements and industry executives informed about the developments.

...

They initially suggested that the damage was limited and that emergency operations aimed at cooling the nuclear fuel at three stricken reactors with seawater would continue. But industry executives said that in fact the situation had spiraled out of control and that all plant workers needed to leave the plant to avoid excessive exposure to radioactive leaks.

If all workers do in fact leave the plant, the nuclear fuel in all three reactors is likely to melt down, which would lead to wholesale releases of radioactive material — by far the largest accident of its kind since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.

...

“It’s way past Three Mile Island already,” said Frank von Hippel, a physicist and professor at Princeton. “The biggest risk now is that the core really melts down and you have a steam explosion.”


And expect that radiation to travel - around the world...to us:

We’re all exposed to a certain amount of radioactivity from natural background sources. Americans old enough to have lived during the era of atmospheric nuclear tests have some amount of radioactive residue from those tests. Today, tiny amounts of radioactivity from Chinese nuclear tests can still travel to the US on the wind.

“The question is not can it reach us. The question is, in what concentration,” says Daniel Hirsch, a lecturer in nuclear policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a nonprofit that works to expose what it says are the dangers of nuclear power.

Prevailing winds in Japan blow west to east, notes Mr. Hirsch. Radioactive materials released by the current crisis would take about four days to reach Alaska and another day or so to reach the continental US.

Prayers welcome.

Pure Power

Tell me if you felt the same -- my first feeling after the earthquake in Japan was that this isn't Haiti, they've had Kobe and have since made earthquake preparedness a national pastime.

Then the tsunami came. Wall of dirty salt water picking up everything in its path, cars, people, buildings. Like here.

And now the death toll soars as the nuclear reactors start blowing up and the radiation is released.

Not to get political, but the taxpayers are on the hook for the reactors -- not the insurance companies.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Remembrance

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) remember a selfless American hero at demagogue Rep. Peter King's (R-NY) unAmerican activities hearing:



Self-styled anti-terrorism crusader Peter King has been a terrorism supporter himself in the past -- he fully supported the IRA and denied they killed civilians.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

End Run in Madison

So Gov. Scott Walker got his GOP legislature to break apart the union-busting bill in order to pass the union-busting part of it:
With all 14 Democrats absent, having fled the state weeks ago in order to block the three-fifths budget quorum, the bill passed by an 18-1 margin, with only moderate Republican Dale Schultz voting no.

Per state Democratic party chairman Mike Tate:
"Using tactics that trample on the traditions of our Legislature, the Republican leadership has betrayed our state. Republicans have rubber-stamped the desire of the Koch Brothers and their godshead Scott Walker to cripple Wisconsin's middle class and lower benefits and wages for every single wage-earner in our state. The vote does nothing to create jobs, does nothing to strengthen our state, and shows finally and utterly that this never was about anything but raw political power. We now put our total focus on recalling the eligible Republican senators who voted for this heinous bill. And we also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall."
This is going to be interesting, especially as Chief Justice John Roberts led the Supreme Court to the Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates to Koch Family cash for this past election and for the recall elections ahead. All their money and astroturfing against people like those who have re-taken the Wisconsin Capitol building:

After the State Senate republicans' unprecedented move earlier tonight, the Capitol was closed and all the doors locked, keeping out the thousands of protestors outside. Just now, protestors inside opened the door on the State Street side of the building to allow in those outside. State troopers ran to hold the doors but could not stop the flow of the crowd and soon gave up, allowing all the doors on that side to be opened.

The legislation itself is a rightwing Christmas tree, giving the Governor the power to fire and workers for striking, and giving the legislature the power to disqualify citizens from medical benefits, and more. But will the legislative trick hold up in court? Per a TPM reader:
It's not just the budget bill needs a quorum -- the big issue is that *any* bill with fiscal implications is supposed to have a quorum in the Wisconsin state Senate. So there are two choices here:

1. Collective bargaining has fiscal implications, and so the bill will be blocked in the courts and ruled unconstitutional.

2. Collective bargaining DOES NOT have direct fiscal implications, and Gov. Walker has been lying this entire time by making the case that it's fiscally necessary.

So either the state R's just passed an illegal bill, or Walker has been lying this entire time and really is just interested in union-busting.

I go with both.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Michigan, Too

The new Republican Governor demanding autocratic rule:
The governor of Michigan is trying to force through the legislature a bill that would establish emergency rule, LITERALLY. Gov. Snyder is seeking emergency powers that would enable him to 1) unilaterally declare a "financial emergency", 2) disincorporate entire municipal governments, 3) dismiss elected officials with no replacement election to follow, 4) seize control of local civil services, 5) hand taxpayer money, services and POWERS to private, for-profit firms.
And more of the same in Florida, with even Gov. Rick Scott's Republican comrades railing against him...for canceling much-needed high-speed rail:

“The governor doesn’t understand there is a State Constitution and that we have three branches of government,” said State Senator Mike Fasano, a Republican from New Port Richey who upset Mr. Scott with rough handling of his staff during a testy committee hearing. “They are talking about the attitude that he is still the C.E.O. of his former health care corporation, and that is not going to work in this state, in Tallahassee, in my district. The people believe in three branches of government.”

Republican lawmakers in Florida were hoping for a smoother transition. Instead, they say, they got top-down management from a political novice.

Oh, and Scott wannabe Nixon is lying again.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Moore in Madison

Michael Moore makes sense of the situation once again:

America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you'll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It's just that it's not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer "bailout" of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can't bring yourself to call that a financial coup d'├ętat, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

Once again the question must be asked: Why have no bankers gone to jail?

So instead of taxing the plutocratic 400, we impoverish those who teach our children every day?

America needs to get its head screw on straight again.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

2012: The GOP Field

I'm not sure any potential 2012 GOP Presidential candidates want it as much as Obama did and does. Part of the problem for them is that he looks like he's flipped around the midterm crash, all while his favorability ratings never dipped all that much, pretty decent historically for the first few years of a new Presidency. The other part of the problem — and I think this is the backbone of his enduring electoral strength — is that he seems to be President for all the right reasons: he he's in government to help people and thinks he has the best ideas and leadership to do that. He's pragmatic centrist (to much so for some in areas like rendition and compromise) with a conservatively-paced progressive policy leaning.

Compared to Obama, which of those potential GOP challengers has as pure motives for wanting the job? Newt has always been in it for fame and money, Palin's insatiable ego makes his look quaint, Huckabee is kind of the ultimate celebrutate (Jon Stewart coinage last night) since he's really solid on TV but getting fat again and way too comfortable. Daniels is interesting and may know compromise but he's not got the Obama level of fire. Romney? I think his drive is as Oedipal as W.'s was; I get the sense he's running because his dad couldn't get the GOP nomination forty-three years ago. If he's pandering so much now, what makes him think he won't be as President? Boss as lackey.

Really, the Fox candidates seem to disqualify themselves by taking the Fox money in the first place. It's like, they made their choice, and public service wasn't it.

Ron Paul is pure, if he runs again, which he probably won't be. (Rand would not be pure -- Oedipus again, expect to see it in six years, when everyone and their cousin will be taking a shot — your Bob McDonnell, maybe John Thune and maybe Scott Walker.) Does anyone think Haley Barbour will be a harder worker as Obama? Will Rick Santorum run as a way to gin up profile and future revenues from his one-note candidacy? Who is Tim Pawlenty?

I'm thinking it's the perfect opening for Jeb Bush to run and lose honorably. Get that monkey off his back.

Because if employment continues to inch back and Libyan oil shortages don't kill the recovery, it's going to be even more placeholder than Bob Dole vs. Bill Clinton in 1996. And they all know it. I don't see one of them who really, deep down, thinks he can beat Obama, with the potential exception of Mitt, who must believe it enough to be doing his backflips over his Massachusetts health plan.

The only potentially interesting candidate is former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, whom Obama appointed as Ambassador to China, a job he just resigned to run. Smart guy, not (as far as can tell) an ideologue. May be running for the right reasons, although I expect it'll mainly serve to give him the experience to run again and win both nomination and Presidency in 2016. If he gets the nomination next year (yes, it's that soon) and loses, he's toast for 2016. If he loses at the VP candidate, he's still good. And there's always the chance he could come from out of nowhere, establish a positive national image out of the gate and (with help from a faltering economy) win over Obama. As an unknown, he already has the best shot of the bunch.

I don't even think Palin still believes she can beat him. You can see it in her eyes, she's spooked these days. So I do hope she goes for it.

It'd be an awesome couple of months.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Midwest Psycho Update

Wisconsin continues to spiral thanks to Gov. Scott Walker's disingenuous intransigence on his self-proclaimed collective bargaining "bomb." Now the GOP legislators have taken to (a) fining the Dems $100/day each for staying out of state due to lack of compromise, and (b) trying to make prank phone calls illegal, as in the one that exposed Walker's cynical strategy of lies.

The good news is that Walker and his Koch-led actions have engendered a huge backlash, now translating into citizen-initiated recall efforts, today backed by the state's Democratic Party. This begins by targeting those Republican State Senators who are eligible for recall, having served for more than a year. Will any flinch? Does any one of them want to be spending future campaign cash, time, energy and mental effort of beating back a recall? And possibly losing?

While propaganda outlet Fox News appears to be intentionally using unrelated footage in their lies characterizing the protests, ads and videos in support of the protesters are hitting the airways. Here's a Web version:



Gov. John Kasich and his fellow GOP legislature in Ohio is similarly voting to gut union rights:

The GOP-backed measure that would restrict the collective bargaining rights of roughly 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees squeaked through the state Senate on a 17-16 vote. Six Republicans sided with Democrats against the measure.

Firefighters and teachers shouted "Shame!" in the chamber as the legislation was approved and moved on to the GOP-controlled House, where it is likely to receive strong support.

The bill is similar to the Republican-supported collective bargaining bill in the Wisconsin legislature that has sparked national debate in its weakening of public employees' ability to negotiate contracts – although there are differences between the two. Wisconsin's bill exempts police and firefighters from the collective bargaining restrictions, while Ohio's does not.

It turns out it took Republican committee leadership trickery to bring the bill to the legislature floor:

Pushing the bill through the Senate has been tough for supporters of the plan, with the Republican leader of the state Senate removing two Republicans opposed to the measure to get the bill to the Senate floor today.

Those two Republicans, Sens. Bill Seitz and Scott Oelslager, voted no. So did four of their GOP colleagues: Sens. Jim Hughes, Tim Grendell, Tom Patton and Gayle Manning. All 10 of the 33-member state Senate's Democrats also voted no.

Now the bill moves to the House, where Republicans have a 59-40 advantage.

And guess what -- the bill isn't really just about balancing the state's budget. There's a whole lot more ideology embedded in this travesty as well:

In Ohio's legislation to curtail public sector union collective bargaining rights - just passed by the Senate - the following passage exists:

Sec. 3101.01 of S.B. 5: ... A marriage may only be entered into by one man and one woman. Any marriage between persons of the same sex is against the strong public policy of this state. Any marriage between persons of the same sex shall have no legal force or effect in this state and, if attempted to be entered into in this state, is void ab initio and shall not be recognized by this state. The recognition or extension by the state of the specific statutory benefits of a legal marriage to non-marital relationships between persons of the same sex or different sexes is against the strong public policy of this state. Any public act, record or judicial proceeding of this state, as defined in section 9.82 of the Revised Code, that extends the specific statutory benefits of legal marriage to non-marital relationships between persons of the same sex or different sexes is void.

So a blanket and total ban on any form of legal protections for gay couples, including any semblance of even domestic partnerships or civil unions, is, as one Republican put it, the "first big step in restoring fiscal responsibility in Ohio." And so the Tea Party slowly reveals itself.

I'm wondering if the GOP braintrust is ready for all the lawsuits their legislation and means of passing it are about to trigger.

Keep 'em tied up in court, I say.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

No Matrix This Year

Is it wrong to brag about one of our guys, a nuclear physicist and Democratic Congressperson from New Jersey, Rep. Rush Holt, is not only smarter than a fifth grader, not only smarter than Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings, he's smarter than an IBM supercomputer named Watson:

Holt — who was a five-time Jeopardy! winner more than 30 years ago and joked midday that Watson was “just a little Atari” when he made his game-show splash – tweeted almost an hour ago about the experience: “I played a full round against @IBMWatson tonight and was proud to hold my own: the final tally was Holt $8,600, Watson $6,200.”

Rep. Rush Holt: keeping us safe from HAL.



(Interestingly enough, the three letters preceding each of I, B, M.)