Thursday, March 29, 2012

Elise 2012 = Haley 2011

Last night on American Idol, a rock star was born. If you haven't been following, meet 20-year-old Elise Testone originally of Kinnelon, New Jersey:

She's twelve years older than the youngest female contestant and not only has a woman not won for the past five years straight, the oldest woman to win was Carrie Underwood at a mere 22-years-old. What chance does Elise have against all the young and old female votes for the male cuties?

On the other hand, like Haley Reinhart, Elise could win by losing. She builds the core fan base that's all the more adamant due to any injustice in the voting and gets the make the record she wants. Like Haley, she does so many interesting things with her voice, makes great choices, and records just as well as she performs live. Like Haley, she's got the blues in her and a rock & roll heart.

Because I'd be hella surprised if people aren't paying to see her sing within the next 24 months.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Full of Mitt

Why are Romney's numbers tanking against Obama?

Could it be his plan (now on hold) to put a car elevator (I kid you not) in his new mansion?

Could it be his pretzel logic on Leno regarding what he'd replace the Affordable Care Act with, seemingly come up with in the moment, making little to no sense?

Or maybe it's his increasingly off-putting "sense of humor":

At the outset of the call, Romney said he has some connections to Wisconsin.

“One of most humorous I think relates to my father. You may remember my father, George Romney, was president of an automobile company called American Motors … They had a factory in Michigan, and they had a factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and another one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” said Romney. “And as the president of the company he decided to close the factory in Michigan and move all the production to Wisconsin. Now later he decided to run for governor of Michigan and so you can imagine that having closed the factory and moved all the production to Wisconsin was a very sensitive issue to him, for his campaign.”

Romney said he recalled a parade in which the school band marching with his father’s campaign only knew the Wisconsin fight song, not the Michigan song.

“So every time they would start playing ‘On Wisconsin, on Wisconsin,’ my dad’s political people would jump up and down and try to get them to stop, because they didn’t want people in Michigan to be reminded that my dad had moved production to Wisconsin,” said Romney, laughing.

Ho, ho, ho!

Yes, it's the perfect time for Willard to lock up the nomination.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Botched Operation?

Did the U.S. Attorney for the Affordable Care Act blow it on the mandate today with the Supremes?

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. should be grateful to the Supreme Court for refusing to allow cameras in the courtroom, because his defense of Obamacare on Tuesday may go down as one of the most spectacular flameouts in the history of the court.

Stepping up to the podium, Verrilli stammered as he began his argument. He coughed, he cleared his throat, he took a drink of water. And that was before he even finished the first part of his argument. Sounding less like a world-class lawyer and more like a teenager giving an oral presentation for the first time, Verrilli delivered a rambling, apprehensive legal defense of liberalism's biggest domestic accomplishment since the 1960s—and one that may well have doubled as its eulogy.

Justice Elena Kagan wouldn't have screwed it up when she had the job.

So if America gets rolled back on health insurance reform, it''ll be partially due to Verrilli's poor preparation, and will be seen as such. But people need to see the big picture, that Republicans are causing a moral crisis in America, per Katrina vanden Heuvel:

It’s hard to point to a single priority of the Republican Party these days that isn’t steeped in moral failing while being dressed up in moral righteousness. This week, for example, they are hoping the Supreme Court will be persuaded by radical (and ridiculous) constitutional arguments to throw out some or all of the Affordable Care Act. Sure, you could argue that it’s really nice to make sure 31 million people who didn’t have health care can get it. Sure you could make the case that lifetime limits are a bad thing, that women shouldn’t have to pay more for health insurance just because they’re women, that the United States shouldn’t be a country where you die because you lost your coverage when you lost your job. But then again, liberty. Let’s not forget liberty. Also, freedom.

It is a very strange thing that the people who lecture most fervently about morality are those who are most willing to fight for policies that are so immoral. They watch Wall Street turn itself into the Las Vegas strip, take the economy down and destroy people’s lives and livelihoods. To that they say, “By God we need less regulation. Get me the hose, I have things to water down!” They see a CEO of a bank or a corporation, someone who passed off all of the risk and took on all of the reward, and they say, “Get that man a bigger bonus! In fact, get him two!”

The Supreme Court will issue their ruling in a few months, likely in June. Should they declare the mandate Unconstitutional but allow severability, a problem as it was not written as such in the entire 2000 page bill, then the bill may survive while insurance companies go mental.

Should their ruling kill the bill entirely, rolling back rights and programs already in place, then will that demoralize the Democrats...or give them the fire they need to not only hold the Presidency and Senate, but also flip back the House?

Monday, March 26, 2012

GoT Recap

This is the perfect way to prepare for the second season of Game of Thrones:

Melisandre. Weasel Stew. Wildfire. The Ironborn.

We're in for a ten-week long treat.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mad Zeitgeist

From Chris Matthews' show:

As for tonight's unprecedented two-hour season opener, after an extra year away, I found it promising. I had expected 1966, given the amount of time off, and any further you're in the most amazing year, 1967, Summer of Love, the moment before the fall.

Best line of the night was Roger's wife. He says, "Why don't you sing like that?" and she replies, "Why don't you look like him?"

Yet again on Mad Men, like in Citizen Kane, nobody gets what they really want.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vienna Waits for You

An extraordinary week on American Idol - the theme was The Billy Joel Songbook, and it didn't end up feeling dated. Several contestants really made the songs their own, including my three top favorites.

Elise Testone is the oldest contestant -- 28 -- and easily the most sophisticated. She's my favorite for her bluesy rasp, her unbelievable musicality, her range and passion, and her tremendous sense of rhythm. And watch/listen how beautifully she works her voice with the piano -- seamless, touch of swing -- to make the best-ever version of "Vienna":

Phillips Phillips is just so his own, excellent man. At age 19 his voice sounds eight to twelve years older, but his energy and edge is for real. His radical re-making of "Movin' Out" is the coolest this song has ever, ever been:

At age 16, Jessica Sanchez is a phenom. Yes, she has crazy range, (clearly) great training and God-given vocal chords, but she also has a surprising bluesy/urban strain in her and it belies her age. She's clearly the most marketable of the three, ready to be a young fashion icon as well as a musical one. Will the pop world accept a young Filipino-Mexican American in the footsteps of Celine and Whitney? She does wonders with "Everybody Has a Dream"?

Sorry, haters. It's an incredibly gifted cast of contestants this year, #11. And any of the Top Ten Finalists this year would have knocked out all but winner Kelly Clarkson in Season 1. Justin Guarini would have been lucky to be #8. And it's a tribute to the show that they can have a performer as individual as Phil or Elise on the show, making it so their own.

Yes, some real, serious talent.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bullshit Candidate

If there was ever any -- any -- remaining doubt that Mitt Romney is a joke candidate with no core convictions (other than love and respect of wealth), then this statement from his campaign spokesperson, Eric Fehrnstrom, has made it clear that he's the emptiest of empty suits:

Is it a gaffe if all you're doing is revealing the truth behind your campaign curtain?

I think this one is going to stick, especially coming on the heels of a big Primary win (Illinois) and repeating his snatch-defeat-from-victory pattern of following wins with gaffe's. There's already a website up with Mitt's Etch-a-Sketch position changes -- just click on the words to see yet another example. Both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich brandished an Etch-a-Sketch today, and the political ads just write themselves.

Here's Romney (a terrible candidate to begin with) trying to put the genie back in the bottle later in the day:

You have to bet that his approval ratings will fall further, and maybe this is the big opening that Santorum needs to scoop Romney in the upcoming state contests.

BTW, I love the Etch-a-Sketch product and have since childhood. I love that it's been owned by the same company that created it for over 50 years. I love the statement they put out today and, most of all, hope their sales rocket the Romney campaign tumbles towards hell.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


The GOP War on Women's Reproductive Rights - astounding to other developed Western countries.

On the campaign trail, Presidential contender Mitt Romney couldn't care less if the loss of Planned Parenthood means women can't get the health services they depend upon. He's got so much money, he tells other people to "go elsewhere."

Using the assumption God's name to punish's got a long and sordid history. In the Olde Days, they called them witches.

It's a 21st Century witch hunt, once again from the most inflexibly Conservative among us.

Can Democracy beat them back?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Royal Pitch

It seems that HBO releases a new Game of Thrones Season Two trailer every week. From last night:

Which brings me to the question of Mad Men, returning with Season Four this upcoming Sunday, one week prior to the HBO show season premiere. I understand creator Matt Weiner's ironclad refusal to give spoilers, but there's no new footage in any of the trailers released for this season thus far. Will that hurt viewership?

Yes, the HBO series is based on a series of published novels the spoiler issue isn't the same, but they sure are giving fans what they want -- and building to a fever pitch. Just this past weekend, at WonderCon in Anaheim, they put my head on a spike:


Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Ghost of Sam Cooke

I like the song "When a Man Loves a Woman" as much as the next guy, but I've never loved it like I did when Joshua Ledet performed it on Idol this past Wednesday night:

He took it to church, but when he drops his jacket, it's Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Percy Sledge all rolled up in one extremely powerful, soulful, gospel trained voice. It's the right kind of throwback -- same training, lots to draw on both gold and contemporary.

Want to see what Josh does next. Because I've never seen that song done so well as that young man just did.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Baruch Obama

As an Hebraic-American, it always gives me joy when someone points out how Jewish our President can be. Per Jeffrey Goldberg, an ardent Israel supporter who interviewed Obama on related issues last week:

When I handed him the Haggadah, President Obama, who famously stages his own seders at the White House (which is a very nice philo-Semitic thing to do, IMHO), spent a moment leafing through it and making approving noises. Then he said (as I told the Times): "Does this mean we can't use the Maxwell House Haggadah anymore?"

George W. Bush was, in his own way, a philo-Semite, but he never would have made such an M.O.T. kind of joke (see the end of this post if you're not sure what M.O.T. means). Once again, Barack Obama was riffing off the cosmic joke that he is somehow anti-Semitic, when in fact, as many people understand, he is the most Jewish president we've ever had (except for Rutherford B. Hayes). No president, not even Bill Clinton, has traveled so widely in Jewish circles, been taught by so many Jewish law professors, and had so many Jewish mentors, colleagues, and friends, and advisers as Barack Obama (though it is true that every so often he appoints a gentile to serve as White House chief of staff). And so no president, I'm guessing, would know that the Maxwell House Haggadah -- the flimsy, wine-stained, rote, anti-intellectual Haggadah you get when you buy a can of coffee at Shoprite) -- is the target, alternatively, of great derision and veneration among American Jews (at least, I'm told there are people who venerate it).

Let's hope he can bring some permanent shalom to the Middle East.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

War on Women - or Humanity?

What the hell is going through the heads of the GOP candidates and leaders, if only from a political standpoint. You only want the votes of women who are against the right to control their own bodies? (And I don't just mean on the right to end an unwanted pregnancy.)

View the devastation:

Willard Mitt Romney is the so-called "moderate" in the GOP Presidential race, but it's time the press woke up to his wildly extremist positions:

How easily it rolls off his tongue: "Planned Parenthood -- gonna get rid of that." First off, it's a private organization, so he's going to "get rid of that?" Second, the use of "that" indicates how far he's distanced from Planned Parenthood -- and the huge amount of good it does for women who don't get health services in other ways. And, finally, there's that good it does; Willard willing to dismiss it/cut it without a second thought? Who the hell's life is he trying to make better as President? No one but himself (and his fellow 1-percenters)?

Willard has veered so far into extremism that he won't even stand by his positions from the previous Presidential race:

And how testy that guy gets when challenged. Is this the guy who's finger should be on the nuclear trigger?

The fact is that the Affordable Care Act is already working. So what this election is really all about, as George Lakoff so insightfully puts it, is a radical Conservative revision of this nation:
The Santorum Strategy is not just about Santorum. It is about pounding the most radical conservative ideas into the public mind by constant repetition during the Republican presidential campaign, whether by Santorum himself, by Gingrich or Ron Paul, by an intimidated Romney, or by the Republican House majority. The Republican presidential campaign is about a lot more than the campaign for the presidency. It is about guaranteeing a radical conservative future for America.

Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems. Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry. This is extremely important for so-called "independents," who actually have both conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains and can shift back and forth. The more they hear conservative language over the next eight months, the more their conservative brain circuitry will be strengthened.


The radical conservative discourse of the Republican presidential race has the same purpose, and conservative Republicans are luring Democrats into making the same mistakes. Santorum, the purest radical conservative, is the best example. From the perspective of conservative moral values, he is making sense and arguing logically, making his moral values clear and coming across as straightforward and authentic, as Reagan did.

Lakoff goes on to describe the differences between the Progressive moral worldview and the Conservative one. It's very much worth reading as a whole, particularly when he shows how the Democrats may be missing the point and, even if they win the Presidency this year, may lose other office elections and the overall, long-term war. And he lays out the Conservative "logic" that leads to the decimation of critical governmental programs and safeguards that actually help Americans:

Here's how that logic goes.

  • The strict father determines what happens in the family, including reproduction. Thus reproduction is the province of male authority.
  • The strict father does not condone moral weakness and self-indulgence without moral consequences. Sex without reproductive consequences is thus seen as immoral.
  • If the nation supports birth control for unmarried women, then the nation supports immoral behavior.
  • The conservative stress on individual responsibility means that you and no one else should have to pay for your birth control -- not your employer, your HMO, or the taxpayers.
  • Having to pay for your birth control also has a metaphorical religious value -- paying for your sins.
  • This is a classical slippery slope narrative. If no one else should have to pay for your birth control, the next step is that no one else should have to pay for any of your health care.
  • And the step after that is that no one else should be forced to pay for anyone else. This is, everything should be privatized -- no public education, safety nets, parks, or any public institutions or services.
It's war. On who is a great question -- because it isn't just women, no matter how much they are the target at the moment. If these GOoPers get in, kiss all the advances from the Affordable Care Act goodbye.

It's shaping up to be the most pivotal election of our era.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Mitt Romney is geographically challenged:

So it is fitting, in a way, that after two big losses in the latest Republican primaries on Tuesday night, the main pitch for Romney's campaign is now, basically, mathematical probability. The former Massachusetts governor finished third in Mississippi, behind Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, with 30 percent of the vote. And he was headed for a third-place finish in Alabama, with 29 percent of the vote.

The double-barreled setback was unexpected in Mississippi, reflecting neither polling numbers nor the expectations that Romney's campaign was setting in the days leading up to the vote. And in the aftermath, Romney's aides were left with unemotional appeals for why the primary remained very much his alone.

"Mathematically we are fast approaching the point where it is going to be a virtual impossibility" for opponents to win enough delegates, Romney's top spokesman Eric Ferhnstrom told CNN.

Wow, that's a compelling campaign message. Inspire me again, Mitt. Please.

Monday, March 12, 2012


About three-quarters into the great HBO movie, Game Change, I realized what genre the director Jay Roach and screenwriter Danny Strong were playing with. Sure, it's a great political genre movie, up there with their 2008 triumph, Recount, which did great service to the 2000 Florida recount battle which led to George W. Bush becoming President without winning the popular vote (and subsequently led to the debacle in Iraq, the crash of the economy that plays a part in this new movie and, now, the massive GOP amnesia about the eight years they controlled the Executive branch of our government). But it's something more: Game Change is a monster movie.

The monster is, of course, 2 1/2 year Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Not only does the movie recreate her origin story as a force of hate-pandering and resentment reinforcing on the national stage, but it does a terrifying job of treating her as both representative and contributing cause to the nightmarish Republican Primary of 2012, as reactionary as any in national political memory. The fact that Willard Mitt Romney, a supposed moderate and former Governor of the generally Liberal state of Massachusetts, has veered psychotically Right trying to outflank and outpander his highly Conservative opponents, the fact that this very week past he was incapable of summoning the courage to strongly vilify Rush Limbaugh for his misogynistic smearing of citizen Sandra Fluke, proves that whatever prairie fire Sarah Palin ignited in 2008 has yet to burn out.

The progression is like something out of a 1950's sci-fi movie, only instead of an unknown virus reeled in by inquisitive scientists, it's an unknown, unveiled GOP Governor from the most remote state in the Union. Coming from the coldest state as well, it hearkens back to The Thing. She's let in through all decontamination barriers almost by accident to positive fanfare, sparking all sorts of activity including massive investment (here a rush of small-donor campaign contributions), then she begins to falter, unable to adapt to this unfamiliar environment.

But have no fear (or, rather, have dread), because like Frankenstein's monster and most others, it has the ability to learn. Palin studies the television coverage as it goes from ridiculing her to reveling in her speaking power, and she goes through a classic movie-monster chrysalis stage. In the middle of the movie Palin (played to genius perfection by Julianne Moore, ditto Ed Harris as John McCain and, carrying the main story with ease, Woody Harrelson as campaign chief Steve Schmidt) goes silent. She doesn't respond to her handlers, sinks into funks, rattles around on her Blackberry, essentially seems to fall into some sort of catatonic state that ends up feeling more like gestational hibernation.

When she emerges she's unstoppable. She can't be controlled by the campaign, takes on her signature disregard for the truth (and outright lying), whips up crowds with various degrees of hate speech and gets that scary Palin gleam in her eye. The movie doesn't hit it too hard -- it's a smart piece of work -- but it's that gleam that haunts.

In the framing device, Steve Schmidt (Harrelson) is interviewed by Anderson Cooper, and it's clear the scientist no longer has any control over the monster, just a wary, chastened point of view he didn't have at the beginning. To Schmidt's credit, he was just as penitent on The Morning Joe Show this a.m. Unlike the party of Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann, Cain, etc. etc. he's emerged as a man of honor. His party could use more of his type of candor and reality.

On the other hand, Palin is still in the celebrity politics business, the recidivist Tea Party will celebrate it's fourth anniversary this year, and 52% of Mississippi Republicans think President Obama is a Muslim.

There you have the bigger monster: the GOP electoral base.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Jean "Moebius" Giraud, the brilliant and uber-influential French graphic artist/comic book auteur has died. This is a huge bummer. His sci-fi visions influenced filmmakers and fans alike, and his Western work is legendary. He just had such a huge imagination and such a clean yet personal style, sparse yet voluptuous, his panels and pages blow open the doors of the reader's imagination.

Tom Spurgeon has the best obit I've yet seen. Just one selection, about his name and Heavy Metal magazine (the American import of Metal Hurlant, how I came upon his work:
Giraud created the powerful "Moebius" handle for the loose, satirical work he had done for the magazine Hara-Kiri in the early to mid-1960s. He simply liked the name, and didn't even know if it referred to a person with whom he might have to share the appellation. In 1975 he resuscitated the name for the new group he co-founded Les Humanoides Associes and their magazine Metal Hurlant. Described by Giraud as a natural reaction to a groundswell of storytelling from comics-makers that had no natural place to put this material -- you can see precedents in some of the short stories Giraud did for Pilote just proceeding these newer comics -- and therefore needed to create a new press to do so, all in the tradition of the French avant garde. That magazine would become the home of two of Giraud's best-remembered series, Arzach and The Airtight Garage. Giraud would later describe the revolution driven by his work and others as one of creative choice rather than content, that the feeling of the artist inhabiting the work was more important than the kind of work being done. He drew a connection to the undergrounds and cartoonists like Robert Crumb, although he felt that the work of he and his peers existed in an entirely different cultural context.

Even his one Silver Surfer story, with Stan Lee scripting, is legendary:

He will be missed.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


19-year-old Phillip Phillips is worth posting every week:

Max R&R, pls.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Stooper Tuesday

At this point, could anybody care less who wins the GOP Presidential nomination? This is, anyone besides the candidates and campaigns themselves? I read today that Newt's due for a second or third surge, that the Republican establishment is expecting to coalesce around Mitt after he takes Ohio and most of the states today, that Santorum wins two plus maybe Ohio and it all slogs on.

For what?

These guys are boobs, blusterers and cowards. A few weeks ago I was sure Santorum was going to steal Mitt's nomination, that not only was he the "real" conservative for the party to come home to, but that he was the first professional candidate amongst the Not-Mitts. Turns out his 12th Century views on contraception and his bile towards fellow Catholic JFK were evidence that he's just as much of an amateur as Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, Herman Caine, etc.

The fact is that today's GOP has jumped the shark and become America's first major religious party. Thanks to Ronald Reagan's successful courting of the religious right into the party, and George W. Bush increasing their power in 2000, the party is now in the thrall of those who do not believe in the Founding Fathers' separation of church and state. Per Howard Fineman:

"There has never been anything like it in our history," said Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. "'God's Own Party' now really is just that."


The American Faith Party is a doctrinally schizophrenic coalition bound by faith in the power of biblical values to create a better country; by fear of federal power, especially that of the federal courts and President Barack Obama and his administration; and by fear of rising Islamic political power around the world.

The AFP unites Catholic traditionalists who especially revere the papal hierarchy; evangelical, fundamentalist and charismatic Protestants; some strands of Judaism, including those ultra-orthodox on social issues and Jews for whom an Israel with biblical borders and a capital in Jerusalem is a spiritual imperative, not just a matter of diplomatic balance in the Middle East; and Mormons, who ironically aren't regarded as Christians by most other members of the coalition. Romney, a devout Mormon, is their man.

The four still-standing Republican presidential candidates are all AFP members in good standing on most of the party's key agenda items. The GOP platform is sure to feature all of them, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage; measures to counter what Republicans regard as attacks on religious liberty; expressions of fear about the extent of federal power, especially from the courts, on social and medical issues; libertarian economic policies that limit regulation and taxes (for religious conservatives and economic libertarians share a common enemy: government); denunciations of Islamic political power; and support for Israel. (Ron Paul is a dissenter on the last two points.)

All the candidates, including Paul, adhere to the AFP's central operational tenet: that professing your own faith -- once verboten in American politics -- is a necessary precondition to being taken seriously.

In direct violation of the U.S. Constitution, one South Carolina county, the GOP just tried requiring a Purity Pledge to run for office in their party:

The Republican Party in a small, conservative South Carolina county expects its candidates to lower taxes. They also expect them to not watch porn, be faithful to their spouses and not have sex outside of marriage.

The Laurens County Republican Party originally decided that anyone who wanted to run for office with the GOP’s blessing would have to sign a pledge and be approved by party leaders. They backed off that idea after the state party told them it was illegal and the pledge received international attention, becoming another cultural issues nightmare for Republicans.

They're becoming America's Muslim Brotherhood, Taliban, Sharia party. Let them nominate an avowed atheist for President and I'll rescind that sentence.

Their positions are damaging to women's health and world peace. We have a very calm, sensible, strong and stable President right now -- what some would call conservative values -- who himself is telling the screaming spoilt brats competing for the GOP nomination to put up or shut up:

The contrast couldn't be clearer -- we have a President much more gracious than he probably opponent this November:

If I were a Republican, I'd just say, Let Mitt Win. Let him and his supporters, the wealthy or Mormon, spend all the money this Presidential cycle to keep the GOP operatives fed. If he beats Obama it'll be a surprise (and a disaster) so if someone has to be the fall guy this Fall, let it be the richest man in the race.

And, with any luck, rinse and repeat in 2016.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Best So Far

This is easily my favorite performance from the first live week of American Idol, onstage in Hollywood. Say hello to Skylar Lane. She's just turned 18, but I think she's going to be around for awhile:

What an excellent song choice to introduce yourself to America. Note not changing the gender -- hot. I'm not a big country music fan, but this was rock & roll -- and the only R&R of the night, better not be of the competition.

Tina Turner meets Reba. A star is born.