Wednesday, April 28, 2010

GOP Congressional Candidate: Put Microchips In Illegal Immigrants, Just Like With Dogs

Are the Republicans determined to to alienate the most rapidly growing segment of the population? Recently, Republican Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed a law requiring police to question anyone "reasonably suspected" of being an illegal immigrant and demanding that legal immigrants carry papers documenting their right to be in the U.S.–surely an invitation to the racial profiling of Hispanics throughout the state.

Apparently that's not draconian enough for Iowa Republican congressional candidate Pat Bertroche (above). Speaking at a candidates' forum, he proposed implanting microchips in illegal immigrants:

“I think we should catch ’em, we should document ’em, make sure we know where they are and where they are going,” said Pat Bertroche, an Urbandale physician. “I actually support micro-chipping them. I can micro-chip my dog so I can find it. Why can’t I micro-chip an illegal?

“That’s not a popular thing to say, but it’s a lot cheaper than building a fence they can tunnel under,” Bertroche said. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Republicans' Mantra: "Let's Start Over"

On Monday, the Republicans blocked debate on the financial reform bill and criticized the Democrats for "rushing" the legislation. Sound familiar? Whether it's the stimulus package, health care reform or financial reform, the GOP has one response: "Let's start over." Their goal is to pick apart a bill to the point that reform is meaningless. Think Progress complied a video showing the Republicans repeating their favorite line over the course of a year. Watch:

Judge Andrew Napolitano: Arizona Law Combines East Germany And Ante-Bellum South

Writing in Alan Colmes' Liberaland, Judge Andrew Napolitano (left) eloquently expressed his outrage at the new immigration law in Arizona:

I cannot begin to tell you how steamed I am when any government violates first principles of our Constitution. Never before in our modern history has an American government purported to give police the power to stop someone because of their appearance and then require the stopped person to prove a negative on the spot–namely, that he or she is not in the US illegally. In the American justice system, the government must prove everything about the defendant’s behavior; it is a profound violation of due process to impose upon the stopped person the obligation of coming forward with any proof of anything in order to avoid the summary loss of freedom. This is a consistent and unchallenged component of our jurisprudence. Someone should ask Governor Jan Brewer what an illegal alien looks like–she will not be able to answer. As well, can she tell of a person’s immigration status by looking at that person? I can’t imagine that she could answer in the affirmative, yet she has purported to give to police the mental subjective discretion to do so. This is East Germany and the ante-bellum South all in one.

Arizona Truck Driver Handcuffed For Not Having Birth Certificate

Governor Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona signed a new immigration law that gives the police leeway to detain anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant and demand that he or she provide legal documents. What does a "suspect" look like? Perhaps like the truck driver who was pulled over and handcuffed for lack of required paperwork: provides further background. The story is a preview of the racial profiling and harassment sure to come as a result of the new Arizona law:

A Valley man says he was pulled over Wednesday morning and questioned when he arrived at a weigh station for his commercial vehicle along Val Vista and the 202 freeway.

Abdon, who did not want to use his last name, says he provided several key pieces of information but what he provided apparently was not what was needed.

He tells 3TV, “I don't think it's correct, if I have to take my birth certificate with me all the time.”

3TV caught up with Abdon after he was released from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in central Phoenix. He and his wife, Jackie, are still upset about what happened to him.

Jackie tells 3TV, “It's still something awful to be targeted. I can't even imagine what he felt, people watching like he was some type of criminal.”

Abdon was told he did not have enough paperwork on him when he pulled into a weigh station to have his commercial truck checked. He provided his commercial driver’s license and a social security number but ended up handcuffed.

An agent called his wife and she had to leave work to drive home and grab other documents like his birth certificate.

...Both were born in the United States and say they are now both infuriated that keeping important documents safely at home is no longer an option.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Dave Mason Live

Dave Mason performs "Only You Know And I Know" in Sunrise, Florida, 2007. Mason, formerly with Traffic, originally recorded the song on his 1970 album "Alone Together," which deserves a place among the masterpieces of rock's greatest era. After the song ends, Mason states, "Rock and roll is an attitude, not an age"–a maxim that he proves with this spirited performance.

RNC Chair Steele: African-Americans "Don't Have A Reason" To Vote Republican

Speaking to 200 DePaul University students, Michael Steele, the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee, said that African-Americans have not been given a reason to vote for his party. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Why should an African-American vote Republican?

"You really don't have a reason to, to be honest -- we haven't done a very good job of really giving you one. True? True," Republican National Chairman Michael Steele told 200 DePaul University students Tuesday night.

Steele also said that the Republicans have pursued a race-based strategy in the South:

"We have lost sight of the historic, integral link between the party and African-Americans," Steele said. "This party was co-founded by blacks, among them Frederick Douglass. The Republican Party had a hand in forming the NAACP, and yet we have mistreated that relationship. People don't walk away from parties, Their parties walk away from them.

"For the last 40-plus years we had a 'Southern Strategy' that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South. Well, guess what happened in 1992, folks, 'Bubba' went back home to the Democratic Party and voted for Bill Clinton."

Steele's comments have not gone over well with his fellow Republicans, who deny that the party has played upon racial divisions since Richard Nixon pursued the "Southern Strategy" in 1968. Yet one of Steele's predecessors as RNC chair, Ken Mehlman, said in 2005 that some Republicans in the past few decades were "trying to benefit politically from racial polarization" and that they were "wrong."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Michael Moore On Financial Regulation And Health Care Reform

In part one of his interview on MSNBC's Countdown, Michael Moore, America’s most insightful and courageous documentarian, speaks to Lawrence O’Donnell on Wall street chicanery and the need for financial regulation:

In part two, Moore discusses the lengths that private health insurance will go in order to deny coverage, as well as the ultimate need for universal, single-payer health care. Moore and O’Donnell also speak about Nevada Republican senatorial candidate Sue Lowden’s barter health care plan:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sue Lowden's Republican Health Care Plan: Barter A Chicken For A Checkup

Sue Lowden, Republican front-runner to Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid in the senatorial race in Nevada, has introduced her barter system health care plan. For example, one could barter a chicken for medical treatment. I kid you not. Watch:

Lowden: Let's change the system and talk about what the possibilities are. I'm telling you that this works. You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say I'll paint your house. [That's] what people would do to get health care with their doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I'm not backing down from that system.

Regarding Lowden not "backing down," she also advocated bartering for health care earlier in the month at a candidate forum in Mesquite, Nevada. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's Chickens for Checkups site enables you to send a message telling Lowden your ailment and what you'd be willing to barter for treatment.

Nice to know that at last there's a viable Republican health care plan. Next time you're going to the doctor, first stop by the supermarket and pick up a chicken. If Lowden wins the senatorial race in Nevada after this, I'd feel like the sky is falling.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beck The Prophet: "God Is Giving A Plan, I Think, To Me"

When Glenn Beck suggested that churches advocating social justice were using code words for Nazism and communism, he was criticized by many Christian leaders. Undaunted, Beck has picked up the theological mantle again. He no longer sees himself as just an entertainer; he's now a prophet carrying out God's plan. See if you can make sense out of Beck's sermon and are inspired (courtesy of Media Matters):

Beck: ...God is giving a plan, I think, to me that is not really a plan…The problem is that I think the plan that the Lord would have us follow is hard for people to understand…Because of my track record with you who have been here for a long time. ...I beg of you to help me get this message out, and I beg of you to pray for clarity on my part. ...what he is asking us to do is to stand peacefully, quietly with anger, quiet with anger, loudly with truth. ...When we were, and I’ve never told this story before, when we were starting the TV show, there were things that I did that I wouldn’t do now because I had to be more of an entertainer to get people to go what is this show at five o’clock? I never said anything I didn’t believe, but I may have said things in an entertaining fashion. (h/t Politicus)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bill Clinton: "What We Learned In Oklahoma City"

On this fifteenth anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, President Bill Clinton draws lessons that are especially applicable to today's dangerously polarized atmosphere. We have all heard the right-wing demonization of "government bureaucrats"; Clinton reminds us that among those who lost their lives were government workers dedicated to helping others:

Most of the people killed that day were employees of the federal government. They were men and women who had devoted their careers to helping the elderly and disabled, supporting our veterans and enforcing our laws. They were good neighbors and good friends. One of them, a Secret Service agent named Al Whicher, a husband and father of three, had been on my presidential security detail. Nineteen children also lost their lives.

The bombers were convinced that government is the enemy of freedom and that they could murder their way to liberty. They profoundly misunderstood the nature of dissent and freedom:

Americans have more freedom and broader rights than citizens of almost any other nation in the world, including the capacity to criticize their government and their elected officials. But we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way. Our founders constructed a system of government so that reason could prevail over fear. Oklahoma City proved once again that without the law there is no freedom.

Clinton warns those who employ irresponsible rhetoric that they should consider their words before they inspire others to cross the line into violence. His message directly applies to the threats against lawmakers who passed health care reform:

...As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters, we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.

...Fifteen years ago, the line was crossed in Oklahoma City. In the current climate, with so many threats against the president, members of Congress and other public servants, we owe it to the victims of Oklahoma City, and those who survived and responded so bravely, not to cross it again.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Limbaugh: Volcanic Eruption In Iceland Is God's Reply To Health Care Reform

After 9/11, Pat Robertson said, "I totally concur" when Jerry Falwell blamed the catastrophe on "...the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians...the ACLU, People For the American Way..." After Hurricane Katrina, Robertson linked the disaster to legalized abortion.

Rush Limbaugh has joined his fellow wingnuts in ascribing adversity to God's anger at liberalism. That volcanic eruption in Iceland that resulted in the disruption of air travel throughout Europe? Why, it's God's response to health care reform in the U.S. Listen:

Limbaugh: You know, a couple of days after the health care bill had been signed into law Obama ran around all over the country saying, “Hey, you know, I’m looking around. The earth hadn’t opened up. There’s no Armageddon out there. The birds are still chirping.” I think the earth has opened up. God may have replied. This volcano in Iceland has grounded more airplanes — airspace has more affected — than even after 9/11 because of this plume, because of this ash cloud over Northern and Western Europe. At the Paris airport they’re telling people to head to the train station to catch trains out of France, and when people get to the train station they’re telling people, “There aren’t any seats until at least April 22nd,” basically a week from now. It’s got everybody in a shutdown. Earth has opened up. I don’t know whether it’s a rebirth or Armageddon. Hopefully it’s a rebirth, God speaking. (h/t Think Progress)

Friday, April 16, 2010

McConnell Won't Talk About Meeting With Hedge Fund Managers

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been falsely linking financial reform with continued taxpayer-funded bailouts. McConnell is handsomely paid off for such distortions by his largest contributor, the financial industry.

McConnell and Senator John Cornyn (TX) recently met with Wall Street hedge fund managers to tell them that electing Republicans will help in the effort to oppose financial regulatory reform. But McConnell doesn't want to talk about that meeting. When reporters asked about it, he repeatedly dodged the question and spoke about community bankers in Kentucky. Watch (h/t Think Progress):

QUESTION: How do you push back against this perception that you’re doing the bidding of the large banks? There was a report that you guys met with hedge fund managers in New York. A lot of people are viewing this particular line of argument, this bailout argument as spin –
MCCONNELL: You could talk to the community bankers in Kentucky.
QUESTION: I’m not asking you about the community bankers.
MCCONNELL: Well, I’m telling you about the community bankers in Kentucky.
QUESTION: Have you talked with other people other than community bankers?
MCCONNELL: Well, sure. We talk to people all the time. I’m not denying that. What’s wrong with that? That’s how we learn how people feel about legislation. But the community bankers in Kentucky, the little guys, the mainstreet guys, are overwhelmingly opposed to this bill.
QUESTION: What do you say to folks this is just meant to deflect attention from the fact your defending the large banks?
MCCONNELL: I’d say that’s innaccurate.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

McConnell's New Phase Of Republican Obstructionism: Opposing Financial Reform

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (KY) has signaled the next phase of Republican obstructionism: killing financial reform. Just like with health reform, part of the GOP partisan plan is to accuse the Democrats of partisanship:

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, criticized the Democrats’ plans to regulate Wall Street as arrogant and partisan, echoing the recent health care fight in which he accused Democrats of carrying out a government takeover.

McConnell equates regulating the financial system with "endless taxpayer-funded bailouts"–a point refuted by Jen Psaki, White House deputy communications director, in a blog post:

Here are the facts: this bill does the exact opposite of what these critics say it does. The Senate bill explicitly mandates that a large financial firm that faces failure will be allowed to fail, and it explicitly prohibits the use of any funds to “bail out” a failing firm. Under the Senate bill, large financial firms facing insolvency in times of crisis will be shut down or broken apart. Management will be replaced. Creditors will suffer losses. Equity holders will be wiped out. And large financial firms, not taxpayers, will be required to bear the costs. Under the Senate bill, the taxpayers will never be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s irresponsibility.

McConnell actually supported a bank bailout–only not under President Obama:

At a news conference, Mr. McConnell acknowledged his own support for the $700 billion bailout in 2008 when the Bush administration warned of an imminent crisis. “That is not to say that we think it ever ought to be done again,” he said.

McConnell and National Senatorial Committee chairman Senator John Cornyn (TX) recently met with Wall Street executives to discuss killing financial reform and contributing to Republican campaigns. As reported by no less than Fox News:

As a financial reform bill starts to take shape in Washington, two key lawmakers came to New York City last week to explain what it means for Wall Street, and how financial executives might help prevent some of its least market-friendly aspects from becoming law by electing more Republicans, FOX Business Network has learned.

About 25 Wall Street executives, many of them hedge fund managers, sat down for a private meeting Thursday afternoon with two of the most powerful Republican lawmakers in Congress: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas who runs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, one of the primary fundraising arms of the Republican Party.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Populist" Palin's Speech Contract Calls For Bendable Straws And Lear Jet

Sarah Palin's image as a "maverick," a woman of the people, doesn't stand up when one learns about the terms of her speaking engagement at Cal State University–demands that have caused quite a stir since being discovered in a dumpster:

Six pages of the contract Palin's handlers sent to Cal State Stanislaus were unearthed in a dumpster by students there this week, and one of the many requirements that must be met for the former vice presidential hopeful: two unopened bottles of still water and "bendable straws" must be waiting on a wooden lectern.

That was just one item among the pages of elaborate demands that must be met to land a contract for Palin to come speak at an event. More costly were the requirement for her travel – the venue must supply her with business or first class commercial airfare, or with a private plane. And not just any jet will do.

"The private aircraft MUST BE a Lear 60 or larger (as defined by interior cabin space) for West Coast Events.." the contract states.

Palin's fee has come under question in the midst of California's economic troubles:

The Cal State speech – which is believed to be costing the university's foundation about $75,000 -- became grist for controversy when California state Sen. Leland Yee questioned the wisdom of the expense at a time when the state is in the grips of a budget crisis. University officials have remained defiant.

Some students and faculty are also demanding greater transparency:

“Our students are being slammed by enormous fee hikes while cuts mean they can’t get the classes they need,” says Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association. “This resistance to transparency is another slap in the face. CSU executives are at the top of these so-called auxiliaries, and they need to show more respect for the people they supposedly serve.”

Once again, right-wing populism as exemplified by Palin has been revealed as a facade.

Monday, April 12, 2010

"The Ghost Writer": The Editor Who Knew Too Much

Regardless of what one thinks of the director's legal affairs, Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" is a superb political thriller. The ghost writer (Ewan McGregor), never named, is hired to edit the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). The previous ghost writer had turned up dead by the ocean at Martha's Vineyard (the rainy and overcast main setting, though much of the film was shot in Germany)–an immediate clue that this is one writing assignment that carries risks way beyond typos.

The ghost writer works at the book publisher's house, also occupied by Lang, along with the latter's brainy, beautiful and bitter wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) and staff member and mistress Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall). The ghost writer, a hack with a fondness for alcohol, becomes something of an investigative reporter as he discovers that the supposedly affable Lang's claims about his life are dubious.

Lang is also accused back home of sending an alleged terrorist to the C.I.A, which in turn sends him to a country that practices torture–a procedure, "extraordinary rendition," that became well known during the Bush-Cheney years. There's a parallel here between Lang and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who steadfastly supported America's ill-conceived war in Iraq. Protestors outside the publisher's compound and at home in England call for Lang to stand trial and the ghost writer becomes swept up in circumstances seemingly beyond his control, just as the viewer is carried along by the film's relentless suspense.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art" Review: On The Dharma Path

"Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art," at the Asia Society Museum in New York City, focuses on the theme of the spiritual journey, a mainstay of Buddhist expression. The show is divided into three sections, starting with "The Buddha & The Sacred Site." This part concentrates on places associated with the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, teachings and death. This relief panel (Pakistan, 2nd century) depicts the Buddha's first sermon at Sarnath, surrounded by monks:

The central theme of the show is depicted in "The Journey" section. Many pilgrims carried portable shrines with them, including this wood carving (China, 10th-12th century) illustrating the Buddha's lecture on Vulture Peak:

Another traditional theme of the journey is the arduous mountain climb, one that parallels spiritual ascension. The climbers up Mount Fuji in this color woodblock print (Japan, 1830-32) were thought to pass from the world of the living to the dead and back, in the process purifying themselves:

The "Memory, Memento and Sacred Bond" section displays the "souvenirs" the pilgrims took back home that resonate with spiritual meaning. This painting (China, 19th century) of the Buddha's footprints from Mount Wutai was bought by a pilgrim who visited that sacred Chinese mountain:

The trek through this exhibit, while not too long, proves enlightening to any viewer. "Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art" remains at the Asia Society Museum, 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), NYC, until June 20. For further information, visit the exhibition web site and the New York Times review and slideshow.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Tracy Chapman Live

With her characteristically strong vocals and tight instrumentation, Tracy Chapman evokes a planned getaway to a better life in "Fast Car." This outstanding singer-songwriter is known for compositions that are both deeply personal and socially conscious; note the banner on the stage for Amnesty International, a cause with which she has long been associated. To hear an August 2009 interview with Chapman on NPR, click here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Is Beck's Rhetoric Connected To Threats Against Senators Murray And Pelosi?

Charles Alan Wilson was arrested by federal agents in Yakima, Washington, on Tuesday and charged with threatening to kill Senator Patty Murray for supporting health care reform. The FBI traced a series of voicemail messages left at Murray's office to Wilson's home, including the following:

''There's a target on your back now,'' said one message on March 22. ''It only takes one piece of lead. Kill the (expletive) senator! ... Now that you've passed your health-care bill, let the violence begin.''

In other messages over the next several days, the caller said, ''I hope somebody puts a (expletive) bullet between your (expletive) eyes,'' and ''I do believe that every one of you (expletive) socialist democratic progressive (expletives) need to be taken out.''

Interesting that he used the word "progressive" to denote those who should be killed. Glenn Beck has called the progressive movement a cancer and declared war on it. Listen:

Beck: Remember last week, I told you these are the times that try men’s souls. We’re declaring war, and not on Obama, but on the progressive movement, and when you declare war on these people, it is going to be till the last person standing. These are revolutionaries, very, very bad movement.

The FBI has also arrested Gregory Guisti for threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the health care bill. Beck could be influencing those like Wilson and Guisti to declare war on "these people" who spread the "cancer" of progressivism. We can also recall other threats and vandalism surrounding the passage of health care reform. There's no reason to believe that any of these incidents will cause Beck to moderate his inflammatory rhetoric.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Family Values Republicans Run Up $1,946 Sex Club Tab

It must be tough keeping up an image as the party of family values and fiscal responsibility with disclosures such as the following:

The Republican National Committee spent about $30,000 in February on private airplanes and limousines. But those charges were overshadowed by the $1,946.25 charge at Voyeur West Hollywood, which was described by The Los Angeles Times last year as a “high-end nightclub” with an interior “reminiscent of the masked orgy scene” from the movie “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Republican consultant and donor Ed Brown of Orange, California, submitted a request to be reimbursed for the club visit, which he termed a "meal expense."

The incident comes against the background of Republican officials criticizing Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Michael Steele for his spending habits. Since Steele took over the RNC last year, its funds have dropped from $22 million to $9.46 million.

Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, commented on the expenses:

“If limos, chartered aircraft and sex clubs are where they think their donor’s money should be spent – who are we to judge? But, this controversy shouldn’t give voters much confidence in Republicans when they say they want to be put back in charge of federal spending – not that their performance the last time they were in charge would have engendered any confidence in the first place.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lesbian Student A Victim Of Prom Deception

Constance McMillen (left) wanted to bring her date to the prom. Her date, though, was another girl at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi. The district cancelled the event rather than allow them to attend together. A federal judge in the state then ruled that Constance's rights were violated. He didn't force the district to hold the prom, because he thought that school parents were holding a private event to which the two girls would be invited. He had no idea of the lengths they were going in order to cruelly fool the two:

To avoid Constance McMillen bringing a female date to her prom, the teen was sent to a "fake prom" while the rest of her class partied at a secret location at an event organized by parents.

McMillen tells The Advocate that a parent-organized prom happened behind her back — she and her date were sent to a Friday night event at a country club in Fulton, Miss., that attracted only five other students. Her school principal and teachers served as chaperones, but clearly there wasn't much to keep an eye on.

McMillen's fellow students colluded in this shameful deception:

"They had two proms and I was only invited to one of them," McMillen says. "The one that I went to had seven people there, and everyone went to the other one I wasn’t invited to."

Last week McMillen asked one of the students organizing the prom for details about the event, and was directed to the country club. "It hurts my feelings," McMillen says.

Knowing what it is like to be an outsider, McMillen displayed a natural sensitivity for two other students at the "fake prom":

Two students with learning difficulties were among the seven people at the country club event, McMillen recalls. "They had the time of their lives," McMillen says. "That's the one good thing that come out of this, [these kids] didn't have to worry about people making fun of them [at their prom]."

Monday, April 5, 2010

"The Runaways" Film Review: Girls Just Want To Rock And Roll

Taking a guitar lesson in school, Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) was told by the music teacher that girls don't play electric guitar. She immediately plugged in and performed a mocking version of "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley." This early scene in "The Runaways" establishes the theme of female determination to enter the male-dominated rock world.

Jett approaches producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), who agrees to take her on. They find Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) in a club and hire her to be the lead singer based upon her image. They quickly put The Runaways rock band together and Fowley trains them in "women's libido." They're taught, in a ramshackle trailer, to play fast, raw rock and to do so with defiance in front of skeptical teenage male audiences.

Jett and Currie partake of glue-sniffing and cocaine binging; growing up in the mid-1970s in southern California, the girls' behavior is attributed to a lack of parental supervision. Jett, however, had an inner drive and focus, while Currie, more vulnerable, succumbed to drugs and stopped performing (the film is based on Currie's memoir; she later became a sculptor).

Director Floria Sigismondi offers a complex depiction of the rock lifestyle and its effect on these female pioneers. There are feminist themes and themes of exploitation; Fowley has Currie take some cheesecake photos; the girls are advertised as "jailbait." The sex, drugs, rock and roll and adulation are all there, but so is the unvarnished price of excess. These elements are presented without romanticizing or moralizing, adding up to a portrait as raw and real as the music.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Scenes From The Tea Party Alternative Reality

Media Matters does an excellent job year round chronicling the distortions of the right wing media. In the video below, they show several speakers from the Tea Party Express rallies, March 27-April 15. Commentators include:

• Andrew Breitbart criticizing the mainstream media's decision to "destroy you," including when they "firebomb your church."
• Fox analyst Andrew Napolitano, stating that "taxation is theft." Presumably the highways that the tea partiers traveled on to get to the rallies should be maintained through voluntary funding.
• Glenn Beck calling for "food storage," presumably in preparation for the coming Armageddon, and stating that America is making the "same moves" as the Weimar Republic, which led to Nazi Germany. Following this typically loony Beck history lesson, he advises his fans to correct their children's history books.
• Sarah Palin again asking, "How is that hopey changey thing working out for ya?" (I'd say quite fine, considering the passage of health care reform.)
• Joe the Plumber complaining that his arsenal isn't big enough and proclaiming, to the delight of the crowd, his pleasure in leaving a carbon footprint with a gas-guzzling vehicle.
• Talk show host Wayne Allyn Root calling for the arrest of Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D).

Of course, there's a shot of the ubiquitous racist sign showing President Obama in tribal garb. Now visit this alternative reality:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Greenberg" Film Review: The Art Of Doing Nothing

In "Greenberg," Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) has returned from New York to his native Los Angeles after suffering a nervous breakdown. Roger is trying to "do nothing" for a while, and so he's house-sitting for his brother while the latter vacations with his family in Vietnam.

Roger, a carpenter, spends his time writing letters of grievance. He takes care of his brother's dog, who suddenly becomes ill. He listens to the complaints of old friends who blame him for breaking up a rock band supposedly on the brink of success. He spends time with a former girlfriend, Beth (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and friend, Ivan (Rhys Ifans). Beth and Ivan, though they've had difficulties in their respective marriages, are, unlike Roger, trying to be responsible adults. Roger, 41, is involved–sort of–with his brother's personal assistant, Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig), 25, who also sings at a bar.

The disconnected dialogue among various characters and Roger's drifting give the film a realistic, "slice of life" feel. That would be fine, except for the fact that this main character doesn't evoke much sympathy or, ultimately, interest. He's difficult and unpredictable with friends and especially with the passive Florence, and he rationalizes his own behavior with psychobabble. Florence is also something of a lost soul, but why she continues to bother with this self-indulgent, aimless individual almost twice her age is a mystery.

Roger tells Florence that he shouldn't be completely defined by his stay in a mental hospital, and, by that standard, we shouldn't excuse his bad behavior by constantly reminding ourselves of his recent emotional state. As the film concludes and Roger has to make a decision about his relationship with Florence, one only wants to advise her to ditch this guy. Viewers new to the films of Noah Baumbach should instead take in the humorous and poignant "The Squid and the Whale" (2005).

National Review Symposium On Black Unemployment Includes No Black Analysts

After the conservative National Review Online (NRO) featured an article, "Racial Recession," by Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute, the NRO held an online symposium, "Really a Racial Recession?" on whether unemployment is worse for blacks because "...discrimination may well still be a factor in the American labor market."

NRO invited "economics and civil-rights analysts to share their thoughts on the topic." Participants below included, clockwise from top left, Samuel Staley, Reason Foundation; Nicole Gelinas, Manhattan Institute; Stephan Thernstrom, Harvard University; Roger Clegg, Center for Equal Opportunity, which has an "Affirmative Action Watch" hotline; and Amity Shlaes, author of "The Forgotten Man," a critique of FDR's New Deal. The last photo is of Kevin Hassett, whose article inspired the discussion (h/t Gawker):

Anyone notice something? Oliver Willis put it succinctly:

The thing is, there’s no law or rule that only black people can talk about issues affecting black people, or the same for white, Latino, Asian people, etc.

But considering the way the conservative movement insists that it is diverse, they couldn’t find one black person for their symposium? Not one?

The subhead for the "Really a Racial Recession?" symposium suggested the panel's conclusion: "Discrimination is an insufficient explanation for black unemployment."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Obama Does Stand-Up On Health Reform Critics

President Obama did a great stand-up routine on health care bill critics yesterday in Portland, Maine. His targets: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who spoke of "Armageddon" due to the legislation; those who declared the "end of freedom as we know it"; and pundits who warn that "polls haven't changed yet" regarding a bill that's just a week old. Watch (h/t Think Progress):