Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Democratic Rep. Slams GOP At Obamacare Hearing

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) blew up at the Republicans for refusing to implement the Affordable Care Act, in contrast to the Democrats' cooperation, despite their disagreement, with Bush's prescription drug program. He asked, "What are you going to do about the approximately 17 million children with preexisting conditions who can no longer be denied health insurance coverage?” When Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) said that there are Republican alternatives to Obamacare, Pascrell responded, "Are you really serious? After what we’ve gone through in the last three and a half years? Have you — you can sit there and say, that you had a legitimate alternative after these years? We’ve gone through 44 votes, 48 votes now, of you trying to dismantle the legislation. You call that cooperation? I don’t!" Watch:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gallup: Death Penalty Support Lowest In Over 40 Years

Support for the death penalty, at 60 percent, is lower than it has been in over four decades, according to a recent Gallup poll. The increasing number of states abolishing the practice and holding moratoriums may be linked to the decline in support for state-sanctioned killing:

Sixty percent of Americans say they favor the death penalty for convicted murderers, the lowest level of support Gallup has measured since November 1972, when 57% were in favor. Death penalty support peaked at 80% in 1994, but it has gradually declined since then.

...The current era of lower support may be tied to death penalty moratoriums in several states beginning around 2000 after several death-row inmates were later proven innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted. More recently, since 2006, six states have repealed death penalty laws outright, including Maryland this year.

Politics is a major dividing line in Americans' death penalty views -- 81% of Republicans currently favor it, compared with 47% of Democrats. Independents' 60% support matches the national average.

...Currently, 18 states do not allow the death penalty, and six of those bans have occurred since 2006. Six others instituted bans during the mid-1950s through the early 1970s, when U.S. support for the death penalty was lowest historically.

Matt Rothschild: Rush To Disenfranchise Follows Gutting Of Voting Rights Act

Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive, comments on the predictable fallout from the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act. He cites the rush by the very Southern states covered by the Act to disenfranchise minorities and deny votes for Democrats. Rothschild also refers to legal challenges filed by the NAACP and the ACLU against voter suppression laws. Listen:

Also see Supreme Court Justice Ruth Baader Ginsberg's comments on the results of the Court's unfortunate decision.

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

GOP Fires Official For Voicing The Party’s Racism

The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi interviewed North Carolina Republican county precinct chair Don Yelton about the state’s repressive voter ID laws. After admitting that voter fraud is practically non-existent, Yelton affirmed that “the law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt.” He also made racist comments, despite Mandavi’s warning, “You know that we can hear you, right?” Yelton was removed from his position by the Buncombe County GOP, which stated that his comments don’t represent the Republican Party. But of course they do, in terms of the intent to suppress the vote and the racism inherent in the new voter laws. Ultimately, the Republicans terminated Yelton for voicing the party’s actual motivations and views. Watch:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pepper-Spraying Cop Wins $38,000 Worker's Comp For "Psychiatric Injury"

John Pike, former police officer who nonchalantly pepper sprayed UC Davis students sitting peacefully at an Occupy protest, was awarded $38,000 in worker's compensation due to "psychiatric injury" resulting from the November 2011 event. Three dozen protesters who were pepper sprayed received, in total, $1 million from the university, or around $28,000 per person–$10,000 less than the officer who pepper sprayed them:

Former police Lt. John Pike, who gained a degree of infamy for his role in the incident, was awarded the settlement Oct. 16 by the state Division of Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. The claim "resolves all claims of psychiatric injury specific or due to continuous trauma from applicant's employment at UC Davis."

The incident that resulted in the $38,055 settlement happened Nov. 18, 2011, on the UC Davis quad during a demonstration opposing tuition increases. On the widely circulated video, Pike is seen dousing protesters for about 15 seconds with orange pepper spray.

Pike was suspended with pay afterward. According to a database of state worker salaries, he earned $119,067 in 2011, the last year for which figures are available.

More than 17,000 angry or threatening e-mails, 10,000 text messages and hundreds of letters were sent to Pike after the video went viral, according to the police union.

Pike repeatedly changed his phone number and e-mail address and lived in various locations. He left the campus police force in July 2012.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

NY Times: "In Search Of Republican Grown-Ups"

In an editorial, The New York Times recognizes that it's fine for the Republican establishment to decry the "juvenile shutdown stunt," but the party needs to do much more to be recognized as mature and responsible. Specifically, the GOP must end its obsession with austerity, corporate tax cuts and the deficit, which is already falling, and demonstrate a willingness to make the investments that will allow the economy to thrive. It doesn't look as if the Republicans, though, are ready to be constructive:

At a time when the economy is desperate for federal help and 11.3 million people are still unemployed, the party — and not just its far-right wing — is still pretending that cutting spending and lowering the deficit remain the country’s most urgent priorities. Republicans won’t acknowledge that tax increases, along with spending cuts they have forced on the country, have already driven the deficit down to 4 percent of the aggregate economy, from 10 percent in 2009. Their appetite for billions in further cuts has only grown.

This will become obvious next week when the budget committees of the House and Senate gather for their first conference on the budget for fiscal year 2014, which began more than three weeks ago. (Republicans had refused the repeated requests of Democrats for a negotiation since April.) The conference is a moment to finally set aside the sequester cuts that have hobbled the economy and begin needed investments in education and infrastructure, rebuilding cities and the lives of those left behind.

But Republicans won’t hear of it. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking member of the budget panel, says that keeping the current spending caps is a bedrock principle. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, ostensibly an anti-shutdown “adult,” wants to use the conference to cut social-welfare entitlements and relieve the tax burden on corporations. “We have to make a down payment on the debt and deficit,” he told Congressional Quarterly.

That down payment has already been made, many times over, and Democrats have vowed not to even consider entitlement changes in the absence of big tax increases on the rich. What ails the economy now is not corporate taxes but the iron lid on spending, clamped tight for two years.

Image: Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News

"12 Years A Slave," Directed By Steve McQueen

"12 Years A Slave," directed by Steve McQueen, is based on the true account written by Solomon Northup and published in 1853. Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a freeborn black man, violinist, carpenter and family man living in New York, is kidnapped and sold into slavery. This powerful, wrenching film lays bare the hideous cruelty and farcical legal system under which so many suffered. There are scenes that are difficult but necessary to watch, including prolonged whippings tearing into flesh for the most minor of infractions. One realizes that this exploitation of human beings as "property" formed the basis of Southern prosperity and put the lie to the region's "gentility" and "hospitality." Northrup eventually ends up on the plantation of the sadistic Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) and his equally unhinged wife Mary (Sarah Paulson), who are in conflict over Epps' attraction to the slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), resulting in agony for the latter. As the title implies, Northup's ordeal comes to an end after 12 years, but the viewer is aware of the many who were left behind in unrelieved bondage.

"Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE" At The Whitney Museum

Robert Indiana is most famous for his LOVE paintings, works that actually obscured more controversial themes in his art. The exhibit "Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE" at the Whitney Museum of American Art demonstrates the full breadth of this prominent pop artist's engagement with contemporary issues. "The Red Diamond American Dream #3" (1962), above, suggests a game board or pinball machine and contains the words, "Tilt," "The American Dream" and "Winner Take All," a comment on the greed that is the undercurrent of the nation's enterprising image. A series of paintings castigates four southern states for their oppression of African Americans and brutal response to the Civil Rights Movement. Indiana has a penchant for bright colors, hard edges, geometric shapes and lettering. These elements are associated with roadside ads and are combined with trenchant commentary that indeed go "beyond love."

“Robert Indiana: Beyond Love” continues through Jan. 5 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Ave. at 75th St., NYC, (212)570-3600,

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pastor Kevin Swanson: Don't Buy Communist Lesbian Girl Scout Cookies

Speaking to Pastor Dave Buehner of Generations Radio, Pastor Kevin Swanson joined the religious right's campaign against the Girl Scouts. Swanson implored, “Please, I beg of you, do not buy Girl Scout cookies,” because the "wicked" group supports feminism, lesbianism and abortion. Later, the two charged the Girl Scouts with orienting women toward competing with men, standing against "a biblical vision of womanhood" and readying single women who already like Obama to put a communist in the White House by 2020. After listening to the following, I ordered a box of Thin Mints:

SWANSON: The individualism of feminism has been devastating to this country. I’d say you ought to say no the Girl Scout cookies too. I don’t want to support lesbianism, I don’t want to support Planned Parenthood and I don’t want to support abortion, and if that be the case I’m not buying Girl Scout cookies... I don’t want to promote a wicked organization that according to its own website doesn’t promote godly womanhood, it just doesn’t, I don’t see anything that promotes godly womanhood. The vision of the Girl Scouts of America is antithetical to a biblical vision for womanhood, it’s antithetical to it... Please, I beg of you, stop buying Girl Scout cookies. And if you do, take a big black magic marker and cross out all of the references to Girl Scouts of America on all of the signs and all of the boxes because we do not want to promote that organization.

(h/t: Right Wing Watch)

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Citizen Cope Live

Citizen Cope, a.k.a. Clarence Greenwood, performed "Son's Gonna Rise" at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, October 2009.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Majority Of Americans Now Support Legalizing Marijuana

A recent Gallup poll finds that a majority of Americans–58%–now favor legalizing marijuana. Over the past year, Colorado and Washington legalized the drug for recreational use following successful ballot initiatives; the poll suggests that the two states are heading a national trend. A majority of Democrats, independents and young adults support legalization; a majority of Republicans and those over 65 remain opposed:

Success at the ballot box in the past year in Colorado and Washington may have increased Americans' tolerance for marijuana legalization. Support for legalization has jumped 10 percentage points since last November and the legal momentum shows no sign of abating. Last week, California's second-highest elected official, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, said that pot should be legal in the Golden State, and advocates of legalization are poised to introduce a statewide referendum in 2014 to legalize the drug.

...It has been a long path toward majority acceptance of marijuana over the past 44 years, but Americans' support for legalization accelerated as the new millennium began. This acceptance of a substance that most people might have considered forbidden in the late 1960s and 1970s may be attributed to changing social mores and growing social acceptance. The increasing prevalence of medical marijuana as a socially acceptable way to alleviate symptoms of diseases such as arthritis, and as a way to mitigate side effects of chemotherapy, may have also contributed to Americans' growing support.

Whatever the reasons for Americans' greater acceptance of marijuana, it is likely that this momentum will spur further legalization efforts across the United States. Advocates of legalizing marijuana say taxing and regulating the drug could be financially beneficial to states and municipalities nationwide. But detractors such as law enforcement and substance abuse professionals have cited health risks including an increased heart rate, and respiratory and memory problems.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Koch Brothers Could Make $100 Billion From Keystone Pipeline

The Koch brothers have funded a multitude of studies supporting the Keystone XL pipeline. In turn, a new study from the International Forum on Globalization finds that the Kochs could make $100 billion on the project:

A new study released today concludes that Koch Industries and its subsidiaries stand to make as much as $100 billion in profits if the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is granted a presidential permit from U.S. President Barack Obama.

The report, titled Billionaires' Carbon Bomb, produced by the think tank International Forum on Globalization (IFG), finds that David and Charles Koch and their privately owned company, Koch Industries, own more than 2 million acres of land in Northern Alberta, the source of the tar sands bitumen that would be pumped to the United States via the Keystone XL pipeline.

IFG also finds that more than 1,000 reports and statements in support of the Keystone XL pipeline project have been made by policy groups and think tanks that receive funding from the Koch brothers and their philanthropic foundations.

"The Kochs have repeatedly claimed that they have no interest in the Keystone XL Pipeline, this report shows that is false," said Nathalie Lowenthal-Savy, a researcher with IFG.

Download a PDF copy of the study here: Billionaires' Carbon Bomb: The Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL Pipeline

George Packer: The Republicans Are Still Winning

The Republicans were defeated in their shutdown-and-defund debacle and are experiencing sinking favorability. Writing in The New Yorker, George Packer provides a sobering reminder that the GOP is still setting the economic policy agenda. Spending cuts, austerity over stimulus, cutbacks in federal employees, the sequester–among the Republican fiscal policies that shrink the government, benefit the wealthy and hurt the vulnerable–continue to prevail:

These days, Republicans may be losing politically and resorting to increasingly anti-majoritarian means—gerrymandering, filibuster abuse, voter suppression, activist Supreme Court decisions, legislative terrorism—to nullify election results. But on economic-policy matters they are setting the terms. Senator Ted Cruz can be justly described as a demagogic fool, but lately he’s been on the offensive far more than the White House has. The deficit is in fairly precipitous decline, but job growth is anemic, and millions of Americans remain chronically unemployed. Democrats control the White House and the Senate, and last year they won a larger share of the national vote in the House than Republicans did. And yet the dominant argument in Washington is over spending cuts, not over ways to increase economic growth and address acute problems like inequality, poor schools, and infrastructure decay. “The whole debate over the last couple of weeks is playing against a backdrop of how much to increase austerity, not to invest in the economy,” Neera Tanden, the president of the Center for American Progress, said last week. “We are living in a time of government withering on the vine.”

While House Republicans go home to sift through the debris of their defeat, the sequester remains in place, with deeper cuts ahead. A hiring freeze at United States Attorneys’ offices will continue and they will have to go on using volunteers. There will be no new agents to fill training classes at the F.B.I. Academy, while the bureau’s concrete headquarters, on Pennsylvania Avenue, crumbles. The loss of government scholarships at the National Health Services Corps will mean fewer doctors in underserved areas. [IRS employees] will look for jobs in the private sector. And the talk in Washington will return to deficit reduction.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bernie Sanders Draws Lessons From Government Shutdown

Speaking to MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) asserted that the American people found it unacceptable for the Republicans to shut down the government in order to get their way. Now, Sanders continued, the people must rally against balancing the budget on the backs of the vulnerable. Instead, it's time for the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Watch:

SANDERS: I think one of the reasons that the Democrats won the struggle right now, the political struggle, is not only the strength of Majority Leader Harry Reid and the President beginning to really stand up forcefully, but because the American people were involved in this issue. The American people were saying “You don’t sabotage the United States government and shut it down in order to get your way.” I think we can rally the American people so that they’re saying, 'No, we’re not going to balance the budget on people who are already hurting. We are going to ask upper income people and corporations to start paying their first share of taxes.' Do I think we can do that? I do, if we do our job well.

GOP Senator Opposes Obamacare Since His Friend Must Insure More Employees

Speaking to CBS host Bob Schieffer today, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) first spoke about the fact that the government shutdown was a disaster for his party. Turing to Obamacare, Graham referred to a friend who owns 52 Wendy's restaurants and provides health insurance to just 40 percent of his employees. Now–horror of horrors–under Obamacare, Graham's friend will have to insure more employees. A healthy workforce, by Graham's reckoning, is bad for the economy. Watch:

GRAHAM: Friend of mine owns 52 Wendy’s, he’s put pen to paper, he has 40 percent of his workforce insured today. Under Obamacare, if 20 percent choose insurance, his insurance costs will double. That story is repeating itself throughout the economy. Obamacare is a debacle that will go into 2014.

"Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary" At MoMA

The subtitle of the René Magritte exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, "The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938," is well chosen. Magritte's surrealism is characterized by the startling juxtaposition of everyday objects, as seen in the cloths covering the faces of the couple above in "The Lovers" (1928). The painting unsettles the viewer, similar to the effect of an dream in which familiarity and fear intermingle. Magritte also subverted assumptions about language and representation; in "The Treachery of Images" (1928-29), a painting of a pipe is complimented by the sentence, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (This is not a pipe). Similarly, a painting of an eye is entitled, "The False Mirror." Magritte's insistence that our perceptions are inherently unreliable shows that he was not only a surrealist, but an early postmodernist.

“Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary” will run through Jan. 12 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, NYC; (212) 708-9400,

The Republicans' Next Target Is...Obamacare

Congress passed Obamacare; its chief proponent, President Obama, was re-elected; the Supreme Court upheld it, and it emerged unscathed following the government shutdown. Only 29 percent of the public favors its complete repeal. Regardless, the Republicans, whose favorability sunk during the shutdown, have an emerging strategy–to attack Obamacare:

...Republicans are intent on making the health law an uncomfortable anchor around the neck of four Democratic senators seeking re-election in GOP-leaning states, weighing them down as they try to unseat them. Republicans need to gain six seats to seize the majority in the Senate, and any formula for control includes flipping the four seats.

Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay Hagan of North Carolina will be facing voters for the first time since they were among the 60 Democrats who voted for the health law in 2009.

..."The bottom line is these candidates will have to answer for why they voted for this bill," said Rob Engstrom, senior vice president and national political director for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber spent millions on ads in 2012 criticizing Senate incumbents such as Jon Tester of Montana and Bill Nelson of Florida for their health care votes, yet many of those candidates overcame the criticism and won re-election.

The economy, not health care, remains the top concern of voters. By putting opposition to the health care law ahead of all other priorities, economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin says tea-party conservatives may have overdone it.

Image: Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Poll: Tea Party Sinks In Favorability

After the government shutdown, favorability ratings for the Republicans sunk to a record low of 28%. According to a poll released on Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, the Tea Party's favorability has also declined among Democrats, independents and Republicans:

The Tea Party is less popular than ever, with even many Republicans now viewing the movement negatively. Overall, nearly half of the public (49%) has an unfavorable opinion of the Tea Party, while 30% have a favorable opinion.

The balance of opinion toward the Tea Party has turned more negative since June, when 37% viewed it favorably and 45% had an unfavorable opinion. And the Tea Party’s image is much more negative today than it was three years ago, shortly after it emerged as a conservative protest movement against Barack Obama’s policies on health care and the economy.

...The Tea Party’s favorability rating has fallen across most groups since June, but the decline has been particularly dramatic among moderate and liberal Republicans. In the current survey, just 27% of moderate and liberal Republicans have a favorable impression of the Tea Party, down from 46% in June.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rachel Maddow Recounts GOP's Doomed Shutdown Demands

Rachel Maddow provided a four-minute summary of the GOP's absurd, extensive list of demands before Congress–with most House Republicans in opposition–voted to raise the debt ceiling and not imperil the economy. After the Democrats refused to defund Obamacare, the GOP's ransom note included demands regarding the Keystone Pipeline, Medicare, federal employee pensions and a host of other issues, all of which were rejected. Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Horowitz Plays Chopin

A master musician, a sublime composition. Vladimir Horowitz plays Chopin's Polonaise in A-flat major, Op. 53.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Molly Ball: Republicans Shut Down The Government for Nothing

The government shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy. 800,000 federal employees were out of work. Cancer treatment for children was impaired, as were WIC and SNAP programs for the poor. The GOP favorability rating has sunk to a record low. The Republican party is divided and its 2014 prospects are damaged. So did the Republicans, motivated by a quixotic quest to defund Obamacare, achieve anything at all? Writing in The Atlantic, Molly Ball correctly states that the GOP has nothing to show for this debacle:

For Republicans, it was basically for nothing.

The GOP will actually get less out of the final deal being brokered than the party would have gotten had House conservatives never staged their revolt on Obamacare. In fact, the drama is likely to end with Republicans ceding policy concessions to Democrats.

...The "concession" extracted by the GOP in the deal, the sole change to the health-care law, is purely cosmetic: a reinstatement of the requirement that people seeking subsidies under the Affordable Care Act furnish proof that they qualify. That requirement was in the original law, but the administration delayed it when implementation hit snags in July.

Obamacare will not be repealed. Obamacare will not be defunded. Obamacare will not be delayed. The individual mandate will not be delayed. The medical-device tax will not be repealed. The health-insurance subsidies given to members of Congress and their staffs will not be taken away.

Democrats will get the government funded at levels they (grudgingly) sought in the first place, for longer than they originally sought, and without the looming threat of default.

So what did Republicans get for shutting down the government for 17 days? Their poll numbers tanked. Their gubernatorial candidate in Virginia appears headed for defeat in next month's election. The business community is rethinking its support. Veterans and the elderly are ticked off. And any leverage they ever had to push their goals of reducing the size of government and chipping away at health-care reform is gone.

All in all, it's been a worthwhile exercise for the GOP.

Monday, October 14, 2013

House GOP Rigged Rules To Stop Majority Vote To End Shutdown

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) drew attention to the fact that prior to the government shutdown, Republican members of the House Rules Committee trumped House Rule 22, which allowed any House member to bring to the floor a continuing resolution to fund and open the government. Under the new House Rule 368, that right now solely belongs to House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA). Van Hollen attempted a motion for the House to vote on opening the government, asking Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), presiding over the chamber, "The Rules Committee, under the rules of the House, changed the standing rules of the House to take away the right of any member to move to vote to open the government, and gave that right exclusively to the Republican Leader. Is that right?" Chaffetz affirmed that the Committee did just. When Van Hollen asked why the rules were rigged to maintain the shutdown,  Chaffetz said, "The gentleman will suspend." Van Hollen replied, "Democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker." Watch:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Poll: Most Americans Don't Understand Debt Ceiling

A United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll found that most Americans don't understand that the debt ceiling is raised to authorize paying for government debt already incurred, not to authorize borrowing for future federal expenses. The poll also found that a majority of Republicans, unlike a majority of Democrats, dismiss economists' concerns that defaulting on the debt would be catastrophic:

More than twice as many Americans believe lifting the limit means authorizing more borrowing "for future expenditures" than believe it means "paying off the debts [the federal government] has already accumulated"—62 percent to 28 percent, respectively.

The reality is that lifting the debt limit allows the Treasury Department to borrow money to pay for bills that Congress has already rung up.

...Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said the country will run out of borrowing capacity on Oct. 17. But a majority of Republicans, 54 percent, basically shrug at the deadline, saying it can pass without major economic consequences. Meanwhile, most Democrats, 62 percent, and a narrower plurality of independents, 45 percent to 38 percent, say it is "absolutely essential" to lift the debt limit.

...Most economists say that failing to allow the federal government to borrow more money, which would eventually lead to defaulting on bills, would seriously harm the economy. In the summer of 2011, when Congress last flirted with allowing the nation to breach the debt limit, the stock market took a dive and the economy slowed. The nation also lost its AAA credit rating from Standard & Poors for the first time.

Cenk Uygur: Foreign Press Bewildered By U.S. Shutdown

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks reports that the foreign press is bewildered by the U.S. government shutdown, especially over health care. Among the commentators he cites is one who states, "Many wonder why the U.S. is doing this to its economy or why health care is not an option for everyone." Uygur imagines the bafflement of foreigners: "That's why they shut the government down, because they don't want people to have health care?... They're so mad that people would get health care that they've stopped the whole government? The American government that's supposed to teach us about democracy?" Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Arnold Newman's Portraits Of 20th Century Luminaries At Hofstra University

The Emily Lowe Gallery at Hofstra University, in Hempstead, LI, 24 miles east of NYC, is the site of an exhibit, "Arnold Newman: Luminaries of the Twentieth Century in Art, Politics and Culture." The show contains portraits of modern leaders in art, literature, architecture, music, politics and other fields. Newman placed an astonishing number of renowned figures before his lens, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Willem de Kooning, Martha Graham, Gordon Parks, Allen Ginsberg, John F. Kennedy, Woody Allen and many more. He captured the moderns with a modern sensibility, using light, shadow and composition to achieve effects that meshed perfectly with his subjects. In the 1946 portrait of Igor Stravinsky above, the latter is not diminished by the piano, which takes up two-thirds of the setting; the piano and the composer are one organic entity.

"Arnold Newman: Luminaries of the Twentieth Century in Art, Politics and Culture" will run through December 13, 2013 at the Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY, (516) 463-6600,

"CBGB": Hilly Kristal And The Punk Rock Explosion

"CBGB" stood for "Country Bluegrass Blues," the genres of music that club owner Hilly Kristal envisioned showcasing. Instead, the East Village venue became the incubator for the 1970s explosion of a raw, stripped-down sound that became punk rock. The film "CBGB" features actors playing The Ramones, a band I saw there, along with Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Blondie, Iggy Pop  and Television and others. As played by Alan Rickman, Kristal, following a divorce and bankruptcy, took over a Bowery dive in a scruffy neighborhood, decades before its current gentrification. Kristal resisted the insistence of his daughter Lisa (Ashley Greene), club bookkeeper, that he pay his rent, cut expenses and not manage The Dead Boys, a venture that ended disastrously. More visionary than businessman, Kristal was forced to close CBGB following a long rent dispute. "CBGB" is a spirited tribute to Kristal and the music and milieu he fostered.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Stewart Slams GOP Governors for Rejecting Medicaid Expansion

Jon Stewart criticized Republican governors in 26 states for rejecting Medicaid expansion, even though the federal government would cover the expenses for three years followed by a nominal cost. Stewart said that the refusal is the result of “Spite, the emotion that makes you turn down millions of dollars that would go to the working poor, because you hate the president.” He pointed out that rejectionist states need the help the most–and take in more federal money than they pay out. Further, the GOP’s plan for health care, “go to the emergency room,” as articulated by Mitt Romney, results in increased private insurance costs. Watch:

Obama: Not Raising Debt Ceiling Amounts To "Republican Default Tax"

President Obama, in his weekly address, said that not raising the debt ceiling for the long term and flirting with default would result in a "Republican default tax." He reminded the GOP that "manufacturing crises to extract massive concessions isn't how our democracy works" and that ideas are advanced through "elections and legislation, not extortion." Listen:

OBAMA: wouldn’t be wise, as some suggest, to just kick the debt ceiling can down the road for a couple months, and flirt with a first-ever intentional default right in the middle of the holiday shopping season. Because damage to America’s sterling credit rating wouldn’t just cause global markets to go haywire; it would become more expensive for everyone in America to borrow money. Students paying for college. Newlyweds buying a home. It would amount to a new tax – a Republican default tax – on every family and business in America.

Van Jones To Cruz: "Do You Feel You Owe Your Party An Apology?"

In view of the Republican Party's record low favorability, Van Jones asked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on CNN's Crossfire whether he owe party members an apology for leading them into "a ditch" through his futile strategy to defund Obamacare. Cruz responded by calling Obamacare "a failure," despite the fact that the program was launched less than a month ago. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) countered, calling the "notion that Obamacare is a failure" a "product of right-wing histrionics" and speaking about how well the new insurance exchanges are working in his state. Watch:


VAN JONES: Do you feel like you owe your party an apology? Listen, you have people who believed in you, they believed that you were somehow going to be able to defund Obamacare, they believed the strategy of shutdown might have a chance. They followed you into a ditch. And now, there's obviously no chance Obamacare will be defunded and we're on the brink of a horrific default. Do you think that in the reflection of your own heart, you might say, 'You know what? I'm a new kid here, I think I owe you an apology'?

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: The Lumineers Live

The Lumineers performed "Stubborn Love" at WFUV studios, Fordham University, Bronx, NY, August 7, 2012.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Republican Party Favorability Sinks To Record Low

I don't know what Republican politicians are hearing about their government shutdown tactics listening to constituents in their "redistricted" areas or to Fox News pundits. If they lift their heads, though, and pay attention to the rest of the country, they'll realize that the GOP's favorability has reached historic lows, according to a recent Gallup poll:

With the Republican-controlled House of Representatives engaged in a tense, government-shuttering budgetary standoff against a Democratic president and Senate, the Republican Party is now viewed favorably by 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. This is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992.

The Democratic Party also has a public image problem -- although not on the same elephantine scale as that of the Republican Party -- with 43% viewing the Democratic Party favorably, down four percentage points from last month.

These findings come from a Gallup poll conducted Oct. 3-6 that followed the Oct. 1 partial government shutdown after lawmakers in Washington were unable to pass a spending plan for the federal government.

More than six in 10 Americans (62%) now view the GOP unfavorably, a record high. By comparison, nearly half of Americans (49%) view the Democratic Party unfavorably. Roughly one in four Americans see both parties unfavorably.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Charles M. Blow: Americans Tired Of GOP Shutdown Game

On Friday, Speaker John Boehner said about the shutdown, "This isn't some damn game." Charles M. Blow writes that the Republicans are indeed playing "a terrible, tragic game"–and that Boehner cares "more about keeping his job than about keeping the American government running." The Speaker is captive to a minority of extremist hostage takers who can't accept that the Affordable Care Act is the law. Regardless of their feelings about that law, a majority of Americans disagree with the shutdown and blame the Republicans:

Americans just want the dysfunction to be fixed. They want the government reopened and the series of manufactured calamities to come to an end.

The thing is, this shutdown is not about the budget. It’s about a vocal and ardent minority demanding a nullification of a law it doesn’t like. This is about the Tea Party’s obsession with repealing Obamacare and the president’s refusing to negotiate with hostage takers.

On this, the American people would appear to be overwhelmingly siding with the president and the Democrats. The CBS News poll found that 72 percent of Americans disapprove of shutting down the government over disagreements about Obamacare. Even among people who disapprove of the law, 59 percent disagree with shutting down the government over it. But there is a partisan split. While more than three-quarters of both Democrats and independents disapprove of the shutdown over Obamacare, Republicans are nearly evenly split on the matter.

And when it comes to blame, Americans spread it around, but they blame Congressional Republicans more than the president and Democrats at a rate of 44 percent to 35 percent.

The Republicans surely must know that they’re on the losing end of the public-relations battle here, so they keep trying to distort the image of what they’ve done, projecting blame and distortion onto the president and Democrats. The Republican House members are trying to create a house of mirrors.

This is a damn game, and the American people are tired of playing it.

Cruz Insists He Has "Not Remotely" Hurt The Republican Party

Interviewed by CNN's Candy Crowley today, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) insisted that his push to shut down the government and defund the Affordable Care Act has "not remotely" hurt the Republican Party. Cruz also said that Congress should listen to the American people. Crowley pointed out that the vast majority of Americans disapprove of the shutdown, asking, "Why not elections and overturn it...instead of shutting down the government, which I think you would concede hurts people who had nothing to do with Obamacare?" Cruz evaded the question. Watch:

Bernie Sanders: Koch Brothers Are Behind Shutdown

Speaking to Ed Schultz, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) explained that the Koch brothers, able to spend limitless amounts of campaign money due to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, discourage moderate Republicans from supporting a continuing resolution to fund the government. Sanders also said that Americans disagree with the GOP on this issue; the Democrats have already compromised on the budget; and, ultimately, the shutdown is not about the budget, but about destroying the Affordable Care Act–and if we give in to GOP blackmail, it will never end. Watch:

SANDERS: What’s happening now, as I understand it, is when moderate Republicans are saying that, or thinking about standing up to Boehner, the extreme right wing is coming around saying you do that, let me tell you what’s going to happen. We have the Koch brothers behind us. We have hundreds of millions of dollars behind us, and if you dare to support a Continuing Resolution, a clean CR, we’re gonna primary you. We have unbelievable sums of money to defeat you.

So what you are looking at now is what Citizens United is all about. And that is giving a handful of billionaires, the Koch brothers and others, incredible power to tell members of Congress what they can and can not do, very dangerous.

Fox Falls For Fake Story About Obama Funding Muslim Museum

Fox and Friends co-host Anna Kooiman criticized President Obama by claiming that he "...offered to pay out of his own pocket for the museum of Muslim culture." She made her comments in the context of Fox pundits criticizing the closure of the World War II Memorial, which resulted from the Republican government shutdown. The only problem with Kooiman's statement is that she fell for a fake story from the National Report, a satirical website. Watch:

Media Matters points out that Fox has a history of citing satirical stories as actual news.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Six of One: Obamacare vs. The Affordable Care Act

A recent CNBC poll found that 46 percent of the public opposes Obamacare while 37 percent opposes the Affordable Care Act–even though they're the same thing. Interviewing pedestrians on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel Live correspondents found plenty who favored the Affordable Care Act over the "un-American," "socialist" Obamacare. Watch:

Gynotician Of The Week: Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Planned Parenthood named Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) the "Gynotician of the Week." Blackburn attached a provision to the Republican demand to defund Obamacare, one that would enable employers to deny women preventive care on "moral grounds." Her provision does not apply to men:

If there was anyone this week who did their darndest to insert themselves into the personal and private medical decisions best left up to women, it was Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

Late Saturday night, anti-women’s health lawmakers proposed a continuing resolution (C.R.) to continue funding the government under one condition: they defund Obamacare. Defunding Obamacare would mean reverting back to the days when insurance companies could discriminate and charge women higher premiums (sometimes up to 150% more), and denying access to insurance because of “pre-existing conditions” like pregnancy or being a survivor of domestic violence.

But Blackburn went further; she attached a provisionthat would allow any employer to deny women access to preventive care based on a “moral” objection. That means that employers and insurance companies could refuse to cover women’s preventive care like birth control, HPV testing, breastfeeding services, and even counseling for domestic violence. The kicker: this provision only applies to women; employers wouldn’t be able to morally object to men’s health care.

Not only is this wrong, it’s also unpopular. Seven in 10 Americans believe health insurance companies should cover the full cost of birth control just as they do for other preventive services, and already 27 million women across the country have been able to receive preventive health care with no copay. Once the full law takes effect, an estimated 47 million will benefit, but Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn wants to take all that away.

CNN Host Asks GOP Reps. If They'd Give Up Salaries During Shutdown

Prior to the government shutdown, which affects the pay of thousands of "non-essential" federal employees, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield asked Republican Representatives Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Dana Rohrabacher of California whether they would be willing to classify themselves as "non-essential" and stop payment on their $174,000 congressional salaries. The two danced around this simple, yes-or-no question regarding the consequences of a shutdown they support. Watch:

In the dialogue, Rohrabacher said that Congressional representatives were treated the same as other federal employees, sidestepping the fact that members of Congress are considered "essential":

BLACKBURN: We are waiting to see what they send back, and I hope that as you were running the countdown clock that you are I have two grandsons, and their share of the national debt is now over $53,000 each.
BANFIELD: No, no, no. I’m sorry. I asked a specific question, and there are a lot of the government workers going to stop receiving their paychecks, and a there are a lot of the military service members who are serving overseas who might be stopped being paid and veterans whose benefits will be affected. Would you —
ROHRABACHER: Let me answer that. Members of Congress should not be treated any differently than any other federal employee.
BANFIELD: Is that a yes?
ROHRABACHER: Whatever happens to us when it comes to what we get in benefits and whether it is retirement or health care and whatever happens to the average federal employee should happen to us, and that rule should not be changed.

GOP Rep. Blames Park Service For WWII Memorial Closure

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) engaged in hypocritical grandstanding and bullying by blaming a park ranger for keeping tourists out of a closed World War II memorial in Washington, DC. The reason for the closure is the government shutdown that the Republican congressman supports. Neugebauer, an American flag waving in his pocket, said, "The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves." One onlooker, an out-of-work federal employee, begged to differ. Watch:

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Bo Diddley Live

Bo Diddley played his eponymous song, featuring his famous syncopated beat and tremolo guitar, on the Ed Sullivan Show, 1955. He felt that he didn't get enough credit as a rock 'n' roll pioneer and was frustrated that he couldn't accrue royalties from musicians who used his beat, stating in a 2005 Rolling Stone interview, “I tell musicians, ‘Don’t trust nobody but your mama.’ And even then, look at her real good.”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Where The GOP's Suicide Caucus Lives

Ryan Lizza writes in The New Yorker that the GOP's "suicide caucus," composed of 80 Republican House members who pushed the government shutdown over defunding Obamacare, actually represent just 18 percent of the country's population. Regardless, Speaker John Boehner has lost control to the most ideologically extreme members of his party. As reflected by the map above showing "where the GOP's suicide caucus lives," these representatives come from gerrymandered districts that are more white, more rural and less educated than the rest of a rapidly diversifying nation. In fact, these "suicide caucus" districts are less diverse than ever:

As the above map, detailing the geography of the suicide caucus, shows, half of these districts are concentrated in the South, and a quarter of them are in the Midwest, while there’s a smattering of thirteen in the rural West and four in rural Pennsylvania (outside the population centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh). Naturally, there are no members from New England, the megalopolis corridor from Washington to Boston, or along the Pacific coastline.

...While the most salient demographic fact about America is that it is becoming more diverse, Republican districts actually became less diverse in 2012. According to figures compiled by The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, a leading expert on House demographics who provided me with most of the raw data I’ve used here, the average House Republican district became two percentage points more white in 2012.

The members of the suicide caucus live in a different America from the one that most political commentators describe when talking about how the country is transforming. The average suicide-caucus district is seventy-five per cent white, while the average House district is sixty-three per cent white. Latinos make up an average of nine per cent of suicide-district residents, while the over-all average is seventeen per cent. The districts also have slightly lower levels of education (twenty-five per cent of the population in suicide districts have college degrees, while that number is twenty-nine per cent for the average district).

...In short, these eighty members represent an America where the population is getting whiter, where there are few major cities, where Obama lost the last election in a landslide, and where the Republican Party is becoming more dominant and more popular. Meanwhile, in national politics, each of these trends is actually reversed.