U.S. Chamber Increases Political Power

Tom Hamburger, has an interesting piece in the L.A. Times this morning on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce becoming increasingly powerful in American politics.

“The chamber’s expansion into grass-roots organizing — coupled with a large and growing fundraising apparatus that got a lift from Supreme Court rulings — is part of a trend in which the traditional parties are losing ground to well-financed and increasingly assertive outside groups. The chamber is certainly better positioned than ever to be a major force on the issues and elections it focuses on each year, analysts think.”  -LA Times

The Ghost Writer

 The Ghost Writer - Summit Entertainment

It usually takes me a while to process movies.   A few hours at least, although sometimes I need to sleep on it.   And so, I have no shame in telling you that after viewing “Ghost Writer” it took me few minutes before the bulb went on and I realized that Roman Polanski made a movie on location in Cape Cod, without leaving Europe.

Cute trick, if you can pull it off.   Polanski did.

I was sitting there, totally sucked in by the illusion that everything had been shot on location.  I made a mental note to email my sister just outside of Boston, telling her to be sure and see the film.  A few hours later it occurred to me that Polanski was the director.

My in-depth and thoughtful analysis is that it’s pretty good.  Better than many.  Maybe even better than most.   Yes, I’m going with that.  Better than most.  I have a couple of issues with the plot and things slowed down a bit in spots, but not enough to stop me from recommending the film which has a sort of contemporized film noir sinister darkness about it.

Without giving it all away, it deals with the question of why a British Prime Minister would back the moves of a U.S. President when the rest of the world refuses to go along for the ride.   Ring any bells?  Like Tony Blair and Dubya Bush?

I just sent that email to my sister.

Time To Cut Sarah Palin A Break?

Sarah Palin
 photo: wiki commons

She left her post as Governor of Alaska early only to be blasted out of the saddle under intense fire from……uh…..Katie Couric?  She did an interview while turkeys were slaughtered in the background.   She was spotting Russians from her home turf in Alaska, even though it’s doubtful Mr. Putin will be swimming the Bearing Strait any time soon.  The more she spoke, droppin’ her g’s like a poor country cousin who went fishin’ and huntin’ and didn’t do nothin’ much more (like occasionally readin’ a newspaper),  the more it became painfully apparent that Sarah Palin wasn’t ready for the national stage.

Not her fault.

It was those nutty folks at the McCain campaign that asked her to run on a national ticket before she was prepared.    Think about it.   She was the Governor of Alaska, bagging caribou and promoting the gunning of wolves from airplanes, and she hadn’t even been doing that for very long.   Ill-prepared as she was, do you really think a success-hungry ladder climber like Sarah Palin would say no to a shot at being Vice President of the United States?

Like so many others, she just wanted to be somebody.  Is that so bad?  It’s what Mr. Obama wanted to encourage the children of America to do on live tv, only to be stopped by school boards that shook with fear when confronted by the possiblity of a racist backlash.

Put a little love in your hearts, America.  They might not let our intellectually superior Prez talk to the kids, but we’re bigger than they are.  Let’s prove it by cutting Sarah a break.

Sarah Palin, is a beauty contestant-type who went into broadcast journalism in an attempt to gain riches and fame.   Just like a lot of others.  How many beauty pageant contestants have smiled broadly while stating their goal in life is to be an anchorwoman?

When that wasn’t getting the job done,  she ran for Governor of Alaska and won.   I think I’ve got the sequence of events right.  Maybe not, as I’m no Sarah Palin biographer, nor do I care to go there, and it really doesn’t matter because it’s not about what she did, so much as the fact that she never gave up.  In that regard, Sarah Palin, exemplifies the American spirit.  You might hate to admit it, but it’s true.  I’m admitting it now and I don’t particularly care for Sarah Palin.

In America, it’s not what you’re handed, it’s what you do with what you’ve got that matters and Sarah continues to do all she can with what God gave her.   She is attractive and likable and like George W., a lot of people seem to identify with her.

With Dubya, it was the down home draw of King George II being the kind of guy you would invite over for beans, beer and barbecue.  Never mind that he couldn’t seem to get his facts straight or understand that the only similarity between Sweden and Switzerland is that the names of both countries begin with an “S.”   With Sarah, it’s wanting to go along as she jumps in the boat to go fishin’ for salmon, or headin’ out with a big-bore rifle to shoot anything on four legs that moves.  What a winky, kicky gal!  Why does any of this matter?

Because in politics, as in Hollywood, image is often more important than reality.   Judging by what happened to the ratings when Palin appeared on the big Leno “comeback” show, a lot of people like Sarah Palin’s image.   Anyway, she gave old Dave Letterman, a pretty good kick in the head.

For some folks, maybe a whole lot of people, the reality of what she can or cannot do politically or geopolitically is irrelevant.  That means, anything that gets her away from politics is something we should all support.   Pray for even , if that’s your bag.

It may all work out for the best (or as my grandmother used to say “It’ll all come out in the wash”) because, God willin’,  Sara Palin may soon be abandoning politics for show business, which is actually something she may be able to handle.

There may be a reality show in the works for the Palin family, and Huzzah for that!   It was noted on one of the talk  shows tonight that she’ll be doing a kind of reverse Ronald Reagan, jumping from politics into show biz, much to the relief of all who continue to hold out hope for a reasonable resolution to the Palin question.

Maybe she’ll lay a huge egg and just go away.  Now there’s a vision.  Or perhaps she’ll be the next big reality show superstar.   A kind of female version of the Ozzy Osbourne phenomenon.  A personification of the American dream.

Either way, we’ll have John McCain to thank for it.  And if it keeps her away from politics, who cares?

Beyond that, no matter what you may think of Sarah Palin’s abilities, you must admit that she appears to be doing the most she can with what she has.  Love her or hate her, you must concede that Sarah Palin never gave up.

Smithsonian Snubs Simpson

According to The Los Angeles Times, The Smithsonian Institution says it has no interest in accepting the suit, shirt and tie O.J. Simpson wore on the day he was acquitted of murder in criminal court.

“The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will not be collecting O.J. Simpson’s suit,” the museum said in a statement. “The decision was made by the museum’s curators together with the director.”  -Shelby Grad /LA Times

O.J. Simpson’s Suit May Go To The Smithsonian

Fellow Simpson Trial veteran Linda Deutsch of the AP reports from Santa Monica, that the suit, shirt and tie O.J. Simpson wore when he was acquitted of murder in criminal court will be donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

Simpson was later found liable for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman in civil court in Santa Monica, and ordered to pay damages in the amount of $33.5 million.  Ron Goldman’s father, Fred, has been in a running battle to try and collect the court award.  Deutsch reports that Simpson’s former sports agent, Mike Gilbert, who had the clothing, came up with the idea of donating it to the Smithsonian, with no profits going to anybody.

The Smithsonian has not yet agreed to accept the clothing.

Simpson agreed to the deal from a prison cell in Nevada, where he is doing 9 years for robbery and kidnapping in connection with an unrelated case.   Mr. Simpson continues to insist he is innocent of killing his ex-wife and Ron Goldman even though he wrote a book entitled “If I Did It,”  based upon the idea of how Brown and Goldman were killed.  According to Simpson it’s all hypothetical, since he says he was nowhere near the murder scene when it happened.

The rights to the book were awarded to the Goldman family.  Apparently, they won’t be getting the suit, shirt and tie.  Presumably O.J.’s search for the real killers will continue upon his release.

Animal Activists Want Sea World To Move Orcas

 killer whales

                                               photo: noaa  

Animal activists speak out against the continued captivity of Killer Whales in a piece in the Los Angeles Times.    This latest round of opposition follows the death of a Sea World trainer on Wednesday.

“……the Humane Society of the United States, didn’t go as far as PETA in condemning SeaWorld but argued that conditions there were insufficient to keep an animal like Tilikum in a healthy mental state. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist for the Humane Society, told the Orlando Sentinel that “[in] terms of his stress levels, his size is a factor,” referencing the orca’s much-publicized 12,000-pound frame. “He is so big, I don’t care how big SeaWorld’s tanks are, they are too small for him.”‘-LA Times

It’s being suggested the orcas could be moved to a transitional coastal marine sanctuary.

AL Gore Answers Skeptics On Climate Change

 Al Gore accepts Nobel Peace Prize 2007

                photo: kjetil bjornsrud

Al Gore answers climate change skeptics in an op-ed piece “We Can’t Wish Away Climate Change”  in the New York Times.

“I, for one, genuinely wish that the climate crisis were an illusion. But unfortunately, the reality of the danger we are courting has not been changed by the discovery of at least two mistakes in the thousands of pages of careful scientific work over the last 22 years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, the crisis is still growing because we are continuing to dump 90 million tons of global-warming pollution every 24 hours into the atmosphere — as if it were an open sewer.

It is true that the climate panel published a flawed overestimate of the melting rate of debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas, and used information about the Netherlands provided to it by the government, which was later found to be partly inaccurate. In addition, e-mail messages stolen from the University of East Anglia in Britain showed that scientists besieged by an onslaught of hostile, make-work demands from climate skeptics may not have adequately followed the requirements of the British freedom of information law.

But the scientific enterprise will never be completely free of mistakes. What is important is that the overwhelming consensus on global warming remains unchanged. It is also worth noting that the panel’s scientists — acting in good faith on the best information then available to them — probably underestimated the range of sea-level rise in this century, the speed with which the Arctic ice cap is disappearing and the speed with which some of the large glacial flows in Antarctica and Greenland are melting and racing to the sea.”  –Al Gore 

26% Of America Gets News Via Cell Phones

That’s according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.    The study, “The New News Landscape: Rise Of The Internet” indicates Americans are getting their news from a mix of sources.

 “In the digital era, news has become omnipresent. Americans access it in multiple formats on multiple platforms on myriad devices. The days of loyalty to a particular news organization on a particular piece of technology in a particular form are gone. The overwhelming majority of Americans (92%) use multiple platforms to get news on a typical day, including national TV, local TV, the internet, local newspapers, radio and national newspapers. Some 46% of Americans say they get news from four to six media platforms on a typical day. Just 7% get their news from a single media platform on a typical day.

The internet is at the center of the story of how people’s relationship to news is changing. Six in ten Americans (59%) get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day, and the internet is now the third most popular news platform, behind local television news and national television news.” -Pew Center Study

Barack Obama – Just Another Dictator?

David Swanson, author of the recently published “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union,” tells “Truthout” that the nation shouldn’t be satisfied to move forward with the idea that we have replaced “a bad dictator with a good dictator….It’s the wrong place to look for a savior,” he says.  “We should be looking to ourselves……There’s no question that he (Mr. Obama) committed to progressive ideals and went back on them.”

Swanson’s advice is to forget about the Senate and the President and focus on the House.

Here’s the interview from Truthout.org-

Drew Brees vs. The Archers

I heard about this in the gym yesterday.  I didn’t believe it then and I’m not sure what to think after seeing the video.

The premise for the show “Sports Science” was this:  Who is more accurate?  New Orleans Quarterback Drew Brees, or an Olympic archer?  Their conclusion is that Brees has the greater degree of accuracy.

They had Brees firing a football at an archery target 20 yards away.   They compared his accuracy to what appears to have been the average number of hits from archers (they don’t say how many) in the 2008 Olympic Games.   I’d like to throw out the average and see Brees going head to head with someone deemed to be the finest archer in the world.

It should also be noted that Olympic archers are trying to hit targets at a distance of 76.5 yards.

Either way, Brees is an amazing QB.  But Olympic archers are pretty accurate, too.

See what you think.

The Predictable Outcome Of Mr. Obama’s Meeting

 

It’s a little surprising to find some reporters pointing out this morning that nothing much was accomplished at President Obama’s health care summit with the Republicans (even with the square table the Republicans demanded) without also reporting that nobody really expected anything to come from it.

In case you haven’t been able to figure it out, the Republican Party doesn’t want health care reform.   They are trying to do now what they have done in the past, scrap everything that’s been put together and ostensibly “start over” because that, they say, is what the American people want.

Give the Republicans what they want and the result will be the same as it has been in the past.  There will be no health care reform at all, which is what the insurance industry has ordered their lapdog Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats  to deliver while much of America goes broke trying to pay for health care.

The American people want affordable health care.  End of story.

One has no way of knowing what Mr. Obama may be thinking at this point.  Some are speculating that he was just letting out more rope, determined to give the Republicans every possible opportunity to add to or amend the bills that have been hammered together, and to do it publicly,  so that there will be no doubt as to Republican resolve to kill health care reform regardless of how it’s written.   They will have shown their cause to be a ruse, giving Mr. Obama the leverage he needs to move forward without the cooperation or approval of the Republican Party but hopefully with the understanding of the American people.

It’s not for nothing that Mr. Obama mentioned the need to do what must be done and then letting the people register their approval or disapproval at the polls.  He was sending a message.  Get on board now or sink at the mid-terms.

However, the question of whether he will be able to make it happen remains, with or without the mid-term election.

The degree to which corporate money controls the House and Senate is troubling.   Something beyond that is equally  disturbing, or should be, to anybody whose head isn’t stuck in the 19th Century.

While watching some of the exchanges from Thursday’s meeting, I had to wonder if some of what was said to the President would have been said in the same fashion and with the same word choice and tone, if Mr. Obama were white.   It’s the same uncomfortable feeling I experienced when a United States Congressman shouted out “liar” during Mr. Obama’s speech on health care reform.   And again, when some schools across the land refused to let students watch a live speech from the President of the United States encouraging the nation’s schoolchildren to excel.   This wasn’t just another political hack who wanted to address the nation’s children.  It was the President of the United States of America.

Would any white president be confronted with the kind of disrespect Mr. Obama is being forced to face?   The fact that this question even needs asking is an indicator that there’s an elephant in the middle of the room.  Nobody wants to admit that it’s there, much less discuss it.  It’s there, nevertheless.

To date, former President Jimmy Carter, is among the few who have had the courage to address the issue, speaking out against those who  held up signs at rallies portraying the President of the United States as a reincarnation of Hitler while others suggested Mr. Obama should have been buried with President Kennedy.

“It’s a racist attitude, and my hope is and my expectation is that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States.”  -President Jimmy Carter

The tone and tenor of what’s being said seems to have come down a notch or two since Mr. Carter’s statement in September of last year.  However, racism is still racism, regardless of its subtlety.

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(Because there are dog-eat-dog, wild-eyed idiots out there who will go on the attack at the drop of a metaphor, I should point out that the elephant mentioned in this post is not meant to represent the Republican Party.  It is meant to represent an actual elephant.  A large animal that is impossible to ignore, particularly when it’s standing in the middle of the room.)

California Leads The Way With “Cuss Free Week”

Anthony Portantino

Democrats and Republicans in the California State Legislature may have finally found something they can agree on.  A statewide “Cuss Free Week.”  The Assembly, is set to vote on a resolution designating the first week in March as our “Cuss Free Week, when all Californians will be called upon to try and avoid using swear words.

The idea was inspired by a teenager who founded a no-cussing club at his junior high school and was introduced in the Assembly by Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada/Flintridge).

Assemblyman Portantino says his staff plans on delivering “cuss jars” to the offices of all the state lawmakers and the Governor.   Anyone who is naughty and uses a bad word will then have to put some money in the “cuss jar.”  If they feel like it.

Isn’t that special?

The state is $21 billion in the hole and our legislative hall monitors are fiddling around at the junior high level?    Worse than than that, the AP reports that swearing on the floor of the State Assembly is rare.  Worse still, this wasn’t even their idea.  They had to borrow it from a high school kid.

With endless gridlock along party lines, the U.S. Senate continues to rank among the most dysfunctional, useless and disgusting legislative bodies in the country.  The California State Legislature isn’t far behind.

Don’t misunderstand.   Cleaning up the country’s language is a good idea.  But this is something that belongs where it originated, at the junior high school level.

Stand by for the Assembly’s next big move, an annual sweetfest celebration with legislators running around pinning one another with flowers, chocolates on every desk and a big parade through the streets of Sacramento.

And these people are responsible for overseeing the 8th largest economy in the world.

As for Mr. Portantino, the cost of cleaning up the recent mudslides back in his home district of La Canada/Flintridge, is expected to run somwhere between $20 and $30 million.   Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, has raised the question of whether the U.S. Forest Service may have been negligent in not doing more to contain the spreading fire that eventually led to the mudslides.  Presume the assemblyman’s got that all worked out?

Blagojevich To Speak On Ethics

 Rod Blagojevich

Chris Matthews has just reported that Rod Blagojevich will be featured at a discussion on ethics at Northwestern University.   The event is being billed as “Ethics in Politics: An evening with Former Governor Rod Blagojevich.”

Huh?  Where have these people been?  Why are they giving this guy yet another forum?  What’s next?  Sarah Palin on the geopolitical implications of Iran getting the bomb?