Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vitter: "I Disagree With The Premise" That Tax Cuts Have To Be Paid For

In August, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked, "Why did tax cuts become something we pay for?" This denial of economic reality stems from the same Republican disconnect in which one can be a deficit hawk while advocating extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, which would add at least $700 billion to the deficit over 10 years. Former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, a Republican, stated that extending the cuts without offsetting them could be "disastrous." Yet here's Senator David Vitter of Louisiana espousing MConnell's fanciful views. Watch:

Vitter: Well, first of all, I disagree with the premise that in order to keep tax rates where they are and not increase taxes, somehow we need to pay for that. I think that’s Washington-speak, not Louisiana-speak. [...]

Q: It’s a misnomer to say this continuing, for the top rates, wouldn’t have to be paid for. You would have to pay that $750 billion because it was supposed to sunset. It’s not an increase, it’s a sunset.

Vitter: Just to be clear, the premise that I disagree with is that to avoid a tax increase, we somehow have to pay for it. It’s not the government’s money, it’s our money. That’s the point. (h/t Truthout)

The spending cuts Vitter proposes do not make up for the $700 billion in decreased government revenue and increased deficit. In addition, warning against cutting taxes on small businesses is based on a standard Republican falsehood. Such cuts do not affect the vast majority of such businesses:

Analyses from the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research organization, show that less than 3 percent of filers with small-business income pay at the top two income tax rates, and many of those are doctors and lawyers in partnerships.

Krugman On GOP Taking The House: "Be Very Afraid"

Paul Krugman sees little reason for optimism if the Republicans take the House. The party is determined to bring down Obama; one hopes that the president will finally realize that compromise with the GOP is a dead end. In addition, the Republicans are devoted to irresponsible economic policies, especially given the influence of the Tea Party. From "Divided We Fail":

...This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.

...In a recent interview with National Journal, [President Obama] sounded a conciliatory note, saying that Democrats need to have an “appropriate sense of humility,” and that he would “spend more time building consensus.” Good luck with that.

...Another recent interview by National Journal, this one with Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has received a lot of attention thanks to a headline-grabbing quote: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

...We might add that should any Republicans in Congress find themselves considering the possibility of acting in a statesmanlike, bipartisan manner, they’ll surely reconsider after looking over their shoulder at the Tea Party-types, who will jump on them if they show any signs of being reasonable.

...Right now we very much need active policies on the part of the federal government to get us out of our economic trap.

But we won’t get those policies if Republicans control the House. In fact, if they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.

So if the elections go as expected next week, here’s my advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Republican Greets Trick-Or-Treaters

Happy Halloween to all my readers. Of course, the real fright night may be this Tuesday, November 2nd...

"Howl": Visionary Film On Ginsberg's Breakthrough Poem

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.." So began Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" (1955-1956), which depicted artists and seekers alienated from the Cold War and conformity of America in the 1950s. The film "Howl" centers around the 1957 obscenity trial of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, another Beat poet, who published the poem under his City Lights Books. The very question of whether "Howl" was obscene and without redeeming social importance was indicative of the repressiveness of the times; ultimately, the legal decision ruled in favor of Ferlinghetti and the poem.

James Franco as Ginsberg does a masterful job in depicting the poet's rebellion against literary artifice and quest for openness as an artist and a gay man. The portrayal of Ginsberg's 1955 reading of "Howl" at the Six Gallery in San Francisco captures the heralding of a counterculture that would receive full expression in the 1960s. Animated sequences provide a phantasmagorical depiction of the poem's characters wandering from coast to coast seeking illumination and resisting "Moloch," a malevolent ancient god symbolic of a society of "demonic industries" and "monstrous bombs." Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have made a visionary film centered around a 20th century breakthrough poem and poet.

Review dedicated to the memory of Hal Goldman (1954-2010), scholar of Beat literature and dear friend.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Buffalo Springfield Reunite For Bridge School Benefit

Their harmonies are as wonderful as ever, even though they haven't been on stage together since 1968. The surviving members of the Buffalo Springfield played a reunion set in Mountain View, California, as part of a benefit for the Bridge School, established by Neil Young and his wife Pegi to educate children with cerebral palsy and other conditions. Above, left to right, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Young play "I Am a Child," which Young dedicated to the kids in the audience. After you listen to it, enjoy one more Springfield classic, "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing":

Sharron Angle: "The Two Wars We're In Right Now Is Exactly What We're In"

Sharron Angle, Nevada Republican senatorial candidate, can't help making outlandish statements, such as her contention that Islamic law prevails in Dearborn, Michigan, and in Frankford, Texas–a town that no longer exists. Angle has therefore taken to fleeing whenever she's in danger of having to answer reporters' questions. This Tea Party favorite told Carl Cameron of Fox (appropriately enough) that she wants the press to "ask the questions we want to answer" and to give her the opportunity to appeal for money:

It's no surprise, then, that Angle, trailed in an airport by a reporter, refused to speak about her desire that the U.S. quit the U.N., stating, "I'll answer those questions when I'm the senator." After ignoring questions about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Angle observed, "You know, the two wars that we're in right now is exactly what we're in." Angle's nonsensical reply is in total contrast with Democratic candidate Harry Reid's thoughtful one. Watch:

If This Ad Doesn’t Inspire Democratic “Enthusiasm,” Nothing Will

The theme among the punditry this election season is “enthusiasm,” which Republicans supposedly have and Democrats don’t. Republicans want a Congress that will further stymie President Obama. Many Democrats have been disappointed with the pace of change and don’t feel “enthusiastic” enough to walk to the polling place and vote. The following ad, "I Remember," produced by The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, looks back at the disastrous eight years of Republican rule under Bush–the kind of rule that can be repeated if Democrats don't remember and don't vote. This powerful and convincing appeal makes for must viewing on the part of every Democrat:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Olbermann: Tea Party Candidates Would March America Backwards

Keith Olbermann tells us how Tea Party favorites, candidate by candidate, would march this country backwards. Do you want an America in which Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, the inheritance tax, the minimum wage, the Department of Education, the public school system, the Veterans Administration, health care reform, the 17th Amendment, mine safety regulations and more are abolished? Olbermann warns: If there ever were a reason for Democrats to get over their lack of “enthusiasm” and vote–and maybe bring a friend or two to the polls–this is it. Watch:

"The Wave": Sharron Angle's Latest Racist Ad

Sharron Angle, Nevada Republican senatorial candidate and Tea Party favorite, has outdone her last racist ad. Her new ad, "The Wave," depicts hordes of young thugs coming over the border to join violent gangs. The thugs are brown, the families living in fear are white. The conclusion: Angle's Democratic opponent, Harry Reid, is on "their" side, not "yours"–presumably the white side. Watch:

One curious point: we're told that Reid is trying to give illegal aliens college tuition. Exactly why do these thugs want to interrupt their crime sprees by taking English composition?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fox's Method For "Getting A Hot Chick To Come Over": A Large Pizza And Beck On The DVR

How does a young single guy "get that hot chick from accounting to come over"? Fox's advice: tell her that a large pizza and Glenn Beck on the DVR are waiting at your swinging bachelor pad. Watch:

Ladies, is this an irresistible combo?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chamber Of Commerce Serves Right-Wing Agenda Of Undisclosed Corporate Donors

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has emerged as a leading force against the Obama administration–and has made it easy for corporations to anonymously support Republican candidates. As long as corporations don't earmark contributions toward specific campaigns, they can avoid, according to federal election rules, being identified in ads produced by the chamber. Corporations can rest assured, however, that the chamber is in sync with their goals. The New York Times has analyzed the tax filings of corporate foundations and other public records to show how corporate donors have financed the chamber's, and their own, right-wing agenda. The chamber is opposed to legislation requiring it to disclose the names of corporations who contribute to their campaign ads, including the following:

Prudential Financial sent in a $2 million donation last year as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce kicked off a national advertising campaign to weaken the historic rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations.

Dow Chemical delivered $1.7 million to the chamber last year as the group took a leading role in aggressively fighting proposed rules that would impose tighter security requirements on chemical facilities.

...Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and Aegon, a multinational insurance company based in the Netherlands, donated more than $8 million in recent years to a chamber foundation that has been critical of growing federal regulation and spending... insurance providers funneled at least $10 million to the chamber last year, all of it anonymously, to oppose President Obama’s health care legislation.

...More recently, the News Corporation gave $1 million to support the chamber’s political efforts this fall; Chairman Rupert Murdoch said it was in best interests of his company and the country “that there be a fair amount of change in Washington.”

The News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, also donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association. Murdoch is well aware of the "fair amount of change" that the Chamber is working toward in the November elections:

...the chamber asserts in filings with the Federal Election Commission that it is simply running issue ads during this election season. But a review of the nearly 70 chamber-produced ads found that 93 percent of those that have run nationwide that focus on the midterm elections either support Republican candidates or criticize their opponents.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thomas Friedman: Israelis And Palestinians Should Get Serious

Thomas Friedman lands well-deserved jabs at Israelis and Palestinians for their suspended negotiations and asks both sides to get serious in "Just Knock It Off." He takes issue with Israel's refusal to continue the settlement freeze despite new security guarantees, as well as with those who claim that President Obama is "anti-Israel." On the Palestinian side, Friedman questions Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's intentions following his history with Israeli Prime Ministers Olmert and Netanyahu:

...while pressing Israel to stop expanding settlements for as little as 60 days, Obama ordered his vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright of the Marines, to lead a U.S. team to work with Israel’s military on an unprecedented package of security assistance to enable Israel to maintain its “qualitative edge” over its neighbors. And, for all this, Obama is decried as anti-Israel. What utter nonsense.

Given what Obama has done, and is trying to do, it is hardly an act of hostility for him to ask Israel to continue its now-expired 10-month partial moratorium on settlement-building in the West Bank in order to take away any excuse from the Palestinians to avoid peace talks. Israel’s prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, has been either resisting this request or demanding a payoff from the U.S. for a brief continuation of the freeze...

...I have no idea whether the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has the will and the guts to make peace with Israel. In fact, when you go back and look at what Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu’s predecessor, offered Abbas — a real two-state compromise, including a deal on Jerusalem — and you think that Abbas spurned that offer, and you think that Netanyahu already gave Abbas a 10-month settlement freeze and Abbas only entered serious talks in the ninth month, you have to wonder how committed he is.

But the fact is that the team of Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have built a government that is the best the Palestinians have ever had, and, more importantly, a Palestinian security apparatus that the Israeli military respects and is acting as a real partner. Given this, Israel has an overwhelming interest to really test — that is all we can ask — whether this Palestinian leadership is ready for a fair and mutually secure two-state solution.

That test is something the U.S. should not have to beg or bribe Israel to generate. This moment is not about Obama. He’s doing his job. It is about whether the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are up to theirs. Abbas is weak and acts weaker. Netanyahu is strong and acts weak. It is time for both to step it up. And it is time for all the outsiders who spoil them to find another hobby.

"Praise And Blame": Tom Jones Draws Deeply Upon American Roots Music

Welsh singer Tom Jones made his name with such pop tunes as "What's New, Pussycat," "Delilah" and "She's a Lady." Who knew that underneath this Vegas-style crooner was a singer able to draw deeply upon the American musical traditions of blues, gospel, rock and country? The first hint came in Martin Scorsese's "The Blues" series, when Jones teamed up with British rock guitarist Jeff Beck for some blues renditions. With his latest album, "Praise and Blame," there's no longer any question that Jones' relation to American roots music is genuine. His powerful performances reflect his spiritual concerns, from the introspective "What Good Am I?" to the rousing "Burning Hell," performed above on the David Letterman Show, September 23.

World Series: Go Giants!

This year's World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers is interesting in terms of baseball history. The last time the Giants won the series was in 1954, when they were in New York. They have won four National League pennants since moving to San Francisco in 1957, but never took it all. The Rangers started as the Washington Senators, relocated to Minnesota to become the Twins, and then moved to Arlington, Texas. The franchise has been in the post-season three times in 49 years; it has never been in the World Series.

So whom to root for? That's a no-brainer for this Mets fan and Democrat. Consider:

• Giants: National League; Rangers: American League
• California: Blue State; Texas: Red State
• San Francisco: Nancy Pelosi (8th Congressional District); Texas: George W. Bush (former team co-owner)Compose

Conclusion: Go Giants!

Prof. Jonathan Weiler: Contemporary Republicans Appeal To Authoritarian Personalities

Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks interviews Jonathan Weiler, professor of international studies at UNC Chapel Hill and author, with Marc Hetherington, of "Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics" (2009). According to the authors' statistical models, the best predictor regarding whether one is a Republican or Democrat is one's score on the authoritarian personality scale. Authoritarian personalities see the world in black-and-white, whereas non-authoritarians favor nuance (a word the GOP used to criticize Kerry in 2004). The Republican appeal to authoritarianism started in the 1960s, when the party focused on race, feminism and gay rights. Ultimately, authoritarians are driven by a desire for order and fear of change–and Republicans have been using this fear as a political tactic. Whether they can continue to alienate Hispanics after alienating African Americans and win future elections in a demographically changing America is questionable. Weiler concludes by stating that the Obama administration misread the political climate in its quest for bipartisanship. Listen:

Nobel Economists Krugman, Stiglitz: U.S., Britain Should Favor Stimulus Over Austerity

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the stimulus package created between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs. Shortly after its passage, analysts from various perspectives conceded that it was working. Regardless, we haven't had a second package for political reasons. The Republicans argue that it was wasteful, regardless of their hypocritical use of stimulus money. The Republicans call for deep spending cuts–and for the extension of Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which would add $700 billion to the debt over the next decade. For the ever-cautious Democrats, there is a debate on the stimulus package:

For decades, Keynesian policies, which call for government spending to make up for the shortfall in private-sector demand during an economic downturn, have been a central element of the Democratic tool kit... But the unpopularity of the stimulus package signed into law by President Obama has left many Democrats in competitive races distancing themselves from such programs, raising questions about whether the party is beginning a more fundamental rethinking of its approach to the economy.

...And yet, a spate of recent research from the Congressional Budget Office, Wall Street banks and independent economists has documented that the stimulus, while imperfect, helped avert greater job losses and a greater drop in economic output.

Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron has joined the European trend away from Keynesian economics. Nobel-Prize-winning economists Paul Krugman (left) and Joseph Stiglitz criticize austerity and favor continued stimulus. In advocating this solution, Krugman also emphasizes the inadequacy of the stimulus package and criticizes the British budget: is possible — indeed, necessary — for the nation as a whole to spend its way out of debt: a temporary surge of deficit spending, on a sufficient scale, can cure problems brought on by past excesses.

...Actually, the [Obama] administration has had a messaging problem on economic policy ever since its first months in office, when it went for a stimulus plan that many of us warned from the beginning was inadequate given the size of the economy’s troubles.

...The British government’s plan...goes in exactly the wrong direction. It would cut government employment by 490,000 workers — the equivalent of almost three million layoffs in the United States — at a time when the private sector is in no position to provide alternative employment. It would slash spending at a time when private demand isn’t at all ready to take up the slack.

Joseph Stiglitz (left) also states that the Obama administration didn't go far enough with the stimulus–and that the British are on the wrong path:

In the US the stimulus was both too small and poorly designed – 40% of it went on household tax cuts, which were known not to provide much bang for the buck – and yet unemployment was reduced from what it otherwise would have been – over 12% – to 10%.

...Britain is embarking on a highly risky experiment. More likely than not, it will add one more data point to the well- established result that austerity in the midst of a downturn lowers GDP and increases unemployment, and excessive austerity can have long-lasting effects.

...Austerity is a gamble which Britain can ill afford.

Krugman reaches two conclusions about today's deficit hawks in respectively, Britain and the U.S.:

Why is the British government doing this? The real reason has a lot to do with ideology: the Tories are using the deficit as an excuse to downsize the welfare state. But the official rationale is that there is no alternative.’s slightly sickening to realize that the big winners in the midterm elections are likely to be the very people who first got us into this mess, then did everything in their power to block action to get us out.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Glenn Beck: Evolution Is "Ridiculous" Because "I Haven't Seen A Half-Monkey, Half Person"

The conservative assault on evolution continues. Bill Maher showed a video in which Christine O'Donnell struck a mighty blow by calling evolution a "myth" and asking, "Why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans?" Now Glenn Beck, in addition to his work as a prophet and historian, also reveals that he is a biologist with his debunking of evolution. Beck refers to the conspiracy to foist evolution on the public, "like global warming":

Beck: "I'm not God, so I don't know how God creates. I don't think we came from monkeys. I think that's ridiculous. I haven't seen a half-monkey, half-person yet... It's like global warming... If I get to the other side and God's like, 'You know what, yep, you were a monkey once,' I'll be shocked, but I'm cool with it, whatever... They have to make you care. They have to force it down your throat. When anybody has to force it -- it's a problem. You didn't have to force that the world was round... Truth is truth." (h/t TPM)

I suppose that the Glenn Becks of Galileo's time felt that the latter was trying to "force" his view that the earth moves round the sun.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

George W. Bush: Decision To Bail Out Banks "Wasn't That Hard"

Just as the Republicans did not decry "runaway federal spending" during the eight years that George W. Bush ran up the deficit, they also did not cry "socialist takeover" when Bush bailed out the banks. Bush explicitly said, in a recent speech in Tyler, Texas, that he used your tax money to do so–and that it was an easy course of action. If President Obama said that, would Fox News and the rest of the right wing noise machine let it pass by? Note, too, that Bush's rationale for the bailout was the same as Obama's:

Former President George W. Bush on Tuesday night defended his decision to bail out banks toward the end of his term, saying the call “wasn’t that hard.”

“I made the decision to use your money to prevent the collapse from happening,” Bush said during a speech in Tyler, Texas, according to reports from The Associated Press and other outlets.

Bush said that when the markets crashed in the fall of 2008, he recognized that if his administration didn’t do “something significant,” a “depression greater than the Great Depression” could occur.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Huge Gap Between Republican Rhetoric And Reality On Spending Cuts

While the Republicans are constantly calling for an end to "runaway federal spending," where were they during the eight years when the Bush administration conducted two wars, cut taxes for the wealthy and ran up the deficit following the Clinton surplus? Do they have a viable plan to cut spending? Which party's agenda actually reduces more of the deficit? David S. Herszenhorn's analysis in the New York Times shows a huge gap between Republican rhetoric and reality:

...while polls show that the Republicans’ message is succeeding politically, Republican candidates and party leaders are offering few specifics about how they would tackle the nation’s $13.7 trillion debt, and budget analysts said the party was glossing over the difficulty of carrying out its ideas, especially when sharp spending cuts could impede an already weak economic recovery.

...The parties share blame for the current fiscal situation, but federal budget statistics show that Republican policies over the last decade, and the cost of the two wars, added far more to the deficit than initiatives approved by the Democratic Congress since 2006, giving voters reason to be skeptical of campaign promises.

Calculations by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other independent fiscal experts show that the $1.1 trillion cost over the next 10 years of the Medicare prescription drug program, which the Republican-controlled Congress adopted in 2003, by itself would add more to the deficit than the combined costs of the bailout, the stimulus and the health care law.

The House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, has called for immediate cuts in “non-security discretionary” spending to prerecession 2008 levels. Independent analysts say that would require eliminating about $105 billion — or more than 20 percent of spending by departments like Education, Transportation, Interior, Commerce and Energy — a level of reductions that history suggests would be extremely hard to execute...

...At the same time, most Republicans are calling for the permanent extension of all Bush-era tax cuts, which would add $700 billion more to the deficit over the next 10 years than President Obama and Democratic leaders have proposed by continuing only some of the lower rates.

Republicans say extending the cuts will spur economic activity, but that is hardly guaranteed. And the cost of either plan is astronomical: Mr. Obama’s plan will add more than $3 trillion to the deficit; the Republicans’ plan will add more than $4 trillion.

...On the campaign trail, many Republicans are calling for a repeal of the health care law, a step that would actually increase the deficit by more than $100 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, by eliminating some cost-saving provisions — a fact that typically goes unmentioned...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sharron Angle "Not Sure" Immigration Ad Shows Latinos, Tells Hispanic Students They Look Asian

Sharron Angle, Nevada Republican senatorial candidate, Tea Party favorite and extreme right winger, met in Las Vegas with a group of Hispanic high school students who asked her to explain TV ads that immigrant and Hispanic organizations have cited as race baiting. Here's one showing dark-skinned men sneaking past a fence, ready to threaten Americans:

Angle told the students that they were "misinterpreting the commercials. Her explanation:

"I'm not sure that those are Latinos in that commercial. What it is, is a fence and there are people coming across that fence. What we know is that our northern border is where the terrorists came through. That's the most porous border that we have. We cannot allow terrorists, we cannot allow anyone to come across our border if we don't know why they're coming. So, we have to secure all of our borders and that's what that was about, is border security."

The fact that Harry Reid supports both immigration reform and border security measures is not mentioned in the ad. Regardless, for Angle to claim that the men depicted in the ad are not supposed to be Latino is disingenuous at best. In addition, did anyone know that there's a problem in Nevada regarding terrorists coming through our northern border, on the other side of which is Canada?

Those were not Angle's only bizarre comments. She also told the students, "I don't know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me." When the students started to murmur, Angle reassured them that she was once identified in error as "the first Asian legislator in the Nevada assembly." A student caught her comments via cell phone:

GOP Candidate Ken Buck Compares Being Gay To Being An Alcoholic

Ken Buck, Colorado Republican senatorial candidate, is the latest in a long line of right wingers who contend that being gay is a "choice." I imagine that if these characters were asked if they "chose" to be straight, they would consider that an absurd question. Yet to call being gay a "choice" allows social conservatives to assign blame for "choosing" a supposedly "immoral lifestyle." Buck, however, goes one step further: speaking to David Gregory on "Meet the Press," he likens being gay to being an alcoholic. Watch:

GREGORY: In a debate last month, you expressed your support for don’t ask, don’t tell, which we talked about with Mr. Gibbs. And you alluded to lifestyle choices. Do you believe that being gay is a choice?

BUCK: I do.

GREGORY: Based on what?

BUCK: Based on what?

GREGORY: Yeah, do you believe that?

BUCK: Well, I guess you can choose who your partner is.

GREGORY: You don’t think it’s something that’s determined at birth?

BUCK: I think that birth has an influence over it, like alcoholism and some other things, but I think that basically you have a choice.

Barbara Billingsley: America's White-Bread Mom Who Spoke "Jive"


Barbara Billingsley, who passed away on Saturday at 94, played June Cleaver on "Leave It To Beaver," which ran from 1957 to 1963. June was the cultural symbol of the postwar suburban housewife and stay-at-home mom. Whether discussing the escapades of sons Beaver (Jerry Mathers) and Wally (Tony Dow) with husband Ward (Hugh Beaumont) or serving cookies, June always wore her pearls and high heels. Billingsley played with June's image in the comedy "Airport" (1980); Michael Pollak of the New York Times writes that she portrayed “a sweet passenger who communicates in ‘jive’ with two streetwise black passengers — an ironic comment on her previous incarnation as America’s white-bread mom.” Here's the scene:

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Secretariat": Curmudgeon Watches Heartwarming Movie, Enjoys It

Given my curmudgeonly nature, I generally stay away from heartwarming movies. I'm particularly put off by their soundtracks. When the music swells, there's your signal to get inspired. Humbug! So I was chagrined when my wife Renee, an animal lover, wanted to see "Secretariat." I imagined that its elements would force me to exit the theater screaming: a woman and her horse, done up by Disney to boot. Renee and I have a deal, however, which is that we will see whatever movie one of us wants to catch. Since I formulated this deal, I could hardly beg off. Besides, the last movie we saw was my choice, the harrowing, excellent Israeli movie "Lebanon," reviewed here.

One factor that "Secretariat" had in its favor is that it wasn't an uplifting tale concocted by the dream factory. There was a real horse named Secretariat who won the Triple Crown. The horse was owned by Penny Chenery (Diane Lane), who was living in the Denver suburbs with her lawyer husband (Dylan Walsh) and four children in 1969. Chenery looked every bit the June Cleaver character made famous by the recently departed Barbara Billingsley. She returns to her Virginia home, a horse farm, to attend her mother's funeral and take care of her father. Very quickly, she has to make decisions about what to do about the farm and this unusual young horse. With her husband and brother urging her to sell or lose everything, Chenery stands her ground and stakes everything on Secretariat.

Chenery becomes the embodiment of determination to the point that her character becomes somewhat one-dimensional, but psychological complexity is not the point here. The details of who cared for her children are also rendered irrelevant to reaching the top of the equestrian world. Chenery's drive also has a feminist aspect, as she takes on the male-dominated horse-racing establishment, including fending off a rival owner's sexist comments during press conferences.

I surprised myself being moved by Chenery's staring into the eyes of Secretariat in communion. And even though Secretariat's victories are legendary, the depiction of his amazing feats was exciting. So I saw "Secretariat" and must admit, albeit grudgingly, that I enjoyed it. Even found it kind of inspiring, soundtrack and all.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Florida Pastor's Reward For Canceling Quran Burning: Brand New Hyundai

Imagine winning a brand new car. No down payment, no monthly payments, no interest. Florida pastor Terry Jones won a brand new Hyundai–all for promising not to burn Qurans. New Jersey car dealer Brad Benson, former offensive lineman with the New York Giants, is fulfilling a promise made to Jones: cancel burning, collect car. Not a bad deal, right?

Benson wasn't the only one who asked Jones to cancel the burning. President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked him not to carry it out. General David Petraeus said that it could endanger troops in Afghanistan. According to Jones, God told him to stop as well. Was it all a divine plan to get Jones a Hyundai? Here's the sequence of events:

Car dealer Brad Benson made the pitch to Florida pastor Terry Jones in one of his quirky radio ads: If you don't burn a Quran, I'll give you a new car.

He was surprised, though, when a representative for Jones called to collect the 2011 Hyundai Accent, retailing for $14,200.

"They said unless I was doing false advertising, they would like to arrange to pick up the car," Benson recalled. At first he thought it was a hoax, so Benson asked Jones to send in a copy of his driver's license. He did.

Jones, of Gainesville, Fla., told The Associated Press that the free car wasn't the reason he called off the burning — and that he didn't even hear about the offer until a few weeks after Sept. 11, when he had threatened to set the Muslim holy book on fire.

He said he plans to donate the car to an organization that helps abused Muslim women.

So now that Jones is donating a car to an organization that helps women who follow the holy book he threatened to burn, causing an international uproar, are we supposed to praise his generosity?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gay-Basher Paladino Collected Rent From Two Gay Clubs, Son Ran One

Carl Paladino, Republican New York gubernatorial candidate, warned about children being "brainwashed" about homosexuality and called gay pride parades "disgusting"–yet he had was fine with cashing in on two Buffalo gay clubs for several years:

[Paladino] had no problem when his son, William, ran Cobalt, a nightclub once dubbed Buffalo's "gay club of the moment."

And he had no problem cashing the rent checks from Cobalt and another gay club called Buddies II, both of which were located for years in buildings he owned.

From May 2004 through July 2006, William Paladino co-owned a nightclub on Delaware Ave. in downtown Buffalo, records show.

Liquor license records show the club was run under the corporate name 2975 Group LLC, while the building it was housed in was owned by one of Carl Paladino's many companies, the Huron Group LLC.

...Buddies II was housed in a Paladino building on Franklin St. in Buffalo in 2005 and 2006, records show. Operating under the name Queen City Entertainment, it described itself as a "bar where anyone and everyone is welcome (and) prejudices are left at the door."

Hong Kong-based Next Media Animation, which recently gave us its take on Christine O'Donnell, cited Paladino's serving as a landlord to two gay clubs in the video "Kooky Carl Campaigns from the Fringe":

"Obama! A Modern U.S. President" Musical Spoof

Actor Ron Butler plays President Obama in this Gilbert and Sullivan-style spoof, also directed by Butler, in which the president responds to the disconnect between his accomplishments and public perception. Backed up by a full chorus, the Obama character breaks into song and insists he is "the very model of a modern U.S. president." Watch:

Remembering Solomon Burke, King Of Rock And Soul

Solomon Burke, crowned the King of Rock and Soul by a radio D.J. in 1964, passed away last Sunday at 70. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, Burke's powerful vocal style drew upon gospel, country and rhythm and blues. Burke was covered by many influential artists, including Otis Redding, Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones. Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler called him "the best soul singer of all time." Burke is shown above performing his 1962 hit "Cry to Me" at the Vitoria Jazz Festival in Spain. To sample more of Burke's music, visit his web site.

Fox's Brian Kilmeade: "Every Terrorist Is A Muslim"

Keith Olbermann took Fox's Brian Kilmeade to task for his Islamophobic comments, including asking, "Do you think Americans have a right to look at moderate Muslims and say, 'Show me you're not one of them?' " (Another Fox host who applied the principle of guilty until proven innocent to Muslims was Glenn Beck, who said to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, "...what I feel like saying is, "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.") Kilmeade also stated, "Not every Muslim is an extremist, but every terrorist is a Muslim." Olbermann named several right-wing terrorists who are not Muslims, including Bryon Williams, inspired by Glenn Beck, and Timothy McVeigh (more examples are here and here). Kilmeade dismissed the example of McVeigh, since, unlike Al Qaeda, he's just one individual; Olbermann points out that McVeigh's execution did not end the threat of American radical-right terrorism. For Kilmeade's bigoted statements, Olbermann named him Friday's "Worst Person in the World." Watch:

Kilmeade again insisted that only Muslims are terrorists on the October 15 edition of "Fox and Friends." When Geraldo Rivera stated that abortion clinic bombers are terrorists, Kilmeade evaded this simple fact when he asked, "You equate abortion bombers to Al Qaeda?":

Friday, October 15, 2010

Amos Oz And Sari Nusseibeh: Two Voices Of Sanity In The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Amos Oz, Israeli author and one of the founders of the Peace Now movement, and Sari Nusseibeh, Palestinian professor of philosophy and president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, shared the Siegfried Unseld Prize in Berlin on September 28, 2010. Oz's "A Tale of Love and Darkness" (2003) and Nusseibeh's "Once Upon a Country" (2007) are autobiographical, humane and searching explorations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The New York Review of Books presented their acceptance speeches; excerpts follow.

Oz, in "A Tragic Struggle," presents the conflict, correctly in my view, as a tragic struggle of right against right. Oz nevertheless sees a historic process toward resolution:

The core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a clash between right and right, and often it is a clash between wrong and wrong. ...The Palestinians have nowhere else to go, and neither do the Israelis. The disputed land is, altogether, smaller than Holland—yet there is no choice but to divide it into two countries, Israel and Palestine. The Israelis and Palestinians can’t turn into a single people living in a single country, and there is no point in trying to shove them into a double bed after a century of violence and hatred. ...The Israeli Jews and the Palestinians Arabs cannot, at this stage, turn into one happy family because they are not one, they are not happy, and they are not a family. They are two unhappy families, which is why it is vital to split the house into to smaller apartments—just as the Czechs and the Slovaks did without shedding a drop of blood.

These are times of renewed hope. The distance between the Israeli and Palestinian positions in the peace negotiations is not small, but it is certainly much smaller than it has ever been during a hundred years of conflict. It is hard to be a prophet, especially in Jerusalem—the competition is fierce—but allow me to conclude with a small prophecy: A day will come when there is an Israeli embassy in Palestine and a Palestinian embassy in Israel. And these two embassies will be walking distance from one other, because one of them will be in West Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, and the other will be in East Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine. Extremists on both sides will continue to do all they can to thwart a historic compromise and peace—but peace will come, because a majority of both peoples want it and because the extremists are minorities on both sides.

Nusseibeh, in "The Magic Within Us," speaks of the appeal to universal values in upholding Palestinian rights. He also maintains an openness to unforeseen possibilities despite the dilemmas of the present:

What has in recent years become the conventional model for peace, namely, the two-state solution, or a two-state solution, is now up for the test. Let us hope it passes this test—though with a House fractured on the Palestinian side, a narrow-minded Government on the Israeli side, and a pathetically feeble international community, prospects for such a success seem dim.

...I am a strong believer in activism, or in acting as the way of being. But such activism...must first and foremost be on behalf of universal human values rather than tribal prejudices. If I stand up for Palestinian rights, then I can only allow myself to do so, and only to the extent, on rational grounds, that I can consider my upholding of such rights to be a specific example of my upholding of universal human rights. My fighting or activism in this case would then be rationally defensible, but only insofar as it has been made so by virtue of this universal moral principle.

I don’t believe that the angel of peace has departed, or is about to leave us forever. But I think that our challenge as peace-seekers, as human beings, is being made far more daunting than it has been. This certainly requires us to be patient; but more than ever, it also requires us to have faith in ourselves, in the magic within us, that however impossible things may look, we can still make them happen. They may not happen the exact way we now think they should happen. But how they may happen may turn out to be even better.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Media Matters: Glenn Beck Motivated Byron Williams To Plan Rampage Against Progressives

Byron Williams, 45, an ex-felon, engaged in a shootout with California highway patrol officers on July 18 after being stopped for erratic driving. He used three firearms, including armor-piercing rounds, and was saved by the body armor he wore. Two officers were injured; fortunately, none were killed. In an affidavit, an Oakland police investigator reported that Williams was headed to San Francisco to kill people at the Tides Foundation, which supports liberal causes, and the ACLU.

Media Matters, in a report, "Progressive Hunter," focuses on how Glenn Beck's incendiary conspiracy theories drove Williams to plan mayhem against his perceived liberal enemies. Despite Beck's disavowals of violent intent, one wonders how many other unstable personalities are planning similar mayhem. Dana Milbank warned in the Washington Post, "Beck has at times spoken against violence, but he more often forecasts it, warning that 'it is only a matter of time before an actual crazy person really does something stupid.' " The following is the Media Matters video and an excerpt from their report:

After the 2008 election, Fox News personalities filled the airwaves with increasingly violent rhetoric and apocalyptic language. On his Fox News show, Beck talked about "put[ting] poison" in Pelosi's wine.

Observers...were mystified by one of Byron Williams' reported targets: the Tides Foundation, a low-profile charitable organization known for funding environmentalists, community groups, and other organizations.

Beck, it turned out, had attacked Tides 29 times on his Fox News show in the year-and-a-half leading up to the shooting.

Now, in exclusive interviews and written correspondence with journalist John Hamilton, Williams speaks for himself. He asks Hamilton to be his "media advocate" and repeatedly instructs him to watch specific broadcasts of Beck's show for information on the conspiracy theory that drove him over the edge: an intricate plot involving Barack Obama, philanthropist George Soros, a Brazilian oil company, and the BP disaster.

…Williams tells Hamilton that "Beck would never say anything about a conspiracy, would never advocate violence. He'll never do anything ... of this nature. But he'll give you every ounce of evidence that you could possibly need."

...Beck, in particular, he says, is "like a schoolteacher on TV." Williams tells Hamilton, "You need to go back to June -- June of this year, 2010 -- and look at all his programs from June, and you'll see he's been breaking open some of the most hideous corruption."

..."I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind. I said, well, nobody does this."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Next Media Animation: Colorful Christine Electrifies Delaware Electorate

Hong-Kong based Next Media Animation presented its own take on Christine O'Donnell, Delaware Republican Senatorial candidate and Tea Party favorite. Included among her "crazy views" is O'Donnell's contention, stated during a 2006 debate, that she had classified information that China had a "carefully thought out and strategic plan to take over America." Watch:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Ideas Like Paladino's Lead To Anti-Gay Violence

One day after making homophobic comments in a speech in Brooklyn, Carl Paladino, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate, called gay pride parades "disgusting." This is at a time when New Yorkers are revolted by something truly disgusting that happened in the Bronx building shown at left: a gang's beating and torture of three men suspected of being gay:

There were nine attackers, ranging from 16 to 23 years old and calling themselves the Latin King Goonies, the police said. Before setting upon their 30-year-old victim, they had snatched up two teenage boys whom they beat, the police said — until the boys — one of whom was sodomized with a plunger — admitted to having had sex with the man.

The attackers forced the man to strip to his underwear and tied him to a chair, the police said. One of the teenage victims was still there, and the “Goonies” ordered him to attack the man. The teenager hit him in the face and burned him with a cigarette on his nipple and penis as the others jeered and shouted gay slurs, the police said. Then the attackers whipped the man with a chain and sodomized him with a small baseball bat.

...The assaults are the latest in a string of recent episodes of bullying and attacks against gays. A Rutgers University student jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge last month, prosecutors said, after his roommate had secretly set up a webcam in their room and streamed over the Internet his sexual encounter with another man. Two men were accused of robbing and beating a man in the Stonewall Inn, a landmark gay bar in Greenwich Village, last weekend while shouting slurs.

Some might contend that Paladino's comments, in view of these anti-gay crimes, were merely "insensitive." Some might point out the fact that he disavowed "wanting to hurt gay people in any way." Sorry, but that's too easy. There's a direct line between ideas like Paladino's and anti-gay violence. Paladino stated that gays try to "brainwash" children and lead less valid and successful lives, and that their assertion of pride is "disgusting." Instead, one should, as Paladino stated, "get married and raise a family" (something, actually, that gays should be able to do legally). Paladino, the role model, had children with his wife and a daughter with his mistress. That's real family values!

Given enough currency, Paladino's homophobic ideas seep down to those who are ready to use plungers, cigarettes, chains and bats against gays. Does Paladino have the right to express these disgusting ideas? Absolutely. Is Paladino, in expressing these ideas, fit to govern? Absolutely not.

Paladino Makes Homophobic Comments In Brooklyn Speech

Carl Paladino, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate, made homophobic comments on Sunday before Orthodox Jewish leaders in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Beyond social and religious conservatives, it's difficult to see how Paladino, known for divisive comments and actions, will broaden his appeal with bigoted statements that demean gay citizens. Watch:

Paladino: We must stop pandering to the pornographers and the perverts who seek to target our children and destroy their lives. I didn't march in the gay pride parade this year. My opponent did. And that's not the example that we should be showing our children, and certainly not in our schools. And don't misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way. That would be a dastardly lie. My approach is live and let live. I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option—it isn’t.

Kristof: Republican Rule Means Higher Unemployment, Worse Debt, More Inequity

Nicholas D. Kristof, in "Trifecta of Torment," acknowledges that the economy and job creation have been disappointing under the Democrats. At the same time, the Republicans have obstructed Obama's programs and, had their ideas been adopted, conditions would be even worse. Of course, things may indeed get worse in terms of jobs, debt and income gap if the G.O.P. prevails in November:

...The unemployment rate rose from 7.7 percent when President Obama took office to more than 10 percent and was still 9.6 August...

...But would [the Republicans] have done better? The Republicans opposed the stimulus package, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that it created between 1.4 million and 3.3 million jobs.

In other words, under Republican leadership, we would have at least an additional 1.4 million people out of work. As, the indispensable truth squad Web site puts it: “It’s just false to say that the stimulus created ‘no jobs.’ ”

...Then there’s the national debt. The Republicans say, correctly, that Mr. Obama aggravated the debt with the stimulus bill. The latest Congressional Budget Office estimate is that the bill will worsen the deficit by $814 billion over a decade.

But as Andrew Romano, a senior writer for Newsweek, noted in an excellent blog post that helped inspire this column, the Republicans propose other actions that worsen the fiscal situation even more. For starters, the Republicans favor almost $700 billion in extended tax cuts for the most affluent Americans. The Democratic leadership opposes them.

In addition, the Republicans call for repealing the health care reform. The Congressional Budget Office suggests that repealing certain provisions of that act would mean an increase in deficits of about $455 billion. On the other hand, keeping health reform will trim the deficits by more than $170 billion between now and 2020, the C.B.O. says.

...The Democrats worsen the deficits by a net of about $640 billion, while Republicans worsen them by some $1.1 trillion — almost twice as much.

...Mr. Obama’s plan wouldn’t actually exclude the wealthiest Americans from tax cuts. It would cut billionaires’ taxes — but only for their first $250,000 in income.

The richest 0.1 percent of Americans (who earn an average of $8.4 million) would get an average tax cut of more than $61,000 under Mr. Obama’s proposal, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Under the Republican proposal, they would get an average tax cut of more than $370,000, the center says.

...the strong implication is that Republican rule would lead to the Trifecta of Torment: higher unemployment, worse deficits and greater inequity.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

GOP Congressional Candidate Rich Iott's Former Hobby: Taking Part In Nazi Reenactments

Rich Iott (second from right above), Republican congressional candidate and Tea Party favorite from Ohio's 9th district, had an unusual hobby for years: dressing up in a German Waffen SS uniform and reenacting battles as a Nazi. From Joshua Green's article in The Atlantic:

Iott, whose district lies in Northwest Ohio, was involved with a group that calls itself Wiking, whose members are devoted to re-enacting the exploits of an actual Nazi division, the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking, which fought mainly on the Eastern Front during World War II. Iott's participation in the Wiking group is not mentioned on his campaign's website, and his name and photographs were removed from the Wiking website.

When contacted by The Atlantic, Iott confirmed his involvement with the group over a number of years, but said his interest in Nazi Germany was historical and he does not subscribe to the tenets of Nazism. "No, absolutely not," he said. "In fact, there's a disclaimer on the [Wiking] website. And you'll find that on almost any reenactment website. It's purely historical interest in World War II."

...The group's website includes a lengthy history of the Wiking unit, a recruitment video, and footage of goose-stepping German soldiers marching in the Warsaw victory parade after Poland fell in 1939. The website makes scant mention of the atrocities committed by the Waffen SS, and includes only a glancing reference to the "twisted" nature of Nazism. Instead, it emphasizes how the Wiking unit fought Bolshevist Communism...

Historians of Nazi Germany vehemently dispute this characterization. "These guys don't know their history," said Charles W. Sydnor, Jr., a retired history professor and author of "Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death's Head Division, 1933-45," which chronicles an SS division. "They have a sanitized, romanticized view of what occurred."

Following these revelations, Iott was removed from the National Republican Congressional Committee's "Young Guns" website.

The Martyrdom Of Glenn Beck: Reading Progressive Thought Led To Internal Toxins

Glenn Beck is blaming his medical problems on his study of progressive thought. "Toxins" and "poisons" ailing him are due to the fact that "I have been drinking that poison." I hope Beck's audience appreciates his martyrdom. Perhaps they'll consider him for right-wing sainthood. Listen:

Beck: In the last 24 hours as I've been thinking about the doctor saying "we're looking for toxins, we're looking for poisons in your body," I know what they are. For four years, I have tried to understand the mind of what I believe are monsters...

...there are very misguided people and I have been drinking that poison which others may not find poison but I do because it is exact opposite of me. ...
"that which you gaze upon you become" and I have been trying not to become that... 

There's more. Beck disavows any future headlines from liberal outlets stating that, in his view, the "left is poisoning him." He then, however, asserts that his readings have damaged his soul and, ultimately, his physical condition. You know, the mind-body connection. So be forewarned of the effects of studying liberals. You may be in peril right now reading this blog. Part two:

Beck: So there's a physical reason but I believe physical, mental, and spiritual are all tied. can't injure the soul of someone and not have physical wounds appear eventually...

A lot of physical things, a lot of mental things, are from spiritual wounds. And vice versa. And, as I was laying in bed the other day, and I closed that book and I said "I just can't read it any more" I started to think about it: How many times have I said, "I just can't look at this stuff any more. I can't read it any more." But I do, because it's the task that I have had.

I have said, so many times "I don't want to be this guy." I... I can't continue to say this. And, I have said to my wife, that this journey has taken years off my life.

...And I also believe that which you gaze upon you become. (h/t Media Matters)

That last point is particularly intriguing. Is Beck becoming a monster, emerging from the swamp of progressive ideas as a...a liberal talk show host?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Faisal Shahzad Convicted By Federal Court–Not Military Tribunal

Faisal Shahzad was sentenced to life imprisonment in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan for trying to blow up his car Times Square. Those who have little faith in our justice system should realize that trials in federal courts, as opposed to military justice, can indeed result in convictions for terrorists. In fact, they have a better record. From a recent editorial in The New York Times:

When Mr. Shahzad was arrested, and later given a Miranda warning, the “tough on terrorists” crowd screamed about coddling and endangering the country’s security. They didn’t stop complaining, even after Mr. Shahzad cooperated with investigators and entered a guilty plea with a mandatory life sentence. All of this happened without the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department breaking laws or violating Constitutional protections.

Now let’s check in on Guantánamo Bay, where President George W. Bush opened an illegal detention camp, authorized torture and abuse, and then set up military tribunals engineered to produce guilty verdicts no matter how thin or tainted the evidence...

There are more than 170 inmates left in Guantánamo. Only 36 have been referred for prosecution, some very dangerous men. Forty-eight are in a long-term detention that is certainly illegal. Almost all the rest are in limbo while the Obama team tries to figure out what to do. The chances are dimming every day that prisoners like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, will ever be brought to justice.

...This is the choice: Justice in long-established federal courts that Americans can be proud of and the rest of the world can respect. Or illegal detentions and unending, legally dubious military tribunals. It is an easy one.

Clyde Haberman wrote in the Times about the superior record of civilian trials:

Opponents insist that only military commissions are fit for Mr. Mohammed and his ilk. Yet civilian trials have a clear edge thus far in effectively handling terrorism and national security cases.

The Center on Law and Security keeps close track. Of 437 cases that have arisen since Sept. 11,...257 have been resolved in court, with 218 of them ending in convictions or guilty pleas. Military commissions, in contrast, have produced a mere four convictions, including those of two men who received short prison terms and were soon set free.

The most recent military case involved a Guantánamo Bay detainee who pleaded guilty in July to having conspired with Al Qaeda. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Compare that with the 86 years given to Ms. [Aafia] Siddiqui two weeks ago. So much for the civilian courts’ being soft on terrorists.

Remembering John

Right now I should be at a John Lennon concert celebrating his 70th birthday at Madison Square Garden, in his adopted city. John should be performing from a set list reflecting an additional 30 years of his musical genius. We'll never know what more he would have given the world; with The Beatles and as a solo artist, John always surprised us with his creativity and vision. What we can do is celebrate what he left us as a musician and a spokesman for peace and a better world, epitomized in "Imagine," which he sang in Madison Square Garden in 1972:

John and Yoko used their 1969 "Bed-Ins For Peace" in Montreal and Amsterdam as an innovative way to encourage everyone to "Give Peace a Chance":

In "Instant Karma," John told us to live fully and recognize our common humanity:

Gadi Taub Of Hebrew University: Settlements Endanger Israel's Vital Interests

Arab League ministers agreed with the Palestinian halt to peace talks following the end of the Israeli freeze on settlement construction. The league agreed to give the U.S. a month to resolve the impasse. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is pondering an American offer of security and political guarantees in exchange for extending the freeze for 60 days; Netanyahu is concerned about keeping his mostly right-leaning coalition together. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has staked his credibility on ending the talks upon the resumption of settlement construction.

This is the latest episode in the settlements' status as an obstacle to the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the two-state solution. Gadi Taub (above), assistant professor at Hebrew University and author of "The Settlers and the Struggle Over the Meaning of Zionism," warns in Dissent Magazine that the settlements pose a clear danger to  to Israel's survival:

Why then does Netanyahu’s administration insist on renewing settlement construction? The reason is a combination of short-sighted security arguments, cynical political considerations, and conservative habits of mind. In terms of security, Netanyahu believes that the officially temporary occupation can be extended more or less indefinitely, and that this is the only way to keep terrorism in check; politically he wishes to appease his religious coalition partners, without which his government may collapse; and lastly, his conservative outlook still rests on the sense that the more Israel encroaches on the future territory of Palestine, the safer it would be.

This is a dangerous game to play. Because in the long run, it endangers Israel’s most vital interests. The longer the occupation lasts, the more Israel is perceived as a colonial power, bent the subjugation of another people. Further settlement seems to the world as proof of this, and the forces bent on delegitimizing the right of Jews to self-determination are gaining momentum. Even Israel’s allies are beginning to feel uncomfortable. Jews worldwide increasingly feel the need to put a distance between themselves and Zionism.

But what is worse is that eventually this encroachment on the future Palestine will not achieve Netanyahu’s goals—it will achieve the goal of religious settlers. If they have their way, their asphalt and concrete will prevent partition into two states and will drown the ship of Zionism in a Lebanon-like bi-national swamp. Religious settlers are therefore not just a clear and present danger to peace, or to peace talks, but an existential threat to Zionism itself. Supporting settlement is an anti-Zionist stance. The grounds for resisting the settlers’ enterprise are not only the right of Palestinians to self-determination but also the right of Jews to self-determination. Zionists and their allies must therefore oppose further settlement, for Israel’s, not just Palestine’s, sake.

Christine O'Donnell Ad Parody: He's Also You

Following Christine O'Donnell's "I'm not a witch; I'm you" ad, the Destructor Bros. have produced their own statement claiming, "I'm you." Watch:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Frank Rich: O'Donnell Provides Populist Cover For Billionaires' Coup

For all the fun that liberals, including this blogger, have had with the wacky Christine O'Donnell, Frank Rich points out that she serves a purpose for Republicans and their monied backers in "The Very Useful Idiocy of Christine O'Donnell." I have long been fascinated with, and frustrated by, right-wing populism, which purports to stand for the common folk while being funded by and ultimately benefiting the wealthy. Rich states that O'Donnell provides a valuable populist cover:

...Whatever her other talents, she’s more than willing to play the role of useful idiot for her party. She gives populist cover to the billionaires and corporate interests that have been steadily annexing the Tea Party movement and busily plotting to cash in their chips if the G.O.P. prevails.

While O’Donnell’s résumé has proved largely fictional, one crucial biographical plotline is true: She has had trouble finding a job, holding on to a home and paying her taxes. In this, at least, she is like many Americans in the Great Recession, including the angry claque that found its voice in the Tea Party. For a G.O.P. that is even more in thrall to big money than the Democrats, she couldn’t be a more perfect decoy.

By latching on to O’Donnell’s growing presence, the Rove-Boehner-McConnell establishment can claim it represents struggling middle-class Tea Partiers rather than Wall Street potentates and corporate titans...

...deep-pocketed mystery benefactors — not O’Donnell, whose reported income for this year and last is $5,800 — are the real indicators of what’s going on under the broad Tea Party rubric. Big money rains down on the “bottom up” Tea Party insurgency through phantom front organizations (Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Job Security) that exploit legal loopholes to keep their sugar daddies’ names secret. Reporters at The Times and The Washington Post, among others, have lately made real strides in explaining how the game works. But we still don’t know the identities of most of those anonymous donors.

...However much these corporate contributors may share the Tea Party minions’ antipathy toward President Obama, their economic interests hardly overlap. The rank and file Tea Partiers say they oppose government spending and deficits. The billionaires have no problem with federal spending as long as the pork is corporate pork. They, like most Republican leaders in 2008, supported the Bush administration’s Wall Street bailout. They also don’t mind deficits as long as they get their outsize cut of the red ink — $3.8 trillion worth if all the Bush tax cuts are made permanent.

...along comes this marvelous gift out of nowhere, Christine O’Donnell, Tea Party everywoman, who just may be the final ingredient needed to camouflage a billionaires’ coup as a populist surge. By the time her fans discover that any post-election cuts in government spending will be billed to them, and not the Tea Party’s shadowy backers, she’ll surely be settling her own debts with fat paychecks from “Fox & Friends.”