Saturday, December 26, 2009

Straighten Up and Fly Right

By J. Thomas Duffy

Jeez, it's not like flying on the holidays sucks big time, all by itself.

Terror Attempt Seen as Man Tries to Ignite Device on Jet

This is going to get ugly, and fast.

I am surprised, that Liz and Dick Cheney weren't on the tube last night (Faux News, of course), perhaps still donning Christmas stocking caps, wagging fingers, saying "I told you so", over-and-over, as well as planting conspiracy seeds that President Obama, himself, planted a bomb on the plane ... Or that he was rushing to Detroit, to embrace the wanna-be terrorist, and give him a Cabinet post.

It shouldn't take too long, today, for the Flying Monkeys of the Right Wing Freak Show, to start connecting-the-dots, between loser terrorist in Detroit, and the woman who attacked the Pope (only knocking him down, damn it) and how that means we're all being fucked by Obama, and that the new Healthcare Reform Bill will be extended to cover terrorists (and there'll be a new "Birth Certificate" controversy tucked in there, somewhere, since the hapless terrorist was from Nigeria, which is close to Kenya, or, you know, in Africa, thereby making it a slamdunk)

Josh Marshall, at TPM, shows a hint of that, reporting that "9:07 PM: In advance of being briefed, Rep. Hoekstra (R-MI) uses the Detroit incident to attack President Obama and tie it to the Fort Hood shooting."

Hoekstra, if you recall, teamed up with Rick "Man Fucks Dog" Santorum a few years back and, irrefutably, discovered the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

Unlike the Congressman, Steve Benen was a bit more pragmatic;

We'll no doubt have a better sense of what transpired in the coming days, but at this point, plenty of key questions have gone unanswered. How did Abdulmutallab, whose name appears to be included in the government's records of terrorism suspects, get his materials on board? How dangerous were the materials? What, if any, ties did he have to larger terrorist networks?

And, Jeff Fecke, on Alas, A Blog, sets what should be the tone;

No, this attack is not reason to panic. It’s reason to laugh long and hard at those who want to scare us, reason to invoke bad double entendres about this wannabe’s crotch fire, like the one in this sentence. And most of all, it’s reason to cheer the demise of al Qaeda, a truly terrible organization that now has been reduced to setting small fires. I just hope no terrorist decides to egg my house. That could be horrible.

Take it away, Nat;

Nat King Cole - Straighten Up and Fly Right

Bonus Links

Ben Frumin: White House Believes NW Incident An Attempted Act Of Terrorism

Sarah Wheaton: From a ‘Pop’ to a Headlock, Passengers Recall Flight 253

Faiz Shakir: Hoekstra Quickly Politicizes Attempted Terrorist Attack, Suggests Obama’s Clueless On National Security

Larisa Alexandrovna: The no-fly-list fail...

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day 2009

Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate -- within reason, of course -- I hope you're having a great Christmas Day.

I've enjoyed many things this holiday season, and one of them, I must admit, is being away from the computer, taking a break from blogging. Aside from a short post yesterday, and this one now, I haven't done any posting, and I haven't even spent much time at the computer. There haven't even been any sports scores to check, and so even my fantasy teams have been on a much-needed break. (I'll be watching some of the Chargers-Titans game tonight, but my woeful team didn't make the playoffs in my main fantasy football league.)

Anyway, enjoy the rest of the day.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.

-- Michael

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Paging Clarence Oddbody

By J. Thomas Duffy

Phil Leigh writes a great newsletter, and blog, 'Inside Digital Media', and, last week, he posted a piece, on being pro e-book, illustrating it with what has become a very popular holiday tale;

A Christmas Lesson for Publishers

One February night in 1938 Philip Van Doren Stern had a dream. The 38 year-old published historian also had a deep interest in fantasy and the macabre. As with most dreams his morning recollections were vague and conflicting. It had something to do with a man who had never been born, or wished he had never been born.

Stern decided to write down his recollections. A narrative began to take shape and with later revisions became a short story he titled The Greatest Gift. It was a simple celebration of things taken for granted.

Regrettably he failed to interest a publisher over the next four years. Consequently, toward the end of 1943 Stern printed two hundred copies at his expense and enclosed one in each Christmas card envelope. One recipient was a Hollywood agent who asked if she might show it to some studios. Surprisingly, RKO bought the film rights for $10,000 in the spring of 1944. By December, Good Housekeeping finally published the story.
Hollywood screenwriters set to work on the manuscript until the essence of Stern’s story shrank into the Third Act. Eventually it would pass through nine writers, including Dorothy Parker and Frank Capra after Capra purchased RKO’s rights for $50,000.

The movie was finally released in 1946 but fell modestly short of break-even on its first run. It rose to 26th place in 1947 box office receipts. Although nominated for five Oscars it failed to win any. Thereafter the rights passed through a series of owners ending-up at Viacom.

During the 1980s local TV stations began to run it during the Christmas season. They regarded it as opportune low cost programming for time slots not allocated to the network shows. In 1984 an aged Frank Capra commented that the rise in popularity “was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen”. He felt like “the parent of the kid who grows up to be President – but it’s the kid who did the work. (He) didn’t think of (the child) that way.”

By 1998 the American Film Institute ranked It’s a Wonderful Life as the 11th best movie of all time and rated George Bailey as the 9th most popular hero.

Over on Zoetrope's All Story site, ''The Great Gift' in it's entirety;

Here's the intro;
Unable to find a publisher for "The Greatest Gift," Philip Van Doren Stern printed two hundred copies of the story and used them as Christmas cards in 1943. From this humble beginning, a classic was born. Van Doren Stern's story captivated Frank Capra, who said he "had been looking for [it] all [his] life." Capra's beloved adaptation, It's a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore, was released in 1946, and while the film, which received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director, didn't take home an Oscar, it has secured its place in the American holiday tradition.

We highly recommended you sign-up for the daily email from 'Inside Digital Media'.

And, remember, as Clarence Oddbody inscribed in the book (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) he left for George Bailey, that is solid, not just at Christmas, but all-year round;

"No man is a failure who has friends."

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Merry Christmas! ... What Is A Santa Claus

By J. Thomas Duffy

Here's to the big day, and for one that is the merriest to all.

As to the title, ahhh, we got a good one for you on that.

Gather the youngin's around, and lend your ears, for Stanley Newcomb Kenton;

Stan Kenton - What Is A Santa Claus

Merry Christmas!

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Let us pray

By Carl

Our Heavenly Father,

2,009 years ago, the Son of God was made incarnate. With this act, You renewed Your vow to mankind that You had grown up, that you had become a better God than He who destroyed mankind for being evil. That You had matured. That You had evolved. Thank you, Father.

In this holiday season, we ask You and Your Most Holy Gift to hear our prayers. At this time of the renewal of the vows of faith, we ask that You look down upon us, and help us in a critical time of need. Our planet is suffering degradations by the bucketful, and those who serve us forget that they are our servants; instead they serve mammon. We ask that You inspire them to higher goals.

We ask that you fill their hearts with the passion of position, that to do right is to do good and to do good is to do Your work here on earth.

We ask that You give us the patience to tolerate those who oppose our views with good humour and delicate persuasions. They are not many, but they are louder than they are large and in this nation, loud often substitutes for right.

We ask that You find it in his heart to fill our President with a reminder of where he came from and how hard it is, particularly now in this time of recession, for an individual to make his way thru the long cold nights and short brutal days.

We'll take care of the rest. We will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the poor, heal the sick. We can do that. We want to do this. We just need to move obstacles and inspire people and we know there is no rock so immovable that You cannot move it.

To Your cause, we re-dedicate ourselves. Amen.

(crossposted to Simply Left Behind)

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

I hope you're all having a lovely and wonderful Christmas Eve.

(Or, if you're in a time zone ahead of mine -- and it's just after 11 pm here in Toronto -- that you had a lovely and wonderful one... and Merry Christmas.)

Be safe out there, and be good to one another.

-- Michael

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More Swinging ... Jingle Bells!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Yesterday, we posted the hippest, swingest Xmas Tune, and today, we follow-up with the old chestnut, Jingle Bells, equally drenched in the Cool Yule spirit of finger-snappin', toe-tappin' Bebop.

Duke Ellington kept his orchestra together for decades (no small feat), and his sax section was comparable to Murderer's Row, of the powerful New York Yankees - simply the best, anytime, anyplace.

If you have never heard this, strap yourself in, for you are likely to jump out of your shoes.

Duke Ellington Orchestra - Jingle Bells

As a "Bonus Bonus", check out how hip a small trio can be;

Gene Krupa Trio - Jingle Bells

Merry Jazzmas!

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Conference time

By Creature

The Senate passed its healthcare bill this morning. I find it interesting that for a non-filibuster vote all the Dems stuck together. I will say, that over the last few weeks, helped by the left losing it bearings, I find myself more comfortable with the bill. Sure, I'd rather see the House's version. Actually, I'd like to see the House's version on steroids, but, with the Medicaid expansion and the community clinics alone, I find myself less concerned about corporate profits and more enthused that people will actually get healthcare and not just health insurance.


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Mr. President, I want my vote back please

Mr. President, I want my vote back please.

No, I'm not thinking about last November. Really, there was no choice between Obama and McCain. The deal was done long before then.

Rather, I'm thinking of a frigid February night in 2008 when I, along with several friends, joined the crowds swarming the Minnesota Democratic caucuses, where I chose Barack Obama as my preferred candidate as Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

By that time, the field had narrowed considerably. Neither Hillary nor Obama was in my top tier of candidates -- I favored both Richardson and Edwards, who was at that time still pre-bimbo eruption, but it was clear that neither of them would make it. It was two-horse race, and both candidates had arguments for and against them.

The excitement was palpable, thousands of people gathered to caucus that night, attendance up by factors of three to five from years previous. Such was both the eagerness to prune the Bushes from the White House, and the opportunity to nominate either the first woman or the first African American to head a major party ticket. I was decidedly undecided and really had no idea myself which way I'd lean until I arrived at the room assigned my precinct. Attendance was so high they ran out of formal ballots and were handing out sheets of scratch paper for people to write their votes on. And at that moment I took pen in hand and made up my mind, writing "Barack Obama" and dropping my paper through the slot to be counted.

It's been almost two years since then, and I'm wondering if I shouldn't have stuck with my gut -- which was screaming, "Not ready for prime time!" -- and voted for Hillary.

My friend Lewis Grossberger has a post entitled, "It's a wonderful presidency, sort of, though not really," which shows a despondent Obama being shown a vision of an alternative future with President Palin and imagining what could be if Obama hadn't been elected president. It's a cute piece and I recommend it.

And really, consider how things might be without Obama in the White House. Gays might still be second class citizens, we might still be embroiled in futile Middle Eastern wars, illegal spying and the ironically named "Patriot" Act might still be the law of the land, we might be ceding leadership on climate issues, reproductive freedom might be facing the biggest threats in a generation, and so forth. But instead, with Obama running the show... oh, um... never mind.

It's unfortunate. We've gone from "Yes, we can!" and "Change" to a resounding chorus of "whatever is possible." Perhaps we expect too much, but, as David Mixner observes, "He created those expectations.”

No, Obama never was particularly liberal, but there was an expectation that he would be engaged and competent in ways that would allow a lot of progress to be made on a lot of issues. Now, on many issues, the best we can hope for is to take a few baby steps here and to block regression there.

Robert Merry compares Obama to James K. Polk, a one-term wonder who was a successful president who didn't seek reelection. The comparison is interesting, and I hope and pray Obama is as successful as Polk, but I'm beginning to have reservations. Hillary's looking better all the time.

In the days to come, my comments on the health-care fustercluck and why the bill as coming forth from the Senate must be defeated.

(Cross-posted from Greg Prince's Blog.)

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Proof that wingnuttia is pandemic

By Carl

You may think that rightwing conservatism is a brand best kept bottled in the springs of Red State America, but then you'd miss all the imported goodness of
fine British whine:
There is scope for debate – and innumerable newspaper quizzes – about who was the most influential public figure of the year, or which the most significant event. But there can be little doubt which word won the prize for most important adjective. 2009 was the year in which "global" swept the rest of the political lexicon into obscurity. There were "global crises" and "global challenges", the only possible resolution to which lay in "global solutions" necessitating "global agreements". Gordon Brown actually suggested something called a "global alliance" in response to climate change. (Would this be an alliance against the Axis of Extra-Terrestrials?)

I'll get to that last clever construct shortly.
Some of this was sheer hokum: when uttered by Gordon Brown, the word "global", as in "global economic crisis", meant: "It's not my fault". To the extent that the word had intelligible meaning, it also had political ramifications that were scarcely examined by those who bandied it about with such ponderous self-importance. The mere utterance of it was assumed to sweep away any consideration of what was once assumed to be the most basic principle of modern democracy: that elected national governments are responsible to their own people – that the right to govern derives from the consent of the electorate.

Because, you see, no government has ever made a treaty with another sovereign nation.
The dangerous idea that the democratic accountability of national governments should simply be dispensed with in favour of "global agreements" reached after closed negotiations between world leaders never, so far as I recall, entered into the arena of public discussion. Except in the United States, where it became a very contentious talking point, the US still holding firmly to the 18th-century idea that power should lie with the will of the people.

I wonder what planet Janet Daley lives on? The "will of the corporations who can afford to contribute millions to the coffers of those greedy and plastic-moraled enough to run for government" is the order of the day, madam.
Nor was much consideration given to the logical conclusion of all this grandiose talk of global consensus as unquestionably desirable: if there was no popular choice about approving supranational "legally binding agreements", what would happen to dissenters who did not accept their premises (on climate change, for example) when there was no possibility of fleeing to another country in protest? Was this to be regarded as the emergence of world government? And would it have powers of policing and enforcement that would supersede the authority of elected national governments? In effect, this was the infamous "democratic deficit" of the European Union elevated on to a planetary scale. And if the EU model is anything to go by, then the agencies of global authority will involve vast tracts of power being handed to unelected officials. Forget the relatively petty irritations of Euro‑bureaucracy: welcome to the era of Earth-bureaucracy, when there will be literally nowhere to run.

Welcome to the party, pal! Decades late and a few marbles short, Ms Daley has suddenly awoken to the New World Order that George HW Bush and his scion have inflicted on America. She proves the adage that even the galactically stupid can somehow squeeze out a brain fart.

Only instead of seeing conspiracies in, say, oil pricing or outsourcing of jobs, Ms Daley chooses to focus on issues that, indeed, DO affect the entire planet. It's a little hard to solve global warming unilaterally, toots!
But, you may say, however dire the political consequences, surely there is something in this obsession with global dilemmas. Economics is now based on a world market, and if the planet really is facing some sort of man-made climate crisis, then that too is a problem that transcends national boundaries. Surely, if our problems are universal the solutions must be as well.

Strawman in
Well, yes and no. Calling a problem "global" is meant to imply three different things: that it is the result of the actions of people in different countries; that those actions have impacted on the lives of everyone in the world; and that the remedy must involve pretty much identical responses or correctives to those actions. These are separate premises, any of which might be true without the rest of them necessarily being so. The banking crisis certainly had its roots in the international nature of finance, but the way it affected countries and peoples varied considerably according to the differences in their internal arrangements. Britain suffered particularly badly because of its addiction to public and private debt, whereas Australia escaped relatively unscathed.

You might think that, Ms Daley.
But you'd be wrong. (note that one of those articles refers to a piece in the Dec. 2007 issue of The Economist calling the banking crisis almost to the day it breaks)
That a problem is international in its roots does not necessarily imply that the solution must involve the hammering out of a uniform global prescription: in fact, given the differences in effects and consequences for individual countries, the attempt to do such hammering might be a huge waste of time and resources that could be put to better use devising national remedies. France and Germany seem to have pulled themselves out of recession over the past year (and the US may be about to do so) while Britain has not. These variations owe almost nothing to the pompous, overblown attempts to find global solutions: they are largely to do with individual countries, under the pressure of democratic accountability, doing what they decide is best for their own people.

...mostly by borrowing from other nations. But it's not global, noooooooooooooooooooooooo!
The word "global" has taken on sacred connotations. Any action taken in its name must be inherently virtuous, whereas the decisions of individual countries are necessarily "narrow" and self-serving. (Never mind that a "global agreement" will almost certainly be disproportionately influenced by the most powerful nations.) Nor is our era so utterly unlike previous ones, for all its technological sophistication. We have always needed multilateral agreements, whether about trade, organised crime, border controls, or mutual defence.

Global Thermonuclear Annihilation must have Ms Daley's vibrator set to stun. Suddenly, she acknowledges an internationalist community of longstanding, but hey, global agreements have never been around. The United Nations is a sham theatre created by the American right wing in order to placate the dirty Third Worlders.

But note too the rather silly claim that "a 'global agreement' will almost certainly be disproportionately influenced by the most powerful nations," when in point of fact, what held up the Copenhagen accords and kept the most powerful nation on the planet out of Kyoto was the limitation of power imposed by these agreements. can't have it both ways, Ms Daley: either the most powerful nations on the planet impose their will or they do not.

Note too that she feels the Mafia rates a global agreement, but global warming which will create more devastation and destruction, corruption and criminality than the Mafia ever dreamed of, not so much.

I could go on, but suffice it to say that, for this American, the blatant idiocy of this column makes me think we may have a new columnist for
Renew America. If she can slip into this country illegally.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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Jane' friends

By Creature

I like Jane Hamsher. I get her emails. I've contributed money. But teaming up with Grover Norquist is a step too far. Now she's making it easier to point, laugh, and marginalize. I'm as angry as the next guy, but really, Jane, Grover? So not helpful.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Hippest, Swingest Christmas Tune ... Evah!

By J. Thomas Duffy

Oh, do we have a treat for you this evening.

Finally found a the Christmas tune we have been searching for (well, at least a 'Free" version of it), and it is one, even on the most downbeat jazz radio stations, doesn't always make the playlists.

It is the hippest, swingest Christmas tune - Evah!

We have to thank that showman-of-showmen, Louis Prima, for being, well, Louis Prima

Click through, wait a few moments for it to buffer, and, when it starts playing, don't be surprised if your fingers are snapping, and toes'a tapppin'

Louis Prima - What Will Santa Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin')

Bonus Bonus

Here's another from Louis ...

Louis Prima - Shake Hands with Santa Claus

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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The Plain Sense of Things

By Capt. Fogg

After the leaves have fallen, we return
To a plain sense of things. It is as if
We had come to an end of the imagination,
Inanimate in an inert savoir.

-Wallace Stevens-

Remember when Obama was "the most liberal Senator" in the whole, wide world and we were supposed to tremble at the thought of his limitless liberalness making Capitalism illegal while the Government Printing office was strained to its limit printing little red books? Wasn't long ago.

Now what seems like a majority of those who voted for him are asking what things would be like if he really were a liberal. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi -- they don't seem much like the little red " far left liberal" devils we were warned about. In fact, with a health care bill that seems to have been written by the Health Care corporations and the anti-abortion Religious Right, some are asking if this isn't indeed a country for old men; the same old men whose exclusive country club it's been all along.

No, it's not like the crazy bastards we had for the last 8 years are back and in fact I think we'd have been far worse off had the Republicans won the White House once again, but still. It's like we had come to an end of the imagination -- a fantastic effort has failed, a repetition in a repetitiousness of men and lies.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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In support of deeply flawed health-care reform legislation

It might be a quiet day here at The Reaction today, as I have family visiting for the holidays and we're getting ready for a couple of very busy days, but I wanted to direct you to The Huffington Post, where I just put up a revised version of my recent post (reluctantly) advocating passage of the Senate's health-care bill:

I'll blog more later. Take care out there.


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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lost boys (and girls)

By Carl

I was watching
Suzuki Speaks on LinkTV the other morning.

If you have DISH Network you can catch it on channel 9410 twice more this week. If not, why in the hell are you handing good money over to corporatist American media???

In it, David Suzuki talks about man's relationship to his environment in ways that will profoundly impact the way you think about your life. I won't ruin his message by summary here, because you need to watch the entire program. Suffice it to say, it got me thinking.

But I digress...

Suzuki talks about how, when he was growing up in London, Ontario, he would spend summer days wallowing in the marsh behind his house. His mother never complained about dirty laundry. His father encouraged his exploration. He would bring home tadpoles and fish eggs and raise them. It's no wonder he ended up not only in biology, but in genetics research.

Which got me thinking: in this day and age of videogames and Avatar-like movies, where do our new research scientists come from? Where is the wonder of picking up a rock and finding a bunch of slugs or worms and spending day after day, picking that rock up and studying their habits? Where is the boy with his Erector set, engineering his first four story scale model building? Or the girl cracking open a hunk of shale and discovering a trilobite inside?

Sure. There will be astronomers. The stars are an awesome attraction, the moon hangs in the night sky like a lighthouse beckoning a sailor upward. And perhaps oceanographers and marine biologists, as children go down to the sea with their parents and build sand castles, discovering clams and crabs as they dig.

But who's going to dig in the muck of an old dump and discover that, indeed, worms aerate our kitchen waste and create compost, and who knows what can come out of some boy or girl discovering a new way of recycling? Who's going to splash around in a marsh and uncover a new beetle that could potentially cure a disease?

Have we
so removed ourselves from nature that we will be unable to see the forest for the trees? Have we lost the wonder of being children in our sophistication and technological savvy?

I guess this is why I enjoy scuba diving so much: it's a new environment and I'm immediately drawn into playing in little as possible. It's important not to damage an ecosystem as fragile as a reef. But to pick up a rock and look at it, and then notice that it lay next to a tiny fish that you would have missed if you had just swum by, or to examine a gorgonian, a soft coral swaying in the current and to see a flamingo tongue nudibranch ("slug", if you will), bright and pink and orange and just sitting there, slowly crawling up the trunk, is to remember why we were kids in the first place: to uncover the world around us.

Sure, there's a place for technocrats and technological discoveries. Math and physics will always be important in understanding the universe around us.

But there's also a universe in a single drop of pond water.

And we've lost that urge.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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Lieberman says Obama never pressed him on public option

As HuffPo's Ryan Grim is reporting, Lieberman now says that Obama and the White House never pressed him on the public option:

Well, no. I think I got pressure from the president to be for health care reform. I'd have to think about this, but I didn't really have direct input from the White House on this.

First off, how do you not remember? Well, whatever.

Let's assume that Lieberman is telling the truth here. (Though, honestly, that's not an assumption I'm all that comfortable making. He could very well be lying.) If so... what the fuck?

Why did Obama not at least try to persuade him to support the public option (or the Medicare buy-in)? Is Obama purposely trying to piss off his entire liberal-progressive base, all of us who supported him? I know, Obama's more establishmentarian than tranformationalist, and it never should have been expected that he'd bring radical change despite his campaign rhetoric, and he's already done a great deal to piss us off -- those who supported him enthusiastically as well as those who were skeptical all along. Just ask Glenn Greenwald.

But could he not at least have tried to take the lead on health-care reform? Could he not have pressed both Lieberman and Nelson, among others, to accept an earlier iteration of the bill, before it was stripped down to appease those two? Could he not have worked with Reid to secure 60 votes for a more progressive bill? No, it might not have worked, but an attempt, a genuine, sincere attempt, would have been nice.

Instead, we're left with this -- and, again, this is assuming that Lieberman is being honest, which is a helf of a lot to assume. The Senate bill, as stripped down as it is, as flawed as it is, might just be what Obama wanted all along. Sure, he talked about the public option as if he wanted it, but maybe, just maybe, he never wanted the sort of change so many of us liberals and progressives believe in. (Deep down, I still think Obama wants more than this and that he was just being realistic all along. But maybe I'm still delusional in that pro-Obama sort of way. I want to believe that he's better than this.)

And so he'll get his corporate-friendly bill, with 58 Democrats plus Sanders and Lieberman on board, and he can position it as a major triumph. To an extent, that's right. However flawed it is, I support it. It's better than nothing, and nothing really is the alternative at this point. But for fuck's sake, it could have been better, and all it needed, perhaps, was a presidential push.

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Al Franken's anti-rape bill becomes law

Think Progress: "Obama signs Franken's anti-rape amendment into law."

You remember, right?

Within the Appropriations Act is Sen. Al Franken's (D-MN) amendment prohibiting defense contractors from restricting their employees' abilities to take workplace discrimination, battery, and sexual assault cases to court. The measure was inspired by Jamie Leigh Jones, who was gang-raped by her co-workers while working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad. Many Republicans opposed the legislation — saying it was an unnecessary attack on their allies in the defense contracting business — and faced intense political blowback over their positions.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican Party in 2009... and well into the forseeable future. I wouldn't go so far as to call it pro-rape, but it's clearly on the wrong side of a pretty clear-cut issue.

How do you know you're an extremist party that has lost all touch with decency and humanity? You look the other way on gang-rape.

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No Senate run for Rudy Giuliani

Looks like Rudy Giuliani will announce today he's not running for Senate "or anything else," according to the Daily News, in 2010.

And why should he? He makes boatloads of cash profiteering off 9/11, his charade of heroism, and the false myth he has built up around himself, and if he ran he'd have the lid blown off his whole sordid past.

And, given what a horrible presidential candidate he was in '08, there's hardly any guarantee he'd win. More likely, he'd embarrass himself.

Besides, he's going to be far too busy kicking the shit out of Rio's poor in 2016.

The man has his priorities.

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Monday, December 21, 2009


Very early this morning, just after 1 am, the Senate, by a vote of 60 to 40, the minimum required, ended a Republican filibuster of the health-care bill.

There is a deep partisan divide on Capitol Hill, with no Republicans, not even the few moderates left (like Snowe and Collins from Maine) coming over to the Democrats, but there is also, as we have come to see all-too-visibly in recent months, and even more so in recent days, a deep divide among Democrats, not to mention among those more broadly on the left. There are any number of issues that divide us, including the Afghan War, but the real fault line is to be found on the battlefield of health-care reform.

I am on record, like many on the left, advocating for a single-payer system (like the one we have here in Canada).

I am also on record, again like many on the left, advocating for a robust public option -- there is a public option in the House bill, but it is likely that what will pass is the Senate bill pretty much as it is now.

But reality is reality, and politics are politics, and, given the Senate's ridiculous rules and procedures that effectively require a supermajority of 60 to pass legislation, the votes just aren't there even for a Medicare buy-in, let alone for a public option, let alone for a robust one, let alone for anything even more substantial.

Like it or not, that's just the way it is, and while I wish there had been a stronger push by progressives and liberals for concessions from right-leaning reform-skeptic Democrats like Nelson, Lieberman, and Baucus, specifically regarding subsidies for those who simply will not be able to afford the insurance they would be required to buy, and while I wish Obama, and the White House generally, had pushed for more substantial and transformative legislation (it's still not clear to me what Obama is actually for, if he is for anything other than the Senate bill as is, which he may not be), we are left with a stark choice: pass the bill or kill the bill.

I think the choice is clear: PASS THE BILL.

Over at Firedoglake, Jane Hamsher, whom I admire a great deal, presents "10 Reasons to Kill the Senate Bill." She makes a compelling case, as has her site, and as have many on the left. As Think Progress's Igor Volsky explains, though:

The top 10 list isn't reason to kill the bill, it's reason to improve it in the years to come. After all, the choice isn’t between passing this bill or a better bill -- it's between passing this bill or nothing at all. Seen in this context, the Senate health care bill provides an adequate foundation for transforming the system in the years to come.

That's been my position for some time. Again, while I wanted a better bill, I think that even imperfect reform -- and it was never going to be perfect anyway -- can be the thin end of a wedge leading to more substantial reform down the road. Over time, as further reforms are undertaken, a new, fairer, and more just system will become part of the American social and political fabric, much like Social Security. As Americans see that this isn't what the right says it is, namely, encroaching socialism/fascism, they'll come to accept additional changes. There may not be a single-payer system any time soon, but there could well be a robust public option sooner rather than later.

The Senate bill is "seriously flawed," as Paul Krugman writes, and as even some of its most ardent supporters (Krugman included) admit. Obama and Reid can spin this however they like, but we don't deny the flaws. But at the same time, the bill is, in a way, "an awesome achievement." Instead of focusing on what isn't in the bill -- and working to kill it -- we should be celebrating the fact that there is a bill, a pretty amazing fact given all the obstacles.

Now, I realize that this puts me in opposition to some of my friends and acquaintances in the blogosphere, to many commentators I like a great deal, and even to some here at The Reaction -- like Creature, some of us are holding our noses, while others, like Edward Copeland, are firmly against the bill. Whether it's Edward or Jane or Kos or any of the other thoughtful opponents of the bill, I respect their views, as I respect them, and I appreciate that there is such healthy disagreement and dissent on the left. I simply, yet hesitantly, disagree with them. TNR's Jonathan Cohn puts it well:

I respect [Jane Hamsher's] right to that opinion. I respect the fact that she's making substantive arguments about what the Senate bill would mean for real people. And I really respect the effort she's made, over the last few months, to promote the cause of health reform.

But I still think she, and those who agree with her, are wrong.

In her column, Hamsher offers ten reasons why she opposes the Senate bill...

But a crucial question, which Hamsher and most lefty critics I know never address, is "compared to what"?

Well, compared to nothing. Because if it's not this bill, it's nothing. Sure, proponents of reform should push for concessions once the House and Senate sit down to hammer out a joint bill, but, as I said above, I don't think we'll get much more, if anything.

And if there's no reform now -- if the bill is killed -- Republicans will be further emboldened (as opposed to fearfully outraged, as they are now, showing just how much they've lost) and that will be that for a long time.

Because there wouldn't be a new bill next year, a midterm-election year, nor likely in the two years leading up to the 2012 election. And then what? Who knows what the political landscape will look like? Democrats may lose control of Congress, Obama may even lose in 2012.

Like it or not, the time is now, and this is the bill.


For more on why the bill ought to be passed, see Jon Cohn at Kaiser Health News:

Could the deal be better still? Of course it could. The House bill, for example, offers substantially better protection from out-of-pocket expenses.

That's an argument for improving the Senate bill in conference committee, when its members meet with their House of Representatives counterparts, and for improving the law if and when it goes into effect. Those of us on the left can, and should, fight for both.

But we should also recognize the Senate bill for what it is: A measure that will make people's lives significantly better. Surely that's worth a little enthusiasm.

I'm not sure I can must all that much enthusiasm. But there's good reason to be positive and optimistic. This is an historic development, with meaningful reform soon to come, and America and the American people will be better for it.


Here's a useful chart from Think Progress, included in Igor's post. Just look at the top line: 31 million people will be insured. That's certainly meaningful reform.

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Twin victories...of a sort

By Carl

It's hard to believe that Obama might have accomplished two things this weekend he set out to do,
albeit far below his hopes:
The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said "from chaos comes order".

It is difficult to foresee the order that may result from the chaos of the Copenhagen climate change conference (COP15), but as the dust settles, traces of a path forward are becoming visible.

It's true. This is not the deal liberals have waited for ever since Kyoto was smacked down by the Senate way back in the 1990s. It's not even the agreement we need to see. But it's a start.

Think about it: there has never been a meeting like this. Included in the accord are both developing and developed nations. The meeting showed that everyone, including China, India and the US, are on board with global climate change and how to correct it. Green economies will now be implemented worldwide.

No, no targets were established. There are no steps to verify that a nation is complying. But still, it's a beginning.

Just as the other victory,
hollow as it may be, is:
"This country, the greatest and richest the world has ever seen, is the only advanced nation on earth where dying for a lack of health insurance is even possible," [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said. "

The bill would extend health insurance coverage to 30 million Americans who now lack it, and bar insurance companies from practices such as denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Most Americans would be required to purchase health insurance for the first time, with subsidies provided to those who cannot afford it.

It's not perfect. It may not even be particularly good. But it's a start, and now we can hammer out the final bill in conference.

It is embarassing that the bill includes no provision for a public option (unlike the House bill, to which it will have to be reconciled) and that much of this is about political theatre as opposed to passing a real bill.

But here's the thing: in over one hundred years, four attempts have been made to bring the United States into the 20th Century in terms of healthcare for its citizenry.

It may be from the dark ages of the early 20th Century, but this bill finally does that, and it cracks open a door that cannot be shut again.

For that, we should be grateful.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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Hold the cheese

By Creature

The president on this morning's Senate vote:

"By standing up to the special interests -- who've prevented reform for decades, and who are furiously lobbying against it now -- the Senate has moved us closer to reform that makes a tremendous difference."

I appreciate that politicians have to spin, but if I'm to accept this crappy Senate bill I'd prefer Obama to take a different tack. No one here has stood up to any special interest, especially in the White House. Thanks, but I'd rather eat my shit sandwich without the cheese.

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Tweet Tweet

By Capt. Fogg

In the winter, Florida sees countless twittering things with small brains, perching on power lines and trees, circling overhead and grazing my lawn looking for lizards and bugs. Of course, even a hundred years ago there were so many they would darken the sky, but we've hunted some to extinction, rendered many species endangered by draining the everglades to grow sugar and by poisoning the waters with pesticides, fertilizers, oil and heavy metals. All over the world, nature as we once knew it is in retreat, from the rain forests of the Amazon to the melting tundra and retreating glaciers. Even the birds know it and we all know who's to blame. It's not the birds.

Well, not all of us. Sarah Palin insults the intelligence of most twittering things by claiming that man can't influence or change "nature's ways" and is arrogant to think so. Yes, that's OK, speechlessness is a normal reaction to such idiocy. What can you call it but idiocy and what can you call it but arrogance to assert that the magical powers of God will steadily restore the countless square miles of ocean bottom scraped bare by drag nets, restore the countless miles of coral bleached by growing acidity and reanimate the countless species disappearing at an accelerating rate? When and how fast will God restore the atmosphere for us? And what is arrogance, after all, but making grand statements about nature without any knowledge whatever having to do with atmospheric and oceanographic sciences, geology, physics, chemistry or in fact, any damned thing but talking in tongues and burning witches?
"arrogant&naive2say man overpwers nature" tweets the idiot Palin.

The painful irony of course, is not that man is part of nature and man is changing the world in many, many obvious and quantifiable ways. It's not just that we've disassembled the building blocks of matter, decoded the blueprints for life, unravelled the history of the universe -- the irony is that it may be arrogant to say that we can ever overpower stupidity, cupidity, stone age superstition and the crackpot politics that eats away at America like a cancer.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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No joy in healthcare reform land

By Creature

The votes are in, the Senate bill will be passed. I fully support those pushing to make this bill better in conference, but with Nelson and Baucus making threats against changes I don't hold out much hope. A decision has been made to build universality on the backs of private insurance, except they forgot about the regulation part. This is the American way. Profit over good policy. Profit over people. I have no excitement over the passage of this bill, I only hope those like Paul Krugman know what they are talking about when they express their support. He usually does, it's the only comfort left.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ohhhh ... That's what Avatar is about ...

By J. Thomas Duffy

I don't consider myself to be a dolt, when it comes to movies, cinema.

It's been a life-long passion, including, working my teens years at the legendary Brattle Theatre, exposing me to hundreds-and-hundreds of movies, from all over the world, that, had I gone the route of the most of the neighborhood, I would have been bagging groceries, and, thereby, less enlightened.

Over the past week, or so, seeing the trailers for the new James Cameron film, 'Avatar', I was, kind of, scratching my head, saying WTF!

It shows some military, blue people, giant birds, unseen since the Flintstones were on the television, the tease of a love story, and some kind of war, or battle.

So, we have to thank Annalee Newitz, for her post, "When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar?", for hipping me (and, likely, saving 10-bucks).

It's a sci-fi 'Dances With Wolves'.

Which means, that it is a long movie about how cool certain white people are, for trying to help (in there white-of-white ways) people of color, or, at minimum, different then themselves.

Newitz starts off;

Critics have called alien epic Avatar a version of Dances With Wolves because it's about a white guy going native and becoming a great leader. But Avatar is just the latest scifi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy. Spoilers


This is a classic scenario you've seen in non-scifi epics from Dances With Wolves to The Last Samurai, where a white guy manages to get himself accepted into a closed society of people of color and eventually becomes its most awesome member. But it's also, as I indicated earlier, very similar in some ways to District 9. In that film, our (anti)hero Wikus is trying to relocate a shantytown of aliens to a region far outside Johannesburg. When he's accidentally squirted with fluid from an alien technology, he begins turning into one of the aliens against his will. Deformed and cast out of human society, Wikus reluctantly helps one of the aliens to launch their stalled ship and seek help from their home planet.

If we think of Avatar and its ilk as white fantasies about race, what kinds of patterns do we see emerging in these fantasies?

If you want to find the answer to that, go read Annalee Newitz, it's a great post.

SEK, over on Lawyers, Guns and Money, picks up on it;

In order for the audience to support the transformation of Jake Sully into Braveheart Smurf, it must accept the essentialist assumptions that make such a combination possible ... and those assumptions are racist. In football terms, this is a variation of the black quarterback "problem."

For decades, coaches and scouts wished they could find a black body with a white brain in it. ("If only someone could find a way to stuff Peyton Manning's brain into JaMarcus Russell's body!")


*I'm analogizing race and species here because Cameron's space fable encourages me to do so with all the subtlety of a fry pan upside my head.

Sean Paul Kelley, on The Agonist, sees the above, but offers a different perspective, that this is a common narrative;

Several friends who dogged on Avatar have seen it recently. And every one of them tells me, "go see it." Of course, every one of them says, "it is like an alien version of 'Dances With Wolves' and is all about white, post-colonial guilt and race."


The archetype is a common foundational myth, pops up in many national literatures and historical writing for a reason. It's been used by the Turks, the Mongols, the Mayans and others. It's not about colonialism, it's about the fluidity of tribes, a much older human grouping and one that is much more primal.

Sean John Scalzi, on Whatever, has a review of 'Avatar' (and he "My Sister-My Daughter's" Cameron);

2. I spent almost no time at all thinking about the fact that most of my time was spent looking at computer animation. The Na’vi (I hope I got the apostrophe right, there) exist on the other side of the CGI uncanny valley; between the actors and their animators, these are real performances. Also, note to James Cameron: The extra time spent animating eyeballs paid off.


I won’t get into the story except to say I found it serviceable, if predictable, and while I don’t really feel the same sort of moral outrage other people have about the “noble savage” stereotype as it applies to this film, it certainly does leave itself wide open for criticism along that line. But as you can tell from the pullout quote above, I go into Cameron films assuming I’ll need to compensate for storytelling anyway. That said, unlike, say, George Lucas, Cameron actually does attempt to tell a story and to give his actors something else to do except stand there. The story was serviceable, and serviceable, lest we forget, is actually a positive.

I don't know.

Blue people, running around, doing crazy things, on, or with, outlandish props?

Maybe the Blue Man Group should sue.

Bonus Links

One For The Film Buffs ... Max Ophuls

Rififi Director, Jules Dassin, Blacklisted, Dies at 96

Swedish Film Icon Ingmar Bergman Dead At 89 ; Police Depressed, Working Through Emptiness, Not Ruling Out Foul Play

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Truth Lies in Comics

By Creature

If it's Sunday, it's Truth Lies in Comics

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