Monday, May 28, 2012

A Very Good Night

Last night, Sunday, May 27, 2012, was maybe the best night ever for high-end television drama of the one-hour kind.  Both Mad Men and Game of Thrones had epic game-changing episodes.  Both are about power, in different ways.  Tonight I'll talk about the former.

In the antepenultimate episode of the season, "The Other Woman," Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is pitching Jaguar and all they need to seal the deal is for Joan to sleep with one of the three decision makers.  At the same time, Peggy, arguably the #2 character on the show, is feeling ready to leave.  It's a show about choices and prices paid for women to do men's bidding, as filtered through a Jaguar pitch tagline, "At last, something beautiful you can truly own."

So is Peggy owned by a new agency that picks her up for more than her asking price?  And is Joan owned or owner as she take a piece of SCDP for herself and her son?  And is there anything Christina Hendricks can't make us feel?

Then there's Don and his young bride, Megyn.  She wants to act, she's treated like chattel at the audition, and he's terrified that she's going to abandon him for her career.  Their fights are so much more awesome than Don and Betty's because they know each other's secrets, they're at way different points in their lives and they are both New York City sophisticates.  It feels like real adult fights - not TV adult fights.  A little S&Mish at times, which fits with the era.  Just as the Europeans were refinding the Marquis de Sade in literature and theatre.

If there's a project to this season it has to be revealed in the final two episodes.  This year's theme, according to creator Weiner, is "Every man for himself."  So will Don we left isolated - by Peggy, estranged from Joan by the knowledge of what she did and his adamant opposition to it, by Megyn getting the out-of-town rehearsals and previews gig?

We've had seasons with "the return of Don Draper" as the project.  Often with a diminishment of marital or family life.  Would that be a retread?  Or is there something deeper planned?

My pet theory: at the end of the season, Don quits.  Maybe goes West to design surfboards.  Maybe becomes the perfect mix on Don Draper and Dick Whitman.  Maybe quits being Don Draper.

More on Game of Thrones to come.  And if you think this season is big, the third book is oft considered the best.

Enjoy this time of plenty.  Over the next two weeks, it ends.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Still to Unravel

This painful, gaping 33-year-old mystery has yet to be full solved, not until we know the motive:
A former convenience store worker confessed to luring 6-year-old Etan Patz from his school bus stop in 1979 and choking him to death in a basement, police said Thursday, ending a three-decades long investigation into one of the nation's most baffling missing-children cases.

Pedro Hernandez, 51, of Maple Shade, N.J., was arrested on a murder charge after he told police he promised the boy a soda, took him to his store – just blocks from Etan's lower Manhattan home – and killed him there, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Hernandez told police he put Etan's body in some trash about a block from the store, Kelly said, where it's possible it was picked up by sanitation crews.


Hernandez was questioned by police for more than three hours after he was picked up in New Jersey Wednesday, and gave police a signed confession, Kelly said. His motive was not yet clear.

Just one child? Did he really only do this once? Makes it all the more incomprehensible.

Let's just hope the really got the right guy.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not So Funny

It turns out that Mitt Romney is flat out lying when he says government spending has "exploded" under President Obama:

Ah, Willard. How do you know he's lying? His lips are moving. And then, of course, sometimes he laughs:

WTF with that? Garry Wills has some thoughts:

Everyone has noticed by now the non-laugh laugh of Mitt Romney, a kind of half-stifled barking. But what does it mean? It is blurted out as abruptly as it is broken off. Is it a kind of punctuation, part comma, part full stop, part interrogatory mark? What, if anything, is it trying to convey? Why does it seem more like coughing or burping than laughter?

Does it mean: “I know you are saying something critical about me, and I don’t know how to answer it, so I’ll just pretend that you did not mean it seriously”?

Or: “I want to show I am just a regular fellow, so I’ll try out my regular-fellow laugh”?

Or: “I hope you will take what I just said as something humorous, though I doubt it, but I’ll see if I can start a laughing chain reaction”?

Or: “I want to change the subject, but there is no natural way to do that, so I’ll just throw in this comic rictus as a non-sequitur”?

Or: “The Cheshire Cat could evanesce by leaving just a smile behind, so maybe I can avoid attention by disappearing away from my laugh”?

James Lipton has some ideas how Mitt can "fix" it:

He is so obviously "acting" after all.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Working on Iran

Is the Obama sanctions approach working?
Iran's parliament on Thursday approved President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's $462 billion annual budget, the official IRNA news agency reported, a drop in real terms from last year as international sanctions took their toll. 
Iran's currency has lost much of its value in recent months due to sanctions designed to curb the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, which the West suspects is a cover for making atomic bombs, a charge Tehran denies.
The value of the rial began to slip in January, after U.S. President Barack Obama imposed fresh sanctions against the country's central bank and speculation rose over a possible military strike against Iran by Israel and the United States. 
The European Union has also toughened financial sanctions and on January 23 placed a ban on Iranian oil imports, but gave companies until July 1 to wind down their existing business. ... 
Tehran resumed nuclear talks with major powers in mid-April after more than a year and a second round of talks is scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.
The country is undergoing what the government has called major economic surgery, in the form of cuts to the multi-billion dollar subsidies which for years have held down the price of essential goods like fuel and food. 
Inflation is now officially running at about 20 per cent, although economists say prices of the goods most Iranians worry about are rising at a much faster rate. 
"This budget will deflate the economy. To have what is almost zero growth with a growing population like Iran's, in real terms the country is going to contract severely. It is a truly bad situation," added Emadi.

Once again...underestimated by his opponents.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Baby What'd I Say

Oh, that Willard:
QUESTION: “When you did an interview with Sean Hannity in February, you said that you believed that Obama is trying to make America a less Christian nation. It was responding to quote that he had just played for you on the radio. Do you stand by that? And do you believe that President Obama’s world view was shaped by Reverend Wright and do you see evidence of that in his policies?”
ROMNEY: “I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was.”
Looks like that line will join the other Romney gaffest-hits, like "Etch-a-Sketch," "Corporations are People," "I like firing people," "I'll be you $10,000," "severe Conservative" and so many more. You're sure to be seeing this clip again:

He's been lying so much, it looks like truth to him.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Only Way to End Gridlock

The GOP has abused the Supermajority rule by making everything a filibuster.  It's the Tea Partyfication of the Senate.  The tyranny of the minority.

Ezra Klein's unconstitutional:

In 1806, the Senate, on the advice of Aaron Burr, tried to clean up its rule book, which was thought to be needlessly complicated and redundant. One change it made was to delete something called “the previous question” motion. That was the motion senators used to end debate on whatever they were talking about and move to the next topic. Burr recommended axing it because it was hardly ever used. Senators were gentlemen. They knew when to stop talking. 
That was the moment the Senate created the filibuster. But nobody knew it at the time. It would be three more decades before the first filibuster was mounted — which meant it was five decades after the ratification of the Constitution. “Far from being a matter of high principle, the filibuster appears to be nothing more than an unforeseen and unintended consequence of the elimination of the previous question motion from the rules of the Senate,” Bondurant writes. 
And even then, filibusters were a rare annoyance. Between 1840 and 1900, there were 16 filibusters. Between 2009 and 2010, there were more than 130. But that’s changed. Today, Majority Leader Harry Reid says that “60 votes are required for just about everything.”
At the core of Bondurant’s argument is a very simple claim: This isn’t what the Founders intended. The historical record is clear on that fact. The framers debated requiring a supermajority in Congress to pass anything. But they rejected that idea.

He goes on to talk about how the Framers were against a supermajority being used just to humiliate the President and block all his initiatives.  Sound familiar.

Somebody take this to the Supreme Court...ASAP.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Real Stakes

So Willard lost a donor, very publicly, over his embrace of "one man/one woman" marriage as the only one he'll accept:

"I feel that I no longer wish to support your presidential campaign and ask you that you please return the maximum contribution that I gave to you last year," Bill White wrote in a letter to Romney, according to a report by CNN. "You have chosen to be on the wrong side of history and I do not support your run for president any longer."

White, a registered independent who runs a New York-based consulting firm, had given $2,500 to the Romney campaign.

White made his decision following Obama's announcement last week that he supports same-sex marriage. While he clarified to CNN that he does not agree with the president on fiscal issues, White said that Romney's speech during Liberty University's commencement on Saturday led him to believe that Romney would press for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- a position that White simply cannot support.

"I feel like [Romney has] declared war on my marriage," White said. "And I could just sit back and not say anything. Or I could do something about it. And I've chosen to do something about it."

Meanwhile, in the African-American community, a leading heterosexual comes out in favor of Obama's stance:

“I’ve always thought it as something that was still holding the country back,” Jay-Z said, referencing the fact that same-sex marriage is not recognized nationwide. “What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. It's no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination plain and simple.”

Though he was in Philadelphia to appear alongside Mayor Michael Nutter and announce a two-day music festival in early September, Jay-Z sat down with CNN's Poppy Harlow to chat about broader issues. When he was asked if he felt Obama's decision to come out in favor of the right of same-sex couples to marry would cost him votes (particularly with the African-American community), he shrugged. "It's really not about votes," he said. "It's about people."

Hopefully Jay-Z's influence will be felt far and wide on this issue.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign - NOT a surrogate PAC - released this ad straight out of Karl Rove's handbook, attacking his opponent's supposed strength:

Ju-jitsu, Mr. Rove. And nice branding for Mr. Romney.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Duck Down

Another great musician has been taken from us, Donald "Duck" Dunn, legend:
Donald “Duck” Dunn, the bassist who helped create the gritty Memphis soul sound at Stax Records in the 1960s as part of the legendary group Booker T. and the MGs and contributed to such classics as “In the Midnight Hour,” ‘’Hold On, I’m Coming” and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” died Sunday at 70.Dunn, whose legacy as one of the most respected session musicians in the business also included work with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s Blues Brothers as well as with Levon Helm, Eric Clapton, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, died while on tour in Tokyo.News of his death was posted on the Facebook site of his friend and fellow musician Steve Cropper, who was on the same tour. Cropper said Dunn died in his sleep.
Cropper left to become a session player at Stax, the Memphis record company that would become known for its soul recordings and artists such as Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes and the Staples Singers.
Dunn soon followed Cropper and joined the Stax house band, also known as Booker T. and the MGs.
It was one of the first racially integrated soul groups, with two whites (Dunn on bass and Cropper on guitar) and two blacks (Booker T. Jones on organ and Al Jackson on drums), and was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“I would have liked to have been on the road more, but the record company wanted us in the studio. Man, we were recording almost a hit a day for a while there,” Dunn said.
Dunn once said that he and Cropper were “like married people.”
“I can look at him and know what he’ll order for dinner,” he said. “When we play music together we both know where we’re going.”
Condolences to Cropper and to Dunn's family.  Thanks, Duck, for all the unforgettable baselines we danced to.
As for the Lord above, Dunn might as well be playing along to, "Hold On, I'm Coming."  R.I.P.

Friday, May 11, 2012


"Scour Romney’s record for a single example of real political courage -- a single, solitary instance, however small, where Romney placed principle or substance above his own short- term political interests. Let me know if you find one ... His campaign has been an exercise in feeble appeasement. The only thing he appears to be dedicated to is abasing himself to the hard-right wing of the Republican Party. Consider the way he allowed a foreign-policy spokesman to be drummed out of the campaign simply for being gay ... Romney flunks the character test. He seems incapable of making the hard, sometimes unpopular, choices that are part of the job," - Gerald Rafshoon, former spokesman for president Carter.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


President Obama did the right thing today. After a long period of saying his position on marriage equality was "evolving," he evolved. Unlike a typical politician, he let us know where he stands, which in legislative terms is against the Federal government interfering with states that legalize the right of two gay citizens to enter into the bonds of marriage. And there are plenty of jokes available about the challenges that come with those bonds.

Here's the statement that just changed the world:

Here's Andrew Sullivan, the blogger who first convinced me to take Barack Hussein Obama seriously as a Presidential candidate a little over four years ago:

Today Obama did more than make a logical step. He let go of fear. He is clearly prepared to let the political chips fall as they may. That's why we elected him. That's the change we believed in. The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to "cure" gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?

My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory. And after the darkness of last night, this feels like a widening dawn.

Can anyone imagine Mitt Romney taking this kind of political risk and changing history for the better? The notion is so absurd as to be beyond laughable. It's enfeebling. Has there ever been a more morally feeble candidate than Willard? Worthless as a leader, and a danger to the free world should he ever get that position.

You want to join the groundswell of tolerant Americans letting the forces of darkness, bigotry and anti-human rights know that you support our President?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

WIld Man

Sad to see him go, but it's been a long, productive, influential life for Maurice Sendak, gone at age 83:

The popular children's book author wrote "Where The Wild Things Are" in 1963. He won a Caldecott Medal for the book in 1964, and was adapted into a movie in 2009.

According to The New York Times, a posthumous picture book, "My Brother's Book," is scheduled to be published in February 2013.


Sendak also created costumes for ballets and staged operas, including the Czech opera "Brundibar," which he also put on paper with collaborator Pulitzer-winning playwright Tony Kushner in 2003.

He designed the Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker" production that later became a movie shown on television, and he served as producer of various animated TV series based on his illustrations, including "Seven Little Monsters," "George and Martha" and "Little Bear."


"I write books as an old man, but in this country you have to be categorized, and I guess a little boy swimming in the nude in a bowl of milk (as in `In the Night Kitchen') can't be called an adult book," he told The Associated Press in 2003.

"So I write books that seem more suitable for children, and that's OK with me. They are a better audience and tougher critics. Kids tell you what they think, not what they think they should think."

During that 2003 interview, Sendak also said he felt as if he were part of a dying breed of illustrators who approached their work as craftsmen. "I feel like a dinosaur. There are a few of us left. (We) worked so hard in the `50s and `60s but some have died and computers pushed others out."


"Kids don't know about best sellers," he said. "They go for what they enjoy. They aren't star chasers and they don't suck up. It's why I like them."

As the tweet from McSweeney's said, "We'll be roaring our terrible roars today."

I've read a zillion of your books, Maurice, and used to eagerly anticipate each new Little Bear volume as it came out, while eating my Chicken Soup with Rice. Thanks for making all our childhoods -- and adulthoods -- all that much more imaginative and grand, and please R.I.P.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Better News in the Middle East

Possibly good news -- the chances of Israel unilaterally attacking Iran may have just lessened:

According to the media reports, Netanyahu forged an agreement with opposition leader Shaul Mofaz of Kadima shortly before parliament was set to vote to disperse.

Parliament Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a veteran of Israeli politics, said he had never seen such a last-minute political upheaval. “This is good for Israel because it brings stability, he said on Army Radio as he left parliament before sunrise.

The appointment of Mofaz, a former military chief and defense minister, is significant in Israel’s standoff with Iran, as he has been a vocal critic of Israel striking Iran’s nuclear sites on its own.

In the meantime, that pesky Al-Qaeda has evidently been foiled again:
The CIA and overseas intelligence partners disrupted an al-Qaeda plot to blow up civilian aircraft using an advanced explosive device designed by the terrorist network’s affiliate in Yemen, U.S. officials said Monday.

U.S. officials said the FBI is examining the device — modeled on the “underwear bomb” used in an attempt to bring down a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 — to determine whether airport security systems would have detected it.

U.S. officials said the CIA and other agencies tracked the plot for about a month before moving to seize the device in recent days in the Middle East outside Yemen, where the bomb was built.

Does Obama have another foreign policy or anti-terrorism success to achieve before the November election?

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Spare Change

News from France and Greece: austerity candidates lost. In France, it means the end of Nicholas Sarkozy's governance:

Exuberant crowds filled the Place de la Bastille, the iconic plaza of the French Revolution, to celebrate Hollande's victory. He will be France's first leftist chief of state since Francois Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.

Sarkozy thanked his supporters and said he did his best to win a second term, despite widespread anger at his handling of the economy.


Hollande wants to renegotiate a hard-won European treaty on budget cuts that Germany's Angela Merkel and Sarkozy had championed. He wants more government stimulus, and more government spending in general despite concerns from markets that France needs to urgently trim its huge debts.

What does that mean for America? If the European debt deals fall apart, it could hurt Obama's reelection chances. But is it a harbinger of an anti-austerity vote that could cross the Atlantic?

Per Robert Reich, against socialism:

Socialism isn't the answer to the basic problem haunting all rich nations.

The answer is to reform capitalism. The world's productivity revolution is outpacing the political will of rich societies to fairly distribute its benefits. The result is widening inequality coupled with slow growth and stubbornly high unemployment.


And this is why a second Obama administration, should there be one, must focus its attention on more broadly distributing the gains from growth. This doesn't mean "redistributing" from rich to poor, as in a zero-sum game. To the contrary, the rich will do far better with a smaller share of a robust, growing economy than they're doing with a large share of an economy that's barely moving forward.

This will require real tax reform -- not just a "Buffett" minimal tax but substantially higher marginal rates and more brackets at the top, with a capital gains rate matching the income-tax rate. It also means a larger Earned Income Tax Credit, whose benefits extend high into the middle class. That will enable many Americans to move to a 35-hour workweek without losing ground -- thereby making room for more jobs.

It means Medicare for all rather than an absurdly-costly system that relies on private for-profit insurers and providers.

It will require limiting executive salaries and empowering workers to get a larger share of corporate profits. The Employee Free Choice Act should be an explicit part of the second-term agenda.

It will require strict limits on the voracious, irresponsible behavior of Wall Street, from which we've all suffered. The Glass-Steagall Act must be resurrected (the so-called Volcker Rule is more ridden with holes than cheese), and the big banks broken up.

And it will necessitate a public educational system - including early child education - second to none, and available to all our young people.

Is there the political will to reform capitalism -- in order to save it?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Drip Begins?

Is Murdoch finally in trouble in the U.S.?

Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation, has written to Lord Justice Leveson, who leads the British judicial inquiry into media ethics, asking if he has uncovered any evidence relating questionable practices in the US.

"I would like to know whether any of the evidence you are reviewing suggests that these unethical and sometimes illegal business practices occurred in the United States or involved US citizens," Rockefeller writesin a letter released on Wednesday.

The development adds to the potential dangers facing News Corp, a publicly-traded company with its headquarters in New York. Rockefeller has taken a close interest in the unfolding phone-hacking saga, but it is the first time that a Senate committee member has acted in his official capacity.


The commerce committee covers all means of communications in the US – including telecommunications, free-to-air broadcasting and cable TV. It also has oversight over the Federal Communications Commission, the regulatory body that has final say on the issuing of broadcast licences, including the 27 licences issued to the Fox TV network that is the jewel in Murdoch's crown.
Will the UK investigation start opening the floodgates here in the U.S.?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


The Romney Presidential campaign just had a high-profile resignation today, and one that should give them pause to make a fundamental change in his/their approach. But, having seen Willard kowtow to the rightwing Republican base thus far, he probably won't. As reported by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post:

Richard Grenell, the openly gay spokesman recently hired to sharpen the foreign policy message of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, has resigned in the wake of a full-court press by anti-gay conservatives.

In a statement obtained by Right Turn, Grenell says:

I have decided to resign from the Romney campaign as the Foreign Policy and National Security Spokesman. While I welcomed the challenge to confront President Obama’s foreign policy failures and weak leadership on the world stage, my ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues that sometimes comes from a presidential campaign. I want to thank Governor Romney for his belief in me and my abilities and his clear message to me that being openly gay was a non-issue for him and his team.

According to sources familiar with the situation, Grenell decided to resign after being kept under wraps during a time when national security issues, including the president’s ad concerning Osama bin Laden, had emerged front and center in the campaign.

Most damning:
During the two weeks after Grenell’s hiring was announced the Romney campaign did not put Grenell out to comment on national security matters and did not use him on a press foreign policy conference call. Despite the controversy in new media and in conservative circles, there was no public statement of support for Grenell by the campaign and no supportive social conservatives were enlisted to calm the waters.
As I've written before, Romney is not a leader in the true sense. He appear incapable to taking a position unpopular to his base, making a convincing moral case, and either turning them around to his point of view or at least earning widespread respect for his rectitude. He's a loser, not a leader.

Per Josh Marshall, this is Romney playing into "bitch-slap politics" without the Obama campaign even having to try that hard:

The Obama campaign has spent days hammering the claim that Mitt lacked the fortitude to make the risky choice to launch a commando raid to kill Osama bin Laden. Either it was that he said it wasn’t sufficiently important or that he said he wouldn’t violate Pakistani sovereignty to launch such an attack. In either case, the core message was ‘I was right; he was wrong.’ But as I’ve argued, the ferocity of the attack itself was meant to diminish Romney as weak and helpless, a man unable to properly defend himself.


Against that backdrop, the sudden resignation of Romney’s new foreign policy spokesman Richard Grenell came at just the wrong time since it told just the same story about Romney as the Obama campaign has been telling all week: Romney is weak.


“It’s going to be difficult for Romney to take other steps like this. And that’s what’s really frightening to me,” Fred Karger, openly gay Republican candidate for president told TPM. “It’s just too tough to stand up to these groups because they have a lot of money and power. You’ve got to be able to do that, that’s leadership.”


In other words, Romney’s actions have spoken louder than his awkward replies to the original bin Laden smackdown. In the face of attacks meant to show he can’t stand up to Osama bin Laden, Romney shows he can’t stand down the far-right homophobes in his own party.

Or more simply, as Obama campaign's Stephanie Cutter tweeted out:
“How can voters trust Romney to stand up to the Soviets & Czechoslovakia if he's folding to rt wing on hiring gay staff?
Americans don't vote for weakies for President. There's still a canyon of time to fill between now and November 6th, so maybe Mitt can turn it around, but I believe this early imprinting is just the beginning of what's really going to fill the airwaves and, as I predicted months ago, Mitt Romney will make Bob Dole look like a winner.