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Showing posts from December, 2014

Being Kim Jung Un

In the end, it looked like one big publicity stunt for what appears to be a very mediocre movie.  You almost wonder if Sony and Kim Jong Un were in on this together.  After all, the e-mail links were nothing more than a minor source of embarrassment, quickly forgotten in the big screen debut of The Interview.  Now that the cat is out of the bag, it is hard to see this movie rolling up big numbers at the box office, but who knows, there are those who enjoy Seth Rogen's peurile humor.

I don't know if young Kim is as big a movie fan as his father was, but I don't remember Kim Jong Il being particularly put out by Team America, which cast him as a puppet arch-villain bent on reducing the entire world to third world countries, which he would easily dominate.  The movie mocked Bush's war on terror more than it did Kim Sr, who had lured the Film Actors Guild (FAG) to Pyongyang to set up the necessary diversion for his nefarious scheme.  It was Team America to the rescue with…

The Kindly Robin

The Kindly Robin came from the pen of the Castell Brothers, who were also known for their picture books, like this one of Canada.  Can't find much more about them.  Giving alms is the true spirit of the season.  However, it wasn't easy to get assistance in early America.  You had to appeal to the local judge for assistance, who would deem whether you were worthy or not.  Best to remember Anne Frank's thoughts on the subject,
"No one has ever become poor by giving."

A Pirate Looks at 90

Cuba looks so small, yet it has loomed so large in American politics for decades.  From Colonel Lansdale's failed Operation Mongoose to Jesse Helms notorious Helms-Burton Act, Cuba has been able to thumb its nose at the United States for over 50 years.  As Stephen humorously noted on one of his last episodes of The Colbert Report, "the CIA was this close to taking down Fidel Castro with the deadliest weapon of all -- time!"

Fidel is 88, and while it is hard to guess how many years he has left in him, he no longer represents a threat to the United States.  Don't tell Marco Rubio that, who flew off the handle in his latest rant against the President, claiming that the deal to free Alan Gross has put a price on all Americans' heads, echoing the same reaction Congressional Republicans had to the deal Obama struck for the release of Bowe Bergdahl.  Remember him?

In case you're curious, Alan Gross was working for USAID at the time he was arrested, er abducted, for…

It began with a handshake

The writing had been on the wall for quite sometime, but it still took Congress and the media by surprise that the President actually normalized diplomatic relations and eased traveled restrictions with Cuba.  Opportunities date back to Jimmy Carter, but there had been too much political pressure against Democratic administrations to do so.  With the reviled Fidel Castro on the sideline, Pres. Obama finally seized the opportunity with Raul Castro to end this ridiculous embargo, which has plagued US relations with Latin America for decades.

Of course, this latest executive decision was not received well among conservatives in Congress and in the media.  Marco Rubio offered a particularly vitriolic retort,  but let's face it Cuba is no longer the bogeyman it once was, if it ever was.

We made a demon out of Castro because it suited us politically.  It allowed successive presidential administrations to bring the Cold War closer to home.  Conservatives had all the justification they n…

What ever happened to Juan?

A few years back Fox poached CNN and NPR for a few liberal faces to give some credence to its news motto, "Fair and Balanced."  If you remember, Juan Williams (in)famously defended Bill O'Reilly, which he said earned him the enmity of NPR, and led to his subsequent dismissal.  Juan had been "moonlighting" for quite sometime, and the last straw was his defense of O'Reilly over racial profiling regarding Muslims.

Since 2010, Juan has been working for Fox, which pays him much more than he ever got at NPR.  He is co-host of The Five, which actually has seven Fox personalities sharing the honors, but who's counting.  Among them is Bob Beckel, another token "liberal" on the network, who has generated his fair share of controversy with some of the comments he has made, proving he can be as good a bigot as anyone else at Fox.

You have to wonder what these once respected journalists gain by serving as pundits for Fox other than money?  Their credibili…

Remembering Tara

It seems Gone with the Wind doesn't have the same hold on the American imagination it once did.  The film has been a perennial television favorite for decades, long after its premiere at the Loew's Grand Theater in Atlanta, 1939.   The epic classic has been dressed up in a 75th anniversary edition DVD box set and is enjoying another run at select movie theaters around the country.

GWTW was a good bad book made into a good bad movie that rekindled the American imagination for the Deep South, ravished during the Civil War.  It was kind of a War and Peace for Americans, a romance novel writ large set against the backdrop of war.  It lacked the philosophical insights of Tolstoy's great novel but made up for it with a whirlwind of emotions best captured in this signature scene.  Like the novel, the dialog was so far over the top that you can't help but laugh at many of the scenes, especially with the greatly inflated musical score.

The Washington Post interviewed Mickey Ku…

My City for a Horse

It seems Rudy knows as much about horses as he does the black community in the city, or maybe he thinks they are one in the same.  Giuliani personally looked into the issue of the carriage horses' well being while mayor and found that they were well treated.  Maybe he should have watched Blinders.

Bill De Blasio has put a bill to ban horse-drawn carriages before the city council, as he said he would during last year's campaign, and what a stink it has raised.  Everyone form the AFL-CIO to former French President Nicolas Sarkozy have come out against the bill claiming that it will cost jobs and take away the glamour of the city.  Even the FBI is investigating claims of extortion filed by Christine Quinn, who says she was strong-armed into supporting the ban by an animal rights group.

While Big Bill may have stepped into some horse hockey on this issue, he isn't taking anymore of Rudy's shit.  Recently, he blasted the ex-mayor on his statements regarding the black commu…

In CIA we trust

All good things come to an end -- waterboarding, rectal hydration, and most sadly The Colbert Report.  No one gets to the bottom of a story (in this case quite literally) better than Stephen Colbert, who skewers the media response to the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Progam.

Of course, Stephen mainly goes after Fox, who for whatever reason thinks this is all in the past and shouldn't be dredged up again, unlike Benghazi.   Colbert also nails Wolf Blitzer, who gave Diane Feinstein the third degree for the report's untimely airing, as if any future American deaths will be pinned directly on the release of this report.  I suppose Wolfie felt the need to say that, but as Colbert noted this is an all too often case of the media trying to cover up the story rather than exposing it.

These days, the mainstream media is more interested in setting its own narrative, and t…

Not Ready for Primetime Players

It must feel that way for Wendy Davis after failing to muster the groundswell of support many thought she could do in October, 2013, when she announced she was running for governor.  Apparently, a defiant legislative stand doesn't make you a good bet in the Democratic Party, which really let her down statewide.  Texas had one of the worst voter turnouts in the nation -- 28.3 per cent.  You really have to wonder why more Democrats didn't pitch up to knock the Republicans out of Austin, who have been there since 1994.

Texas Monthly blames her demise on a poor campaign, which had numerous shake-ups and was unable to stay on message during the long slog that is our silly primary and general election process.  Mostly, it seems Wendy wasn't ready for all that attention, and the Abbott campaign seized on a number of inconsistencies in her "story" that undermined her credibility in the eyes of Texas voters.  Washington Post offers a more detailed account of her campaign …

Blue Highways

On my first trip through Oregon I took the scenic byway at State Route 234 into the Blue Mountains.  I wish I had a more sizable camper shell because I could have spent much more time there.  It was spellbinding.  As it was, I camped at Whitman National Forest.  I was reading William Least Heat Moon's book at the time.

Years later, I read Francis Parkman's The Oregon Trail, charting a trip he took in 1846, which followed a well-traveled route to the West Coast, originally set by Lewis and Clark along the Missouri River.  Much of the route was still in British hands at the time Parkman traveled it, but two years later the Oregon Territory would belong to the United States.

The vast territory included all of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of Montana and Wyoming.  It was primarily occupied by the Nez Perce, but many other indigenous people lived in the area, particularly along the Pacific Coast.

Russia had laid claim to the coastline years before, with settlements as far S…

The Obama Report

The President took over The Colbert Report Monday night, which Stephen seemed a little too willing to concede.  I guess now that his days are numbered, Colbert is letting his "conservative" persona slip, because he hardly challenged Obama in the interview that followed.

For years now, Stephen Colbert has made a mockery of the conservative talk show, much to the chagrin of his acknowledged "mentor" Bill O'Reilly.  Colbert's satire was always skin deep but very effective in parodying the way the conservative media sees the world, because that's about as far as you need to penetrate.

Of course, President Obama was well prepared, delivering Colbert's "The Word" while mocking himself.  During the interview, he also took jabs at himself, noting how his wife and daughters tease him unmercifully after a day in the Oval Office.  I imagine he got quite a bit of ribbing after this performance as well.

Obama has long been accused of being a haughty i…

Holding onto Pearl Harbor

Well, I don't know what to be more mad about -- Pearl Harbor or the fact that Japan has upstaged Scottish whiskys as the new number one?  If this is true, this is a "Peat Harbor."  I have always been partial to the lslay whiskys myself.  I even own two square feet of land at the Laphroaig distillery, thanks to a promotional a few years back, although I haven't gotten a chance to plant my flag there yet.  Next thing you know the Japanese will be trying to shape a Bourbon into their own.  Not my Maker's Mark!

It seems that after more than 70 years there isn't much in the way of hard feelings left.  Japan is now one of our closest allies, despite having usurped us in everything from electronics to whiskys.  Can anyone remember the last television made in America?  I'll give you a hint.

Yet, no trip to Hawaii is complete without a visit to the site of the USS Arizona.  There have been all kinds of speculation surrounding the tragic event.  The most popular i…

Exit Stage Left

In defeat, Mary Landrieu described her own record as one of "courage."   Keystone Mary first came to Congress in 1996, the same year Bill Clinton secured his second term.  She won a hotly contested election over Republican Woody Jenkins for a seat vacated by Democrat J. Bennett Johnson, Jr, who had served Louisiana for 25 years.  Her victory was one of the bright spots that election year as the Republicans had retained control of Congress.

I suppose by "courage" she meant she voted for the Stimulus Bill, the Affordable Care Act and other Democratic sponsored bills that came back to haunt her in this election.  The Republicans made a big deal out of a leaked memo where a Landrieu staffer proudly proclaimed she had voted with Obama 97 per cent of the time.  However, if we look back at her time during the Bush years, she voted for the Patriot Act, Homeland Security, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and continued to support these efforts throughout the Obama administr…

The Reagan Enigma

Certainly a very apt title for a new book that charts the "enigmatic" years of Reagan from 1964-1980.  Thomas Reed claims to be a "Reagan insider" so what we get is the "definitive treatise on Reagan's mind," according to the Heritage Foundation.  Not surprisingly, this book has not been reviewed outside right wing foundations and blogs, because most historical scholars regard Lou Cannon as the definitive biographer of Reagan, having written five well-respected books on the Gipper, including The Role of a Lifetime.

Reed has a chapter on the acrimonious relationship between Reagan and Bobby Kennedy, which focuses on the 1967 debate held between the two in front of an "international town hall."  They get grilled by an English student in this segment on the Vietnam War.  Conservatives naturally feel that Reagan got the better of Kennedy in that debate, which some saw at the time as a precursor to a potential 1968 Presidential general election.…

Do they know it's Christmas?

'Tis the season when we scramble to get our Christmas cards out by mail.  Those of us who still do anyway.  I was surprised that the first US postage stamp to commemorate Christmas wasn't issued until 1962.  It was a pretty simple stamp.  Christmas stamps have tended to be  pious even though many persons seem to believe the federal government has abandoned the meaning of Christmas all together.

There have also been playful stamps issued, as well as ones marking Hannukah and Kwanzaa.  There have even been stamps commemorating Muslim holidays, simply referred to as EID stamps, which have generated a fair amount of controversy since the first such stamp was issued in 2001.  We live in a pluralist society, like it or not, and stamps are a way of commemorating the diversity of this nation.

Nevertheless, there remain those ardent religious conservatives who believe the true spirit of Christmas is in danger and are determined to save it through such films as Saving Christmas, soon …

Who Framed Ferguson, Missouri?

Much has been made of the poverty in Ferguson as the mitigating factor in the violence, linking the suburban city's violence to its failed economy, and in turn Obama economic policies.  While Ferguson is below the state and national average in per capita income, it is not as bad as  Carbondale, Illinois, which is a predominantly white community also in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area.  Unemployment rate is not the only figure one should consider, Lou Dobbs, as 48 per cent of Carbondale residents live below the poverty line, whereas only 22 per cent of Ferguson residents do.

It just shows how you can pick and choose statistics to suit your argument.  For Fox pundits, it is convenient to look at the Ferguson protesters as a lazy, jobless lot, more interested in looting than in expressing their First Amendment rights.  During the most recent protests, this is what Fox News has predominantly focused on, essentially shaming Ferguson residents.  It allows Fox to avoid the quest…

Guns for hire

The newest wrinkle in the Ferguson protests is the arrival of the Oath Keepers to help "protect" private businesses that have been subject to looting, such as Natalie's Cakes and More.  Sam Andrews took a personal interest in Natalie DuBose's story, which was aired on television, and vowed to protect her establishment as well as others in the area.

Sam heads up the local Missouri chapter of Oath Keepers, which according to its national webpage is in all 50 states and numbers 40,000 strong.  This paramilitary organization has strong right-wing leanings, but apparently Sam wanted to show that Oath Keepers is non-discriminatory, after the Cliven Bundy fiasco, by protecting local black business owners' interests.

This represents another headache for local and state police forces who are having enough trouble dealing with the situation on the ground.  Now, they have to watch out for snipers on rooftops.  St. Louis County Police ordered the Oath Keepers to clear the …

Men Behaving Badly

First, a top physicist was forced to make an apology for the loud bowling shirt he wore while telling the world of the incredible landing of a robot spaceship on a far distant comet, and now Coca-Cola has come under fire for its splashy new milk ads.  Apparently, there is no longer any room for pin-up girls on the wall.

The incredible landing of the spaceship Rosetta on a comet far, far away was no match for the indignation voiced over Matt Taylor's shirt, which featured a collage of pin-up girls.  Granted, it was probably not the best choice of wardrobe for the occasion, but it seems the media was less excited about this major accomplishment than they were his bowling shirt.  We all know scientists are eccentrics after watching The Big Bang Theory.   Fashion faux pas are the norm on the show, and what is Kaley Cuoco if not a pin-up girl come to life.  However, Matt probably should have taken fashion tips from Sheldon Cooper, eccentric but not overtly sexist.

No beverage seems ou…

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse ...

Six minutes must seem like an eternity in front of the camera, especially listening to your father crack bad jokes.  Any normal person could pardon the President's daughters for fidgeting and rolling their eyes while waiting for their father to finish this traditional executive order, but not Elizabeth Lauten, who used the opportunity to launch a screed on bad parenting.

Ms. Lauten has since retracted her facebook post and issued an apology.  Not that it did her any good after this major breach of protocol.  The President's family is regarded as off limits (just ask John McCain) except for the gentle barb here and there.  Elizabeth went so far over the line in her critique, that she was called out by fellow conservatives and most likely will lose her job, as I doubt Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee will want this kind of publicity.  She serves as his communications director.

She was quick to make her facebook page private but you can still find her resume on LinkedIn, noting …

Tough Love, New York Style

Big  Rudy would never have presented the Darren Wilson case to the Grand Jury.  According to the former New York prosecutor and mayor, there wasn't enough evidence for an indictment, based on his pain-staking research, let alone a conviction of Wilson for even excessive force in this case.

Giuliani doesn't stop there, however, he condemns Black society as a culture of violence given its disproportionate murder rate as compared to any other ethic group in this country.  Earlier on Meet the Press, the former mayor noted the high intraracial homicide rate of 93% among Blacks, saying that an outside police force was necessary to protect Blacks from each other.

He echoed those same sentiments in his latest harangue on Fox News, saying that "if I put all my police on Park Avenue instead of Harlem, thousands more Blacks would have died during my time in office."  I guess you could call it "tough love."  Big Rudy only had the best interests in the Black communit…