Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Simon & Garfunkel Live In Central Park

One of the most memorable performances I've ever attended was Simon & Garfunkel's free benefit concert in Central Park, September 19, 1981. Above they sang "Scarborough Fair," the traditional English ballad included on their classic "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme" album (1966).

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sen. Bernie Sanders: What Do The Koch Brothers Want?

On his web site, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) asked what right-wing billionaires David and Charles Koch want, besides $80 billion in wealth, the second largest private company and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He argues that the Koch brothers won't be satisfied "until they are able to control the entire political process." Sanders presented excerpts from the platform of the Libertarian Party of 1980, the year David Koch ran as the party's vice presidential candidate. It's a chilling document that calls for the omplete shredding of what's left of the social safety net:

“We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
“We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
“We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”
“We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
“We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”
“We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence. Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”
“We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
“We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
“As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
“We support repeal of all law which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”
“We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
“We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
“We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”
“We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
“We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
“We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”
“We demand the return of America's railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
“We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called "self-protection" equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”
“We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
“We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
“We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”
“We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”
“We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”
“We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
“We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
“We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Robert Reich: Raise Minimum Wage To $15 An Hour

Robert Reich acknowledges that the Senate Democrats' push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is an improvement over the current $7.25, but he argues that it should really be incrementally raised to $15. With his cartoonist skills and sound economic logic, Reich provides seven reasons why. Watch:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Blackburn: GOP "Led The Fight For Women's Equality"

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) talked around the Republicans' blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act, stating that the bill was "helpful for trial lawyers" and that her party "led the fight for women's equality." Women instead, she stated, have to be concerned with "maximum pay" and "access to capital" and oppose regulations and–of course–Obamacare. Got that? Once again, Blackburn spoke in riddles while maintaining her historic opposition to equal pay. Watch:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

All-White Fox Panel Discusses "Race In America"

After viewing Attorney General Eric Holder decrying House Republicans for their ugly divisiveness and President Obama speaking about the gains of the Civil Rights Act under attack, Fox hosts held a discussion, "Race In America." Every participant was white, and the general consensus was that racism is no longer a problem or priority in America. "Who cares" about racism, one asked. Watch:

The Whitney Biennial

This year's Whitney Museum Biennial is the last one to be held in the Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue before the museum moves downtown. That fact may give the Biennial, which showcases new artists, a bittersweet feeling for longtime patrons of the Whitney. At the same time, for this viewer, this feeling was mixed with a sense of deja vu regarding the show itself.

Two years ago, the Whitney included a selection of work from past Biennials, and I found myself more drawn to those works. Once again, I found the apparent vogue for installations employing video, audio and other mixed media to be too overwhelming and phantasmagorical–and, again, I was drawn to a modernism from decades past, as contrasted with the postmodern mixing of styles and influences here. In particular, I was interested in the work of four women working in abstract expressionism, a style once associated with a male macho aesthetic of big canvases and energetic gestures. Such artists included Louise Fishman, Jacqueline Humphries, Dona Nelson, Amy Sillman and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung. I was particularly impressed with two canvases by Louise Fishman, including "Crossing the Rubicon" (2012) above, suggestive of the rawness, broad strokes and bold colors of the early Willem de Kooning, such as "Gotham News" (1955). My response to Fishman's work demonstrates that ultimately one will always find something that resonates at the sweeping survey that is the Whitney Biennial.

The Whitney Biennial continues through May 25 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street, NYC, (212) 570-3600,

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Green News Report: Fox Presents A "Tsunami Of Disinformation" On Climate Change

The Green News Report treats us to a sampler of Fox News nonsense regarding climate change that includes doubting the international scientific consensus, referred to as as "survey of friends"; citing snow as contradicting global warming; claiming that CO2 doesn't cause global warming, and stating that Germany is doing better with solar power because it's a smaller country with more sun. It all adds up to a "tsunami of disinformation" from the "fair and balanced" network. Listen:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Elvis Costello and Mumford & Sons

After watching performances by Elvis Costello and Mumford & Sons over the past two weeks, let's take in a song that combines these artists. Above they do a fine acoustic medley of two songs that speak for the dispossessed, Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," inspired by John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," and Woody Guthrie's "Do Re Mi."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pat Robertson Recalls When Gays Were Stoned To Death

Pat Robertson, who richly deserved being named 2013 "Bigot of the Year" by the Stonewall Awards, said that Jesus wouldn't have baked a cake for a gay couple since they would have already been stoned to death. He also said that the devil is attacking society through gay rights and abortion. Robertson, of course, has a history of making bigoted, senseless comments. What's disheartening is that he has a following. Listen via Right Wing Watch:

ROBERTSON: I think you got to remember from the Bible, if you look carefully at the Bible what would have happened in Jesus’ time if two men decided they wanted to cohabit together, they would have been stoned to death,” Robertson said. “So Jesus would not have baked them a wedding cake nor would he have made them a bed to sleep in because they wouldn’t have been there. But we don’t have that in this country here so that’s the way it is.

...The Devil is trying to say, ‘I’m going to destroy your progeny any way I can. If you will kill your babies, that’s fine, I’m with you; if you will deny the chance of having babies, that’s fine too; but I want to destroy your opportunities to reproduce,’” he said. “It’s a very serious thing and we’re not talking about it, and we need to as a society, we have to realize where the attack is coming because it is definitely an attack.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

U.S. Among Minority Of Countries To Apply Death Penalty

According to Amnesty International's report, "Death Sentences and Executions 2013," the U.S. stands among the nine countries, including some of the world's worst human rights offenders, that continually use the death penalty. Capital punishment is carried out in a minority of countries and continues to decline. In the U.S., Texas accounted for 41 percent of executions; on the other hand, the application of death penalty overall is also declining in the U.S.:

Developments in the worldwide use of the death penalty in 2013 confirmed that its application is confined to a small minority of countries. Although only nine countries have continuously executed in each of the past five years – Bangladesh, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, USA and Yemen – and there has been a consistent trend away from the death penalty, some severe setbacks have to be acknowledged. The resumption of executions in Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria and Viet Nam, as well as a marked increase in reported executions in Iran and Iraq, were recorded during the year.

Amnesty International recorded executions in 22 countries. The number of confirmed executions was 778, an increase of 14% over the 2012 figure of 682 in 21 countries. The figure of 778 excludes the thousands of executions carried out in China, which accounts for more executions than the rest of the world combined. Apart from China, almost 80% of all known executions were recorded in only three countries: Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Despite the setbacks, progress towards abolition was recorded in all regions of the world. Although the USA remained the only country in the Americas to carry out executions in 2013, with the state of Texas alone accounting for 41% of all executions in the region, the number of executions carried out in the US continued to decrease. Maryland became the 18th abolitionist US state in May. For the first time since Amnesty International began keeping records there were no prisoners on death row in Grenada, Guatemala and Saint Lucia after all remaining prisoners had their death sentences commuted.

Image: Amnesty International