WaPo/ABC Poll: 1 Percent Say U.S. Economy is ‘Excellent’

Washington Post-ABC News poll Oct. 23-26, 2014
The 1% says economy is excellent
Mr. Burns

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Police Shot Darrien Hunt 6 Times In The Back

Last month, 22-year-old Darrien Hunt was shot and killed by police in Saratoga Springs, Utah, while carrying a toy sword. The Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy confirms that six bullets hit Hunt in the back. Contrary to what was implied in the original police report, a toxicology analysis concluded that Hunt had no drugs in his body.

Susan Hunt told the Deseret News: “They killed my son because he’s black. No white boy with a little sword would they shoot while he’s running away.

“Those stupid cops thought they had to murder over a toy. This is my baby. This is my family. And they ruined my family.”

Again, we have to wonder what they were thinking. Why shoot an unarmed citizen who is running away? Assuming the police believed they had no choice but to use deadly force, why not shoot ONE TIME?

Finally, somebody needs to educate the police about cosplay.

At the time of his death, Hunt was wearing an outfit that bore a striking resemblance the Japanese anime character Mugen, from the series Samurai Champloo. The weekend prior to his death, Salt Lake City hosted the annual Comic Con event at which attendees dress up as comic book characters in a practice known as “cosplaying.”

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Hillary: ‘Trickle down should be consigned to the trash bin of history’

Hillary on trickle-down

I know Hillary Clinton would be the Wall Street candidate if she runs for President. I remember how the last President Clinton irritated progressives by embracing right-wing policies, and the last thing this country needs is another dynastic succession. Most of all, as we have seen with President Obama, progressive populist rhetoric can turn out to be meaningless.

But it’s still good news that Hillary said this at an October 24 campaign event for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley (emphasis added):

Don’t let anybody tell you that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs. They always say that. I’ve been through this. My husband gave working families a raise in the 1990s. I voted to raise the minimum wage and guess what? Millions of jobs were created or paid better and more families were more secure. That’s what we want to see here, and that’s what we want to see across the country.

And don’t let anybody tell you, that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know, that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried. That has failed. That has failed rather spectacularly.

One of the things my husband says, when people say, what did you bring to Washington? He says, well I brought arithmetic. And part of it was he demonstrated why trickle down should be consigned to the trash bin of history. More tax cuts for the top and for companies that ship jobs over seas while taxpayers and voters are stuck paying the freight just doesn’t add up. Now that kind of thinking might win you an award for outsourcing excellence, but Massachusetts can do better than that. Martha understands it. She knows you have to create jobs from everyone working together and taking the advantages of this great state and putting them to work.

By way of explanation, Coakley’s Tea-GOP opponent Charlie Baker won an “Outsourcing Excellence Award” for sending American jobs out of the country.

UPDATE:
Rand Paul Mocks Hillary Clinton Over Jobs Remark

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The Conservative World of Propaganda and Disinformation

On a recent out of town trip, I wandered into the hotel fitness center. While a group of (mostly) older people were exercising, they were engrossed in Fox News blaring from the TV. Engrossed.

I don’t remember the specific stories so much as the waves of fear emanating from the TV screen. Ebola, immigrants, Islam, Obama . . . it was a mishmash of things viewers should fear, interspersed with attacks on all things not Fox approved.

Fox resonates with American conservatives. But it does more than that. It shapes the conservative discourse and worldview, painting a picture of a world overwhelmed by hostility. In this world, gay people are coming for your kids, Muslims have infiltrated the US from Mexico and have implemented Sharia law in Michigan, public schools are brainwashing your kids and America has all but been destroyed and only the plucky bravery of the viewer (and approved politicians) can save any and all of us from going to hell in a handbasket. Fox shapes and broadcasts right wing memes with uncanny consistency. Read the rest of this entry »

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Constantine: Reviewing the Pilot

I told myself I wasn’t going to spend too much time on TV reviews. Apparently, in addition to having almost no life, I am an addict of entertainment involving the supernatural.

NBC’s Constantine is treading some very familiar territory – there are demons, angels, supernatural spells and curses and a protagonist haunted by his past. It is closer to Angel than Buffy, but it has obvious similarities to both (as well as Supernatural). In terms of special effects, it’s a step up from Supernatural. Stylistically, the pilot at least is visually darker than any of the above. It takes place in a morally ambiguous world that could prove interesting.

The pilot started with a bang – our main character has checked himself into an asylum, received ECT and then is seen in group. He follows cockroaches into a large chapel where a fellow patient is writing on the wall in what looks like blood. He casts the demon out of her, reads the message and checks himself out of the asylum and sets off to save Liv (more on her in a moment). Along the way, we met Chas and Manny (a mysterious cabby and angel respectively) who help John Constantine. Constantine sets out to locate and save Liv. What follows is a fairly standard for the genre episode that wastes little time on exposition, but provides some well done visuals, including a shot of the entire Atlanta metro area plunging into darkness as the power is cut.

Actor Matt Ryan does a good job as John Constantine, both witty banter-wise and obviously haunted by the past. The supporting cast don’t really have enough screen time to flesh out their characters, save Liv. And herein lies the pilot episode’s biggest problem. Throughout the episode, she’s being set up as the obvious and key character – the outsider who will guide us through Constantine’s world. She asks the key questions (“What’s this image carved into my door?”, “Who are you and how do you know these things?”), she is given a gift that will help our main character in his quest to save his soul. And at the last minute, she’s written off.

We’re told Liv departs Atlanta for California, our hero will place a spell to protect her and that’s that. But it made the entire pilot feel pointless – everything in the episode told us to care about Liv – and then she was sent packing, unceremoniously. It’s frustrating.

The episode ends with a shot of a mysterious woman drawing a picture of Constantine; the camera pans back and we see she is surrounded by similar drawings, including a striking portrait of Constantine on a window. It’s enough of a teaser to bring me back next week.

I haven’t read the source material (the comic book Hellblazer which ran for 300 issues) and I’ve only seen parts of the film starring Keanu Reeves. That said, it’s obvious the basic ingredients for a successful series are in place. The question is whether or not the creative team can get the story telling right before getting bogged down into ongoing story arcs and mythology. As an aside, the complex, mythology episodes of X-Files were often my least favorite. Other series that develop an ongoing mythology tend to grow sufficiently complex that after a few seasons they become difficult for new viewers to jump into (without binge watching multiple seasons before doing so). Conversely, ongoing mythology is rarely rewarding or interesting enough to justify our time (Alias is a perfect example of a series that could not sustain its ongoing mystery and that, in the end, could not deliver an interesting enough resolution). The trick is to keep the larger story line smart enough to keep viewers interested without being forced to define it so that is disappoints.

Constantine, like other series in the genre will need to spend some time fleshing out its main characters and refining its story telling – getting a better balance between the witty, the somber, and the exposition. It will require some work to keep the visual style. That said, I’m intrigued to see what comes next.

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Mythical Religious Persecution Narrative and a New Jim Crow

Earlier this week, a story spread like wildfire about two pastors threatened with jail time and massive fines for not performing gay weddings. Attorneys from the right wing ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the pastors. The story was breathless, controversial and inaccurate.

The pastors in question run a for profit business that as recently as two weeks ago was very clear that they offered both religious and civil ceremonies. They run a marriage mill, performing something like 1400 weddings per year. Oh, and the big error? The city of Coeur d’Alene had not threatened them with fines or jail time, there have been no complaints filed against them. The couple in question asked the city attorney what would happen if they failed to comply with the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance and refused to marry a same-sex couple; the city attorney spelled out the possible legal consequences. End of story. Not really. I’ll let Jeremy Hooper explain:

When I first learned about the story of Idaho’s Hitching Post, which was suddenly the far-right’s latest marriage “victim” for supposedly being threatened by the city of Coeur d’Alene for not marrying a same-sex couple, I thought the whole thing was too coincidental to be true. I didn’t focus on it in my last post on the subject since I had the much more newsworthy discovery that the business had changed its website so that they could seem much more faith-driven than they had been operating in the past. But a part of me was wondering how the same business that went to the press back in May with its preemptive marriage fears, well before Idaho had marriage equality, could now be in the spotlight in such a major way. it just seemed too perfectly orchestrated.

To wit (Gridley is the city attorney):

“Their lawsuit was something of a surprise because we have had cordial conversations with them in the past and they have never disclosed that they have recently become a religious corporation,” Gridley wrote.

Gridley wrote that the city will not prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies or other exempt organizations or anyone else as a result of their lawful exercise of their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and religion.

In addition to exempting those groups, Gridley wrote that the anti-discrimination ordinance states that it “shall be construed and applied in a manner consistent with First Amendment jurisprudence regarding the freedom of speech and exercise of religion.”

When contacted by The Press for comment, Don Knapp said the Hitching Post is not operating as a not-for-profit religious corporation. He also said he does not know ADF Attorney David Cortman.

Let’s be clear – almost everything you’ve heard about the case is wrong. No complaint has been filed against The Hitching Post. If they are a legitimate religious organization, they are exempt from the city’s ordinance. (It’s worth noting that they have been an ordinary, for profit business up to this point and have a history of performing both religious and civil ceremonies; they have not been, up to this point, a church or religious organization.)

The facts haven’t stopped hosts of religious people sanctimoniously declaring that “no one should be forced to do something that violates their conscience” and “no one should be forced to participate in a same sex wedding.” Utah legislators have obviously seen the story and are alreayd discussing a bill that would allow people to declare they have a religious objection and exempt themselves from participating in same-sex weddings (if history is any guide, the bill will pass, but will be so overly broad it will fail constitutional muster and be struck down, leading to all sorts of public hysterics over activists judges and repeated sharing of bathetic overhyped tales of bakers and florists and photographers and poor picked on pastors). It’s clear that a great many religious persons oppose same-sex marriage, and believe their opposition is entirely based on theological reasons and fear that at some point, some legal change will force them to “accept” same-sex marriage.

I don’t want to minimize the difficulty marriage equality presents for many religious persons. People do not lightly give up tradition or traditional teachings about sexuality and relationships.

Until very recently, most people casually accepted the idea that something was “wrong” with gay and lesbian persons. The idea that sexual minority persons are not inherently sick, immoral or incapable of forming long-lasting, stable relationships is relatively new in our society. The idea of same-sex marriage is also relatively new (although the Boston Marriage is a fascinating bit of history). Many socially and religiously conservative persons continue to embrace the belief that gay persons can become straight through therapy and prayer, that being gay is a choice and a bad one.

For some persons, the idea of a same sex couple marrying seems absurd at best. These individuals define marriage as a man and a woman and exclude anything else (one suspects Utah State Rep. Kraig Powell is such a person). It’s not uncommon in discussions to hear someone declare that marriage is between a man and a woman and anything is fake and the law can’t make “real” what isn’t real. The “love the sinner hate the sin” motto employed by religious persons reveals more than most people think – for many religious persons, gay people are less than straight people and same-sex couples are less than heterosexual couples.

With the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the various cases coming to them, the number of states in which same sex marriage is legal increased dramatically in one week (at JoeMyGod, Joe observed that there had been 9 separate marriage equality maps in the week of October 6).

Religious conservatives have very visibly and vocally expressed their dismay. We’ve heard all the usual buzzwords about out of control judges, judicial activism, and the usual predictions of coming tyranny. Religious conservatives are asking “What next?” with a combination of weariness and trepidation.

There is a challenge for religious conservatives. They’re being asked to acknowledge and live with the reality that same sex marriage is legal and to recognize that means some changes on how they conduct their business. I am certain there will be some lawsuits when religious business owners try to refuse family insurance coverage to same-sex spouses. We will, no doubt, hear paeans to the free market and dreamy invocations that gays can just go elsewhere for jobs and services. Thus far, the courts have not be amenable to such arguments. From a legal standpoint, a marriage is a marriage. Treating married couples differently will not be acceptable.

Religious conservatives are also going to have to face activism within their churches. Although legally there’s no reason to fear that churches will be forced to recognize same-sex marriage, gay persons can be incredibly effective activists. Churches will feel pressure to perform marriages for same-sex couples.

The Hobby Lobby case was probably the most high profile but it is one of many in which the religious right is trying to carve out a separate public and legal sphere for itself in which the devout serve solely the devout and can refuse to serve the sinful masses – a modern Jim Crow – using religious freedom as the rationale. I get this – I’ve read Martha Nussbaum’s Hiding from Humanity: Disgust Shame and the Law – it’s about fear of moral contagion. Although it’s emotional appeal is undeniable, I think it will ultimately fail of its own weight.

This afternoon, I read that The Hitching Post has re-incorporated itself as a religious corporation. The ACLU and the city of Coeur d’Alene agree that in keeping with their newly filed corporate status, The Hitching Post is a “religious corporation” and exempt from the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. IOW, the whole brouhaha has basically evaporated.

The public spaces from which religious conservatives can exclude gay people are going to become increasingly constrained. The option of declaring one’s self a religious corporation isn’t going to be available to a great many religious conservatives. If, however, claims of religious freedom and religious conscience become publicly linked with discrimination – against women, gays and lesbians, “immoral people” – then very quickly the mythical “war on Christianity” will become a very real public disgust for anyone claiming to be Christian and for Christianity itself.

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Fourth Generation Wars Don’t End Unilaterally

ISIS Abrams
Iraqi Army M-1 Abrams tank captured by ISIS

Here’s a military and foreign policy lesson that is being driven home by recent events in Iraq. In fourth-generation warfare (4GW), it’s not over when the USA says it’s over. Remember that whole populations are involved, and unlike foreign expeditionary forces from halfway around the world the local populace isn’t going anywhere. There is no nation state to be defeated, and no peace treaty will ever be signed.

The American military is nevertheless engaged in 4GW in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this means we are faced with the decision to (1) stay committed to an open-ended conflict without any hope of a decisive result, or (2) let the war we started (or got into while in progress) go on without us, possibly with results counter to our foreign policy goals.

There was a third option, (3) spend tens of billions of dollars to train and equip friendly(?) local government(?) forces to take over for U.S. soldiers. That was tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, and failed (most spectacularly in Iraq). Somebody please tell the Obama administration, because they are planning to try this again.

DSWright on FDL comments on the Pentagon’s latest plans:

A multiyear campaign that requires more assistance – in other words, the US is back in the nation building business in Iraq. Of course we just saw the results of a multiyear campaign to provide military assistance – total capitulation. So why not do it again? It’s only the age of austerity for domestic spending.

…The American people gave Barack Obama the presidency largely based on his promise to get out of Iraq – the more we learn how worthless our actions are in Iraq the clearer it is that that’s a promise worth keeping.

Apparently the Washington politicians of both major parties are up for another round of war in the Middle East, only this time we’re fighting in Syria too. Does anybody think this is a good idea?

More info:
Too much money spent in Iraq for too few results
Veterans not surprised Iraq’s Army collapsed
Economic Costs Summary: $4.4 Trillion and Counting
Everyone in America Could Go to College for Free for the Amount of Money Spent on Mideast Wars

UPDATE:

U.S.: Ground Offensive Against Islamic State Still Months Away

“Until the Abadi government can get on its feet and kind of deliver some small successes, I don’t think, I don’t think we’re in a position to make any promises on behalf of that government,” the official said.

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Rep. Chaffetz: ‘Why not have the surgeon general head this up?’

While making another lame attempt to politicize Ebola, Utah’s own Rep. Jason Chaffetz accidentally brought up a serious issue. Acceding to Tea-GOP demands for an “Ebola czar” to address a nonexistent national crisis, President Obama appointed Ron Klain, a former chief-of-staff to Vice President Joe Biden. Did that make the right-wing happy? Not a chance.

Via Think Progress (emphasis added):

On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on Fox News to complain that Klain had not yet agreed to testify before Congress, firing another criticism at the White House. “Why not have the surgeon general head this up?” Chaffetz said, adding, “at least you have someone who has a medical background who has been confirmed by the United States Senate, that’s where we should be actually I think going.”

But Obama can’t appoint the Surgeon General to lead the Ebola response because his nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is being opposed by the National Rifle Association and Republican senators (as well as a few Democrats) for supporting the expansion of background checks during gun purchases. In February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officially placed a hold on the nomination.

Chaffetz seemed unaware of this wrinkle during his Fox interview, and his office would not return repeated requests for comment…

We don’t have a Surgeon General because Dr. Murthy’s nomination has been blocked for the past year by Rep. Chaffetz’s party.

UPDATES:
FLASHBACK: When Conservative Media Didn’t Care Bush’s Bird Flu Czar Had No Medical Experience
Fox News Quietly Corrects Congressman’s Mistake On Ebola Response

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O’Reilly: Dem Voters Are Emotional, Selfish and Unpatriotic

Via Media Matters. They watch Faux News so we don’t have to.

This is incredible, a perfect example of the right-wing’s alternate universe. Bill O’Reilly claims Americans who vote for Democratic Party candidates are emotional, selfish and just interested in “what you can get from the government.” He doesn’t believe they have the best interest of the nation in mind. Plus, he wants to scare everybody with Ebola [Note: Americans are much more likely to be the victim of a police shooting than to contract Ebola].

Meanwhile in reality, the Tea-GOP is doing everything they can think of to put our economy into a tailspin. They have staged a government shutdown and a near-default on the National Debt. They have enforced austerity budgeting (“sequestration” in Washington-speak) that has cost us 1.6 million jobs and 1.2 percent of GDP. And they think they can blame everything on President Obama – why not, it has worked before.

UPDATE:
How The Press Is Doing The GOP’s Ebola Bidding
Fear is the Tea-GOP’s midterm election theme. Message: Panic looms. We stand exposed. Nobody’s in charge. It’s worse than you think.

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Insane Right-Wing Ebola Conspiracy Theories

Media Matters offers a four and a half minute compilation of how right-wing media have been trying to spread unfounded hysteria and conspiracy theories about Ebola. Apparently it’s just part of the GOTV operation to make sure all the wingers show up at the polls on November 4. It’s hyper-partisan politics as usual, and the good of our nation and the world is not even a consideration.

Mario Machado on HuffPo:

Sure, FOX news gets away with blatant racism and nobody bats an eye because it’s just part of their act, but they are not alone in their uncompassionate reporting on the thousands of people currently suffering from Ebola.

…We speculate endlessly over the fictionalized and sensationalized prospects of an epidemic that will never become a legitimate threat within the US, but no one finds the time to even mention the horror that must face the individuals, the families, the health care workers and the citizens of an impoverished country who are slowly watching this unspeakably devastating disease spread within their midst. For the moment, we are too busy asking ourselves, “What does this Ebola outbreak mean for me and my life?” instead of the questions we should be asking, such as “How can we as a global community best act to stop this terrible disease everywhere?”

So whether anchors are talking about travel bans for everyone and anyone coming from West Africa, or discussing the domestic “Ebola epidemic” in regards to the few cases we’ve had in the U.S., it is important to realize that it is all just well-disguised racism and Western exceptionalism being paraded around under the banner of “national security.”…

More info:
The Ebola Truthers Have Arrived and Their Conspiracy Theories Are Completely Insane
POLITICO poll: Democrats in danger over Ebola
Poll: Majority Of Americans Worried About U.S. Ebola Outbreak
Gallup: One-Fifth of Americans Worry About Getting Ebola (Those would be the regular Faux News Channel viewers)

UPDATE:
Politicians Who Say ‘I’m Not A Scientist’ On Climate Offer Their Advice On Ebola There is a method to the madness: Tea-GOPers always reject science when it runs counter to their political interests of the moment.

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“Fury” – Best Tank Movie Yet

“Fury” is the best tank movie Hollywood has done to date (“Fury” is the crew’s name for their later-model M4A3E8 Sherman, also known as an “Easy Eight”). Of course, it’s still a Hollywood production; when Brad Pitt takes off his CVC (combat vehicle crewman) helmet, every hair on his head is neatly combed! And while the plot has elements of realism (how many lieutenants have made the mistake of putting their own tank at the head of the column?) it’s way too melodramatic. This film is very violent, as you might expect. Warfare can be horrifying, that’s why soldiers get PTSD.

Like a lot of movies today, the special effects are the best part. The actors do a credible job, especially Brad Pitt as SSGT Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, and Logan Lerman as Norman Ellison, a clerk-typist newly assigned to the crew of “Fury” (and the guy the audience can identify with, because like most people he’s never seen the inside of a tank before). One thing that’s definitely NOT a special effect is the real German Tiger tank that makes its Hollywood debut (up to now, the “Tigers” you have seen in contemporary feature films have been modified Russian T-34 tanks). This one is an actual Panzerkampfwagen VI.

I had the somewhat bizarre experience of leading a tank platoon across Bavaria as a member of the 2d Armored Division’s 66th regiment (the same unit the fictional Wardaddy was assigned to). Except I did it in 1978, not 1945. We didn’t ask any Germans what they thought of us, because the answer to that question would have to be complicated and hard to understand. As Wardaddy says in the film, “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”

More info:
Fury (2014) – IMDb

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‘Thomas Eric Duncan was a victim of a broken system’

A guy shows up in the ER, has symptoms of Ebola, and says he just came from Liberia. But from the hospital’s point of view, the most important fact about this patient is he has no health insurance!

Josephus Weeks:

On Friday, Sept. 25, 2014, my uncle Thomas Eric Duncan went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. He had a high fever and stomach pains. He told the nurse he had recently been in Liberia. But he was a man of color with no health insurance and no means to pay for treatment, so within hours he was released with some antibiotics and Tylenol.

…Thomas Eric Duncan was a victim of a broken system.

Of course, we know how this story ends. Mr. Duncan became the first person to die from Ebola in America. The whole letter is worth reading.

Isn’t it astounding to learn that 13 years after the 9/11 attacks and Anthrax, out of all the hospitals in the entire USA there are just four level 4 biohazard facilities with a combined capacity to handle nine (9) Ebola patients at a time? Right now four of those beds are occupied, and there are five available. Didn’t anybody see “Contagion” (2011)?

Why don’t the cable news channels report that the Tea-GOP cut NIH funding, delaying the development of an Ebola vaccine? This is not something Big Pharma cares about, because they make their biggest profits from drugs that treat long-term chronic diseases, not epidemics that kill people (especially poor people in Africa).

Finally, where is our nation’s Surgeon General during all this? Oh that’s right, we don’t have one because the Tea-GOP has been blocking the nomination of Vivek Murthy for the past year.

More info:
I’m a Hazmat-Trained Hospital Worker: Here’s What No One Is Telling You About Ebola
11 People Who Should Really Shut Up About Ebola
The Smoking Ebola Gun: Rand Paul’s Senate Hold Is Why The Nation Has No Surgeon General

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