Monthly Archives: February 2013

More On Scalia And The Voting Rights Act

From TPM:

In expressing his deep skepticism Wednesday for the constitutionality of a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Antonin Scalia questioned the motivations of Congress for repeatedly reauthorizing it since it was initially passed in 1965.

I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act,” Scalia said during oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder. “They are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act. Even the name of it is wonderful — the Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?

At issue was the constitutionality of Section 5 of the 1965 law, which requires state and local governments with a history of racial discrimination to pre-clear any changes to their voting laws with the Justice Department prior to enacting them.

Congress has renewed the law four times, most recently in 2006 for a period of 25 years. The margin of victory was 99-0 in the Senate and 390-33 in the House.

Scalia attributed the repeated renewal of Section 5 to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” He said, “Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”

***

Scalia signaled that he fears Section 5 will be repeatedly reauthorized into perpetuity, regardless of whether it’s justified, unless the courts step in.

“This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress,” he said.

So…,. Justice Scalia thinks it is bad for Senators to vote against the Voting Rights Act; they'll look bad.  And apparently, he's coming to the rescue.

I'm absolutely appalled by this.  He's a judge; not a political commentator.  His job is to follow the law, not speculate about why a Senator may or may not vote for it.  This IS the kind of question you leave to Congress, and for whatever reason, they have voted overwhelmingly to renew the Voting Rights Act.  Political pressure?  So be it.  Judges are not supposed to usurp the political process.

Can you imagine of judges started ignoring the law, or overturning laws, simply on the rationale that "senators don't really want to vote for this law — they just felt compelled to satisfy their constituents"?  Yes!  It's the people that are supposed to be at the heart of democracy.  Not judges.

Maybe this is a better way to put it:

Compare and contrast.

1. Justice Scalia today regarding the voting rights act: "This is not the kind of question you can leave to Congress."

2. The United States Constitution, Amendment XV: "SECTION 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. SECTION 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation." (My emphasis.)

 

Palin Still Self-Unaware

From her recent Facebook post:

Put a fork in us. We’re finished. We’re going to default eventually and that’s why the feds are stockpiling bullets in case of civil unrest.

Same post – the very next sentence:

If we ARE serious about putting our fiscal house in order, then let’s stop the hysterics…

*Facepalm*

Quote Of The Day

During U.S. Supreme Court oral argument on the constitutionality of a key section of the Voting Rights Act this morning, several justices expressed extreme hostility to the civil rights statute, according to early reports from the courthouse. Justice Antonin Scalia called it “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” 

That's right.  Why should black people be entitled to vote, and why perpatuate it?

(Moron)

Apparently, there were audible gasps from the gallery.

UNC Handling Rape Issues Badly

The University of North Carolina is allowing revenge against one of their students, a rape survivor, who reported on their failed administrative policies on sexual assault. After the initial report, she discussed her experience with The Daily Tarheel:

“It’s incredibly clear that those people had no idea what sexual assault is, what consent is,” said Landen Gambill, a sophomore whose assault case was processed by interim procedures.

“They were not only offensive and inappropriate, but they were so victim-blaming. “They made it seem like my assault was completely my fault.”

As a freshman, Gambill was continually abused — sexually and verbally — by her long-term boyfriend.

When the relationship ended, she said she was met with months of stalking, threats and harassment.

Those actions lead her to press charges with the Honor Court. In her trial, Gambill said she was forced to answer irrelevant and inappropriate questions.

“The woman student said to me, ‘Landen, as a woman, I know that if that had happened to me, I would’ve broken up with him the first time it happened. Will you explain to me why you didn’t?’” she said.

Gambill said the court used her history of clinical depression and her suicide attempt — which she said was a result of her abusive relationship — against her.

“They implied that I was emotionally unstable and couldn’t be telling the truth because I had attempted suicide,” she said.

Gambill said the court’s ignorance reflected a complete lack of training.

Last month, Landen Gambill joined with two other students, a former student and a former assistant dean of students to lodge the federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The complaint accuses the university of violating the rights of sexual assault victims and of creating a hostile climate that denies victims the right to an education.

But now, Gambill is being brought up on charges of honor code violations herself, specifically:

II.C.1.c. – Disruptive or intimidating behavior that willfully abuses, disparages, or otherwise interferes with another … so as to adversely affect their academic pursuits, opportunities for University employment, participation in University-sponsored extracurricular activities, or opportunities to benefit from other aspects of University Life.

It should be noted that UNC is not bringing her up on honor code violations in retaliation for her gripes about the UNC process (a lot of liberal blogs, sadly, have this wrong).  Honor code violations are brought by students, not by UNC faculty or administration.  In Gambill's case, the complaint against her was brought by… you guessed it… her ex-boyfriend.  You see, once she decided to go public in criticizing UNC's policies, he claims he has been the subject of disparagement (ironically, she has never mentioned his name).

One thing is for sure: UNC has a problem on their hands.

Never Thought I’d Read Something Like This

Here it is:

A new effort by a large group of influential Republican luminaries to champion same sex marriage represents a breakthrough for the party and the cause.

At least 75 current and former Republican officials and intellectuals have signed on to a draft legal brief calling on the Supreme Court to overturn California’s Proposition 8 and similar laws prohibiting gay marriage, according to the New York Times.

The signatories to the brief include noted Republicans such as Reps. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen (FL) and Richard Hanna (NY), senior George W. Bush administration officials Carlos Gutierrez and James Comey, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Reagan White House budget director David Stockman and former California gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman, among others. The Times reports that the amicus brief will be filed with the Court this week.

It is rather astounding how quickly same-sex marriage went from wedge issue to almost universal acceptance.

Twenty Years Ago Today: The Warning Bell Nobody Heard

February 26, 1993

I was a third-year law student at NYU in 1993.  As any third-year law student will tell you, a 3L's focus in the second semester is not so much on completing law school and passing law school exams, but preparing for the impending bar exam. 

Throughout law school, I clerked part-time at the law firm of Slotnick & Baker, a small "boutique" law firm specializing in high-profile criminal defense cases.  The firm consisted of 4 lawyers, me, a paralegal, and a secretary.  I had worked there since 1987 (I started as a paralegal).

A few weeks earlier, I had informed the senior partner Barry Slotnick that it was my intention to cut back on my time with the firm during my second semester, so I could focus on BarBri bar exam preparation courses.  So I was there only once or twice a week.

I was not supposed to work on February 26, 1993.  But I made an unscheduled visit to the law office, mostly to tie up some loose ends.

Wtc18_1[1]Slotnick & Baker at that time was located at 225 Broadway, just diagonal from the World Trade Center towers.  Pictured here is 225 Broadway on 9/11/01 (it's the tall building on the right side of the photo — one of the Twin Towers behind it is collapsing).

Every day when I was employed there, I took the subway to work.  I typically would get off at the WTC stop, and come up to the street through the underground concourse mall two stories below the entire WTC complex.

I only planned to be at the firm for only a few hours on February 26.  I had just finished a class that morning, and I had another one sometime in the early afternoon.  I was just going in to get a few things, grab some lunch, and go back to school.

Nadia was glad to see me.  She was the paralegal there, having replaced me a few years earlier when I moved up to "law clerk".  A few days earlier, she had been given an actual office with an actual window.  She no longer had to work in the law library, sitting at a long desk.  "Come see my office," she said.  "I've decorated it."

I was happy to oblige.  Her office, in fact, was my old office (or one of them, I should say).  It was full of girly Nadia-things, as I expected.  We did our usual amount of chit-chat and flirting.  I looked out her window from the 22nd floor, which faces south. 

"Nice view," I said sarcastically. 

"At least I have a view now", Nadia smiled.

We chatted a few minutes more about various things.  Office gossip.  Nadia's second job as a tour guide for Big Apple NYC Bus Tours.  More flirting.

Suddenly, the building shook.  The window, which I was leaning against, rattled.  And a large bang.

"Bangs" are not uncommon in New York.  Usually, it's a sanitation vehicle slamming down one of those large green industrial trash bins.  But this is something different.

"Whoa", I said. 

Nadia giggled (because that's what she does).

We speculated as to what it might be, but seeing nothing from her window, we quickly forgot about it.  And ten minutes later, I was saying "so long" and venturing out of the office to get lunch somewhere in the WTC concourse, and eventually return to NYU up in the Village.

As soon as I stepped outside 225 Broadway, I heard the sirens.  I turned the corner and headed toward the WTC and that's when I saw the flashing lights.  I connected it to the blast I heard ten to fifteen minutes ago.  My initial reaction was one of annoyance: will this prevent me from getting lunch in the WTC concourse?

Then I wondered if there might have been a subway accident — a collision of trains perhaps — which might explain the bang we heard.

I hovered for several minutes, inching my way closer to what appeared to be the center of attention at the foot of the towers.  Others on the street were craning their necks upward, and so — like a lemming — I did, too.

I was almost at the base of the towers, on the plaza (which was surprisingly devoid of people), when I saw them: two women coming out one of the doors on the east side of the North Tower.  They were holding each other and looking very fatigued.  One of them was covered in soot and coughing.

The explosion, as we know now, was a bomb set off in one of the underground parking garages by an al Qaeda terrorist bent on causing one of the towers to collapse.  He grossly underestimated the strength of the building.  However, smoke from the explosion had poured up through the tower's interior, and cut off power inside.  Just as they would eight years later, workers were evacuating the building — sometimes through smoke — by stairwell.

I went to the women and asked if they were okay.  One of them — the sooty one — asked for water.  I said I didn't have any, but I said I would take them to where I had seen emergency vehicles minutes before.  And the three of us walked.  They asked me what had happened.  I said I didn't know, even though I suspected it had something to do with that "bang" I heard half an hour ago.

As we walked around the base of the building toward the west side.  A fireman saw us approaching and helped the stricken woman to a paramedic vehicle, her friend in tow.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another fireman looking up, and I looked up as well.  There was a plume of smoke coming from one of the high floors in the tower.

Just then, I head a scuffle and looked over to see a man in a gray business suit collapse to the ground.  I assumed he was another worker in the office, although (from the glimpse of him I caught) he didn't appear to be covered in soot.  Several firemen and policemen quickly went to his aid.

Apart from me, there were a few other civilians in the immediate area.  I heard a policeman instructing them to move back several blocks.  He was concerned about falling glass from the upper floors plummeting down to the streets below.  Not needing a hint, I left the scene and made my way to the subway, looking back over my shoulder to watch the events.  On my way, I ran into a few other people looking for medical attention, and I directed them to the emergency workers.

I arrived at the subway entrance, where a policeman said that they were closing the subway.  This meant that I would have to walk several city blocks uptown to get to the next station. 

I doubted that the subways were running, so walking to another station didn't make much sense.  With nothing else to do, I stayed around for a while (behind police barricades) watching what I could.

About 20 minutes later, I happened to see an empty cab, which I hailed. I took it to NYU, just in time for class.  The cabbie said he heard it was a bomb on the upper floor (he was wrong, it was in the underground garage).

Six people died that day, and over one thousand were injured, in the first largely forgotten al Qaeda attack on American soil.

Raping Women Twice

It was just over one year ago when I wrote about how the Virginia legislature were attempting to pass a bill requiring women who want to have an abortion to submit to a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound — an unnecessary medical procedure involving the insertion of a medical probe into a woman's vagina.  The hope was that having such an intrusive procedure (which, I repeat, is not medically necessary for an abortion) would discourage women in Virginia from going through with the abortion.

What happened with that?

Well, the uproar that it caused made the Virginia legislature and its governor (Bob McDonnell – R) rethink the bill.  When all was said and done, they passed a law which required women seeking to undergo an abortion to have a non-invasive or external ultrasound conducted (still not medically necessary, but at least it's not state-sanctioned rape).

But the war against women isn't over.  Now we shift to Indiana, and its proposed law to have women seeking abortion to have not just one transvaginal (internal) ultrasound, but two:

The Indiana state Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound procedure both before and after having a medication-induced abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The Senate Health and Provider Services Committee approved Senate Bill 371 on Wednesday by a vote of 7 to 5, sending it to a full vote in the state Senate. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Travis Holdman (R), imposes heavy regulations on clinics and physicians that offer medication abortions, which are generally used to end a pregnancy up to 10 weeks from a woman's last period. It would require women to be presented with the sound and image of the fetal heartbeat before the abortion and to return for a follow-up ultrasound to ensure that she is no longer pregnant and has stopped bleeding.

Dr. Anne Davis, the consulting medical director for Physicians for Reproductive Health, said the requirement would place an undue burden on women seeking to end their pregnancies. "She can do a blood test at any local facility after an abortion to show that the hormone levels are going down as they should, there's no medical reason to make her drive back to the abortion clinic and go through another ultrasound," she said. "This is yet another onerous, medically unnecessary barrier."

Lovely.

Guns Needed To Protect Us From Sharia Law

Tea Party Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) told a conservative radio show on Thursday that the GOP must oppose gun regulations to protect the country from the threat of “Sharia Law.”

Appearing on The Voice of Freedom, Gohmert said he “hoped and prayed” that Congress rejects gun safety legislation, arguing that Americans may need to use the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to avoid succumbing to Muslims:

[The Second Amendment] is for our protection and the founders’ quotes make that very very clear and including against a government that would run amuck.We’ve got some people who think Sharia Law should be the law of the land, forget the Constitution. But the guns are there… to make sure all of the rest of the Amendments are followed.

I have one question for Gomer, uh, Gohmert: Who are these "some people" who think Sharia Law should be the law of the land?

Moron.

Less Than One-in-Four Americans Is A Republican

The GOP is broken:

President Obama starts his second term with a clear upper hand over GOP leaders on issues from guns to immigration that are likely to dominate the year, a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll finds. On the legislation rated most urgent — cutting the budget deficit — even a majority of Republican voters endorse Obama's approach of seeking tax hikes as well as spending cuts.

The survey underscores the quandary for the GOP as it debates the party's message in the wake of disappointing losses last November for the White House and in the Senate.

Now just 22% of Americans, nearly a record low, consider themselves Republicans.

I know what you're thinking…. it's because Tea Partiers consider themselves independent.  That's true, but the same survey found that Independents are also more likely to approve of congressional Democrats than Republicans, by a net 14 points.

In other words, independents are moving left, away from Republicans, despite the Tea Partiers.

Lab In New Mexico Creates “Zombie” Cells That Function Better After They Die

What could possibly go wrong?

“Zombie” mammalian cells that may function better after they die have been created by researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico (UNM).

The simple technique coats a cell with a silica solution to form a near-perfect replica of its structure. The process may simplify a wide variety of commercial fabrication processes from the nano- to macroscale. It’s also allowing scientists to preserve cells down to the minor grooves of its DNA.

***

Summing up, lead researcher Bryan Kaehr, a Sandia materials scientist, offers what may be the first distinction in scientific literature between a mummy cell and a zombie cell. “King Tut was mummified,” he said, “to approximately resemble his living self, but the process took place without mineralization [a process of fossilization]. Our zombie cells bridge chemistry and biology to create forms that not only near-perfectly resemble their past selves, but can do future work.”

 

2013 Oscar Predictions

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook"
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in "Lincoln"
  • Hugh Jackman in "Les Misérables"
  • Joaquin Phoenix in "The Master"
  • Denzel Washington in "Flight"

WILL WIN:  Daniel Day-Lewis – This is easily predictable.

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Alan Arkin in "Argo"
  • Robert De Niro in "Silver Linings Playbook"
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Master"
  • Tommy Lee Jones in "Lincoln"
  • Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained"

WILL WIN: Christoph Waltz in "Django Unchained" – This, for me, is a VERY tough category; I can see it going to anybody except Tommy Lee Jones.  I think DeNiro and Arkin's roles were too small (certainly compared to Waltz), so I think he has a slight edge over those two.  And as between Waltz and Hoffman — well, it's a flip of the coin.

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty"
  • Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook"
  • Emmanuelle Riva in "Amour"
  • Quvenzhané Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
  • Naomi Watts in "The Impossible"

WILL WIN: Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook"

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Amy Adams in "The Master"
  • Sally Field in "Lincoln"
  • Anne Hathaway in "Les Misérables"
  • Helen Hunt in "The Sessions"
  • Jacki Weaver in "Silver Linings Playbook"

WILL WIN and SHOULD WIN: Anne Hathaway in "Les Misérables" – there's some late pull for Sally Field, but I don't buy into it.  Hathaway's performance was the most talked-about of the year, and rightly so.

Animated Feature Film

  • "Brave" Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman
  • "Frankenweenie" Tim Burton
  • "ParaNorman" Sam Fell and Chris Butler
  • "The Pirates! Band of Misfits" Peter Lord
  • "Wreck-It Ralph" Rich Moore

WILL WIN"Wreck-It Ralph" Rich Moore – "Frankenweenie" probably is more exciting visually, but Ralph had a better story and theme.

Cinematography

  • "Anna Karenina" Seamus McGarvey
  • "Django Unchained" Robert Richardson
  • "Life of Pi" Claudio Miranda
  • "Lincoln" Janusz Kaminski
  • "Skyfall" Roger Deakins

WILL WIN: "Life of Pi" Claudio Miranda – "Lincoln" was a great movie to look at, and each scene evoked a mood, so it has a strong chance of winning this award.  But for my money, "Life of Pi" was breathtaking in every scene, and I think the Academy will be smart enough to recognize it.

Costume Design

  • "Anna Karenina" Jacqueline Durran
  • "Les Misérables" Paco Delgado
  • "Lincoln" Joanna Johnston
  • "Mirror Mirror" Eiko Ishioka
  • "Snow White and the Huntsman" Colleen Atwood

WILL WIN: "Anna Karenina" Jacqueline Durran – Les Mis blew it with that odd at that Russell Crowe wore.  Lincoln's costumes were, I'm sure, painstakingly accurate, but I think you have to give it to Anna.

Directing

  • "Amour" Michael Haneke
  • "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Benh Zeitlin
  • "Life of Pi" Ang Lee
  • "Lincoln" Steven Spielberg
  • "Silver Linings Playbook" David O. Russell

WILL WIN: "Lincoln" Steven Spielberg

SHOULD WIN: "Life of Pi" Ang Lee or "Argo" Ben Affleck (who wasn't even nominated)

Documentary Feature

  • "5 Broken Cameras" 
    Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
  • "The Gatekeepers" 
    Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky and Estelle Fialon
  • "How to Survive a Plague" 
    David France and Howard Gertler
  • "The Invisible War" 
    Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering
  • "Searching for Sugar Man" 
    Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn

WILL WIN: "Searching for Sugar Man" Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn

Documentary Short Subject

  • "Inocente" 
    Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
  • "Kings Point" 
    Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
  • "Mondays at Racine" 
    Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
  • "Open Heart" 
    Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
  • "Redemption" 
    Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill

WILL WIN: "Open Heart" Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern – I didn't see these films, but I read the synopses, and while they all shine a light on a cause or tragedy or both, I went with the one taking place in Africa.  Because, Africa.

Film Editing

  • "Argo" William Goldenberg
  • "Life of Pi" Tim Squyres
  • "Lincoln" Michael Kahn
  • "Silver Linings Playbook" Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
  • "Zero Dark Thirty" Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Will win:  "Argo" William Goldenberg

Foreign Language Film

  • "Amour" Austria
  • "Kon-Tiki" Norway
  • "No" Chile
  • "A Royal Affair" Denmark
  • "War Witch" Canada

WILL WIN: "Amour" Austria

Makeup and Hairstyling

  • "Hitchcock"
    Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
    Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
  • "Les Misérables" 
    Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

WILL WIN: "Les Misérables" Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnel

Music (Original Score)

  • "Anna Karenina" Dario Marianelli
  • "Argo" Alexandre Desplat
  • "Life of Pi" Mychael Danna
  • "Lincoln" John Williams
  • "Skyfall" Thomas Newman

WILL WIN: "Life of Pi" Mychael DannaI always find John Williams' score overbearing and manipulative.  He'll probably win, but I just can't accept it, so I'm going with "Life of Pi",

Music (Original Song)

  • "Before My Time" from "Chasing Ice"
    Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
  • "Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from "Ted"
    Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
  • "Pi's Lullaby" from "Life of Pi"
    Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
  • "Skyfall" from "Skyfall"
    Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
  • "Suddenly" from "Les Misérables"
    Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

WILL WIN: "Skyfall" from "Skyfall" Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth – Sorry Les Mis.  The added song just wasn't good.

Best Picture

  • "Amour" Margaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka and Michael Katz, Producers
  • "Argo" Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck and George Clooney, Producers
  • "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and Michael Gottwald, Producers
  • "Django Unchained" Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin and Pilar Savone, Producers
  • "Les Misérables" Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh, Producers
  • "Life of Pi" Gil Netter, Ang Lee and David Womark, Producers
  • "Lincoln" Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers
  • "Silver Linings Playbook" Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
  • "Zero Dark ThirtyMark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison, Producers

WILL WIN: "Argo" – It's odd for me this year — I've seen seven of the nine nominees (I didn't see Amour or Beasts of the Southern Wild).  Of the seven I saw, I would put Argo, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, and Silver Linings Playbook on a higher tier than Les Mis, Lincoln, or Django Unchained.  Between those four, I would have a hard time picking my favorite — they each have their own way of "staying with you".  I'm giving my vote to "Argo" because it is doing well this award season, but I wouldn't be surprised or disappointed if the others in my "top 4" won.

Production Design

  • "Anna Karenina"
    Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
    Production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
  • "Les Misérables" 
    Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
  • "Life of Pi" 
    Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
  • "Lincoln" 
    Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson 

WILL WIN: "Les Misérables" Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson – A slight edge over Anna, but only slight.

Short Film (Animated)

  • "Adam and Dog" Minkyu Lee
  • "Fresh Guacamole" PES
  • "Head over Heels" Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly
  • "Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare"" David Silverman
  • "Paperman" John Kahrs

WILL WIN: "Paperman" John KahrsI saw all of these (in one screening), and the two best were probably "Adam and Dog" and "Paperman".  "Paperman" was better in my view — the animation technique was unusual and quite beautiful, but not distracting.

Short Film (Live Action)

  • "Asad" Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
  • "Buzkashi Boys" Sam French and Ariel Nasr
  • "Curfew" Shawn Christensen
  • "Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)" Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
  • "Henry" Yan England

WILL WIN: "Asad" Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura

SHOULD WIN: "Curfew" Shawn Christensen

"Curfew" is an odd movie dealing with suicide and alienation, but full of humor and heart.  That's a tough bill to fill, but it was done nicely.  Good as it was, I think the Academy will give the award to "Asad", a very good film made about Somalia pirates and children, and played skillfully by non-actor Somalian refugees themselves.

Sound Editing

  • "Argo" Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
  • "Django Unchained" Wylie Stateman
  • "Life of Pi" Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
  • "Skyfall" Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
  • "Zero Dark Thirty" Paul N.J. Ottosson

Will win: "Life of Pi" Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

Sound Mixing

  • "Argo"
    John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
  • "Les Misérables" 
    Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
  • "Life of Pi"
    Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
  • "Lincoln" 
    Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
  • "Skyfall" 
    Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

WILL WIN: "Les Misérables"  Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

Visual Effects

  • "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" 
    Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
  • "Life of Pi" 
    Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
  • "Marvel's The Avengers" 
    Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
  • "Prometheus" 
    Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
  • "Snow White and the Huntsman"
    Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

Will win and should win: "Life of Pi" Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • "Argo" Screenplay by Chris Terrio
  • "Beasts of the Southern Wild" Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
  • "Life of Pi" Screenplay by David Magee
  • "Lincoln" Screenplay by Tony Kushner
  • "Silver Linings Playbook" Screenplay by David O. Russell

WILL WIN: "Lincoln" Screenplay by Tony Kushner – but don't be too surprised if "Argo" pulls an upset.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • "Amour" Written by Michael Haneke
  • "Django Unchained" Written by Quentin Tarantino
  • "Flight" Written by John Gatins
  • "Moonrise Kingdom" Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
  • "Zero Dark Thirty" Written by Mark Boal

WILL WIN: "Django Unchained" Written by Quentin Tarantino – This is a tough one as I have only seen two of the nominees, but I think it will be Quentin's snappy dialogue which wins the day.

“ObamaQuester”?

There's the sequester coming up, and here's what should be of concern to everyone: the severe nature of the cuts, and what can be done to avoid it.

But it looks like the Republicans have opted to play politics instead, and their concern is assigning blame.  They've decided to call it the "Obamaquester".

Finger-pointing is easier than governing, I guess, for Republicans.

Of course, it's untrue that Obama was the origin of the sequester.

In 2011, for the first time in American history, the entirety of the congressional Republican caucus held the debt ceiling hostage. GOP leaders presented the White House with a non-negotiable ransom note: give Republicans over $2 trillion in debt reduction or GOP lawmakers would crash the economy on purpose.

Left with no choice, Obama agreed to negotiate, and accepted over $1 trillion in spending cuts, in exchange for literally no revenue at all. Republicans said this was insufficient, and demanded more than $1 trillion in additional savings — and if the president refused, they'd crash the economy on purpose.

Ultimately, policymakers agreed they needed more time to negotiate additional debt-reduction measures, so they created a mechanism: a "super-committee" that would work on a bipartisan deal. That, of course, failed, when the panel's GOP members refused to compromise.

But policymakers, assuming the super-committee would probably not work out, had a back-up plan widely referred to as "the sequester." The idea was to force both sides to the negotiating table — a sword of Damocles hanging over Washington's head that would be so severe, Democrats and Republicans would have a strong incentive to strike a deal to avoid the drastic consequences.

Both sides put some skin in the game: Democrats would be forced to swallow over $500 billion in deep domestic cuts, while Republicans would be forced to swallow over $500 billion in deep cuts to military spending during a war. (Originally, the White House asked that Republicans face a threat of automatic tax increases, but Republicans refused — even hypothetical tax increases were deemed outrageous — so they settled on deep Defense cuts instead.)

 Indeed, at the time, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) bragged about Republicans getting the sequester into the Budget Control Act.

Republicans now want Americans to believe this was all Obama's fault. Let's consider the evidence:

1. Republicans created the debt-ceiling crisis.

2. Republicans wrote the ransom note and named their price.

3. Republicans endorsed, accepted, and voted for this plan, saying they'd accept the consequences.

and

4. Republicans now refuse to compromise (again) to deal with the mess they created.

So we're supposed to believe this is Obama's fault? That's only true if you ignore literally every detail and pretend reality has no meaning.

As for why GOP leaders are repeating falsehoods and spinning desperately, Greg Sargent's explanation rings true:

Republicans may simply be putting on a game face about the politics of the sequester because they may view it as a necessity at this point. As you may recall, a top GOP aide told Politico recently that a government shutdown fight might be necessary for Republican lawmakers to get the need for an apocalyptic confrontation with Obama “out of their system,” i.e., for “member management purposes.” But The Hill reports that Republican aides have revised this strategy; they have decided the sequester is a better target than the government shutdown to stage this confrontation.

And so the sequester is apparently necessary for rank and file lawmakers to get the need to stick it to Obama “out of their system.” Republicans have defined victory as agreeing to no new revenues whatsoever, so it’s unclear whether there’s any other way out of this for them. Surely some of them view the sequester as a good thing, and surely some genuinely believe the politics of this fight favors the GOP. We’ll see how this plays out, but it seems highly unlikely that they’ll be able to escape damage here.

Yup.

UPDATE: The Daily Beast actually has put up John Boehner's Powerpoint presentation from June 2011, showing clearly that the sequestration idea came from him.

A Peak Inside The Right Wing Press

Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense have been held up because of, among other things, rumors that he once gave a speech to a controversial group called "Friends of Hamas".

It seems that there is no such group called "Friends of Hamas", but that didn't stop Breitbart.com from pimping the story as if it was true.

Here is a fascinating account of how a made-up hypothetical falls into the hands of faux "journalists" with a right-wing agenda (and no penchant for telling the truth):

Here’s what happened: When rumors swirled that Hagel received speaking fees from controversial organizations, I attempted to check them out.

On Feb. 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did Hagel’s Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed?

Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”?

The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.

Or so I thought.

The aide promised to get back to me. I followed up with an e-mail, as a reminder: “Did he get $25K speaking fee from Friends of Hamas?” I asked.

The source never responded, and I moved on.

I couldn’t have imagined what would happen next. On Feb. 7, the conservative web site Breitbart.com screamed this headline:

“SECRET HAGEL DONOR?: WHITE HOUSE SPOX DUCKS QUESTION ON ‘FRIENDS OF HAMAS’”

The story read: “On Thursday, Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed one of the reasons that President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has not turned over requested documents on his sources of foreign funding is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called ‘Friends of Hamas.’”

The author, Ben Shapiro, wrote that a White House spokesman hung up on him when he called for comment. That went in the story — to buttress the assertion that the White House didn’t deny the claim.

Shapiro tweeted the link to his nearly 40,000 Twitter followers. Blogs like RedState.com and the National Review’s The Corner linked to it. In Israel, Mike Huckabee said “rumors of Chuck Hagel’s having received funds from Friends of Hamas,” would, if true, “disqualify him.”

Somehow, I was not aware of the firestorm until Sunday, when I glanced at my phone and saw a Slate.com story raising big doubts whether “Friends of Hamas” even exists.

On Monday, I reached my source. The person denied sharing my query with Breitbart but admitted the chance of having mentioned it to others. Since the source knew we spoke under a standard that my questions weren’t for sharing, that’s a problem.

But there was another fail-safe. Since the “Friends of Hamas” speech was imaginary, it was not like another reporter could confirm it, right?

Not quite. Reached Tuesday, Shapiro acknowledged “Friends of Hamas” might not exist. But he said his story used “very, very specific language” to avoid flatly claiming it did.

“The story as reported is correct. Whether the information I was given by the source is correct I am not sure,” he said.

I am, it seems, the creator of the Friends of Hamas myth. Doing my job, I erred in counting on confidentiality and the understanding that my example was farcical — and by assuming no one would print an unchecked rumor.

But of course, they did print the unchecked rumor, while trying to hide the fact that is was just a rumor.

Never trust content from right wing sources.

Downton Abbey, Season 3, Final Episode Thoughts

SPOILER ALERTS!!

First of all, I must acknowledge the bad plot line of the season: Mrs. O'Brien's attempt to get her nephew, Alfred, into a higher position.  As far as I can tell, her plan was half-baked to begin with — something akin to the Underpants Gnome strategy:

(1)  Get Thomas and Jimmy James in bed together, even though Jimmy James is straight

(2)  ????

(3)  Alfred moves to a higher position.

Interestingly, it almost worked out, but only by pure coincidence which Mrs. O'Brien could not have forseen.  Thomas goes to Jimmy James at night, and Alfred just happens to walk in right at the moment when Jimmy James wakes up and almost clobbers Thomas.

Whatever.  None of it worked out though because Bates blackmailed O'Brien into dropping the whole scheme with three little words "her ladyship's soap".  A nice callback to Season One.  Still, the whole thing lacked credibility (including Bates' involvement).

The Season Three final episode did, however, have a nice epilogue to that whole story line.  Taking place a year later after the previous episode, we see that Thomas is still making goo-goo eyes at Jimmy James (one would have thought that, after a year, this would have come to a head, but apparently not).  But when Thomas rescues Jimmy James from a gang of toughs, and gets severely beaten for it, we see Thomas as pathetic in an admirable way — just barely — and so does Jimmy James, who agrees to be Thomas's friend (but just a friend, dude).  We'll see how long that lasts in Season Four, but the only good thing I will say is that it is nice to see a humane side to Thomas.  We saw it earlier when Sybil died, too.  Oh, I don't like him — he has issues — but it must be tough to be gay in that era.  No "it gets better" for the those like Thomas.

Along those lines, I found it some of the dialogue a bit constrained when it comes to Thomas's "outing".  I'm not sure how people would have reacted back then to news of a homosexual in their midst.  Perhaps some would be like Carson, calling it foul, etc.  But I suspect most people would choose not to discuss it at all, rather than either defending it, or criticizing it.  I don't know.

Anyway, what else happened last night?

Well, downstairs — not much.  Bates is back, and by last night, he was back for a year.  Well settled in.  Bates and Anna are like the The Office's Jim and Pam — kind of boring once they finally get together.  Mrs. Patmore had a shot at romance (good for her!), but the propspect turned out to be a total douche. 

And we have a new maid, who set her eyes (rather unsubtlely) on Branson Tom, going so far as to enter his bedroom while he was shirtless (does anybody knock?) and kiss him.  She was booted out, of course, but she was there to point the audience to the lingering question of Branson Tom, and just who he is.  Branson Tom has come quite a long way this season.  Of course, he's been through hell, what with his wife dying and all.  But we all remember him as the politically-radical chauffeur who didn't like to dress formally for dinner.  Hell, earlier this season, he took part in the burning of someone's estate.

So what's up with you, Branson Tom?  Have you gotten to Crowley-ized to remember your roots?  Too snooty to dine with the downstairs-ers?

Well, yes and no.  There was a wonderful seen with Isobel Crowley and Branson Tom, where she compliments him on the way he has navigated his position with the family.  She urges him, however to be true to himself.  Branson Tom, to his credit, has found a nice little niche.  He is helping modernize the Downton estate, and acted as a good doplimat between Matthew and Lord Grantham.  He's not a firebrand revolutionary, but he's still making the world a better place by working within the system.  Without the abrasiveness.  Not a sellout at all.  Good on him.  And he's insistent on raising his daughter the way Sybil would have wanted.  All in all, a very nice character arc.

And Isobel Crawley had a nice moment last night cockblocking Dr. Clarkson, who was intending to propose to her (didn't see that at all — I thought he disliked her).

But on to the family.  In the season finale last night, they weren't even at Downton, for the most part (leaving Tom and the staff to frolic at a fair).  They were in the highlands, visiting the Earl of Grantham's cousin, "Shrimpy", as well as Shrimpy's loveless wife, Susan — and their high-living free-spirited troublesome daughter, Rose.

Nice scenery.  A lot of hunting and heather and hills.  Also showing up for the weekend, for some reason, was Michael Gregson, editor of The Sketch, and Edith's former employer.  He comes to Scotland claiming to be on a “sketching and fishing holiday”, but he brought his formal attire, and everyone was like, yeah, riiiiiiight.   Edith now likes him because, like Sir Anthony Strallon before him, he has no lips, and the family doesn't think he is good for her.

It was somewhat fascinating to watch this other well-to-do family and their servants.  Unlike the Granthams, this Shrimpy family is a real downer.  They all hate each other, they hate their servants, and the servants hate them.  Susan constantly looks like she just woke from a nap and/or is about to kill herself.  I remember the actress, Phoebe Nicholls, from Brideshead Revisited three decades ago,  Here she is as Cordelia Flyte, encountering he first agnostic, Charles (Jeremy Irons):

 

The BIG news, of course, is that Mary had to leave Scotland because all the bouncing around was making her unborn baby upset.  Now, you would think after what Sybil went through — dying and all that — Mary, Matthew, and the family in general would take far more precautions when it came to Mary's pregnancy.  But apparently not.  I half expected Mary to go to a country bar, ride on a mechanical bull for a few minutes, and then get off complaining, "You know, I probably shouldn't have done that."

But it all turned out well.  Mary went back down south, and had a baby.  It was a boy.  Finally Lord Grantham has an heir.  And Downton is again saved (assuming Lord Grantham doesn't invest in these Ponzi schemes he has heard so much about).

As a new dad, Matthew is beside himself.

Article-2253255-16A6E89E000005DC-516_634x451

Matthew-dan-stevens

Matthew-crawley-dead

So…. that happened.

Circle of life and all that.

Needless to say, it was kind of shocking.  I can only imagine what it was like for the people in Britain — this was the Christmas special!  Oh, happiness.

Now, apparently, the producers felt they had to kill Matthew.  They weren't able to persuade him to come back for Season Four.  And they felt that it wouldn't work if, say, Matthew went away to some foreign land and he and Mary became estranged.  After all they went through to get together, the producers didn't think the audience would ever accept them out of love.

If you want to blame somebody, blame Dan Stevens.  It turns out he announced he was leaving Downton shortly after Thanksgiving.  That's why the otherwise happy Christmas episode had his death "tacked on" at the end.  They had to write him out.

So he dies.  Fans were screaming everywhere.  Slate calls Downton "the cruelest show ever".

Interestingly, much of the final show had shades of previous shows: as one is born, another one dies.  We've seen that.  A fair.  We've seen that.  Mosley getting drunk.  We've seen that.  Edith and Mary bickering.  Yes, that again.  And Edith making goo-goo eyes and someone inaccessible.  Sigh, yes.  And one is left to wonder: with two of its more popular characters gone, can Downton Abbey make it through another season?

In a way, we're back to square one.  With Rose joining the family, Lord Grantham now has three unwed "daughters" again at Downton.  A couple of grandchildren and the estate is intact, but essentially, we're back to square one.  Kind of.  

The truth is, I'll be watching next season, because I care enough about the remaining charactors.  Branson is interesting to me.  Edith has gotten interesting to me.  Heck, maybe Julian Fellowes will jump ahead 10 years and the grandkids might be interesting.  I think the show has one more good season left.  And I'll watch.

FAVORITE LINES

–  Matthew asking Robert, before they embark on their trip to visit "Shrimpy" and his wife: "Dare one ask why he's called 'Shrimpy'?"

— Isobel and Branson discussing whether it's appropriate for Branson to still be on familiar terms with the household staff. Branson doesn't think Violet would approve. "I doubt she approves of the working class learning to read," Isobel replies.

— Mary muses why Matthew seems to be the only member of the family who thinks she's a nice person, and he answers, "Because I've seen you naked, and held you in my arms and I know the real you." Mary says, "Goodness, what a testimonial." 

— At a party in Scotland, Moseley again gets drunk (after drinking punch liberally spiked with booze by a malevolent maid) and starts dancing with wild abandon while the Crawleys look on. "They do say there's a wild man inside all of us," Robert says, tolerantly watching Moseley's gyrations. "If only he would stay inside," Violent comments.

— "Hello, my dearest little chap," Matthew says as he holds his infant son for the first time.

– Mary says, "Will I be your Mary Crawley for all eternity?"  Um, all of his eternity, I guess.

 

Distracting Headlines

Report: As many as 8 people may be involved in avalanche in Scottish Highlands - @STVNews

"Involved"?  What does that mean?

Does that mean "buried" or "trapped"?  And if so, why not say that?

Unless the headline is saying that these 8 people started the avalanche.  But if that's the case, then the headline should say that.

*Sigh(

Stay Classy, FreedomWorks!

FreedomWorks is the political action commitee supporting tea party candidates.  Right now, there's an internal investigation by its members, who seem to be displeased with some past behavior from its former president, Matt Kibbe.  David Corn of Mother Jones brings us the latest in FreedomWorks creepiness (my emphasis):

FreedomWorks staffers worried last year about a promotional video created ahead of FreePAC, a FreedomWorks conference held on July 26, 2012, where thousands of conservative grassroots activists nearly filled the American Airlines Center in Dallas to hear from tea party favorites, including Glenn Beck and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). The short film hailing FreedomWorks was intended to play on the large video screens inside the arena.

In one segment of the film, according to a former official who saw it, [FreedomWorks executive vice president Adam] Brandon is seen waking from a nap at his desk. In what appears to be a dream or a nightmare, he wanders down a hallway and spots a giant panda on its knees with its head in the lap of a seated Hillary Clinton and apparently fellating the then-secretary of state. Two female interns at FreedomWorks were recruited to play the panda and Clinton. One intern wore a Hillary Clinton mask. The other wore a giant panda suit that FreedomWorks had used at protests to denounce progressives as panderers.

According to Corn's report, FreedomWorks staffers were "outraged and stunned" when they previewed advance copies of the film. Brandon, who is still with the organization and is the right-hand man to president Matt Kibbe, defended it as being funny and in good taste, but the video was nonetheless shelved.

What Happens When You Take Away Background Checks? Not Surprisingly, More Gun Homicides

New research suggests that universal background check legislation of the sort currently being debated in Congress has had an enormous impact on gun violence in the past, according to testimony presented at Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee. Daniel Webster, the Director Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, studied the consequences of Missouri repealing its “permit-to-purchase” law in 2007. This law, which required a background check as well as a brief sheriff’s review be conducted on all gun sales, closed the private sales loophole, and its repeal meant that Missouri would allow guns to be sold privately without a background check for the first time in recent history.

Webster found evidence that the expiration of the law resulted in a sharp, roughly 25 percent spike in the homicide rate in Missouri — despite the fact that gun violence was declining nationally and reigonally:

Preliminary evidence suggests that the increase in the diversion of guns to criminals linked to the law’s repeal may have translated into increases in homicides committed with firearms. From 1999 through 2007, Missouri’s age-adjusted homicide rate was relatively stable, fluctuating around a mean of 4.66 per 100,000 population per year. In 2008, the first full year after the permit-to-purchase licensing law was repealed, the age-adjusted firearm homicide rate in Missouri increased sharply to 6.23 per 100,000 population, a 34 percent increase. For the post-repeal period of 2008-2010, the mean annual age-adjusted firearm homicide rate was 5.82, 25 percent above the pre-repeal mean. This increase was out of synch with changes during that period in age-adjusted homicide rates nationally which decreased ten percent and with changes in other states in the Midwest which declined by 5%.

Normally it’s very hard to ascribe changes in homicide rates to any one particular factor, but Webster and his co-workers found strong evidence to support the idea that the repeal of the permit-to-purchase law was the cause. They did a careful analysis of the kind of guns used by criminals in Missouri from 2007-2011, finding an extraordinary increase in the percentage of “young” (meaning recently purchased) guns used in crime entirely at odds with the broader national trend. This would suggest that, without background checks to worry about, it was easier for criminals to get new guns. The fact that this surge in criminals getting new guns coincided with a sharp increase in the gun homicide rate gives strong reason to believe that the repeal of the background check law directly led to a 25 percent increase in the homicide rate.

RT @LOLGOP: You’d be thirsty too if you just voted for more violence for women.

Breaking: LA Times Reporting Shootout With Dorner

Link:

Christopher Dorner was engaged in a shootout with federal authorities in the Big Bear area Tuesday, a law enforcement source told The Times.

The shooting occurred after Dorner burglarized a home, tied up a couple and stole their car, the source said.

It was not immediately clear whether Dorner was in custody.

*  Two deputies shot and wounded.

 NEXT DAY UPDATE:  Dorner was cornered in a cabin, which was shot at and set on fire.  His body was identified the next day.

Senate Passes VAWA

First Read:

The Senate approved legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act on Tuesday over the objections of a handful of Republicans.

Democrats were joined by several Republican senators in voting to renew the landmark gender and domestic violence law, which lapsed at the end of 2012 after lawmakers in the last Congress failed to reach agreement on a new extension.

Senators voted 78-22 to send their version of the bill to the Republican-controlled House, where it faces uncertain prospects.

Republicans have objected to elements of the reauthorization, most specifically a technical dispute over jurisdiction for Native American tribal authorities in the instances of certain crimes.

Still, proposals like the Violence Against Women Act have become a lightning rod in the realm of gender politics, especially as Democrats cast Republicans during last year’s election as leading a “war on women.” Democrats were all too eager to seize on GOP opposition to a contraception mandate, or controversial statements by Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock about rape.

Perhaps as that political pressure weighs upon Republicans, a group of 17 House GOP lawmakers wrote the party’s leadership on Tuesday urging them to take up the Senate bill passed this afternoon. If those Republicans were to join with every House Democrat in support of the bill, it would be enough to pass the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization in the House.

"Especially in communities like West Virginia where victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in rural and remote communities face unique obstacles in their efforts to escape abusive and dangerous relationships, support provided by VAWA can literally be lifesaving," said West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, a relatively moderate Republican who's running for Senate in 2014. "I am urging House leaders to immediately reauthorize this essential Act."

The Senate is, of course, the rational congressional body.  The Republican-controlled house is a nuthouse.  That was where VAWA died last year.

Violence Against Women Act Is Unfair To Men, Say Conservatives

Of all the astonishingly bad reasons conservatives oppose reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, concern for men is probably the worst. Make that definitely the worst. Via Sahil Kapur at TPM:

Claiming that the reauthorization would expand the definition of domestic violence to include “emotional distress,” Heritage [Action] declared that the “expansive and vague language will increase fraud and false allegations, for which there is no legal recourse.”

“Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights to due process, presumption of innocence, equal treatment under the law, the right to a fair trial and to confront one’s accusers, the right to bear arms, and all custody/visitation rights,” the group wrote. “It is unprecedented, unnecessary and dangerous.”

FreedomWorks also worried that the legislation would be unfair to men.

Um, no. No, wrong, incorrect, false, fail, no. There's absolutely nothing in the nearly 20-year-old legislation that deprives anyone of their constitutional rights—not even men who beat the crap out of women. But according to these conservative groups, it's unfair to men that this legislation funds, for example, violence prevention programs, or rape crisis centers. Because if communities are better equipped to reduce violence, well, that's not very fair to the perpetrators of violence, is it? And is it really fair to them that their victims might have a safe place to go after being raped or beaten? Obviously not.

Freedomworks went on to say:

Supporters of the VAWA portray women as helpless victims – this is the kind of attitude that is setting women back.

Oh, I see. The best way to support victims of violence is to tell them to drop that whole helpless victim attitude, defund programs to help them, and make sure our legal system understands that prosecuting rapists and wife-beaters just subverts the whole Constitution so don't bother.

Thanks, Freedomworks.

Optics

Many Democrats are bringing children and teachers from Newtown, as guests, to Obama's State of the Union speech tonight:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced on Friday that she will bring a fourth-grade child from Newtown who launched a petition to change gun laws after the shooting. Pelosi declined to name the child, but said she attends a school near Sandy Hook Elementary, where the mass killing took place. Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro will bring Carlos Soto, the brother of Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, who was killed in the shooting. Another lawmaker from Connecticut, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, will bring Natalie Hammond, a Sandy Hook teacher who survived after being shot in the leg and foot. Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen also invited a guest affected by gun violence, Maryland woman Carol Price, an anti-gun violence advocate whose son was killed in 1998 by a neighbor with a 9 mm Luger pistol.

The invitations were delivered as part of an effort by Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, who says he wants to "resensitize” people to the impact of gun tragedies. Langevin has been consigned to a wheelchair since he was 16, when he was accidentally shot in the neck.

The Republicans are inviting…. Ted Nugent.

"We know that the president will have the state of the union stacked and jammed with props, children, and victims of violent crime, " Nugent said. "And my friends wanted me to attend to counter that the way that I do: with facts, statistics and common sense and logic and a celebration of self-evident truths. So I will be taking on the media orgy following the State of the Union Address." 

Nugent said the media does not realize he is a "force to be reckoned with" and therefore he will "dominate them." 

***

Nugent, an outspoken critic of Obama, had to be cleared by Secret Service this spring after saying that he would be "dead or in jail" if the president was re-elected. Nugent is a guest of Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), whose spokesperson said the congressman invited Nugent “because he is a supporter of the Second Amendment and American values.”

It looks like the Party of Crazy is determined to stay that way.

This Stockman guy has only been in Congress one month, and is already making a name for himself as perhaps the most mad-fuck crazy Congressman in history.  After only a month, here is his list of wingnut craziness:

  • He was only one of a handful of House Republicans to vote against John Boehner, boldly managing a "present" vote as the most spectacularly incompetent congressional coup of all time collapsed around its supposed planners.
  • In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders, his response was to introduce legislation repealing the gun free zones around schools, and for the same reason as the similar NRA blustering—because what we needed, according to both, was to have many morepeople wandering around school zones with guns, and that would probably work out just fine.
  • He was abruptly cut off in a Fox News interview after comparing Barack Obama to Saddam Hussein, thus managing to rank as one of the few crackpot Republicans too nuts even for Fox News to stomach.
  • When Obama introduced a set of executive actions that included things like "finally appoint a permanent head of the ATF, even if that makes Republicans sad" and "government scientists should be allowed to research gun violence", Steve Stockman threatened in an exceptionally frothing statement to impeach Obama, if necessary, in order to stop such obviously scandalous things. This may have been the first, biggest sign that Steve Stockman is in fact a bona fide moron, but he quickly surpassed even that.

Good times.

Glenn Beck Will Redefine the 4th of July by Talking to the Man in the Moon

No, this is not The Onion.  This is real:

 

I like it when he says that it's not going to be "his point of view", but the moon's.

By the way, can you imagine the outcry from the conservative wingnuts if Obama had uttered the words "we would like to change the 4th of July celebration"…..??

[Aside: sorry for the light blogging; busy with work, trips, etc.]

The black and white version of #walkingdead looks cool, but by the end of each season, it will just be all-white.

RT @rainnwilson: Anyone think to check Dorner’s 4Square account?

North Carolina Appoints Fox To Protect Hens

North Carolina has a Health and Human Services Department, and within that department is the Child Development and Early Education.  The Division of Child Development and Early Education, or DCDEE, oversees the state's child-care program as well as NC Pre-K.

So you would think that the person placed in charge of DCDEE would have an interest in North Carolina pre-K education.

You would be wrong.

From Think Progress:

North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Department has entrusted the state’s Child Development and Early Education division to Dianna Lightfoot, a staunch opponent to early childhood education. Lightfoot founded the National Physicians Center, an organization primarily devoted to abstinence education. Starting Monday, Lightfoot will oversee the child-care and pre-kindergarten education programs she has denigrated for years.

In an open letter, Lightfoot’s organization attacked institutional pre-school programs, claiming they make children dependent on the government:

“In the case of early childhood education programs, available research suggests they may actually be inferior to early learning opportunities at home. In addition, it appears the demand for out of home childcare is not as prevalent as many advocates claim,” says an open letter signed by Lightfoot on the group’s website.

The letter also warns that “There is great potential for early learning institutions to foster more dependency on the government (i.e. taxpayer) and more of an entitlement mentality.”

“Will institutions focus on character building and teaching strong values? If so, whose values will children be taught?” it asks.

Lightfoot is hardly alone in her idea that pre-school breeds dependency; conservatives as prominent as former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) have called for dismantling early childhood education because it “indoctrinates” children for the government.

Lightfoot’s open letter also quotes a 1997 Glamour poll as evidence that most mothers prefer to keep their children home from pre-school. However, there is far more evidence that pre-kindergarten programs immensely benefit children throughout their lives. As a new Center for American Progress report notes, a child without early education is 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 40 percent more likely to become a teenage parent, and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.

Lightfoot also scrubbed her Twitter account on Wednesday after a progressive group published her tweet from July 2011 mocking then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “butch” and praising Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AZ) for maintaining their “femininity.” On her Facebook page, she lashed outat Chick-fil-a for following the “lead of a weak, appeasing president” and toning down its anti-gay activism.

 

Finding Nemo

Hold on, New England!

From The Weather Channel:

The heaviest snow totals by early Sunday morning are expected in New England from coastal Maine to Connecticut, as well as the Adirondacks of Upstate New York, where over one foot of snow is expected!  Some locations, particularly in coastal New England, may top two feet of storm total snow!  The following cities are in the threat for at least one foot of snow:

This has the potential to be a top 10 snowstorm all-time in Boston!  

According to the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass., in records dating to 1892, there have been only six snowstorms of 20 inches or more in Boston, topped by the Feb. 17-18, 2003 snowstorm (27.5") and the infamous "Blizzard of '78" (Feb. 6-7; 27.1").  

A snow total of 18.2" or more would place it in the top 10 list all-time.

The winters storm is called "Nemo".

Fox Says Bye To Dick

And I love Erik Wemple's editorial on it:

No more Fox News contributor Dick Morris. His contract to spout republic-damaging nonsense on Fox airwaves has expired, and the network isn’t renewing it.

Taken together with the news that Sarah Palin will no longer be contributing, the Morris development is strong evidence that Fox News has glimpsed the underside of allowing charlatans to brand its coverage. Palin was a roboto-contributor, who responded to everything with a little crack on the lamestream media and a reference President Obama’s socialist heart.

As for Morris’s misdeeds, well, everyone knows what they are. That’s because Fox News presented them so prominently in the run-up to last year’s presidential election. In his prime-time, pre-election appearances, Morris was among the few pundits who wouldn’t hedge his bets; who wouldn’t triangulate his way through the polling numbers; who wouldn’t rummage through scenario after scenario in his analysis.

No, Dick Morris was predicting a Mitt Romney landslide. Fox News fell for it, and surely millions of Americans did as well. After all, in the same breath that he was predicting landslides, he was citing his own expertise:

It’s not a question of being smarter than anybody else. It’s that I’ve done this for a living and there are very few people on television who talk about politics who’ve ever made a living doing it, and most of them are partisan and echoing a point of view, but when you get down to it, a guy like Karl Rove or Pat Caddell or me or even Joe Trippi, we make a living doing this and I’ve made a living doing it for 40 years.

Vast arrogance and loose, poorly substantiated facts: a great combination for a cable-news contributor in these modern times.

Indeed.

Steve Benen and others are sharing Dick Morris stories:

I imagine everyone has their favorite Dick Morris story. My personal favorite was in September 2011 when he made a lengthy argument built around a single observation: the economy lost 30,000 health care jobs in the month of August 2011. There was, however, a small problem: the economy actuallygained 30,000 health care jobs in August. Morris' entire indictment was based on numbers he misunderstood.

The Upcoming Near Miss

An asteroid about 2/3rds the size of a football field is heading toward Earth, arriving here on February 15.  NASA says the flyby is "the closest ever predicted Earth approach for an object this large." While it won't hit our planet this time around, there's a small chance it could collide with Earth when it circles back in 2110. Dina Spector at Business Insider points out that if an asteroid this size did hit Earth, it'd "be similar to the Tunguska asteroid, which hit Siberia in 1908."

 

It Never Ends

Tennessee Senator Jim Tracy introduced an ultrasound bill yesterday. This, in and of itself, is not particularly newsworthy since ultrasound bills have become all the rage in the last couple years. What is newsworthy is just how far Forced Birthers will go to ensure that women who choose to have an abortion are traumatized by the experience.

If women don’t want to view the ultrasound, the new Tennessee bill, SB 632, will require abortion providers to explain the results of the ultrasound in grave detail.

P.S.  And this.

Mail Call

Last call for Saturday mail, folks.

The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service says it plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays, but continue delivering packages six days a week.

In an announcement scheduled for later Wednesday, the service is expected to say the cut, beginning in August, would mean a cost saving of about $2 billion annually.

The move accentuates one of the agency’s strong points — package delivery has increased by 14 percent since 2010. The delivery of letters and other mail has declined with the increasing use of email and other Internet use.

Let’s recall why the USPS is struggling:  because Republicans in Congress forced the agency to pay their retiree health care costs decades down the road up front in 2006, then refused to give them the money to do that.  As a result, the USPS made massive workforce cuts and forced thousands into early retirement, which of course means the USPS has to pay those health care benefits up front, putting them into a death spiral.

A Nyquest success story.

The Memo

NBC got a hold of a white paper which provides the legal justification for assassination of an American not on American soil, without the constitutional protections of due process.  You can read the original here (as a PDF), or read the wiki transcription.

The nub of the white paper is this:

[t]he Department of Justice concludes only that where the following three conditions are met, a U.S. operation using lethal force in a foreign country against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force would be lawful: (1) an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States ; (2) capture is infeasible, and the Unites States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and (3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

If this sounds a lot like the Yoo memo, which the Bush administration used to support extra-constitutional torture, that's not surprising.  Both memos basically are designed to do an end run around the Constitution.

There are a number of serious problems with what this memo says.

First of all, there are no checks and balances.  The entire decision about whether the U.S. government can kill an American citizen is left to only one branch of government.  If the DOJ determines that the three criteria mentioned about are met, then it is a fait accompli.  The American is killed without due process.

Secondly, and this is probably obvious on it face, it makes an accusation into a verdict.  Normally, when the DOJ — or any government body — says that somebody is doing something illegal, those accusations are brought before a jury.  There is a trial (due process) and punishment is given if a guilty verdict is reached.  Here, the mere accusation of being a terrorist is enough to get you killed.

Most troubling to me is the requirement that an attack be "imminent".  Greenwald explains:

The memo claims that the president's assassination power applies to a senior al-Qaida member who "poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States". That is designed to convince citizens to accept this power by leading them to believe it's similar to common and familiar domestic uses of lethal force on US soil: if, for instance, an armed criminal is in the process of robbing a bank or is about to shoot hostages, then the "imminence" of the threat he poses justifies the use of lethal force against him by the police.

But this rhetorical tactic is totally misleading. The memo is authorizing assassinations against citizens in circumstances far beyond this understanding of "imminence". Indeed, the memo expressly states that it is inventing "a broader concept of imminence" than is typically used in domestic law. Specifically, the president's assassination power "does not require that the US have clear evidence that a specific attack . . . will take place in the immediate future". The US routinely assassinates its targets not when they are engaged in or plotting attacks but when they are at home, with family members, riding in a car, at work, at funerals, rescuing other drone victims, etc.

So the legal memo has an imminence requirement, but "imminent" doesn't really mean "imminent" in the way you or I might use that word.

This is all very Bushian — the kind of thing you would expect from the Bush Administration.  It is fitting indeed that the memo expressly embraces two core Bush/Cheney theories to justify this view of what "due process" requires. First, it cites the Bush DOJ's core view, as enunciated by John Yoo, that courts have no role to play in what the president does in the War on Terror because judicial review constitutes "judicial encroachment" on the "judgments by the President and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force". And then it cites the Bush DOJ's mostly successful arguments in the 2004 Hamdi case that the president has the authority even to imprison US citizens without trial provided that he accuses them of being a terrorist.

The goofy right wing thinks this means that Obama has given himself permission to kill Americans here and aborad willy-nilly.  And typical of their hysteria, they are gathering their guns and dehydrated foot and stocking the bunker in preparation for the doomsday that this memo foretells.  Obviously, that's not what worries me.  

But it is a chipping away at the Constitution, and that should always be condemened.  Even if the slippery slope is a paranoid fantasy.

Shame on Obama.

Hostage Story Enters Day 4

I've been following this, and as each day passes, I get more and more concerned that it won't end well.

The short story is this: crazy old man and doomsday prepper Jimmy Lee Dykes (age 65) boards a school bus in Alabama, shoots and kills the bus driver, and grabs a 5 year old kid.  Dykes and kid are not holed up in some underground bunker on Dykes' property.  The kid has medical issues which require medication (which, so far, he has gotten).

Here's the latest.