26 February 2013


Under the title "Oscars 2013: 'Inocente' wins documentary short" by Mark Olsen I discovered this choice sentence with the list of other nominees:
“Open Heart,” which follows the stories of eight Rwandan children with rheumatic heart disease, has won the documentary short Oscar on Sunday.
No, there were not two winners. This seem a bit lax for the L.A. Times, no? Unless the paper is giving Oscars out itself.

It's not a "Dewey Defeats Truman" moment, but for god's sake hire some more copy and research staff, will ya guys?

25 February 2013

Cardinal O'Brien, Gay-Hating Closet Case

Keith O'Brien, Cardinal of Sin?
Details of the Vatican Homosexual Scandal are breaking faster than New Year's resolutions the past few days.

Allegedly, Cardinal O'Brien, put the moves on some hunky young seminarians. It all came out, along with much more, in a big honking red-bound report now stowed away in the Pope's private safe, whose combination may be soon forgotten. He has instantly resigned and won't be sending up any white smoke in the coming conclave, but can he really disappear in a puff of black smoke?

For us on this side of the Atlantic, let us take a fond look back. It was only a year ago when the Telegraph printed him thusly as he spake against gay marriage in his very own op-ed, placidly entitled "We Cannot Afford to Indulge This Madness":
... Will both teacher and pupils simply become the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics, whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs

In Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, marriage is defined as a relationship between men and women. But when our politicians suggest jettisoning the established understanding of marriage and subverting its meaning they aren’t derided.

Instead, their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.
So, it's the gay people doing the repressing, eh? Gay folks like you, Cardinal? Hypocrisy doesn't begin to describe this man's blather about "the children, the children!" and all the other usual nonsense. He pens this in his closet while he sexually harasses his subordinates.

The man's more bent than a psychic's spoon.

UPDATE, March 3, 2013: Cardinal O'Brien's revolting non-apology apology.
"However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.
"To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise.
"I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland."
What's this "to those I have offended" BS?  Meaning anyone reading the news? I guess it applies not specifically to the guys he put the moves on, apparently, but just to anyone out there even slightly disgusted by the actions of this creep. That would be, I don't know, any non-sociopaths out there. Predictable from the "moral leaders" of our era, I guess, but still revolting.


17 February 2013


Jack Lew got a $1 million dollar bonus from CitiGroup for landing a job with the Government. That's one whirling revolving door! He took over the internal management of the U.S. State Department.

And CitiGroup was getting corporate welfare at the time, of course. This was spilled at his recent confirmation hearing for U.S. Treasury Secretary by Orrin Hatch, of all people, guardian of the public interest that he is.

Lew dodged the question badly, hemming and hawing about complexity, the first refuge of the scoundrel.

Expect him to shake up the cozy relations between Wall Street and their supposed regulators. Or not.

Enjoy the article for some other absurd excuses of the four-year-old variety.

And you have to laugh when the moss-encrusted Wall Street Journal runs an editorial against crony capitalism with Lew as the whipping-boy. The outrage, the outrage!

22 January 2013

Obama's Second Inaugural Address - in praise of riot

Okay, we can put aside for a moment that his actions don't always mirror his rhetoric and call this one a damn good speech. I enjoyed watching Eric Cantor look like his head was going to explode (Boehner was already blubbering by Battle Hymn of the Republic, so he wasn't as fun to watch).

I'm delighted to watch the TV punditocracy tie itself in knots, baffled by Obama's full-throated progressive manifesto. (He wasn't supposed to say that, was he?)

Yes, he defended Social Security, after offering to cut it a few short weeks ago. I say, bravo and well done. No backpedaling now, the world heard you say it.

But I was struck by this bit, which made me sit up, take notice, and get all chokey-uppy:
And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice - not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes:  tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths - that all of us are created equal - is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
Yes, he went on to defend the equal rights of gay people, all people really, but the mention of Stonewall stands out. That was a riot, a real riot, a violent retribution for police brutality, a we-can't-take-it-anymore moment in history. Polite society is not supposed to endorse such uncouth behavior... well, maybe not until 40-odd years later, when the rioters are proven right after all.

I also loved that he mentioned Seneca Falls, the convention that gave birth to all women's rights movements throughout the world, not just America's own. The connection of the two to Selma is also key, and slams progressives who for decades have been happy to consider glbt people as other and undeserving. The left has some 'splainin' to do on that score! No matter, we can all proceed now if we drop the squabbles.

It's clear in this speech that he believes we must commit ourselves to extending progressive ideals all over the world. That is visionary, especially as we see ourselves mired in state-by-state or law-by-law fights for equal marriage, voting rights, equal pay, etc., etc. He declared that we can't stop with securing basic human rights for ourselves. And it's true, peace and security can't happen while barbarism flourishes. It's the proverbial tall order, but there you have it.

08 January 2013

Copper Supply to be Choked?

This is interesting, and perhaps alarmist. It looks like the SEC is greenlighting financial instruments that buy up and hoard physical copper, which is a big change. The article says it could happen to grain or any other vital supply.

A lot of people scream for a free market, but they don't usually mean cornering markets, hoarding commodities, or any other traditionally destructive practice. It looks like something to be aware of as this one gets slipped through with no law in back of it.

04 January 2013

Zero Dark Thirty - Nothing

My brain is still reeling from Zero Dark 30. Here are some highlights:

At least a half hour of torture porn that somehow managed to be boring and repetitive, followed by rapid-fire spitting of Arabic names I had likely read before, but could not place (nor did any of them get explained much).

The propagandistic propping up of the old saw that torture got any useful information, let alone being the key unlocking the hiding place of Osama.

A pasty mushroom-woman neurotic central character who took down the world's most wanted with a series of tics, spasms, and outbursts of hissy fits interrupting her otherwise cold, clammy, affectless demeanor.

A fairly good video game version (complete with dirty-screen overlay) of the actual raid in Pakistan. Worth the ticket? No, but I cared much more about the Navy Seal team than I did about the careerist, torture-loving wanks at the CIA the film massaged so lovingly.

So, we have, overall, a stew of nastiness that the critics love. I walked away muttering, "I'll never trust the critics again." Which only confirmed what I was muttering when I left The Master. More than that, this movie had dialog your average 15-year-old could have written. The Master at least felt like a 17-year-old wrote it.

I rate it: Zero, zilch, nada.

More: Senators write angry letters about the movie's central point, and the CIA's playing footsie with the picture people. 

Zero Dark Thirty - The Central Lie?

The story gets curiouser and curiouser. Senators Feinsten, McCain, and Levin have been writing letters hotly disputing the movie's central premise: that the CIA tortured the name of the courier out of a detainee, who they followed to Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

They want to know what the CIA told the Zero Dark Thirty people, who they are also asking to set the record straight. In communication to both they throw in these interesting bullet points about the torture program:
  • The CIA did not first learn about the existence of the UBL courier from CIA detainees subjected to coercive interrogation techniques. Nor did the CIA discover the courier's identity from CIA detainees subjected to coercive techniques. No CIA detainee reported on the courier’s full name or specific whereabouts, and no detainee identified the compound in which UBL was hidden. Instead, the CIA learned of the existence of the courier, his true name, and location through means unrelated to the CIA detention and interrogation program. 
  • Information to support the UBL operation was obtained from a wide variety of intelligence sources and methods. CIA officers and their colleagues throughout the Intelligence Community sifted through massive amounts of information, identified possible leads, tracked them down, and made considered judgments based on all of the available intelligence. 
  • The CIA detainee who provided the most accurate information about the courier provided the information prior to being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques.
Gee, it looks like someone gave them some kind of information about the courier (after the identity was known?), but then they tortured the guy anyway. Nice.

The letters also point to a bit of coyness on the part of the CIA, and tries to pin the agency down on the details. Stay tuned.

Again, Zero Dark Thirty's central point is that torture works, torture is glorious, torture is what we should do. Take that away and the movie's story falls apart.

See my thrilling review of this dreadful movie.

29 November 2012

Celsius 233

Barnes & Noble Greenwich Village location to close at end of year.

I went into the Union Square store recently. The whole back of the first floor was a giant ad for their Nook reader.

I went upstairs, looking for the fun section where you used to find lots of big picture books at discount. It had moved, and was a minor afterthought rather than the former treasure trove.

Nothing beats looking over a range of books, even if pixels weigh a lot less.

10 November 2012


A house with great detail I saw while fleeing Sandy's aftermath.

08 November 2012


The result would be as jarring as the color scheme.
I figured Obama would win a second term, but the polls were so far off that they made me wonder if I were wrong.

I so enjoyed the Wednesday "message to Republicans" that many commenters on tv were idiotically spewing: The GOP needs to take seriously the feelings and interests of Hispanic voters, African Americans, women, gay folks, the middle class ... and on and on.

What? Come again? What's been going on for the last 45 years, since the start of Nixon's Southern Strategy? The Republicans have built their brand upon capitalizing on the fear of scared white people. They've climbed every mountain looking for the next group to hate: uppity women, out gay people, black people trying to get along and get ahead, immigrants taking the miserable work no one else would do. They have worked feverishly to secure the aborted fetus vote and chain pregnant women to hospital beds until they give birth. This has been their agenda.

Sometimes they whisper it quietly, other times they deliver a vision of an old cavalry charging in with Jesus in the lead, riding a white horse, machine-gun blazing.

Occasionally you think the leadership believes their own nonsense, and some do. The Tea Party movement caused them the most frustration. These were people who drank the Kool Aid and lived to be elected to congressional seats. The leadership never really expected this development, and now the media is urging them to purge these crazies from their ranks and adopt a moderate tone.

It's too late. Boehner can't spray-tan over the extremists. The Republicans can't suddenly embrace people they've scorned. They can't throw on pink wigs and go out in drag without being laughed at. They cannot change in any meaningful way, and that's a good thing. They are at last stuck with being who they claimed to be all along.

26 October 2012


Good reading at Guardian from Dean Baker on Obama's failure to defend Social Security.

The story here is a simple one: while social security may enjoy overwhelming support across the political spectrum, it does not poll nearly as well among the wealthy people – who finance political campaigns and own major news outlets. The predominant philosophy among this group is that a dollar in a worker['s] pocket is a dollar that could be in a rich person's pocket – and these people see social security putting lots of dollars in the pockets of people who are not rich.
There is also the flip side to this story. Politicians, especially Democrats, who speak up for cuts to social security can count on lavish praise from the media. Political figures of no obvious stature, like former Louisiana Senator John Breaux or former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, were lionized in the media for their willingness to cut social security benefits. After leaving the Senate, both took lobbying positions where they were almost certainly earning well over $1m a year.
This is the fundamental economics of social security that explains why it has not figured more prominently in the presidential race. If President Obama were to rise in defense of the program, he could count on losing the financial backing of many supporters. He would also get beaten up by the Washington Post and other major news outlets for challenging their agenda.
That about sums it up, but it does not go far enough. Obama, for reasons he has never explained, has been trying to cut Social Security from the beginning of his presidency. He called for what are euphemistically called "entitlement reforms" from the word jump. He tried to make the Simpson-Bowles slash-and-burn pirates into a fast-track committee. He tried to cut Social Security in his "grand bargain," which was a bargain for nobody who ever shopped for a bargain.

I think Dean Baker fails to see that Obama is just mildly less horrifying than, say, Paul Ryan on Social Security. His heart is truly in the business of cutting if not gutting the program. I'll say it right out: he's that awful on the program, and he has been all along. Out loud, for all to hear.

He's not appeasing anyone.

22 September 2012


A land that time and proper lighting forgot.


Whatever it was, someone used it all up!

19 September 2012


The Mother Jones transcripts look like they explain just what the hell Mitt Romney was thinking when he made those very ugly comments after the Libya embassy massacre:

Audience member: If you get the call as president, and you had hostages…Ronald Reagan was able to make a statement, even before he became, was actually sworn in—
Romney: Yeah—
Audience member: the hostages were released—
Romney: on the day of his inauguration, yeah.
Audience member: So my question is, really, how can you sort of duplicate that scenario?
Romney: Ohhhh. [A few chuckles in audience.] I'm gonna ask you, how do I duplicate that scenario.
Audience member: I think that had to do with the fact that the Iranians perceived Reagan would do something to really get them out. In other words [unintelligible]…and that's why I'm suggesting that something that you say over the next few months gets the Iranians to understand that their pursuit of the bomb is something that you would predict and I think that's something that could possibly resonate very well with American Republican voters.
Romney: I appreciate the idea. I can't—one of the other things that's frustrating to me is that at a typical day like this, when I do three or four events like this, the number of foreign policy questions that I get are between zero and one. And the American people are not concentrated at all on China, on Russia, Iran, Iraq. This president's failure to put in place a status forces agreement allowing 10-20,000 troops to stay in Iraq? Unthinkable! And yet, in that election, in the Jimmy Carter election, the fact that we have hostages in Iran, I mean, that was all we talked about. And we had the two helicopters crash in the desert, I mean that's—that was—that was the focus, and so him solving that made all the difference in the world. I'm afraid today if you said, "We got Iran to agree to stand down a nuclear weapon," they'd go hold on. It's really a, but…by the way, if something of that nature presents itself, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.
So, he DID have a situation like that happen and he jumped on it with both feet. He didn't use his supposedly large brain to filter out the idea, because he already had that idea in mind! The handlers only crafted the message, at best. This was no misstep or misstatement. It was on him.



The reality show that is the Romney campaign hit the rocks this week.

What no one has mentioned about the video is that none of the audience even coughed. No one stirred, fidgeted, or looked around. Does that mean they agreed with him? Not necessarily, but neither did they find his remarks outlandish.

And so, in private, these thoughts can be voiced. Hell, Paul Ryan says about the same things into any public microphone he finds live.

This is the ideology, often cloaked, rarely stated, tied with a bow. I admire Romney's boldness in stating it directly. How is he not a conservative now? Those calling on him to double down are the voices he should listen to. Why not have this argument out in the open, finally? Without the code words, without the dressing and drapery.

When the many conservatives pile on Romney now, it's a damn good spectacle. But what else have they been saying all along? About the same.

I'll take that debate. Then let the vote happen. Romney did not back off. Good first step.

16 September 2012


How did I predict it? Romney backed off and basically said the same thing that the Cairo U.S. embassy said, and that Secretary Clinton said. And he basically issued a no comment on the whole story.

Of course, certain of his advisers and point people are still flapping their gums, but it's a 180, and it's obvious.

At least he did the right thing after all! Not huge praise. I still have no idea what he was thinking when he followed this dreadful advice! He should have used his brain to filter out this concept.

He's just looking way too weak, following whatever some far right person tells him to say to keep that part of the party in the bag. He's been so desperate to court and hold them, that he's backed himself to the edge of a cliff. I think he fell off this time, but that may not be true.

We'll see soon enough. Hell, I could have told him not to do it.


Don't believe it? Read the LA Times article about the Boy Scouts's dirty doings.

In 1976, five Boy Scouts wrote detailed complaints accusing a Pennsylvania scoutmaster of two rapes and other sex crimes, according to his file. He abruptly resigned in writing, saying he had to travel more for work.
"Good luck to you in your new position," a top troop representative wrote back. He said he was accepting the resignation "with extreme regret."
Of course the lawyers fought tooth and nail to cover up the cover-up. These files apparently only cover the '70s to the early '90s.
A few months after Humphries' arrest in 1984, local Scouting official Jack Terwilliger told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that no one at the local Scout council had had suspicions about Humphries.

But that was not true. Records in Humphries' file show that six years earlier, Terwilliger had ordered officials to interview a Scout who gave a detailed account of Humphries' repeated acts of oral sex on him.

"He then told me to do the same and I did," the 12-year-old boy said in a sworn statement in 1978.

Humphries continued to work with Scouts and molested at least five more boys before police, acting on a tip, stopped him in 1984. He was convicted of abusing 20 Boy Scouts, some as young as 8, and was sentenced to 151 years in prison.
Another sanctimonious "religious" organization aiding and abetting horrific crimes. Lovely. Disband the thing by court order.

12 September 2012


Romney's people need to exert message control. I know he's getting slammed for what he said, but it could derive from a combination of bad information and bad advice. Let's look at what happened, even though details are, ahem, sketchy.


Okay, here's the Cairo Embassy statement:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others
This is about the notably bad video, Innocence of Muslims. It may or not be made by its poster, Sam Bacile.

The press release above is dated Tues., Sept. 11, 2012. I see no time stamp on it, so I have no idea when it was written. This becomes crucial, and I'll update when I find out, if I can, because now the Republicans are lining up behind Romney's attack on this statement. Sarah Palin, first to flap gums as always, claims it was sent while the Egyptian embassy was being stormed.

They obviously should be doing damage control, because they're all but saying this statement caused the attacks. That's a real stretch.

Here they might be seen as aligning with Koran-burning nut job Terry Jones. He seems to have been pumping this video. No one seems to know a damn thing about this video's true origins, but it got mentioned on Egyptian television after an Arab-language dubbing happened. Somehow Pastor Jones's promotion gets on government radar, as the linked article here reads:
On Wednesday, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Mr. Jones and asked him to consider withdrawing his support for the video, a senior administration official told reporters in a conference call. Mr. Jones’ response was “non-committal,” the administration official said.
Perhaps the statement came out before the rest of it all. I don't know. If so, that's a problem for a blame-the-statement messaging, and backtracking may ensue. Whether chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be calling up private citizens and telling them to put a lid on it, that I have the answer to. Er, no. Love him or hate him, this nut job has every right to pull his nuttery. He can light Goodnight Moon, holy books, or a set of encyclopedias on fire in the public square, for all I care.

In Libya, while there was a protest happening in front of the embassy, rumors fly that there may have been a planned attack that used an ordinary protest as cover for the operation. I don't know. If that turns out to be true, then Romney's shot off his mouth too soon.

The White House is saying they did not clear the statement. Fine, if true, and Secretary of State Clinton has basically restated the premise: not a great idea to deliberately insult a people's religion, because we've been supposedly a tolerant nation for oh so long. Unless you happened to be a Native American, or, well, let's not bring all that up now.

So, the timing is crucial. When did the statement go out? Whether the Libyan attack was planned is also crucial, because no cause and effect can be found.