Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Ajami": Urban Grit, Jaffa Style

"Ajami," a film named after a tough, mostly Arab section of Jaffa, Israel, is one of five Oscar nominees for best foreign language film. This distinction is shared with the Israeli films "Beaufort" in 2008, and, in 2009, the remarkable animated "Waltz With Bashir," reviewed here.

The film starts with a shooting and vendetta following the demand of a Bedouin family for protection money from an Arab restaurant. Along the way, various characters are forced to make wrenching choices: Omar (Shahir Kabaha), an Israeli Arab, in debt following the vendetta's financial settlement; Malek (Ibraham Frege), a West Bank Palestinian who needs money for his mother's medical care and crosses into Israel to work in the restaurant, and Dando (Eran Naim), an Israeli policeman whose younger brother is captured and killed by Palestinian militants. Omar and Malek are specifically in debt to Abu Elias (Yousef Sahwani), a powerful local figure and the father of Hadir (Ranin Karim). Abu Elias, a Christian Arab, is opposed to the romance between Omar, a Muslim, and his daughter.

The conflicts between these figures reflect more than those found in the mean streets of a grim urban area, since they are filtered through the divisions in Israeli society. They are also filtered through a non-linear narrative. Key scenes are revisited, adding more information and correcting previous assumptions. Our perspective becomes more complete, yet the film avoids making final judgments about characters caught in desperate circumstances.

The directors, Scandar Copti, an Israeli Arab who plays a role in the film, and Yaron Shani, an Israeli Jew, used local non-actors who achieve a raw authenticity that, combined with the technical innovations, makes "Ajami" gripping and challenging throughout.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: John Prine Sings About This Big Old Goofy World

Starting in the Chicago folk scene, singer-songwriter John Prine has written many understated, poignant compositions that have been widely covered. Here he performs one of them, "It's A Big Old Goofy World." Bob Dylan said, "Prine's stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs."

Friday, February 26, 2010

Puppet Cleavage Too Daring For Colorado Springs Religious Right

The AP reports that a poster (left) of a puppet's cleavage for the musical Avenue Q is too hot for the religious right in Colorado Springs:

Puppet cleavage has been ruled out for advertising posters in Colorado Springs bus shelters.

Lamar Advertising rejected posters for a touring production of the Broadway show "Avenue Q" because they show the cleavage of a fuzzy pink puppet.

Lamar account executive Jeff Moore says the company takes a conservative approach in Colorado Springs. The city is known for its political conservatism, and some conservative Christian groups have headquarters in the city.

..."Avenue Q" is a Tony-winning musical about twentysomething New Yorkers, both human and puppets, searching for life and love.

The new poster will show the blue face of a puppet named Rod. The right wingers will like the fact that he's a conservative Republican. Do they also know that he's a closeted gay puppet in love with his best friend?

The Astounding World Of The Future

Some of you may remember "The Jetsons," which ran from September 1962 to March 1963 and depicted a space-age utopia:

It turns out that by the year 2000, the technology was more marvelous and the cities more futuristic than anything shown on "The Jetsons," which took place in 2062. Watch and gain a new appreciation for the wondrous civilization in which you live (h/t Steve Brodner):

Obama To Barrasso: Is A $40K Salary Enough To Afford Health Care?

During the recent health care summit, an exchange between Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and President Obama revealed how out of touch Republicans are in terms of the financial realities of many Americans. The issue was whether guaranteeing catastrophic coverage is enough to reform health care:

Obama: Would you be satisfied if every member of Congress just had catastrophic care–you think we’d be better health care purchasers? I mean, is that a change you think we should make?
Barrasso: I think actually we would. We’d really focus on it. We’d have more, as you say, skin in the game. And especially if they had a savings account–a health savings account–they could put their money into that, and they’d be spending the money out of that.
Obama: Would you feel the same way if you were making $40,000? Or if that was your income? Because that’s the reality for a lot of folks.

Olbermann On Life Panels

Keith Olbermann passionately spoke about his seriously ill father and the discussions he has had with him and his physicians about medical treatment options. He condemned politicians who opportunistically use the term "death panels." Olbermann referred instead to such discussions as "life panels":

Olbermann: the politicians who go into Blair House tomorrow for that summit: I have some requests as well. Leave your egos at the door. I want, I demand, that you give everybody in this country a chance at the care my father has gotten. And I demand that you enact this most generous and most kind aspect of the reform proposed: the right to bill the damned insurance company for the conversation about what to do when the time comes, the life panel.

And I want all of you to think of somebody lying in a hospital bed tonight who needed that care and needed that conversation, and imagine that is your father, or mother, or son, or daughter, or wife, or husband, or partner. And if you cannot do that, if you cannot put aside the meaninglessness of your political careers for this, my request to you then, is that you not come back out of that meeting for you would not be worthy of being with the real people of this country who suffer, and who suffer again because you have acted on behalf of the corporations and not the people.

If you cannot do this, go into that room and stay there, and we will get new ones to replace your worthless roles in the life of our country. My father cannot speak for himself. He appointed me to do so for him. I haven't the slightest doubt he wants me to say this tonight, right now. He mouthed these words to me, and I will now give them such voice as I have to you going into that summit tomorrow. Help. Help. Help. Help.

Weiner: Republicans Owned By The Insurance Industry

Kudos to Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who didn't mince words during a debate on legislation that would repeal the 65-year exemption of the health insurance industry from anti-trust legislation. After he spoke, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) asked that Weiner's words be taken down under a procedure used to discipline a member for inappropriate remarks:

Weiner: You guys have chutzpah. The Republican Party is the wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. They say this isn’t going to do enough, but when we propose an alternative to provide competition, they’re against it. They say we want to strengthen state insurance commissioners and they’ll do the job. But when we did that in our national health care bill, they said we’re against it. They said we want to have competition but when we proposed requiring competition they’re against it. They’re a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. That’s the fact!

After Weiner returned, he refined his original words: Make no mistake about it, every single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry!

Lungren objected again, and Weiner returned to stated that there is no bipartisanship between one party that "generally [stands] up for the American people in their daily battles against high insurance" and another party that "...simply won't permit that to happen." Weiner concluded, “Enough of the phoniness. We are going to solve this problem because for years our Republican friends have been unable to and unwilling to. Deal with it!” Watch:

Great to hear a Democrat stand up, recognize the illusion of bipartisanship and announce his determination to fight. Now it's time for President Obama to apply whatever rallying and pressure is necessary to pass health care legislation through reconciliation.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Krugman: Republicans Strategically Opposed To Responsible Action

Paul Krugman's insightful column "The Bankruptcy Boys" focuses on the Republicans' longstanding strategy to shrink the government, including taking down programs that have the overwhelming support of the public:

...In the famous words of the activist Grover Norquist, conservatives want to get the government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

But there has always been a political problem with this agenda. Voters may say that they oppose big government, but the programs that actually dominate federal spending — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are very popular. So how can the public be persuaded to accept large spending cuts?

The conservative answer, which evolved in the late 1970s, would be dubbed “starving the beast” during the Reagan years. The idea — propounded by many members of the conservative intelligentsia, from Alan Greenspan to Irving Kristol — was basically that sympathetic politicians should engage in a game of bait and switch. Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit.

The Republicans have stopped propounding such politically unpopular positions as cutting Social Security and Medicare. But that doesn't mean that they've given up on their goal of "starving the beast." This time, though, Krugman warns us that their irresponsible game will have dire consequences:

At this point, then, Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan — and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power.

But there is a kind of logic to the current Republican position: in effect, the party is doubling down on starve-the-beast. Depriving the government of revenue, it turns out, wasn’t enough to push politicians into dismantling the welfare state. So now the de facto strategy is to oppose any responsible action until we are in the midst of a fiscal catastrophe. You read it here first.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reich: Obama Should Use Reconciliation To Enact Health Care Bill

Robert Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, advises President Obama to enact health care legislation with 51 senate votes through reconciliation, under which tax and spending bills are passed without the supermajority of 60 required by the threat of a filibuster. After dismissing various Democratic fears over the use of the process, Reich states that the president should take a more aggressive stance:

My free advice to the President: If you want to get healthcare enacted you must use reconciliation and quickly. Host your bipartisan gab fest at the White House on Thursday. Tell Republicans you’ve been eagerly awaiting their ideas for over a year, but the American public can’t wait any longer. Explain to them how our current economic mess is directly related to the health care mess — we’re paying 16 percent of our GDP for health care while health insurers are hiking rates and Americans are losing their health insurance every day. Then tell the House and Senate to get to work on putting their bills together (or tell the House Dems to enact the Senate bill and then save their disagreements for reconciliation), and tell Harry Reid you want the Senate bill on a fast track of reconciliation.

Explain to the American people you understand their impatience. The Constitution does not require 60 votes in the Senate to pass legislation. A majority will do. That’s called democracy.

Public Option More Popular Than Senate Plan In Key Democratic States

Polls conducted by the non-partisan Research 2000 show that in quite a few key states represented by Democratic senators, the public option is more popular than the Senate bill. The polls were commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and include these results:

• In Nevada, only 34% support the Senate bill, while 56% support the public option.
• In Illinois, only 37% support the Senate bill, while 68% support the public option.
• In Washington State, only 38% support the Senate bill, while 65% support the public option.
• In Missouri, only 33% support the Senate bill, while 57% support the public option.
• In Virginia, only 36% support the Senate bill, while 61% support the public option.
• In Iowa, only 35% support the Senate bill, while 62% support the public option.
• In Minnesota, only 35% support the Senate bill, while 62% support the public option.
• In Colorado, only 32% support the Senate bill, while 58% support the public option.

These findings should make it easier for Democrats to pass a health care bill through reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes, instead of the supermajority of 60 required under threat of a filibuster. They should also make it easier for the Democrats to include a public option, a government-backed insurance plan competing with private plans. Why, then, does President Obama's blueprint for a health care overhaul, unveiled Monday, not include a public option?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Schwarzenegger Praises Stimulus, Cites GOP Hypocrisy

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is one Republican who has refused to slam President Obama's stimulus package while lobbying for the money and taking credit for its benefits back home. Responding on ABC's "This Week" to Mitt Romney's contention at the Conservative Political Action Conference that the bill didn't create one new job, Schwarzenegger praised the Recovery Act and criticized GOP hypocrisy:

Schwarzenegger: I find it interesting that you have a lot of the Republicans running around pushing back on the stimulus money and saying this doesn’t create any new jobs. Then they go out and they do the photo ops and they’re posing with the big check and they say, “Isn’t this great?”...Anyone that says it hasn’t created a job, they should talk to the 150,000 people that have been getting jobs in California in the private sector and also from the public sector. … So I’m happy that we got this money. I’m happy that we have put 150,000 people to work and there will be more people that are put to work because of it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Palin's Grandson Ensnared By...Socialized Medicine!

Sarah Palin must be in a panic realizing that her grandson Tripp Palin Johnston has been caught in the web of socialized medicine. Documents from the custody dispute between Palin's daughter Bristol and her former boyfriend Levi Johnston specify that Tripp has government-provided health care:

From the document: C. "...Tripp is an enrolled member of Curyung Tribal Council within the Bristol Bay Native Association consortium. Because the majority of Tripp's health care costs are already covered by IHS and the Alaska Native Medical Center, Mr. Johnston has no need to purchase additional health insurance...." (h/t Huffington Post)

Palin has warned us that victims of government-provided health care ultimately face "death panels." Why hasn't she rescued her grandson from this certain, horrid future?

Rubio Mocks Obama's Teleprompter Use While Using A Teleprompter

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, DC, Marco Rubio, who is challenging Governor Charlie Crist from the right for the Republican senatorial nomination in Florida, mocked President Obama for using a teleprompter.

Exactly what are those two devices right in front of Rubio?

Gay Conservatives Meet With Intolerance At CPAC

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), recently held in Washington, D.C., barred the representatives of a co-sponsor, the conservative gay rights group GOProud, from speaking. Right-wing divisiveness over the group was in full display at the event. Alexander McCobin of the Students for Liberty was heckled over the idea that GOProud's involvement was a sign of social tolerance:

McCobin: In the name of freedom, I would like to also thank the American Conservative Union for welcoming GOProud as a co-sponsor of this event. (loud boos) Not because of any politics, but because of the message that it sends: If what you truly care about is freedom, limited government, and prosperity, then this symbol is a step in the right direction, and look to the student movement for support! (heckling) The typical Student’s response is to be socially tolerant and fiscally responsible. Students today recognize that freedom does not come in pieces. It is a single concept that we must defend at all times.

Ryan Sorba of the Young Americans for Freedom then condemned GOProud and the executive director of the Young Americans for Freedom. Sorba lectured the crowd on why civil rights, essential to freedom, don't extend to gays:

Sorba: I want to condemn CPAC for bringing GOProud to this event! (loud booing) I love it. I love it. Guess what. Guess what. Alright. Civil rights are granted in natural rights. Natural rights are granted in human nature. Human nature is a rational substance in relationship. The intelligible end of reproductive act is reproduction. Do you understand that? Civil rights when they conflict with natural rights are (yelling) No YOU sit down. The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do. The lesbians at Smith College protest better than you do. Alright? Bring it. Jeff Frazee, guess what, you just made an enemy out of me, buddy. Yeah you, guess what. YOU just made an enemy out of me, thanks a lot. (h/t Think Progress)

Regarding the name "GOProud": After being barred from speaking and then meeting with further abuse, is this group really proud to be part of the GOP and the conservative movement? If the videos don't convince them, they should take a look at this insulting bumper sticker held by a conference attendee (h/t Right Wing Watch):

Kaddish For Hal Goldman (1954-2010)

Hal Goldman with photo of Allen Ginsberg on his fridge, 1982. (Thanks to Paula Uruburu)

Strange now to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on the sunny pavement of Greenwich Village. – Allen Ginsberg, “Kaddish”

Hal, I walk on New York's wintry pavements and say Kaddish for you.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rock For Hal Goldman (1954-2010)

My friend Hal Goldman's favorite rock band was the Yardbirds. Rooted in the blues, they brought experimental new sounds out of the guitar, sometimes through distortion, that were influential in the 1960s. The Yardbirds also included, at various points, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. Hal, as a guitar aficionado, appreciated the work of all three. The following 1965 performance of "Shapes of Things" at England's Wembley Stadium includes Beck, previously featured here. This one, too, is for you, my dear friend Hal:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Blues For Hal Goldman (1954-2010)

With my dear friend Hal Goldman (right), Southern California, August 2009

After bearing up for years from the effects of a stroke, you learned about a month ago that you had cancer in its advanced stages. When you told me that you finally wanted to let go, your first thought was for me: How would I take it? Would I be angry that you’d had enough?

Of course I wasn’t angry, only bereft at the impending loss of such a friend. Your concern for me in the face of death showed me again the kind of friend you were. What else could we say but how much our friendship meant to each other?

I called you irreplaceable, and now that word hits me with full force. A friend like you simply cannot be replicated. When we were finally together in August during my visit to California, hosted for a week by our dear friends Dibakar and Rupa, you were much thinner than I’d remembered. In everything we did, we had to take account of your condition. Yet you were, as always, completely empathetic to what I had to say, and your sense of humor and roaring laugh survived the ravages of illness–as did your keen knowledge of literature, music and history. That knowledge of yours made our discussions of Kerouac and Hemingway, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters a pure joy.

If there’s such a thing as a soul and such a place as heaven, I hope that the grounds crew doesn’t try to outfit you with a harp. Such celestial music could never speak to you. A blues harp would be fine, but not a stringed one. Let there be a blues joint up there exactly like the one in the video below, where you can hear your old favorite, Howlin’ Wolf, speak about the meaning of the blues, then sing the blues with his growl and bite, then close with the statement, “We’re talking about the life of a human being. How they live.” I’m talking about the life of one human being and how he lived, and how he died: my blues brother, my irreplaceable friend Hal. Let Howlin’ Wolf sing the blues, my blues, for you:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Republicans Slam Stimulus In DC, Lobby For Funds At Home

President Obama's Stimulus Package had no Republican support in the House and just three Republican supporters in the Senate. An article in the conservative Wall Street Journal points out, however, that quite a few Republicans who criticized the bill in Washington lobbied to get money back home–and even praised its state-wide benefits:

More than a dozen Republican lawmakers supported stimulus-funding requests submitted to the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service, in letters obtained by The Wall Street Journal through the Freedom of Information Act.

...Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who called the stimulus a "wasteful spending spree" that "misses the mark on all counts," wrote to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in October in support of a grant application from a group in his district which, he said, "intends to place 1,000 workers in green jobs."

...Republican Reps. Sue Myrick of North Carolina and Jean Schmidt of Ohio sent letters in October asking for consideration of funding requests from local organizations training workers for energy-efficiency projects.

...The Environmental Protection Agency received two letters from Sen. John Cornyn of Texas asking for consideration of grants for clean diesel projects in San Antonio and Houston.

...One of the letters was signed jointly with Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, also of Texas. The letter said that the Port of Houston Authority "has informed me of the positive impact this grant will have in the region by serving as a foundation for PHA's Clean Air Strategy Plan, creating jobs, and significantly reducing diesel emissions." Houston received millions of dollars in diesel funding.

The agency also appeared to have received eight identical letters from Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah recommending infrastructure projects in his state, seven of which were sent before stimulus legislation was passed by Congress.

...The entire congressional delegation of Alabama, including its two Republican senators, wrote to then-Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell asking for $15 million for cogongrass eradication and control programs in the state. The state ended up getting a $6.3 million grant.

Republican Richard Shelby, the state's senior senator, called the stimulus package "the socialist way" while it was being debated. A spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment.

So what's "socialist" to Shelby (shown above) in Washington is an acceptable $6.3 million grant in Alabama. No wonder his spokesman won't comment. Could he explain how this money lost its socialist taint once it left the capital?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wickham: Democrats Need To End Filibuster

In his commentary "Senate Democrats Need to Use 'Nuclear Option' Against GOP," DeWayne Wickham (left) states that when it comes to the filibuster, what bothers him more than the Republican minority's tyrannical use of it is the complicity of the majority Democrats.

Wickham reminds the Democrats that while they no longer have the 60 votes to block a filibuster, they still have a majority of eight. He challenges them to end this undemocratic procedure that requires a supermajority to pass anything in the Senate despite a minority party determined to obstruct:

The filibuster is a Faustian bargain that undermines the will of voters. The promise of change that swept Barack Obama into the presidency and padded Democratic majorities in the House and Senate last year has been largely derailed by the Senate's Republican minority, which has kept a broad array of legislation from coming to a vote.

More than outrageous, this legislative tyranny holds hostage our democracy to the whims of a political party that was on the losing end of an election cycle. The voters who gave Democrats control of Congress and the White House in the recent elections expect results, not inaction. They expect Congress to bring bills to a vote, not allow a mean-spirited minority to filibuster them to death.

If Democrats won't use the majority voters gave them to end this bad practice, then they deserve to suffer their wrath in November's elections.

Will the Democrats have the courage to kill this obstructionist procedure or will they get their just desserts for not doing so?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Study Shows Less Social Mobility In U.S.

Is America still the land of opportunity? The New York Times' Economix blog featured a report by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development on intergenerational mobility, defined as the “relationship between the socioeconomic status of parents and the status their children will attain as adults.”

Those societies in which children's and parents' socioeconomic status are closely linked are defined as less mobile. The U.S. is among those industrialized countries, according to the following chart showing the relation between the earnings of sons and fathers (the study is clearly male-centric). Higher bars indicate strong links and less mobility:

The report recommends boosting social mobility by "encouraging early childhood education; avoiding the placement of students on educational 'tracks' too early; increasing the social mix of students within schools; and more generous student loan and grant programs."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Dinah Washington Gives Her All To "All Of Me"

To the clear delight of the crowd at the the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958, Dinah Washington sings a powerful "All of Me" backed up by a swinging all-star lineup: Wynton Kelly, piano; Paul West, bass; Max Roach, drums; Urbie Green, trombone, and Terry Gibbs, vibes. She even helps out with the vibes. Washington was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in the category "Early Influence," in 1993. Known as the "Queen of the Blues, she declared at a London performance, ""...there is only one heaven, one earth and one queen... Elizabeth is an impostor."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Outrage At Filibuster Grows As Labor Board Nominee Is Blocked

Frustration with the filibuster reached new heights when Senate Republicans, joined by Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, blocked President Obama's nominee for the National Labor Relations Board, Craig Becker. The votes were 52 in favor, 33 opposed–eight votes short of the supermajority of 60 needed to head off the threat of a filibuster. Democrats registered their outrage at the Republicans' unprecedented use of the maneuver:

"I'm in my thirty-sixth year. I've never seen anything like it," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), noting that no previous Republican Senate leader would have allowed his party to filibuster such a routine nomination.

Leahy said that the overuse of filibusters by the GOP was leading Democrats to consider ways to modify it.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), another long-serving member, said that abuse of the filibuster is unsustainable. "I think it will either fall of its own weight -- it should fall of its own weight -- or it will fall after some massive conflict on the floor, which has happened in the past where there have been rulings from the chair that have led to reform," Levin told the Huffington Post, adding that the filibuster should be restricted to major issues.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) angrily pointed out that for decades, Republicans nominated pro-management and Democrats nominated pro-labor individuals to the board–and that the Republicans' filibuster threat of a board nominee is unprecedented. Watch:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

To Thwart Regulation, Wall Street Shovels Cash At GOP

A recent article in the New York Times on Wall Street's opposition to President Obama's proposed financial regulations revealed the corruption at the heart of our political campaigns. Wall Street doesn't want to be regulated, so it simply shovels cash away from the Democrats to the Republicans:

...this year Chase’s political action committee is sending the Democrats a pointed message. While it has contributed to some individual Democrats and state organizations, it has rebuffed solicitations from the national Democratic House and Senate campaign committees. Instead, it gave $30,000 to their Republican counterparts.

The shift reflects the hard political edge to the industry’s campaign to thwart Mr. Obama’s proposals for tighter financial regulations.

The Republicans, who love posing as populists and talking about "liberal elitists," are only too happy to present themselves to Wall Street as anti-regulation allies:

Republicans are rushing to capitalize on what they call Wall Street’s “buyer’s remorse” with the Democrats. And industry executives and lobbyists are warning Democrats that if Mr. Obama keeps attacking Wall Street “fat cats,” they may fight back by withholding their cash.

...Wall Street fund-raisers for the Democrats say they are feeling under attack from all sides. The president is lashing out at their “arrogance and greed.” Republican friends are saying “I told you so.”

American representatives of the Swiss bank UBS know who their friends are:

Most of its biggest contributions, of $10,000 each, went to five Republican opponents of Mr. Obama’s regulatory proposals, including Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the ranking minority member of the Banking Committee.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he visited New York about twice a month to try to tap into Wall Street’s “buyers’ remorse.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Make Spelling Part Of The Homeschooling Curriculum

At Sarah Palin's rally for the reelection of Governor Rick Perry of Texas (R), a child held up a sign that didn't represent homeschooling in the best light. Bryan Fotographer of the Houston Press provided the photo and the caption: "The 'Get a brain, morans' sign guy must have been busy on Sunday."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Krugman: Filibuster Renders Senate Dysfunctional

Why can't the Senate get anything done? The biggest reason is the filibuster. Paul Krugman, in America Is Not Yet Lost, looks back to 18th century Poland to find a parallel situation:

A brief history lesson: In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Polish legislature, the Sejm, operated on the unanimity principle: any member could nullify legislation by shouting “I do not allow!” This made the nation largely ungovernable, and neighboring regimes began hacking off pieces of its territory. By 1795 Poland had disappeared, not to re-emerge for more than a century.

Today, the U.S. Senate seems determined to make the Sejm look good by comparison.

The use of the filibuster means that a democratic majority is not enough; we need a supermajority. A senator or a party has the ability to tie up the government with just the threat of a filibuster:

The truth is that given the state of American politics, the way the Senate works is no longer consistent with a functioning government. Senators themselves should recognize this fact and push through changes in those rules, including eliminating or at least limiting the filibuster. This is something they could and should do, by majority vote, on the first day of the next Senate session.

Don’t hold your breath. As it is, Democrats don’t even seem able to score political points by highlighting their opponents’ obstructionism.

The election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts–or any Republican–aids the roadblock. Yet the Obama administration has so much trouble going on the offensive:

It should be a simple message (and it should have been the central message in Massachusetts): a vote for a Republican, no matter what you think of him as a person, is a vote for paralysis. But by now, we know how the Obama administration deals with those who would destroy it: it goes straight for the capillaries. Sure enough, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, accused Mr. Shelby of “silliness.” Yep, that will really resonate with voters.

One party is determined to obstruct, the other is unable or unwilling to change the rules. Our political paralysis continues.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Who Perform Live, In The Middle Of A Sporting Event

Last night, there was a televised concert by The Who. The entire nation tuned in to witness the fact that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey still put on an outstanding show. Joining them on drums was Zak Starkey, son of a famous drummer named Ringo. Surrounding the performance was a sporting event. Take it away, guys:

On Thursday, Townshend and Daltrey gave an acoustic performance for reporters in Miami:

Palin's Crib Notes Revealed

A further development to yesterday's story in which Sarah Palin looked at her hand for answers during an interview at the National Tea Party Convention: the Huffington Post has presented images revealing the words "Energy," "Tax" and "Lift American Spirits" in her left hand. "Budget cuts" is also written, with the word "Budget" crossed out:

The Huffington Post also notes the ironies in Palin's "crib notes":

...this is supremely rich coming immediately after a speech in which Palin took a shot at President Obama for using a teleprompter to read his prepared speeches.

You can bet that the President wasn't reading scribbles off his extremities while he sparred with Republicans and Democrats in an unscripted format in his recent Q&As.

Palin, on the other hand, seems to need a cheat-sheet just to get through a contrived lovefest with a smitten interviewer and an adoring audience.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Palin Checks Her Hand For Answers During Tea Party Convention

At the National Tea Party Convention, Sarah Palin referred to President Obama as "that charismatic guy with a teleprompter." Yet it seems that Palin needed a little prompting of her own. As she spoke to organizer Judson Philips, Palin looked down and read from her hand. Watch:

Palin could have used this "study aid" when Charles Gibson asked her about the Bush Doctrine or when Katie Couric asked her to name one magazine or newspaper she read.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Opening Tea Party Convention, Tancredo Calls For Return Of Literacy Test

The National Tea Party Convention in Nashville got off to an interesting start on Thursday when former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo explained why Obama was elected and what to do about it:

Tancredo: And then, something really odd happened, mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country. People who could not even spell the word "vote," or say it in English, put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House, name is Barack Hussein Obama.

Exactly which people was Tancredo referring to? The literacy test has a sordid history in the South. It disenfranchised black voters who did not have the same educational opportunities as whites. Tancredo must be opposed to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which outlawed literacy tests. As explained by the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, "Section 2 of the Act, which closely followed the language of the 15th amendment, applied a nationwide prohibition against the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on the literacy tests on a nationwide basis."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Joyner And James Respond To Super Bowl Anti-Choice Ad

In response to the anti-choice Super Bowl ad produced by Focus on the Family and starring former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner and former college and professional football player Sean James speak about respecting and honoring the decisions women make about their health and future. Watch:

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Time Has Come To End "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

This photo shows Lt. Dan Choi, right, with his partner, Matthew Kinsey. Choi faces a discharge from the military because he is gay and doesn't like lying. Lying, though, is a prerequisite to staying in the military under the "don't ask, don't tell" law banning gays from openly serving. Choi, an Arabic linguist and Iraq veteran, views lying as a antithetical to military conduct.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama announced that he would work to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." A confluence of factors is finally forcing the president to overturn this unjust ban:

...a variety of 21st-century forces — a new generation in the military, a change in climate at the top levels of the Pentagon, pressure on the president from a critical interest group, even Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand’s anticipated Democratic primary battle in New York — converged to begin repeal of a 1993 law that has led to the discharge of more than 13,000 gay men and lesbians, including desperately needed Arabic translators.

The loss of 13,000 individuals to the military because of their sexual orientation is absurd enough. Compounding the absurdity is the loss of "desperately needed Arabic translators." Republican leader John A. Boehner, Representative of Ohio, doesn't see a problem: “In the middle of two wars and in the middle of this giant security threat, why would we want to get into this debate?”

So we must wait until there are no threats to the country and both wars are concluded before commencing with "this debate." In addition, Boehner sees no connection between our foreign entanglements and the need to communicate with the Arab world. After all, who needs Lt. Dan Choi's Arabic skills when he has a partner named Matthew?