Monthly Archives: April 2012

A ‘Funny’ coincidence 20 years later

Reprinted from the Winston-Salem Journal:

By: LYNN FELDER | Special correspondent 
Published: April 29, 2012

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"A Funny Thing Happened" 20 years ago at Twin City Stage — then the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem — and it's going to happen again Friday when "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" opens.

What these two funny things have in common are actor Gray Smith as Hysterium and director Mark Pirolo. Everything and everyone else is new, including Ken Ashford in the lead role of Pseudolus.

The play revolves around the slave Pseudolus and his passionate desire for freedom. He will only get his freedom when his master, Hero, played by Charlie Klutzz, satisfies his passionate desire: Philia, played by Gracey Falk. Hysterium is the head slave in Hero's parents' household.

"Gray played the same role 20 years ago. Now he's the right age," Pirolo said. "As good as his performance was back then, his performance now has a great deal more nuance. He's grown as an actor."

* * * * *

Well-known throughout the Triad for his comedy roles in community-theater productions, Smith said that the 1992 "Funny Thing" was a turning point in his acting career.

"Hysterium was the first role I played that made me realize that I'm a character actor," Smith said. "Everyone, when they're young, wants to be the ingénue or the leading man, but this role made me want to audition for character parts."

Smith said he doesn't feel that his characterization of Hysterium has changed much since he was 28.

"I've had a lot more experience onstage, but it's funny — I don't feel like I'm doing it much differently," Smith said. "I feel like it was a pretty solid character then, and Mark is staging it pretty much the same as he did 20 years ago. Of course, the entire cast is different.

"Having a totally different cast brings a totally different feeling to it."

One of the different cast members is Ashford. The two men have performed together in other shows.

"I always feel comfortable on stage with Ken," Smith said. "If we get in trouble with lines or something, one of us will pull the other one out."

In addition to acting in community-theater shows, Ashford works with an improvisational troupe, Nekkid Feet, and he's bringing his improv skills to "Funny Thing."

"It's more fun than other plays because we're playing off of each other in rehearsal, and some of what we ad-lib may wind up in the show," Ashford said.

"Ken can really come up with some zingers," Pirolo said. "We laugh at rehearsal a lot, and that's how I know we've got a good show. Sometimes Maggie (Margaret Gallagher, the music director) is laughing so hard that she can't continue."

"Funny Thing" is based on the work of the Roman playwright Plautus, the original physical-comedy writer. The tradition of physical comedy was carried into Commedia dell'arte in Italy. Vaudeville followed, and early television featured such physical comedians as Sid Caesar and Carol Burnett, with Dick Van Dyke picking up the banner. Jim Carrey comes close, but gross-out humor is not the same as physical comedy.

"The stage is the only place you see this kind of humor now," Pirolo said.

Actors performing physical comedy have to make the right move at the right time and convey feeling with a look. There are gags and pratfalls that require inordinate strength and skill to avoid injuries.

* * * * *

During a recent rehearsal, Ashford and Klutzz worked on a scene with a dagger. Pirolo directed them through it repeatedly, choreographing the moves like an intricate dance.

"Once you've got that down, and once everybody is on the same page, then you can experiment with it and have fun," Ashford said.

"Ken's very good at finding the right moment to do the right gesture and give the audience a look," Pirolo said. "As he begins to get a handle on everything that he has to do, he's beginning to get a sense of himself as the master of ceremonies. It's really Pseudolus' need to be free that drives the show."

As rehearsals progress toward opening night, and the cast and crew learn their lines and moves, they are finding more fun in the show.

"There is a part at the end where I fake dying," Ashford said. "And what's weighing on my mind is how much am I going to ham it up without being completely stupid. I don't want to look like the guy at the party with the lampshade on his head."

Then he brightens.

"We definitely are having fun," Ashford said. "Mark provides a really good atmosphere, so that if I try to be funny and I'm not funny it's not mortifying, so I can take more risks and not worry about looking like a total jerk.

"It's a really hard-working cast — professional but fun."

 

Tinfoil Hat Stories We Love

This from WND:

Medical examiners in Los Angeles are investigating the possible poisoning death of one of their own officials who may have worked on the case of Andrew Breitbart, the conservative firebrand who died March 1, the same day Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced probable cause for forgery in President Obama’s birth certificate.

Andrew Breitbart died on the day that loony Arizona Sheriff announced that Obama's birth certificate was forged?  And now Breitbart's coroner has died?

It MUST be an Obama plot!

And read the comments, too!

Freedom Tower Passes The Empire State Building Today

The new tower at the World Trade Center site is scheduled to become the tallest building in New York City today.

As long as the weather cooperates, the tower will surpass the 1,250-foot Empire State Building at 2 p.m. on its way to a final height of 1,776 feet.

“It’s wonderful,” Mayor Bloomberg said Sunday.

“It’s taken a long time. This is probably the most complex construction site in any place ever. I think what we’ve shown is that democracy works.”

Once completed, the Ground Zero skyscraper, often called the Freedom Tower, will have 104 floors, including 71 office floors with 3 million square feet of space.

The official address of the Freedom Tower is One World Trade Center. It is scheduled to open late in 2013 or possibly early 2014.

 

Bigotry On The Ballot

NYT editors weigh in on Amendment One:

North Carolina already has a law barring same-sex marriage, but the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature is not satisfied. It devised a measure to enshrine this obvious discrimination in the State Constitution and placed it on the ballot of the state’s May 8 primary election — a test of tolerance versus bigotry that ought to be watched closely nationwide.

In their zeal, lawmakers got careless with the wording of the measure, known as Amendment One. It would constitutionally prohibit recognition not just of same-sex marriages, but of other legal arrangements like civil unions and domestic partnerships. That could harm all unmarried couples, imperiling some children’s health insurance benefits, along with child custody arrangements and safeguards against domestic violence.

The campaign against the amendment is being spearheaded by a coalition of civic, religious, business and civil rights leaders and groups. One of Amendment One’s most vocal opponents is the Rev. William Barber II, president of the state chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. Mr. Barber draws a strong link between the proposed amendment and struggles against racial unfairness, an appeal with special resonance following the publication in March of memos from the National Organization for Marriage, one the most prominent groups fighting same-sex marriage, about driving “a wedge between gays and blacks.”

Polls suggest that defeating this measure remains an uphill struggle, but at least its approval is no longer an entirely foregone conclusion. Much will depend on turnout, especially by voters on college campuses, who will need to vote in larger-than-usual numbers to defeat this declaration of officially sanctioned discrimination.

The North Carolina vote is one of several statewide ballot fights over same-sex marriage the nation will see this year. But public opinion continues to move steadily toward marriage equality. In 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a margin of 57 percent to 35 percent. Today, 47 percent are in favor and 43 percent opposed, according to a new Pew Research poll.

Opponents of marriage equality have never been able to show any evidence that any harm is caused to heterosexual marriages by granting all American adults the right to marry as they choose — because there is no such evidence. With little more than a week to go before the May 8 contest, and early voting already under way, North Carolinians need to consider whether they really want to inflict this gratuitous bigotry on their fellow citizens and their children.

 

I don’t own a medicine cabinet because I don’t like closing it and seeing the killer standing behind me.

Is This A Bad Ad?

Karl Rove's PAC put this ad out this week.  It's saying that the president is being "cool" while all these problems are going on.

 

Um…. I think it makes Obama look good.  I don't think anyone (except those who hate Obama no matter what) is going to believe that Obama has spent the last 3 years singing.

And highlighting some of the remains of the Bush era?  Is that smart?

UPDATE:  Well, now I don't know what to think.  Because Trump agrees with me:

“They are making Obama look great," Trump said. "They are making him look like that’s the man we want to be president. I looked at that clip very closely, and actually, I couldn’t believe it.”

Enterprise In NYC

The retired space shuttle Enterprise did a buzz of NYC on its way to its final resting place.  This made for some good photos today.  Two of my faves:

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Discftower

That said, I think this photo is a fake.  How can you get the Statue of Liberty AND the Empire State building in one shot?

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Yes On Amendment One Still Ahead, But Weaker

A new Public Policy Polling poll shows that support for North Carolina’s discriminatory Amendment One continues to fall, standing now at 54 percent down from 58 percent a month ago. Opposition is also at its highest at 40 percent, but many voters are still confused about just what the Amendment does, with 10 percent believing it actually legalizes same-sex marriage instead of banning all same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partners

Newt Gingrich Speaks Out For Amendment One

Transcript:

Blah blah blah Saul Alinsky blah blah blah Preamble to the Declaration of Independence says the Creator hates gay people blah blah blah guns are great for defending the home blah blah blah blah blah Marriage between a man and a woman is at the heart of our civilization. It’s a belief that is now under attack, yet it’s at the very core of defining who we are. That’s why I urge you to vote for the initiative right here in North Carolina. The chance to vote for a referendum to declare clearly that marriage is between a man and a woman.

This is part of the same great process this year that’s involved with President Obama, and that’s involved with the whole danger of what’s happening to our basic beliefs. There’s an effort by radicals at every level to change who we are, to change what America is and to change for our children into a future that I think will be much worse.

This is your chance to turn out and vote and vote for preserving America, and to vote for preserving a very basic institution.

 

Thank you, Newt, great defender of man-woman marriages*

* at least until the woman gets sick, and then he goes off and marries his mistress.

Obama Needs More Backbone

Obama is in North Carolina again today.  He's speaking at UNC to talk about college loans….

But President Obama is not expected to touch the subject when he appears in Chapel Hill on Tuesday — even though it is roiling the electorate there…. His delicate sidestep of Amendment One, a ballot initiative to be decided May 8 that would recognize marriage between a man and a woman as the only legal domestic partnership in North Carolina, is seen by some as another sign that he is not fully committed to gay rights — an interpretation that could dampen the enthusiasm of the young voters he is trying to court.

I get that the White House wants to stay on message and talk about the economy rather than gay stuff.  But he's really turning off some elements of his consituency — which he needs desparately.  North Carolina is a key swing state, which Obama barely won 4 years ago, and it really shouldn't hurt him if he throws a nod toward, you know, civil rights.

The Future Is Here, Rose

From today's Letters To The Editor of the Winston-Salem Journal (emphasis added):

The civil-rights argument for gay marriage is a smokescreen ("Same-sex marriage a civil-rights issue, Barber says," April 18). Gay marriage has nothing whatsoever to do with civil rights. Does anyone really believe if the "marriage amendment" is defeated on May 8, we will not soon see gay marriage enshrined in North Carolina? Is the Winston-Salem Journal ready to print photos of two men or two women in the wedding and engagement section? If you don't think this happens, take a look at The New York Times' social pages.

How many voters will see through the civil-rights ruse? How many will rise above this intimidation and vote for traditional marriage on May 8?


ROSE M. WALSH
Lewisville

The Journal already accepts same-sex engagement and wedding announcements.

– Publisher Jeffrey Green

 

How The Romneys Are Doing

You'll be glad to know that Mitt Romney's wife's horse, Rafalca, rose from 17th to 15th place in the freestyle portion of the World Cup Dressage Finals in the Netherlands.

So what about you other stay-at-home moms out there?  How is your horse doing?

Late To The Party (But It’s Nice You Finally Came Around)

Well, it looks like evangelicals can't avoid the big fat pregnant truth when it kicks them in the ass:

The statistics, some evangelicals say, can no longer be ignored.

Eighty percent of young evangelicals have engaged in premarital sex, according to a new video from the National Association of Evangelicals. and almost a third of evangelicals' unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.

It's time to speak honestly about sex because abstinence campaigns and anti-abortion crusades often aren't resonating in their own pews, evangelical leaders say.

In some instances, that is beginning to happen:

  •  
    • At this month's Q conference in Washington, participants were asked at the end of a session on "reducing abortion" if churches should support the use of contraception among their single 20-somethings. Responding by text message, 64 percent said yes, 36 percent said no.
    • A "Sexuality and Covenant" conference this week (April 19-21) co-sponsored by Mercer University and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship includes on its agenda the statement that "marital sexual relationships" are not available for many Christians.
    • In addition to its video, the NAE is preparing to distribute information packets to pastors that include testimonies from birth mothers and adoptees, as well as definitions of almost a dozen "prevention methods" ranging from abstinence to sterilization.

"This cultural moment calls for a both/and approach that I think can be challenging for churches," said Jenell Williams Paris, a Messiah College professor, at the Q conference. "Both lift up the ideal of premarital chastity, and support people who do otherwise with knowledge and resources that can help them prevent pregnancy."

Paris, who has authored books on Christian approaches to sexual identity and birth control, also was slated to speak at the Mercer conference.

Sarah Brown, the CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said the majority of the Q audience probably preferred reducing premarital sex over considering conception. But that may no longer be realistic.

"Isn't it better for unmarried, sexually active young people to use contraception than to not use it, experience a distressing pregnancy and elect abortion?" Brown said. "It's a difficult choice. It's a difficult question, but I think that's what we have to ask ourselves."

Read the whole thing.

Mitt Still Engaging In Projection

Romney's attacks on Obama are clearly insane:

Mitt Romney said on Thursday that President Barack Obama is partially to blame for a recent scandal over excessive spending at the General Services Administration because he takes "elaborate vacations."

"I think the example starts at the top," Romney told National Review Online in an interview published Friday. "People have to see that the president is not taking elaborate vacations and spending in a way that is inconsistent with the state of the overall economy and the state of the American family."

Huh?  President Obama's vacation time?  What about it?  He has taken 61 days of vacation through last summer to George W. Bush's 180 days through the same point in his presidency. There's nothing any more elaborate about it than any other presidential vacation. Maybe Mitt Romney is trying to suggest Obama is a foreigner for vacationing in Hawaii, but Hawaii is part of America and it's where Obama is from.

And extravagance?  Isn't this the same Mitt Romney who hired a lobbyist to get approval for a car elevator at his beachfront vacation home in La Jolla? And isn't this the same Mitt Romney who rented a guest house and created a business so his wife could take participate in the equestrian sport of dressage? (They lost $77,000 on the business in 2010, by the way.)

Thank You, BP

Remember that oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?  That was nasty, huh?  Good thing that's all over and done with.  Except not….

Dr. Jim Cowan, with Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography, spoke to Al Jazeera recently and described the regular complaints he gets from fishermen, who often warn of deformed sea life like eyeless shrimp, crabs without claws, fish whose hearts don’t fully form, and numerous creatures with unexplained lesions on them.

“The fishermen have never seen anything like this,” he’s quoted as saying. “And in my 20 years working on red snapper, looking at somewhere between 20 and 30,000 fish, I’ve never seen anything like this either.”

 

The “Success” Narrative

I can't be the only one who thinks that Romney is going to succeed in his narrative that "Obama is trying to punish success".

That's what Romney says.  Whenever there is discussion about releasing his tax returns, for example… "Oh, Obama is just interested in my wealth so he can punish success."

It make NO SENSE.  First of all, Romney is rich — but I wouldn't call him successful.  He was born into wealth, the son of a Senator.  Seriously.  What success has he acheived?  Like the old saying goes, Mitt (and Anne) Romney was born on third base, and thinks he hit a triple.

You know who is successful?  A black kid born to mixed parents.  Who became President of the United States.

That's success.  And… then… why would he try to punish that?

So I applaud this.  In a speech on the economy and opportunity at an Ohio community college today, President Obama said:

Somebody gave me an education. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn’t. Somebody gave us a chance. Just like these folks up here are looking for a chance. 

Score.

Tupac And The Future

I'm not a fan of Tupac, or rap music in general, but I must say that his recent performance at Coachella 2012 was incredibly life-like for someone who has been dead for 15 years.

Of course, it's not Tupac at all, but a recorded holograph of Tupac.  And it makes you wonder what's in the future for entertaiment.  Can I see the original cast of Guys and Dolls please… at my local theater?

 

Zimmerman To Be Charged

CNN is reporting that the special prosecutor in Florida will announce that criminal charges will be brought against Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting.  Not really a surprise given the attention the shooting has brought.  The prosecutor's announcement will come at 6 pm this evening.

It is not known what the charge will be.

It's also not known where Zimmerman is.

The controversy now moves into a new phase.  It will start with conservatives whining about how liberals got the scalp they were looking for.  Of course, we're not.  All we wanted was some sense of justice.  Bringing NO charges against Zimmerman would have been unjust.  Now, Zimmerman gets his day in court — something Treyvon didn't even get.

Global Warming March

How hot was last month? It was so hot that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released some amazing charts and factoids, including:

  • Every state in the nation experienced at least one record warm daily temperature during March. According to preliminary datathere were 15,272 warm temperature records broken (7,755 daytime records, 7,517 nighttime records). Hundreds of locations across the country broke their all-time March records. There were 21 instances of the nighttime temperatures being as warm, or warmer, than the existing record daytime temperature for a given date.
  • A persistent weather pattern led to 25 states east of the Rockies having their warmest March on record. An additional 15 states had monthly temperatures ranking among their ten warmest. That same pattern brought cooler-than-average conditions to the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, and California.
  • NOAA’s U.S. Climate Extremes Index, an index that tracks the highest 10 percent and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones, was 39 percent, nearly twice the long-term average and the highest value on record for the January-March period [see figure]:

U.S. Climate Extremes Index was the highest on record so far in 2012.

It was so hot that “March heat records crushed cold records by over 35 to 1“ and top scientists and meteorologists said that global warming loaded the dice. If you prefer sports metaphors, like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace.

That's hot.

And yes, most meterologists say that global warming is a factor.

George Zimmerman Is Like The Guy In “To Kill A Mockingbird”

I can't outdo TBogg on this:

A member of the  family of gun-toting racist murderer and/or world’s worst wannabe mall-cop   George “Unarrested” Zimmerman  has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric  Holder accusing him of being too gosh-darned blackity blackblack  to go out and arrest clownish Fox news creation,  The Black Panthers: New Edition featuring Bell, Biv, and DeVoe. We would not know about this letter by an  unspecified member of the Zimmerman family if not for the fact that they released it through  their publicist, butterball hedgehog Matthew Boyle of Tucker Carlson’s We Can Totally Be More Racist Than Those Dicks At Breitbart Daily Caller:

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, obtained exclusively by The Daily Caller, a family member of George Zimmerman asked the nation’s top law enforcement officer why he has chosen to not arrest members of the New Black Panther Party for their rhetoric — some of which may fit the federal government’s definition of a hate crime — throughout the Trayvon Martin case.

The family member believes the reason Holder hasn’t made those arrests is because he, like the members of the New Black Panther Party, is black.

“I am writing you to ask you why, when the law of the land is crystal clear, is your office not arresting the New Black Panthers for hate crimes?” the family member wrote to Holder.

“The Zimmerman family is in hiding because of the threats that have been made against us, yet the DOJ has maintained an eerie silence on this matter. These threats are very public. If you haven’t been paying attention just do a Google search and you will find plenty.

You would be surprised how often the Justice Department, when confronted with a massive crime wave will ignore their own NCJRS Abstracts Database and instead will say, “fuck it,  just ‘google it”. That’s how the FBI caught John Dillinger. You can google look it up…

Then the Zimmerman family member appealed to Eric Holder’s sense of literary justice by comparing Hey-I-shot-an-unarmed-black-guy! George Zimmerman to a character in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Guess which one? Go on, guess, it’s fun!

Noting President Obama’s White House event last week celebrating the 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Zimmerman’s family member drew a novel comparison to the American literary classic.

“Strangely enough this case has a lot of parallels to those of Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’” the letter to Attorney General Holder read. “George Zimmerman has been treated much like Tom Robinson was, chastised for not being the right (or wrong) color and found guilty based on race factors.

“You have the opportunity to act as Atticus [Finch] and do the right thing. Your boss would refer to this as a ‘teachable moment.’”

Yes! Tom Robinson, the black field worker who was wrongfully arrested, tried and then convicted of raping Mayella Ewell and subsequently was shot shot seventeen times while trying to escape is exactly the same as George Zimmerman who is holed up somewhere blogging and asking for money while pointing out that he has been forced to leave, among other things, his “.. entire life“.

Harper Lee wept.

 

OMG! Thomas Elliott Visits A Shopping Mall!

Watch as celebrity Thomas Elliott pays a visit to a Virginia shopping mall.  Within 7 minutes, the security guards are escorting him through the mall.  Within 10 minutes, he's shutting down stores so he can visit them.

One catch… Thomas Elliott isn't a celebrity and he's not famous.  He got a few of his friends to act like he was….

 

Confused Mitch McConnell Says There Is No War On Women

On a local Kentucky radio show today, the Senate minority leader argued that the female members in his caucus agree with him that the GOP’s “war on women” is just “a manufactured issue”:

MCCONNELL: There is no issue. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine I think would be the first to say — and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska — ‘we don’t see any evidence of this.’

One problem with that statement…. Three of the four Republican woman that McConnell names have already come out against the GOP’s war on women — Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

In fact, Murkowski specifically pushed back on claims like McConnell’s, saying, “If you don’t feel this is an attack, you need to go home and talk to your wife and your daughters.”

 

Maybe McConnell should take her advice.

Titanic, 1912


A boy plays aboard the deck of the Titanic

A Queenstown vendor sells irish lace aboard the Titanic

A U.S. doctor inspects passenger's eyes

Major Frank Brown

Members of the Titanic crew pose with lifejackets

Passengers from steerage settle on deck aboard the Titanic

The bedroom in the Browne suite aboard the Titanic

The gymnasium

Waiting for job possibly transferring mail

The last photo of the Titanic taken by Father Francis Browne

Source: Father Browne’s Titanic Album via BuzzFeed

 

Romney Thinks You Are Stupid Part VIII

Romney says Obama has “spent too much time at Harvard, perhaps.”

I see.

Obama spent three years at Harvard Law School.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney, privileged child of a prominent American politician, attended Harvard University for four years to pick up two professional degrees, in law and business, before heading into the cowardly, privileged adult-child’s fake professions of management consulting and private equity.

Three of Mitt Romney’s five privileged sons have Harvard degrees.

Nearly all of his top advisers either went to Harvard or currently teach there. The very reason Mitt Romney’s “home state” is Massachusetts is because he moved there to attend Harvard, and Harvard people would eventually make up his political donor base.

America has never seen a major politician more closely associated with Harvard University than Mitt Romney. This is the only truly remarkable achievement of his life.

But this seems to be part of a strategy.  Call it the "accuse Obama of everything I can get accused of" strategy.  Romney's doing it a lot lately.  Like this, as noted in an AP story story about a speech Romney gave to newspaper editors:

Romney made news Wednesday by accusing Obama of abandoning 2008 campaign promises for political expediency once in office. It was an unexpected assault by the candidate who is himself under fire in his own party for the ease with which he has changed positions to appeal to the ultra-conservative Republican base.

Romney calling out Obama on changing his views for political expediency?  Really?!?

The Obama “Gaffe”

Here's what Obama said:

MR. SINGLETON:  Mr. President, you said yesterday that it would be unprecedented for a Supreme Court to overturn laws passed by an elected Congress.  But that is exactly what the Court has done during its entire existence.  If the Court were to overturn individual mandate, what would you do, or propose to do, for the 30 million people who wouldn’t have health care after that ruling?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, let me be very specific. We have not seen a Court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on a economic issue, like health care, that I think most people would clearly consider commerce — a law like that has not been overturned at least since Lochner.  Right?  So we’re going back to the ’30s, pre New Deal.

Conservatives are breaking out the fainting couch again.  How COULD Obama be so stupid?  There have been lots of cases dealing with commerce since Lochner!!  OMGZ!!!  See what an IDIOT Obama is?

Yeah?  Do you think Romney has even HEARD of Lochner?  Do you think any conservative knows any case besides Roe v. Wade?

 

Major Airlines: Don’t Go There

Spirit Airlines, and as of yesterday, Allegiant Airlines, have found yet another way to charge customers.

They are making them pay to store luggage in the overhead bins.  How much? Ten to thirty dollars, depending.

Not a good sign.  So far, this new "innovation" is limited to these small, regional, airlines.  But if the big boys deide this is a good idea…. there will be hell to pay.

A 15-Year-Old Interviews Church Members About Amendment One

More like this please:

 

This is from 15-year-old, Carter Smith, interviewing people in his (her – Sorry, Dad) church.

We need to get on the air with commercials featuring the voices of people who oppose Amendment One. They are needed to educate voters about the harms and impact of the amendment — and the latest PPP poll suggests  many voters do not know what the ballot initiative means, but when told,  42% oppose the amendment.

Something Else About That Strip Search Case

Greenwald points out a little known detail about the strip search decision:

What virtually none of this anti-Florence commentary mentioned, though, was that the Obama DOJ formally urged the Court to reach the conclusion it reached. While the Obama administration and court conservatives have been at odds in a handful of high-profile cases (most notably Citizens United and the health care law), this is yet another case, in a long line, where the Obama administration was able to have its preferred policies judicially endorsed by getting right-wing judges to embrace them:

In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that in the interest of security, prisons could conduct visual body cavity searches of all detainees after they had contact with outsiders. For years after that ruling, lower courts ruled that the prison had to have a reasonable suspicion that the arrestee was concealing contraband before subjecting him to a strip search upon entering the facility.

But in recent years, some courts have begun to allow a blanket policy to strip search all arrestees.

The Obama administration is siding with the prisons in the case and urging the court to allow a blanket policy for all inmates set to enter the general prison population. 

“When you have a rule that treats everyone the same,” Justice Department lawyer Nicole A. Saharsky argued, “you don’t have folks that are singled out. You don’t have any security gaps.”

As The Guardian said yesterday: “The decision was a victory for the jails and for the Obama administration, which argued for an across-the-board rule allowing strip-searches of all those entering the general jail population, even those arrested on minor offenses.”

Depressing, huh?.

Texas Tornados

Really ugly stuff.

This video is hard to see, but stick with it until the end.  It picks up 18-wheelers and tosses them high into the air.

 

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Beatles To Reunite? Not Really.

But kind of.  But maybe not.

Sgt. Pepper may have recruited new members to the Lonely Hearts Club Band. Four sons of the four Beatles may be looking to form a group of their own.

James McCartney has reached out to Sean Lennon, Dhani Harrison and Zak Starkey to create the next generation of The Beatles, the BBC reports. In an interview Monday, the 34-year-old musician, who’s released three EPs on his own, said embracing the legacy of the Fab Four has worked to his advantage so far, thus he wouldn’t be opposed to a reincarnation of the ensemble. But not all the sons may agree.

“I don't think it's something that Zak wants to do,” James remarked. “Maybe Jason [another of Ringo Starr's sons] would want to do it. I'd be up for it. Sean seemed to be into it, Dhani seemed to be into it. I'd be happy to do it.”

G-ent-120403-beatles-sons
From left: Zak Starkey, Dhani Harrison, James McCartney, Sean Lennon.

Would be… interesting… to say the least.

This Is How Screwed Up Florida’s Laws Are

So… the Republican National Convention is being held in Tampa this election cycle.  And the organizers want to make the convention safe for the conventioneers as they elect Mitt Romney to run against Obama.  Unfortunately, they can't override Florida's ridiculous gun laws.

So at the end of the day, here's what is permissible and impermissible at the convention site:

IMPERMISSIBLE

A water gun
An air gun
A metal pipe
String more than 6 inches long
A mask

PERMISSIBLE

An actual fully loaded concealed gun 

Santorum Is Getting Desperate

He's making things up now:

SANTORUM: I was just reading something last night from the state of California. And that the California universities – I think it’s seven or eight of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It’s not even available to be taught.

Here's the video (it's low quality):

 

And he's right in one small way — the University of California school in San Francisco doesn't offer a course in history.  In fact, it doesn't offer any course in the humanities.  Because it is a medical school.

On the other hand, the other nine schools of the UC university system – BerkeleyIrvineDavisLos AngelesMercedRiversideSan DiegoSanta Barbara, and Santa Cruz all offer numerous American history courses. Some even require students to take U.S. history before they can graduate.

It got me to wondering what Santorum actually read.  He said he "just read" this fact.  Well, it didn't take me long to figure it out.  He most likely read an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Peter Berkowitz entitled "How California Schools Indoctrinate Students".  It's a ridiculous piece, but even then, Berkowitz merely wrote:

"None of the nine general campuses in the UC system requires students to study the history and institutions of the United States."

(emphasis mine) which of course is a far cry from claiming that such courses aren't offered.

So it looks like Santorum needs to go back to school himself — to bone up on his reading comprehension skills.

(And by the way, here's a scathing retort to the silly WSJ piece by Berkowitz).

UPDATE:  Here's a screenshot of the University of California website.  Yes, both Santorum AND Berkowitz were just making shit up:

Uofc

From the site:

All undergraduate degree programs at UC require study in American history and institutions. This requirement may be met through examination or enrollment in specific courses. Each campus decides how its students may meet the requirement.

Satisfactory completion in high school of a one-year course in U.S. history or a half-year course in U.S. history and a half-year course in American government, fulfills this requirement at all UC campuses except UC Santa Barbara. (At UCLA, students must also have earned a B average in these courses.) UC Santa Barbara requires students to complete a college-level course. 

Satisfaction of a community college's history and institutions requirement will also meet the requirement at most campuses. It is highly recommended that students complete this requirement before they transfer.

(Emphasis mine)

The Crazy Conservatives On The Supreme Court Have No Sense Whatsoever

Okay.  Imagine this.

You are a 35 year old man.  One March day, you are a passenger in your family's SUV.  Your pregnant wife is driving, and your 4-year-old son is in the back seat.  You are driving to a Sunday dinner.

Suddenly, you're stopped by a New Jersey state trooper.  Since you are the vehicle's registered owner, the officer runs your identification and discovers a bench warrant for an outstanding fine.  But you have already paid the fine.  In fact, you have a letter attesting to that fact, since you have been stopped on several previous occasions.

Nevertheless, you are handcuffed and arrested and taken to the county jail.  Once there, you are subjected to an invasive strip and visual body-cavity search.  You're told to wash with disgusting soap, and them turn around, lift your genitals, squat, etc.  

Then, after six days in the county lockup, you are transferred to a Newark correctional facility, where you are subjected to another more intrusive search before being placed in the general prison population.  Fortunately, you are freed the next day, when a magistrate confirms what you have been saying all along — that you had already paid the damn fine.

So now your ordeal is over, and you are understandably pissed.  You sue the state for the invasive and embarassing strip searches.  Think you'll get justice?

The 5-4 divided court found two county prisons "struck a reasonable balance between inmate privacy and the needs of the (correctional) institution."

The conservative majority concluded a "reasonable suspicion" standard could be applied when conducting examinations of newly admitted prisoners.

That's refering to today's decision out of the United States Supreme Court.  The majority was the usual suspects — Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas — with Kennedy swinging (as he is prone to do) to the right to complete the majority.

I swear, if these five stay on the court longer, this country is going to go back to the stone age.

Who Has Got The Heavy Burden?

In the most recent New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin takes Supreme Court Justice Kennedy to task:

It’s well known by now that Donald Verrilli, Jr., the Solicitor General, had an off day at the Supreme Court last Tuesday, when he was called on to defend the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the part of the Affordable Care Act which requires people to buy health insurance. Still, it’s worth noting the magnitude of the challenge that he was facing. The key issue in the case is whether Congress, in passing the law, exceeded its powers under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which allows the government to regulate interstate commerce. Consider, then, this question, posed to Verrilli by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: “Assume for the moment that this”—the mandate—“is unprecedented, this is a step beyond what our cases have allowed, the affirmative duty to act to go into commerce. If that is so, do you not have a heavy burden of justification?” Every premise of that question was a misperception. The involvement of the federal government in the health-care market is not unprecedented; it dates back nearly fifty years, to the passage of Medicare and Medicaid. The forty million uninsured Americans whose chances for coverage are riding on the outcome of the case are already entered “into commerce,” because others are likely to pay their health-care costs.

Kennedy’s last point, about the “heavy burden” on the government to defend the law, was correct—in 1935. That was when the Supreme Court, in deciding Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States—a case involving the regulation of the sale of sick chickens—struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act, a principal domestic priority of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on the ground that it violated the Commerce Clause. Two years later, however, the Court executed its famous “switch in time that saved the Nine” and began upholding the reforms of the New Deal. The Justices came to recognize that national economic problems require national solutions, and they deferred to Congress, usually unanimously, to provide those solutions, under the Commerce Clause.

***

In other words, Justice Kennedy had it backward. The “heavy burden” is not on the defenders of the law but on its challengers. Acts of Congress, like the health-care law, are presumed to be constitutional, and it is—or should be—a grave and unusual step for unelected, unaccountable, life-tenured judges to overrule the work of the democratically elected branches of government.

I'm glad Toobin brings this up.  I, too, was stunned by what seemed to be a complete lack of congressional deference, something this conservative court has touted as being crucial to democracy.  The courts should overrule the work of Congress only on the rarest occasions, this Supreme Court often says.  But where was the deference in the arguments last week?

Indeed, much of the questioning from the conservative judges delved into matters of political policy, not matters of law.  Most notably, there was this exchange between Verrilli and Justice Scalia, in whichVerrilli was explaining to Justice Scalia that the individual responsibility provision (aka "the mandate") is justified given the fact that the uninsured can show up in emergency rooms and get care regardless of ability (or willingness) to pay, shifting the cost to other participants of the market in the form of higher insurance premiums.

GENERAL VERRILLI: No. It's because you're going — in the health care market, you're going into the market without the ability to pay for what you get, getting the health care service anyway as a result of the social norms that allow — that — to which we've obligated ourselves so that people get health care.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, don't obligate yourself to that. Why — you know?

GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, I can't imagine that that — that the Commerce Clause would –would forbid Congress from taking into account this deeply embedded social norm.

JUSTICE SCALIA: You — you could do it.

Emphasis mine.

This is chilling for two reasons.  First of all, you have a Supreme Court justice opining on the unwritten national policy that we have as Americans — specifically, when sick people show up in the emergency room, we treat them regardless of their ability to pay.  He's giving his opinion on that policy… which is not the role of a judge.

Secondly, his opinion is outright barbaric.  He says, "Why?"  Apparently, to Scalia (who was parroting tea party talking points throughout the whole hearings), "freedom" means freedom from the obligation to treat those who show up at hospitals without health insurance, even if it means letting them bleed out on the curb.

Supreme Court justices should not be acting this way.  If Scalia wants to set national policy, he should run for office. 

Another Day, Another Abomination Against Women

Now, from Georgia:

After an emotional 14-hour workday that included fist-fights between lobbyists and a walk-out by women Democrats, the Georgia House passed a Senate-approved bill Thursday night that criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks.

The bill, which does not contain rape or incest exemptions, is expected to receive a signature from Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

Commonly referred to as the “fetal pain bill” by Georgian Republicans and as the “women as livestock bill” by everyone else, HB 954 garnered national attention this month when state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) compared pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm. According to Rep. England and his warped thought process, if farmers have to “deliver calves, dead or alive,” then a woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive, should have to carry it to term.

The bill as first proposed outlawed all abortions after 20 weeks under all circumstances. After negotiations with the Senate, the House passed a revised HB 954 that makes an exemption for “medically futile” pregnancies or those in which the woman’s life or health is threatened.

If this makes its seem like Rep. England and the rest of the representatives looked beyond their cows and pigs and recognized women as capable, full-thinking human beings, think again: HB 954 excludes a woman’s “emotional or mental condition,” which means women suffering from mental illness would be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. It also ignores pregnant women who are suicidal and driven to inflict harm on themselves because of their unwanted pregnancy.

In order for a pregnancy to be considered “medically futile,” the fetus must be diagnosed with an irreversible chromosomal or congenital anomaly that is “incompatible with sustaining life after birth.” The Georgia “fetal pain” bill also stipulates that the abortion must be performed in such a way that the fetus emerges alive. If doctors perform the abortion differently, they face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison. Given all this, the so-called compromise suddenly does not look like much of a bargain.

The good thing about this bill is that it is probably unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade.