Blogging

Greece Caves

greece-financial-crisis-cartoonWell, so much for those Greek folks vote.  And so much for challenging the austerity measures

After a marathon of negotiations last night, Greece agreed to asked-for reforms and a pledge to strap itself in a fiscal straitjacket to save its banks and stay in the euro.  Germany was the hard-liner that did not budge an each.  The deal worked out in Brussels requires approval from several European parliaments.

The Dow opened 150 points higher on the news.  Here’s the deal:

What Greece must do

  • By Wednesday, Greece’s ruling party, Syriza, must pass a host of policy changes as a show of good faith. Those include cuts to public pensions and sales tax increases demanded by Europe to increase Greek budget surpluses.
  • Then, over the following days and weeks, it must take other steps to modernize its economy, such as introducing fresh competition to a host of industries from bakeries to drug stores, privatization of the state’s power company and changes to labor laws that would would loosen the power of labor unions and make it easier for companies to fire workers.
  • Greece must also contribute 50 billion euros of privatized assets — such as state-owned companies — to a fund that will help Greece pay off its debt. A quarter of this fund could be used as a domestic economic stimulus, which could grow the economy and generate additional raise tax revenues for debt repayment. (1 euro buys $1.11.)

What Europe will do 

  • In coming days, Europe will advance a loan of 10 billion euros to help Greece make a 3.5 billion euro payment due to the International Monetary Fund on July 20 and keep its banking system alive. Germany will vote on the agreement as soon as Friday.
  • This is not part of the formal agreement, but it’s widely assumed that the European Central Bank, which has been funding Greek banks with emergency loans, will continue that help in light of the deal.
  • After Greece passes initial reforms, Greece will receive up to 77 billion more euros over three years. About a third of that will be used to strengthen its banking system, which has been shut down for two weeks amid rapidly declining deposits.
  • Europe will also commit to review Greece’s total debt burden, potentially giving the country more time to pay it back. But Greece will not get the reduction in face value of the debt that it has asked for.

In other words, Greece is going to try to grow its economy by firing workers and modernizing companies so that workers won’t be needed.  And with heightened unemployment and a strain on social services (if any), Greece’s tax base will…. uh…. grow?  No.  This is stupid.

Of course, the euro is stupid.  When you have 20 or so countries, each with different economic needs, sharing a single monetary policy but not a unified fiscal policy, this is bound to happen.  At any given time, money gets to be either be too tight or too loose for some EU members, and there wouldn’t be anything — like unemployment insurance — to balance it out. The euro, in other words, is a paper monument to peace and prosperity that has made the latter impossible for some countries.

None more so than Greece.

For us here in the U.S., assuming the Greek crisis is over, we can now turn our attention to China which, as I recently noted, is in some serious shit.

Blogging Update

(1)  Light blogging lately, if you haven’t noticed.  Death in the family.

(2)  Loyal reader SH informs me that comments are not “taking” when “Post Comments” is clicked.  He’s right.  Whaddup?  Dunno.  Looking into it…..

UPDATE:  Okay…. trying something new.  Seems to work okay.

(3)  And I’ve missed a lot…. Nimoy’s death, Netanyahou, Hillary’s emails….

Goodbye To The Dish

The term “weblog” was coined in December 1997.  The short form, “blog,” was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May 1999.  Back then, blogs were a very small and largely unknown part of the Internet.

Political blogs starting appearing in 2001, and went mainstream after 9/11 (although the majority of people in the United States wouldn’t know what a “blog” was for another few years).

But one of the earliest political blogs was Andrew Sullivan’s AndrewSullivan.com — eventually entitled “The Daily Dish” and now, simply, “The Dish” — launched in October 2000. It gained readership during 2001, especially in the wake of the September 11 attacks.  His standalone blog eventually became part of The Atlantic Monthly for a while, and then Time.  Sullivan himself was lofted to television pundit (on Bill Maher’s show, for example).

And on one day in 2007, he pointed to something I wrote on THIS blog (regarding Pat Tillman) sending over 4,000 people to this blog in a matter of hours  This is what his post looked like:

Tilllman and the Right « The Dish

That was it, but the spike in traffic was scary AND funny.

Less than an hour ago, Andrew “Sully” Sullivan announced that he will be giving up blogging after a nearly 15-year run.

“There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen,” Sullivan wrote in a post entitled, “A Note To My Readers.”

I wasn’t a huge fan; he was an apologist for Bush and the war, and a bit of a misogynist.  Progressive on gay rights issue, but he was, you know, gay — so it was kind of self-serving.  Still, this is the end of an era I suppose.

None Of The World Leaders At The Paris Demonstration Were At The Paris Demonstration

As American media goes into all-out concern troll mode because President Obama didn’t join other world leaders at the demonstration in Paris, it should be pointed out that those world leaders weren’t actually at the demonstration either.

They were in a separate isolated area, under heavy security. This was a staged photo op, made to look like they joined the marchers spontaneously.

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New Blog To Be Witness To The End of the World

It’s been a month since I last wrote anything for the web. I am shutting down my previous blog, The Seventh Sense, and trying something new, here, reformatted and up-to-date with the latest blogging technology.

The Ashford Zone picks up where The Seventh Sense  left off, albeit a month later (and, If I can figure it out, with all of The Seventh Sense archives intact).  In that short month’s time, it appears that the end of the world is upon us.  The new insane Muslim enemy — ISIS — makes al Quaeda look like a day school for charming children.  And Ebola has come to the United States.  One dead in Dallas.  The CDC assured us that would be it… until a nurse who was treating the Dallas patient fell ill with the virus.

On the positive side, same-sex marriage very quickly and surprisingly came to the state of North Carolina, where I live.  And suddenly, almost unnoticed, the great civil rights issue of my lifetime came and went.  Extremely odd.

And the Red Sox, after taking the World Series last year, finished dead last in their division this year.  Extremely disappointing.

It’s been that kind of a blogging hiatus.

And that’s where I find myself as I venture forward.  Looking at the end.  Maybe.

Come join me!  It’ll be fun!!

Denial of Service Attacks

Typepad and therefore this blog has been under attack for the past several days…. for ransom:

UPDATE: SAY Media has responded that they, too, received a “ransom” note which didn’t specify an amount. The company ignored the note and focused instead on mitigating the attack. They are also cooperating with the FBI on this investigation. “We’ve made excellent progress this morning, but still have some customers impacted and we’ll keep you posted when there’s more news to share,” a spokesperson said.

I say they need to catch the culprits and fry them.

Election Day 2014

It's an off-year, so most people aren't focussed on it, although they really should be.  Local elections effect your life just as much as national ones.  And they act as a bellweather for national trends.  Here are some important local races with national implications:

Governors

New Jersey – There is little doubt that Republican governor Chris Christie is going to win re-election tomorrow against Democrat Barbara Buono. The big question is how large the victory will be. Christie is clearly thinking about a Presidential run in 2016 and he would need to make electability a big selling point with GOP base. He doesn’t just want to win, he wants to rack up an incredible victory. Poll shows he likely will. The latest Quinnipiac has him leading 66% to 33%.

Virginia – While the race has tightened slightly in the final days Democrat Terry McAuliffe is still the clear favorite over Republican Ken Cuccinelli. The final polls all show McAuliffe with a lead in the single digits. It will be interesting to see if the Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis can hold on to his support or if it goes to another candidate at the last minute. He has been polling around 8 percent.

State Ballot Measures

Washington State Initiative 522: GMO Labeling – It would require the labeling of genetically modified ingredients in food. Fear this could spark a national trend the big agribusiness companies, like Monsanto, are spending an unprecedented amount to stop it. The ‘no on I-522′ campaign is now the most expensive ballot initiative campaign in the state’s history. The measure started with strong poll numbers but the expensive “no” campaign has successfully erode support.

New Jersey Public Question 2: Minimum wage – It would increase the minimum wage to $8.25 and annually increase it with inflation. The ballot measure has pit unions and antipoverty groups against big business.

Colorado Amendment 66: Income Tax – This would raise income taxes by around $950 million to pay for more eduction spending while applying several changes to the state’s education system. The pro-campaign has spent big on this effort.

Colorado Proposition AA: Marijuana Tax – Now that marijuana is legal in Colorado this measure would apply a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax. Most of the money raised would be used to fund school construction and maintenance. Having both these measure on the same ballot should provide a fascinating point of comparison. We will see how many voters are willing to support a “sin tax” for education than an income tax increase.

Local Ballot Measures

Portland, Maine Question 1: Marijuana Legalization – Voters will decide on a local measure that would legalized up to 2.5 ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and over. The practical impact will probably be modest since marijuana would still technically be illegal under state law, but the political impact could be significant. There are already a substantial statewide efforts pushing for Maine to legalize marijuana in the next few years. An overwhelming vote in Maine’s biggest city for marijuana legalization would be a powerful sign that the state is ready for reform.

Too Discouraged To Blog

There's this…

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which is totally true.    The headlines this week, buried in the back of your favorite newsite, said:

Income Disparity Between Richest 1% And Rest Of US Biggest Since ’20s

WASHINGTON (AP) — The gulf between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America is the widest it’s been since the Roaring ’20s.

The very wealthiest Americans earned more than 19 percent of the country’s household income last year — their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock market crash. And the top 10 percent captured a record 48.2 percent of total earnings last year.

U.S. income inequality has been growing for almost three decades. And it grew again last year, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service figures dating to 1913 by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics and Oxford University.

One of them, Berkeley’s Emmanuel Saez, said the incomes of the richest Americans surged last year in part because they cashed in stock holdings to avoid higher capital gains taxes that took effect in January.

In 2012, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared with a 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent.

And although a Democrat is president and GOP popularity is at its lowest, it makes no difference, since a minority of Republicans can gum up the works so badly that nothing gets done (including Wall Street reform).

Meanwhile, while progressives care about many issues, those on the right tend to be one-issue voters who act with a passion.  That explains how this could happen:

WASHINGTON — The first recall election in Colorado's history on Tuesday marked a stunning victory for the National Rifle Association and gun rights activists, with the ouster of two Democrats — Senate President John Morse (Colorado Springs) and state Sen. Angela Giron (Pueblo). The two lawmakers were the target of separate recall fights over their support for stricter gun laws earlier this year.

"The highest rank in a democracy is citizen, not senate president," Morse said in his concession speech, as his supporters solemnly watched, some shedding tears.

What originally began as local political fallout over the Democratic-controlled legislature's comprehensive gun control package quickly escalated into a national referendum on gun policy. Morse and Giron both voted in favor of the legislation,signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in March, which requires background checks for all firearm purchases and bans ammunition magazines over 15 rounds.

Gun rights activists initially sought to recall four Democrats they perceived as vulnerable, but only collected the required signatures to challenge Morse and Giron.

That's right.  Some lawmakers backed a bill for stricter gun laws, and for that, they lost in a recall.  Take note — they didn't lose in the normal course of the election cycle.  They were recalled.

And this happened in Colorado… fourteen months after the shooting in Aurora which killed 12 and left 70 injured.

It's frustrating.

The 2016 GOP Debates

How awesome would this be?

The Republican National Committee, already threatening to block CNN and NBC from hosting 2016 primary debates if they air planned features on Hillary Clinton, is also looking to scrap the old model of having reporters and news personalities ask the questions at candidate forums.

Miffed that their candidates were singled out for personal questions or CNN John King's "This or That," when he asked candidates quirky questions like "Elvis or Johnny Cash," GOP insiders tell Secrets that they are considering other choices, even a heavyweight panel of radio bigs Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.

They told Secrets that they are eager to bring in questioners who understand Republican policies and beliefs and who have the ability to get candidates to differentiate their positions on core conservative values.

The move comes as several conservatives are pressuring the party to have Limbaugh, Hannity and Levin ask the debate questions. "It makes a lot of sense. We'd get a huge viewership, they'd make a lot of news and maybe have some fun too," said one of the advocates of the radio trio hosting debates.

Can you imagine a GOP presidential debate moderated ("moderated" – heh, that's an unintentionally funny word in this context) by Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh?

Huge viewership?  You bet.  But I can't think of a better way for the GOP to alienate moderate Republicans and independents.  Can you?

“The Newsroom”: S2E4 Review

The title of the latest episode of The Newsroom is "Unintended Consequences", and the show is chock full of them.  While this show hit many of the story lines (and even linked a couple of them together), this was Maggie's show.  

As with all the episodes this season so far, the events are framed around a person being interviewed at a conference table by an ACN lawyer, Rebecca Holliday, in the wrongful termination suit of Jerry Dantana.  This time, Maggie, with short cropped red hair, is telling her story of what happened "one year ago".

Maggie and Gary Cooper were sent to pursue a story about the U.S. combat troops searching for warlord Joseph Kony. During that time, they shoot video of U.S. soldiers helping out at an orphanage. During their stay at the orphanage, Maggie spends some time with a painfully shy 6 year old African orphan boy, Daniel, and gets him to warm up to her.  She reads the same book seven times to Daniel, while he plays with her hair (he had never seen blonde hair before).

One night, after hearing gunshots, the reporters woke up to find that there were armed men outside.  These men, it is assumed, are cattle rustlers who have mistaken the orphanage for a cattle ranch.  And it seems to be that way, but what the cattle rustlers really have come for is the TV camera that Gary Cooper has been using to shoot video.

As shots are fired, the kids in the orphanage are loaded onto a bus.  Maggie tries to find Daniel, whi was hiding under a bed. She helps get Daniel on the school bus to evacuate, has him on her back, but his spine catches one of the raiders' bullets that would have otherwise hit her.  He dies instantly.  

We learn that Maggie and Gary were flown home from Africa, and Maggie was scarred by the traumatic incident.  Maggie figures it this way: had it not been for the fact that they were shooting video, there would have been no cattle rustlers looking for a video camera.  And Daniel would be alive.

Once back in New York, she recalls being prescribed a psychotropic drug by a psychiatrist she was seeing.  Overtaken by guilt, she later cuts her hair and dyes it red, in part because Daniel had been drawn to her blonde hair.

ACN's lawyer asks Maggie to explain what happened because she is a key part to the Genoa story — which viewers already know turned out badly but don't know why.  Specifically, she is asked if a retired general said “it happened” in reference to a interview regarding whether US soldiers used banned sarin gas in Afghanistan (the Project Genoa incident). She denies the person said those two words.

Kudos to Alison Pill for this episode.  We get to see her character "one year ago" and her character "today" and it is a remarkable contrast.  In Season One, Maggie was disturbed and flighty in a way which Aaron Sorkin thought was probably humorous.  This year, she is disturbed in a dramatic and serious way, and (unlike last year) you are a little concerned.  If Sorkin intended to revamp her character and allow her to have more gravitas, he (and Pill) pulled off the transition nicely.

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There was an indication that Jim will be speaking with ACN's lawyer in an upcoming episode, and one of the things he saked about is Maggie's state of mind, post-Africa.  This must be awkward — having Jim talk to lawyer's about Maggie's state of mind.

But Maggie aside, there was more to this week's episode.  We got to see Will interview Shelly, Neal’s contact from Occupy Wall Street.  In typical Will McAvoy style, he eviscerated both her and the OWS movement.  For example, he asked what their demands are.  Shelly rattles off 6 or 7 things.  And then Will interjects: "So, basically, you're not for any one thing specifically."

Shelly is humiliated.  But in a very unlikely plot twist of almost unbelieveable timing, it turns out that Shelly knows a guy with evidence of chemical warfare used against civilians in Afghanistan.  Yes, a lead in the Project Genoa story!  But will she arrange a meeting between Neal and her contact??  No, especially not after Neal had set her up for that humiliating interview with McAvoy.

What follows are several scenes of smugness versus smugness.  To get Shelly to allow Neal to meet with "her guy", Will has to apologize for the way he beat her up on the air.  He refuses.  So Sloane, who doesn't even know about the Project Genoa story, but knows that Shelly's contact is important, meets Shelly and attempts to apologize.  But Shelly's indignance meets with Sloane's smugness, and Shelly become more entrenched.

Another meeting is arranged with Don and Shelly, and it goes just as badly.

Will eventually shows up at the college where Shelly teaches.  She has calmed down, and agrees to allow Neal to talk to her contact.  Even though he doesn't have to, Will apologizes anyway.  "I was showing off and being smug", he admits.  

Shelly says, "The mission of Occupy Wall Street is to point out problems in our economic and political system.  Why can't you point at what we're pointing at, instead of pointing at us?"  Will agrees that OWS isn't the story, and he should focus on the bigger issues.  Then he asks Shelly if he can audit the rest of the class she is teaching; she smiles and says yes.

Meanwhile, Jim is on the road in New Hampshire, but has been kicked off the Romney bus with rival reporter Hallie Shay.  This doesn't work out well for either of them — they no longer have any access to Romney news, and theirs are the only news outlets that have nothing to report on Romney.  Mackenzie is getting annoyed with Jim about this. 

Jim still manages to be a thorn in the side of the Romney campaign though.  He makes progress on Romney’s press lead, driving her so crazy that she tells Jim, "for the record", to "fuck off". This on the record remark lets Jim barter for half-hour interview with Romney.  But rather than take it, he passes the interview onto Hallie, his fellow press protestor. Mackenzie learns (from Romney's pess lead) that Jim has done this, and pulls him off the campaign.

On the eve of having to leave the Romney campaign because he gave up an interview, Jim and Hallie talk in an honest moment by the hotel pool in Concord, NH.   And then, out of the blue, Jim gets the kiss he’s been longing for.  We've come a long way from the Don-Jim-Maggie triad.

Strangest moment of the show: Charlie Skinner intentionally running into the glass walls and smooshing himself there like a bug.  For laughs.

Today in the Supreme Court

Early reports are that the Supreme Court is again concerned about standing in the DOMA case.  Roberts in particular noted that it was unusual for the executive branch to choose not to defend a law passed by Congress.

So again, SCOTUS seems wary about even deciding the case.

UPDATE:

I Say Robert Wagner Clocked Her With An Oar

… but I can't prove it.

Anyway, they've exhumed Natalie Wood and amended her death certificate:

NatalieWood_244x183Questions about bruises on the body of actress Natalie Wood, whose body was found floating off Catalina Island in 1981, led the Los Angeles County coroner's office to change the cause of death from "accidental drowning" to "drowning and other undetermined factors."

"With the presence of fresh bruises in the upper extremities in the right forearm/left wrist area and a small scratch in the anterior neck, this examiner is unable to exclude non-accidental mechanism causing these injuries," wrote Dr. Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran, the chief medical examiner.

"The location of the bruises, the multiplicity of the bruises, lack of head trauma, or facial bruising support bruising having occurred prior to entry in the water. Since there are unanswered questions and limited additional evidence available for evaluation, it is opined by this medical examiner that the manner of death should be left as undetermined."

 

Seriously, Folks. This Is Looking Bad.

“MODELS SHOW PRESSURE WELL BEYOND WHAT HAS EVER BEEN OBSERVED NEAR THE NJ/NY COAST (EVEN EXCEEDING THE 1938 LONG ISLAND EXPRESS [HURRICANE])”

writes NOAA’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC).

Connecticut meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan noted there has only been one tropical storm with the pressure below 960 mb in the last 60 years in the Northeast.

Bob Henson of the University Center for Atmospheric Research adds:

While a couple of hurricane landfalls in Florida have produced pressures in this range, most cities in the Northeast have never reached such values, as is evident in this state-by-state roundup. The region’s lowest pressure on record occurred with the 1938 hurricane at Bellport, Long Island (946 hPa).

You might ask yourself, aren’t hurricanes supposed to weaken as they head north? Why are these pressures so low? Or as the Weather Channel’s Bryan Norcross put it: “What the hell is going on?”

Norcross’ answer: “This is a beyond-strange situation. It’s unprecedented and bizarre… The strong evidence we have that a significant, maybe historic, storm is going to hit the east coast is that EVERY reliable computer forecast model now says it's going to happen.”

What does he mean?  Well, it has a lot to do with upper atmosphere pressure, etc., but the simple explanation is this: the clash of the cold blast from the continental U.S. and the massive surge of warm, moist air from Hurricane Sandy will cause the storm to explode and the pressure to crash.

WJLA meteorologist Ryan Miller notes 66,549,869 people live in the National Hurricane Center’s track zone for Sandy. A large percentage of these people will likely contend with tropical storm force winds – 40-60 mph, if not somewhat greater.

Let's conclude with this note posted in the blog by AccuWeather senior Vice President Mike Smith:

A very prominent and respected National Weather Service meteorologist wrote on Facebook last night,

I’ve never seen anything like this and I’m at a loss for expletives to describe what this storm could do.

Lovely.

The Morning After

Fun Fact: Winners of first Presidential debates include "Presidents" Mondale, Dukakis, Perot and Kerry.

Still, I'm not comforted.

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It's amusing to watch the media narrative congeal.  Last night, it was clear that Romney won; this morning, Romney gave the greatest debate in the modern history of the Republican party.  Maybe that's true, but I certainly didn't feel that way last night.  He was the walk-away winner, that's all.

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Obama and his team made the calculated decision not to hit Romney on Bain or the "47% talk" because a) it wouldn’t look presidential and b) it’s already penetrated deep into the political consciousness of the electorate.  Maybe so. But does it ever hurt to repeat the attacks that have been proven to work against your opponent?

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Something nobody is talking about this morning, which I didn't understand: Romney said he wouldn't lower taxes on anybody if it would contribute to the deficit.  Won't lowering taxes automatically contribute to the deficit, especially if you intend to increase spending for the military?

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Mitt Romney likes coal. Mitt Romney likes Big Bird. He will give money to help coal. He will take money away from Big Bird. Mitt Romney's affection is meaningless.

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Check out page 9 of CNN's "snap poll" of the debate, in which 35% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Romney while only 18% said the faceoff made them more likely to vote to re-elect the president.  ALL of the respondents — 100% — were white Southern men over the age of 50.

Well done, CNN.

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CNN's fact-checking was pretty bad last night, too. This was CNN's John Berman's quick factcheck on the dispute over whether Mitt Romney had anyway to pay for his $5 trillion tax cut for high income earners …

Now let's look at the facts here. Mitt Romney does propose across-the-board, 20 percent tax cuts. The nonpartisanTax Policy Center said under that plan, taxes on the wealthiest Americans would be reduced by $5 trillion initially. Romney said he would offset that by closing loopholes and reducing reductions. So if you take him at his word, our verdict that Mitt Romney would cut taxes on the wealthy by $5 trillion, the verdict here is false.

If you take him at his word?  That's how you fact-check?

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There was a lot of bad in what Romney said last night.  For example, his position on pre-existing conditions is terrible.  Top Romney advisor says people with pre-existing conditions will need their states to enact versions of RomneyCare after Obamacare is repealed at the federal level.  Well… what if your state doesn't?

Obama didn't jump on this last night, but hopefully, low-information voters will hear some of that in the days to come.

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By the way, Romney moved to the center last night.  Obama didn't notice that either, but it's going to be interesting to see where Romney places himself in the upcoming weeks.  He can't etch-a-sketch much more.

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On Intrade, the President began the debate with a 71 percent chance of winning the election. Immediately following the debate, his chances had fallen to just over 67 percent.  Over the course of the day, his odds declined by more than 8 percent.

Romney's odds of winning shot up to 32.3 percent. That means that for the day, Romney's odds of winning rose more than 24 percent.

67% chance of winning the election for Obama is still damn good.

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According to Mitt Romney, his children are lying sons of a bitch.

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Mitt Romney Adopts New ‘Ronnie Ferocious’ Persona For Debates

Wearing a sleeveless cutoff suit jacket, tight leather pants, and a blue tie knotted around his head of spiky, red-white-and-blue-streaked hair, Romney swaggered on stage, took his position beside Obama, and ordered debate moderator Jim Lehrer to “fucking do this already.”

“You know what? I’ll ask the first question,” the former Massachusetts governor said before putting out his cigarette on his forearm and flicking the butt at Lehrer. “What kind of little shit show do we have here this evening, folks? That’s my question. Because from where I’m standing, seems like a big ol’ shit show. And Lehrer, shut your fat mouth when Ronnie Ferocious is talking, or I’ll pound your goddamn face in.”

“As for you, Mr. President, you can wipe that smug grin off your face or I can do it for you,” he added before sticking out his diamond-pierced tongue and wagging it at everyone in the auditorium. “I don’t need any of that ‘Forward’ shit from you tonight.”

Read the whole Onion piece….

Romney Hits Back With Old Obama Video Talking About “Redistribution”

Apparently, the Romney campaign has an audio clip stuffed in a drawer for such an eventuality as this.

The audio clip first surfaced Tuesday, as Democrats were seizing upon their own video of Romney speaking at a private fund-raiser in Florida. That event was held in May.

The clip of Obama was recorded in 1998 at Loyola University, according to Romney's campaign and fellow Republicans who are aggressively promoting it. It features the future president discussing what he calls a "propaganda campaign" against government funded entities, and suggesting better ways to make government more effective.

"There has been a systematic – I don't think it's too strong to call it a propaganda campaign – against the possibility of government action and its efficacy," he is heard saying in the audio clip. "And I think some of it has been deserved."

Later in the recording, Obama says he wants to "resuscitate this notion that we're all in this thing together, leave nobody behind, we do have to be innovative in thinking how – what are the delivery systems that are actually effective and meet people where they live."

He continues: "I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution – because I actually believe in some redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."

It's those final words – "I actually believe in some redistribution" – that Republicans have latched onto, characterizing them as an endorsement of redistributing wealth, rather than making sure government agencies were well supported. Many conservatives argue redistributing wealth is akin to socialism.

The clip, which appeared Tuesday afternoon on the conservative Drudge Report website, was subsequently tweeted by Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

When Romney appeared on Fox News later in the day, he made the "redistribution" video a central part of his first answer.

"The president's view is one of larger government," Romney said. "There's a tape that came out today where the president's saying he likes redistribution. I disagree. I think a society based upon a government centered nation where government plays a larger and larger role, redistributes money, that's the wrong course for America, that will not build a stronger America, or help people out of poverty."

This, of course, is gobledygook, and a gross exaggeration of what the president was saying (14 years ago).  Of course Obama likes redistribution "to a certain extent".  Redistribution  comes in many forms: Social Security, Medicare, veteren's benefits, grants to students.  It also comes in the form of relief to the victims of Katrina, for example.  If Romney wants to end all that, then he needs to say so, but he won't because he's in favor of it, too.

Sillier still is the idea that America will re-assess Obama because of what he said 14 years ago.  Obama has been president for the past 4 years.  If he were a redistributor in a way that offends Americans, we would know by now.

The Romney Speech

I think the most damning thing you can say about the Romney acceptance speech last night was that the Obama team chose to excerpt him heavily, along with his stiffness and non-specificness, in an ad this morning.  I mean, look at Romney thoughout this ad, especially the last 10 seconds:

 

Quote Of The Day

Well, Aaron Walker got SWATed last night, which provides him an opportunity to act like a First Amendment martyr.  It also allowed him to play his favorite game: "I am famous, look at me".

AWDANG
Dang, indeed.  It also got him some Twitter followers, which for Aaron is validation of self-worth that he apparently didn't get as a child:

AW2
Still, the SWATing was a disappointment in that it didn't go far enough for Aaron:

AW3

Hey— you can't win 'em all.

And then Aaron described the incident on his blog, which included this gem, today's quote of the day:

One of the officers tonight asked me why I keep talking about Brett Kimberlin if it brings on this kind of trouble.  It’s because Freedom of Expression is something I don’t just believe in, but I defend.  And this threat to Freedom of Expression needs to be defeated.  It is that simple.

You have to love the way Aaron capitalized the words "freedom" and "expression".  Clearly this makes Aaron a Very Important Person. 

I assume most people are wondering whether Aaron struck a superhero pose when he answered the officer's innocent question.  Perhaps a breeze struck up, and his cape (a towel from Bed, Bath & Beyond) was able to flap flap flap in the wind.

I don't wonder about that.  Instead, I wonder about the police officer who asked the question.  He probably walked away from the conversation, turned to his buddy and said, "We need to keep an eye on this one."  And they had a chuckle over it.

Still, it's odd how Aaron thinks he is defending Freedom of Expression ™.  By doing what, exactly?  Trying to get Kimberlin prosecuted for… what, huh?

No, it doesn't make sense, but Aaron fancies himself as the Martin Luther King of the First Amendment, because, well, it sounds good.  What he and his (literally dozens!) of rabid followers haven't figured out is that the First Amendment is fine.  Aaron himself created a website which deliberately pokes fun at a religion.  And when Aaron created that site, did any government entity try to shut it down?  Why, no.  If that site can survive without any federal, state or local government curtailment, then the First Amendment really is alive and well.

Even when the First Amendment errs, as it does from time to time, it is quickly and easily remedied (as Aaron learned recently when a local judge barred him from blogging about Brett Kimberlin).  The system works.

So let's dispel the myth that Aaron Walker is a protector of the First Amendment.  That's what he tells himself, but that's vanity and ego, nothing more.  No, Aaron Walker, who writes 32,000 word blogs, doesn't have a problem with his expressive freedoms (except that he perhaps overuses them).  What he really wants to protect is right to be a dick without any consequences whatsoever.  

Now, I grant you, the First Amendment does protect dickish speech.  That's why Aaron can write the things he writes (it's also why the Westboro Baptist Church can be dicks, too).  But Aaron doesn't realize that the people he "goes after" — well, some of them are dicks, too, and they have the right to retalliate by any legal means necessary.  And indeed, they do (SWATting being the notable exception, but we don't know who is behind that).

Is any one surprised by the outcome of Aaron's dickishness?  Aaron seems to be.

Aaron Walker is the Eric Cartmen of right wing bloggers.  He'll come after you, but the second there is any repercussion, he folds and whines.  He'll hide behind the veil of anonymity, or employ "the Spartacus" defense ("hey, everybody's being a dick… why single out me?), or make himself out to be a martyr who needs your money because he got fired from his job because his dickishness pissed off another dick who, in turn, notofied Aaron's employer of Aaron's dickishness.

Aaron is no doubt a rising star among the Fighting Keyboard Kommandos, who bow at the altar of the now-dead uber-dick Andrew Breitbart.  What he fails to realize is that 99% of the population don't know who he is and who Brett Kimberlin is, and what's more… 99% never will know or care.  Aaron needs to get a life, grow a pair, and take care of his family.  He needs to stop living in a comic book world of his own dickish mind.  I doubt he will.  And that is the real tragedy.

Quote Of The Day

A blogger tries to sum up the controversy between Brett Kimberlin and Aaron Walker:

So he [Kimberlin] runs into another dick [Walker] (who is more of the garden-variety sort, has lots of friends among the 101st Keyboard Kommandos because of a stint over at Patterico’s and is a lawyer), and like two subcritical masses of plutonium banging together, it results in a thermonuclear dumb-out. 

That about sums it up.  I find the controversy interesting for the First Amendment issues, but beyond that, the whole Kimberlin/Walker controversy is like a bad soap opera featuring watered-down and slight-more-admirable versions of Ted Kaczynski vs Fred Phelps, pointing fingers at each other and trying to desparately to see who can reach the lowest road possible.

Quote Of The Day

I love Tbogg:

For those who haven’t been following it (and why should you?) a group of B & C-list bloggers (a “bother of bloggers“) got together to wage bloggy jihad on Kimberlin and, in the process, have elevated him in the spookhouse of their minds into Professor Moriarty/Emmanuel Goldstein/ the ‘beast’ in Lord of the Flies/Lord Voldemort/the 12th Cylon or maybe just the dirty socialist who lives under their beds and is going to shove universal healthcare down their throats while they sleep. In short, he is an evil genius who  lives in an underwater lair and torments his victims with … restraining orders.

The real point, and there is one, of this ordeal is the linking together an assortment of disparate events and blaming them on Kimberlin based upon flimsy conjecture and then, by employing  strenuous 6-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon-like association, extending that blame for everything bad that happens (the garbage disposal quit working?… curse you, Brett Kimberlin! empty milk carton in the fridge?… KIMBERLIN!) on the left.

Busy, Busy….

Show rehearsals, CLE seminars… it's all too much.

I missed blogging about the Super Bowl.  I missed the Trump endorsement.  I missed all the follow-up to the Komen scandal (that  Handel resigned, as well as she should).  And I missed the Prop 8 upholding, although there isn't much to say about that (it's the SCOTUS that matters, baby).

But I'm back…. sort of.

Want Some Good Blog Reading?

Jon Swift was a blogger from a few years ago who may have been one of the best bloggers ever.  His satiric writing is legendary, like that of his namesake.  Unfortunately, Jon Swift (aka Al Weisel) died suddenly in February 2010.

One of Swift's pet projects was a year-end Blogger Round Up.  Al/Jon asked bloggers far and wide, famous and in- and not at all, to submit a link to their favorite post of the past twelve months and then he sorted, compiled, blurbed, hyperlinked and posted them on his popular blog.  His round-ups presented readers with a huge banquet table of links to work many of has had missed the first time around and brought those bloggers traffic and, more important, new readers they wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed.

That tradition lives on.  Vagabond Scholar has picked up the Swift Roundup mantle.  If you want some really good blog reading from this past year, go there.  Some posts take only a minute to read; others longer.  These are the best posts of the year, as chosen by bloggers themselves. They are ALL good, and they are voices that you would otherwise be unlikely to hear.

Back At Blogging

With Christmas Day in the rear view mirror, and life returning to normalcy, I hope to be back to blogging shortly (and hopefully with renewed energy and accuracy).

Harsh But True <> “Ad Hominem”

In a brilliant piece yesterday, Paul Krugman gives voice to a phenomenon that I, too have noticed lately, to wit, that rightwing commentators, pundits and bloggers (Patterico's Pontifications, I'm looking at you!) can't tell the difference between a valid, albiet brutializing, policy argument, and an "ad hominem" argument where you just call someone a name.  Paul, you have the floor:

Greg Sargent takes us to Paul Ryan’s latest speech, in which Ryan expresses outrage over what President Obama is saying:

 

Just last week, the President told a crowd in North Carolina that Republicans are in favor of, quote, “dirtier air, dirtier water, and less people with health insurance.” Can you think of a pettier way to describe sincere disagreements between the two parties on regulation and health care?

 

Just for the record: why is this petty? Why is it anything but a literal description of GOP proposals to weaken environmental regulation and repeal the Affordable Care Act?

 

I mean, to the extent that the GOP has a coherent case on environmental regulation, it is that the economic payoff from weaker regulation would more than compensate for the dirtier air and water. Is anyone really claiming that less regulation won’t mean more pollution?

 

And Republicans have not proposed anything that would make up for the loss of the measures in the ACA that would lead to more people being insured. Let me also point out that whatever else you think of it, Romneycare — which is essentially the same as the ACA — clearly has sharply reduced the number of uninsured people in Massachusetts.

 

So Ryan is outraged,outraged, that Obama is offering a wholly accurate description of his party’s platform.

 

Let me add that this illustrates a point that many commenters here don’t seem to get: criticism of policy proposals is not the same thing as ad hominem attacks. If I say that Paul Ryan’s mother was a hamster and his father smelt of elderberries, that’s ad hominem. If I say that his plan would hurt millions of people and that he’s not being honest about the numbers, that’s harsh, but not ad hominem.

 

And you really have to be somewhat awed when people who routinely accuse Obama of being a socialist get all weepy over him saying that eliminating protections against pollution would lead to more pollution.

Emphasis mine.  Touche, Paul.

The Rumors Of My Death….

… are greatly exaggerated.

Shows, bronchitis and life have taken a bit of a toll.

What did I miss?  Steve Jobs death.  Sad.  Occupy Wall Street.  Encouraging.

…and probably thirteen Republicans debates.  Priceless.

Regular blogging to resume…….. (wait for it)….. nnnnnnnoW!

Fixed/Updated Live Webcams

My rolling webcams section in the right column was looking sad, so I took out webcams that didn't work, and added some new ones (like Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica).

It Was Very Insensitive Of The World Trade Center To Have A Muslim Prayer Room At Ground Zero

NYT:

Sometime in 1999, a construction electrician received a new work assignment from his union. The man, Sinclair Hejazi Abdus-Salaam, was told to report to 2 World Trade Center, the southern of the twin towers.

In the union locker room on the 51st floor, Mr. Abdus-Salaam went through a construction worker’s version of due diligence. In the case of an emergency in the building, he asked his foreman and crew, where was he supposed to reassemble? The answer was the corner of Broadway and Vesey.

Over the next few days, noticing some fellow Muslims on the job, Mr. Abdus-Salaam voiced an equally essential question: “So where do you pray at?” And so he learned about the Muslim prayer room on the 17th floor of the south tower.

He went there regularly in the months to come, first doing the ablution known as wudu in a washroom fitted for cleansing hands, face and feet, and then facing toward Mecca to intone the salat prayer.

On any given day, Mr. Abdus-Salaam’s companions in the prayer room might include financial analysts, carpenters, receptionists, secretaries and ironworkers. There were American natives, immigrants who had earned citizenship, visitors conducting international business — the whole Muslim spectrum of nationality and race.

Leaping down the stairs on Sept. 11, 2001, when he had been installing ceiling speakers for a reinsurance company on the 49th floor, Mr. Abdus-Salaam had a brief, panicked thought. He didn’t see any of the Muslims he recognized from the prayer room. Where were they? Had they managed to evacuate?

He staggered out to the gathering place at Broadway and Vesey. From that corner, he watched the north tower collapse, to be followed soon by the south one. Somewhere in the smoking, burning mountain of rubble lay whatever remained of the prayer room, and also of some of the Muslims who had used it.

Read the whole thing.

Muslims Everywhere

I wonder how those who oppose the wildly mis-named "Ground Zero Mosque" would feel if they knew that the second-largest owner of Fox News' parent corporation, News Corp., was this guy:

Picresizedth1281900956the587d5e0183f1a6ef9cc1e485a3a4c3f-1281901691
 

Not Getting It

Ed Whalen gives it the old college try.  I've taken out his cites.  You can (and should) read the whole thing here:

As I’ve outlined, Judge Walker somehow failed to identify the opposite-sex character of marriage as one of the core characteristics of marriage throughout American history.  In their stay motion to the Ninth Circuit, Prop 8 proponents restate some of the record evidence and other authority that they presented to Walker—and that he simply ignored and claimed didn’t exist.  The rest of this post…  is excerpted from the stay motion.  “DIX” references are to defendants’ trial exhibits.  (I’ve deleted some citations and changed the “all caps” punctuation in others.)

In the words of highly respected anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, “the family—based on a union, more or less durable, but socially approved, of two individuals of opposite sexes who establish a household and bear and raise children—appears to be a practically universal phenomenon, present in every type of society.” The View from Afar 40-41 (1985) (Trial Exhibit DIX63); see also G. Robina Quale, A History of Marriage Systems 2 (1988) (DIX79) (“Marriage, as the socially recognized linking of a specific man to a specific woman and her offspring can be found in all societies.”).

The opposite-sex character of marriage has always been understood to be a central and defining feature of this institution, as uniformly reflected in dictionaries throughout the ages. Samuel Johnson, for example, defined marriage as the “act of uniting a man and woman for life.” A Dictionary of the English Language (1755). Subsequent dictionaries have consistently defined marriage in the same way, including the first edition of Noah Webster’s, and prominent dictionaries from the time of the framing and ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.  [citations omitted]

Nor can this understanding plausibly be dismissed, as the court below did, as nothing more than an “artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage.” Rather, it reflects the undeniable biological reality that opposite-sex unions—and only such unions—can produce children. Marriage, thus, is “a social institution with a biological foundation.” Levi-Strauss, “Introduction,” in Andre Burguiere, et al. (eds.), 1 A History of the Family: Distant Worlds, Ancient Worlds 5 (1996). Indeed, an overriding purpose of marriage in every society is, and has always been, to approve and regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society. In particular, through the institution of marriage, societies have sought to increase the likelihood that children will be born and raised in stable and enduring family units by the mothers and fathers who brought them into this world.

I emphasize those final sentences because that's where he runs into problems.

Look, there's no question that society has traditionally, for centuries, viewed marriages as between a man and woman, and the opposite-sexed-ness has always been a core component of marriage.  Point conceded.

But guess what happens when gays are allowed to marry?  People will still view marriages as taking place between a man and a woman.  The only difference is that, in the back of our minds, we will also know that same-sex couples can also get married.  An opposite-sex marriage will always be a "traditional marriage".  So what's the problem?

And the argument that "the purpose of marriage in every society… is to approve and regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society"?  I'll even concede that for the purposes of argument (although in truth, society approves and honor hetero marriages without regard to whether the couples intend to procreate).

But concede as I do, guess what happens to that argument when gays are allowed to marry?  Society will still approve of marriages between men and women.  That's right, kids — even after same-sex marriage becomes legalized, opposite-sex marriage will still have a unique procreative capacity.

You see, here's the thing these conservatives don't get: The institution of marriage is not a zero-sum game.  We can recognize and honor same-sex marriages without changing even slightly the recognition and honor we give to hetero marriages and their "unique procreative capacity". Permitting gay marriage does not diminish hetero marriages, just as permitting interracial or interfaith marriages didn't diminish marriages of those of the same race or religion.

We all end up better off when we allow everyone to form stable, lifelong marriages that are honored and cherished.  

So you can make the argument that marriage among opposite-sex people is important and valued, and point to all kinds of historical data to back up that proposition.  But even that doesn't provide rationale for banning same-sex marriage.  Why is that so hard to understand?

Fortunately, people are starting to get it.

Gaymarriagegraph

I mean, even Glenn Beck is starting to get it:

O'REILLY: Do you believe — do you believe that gay marriage is a threat to the country in any way?

BECK: A threat to the country?

O'REILLY: Yeah, it going to harm the country?

BECK: No, I don't. Will the gays come and get us?

O'REILLY: OK. Is it going to harm the country in any way?

BECK: I believe — I believe what Thomas Jefferson said. If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?

O'REILLY: OK, so you don't. That's interesting. 

UPDATE:  I see Ross Douthat has made the same error.  His argument is a bit weedy, even in context, but here it is:

The interplay of fertility, reproductive impulses and gender differences in heterosexual relationships is, for want of a better word, “thick.” All straight relationships are intimately affected by this interplay in ways that gay relationships are not. (And I do mean all straight relationships. Because they’ve grown up and fallen in love as heterosexuals, the infertile straight couple will experience their inability to have children very differently than a same-sex couple does. Similarly, even two eighty-nine-year-old straights, falling in love in the nursing home, will be following relational patterns — and carrying baggage, no doubt, after eighty-nine years of heterosexual life! — laid down by the male-female reproductive difference.) This interplay’s existence is what makes it possible to generalize about the particular challenges of heterosexual relationships, and their particular promise as well. And the fact that this interplay determines how and when and whether the vast majority of new human beings come into the world is what makes it possible to argue — not necessarily convincingly, but at least plausibly! — that both state and society have a stronger interest in the mating rituals of heterosexuals than in those of gays and lesbians.

Douthat is arguing that there is, and always has been within society, a strong interplay between fertility and reproductive impulses, and that interplay exists in heterosexual relationships — even before we heterosexuals get married.  Okay, fine.  And where does he go off the rails?  At the end…. "both state and society have a stronger interest in the mating rituals of heterosexuals than in those of gays and lesbians".

And we're back to the zero-sum game.  Even if society has a stronger interest in the mating rituals of homosexuals (even barren ones, as Douthat argues), so what?  Must we pick only one thing we are interested in as a society?  If I have an interest in the New York Giants, does that mean I can't have an interest in the Boston Red Sox, particularly when they're not even playing the same game?

The Rough Draft Of The Declaration Of Independence

Scientists at the Library of Congress have been analyzing Thomas Jefferson's rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.  Today they announced a discovery: Jefferson apparently was so accustomed to monarchical rule that he used the word "subjects" — as opposed to "citizens" — when he referred to the American public.

Full story here:

Fenalla France, a research chemist at the Library, said her lab made the discovery last year by using hyperspectral imaging, using a high resolution digital camera that compiles a series of images to highlight layers of a document. Some of those invisible layers — like erased text and even fingerprints — pop into view on a computer screen.  

In switching from "subjects" to "citizens," France said it appears Jefferson used his hand to wipe the word out while the ink was still wet. A distinct brown smudge is apparent on the paper, although the word "subjects" is not legible without the help of the digital technology.

There's also good stuff at the Library of Congress website including this photo of the rough draft (click to embiggen)

Us0034tt_1_725

Happy Fourth everyone! 

Broadway Reviews

Yup.  I was in the Big Apple this weekend and took in some shows.

American Idiot:  The much-hyped Green Day musical delivered on all fronts, and even exceeded expectations in some respects.  The music, of course, comes from Green Day, and it's high voltage all the way through.  Ear-shattering?  Too loud?  Well, the music ain't A Little Night Music, but it's definitely not distorted to the point where it's just white noise.  The punk rage is delivered loudly, as it should, but every lyric is discernible.

The set and effects were incredible.  Dozens of monitors mark a four or five story graffiti splattered wall.  A car and battered shopping cart hang precariously from the rafters, as scaffolding topples over (with an actor on it) — it all gives you the sense that someone onstage could get hurt, but that is completely in line with the edginess of the show and music.  Very little about the show feels "safe".  With the possible exception of one duet where the charactors fly and dance in mid-air, I didn't find the gee-whiz set or effects to be intrusive (as I do with many Disney musicals).

As a jukebox musical (a show which features the works of a performing group), I was pleasantly surprised at how well the songs were integrated into the book.  Better, I would say, than Mamma Mia.  Granted, the book wasn't terribly complex: American Idiot tells the story of three Gen-Xers — one stays a slacker, another ventures into a world of love and drugs, and a third joins the military.  There's no deep meaning except perhaps that nihilism gives you nothing in the end, which is pretty obvious.  But even still, the charactors are interesting to follow, even as you (sometimes) might want to look away at their self-destructiveness.  This is not merely a concert put up on a Broadway stage.

But music is the king here, and the cast performances of all-out rock anthems, as well as eerie and soulful ballads, are what makes American Idiot a must-see. A

Promises, Promises:  Sean Hayes and Kristen Chenowith tackle Broadway's first revival of the Burt Bacharach/Neil Simon's adaptation of The Apartment.  Thankfully, the show was not updated.  You simply can't update those Bacharach-esque beats (they are sooo sixties); nor can you update the somewhat crude view that the show has regarding marriages (wives are to be cheated on) and women (none of whom could possibly be a corporate executive in a Promises Promises world).

But as a period piece, it still works.  Sean Hayes was incredible playing the mild-mannered junior executive.  Nebishy and uncertain, to be sure, but not at all "gay" as some critics have asserted.  He had excellent timing — some very good pratfalls — and a surprisingly strong voice.  I think he was more in line with Jack Lemmon in The Apartment — after seeing Hayes, it's hard for me to envision Jerry Orbach (a man's man) in that role in the original Broadway production.

There were a few disappointments.  The Rob Ashford (no relation) chroeography did not blow me away, and I longed for the original "Turkey Lurkey Time".  Kristen Chenowith, I thought, while singing wonderfully (natch) didn't seem to explore all that she could with her charactor — a woman of questionable morality but still looking for love.  Perhaps Kristen should have watched Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment to find the nuance.

Kate Finneran showed why she won the Tony in her all-too-brief (she doesn't appear until Act Two) role as a barfly.  Typically, that charactor is played as an innocent dumb blonde type.  Here, Finneran turns the role on its head, making the character into a floozy trying to be an innocent girl, with her inebriation always getting in the way of making that happen.  In Finneran's hands, it works so much better that way.

Promises, Promises is an old-fashioned book musical and the revival does a very good job of making it interesting to contemporary audiences, despite its dated customs and male-centric viewpoint.  Yes, there are a few unnecessary songs and ballads, but they serve as quick-and-painless cleansers to the pallette.  It's probably won't be the best show for Chenowith fans, but if you like Bacharach, Hayes, or office musicals, you'll enjoy yourself.  B+

Everyday Rapture:  There is a tradition on Broadway of having one-woman shows: Elaine Stritch, Liza, etc.  I guess the threshhold question with Everyday Rapture is whether or not Sherrie Rene Scott is "big enough" to have one of her own.  I mean, if you don't know who she is, I think that largely diminishes your interest in this show.

Fortunately, I know Sherie and like her.  She has an unquestionably strong voice, and is a comedic talent as well.  Everyday Rapture is a story of her personal and spiritual journey from a half-Mennonite girl in Topeka Kansas to Broadway star.  It's an interesting journey, as we learn of her heroes (Judy Garland, Fred Rogers), as well as her efforts to come to terms with her views (or lack thereof) about God.

With the help two backup women, Ms. Scott brings the audience through the highs and lows of her career.  I thought the musical numbers were, on the whole, sufficient, but nothing blew me away.  It was also a little ballad-heavy.  One segment about her encounter with an Internet fan was a bit funny, and a tad bit mean as well (at least, the way he was depicted was mean, going for the easy laughs).

But in general the show had a lot of heart and humor — a nice way to spend a couple of hours at the theater.  B-

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson:  Take a little Reduced Shakespeare, with a little punk/emo American Idiot, and apply them to a History Channel documentary, and you have Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, an off-Broadway musical appearing at the Public Theatre downtown for one more week (until, rumor has it, it moves uptown to Broadway).

This is a fast-paced, very politically incorrect, rock musical about the life of President Andrew Jackson, the populist president.  Even if one were to scrap the music, it remains a broad comedy full of sight gags, sound gags, and well, all kinds of gags.  Don't worry about unquestionable historical accuracy (Andrew Jackson probably didn't engage in "cutting" behavior), but don't be surprised if you learn a thing or two about this controversial president, best known for expanding the frontiers of America by being merciless with the native population.

The show has an anything-goes sensability.  What happens when the wheelchair-bound narrator outlives her usefulness?  Jackson shoots her, and then sings about it.  Well, why not?  The show doesn't ask much of you, except to have fun.  You'll often find yourself thinking "that is soooo wrong", but laughing hard anyway.

If there was one complaint I had, it's that the supporting charactors in Andrew Jackson's life were very very limp-wristedly gay.  Now, that's pretty funny for the first couple times, but that joke wears itself out after a while.

The centerpiece of the musical is Benjamin Walker, the young actor playing Jackson.  He has the rugged individualism associated with Jackson, except that Walker's Jackson wears tight black jeans, eyeliner, and has a gun in one belt loop and a handheld mic in the other.  Well, why not?  Walker, who may or may not make the transition when/if the show moves to Broadway, is really the show's star – and probably a star of considerably magnitude in his own right.

A lot of the jokes and asides are subtle and quiet, and might not work in a full-scale Broadway house, which is a bit of a shame.  Some of the subtleties of the nice (but largely unused) set dressing will also be lost.  But the music is certainly Broadway-worthy, even as it represents the new wave of rock musicals.  This is not an historical parody in the way that Spamalot spoofed King Arthur; this is something much much more rude and intense.  In a good way.  A-

Huge Sinkhole

This isn't photoshopped.  This is an actual sinkhole that appeared in Guatemala over the weekend.  Click to embiggen.

Guatemala_hole

While some sinkholes happen slowly, this one didn't.  It was caused by massive underground water torrents created by tropical storm Agatha (which took 115 lives this weekend).

The sinkhole swallowed a three story building and a house.
 

In Which I Get Caught Up In Some Illegal Activity (Part III)

Part I here.

Part II here.

There's not much to add to the continuing saga.  Except that, as of this morning, I was still receiving phone calls from the recipients of various FEDex packages, wondering about the check.

One package went out yesterday — which is AFTER I put the hold on "my" FEDex account last week.  I had words with FEDex about that, believe you me.

Also, it seems that the latest batch of packages don't have a $2900 (or so) check from "South Motors Infiniti" in Miami Florida, but rather, a $2900 (or so) check from "Vincennes University", which is located somewhere in Illinois.  Obviously, it really doesn't matter what's on the checks.  They are fake.

However, having spoke to 8 or 9 of these FEDex package recipients, one thing is coming into focus: these people have all been contacted about jobs, after responding to an ad or listing at monster.com or on Craigslist.  The details are sketchy, but apparently they respond to some employment ad, and then they receive an email saying they will be sent a check with which to purchase a computer, and to be sure to deposit it.  And at the same time (within a day or two, before or after), they receive "my" check via FEDex.

So now there seems to be something linking all these scam victims together.  They were all jobhunting.

And the email the receive?  It's from a guy named Eric Fleming, and his email address is enquiries.verco.eric at gmail.com.  I suspect that "Eric Fleming" is not the name of the person behind the scam.  It's probably just a compromised email, just like the FEDex account isn't mine.  Or it could be a totally fictional email name.

Perhaps when one applies for the job online in response to the job ad, they are asked for (and perhaps give) their social security number.  And then they get this bogus check (plus an email urging them to deposit it).  If they deposit that check, information about the checking account gets back to the bad guys, who also have a social security number.  Now they are off to the races.  I imagine you can do a lot of damage with a bank account and social security number.

Anyway, when I get these calls, I tell the people not to cash the check.  Most of them are suspicious anyway, thank goodness.

And from today's USA Today:

Usatodayecriminals 

Understanding The New Facebook Changes

"Oh my God.  More Facebook changes?"

I'm sure that's the thought of anyone who logged on to Facebook in the past 24 hours and saw some announcement about "new" things that Facebook is doing.  For most of us, we're happy with the way Facebook is right now thank you very much, and the only change we really want is a "dislike" button.

But these changes are different.

In fact,as I understand it, they're not changes to Facebook, but to the web.  In other words, Facebook's tentacles are reaching out into the Internet as a whole.

For example, I will soon be able to have a Facebook "like" button on this blog.  And if someone reads it, and registers a like, their Facebook profile will reflect that.  In other words, Facebook is making the entire Internet a social website, with their new platform.

…Or something like that.

RELATED:  Many Facebook apps collect data on you.  Facebook, in the past, has required them to dump that data within 24 hours.  That's another Facebook change — the "dumping" will no longer be required.

So now might be a good time to clean up and remove unwanted Facebook apps.  And since Facebook has changed a lot over the past year, here's a reminder of how to do it:

  1. Click on "Account" at the top-right of the screen.
  2. Click "Application Settings"
  3. Change the "Show" drop-down box to "Authorized." This will show all the applications you've ever given permission to.
  4. In the resulting list, click the "X" button on the far right next to each app you want to remove to delete it.
  5. On the pop-up box that appears, click "Remove" then click "Okay" on the next box confirming the app was deleted.

The Progressive President

Yglesius:

Now that it’s done, Barack Obama will go down in history as one of America’s finest presidents. It’s always possible of course that, like LBJ, he’ll get involved in some unrelated fiasco that mars his reputation. But fundamentally, he’s reshaped the policy landscape in a way that no progressive politician has done in decades.

Under the circumstances, it’s in some ways crazy to realize the scope of things still on the congress’ plate. The House has already passed major legislation dealing with climate change and financial regulation, and the president is also committed to significant reform of K-12 education and the immigration system.

Yup.