Monday, March 31, 2014

Gallup: Young Americans' Affinity For Democrats Has Grown

Gallup reports that young adults "are now much more solidly Democratic than prior generations." In addition, there is a 55-point difference between whites and non-whites in net Democratic identification. Given the country's greater diversity, Gallup concludes that "the GOP may find itself in an increasingly weak position against the Democrats unless it can broaden its appeal to younger and nonwhite Americans." Watch Dr. Frank Newport of Gallup report on these trends:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Video Pushes Back Against Koch Brothers

Louie Ludwig of Louisiana made the following video in response to Koch brothers-sponsored anti-Obamacare ads in his state. He introduced his video in the Daily Kos as follows:

I'm really tired of the red-haired (sometimes lit blonde) actress who comes on my TV and tells me Obamacare isn't working. Because it is. For the first time ever in my life, I have health insurance, thanks to our president and the Affordable Care Act.

I'm also tired of a certain pair of oilagarchs ladling money into our state's elections so they can dismantle the regulations and protections we've fought so hard to enact.

So I'm pushing back.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Elvis Costello and The Attractions played "Pump It Up" on on the German music TV show Rockpalast, June 6, 1978. The agitated performance fits the song's theme of sexual frustration and is characteristic of the new wave genre of rock music that Costello, among others, created at the time.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Top 5 Lies About Obamacare Debunked

Emily Arrowood, senior researcher for Media Matters for America, debunks the top 5 conservative media lies about Obamacare regarding socialized medicine, the economy, abortions, jobs and death panels. Watch:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Big-Spending Koch Group Leads Attack On Government

Americans for Prosperity, supported by right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch, is emerging as a top-spending group in terms of electoral campaigns and their overall attack on government. Naturally, the group's deregulation and anti-tax agenda benefits Charles and David Koch:

Americans for Prosperity turned the Florida [Senate] contest [won by Republican David Jolly] into its personal electoral laboratory to fine-tune get-out-the-vote tools and messaging for future elections as it pursues its overarching goal of convincing Americans that big government is bad government.

As the group emerges as a dominant force in the 2014 midterm elections, spending up to 10 times as much as any major outside Democratic group so far, officials of the organization say their effort is not confined to hammering away at President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They are also trying to present the law as a case study in government ineptitude to change the way voters think about the role of government for years to come.

...Leaders of the effort say it has great appeal to the businessmen and businesswomen who finance the operation and who believe that excess regulation and taxation are harming their enterprises and threatening the future of the country. The Kochs, with billions in holdings in energy, transportation and manufacturing, have a significant interest in seeing that future government regulation is limited.

Democrats say their own research has shown that voters are skeptical about candidates who benefit from political spending by superrich businessmen with an antigovernment ideology.

“The notion that two billionaires are bankrolling Republican candidates because they support an agenda that is good for the Koch brothers and bad for middle-class families is very persuasive to voters,” said Matt Canter, the deputy executive director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GOP Senate Candidate: Uninsured Are "Less Sophisticated, Less Educated"

Speaking to the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, Rep. Phil Cassidy (R-LA), challenger to Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), made negative comments about those who don't have health insurance:

That I think actually reflects the reality of who the uninsured are, relatively less sophisticated, less comfortable with forms, less educated. Those are the folks that — not all — there’s a guy who goes to my church who’s uninsured, who’s middle-class but couldn’t get it because he has Type I diabetes. So it’s not all, but it is the folks who I think are going to have the hardest time reaching…

We were fortunate growing up in the south. The president is a community organizer. You wonder if he ever worked with a poor person… Insurance people they will tell you that they will go to a company and an employer will pay for everything, and there are some people who will not sign up. Turns out, those are my patients. They’re illiterate. I’m not saying that to be mean. I say that in compassion. They cannot read. The idea they’re going to go on the internet and work through a 16-page document to put in their data and sign up does not reflect on understanding of who is having the hardest time in our economy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Republican Hipster Ads Parodied

In an attempt to deal with their young voter problem, the GOP has unveiled an ad campaign starring Scott Greenberg as a hipster Republican. Sporting a stubbly beard, oversized glasses and leather jacket, he's shown in two ads below in an urban setting–perhaps the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. In the first, he criticizes business regulations, those pesky rules centered around worker safety, consumer transparency and the environment. In the second, he advocates an "all-of-the-above" energy policy, which is exactly what President Obama has spoken about–though the only energy plan that excites the Republicans is "drill, baby, drill." The two ads are followed by parodies from John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight," in which comedian Josh Gondelman plays the hipster. Watch:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Texas GOP Leader: Women To Blame For Unequal Pay

Who needs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Play Act? If Texas women make 82 cents for every dollar that men make it's their fault, according to Beth Curbriel, executive director of the Texas Republican Party and ally to Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. In an interview, she said, "Men are better negotiators, and I would encourage women instead of pursuing the courts for action to become better negotiators." The campaign for Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidateWendy Davis said, "Greg Abbott's ally's defense of his opposition to equal pay for women is out-of-touch and offensive." Watch:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Palin Adopts Fake Southern Accent For Reality Show

Sarah Palin drawls, "Get red, wild and blue, America," in a fake Southern accent during an ad for her new reality TV show "Amazing America." She continues, "The show is going to highlight the freedom we get to experience in America." The examples of "freedom" include shooting, NASCAR, wrestling and being rammed by a bull. Does Palin actually have fans who don't find her embarrassing? Watch:

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Stravinsky's "The Rite Of Spring"

When Igor Stravinsky's (right) "The Rite of Spring" was first performed in Paris on May 29, 1913, the avant-garde work was so shocking that it caused a riot. Now we recognize it as one of the greatest classical compositions of the 20th century. Leonard Bernstein, in fact, called it the century's most important piece of music. One century later, it still sounds startling, bold and modern. Above, the New England Conservatory Philharmonia performed this masterpiece under director Hugh Wolff in Boston on April 24, 2013.

Friday, March 21, 2014

David Simon Advocates Higher Minimum Wage

Speaking to Bill Moyers, David Simon, creator of HBO's "The Wire," said that people working full-time should get a raise in the minimum wage and that they will use their increased income to buy American products. He criticized the ideology that brought about today's income inequality: “We are Reagan’s children, we are Thatcher’s children, we bought this stuff hook, line, and sinker. We’re getting the America we paid for!” Watch:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Big Surprise: Donald Trump Won't Run For NY Governor

The suspense is over. Donald Trump, the ignoramus who disgraced himself with his racist birther charge, has announced that he won't be running for governor of New York. Just as he did when he called off his 2012 presidential run, Trump said that he would have won. He just didn't want to deal with the disunity of the state Republican Party. Trump fans should take heart, though. He has "much bigger plans in mind." Here are two characteristically self-aggrandizing and deluded Trump Tweets:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Capehart Criticizes Ryan's Inner City Comments

Jonathan Capehart criticizes Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) comments that inner city poverty is based on black male work ethic and cultural problems, as well as Ryan's attempts to recast his statement. In an open letter, Capehart points out the housing, employment, education and government policies that have created cycles of poverty. Watch:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jon Stewart Rips Fox's Portrait Of The Poor

Jon Stewart pointed out that while Fox News uses "random, often unprovable anecdotes" to smear poor people as moochers, the network is fine with tax breaks for corporations that are more costly than public assistance. Stewart said, "What I'm getting from Fox is this: exploiting government largess, while reprehensible and morally corrupting for an individual, is A-OK for corporations." Watch Stewart call out, in two parts, the hypocrisy of Eric Bolling and other Fox hosts:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sotomayor: Money Prevents Women And Minorities From Entering Gov't.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor voted against the Court's Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates of corporate campaign spending. Speaking to students at the University of Washington, Sotomayor said that money is the obstacle that prevents the government from reflecting a rapidly diversifying America:

One student asked what barriers still needed to be broken to improve the representation of women and minorities in government.

Money,” Sotomayor said to laughter. “No, seriously. Look at what’s happening in politics. What’s talking the loudest is money.” For more minorities and women to gain more of a foothold in government decisions, "we’re going to have to work the political system at the highest level,” she said.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Van Jones Debunks Keystone XL Pipeline Myths

Speaking on Crossline, former Obama adviser Van Jones, who has consistently warned against the Keystone XL pipeline, debunked three myths about jobs, oil and energy independence behind this "special interest boondoggle." Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Sam & Dave Live

Among the most influential and dynamic soul and R&B artists of all time, Sam Moore and Dave Prater performed "I Thank You" in 1969. Sam & Dave, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, are also known for the hits "Soul Man" and "Hold On, I'm Comin.' " Rolling Stone counts Sam Moore among the 100 greatest singers.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ted Cruz: GOP Can Repeal Obamacare In 2015

For the 50th time, House Republicans wasted time and money with a vote to repeal Obamacare. Regardless, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told ABC's Jonathan Karl that "every single word" of Obamacare can still be repealed in 2015–and, mind you, while President Obama is still in office. Cruz said, "You know, what's funny, Jon, is the media treats that as a bizarre proposition." Karl responded, "Well, it is. It is a bizarre proposition." Apparently it isn't bizarre in Republican Bizarro Land. Watch:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Remembering Kitty Genovese, July 7, 1935–March 13, 1964

At left are photos of Catherine Susan "Kitty" Genovese (July 7, 1935 – March 13, 1964) and flowers left at the site in Kew Gardens, Queens, where she was murdered 50 years ago today. Genovese died following two attacks around 3:15 a.m. by a man who stalked, stabbed and raped her. She lived in Kew Gardens with her partner, Mary Ann Zielonko, and managed a sports bar, also in Queens. The Genovese family originally lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn. After her mother witnessed a murder in 1954, the family left the city for Connecticut, but Kitty decided to stay. Her murder became famous following reports in The New York Times that 38 people witnessed the commotion outdoors from their apartments and did nothing. The murder symbolized urban apathy and gave rise to national soul searching and the concept of the "bystander effect," in which one's chances for intervening when someone is in distress lessens if many witnesses are around.

A recent New Yorker article, "A Call For Help: What the Kitty Genovese story really means," by Nicholas Lemann, cites two new books on the murder and the fact that the original story was not entirely accurate. Regardless, no one came to Kitty Genovese's immediate aid. This independent spirit who loved New York should have been a senior citizen today.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Gentrification In Progress" Banner On Former NYC Graffiti Mecca 5 Pointz

Last November, we considered the fate of 5 Pointz, an abandoned factory building in Long Island City, Queens, just across the East River from Manhattan. 5 Pointz was an ever-changing graffiti mecca for artists from all over the world and a stop for tour buses. It was whitewashed to give way to luxury towers. In response, some artists made a statement with a giant "Gentrification In Progress" banner, shown above. The whitewashing of 5 Pointz does indeed mark another step in the gentrification of Long Island City, among other NYC areas.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lindsey Graham: Putin Invaded Crimea Because Of Benghazi

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox's Greta Van Susteren on Monday that Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea due to "the wrong signal" Obama sent regarding Benghazi. Graham, of course, forgot to blame President Bush in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia. Regardless, Graham took to Twitter the next day, stating repeatedly that since Putin wasn't frightened of Obama, he felt free to undertake an invasion. Here are some Tweets showing that Graham is a complete dunce about world affairs:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Bernie Sanders: If You Can't Take Care Of Veterans, Don't Go To War

Interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, registered his disgust with Senate Republicans for rejecting his bill to expand health care, education and other benefits for veterans. Sanders said, “I think there is widespread support across the country for this bill, and I frankly think there is a lot of support in the Senate for this bill. And what has happened, for the same old stupid partisan reasons, Republican leadership says well, we want to attach to this bill Iran sanctions, and they know that this is something that the president doesn’t want. They know it’s something that the secretary of state doesn’t want at this point. They know that the Democratic leadership doesn’t want it, and it’s a means to torpedo what is such an important piece of legislation for our veterans. I really get very upset.” Regarding GOP objections to the cost of the bill, Sanders said, “If you can’t afford to take care of your veterans, then don’t go war. These people are bearing the brunt of what war is about, We have a moral obligation to support them." Watch:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Elon James White On Michael Dunn Partial Verdict

Michael Dunn of Florida was convicted of three counts of second degree murder after firing at vehicle inhabited by four black teens following a dispute about loud music. The judge declared a mistrial on the count of first-degree murder in the death of Jordan Davis, 17. Speaking on This Week In Blackness, Elon James White alludes to the "Stand Your Ground" laws and sardonically states about the murder, "Maybe it was justified because, you know, the negroes, they are kind of scary. I mean, how screwed up is that? Our American citizenship as blacks is predicated on the safety felt by whites. And all of our rights can be stripped with one word: 'Scared.' ...Because if people perceive a threat, then obviously they should be allowed to shoot you. So what if their perceptions are colored through hundreds of years of stereotypes and misinformation?" Watch:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Chuck Berry Live

Chuck Berry performed his classic "Nadine" on "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll," 1987, a 60th birthday tribute and documentary featuring concert footage. Keith Richards backs him on guitar. During his solo, Berry rouses the crowd with his famous duckwalk.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Robert Reich On The War Vs. The Poor And Working Families

With his characteristic incisive analysis and cartoonist skills, Robert Reich cites the seven ways the Republican Party and its corporate backers are waging war on America's poor and working families. What's their aim? To drive the desperate to the point where they'll take what they can get without protest. Watch:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Henry Giroux On The Reigning Elite And The Crisis Of Democracy

Bill Moyers spoke to Henry Giroux, author of “Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism. Giroux analyzed the crisis in our democracy. He spoke of “the swindle of fulfillment,” stating, “What the reigning elite…now tell the American people…is that democracy is in excess... That we don’t need social provisions. We don’t need the welfare state. That the survival of the fittest is all that matters... You have a consolidation of power that is so overwhelming, not just in its ability to control resources and drive the economy and redistribute wealth upward, but basically to provide the most fraudulent definition of what a democracy should be. The notion that profit-making is the essence of democracy. The notion that economics is divorced from ethics. The notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism. The notion that the welfare state is a pathology. That any form of dependency is disreputable and needs to be attacked. This is a vicious set of assumptions.” Watch this illuminating interview:

(h/t: Best of the Left Podcast)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Swann's Way" By Marcel Proust

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust. Translated by Lydia Davis. 468 pp. Penguin Classics. $17.00 (paperback)

Years ago, my mother told me that after reading Proust, she thought about her background and the fact that ultimately no one will know about the life her family led. Proust, with his concern about time, the past and impermanence, is certainly the author to inspire such thoughts.

"Swann's Way" is the first volume of Proust's six-volume, 3,000-page "In Search of Lost Time." I read this first volume a long time ago and came back to it with a resolve to read the entire magnum opus. I did a fair amount of research regarding which translation to read. The original translation was done by Scott Moncrieff, who was known for embellishments and prudery that were supposedly corrected by Terrence Kilmartin and Kevin Enright for the Modern Library. A little over a decade ago, Penguin came out with six volumes by six different translators, whose aim was to present an updated, more straightforward rendition based on a new French translation. Lydia Davis, the translator of "Swann's Way," wrote in an exchange in The New York Review of Books, "The adulterations of Proust’s text by the Scott Moncrieff translation, even after the two revisions, proliferate on every page, and their two main sins are (1) to pad the text, and (2) to intensify it artificially." I found the Davis translation to be thoroughly engaging.

Regardless of how straightforward this rendition is, there's no denying the fact that Proust must have written the longest, most digressive sentences in literature. This may require an adjustment from some readers, who perhaps are best off trying to get into the flow of Proust and understand the gist of his writing instead of trying to parse every sentence. Once one does get into this flow, the reading experience is remarkable. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who read "In Search of Lost Time" in the original, said, "Proust is the Shakespeare of the inner world." This first volume testifies to Breyer's statement. It's divided into four sections, with an un-named first-person narrator throughout who is presumably the author. The book starts with the famous scene in which the narrator, after tasting a piece of madeleine dipped in tea that his aunt used to give him as a child, recalls by association his entire hometown of Combray. He then recollects his childhood in that town, including his family, the church, the homes and the landscapes. The third section is a novella, "Swann In Love," in which Charles Swann, a dilettante and social climber, falls for Odette de Crecy, a woman known for loose morals and one who does not possess Swann's cultural interests. Swann is somewhat critical of her physical appearance, but convinces himself that she resembles women in great paintings. After an initial courtship, Odette keeps her distance from Swann except when she needs money. We watch Swann go from despair to jealousy to endless mental gyrations trying to convince himself that Odette still is interested. In the fourth section, the first-person narrator recalls his attraction as a child to Gilberte, a young girl he played with in the park. His jealousy and ruminations resemble Swann's. The volume movingly ends years later when, looking back at the park he visited while young, he recalls those he no longer sees there and reflects upon the transitory nature of life.

In considering what "Swann's Way" is about, one must look at it as the first volume of a massive novel. Certainly Proust introduces us to some of his major concerns: family, social class, the past, mortality, love, jealousy, subjective perception and the relation between language and experience, all rendered by finely drawn characters and psychological portraits. I'm ready for the next 2,400 pages.

Written in memory of my mother, Dorothy Tone (1923-2006)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mark Danner: We Still Live In The Dark Cheney Era

Mark Danner writes in The New York Review of Books that President Obama's repeated admonition, “America must move off a permanent war footing,” sounds "less like the orders of a commander in chief than the pleas of one lonely man hoping to persuade." As Danner surveys "the iron realities of the post–September 11 world," he concludes that we still live in the dark era of Dick Cheney:

The defense budget has more than doubled, including a Special Operations Command able to launch secret, lethal raids anywhere in the world that has grown from 30,000 elite troops to more than 67,000. The drone force has expanded from fewer than 200 unmanned aerial vehicles to more than 11,000, including perhaps 400 “armed-capable” drones that can and do target and kill from the sky—and that, following the computer directives of “pilots” manning terminals in Virginia and Nevada and elsewhere in the United States, have killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia an estimated 3,600 people.

The “black sites”—the network of secret prisons the CIA set up around the world, from Thailand and Afghanistan to Romania and Poland and Morocco—were ordered shut down by President Obama, but despite his executive order on his second day in office, Guantánamo Bay, the “public black site,” remains open, its 155 detainees, but for a handful, uncharged and untried. Among that number live “high-value detainees” who were once secretly imprisoned at the black sites, where many were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques”...

...Just as he was likely the most important and influential American official in making the decision to withhold the protection of the Geneva Conventions from detainees, Cheney was likely the most important and influential American when it came to imposing an official government policy of torture. It is quite clear he simply cannot, or will not, acknowledge that such a policy raises any serious moral or legal questions at all.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Eric Alterman: Fox Corrupts Political Debate

Reviewing a biography of Fox News impresario Roger Ailes in The Nation, Eric Alterman gets to the heart of the Fox phenomenon in one paragraph. Alterman writes that ignorance, apathy and lies form the basis of network's profits–and that Fox has corrupted the country's political discourse by discounting facts:

The genius of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch in the creation of Fox News has two primary components. The first is financial: it doesn’t take that many disaffected, ill-informed, angry old white guys who couldn’t care less that they’re being lied to to make a cable-news network profitable, but apparently there’s enough of them to make Fox News about $1 billion a year. The second is political: by posing as a ref while actually being a player, Fox manages to corrupt the entire political playing field. What was once considered a “fact”—such as the near-airtight scientific consensus on the reality of man-made global warming, or the birthplace of the current president of the United States—becomes merely one pole in an endless “debate” in which actual evidence carries the same weight as total bullshit. You can see the results in the actions and arguments of today’s Republican Party—and, with it, America’s apparently limitless political dysfunction.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Right Wing Has A Twitter Meltdown Following Brewer Veto

Following Gov. Jan Brewer's (R) veto of the Arizona legislature's anti-gay bill, right wing figures had a meltdown on Twitter. The most popular lament was the loss of "religious freedom" due to not being free to discriminate. Naturally, they also worked in Benghazi and Obamacare. Here are some choice Tweets:


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Dweezil Zappa Live

In his "Zappa Plays Zappa" shows, guitarist Dweezil Zappa pays tribute to his father, the late musical genius Frank Zappa (showcased here in January). Above, Dweezil performed Frank's "Peaches En Regalia" in 2008. He was joined by, among others, Napoleon Murphy Brock, saxophone; Terry Bozzio, drums, and Steve Vai, guitar, all of whom played with Frank Zappa.