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Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies

SIFF-ting through cinema, Pt. 2

By Dennis Hartley

The Seattle International Film Festival is in full swing, so this week I am continuing to share a few highlights with you. SIFF is showing 263 films over 25 days. Navigating such an event is no easy task, even for a dedicated buff. Yet, I trudge on (cue the world’s tiniest violin). Hopefully, some of these films will be coming soon to a theater near you…

The Forecaster- There’s a conspiracy nut axiom that “everything is rigged”. Turns out it’s not just paranoia…it’s a fact (and cyclically predictable). At least that’s according to this absorbing documentary from German filmmaker Marcus Vetter, profiling economic “forecaster” Martin Armstrong. In the late 70s, Armstrong formulated a predictive algorithm (“The Economic Confidence Model”) that proved so spookily accurate at prophesying global financial crashes and armed conflicts (sometimes to the day), that a shadowy cabal of everyone from his Wall Street competitors to the CIA made Wile E. Coyote-worthy attempts for years to get their hands on that formula. And once Armstrong told the CIA to “fuck off”, he put himself on a path that culminated in serving a 12-year prison sentence for what the FBI called a “3 billion dollar Ponzi scheme”. Funny thing, no evidence was ever produced, nor was any judgement passed (most of the time he served was for “civil contempt”…for not giving up that coveted formula, which the FBI eventually snagged when they seized his assets). Another funny thing…Armstrong’s formula solidly backs up his contention that it’s the world’s governments who are really running the biggest Ponzi schemes…again and again, throughout history. An eye-opener!

Rating: ***½   (Plays May 25 and 29)

Beti and Amare- It’s an old story: In the midst of the Italo-Abyssinian War, teenage Ethiopian girl meets mute alien boy, who has hatched from an egg that has appeared out of nowhere next to a desert well. Girl brings boy to her uncle’s isolated home, where she is hiding out from Mussolini’s invading forces and marauding members of the local militia while her uncle is travelling. Romance ensues (how many times have we seen that tale on the silver screen?). German writer-director-DP-editor-producer Andy Siege has crafted a fairly impressive debut feature that is equal parts harrowing war drama, psychological thriller and sci-fi fantasy. I don’t know if these were conscious influences, but Siege’s film strongly recalls Roman Polanski’s 1965 psychodrama Repulsion, and 1970s-era Nicolas Roeg (more specifically, The Man Who Fell to Earth and Walkabout).

Rating: ***   (Plays May 27 and 29)

Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy- French filmmaker Stephanie Valloatto’s globetrotting documentary profiles a dozen men and women who make their living drawing funny pictures about current events. I know what you’re thinking…beats digging ditches, right? Well, that depends. Some of these political cartoonists ply their trade under regimes that could be digging a “special” ditch, reserved just for them (if you know what I’m saying). The film can be confusing; in her attempt to give all 12 subjects equal face time, Valloatto’s frequent cross-cutting can make you lose track of which country you’re in (it’s mostly interior shots). That aside, she gets to the heart of what democracy is all about: speaking truth to power. It’s also timely; in one scene, an interviewee says, “Like a schoolchild, I told myself: I shouldn’t draw Muhammad.” Then, holding up a sketch of you-know-who, he concludes: “Drawing is the correct answer to the forbidden.”

Rating: ***   (Plays May 27, 28 and 29)

The Price of Fame- Well, this one looked good on paper (I had anticipated something along the lines of Melvin and Howard), but after a promising start, writer-director Xavier Beauvois’ “true crime” dramedy about a pair of bumbling, would-be extortionists falls curiously flat, despite earnest performances from an affable cast. The story is based on a late ‘70s incident in Switzerland in which two down-on-their-luck pals (played in the film by Benoit Poelvoorde and Roschdy Zem) cooked up a bizarre and ill-advised plan to dig up the coffin of the recently interred Charlie Chaplin and then hit his family up for money to have the body returned. The caper itself takes a relative backseat to the main thrust of the film, which is ostensibly a character study. Therein lies the crux of the problem; these aren’t particularly interesting characters (at least as written). And the third act is nearly single-handedly destroyed by that most dreaded of movie archetypes: the Maudlin Circus Clown. Beauvois’ idea to use Chaplin’s compositions for the soundtrack is clever, but he overdoes it. Peter Coyote (!) does do an interesting turn as Chaplin’s longtime assistant.

Rating: **   (Plays May 27, 29 and June 5)

Diner- This slice-of-life dramedy marked writer-director Barry Levinson’s debut in 1982, and remains his best. A group of 20-something pals converge for Christmas week in 1959 Baltimore. One is recently married, another is about to get hitched, and the rest playing the field and deciding what to do with their lives. All are slogging fitfully toward adulthood. The most entertaining scenes take place at the group’s favorite diner, where the comfort food of choice is French fries with gravy. Levinson has a knack for writing sharp dialog, and it’s the little details that make the difference; like a cranky appliance store customer who refuses to upgrade to color TV because he saw Bonanza at a friend’s house, and decided that “…the Ponderosa looked fake”. This film was more influential than it gets credit for; Tarantino owes a debt of gratitude, as do the creators of Seinfeld. It’s hard to believe that Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, Daniel Stern, Timothy Daly, Steve Guttenberg and Paul Reiser were all relative unknowns at the time!

Rating: ****   (Special archival presentation; plays May 26)

Previous posts with related themes:

The appearance of impropriety

by digby

I was going to write about this ridiculous Politico hit piece on Elizabeth Warren but decided to just let Dday have the floor:

I shouldn’t even bother to dignify this, but Politico is out tonight with what I assume someone would think is a SICK BURN on Elizabeth Warren, citing her for HYPOCRISY because she opposes investor-state dispute settlement, but one time 15 years ago she was paid to stop a corporation from winning an investor-state dispute settlement case. If you don’t follow, you’re not alone.
In 1999 and 2000, the Justice Department paid Warren between $200 to $400 an hour to serve as an expert witness against a Canadian funeral home operator called Loewen Group that was seeking $725 million from the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Her role in the case, NAFTA’s first major test of the procedure known as investor-state dispute settlement, has gotten little public attention — even as Warren has made ISDS her main line of attack against the sprawling Asia-Pacific trade deal that Obama is seeking.
There’s a pretty good reason this has gotten little public attention: because it’s not contradictory to her current position in any way. She was a legal advisor in her area of expertise, bankruptcy law, paid for by the government to defend against the expropriation of money through a trade settlement by a corporation, precisely what she’s arguing shouldn’t be allowable in future trade deals. The logic here is that she should have told the Justice Department that she was too pure to involve herself with a trade settlement process she found abhorrent, and should have therefore denied the government her expertise and helped the corporation win.

A parallel hit piece would be something like, “Warren SAYS that she hates money in politics, so why did she RAISE money to run for Senate?!?!?”

Even this former Bush trade official sees nothing in this “revelation”:

“I really don’t see any connection between her provision of expert advice to the government in Loewen and her position on ISDS in her current capacity as a U.S. senator,” said (Ted) Posner, who is a partner at the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. “The advice she gave in Loewen was in her capacity as an expert on U.S. bankruptcy law. She was not acting as an expert on ISDS.”

There’s not even any reason for the Administration (I can’t pinpoint who planted this, but I can guess) to act this desperate. They secured cloture on fast track today in the Senate. Is the House vote this shaky that they need to launch a pathetic, laughable attack on Warren’s credibility?
This is pathetic, really. But hey, we're learning new things every day. For instance, if you give money to a charity, it means you are corrupt. Or something:
“PBS NewsHour” co-anchor Judy Woodruff on Friday responded to a post from PBS ombudsman Michael Getler calling her donations to an initiative by the Clinton Foundation “a mistake.”
I’m a longtime admirer of your work, as a journalist and as ombudsman, but what you wrote was unfair. To lump what I did in 2010 under the simple heading of “Clinton” ignores the facts and the context. I gave $250 two days after the Haiti earthquake struck in 2010, to an emergency relief fund, and in response to one of the first appeals to cross my desk when we were witnessing wall-to-wall scenes of death and devastation. I am a journalist, but I also am a citizen who supports non-partisan, charitable causes when I feel so moved.

I will not be put in a position of defending the Clinton Foundation. But in early January 2010, less than one year into President Obama’s first term, while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, the tragedy hit and we were told by relief experts that the quickest way to get a contribution to the victims, was through the William J. Clinton Foundation. It had a longstanding involvement in Haiti before the quake. To repeat, my gift was made out to the Haiti Relief Fund, not the general Clinton Foundation.
On Thursday, Getler wrote a post that called into question Woodruff’s decision to make a donation to the Haiti Relief Fund shortly after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck the country. He said she erred in making the donation, “even in a small amount and with to the Haiti Relief Fund shortly after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake struck the country.

Woodruff’s donation to the Clinton Foundation charity — and contributions from several others in the media — came to light after it was revealed that ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos donated $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation to fight AIDS and deforestation.
But it's the appearance of impropriety that is so important, right? Sure Woodruff may have just been trying to help some earthquake victims but it looks bad because Clinton.

This, on the other hand, is a-ok:

DR. CHARLIE ROSE’S WASHINGTON: Charlie Rose, the man who’s always working, got to just enjoy himself last night – tieless, and rocking sneakers. D.C. friends walked down a red carpet to the elegant terrace of the rarely seen estate of Franco Nuschese, owner of Café Milano, who was honoring Charlie with a dinner celebration and garden party after he delivered the Georgetown commencement address and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

Franco’s three and a half acres, in the Northwest D.C. neighborhood of Forest Hills, include a view down the same hill as the Italian ambassador’s residence. In a toast, Charlie said Franco is the best traveling companion in Italy – aside from two of the evening’s guests, CIA Director John Brennan and former deputy CIA director Michael Morell.

--SPOTTED: Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, Don Baer and Nancy Bard, Bret and Amy Baier, CIA Director John Brennan and Kathy Pokluda Brennan, Charlie Cook, Jan Crawford, Henry Davis, E.J. Dionne, Tom Donilon, Jim and Deb Fallows, Tom and Ann Friedman, Georgetown College Dean Chester Gillis, Tammy Haddad, Al Hunt and Judy Woodruff, Walter and Cathy Isaacson, Chris and Jennifer Isham, Vernon and Ann Jordan, Tommy Kaplan, Jonathan Karl, Katty Kay, Samantha Kulok, Jennifer Lawson of Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Margot McGinness, Frank Milwee, Michael Morell, Norah O’Donnell and Geoff Tracy, Roxanne Roberts, John F.W. Rogers, Sally Quinn, Hilary Rosen and Campbell Spencer, Chelsea Royal, David Sanger, Bob and Pat Schieffer, Justin Smith, Ellen Tauscher, George Tenet and Stephanie Glakas-Tenet, Yvette Vega, Chitra Wadhwani and more.

--WHAT FRANCO SERVES AT HOME: hand-carved prosciutto; eggplant parmesan; roasted sea scallops, eggplant and basil; buffalo mozzarella; pecorino cheeses; roasted veal in tuna sauce; assorted cold cuts; calamarata pasta, fresh oregano, tomatoes and zucchini; oysters; steamed shellfish with vegetables; mixed greens salad; octopus, peaches, green beans and mint salad; tuna, salmon and amberjack tartar; plus a bar and desserts.

You'll recognize many of the media stars and government players. And then there's the Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba from the United Arab Emirates; Don Baer worldwide chair and chief executive officer of the strategic communications firm Burson-Marsteller and chair of the research firm Penn Schoen Berland; John F.W. Rogers who “might be one of the most important people at Goldman Sachs."

I sure hope nobody was hit up for a charitable contribution over their small plates of roasted sea scallops and amberjack tartar. One wouldn't want to give the appearance of impropriety.

The kids are alright, Part 7,478

by digby

Suzy Khimm talked to some young Hillary Clinton supporters. It's a fun piece. I thought this was interesting:
For Clinton’s younger supporters—many of whom, like Maeur, were Barack Obama campaign volunteers—their memories of the scandals and pseudo-scandals of the Clinton years are hazy at best, filtered through the soft focus of childhood. In sharper relief for them are the accomplishments that Hillary has racked up since then—U.S. senator, 2008 candidate, secretary of state—which her young Arlington supporters quickly rattled off when asked why they were backing her. “She’s going down in history whether people like it or not,” says Renzo Olivari, 19, a political science major at James Madison University who hopes to run for office one day. He was still in middle school during the 2008 campaign but remembers watching her speeches at age 12 and getting “emotionally invested” in the Clinton campaign even then.

In Clinton, young supporters see someone who’s risen up through the political establishment on her own merits: the ultimate Washington success story. What they missed earlier in the ‘90s was what Josh Marshall describes as the “Vince Foster moment” that the Clintons had to overcome first:

For those of you not familiar with Vince Foster, his tragic suicide or the years-long right-wing clown show it kicked off, it is probably best described as the '90s version of Benghazi...It's never enough for the Clintons' perennial critics to be satisfied with potential conflicts of interest or arguably unseemly behavior. It's got to be more. It always has to be more. There have to be high crimes, dead people, corrupt schemes. And if they don't materialize, they need to be made up. Both because there is an organized partisan apparatus aimed at perpetuating them and because there is a right-wing audience that requires a constant diet of hyperventilating outrage from which to find nourishment.
Hillary’s older supporters remember those days all too well and are quick to point out the larger machinations of the anti-Clinton apparatus. “You think of all this dirt that gets thrown out at her every day. There are what, 30 organizations that have been founded to throw crap at her?” says Allida Black, 63, a historian and long-time Hillary supporter who co-founded the Ready for Hillary SuperPAC.

But like many of Hillary’s young supporters gathered in Arlington, Olivari doesn’t blame Republicans or a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Instead, he faults the media itself for driving the controversy over the Clinton Foundation, the Libya intervention, and Clinton’s use of her personal email at the State Department. (The New York Times broke the story on her personal email, going off a tip from an unidentified source.) “The media—they’re bringing these allegations and these scandals up to see if anyone else in the Democratic side will emerge as a strong candidate and they can go head to head,” says Olivari, who hopes to run for office one day. He adds: “That sells, if you put that out, it sells. It’s them trying to tailor the election to their own needs, rather than what the election is.”

These kids are smart. It is the media as much as the Republicans and they have no excuse. The Republicans are just being Republicans. They want to win and they're willing to do anything. They put this garbage into the ether and the media just can't seem to help running after it like a pack of slavering dogs. I don't think people knew this back in the 90s. We were still laboring under the illusion that the press was unbiased and professional. It's sad that they haven't changed but at least the younger generation gets it.

The Duggar's guru

by digby

I remember back when Alan Grayson was running for reelection in 2010 against the far right Christian Daniel Webster and it was revealed that Webster's mentor and good friend was a man named Bill Gothard, a famous evangelical with a fanatical following who was considered the father of the Christian homeschooling movement. Everyone was appalled that Grayson's campaign would bring this up because well, it's so rude to point out that your opponent is a member of a cult. As it happens, it's the same cult to which the Duggars belong.

And it bears remembering that it wasn't long ago that the same Bill Gothard was exposed as a sexual harasser.  Right Wing Watch had the whole sordid tale:

Another leader of the right-wing Quiverfull movement is now in danger of losing his post over a sex scandal. Homeschooling advocate Bill Gothard has been put on administrative leave from the organization he heads, the Institute in Basic Life Principles, in response to allegations from thirty-four different women that he engaged in sexual harassment and failed to notify Child Protective Services about abuse claims. 
The allegations against Gothard are chronicled on the website Recovering Grace, which aims to expose the activist’s record of “emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse.” 
The revelations about Gothard’s alleged misconduct are another blow to the patriarchal, anti-birth control Quiverfull movement, which suffered a setback last year when Vision Forum head Doug Phillips resigned because of an extramarital affair. 
Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles has been championed by conservative figures including Rick Perry and Sarah Palin, who attended one of the institute’s conferences and adopted its “Character Cities” program as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Mike Huckabee has provided an endorsement of the group for its website: “As a person who has actually been through the Basic Seminar, I am confident that these are some of the best programs available for instilling character into the lives of people.” GOP mega-donor Jim Leininger was once a member of the IBLP’s advisory board. 
TLC’s Duggar family are also followers of Gothard’s teachings on homeschooling and Quiverfull families, which teaches that “the husband is the undisputed leader of the family.” 
After Gothard’s close ties to Florida congressman Daniel Webster became an issue in a 2010 congressional election, Sarah Posner released an exposé on how the IBLP promotes marital submission and cult-like practices. 
She quoted critics who said Gothard instilled a “culture of fear” and preached “the terrible picture of the chain of command in the family with the husband as the hammer, the wife as the chisel and the children as the gems in the rough... The ghastly picture is that he beats on her and she chips on them.” One woman who belonged to the movement said that Gothard taught that women “don’t have any rights.” 
He also claimed that he had an “ability to heal ‘stress’ and cancer” and instructed men on how to guard against Satanic attacks on his family. 
[...]This wouldn’t be the first scandal for the Gothard family either, as “Gothard’s own brother, who worked for IBLP, was dismissed from his organization after it was discovered that he was having sex with students.” 
The Baptist website Ethics Daily reported on abuse allegations stemming from the institute’s “cult-like” and “abusive” practices back in 2007. 
One woman who recounted her experience working for Gothard on Recovering Grace said that IBLP board members were well aware of complaints from girls as young as fifteen-years-old: 
What I did not know was that in the Summer and Fall of 1997, after the San Jose conference and around the time I arrived at Headquarters, the father of one of the young men on the San Jose trip had approached the IBLP Board with a spectrum of concerns about Gothard’s conduct, particularly his penchant for taking young girls on road trips and conducting himself in a questionable manner with them while on those trips. I do not know what Gothard’s verbal or written response was to the Board when presented with these concerns, but I know firsthand that his conduct with me and other young women did not alter in the months after the Board asked him to change his behavior. The other girls and I were all between 15 and 24 years of age. 

There's more.

This is your patriarchy for you, right here.
Marketplace Notices The Big Mo in Fight for $15 Movement 

by Spocko
Good news everybody! The MSM have noticed the fight to raise the minimum wage and they think it's working!
"I almost feel that the minimum wage movement is sort of where gay marriage was 8 months ago. There is just... there just feels to be this momentum."
   --Leigh Gallagher, Fortune on Marketplace. May 22, 2015 (audio link to segment. Full episode link)
I have friends in the Fight for $15 movement. I know how hard they have worked on multiple fronts. So when the popular business media acknowledges its momentum--that deserves some serious kudos. The acknowledgement of the Big Mo came not only on the super popular radio show Marketplace, which is:
"...the most widely heard program on business and the economy – radio or television, commercial or public broadcasting – in the country."
The comment is also interesting because it came from a mainstream business magazine editor, Leigh Gallagher, who is assistant managing editor at Fortune.
 Lots of people made that momentum that she is seeing and feeling. Take a bow folks.

On the show the two guests were talking about the minimum wage. One guest, Sudeep Reddy, from the Wall Street Journal needed to bring up possible gloom and doom from the movement, but even then he thinks it will be "only around the edges."

Gallagher also talked about the innovations that LA is doing with the minimum wage, like publishing a list of employers with more than 100 employees on Medicaid.  She notes that:
"The thing that hasn't been talked about is how much employers have been relying on taxpayer money for public help for people who are not making a living wage."
I almost had to laugh when I heard that. I've heard it talked about, but I run in dirty hippie circles. (Nice visual, eh?)

 I'm glad she made that last comment because it represents a mind-shift taking place.

Corporations have figured out how to shift costs to the public without paying into the same public system for a long time.

Think about how much has shifted when the idea that that corporations should pay for the services they use, instead funneling the profits to a small group of people, seems radical.  And health care for employees is just part of the shift, they also use roads, water, sewage, infrastructure, a court system, police and fire. They should pay for these, it's pretty amazing PR work that they have convinced people they shouldn't.

 Soon you will be hearing the screaming of victim hood when these lists come out.  They will bitch about having to report at all, talk about how they will go broke if they have to pay a living wage to everyone.  They will also probably suddenly be very concerned about employee privacy.

They will compare themselves to small businesses, as if they had the same resources,  "Small business don't have to do this!!! Why are you picking on us for our success!"

They will threaten to move to Texas, China or some other third world country that does the crappy jobs with employees who don't demand things like health care. Or who think safety regulations are for wimps. ("Texas welcomes your explosives business within our city limits."  )

Instead of raising the wages they will fire everyone who was on medicaid, just so they aren't on the list again. "It's not our fault the workers can't manage their money, we were doing them a favor by hiring them! Not anymore, THIS is the thanks we get? Public humiliation and forced to pay more money to fewer people who might not manage their money well either!"

They will say it's our fault, "Ya happy now Liberals, see what you made me do!? I had to fire the very people you wanted to help!"

 Of course the real cost savings could be in outsourcing their own jobs, but that won't happen. Yes, the Board of Director folks could find someone to do their jobs for less, but the real benefit the CEO whiners provide to their shareholders is their professional whining about regulations and committeemen to lobbying politicians for more tax breaks. Lobbying is where they want to do all their work, it has the best ROI.

But enough about my predicting gloomy futures! This comment and the work that inspired it is good news! Sure it was buried on a Friday before a Memorial Day weekend, but it's there and it calls for some acknowledgement, optimism and celebration!

Out of the Cotton mouths of babes

by digby

If you want to know exactly how the Republicans will frame the Iraq war going forward,  I think Tom Cotton has formulated it the clearest of all of them:
"We should not be ashamed of the war we conducted in Iraq," he told the Washington Examiner.

"You don't get to live life in reverse. What a leader has to do is make a decision, at the moment of decision, based on the best information he has. George Bush did that in 2002 and 2003 and he was supported by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and John Kerry and every western country's intelligence agency," Cotton continued. "There are lessons we can learn from the early days of the Iraq war. One is that we clearly should be more critically analytical about our approach to intelligence assessments."

Cotton then shifted his attention to President Obama and criticized his decision to withdraw troops from Iraq.

"The indictment of President Obama's policy is much worse than the purported indictment of President Bush's policy because everyone questions if we had known then what we know now," Cotton told the Examiner. "It's hard to analyze hypotheticals in history; I'm confident that the world is a better place and the world is a safer place with Saddam Hussein removed from power."

"President Obama knew then what was going to happen, because his military commanders were advising him that they needed a small stay-behind force of 10,000 to 15,000 troops," he continued. "President Obama, for political reasons, knowing what he knew then, still made the decision to withdraw all our troops from Iraq."

It's unlikely that this will be adopted as the primary argument among a majority of Americans. it reeks of hackish partisanship. But the press will likely report this going forward as a "he said/she said" and just as people continued to say that Vietnam could have been one if only they'd let the military do what it knew how to do, some will agree with Cotton. And in case you don't remember, it was that attitude that partially led the way for Ronald Reagan to bring his big swinging patriotism to washington in 1980. It's important not to let thise these get out of hand.


Big donor just wants to serve Man

by Tom Sullivan

We're not exactly envious of the state of Oklahoma where Charlie Pierce ends his regular peek into the Laboratories of Democracy. Let's just say there's some serious experimentin' he's missed going on in the Tarheel State. A major donor Republican donor earlier this week put a fountain pen to his temple and told North Carolina's GOP legislators that if he doesn't get the tax and spending cuts he wants, their $25,000 donation gets it:

Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy, who chairs the board of the conservative Civitas Institute think tank and is an influential financial supporter of conservative candidates, emailed a sharp critique of the House budget to House Republicans, who are in the majority.

Luddy complained that the budget advancing to a major vote on Thursday does not include new tax cuts and extends tax breaks for specific industries. He called the spending plan too “liberal” and said he’s decided to withold his planned, annual donation to the House Republicans’ campaign committee.

Posting on the Civitas web site, Luddy wrote:

I had planned to donate $25,000 this year to the House Republican Caucus to help re-elect a conservative super-majority.

Unfortunately, after seeing the $1.3 billion in additional spending and no across the board tax relief in the proposed house budget I had to reconsider.

Today, I decided to give the $25,000 intended for the House Caucus to Americans for Prosperity NC to fight the Liberal House spending plan.

It's not as if Luddy phoned in an order for legislation drafted to his specifications the way Michael Eisenga did in Wisconsin. That wealthy donor recruited a state lawmaker to write a bill that would lower his child support payments. No, Luddy, who owns a $300 million heating and ventilation company and chairs a chain of charter schools, was slightly more subtle.

"Special interests" really get under this deluxe, extra-special donor's skin, the Raleigh News and Observer reported:

He added that his own involvement isn’t based on self-interest. “I don’t want anything from them except good government,” he said. “You won’t see me advocate for anything beyond better education, lower taxes and good government.”

Luddy the Benevolent just wants To Serve Man.

Calling Luddy's maneuver "borderline illegal," the Charlotte Observer's editorial board wrote:

It’s no secret that money has always talked loudly in politics. But thanks to rollbacks in campaign finance laws, along with the Supreme Court’s ill-advised Citizens United ruling, wealth has as big of an influence as ever – regardless of party. Luddy’s outburst this week is a reflection of how emboldened big donors have become.

No kidding.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Deadly oil killers

by digby

I normally take this space to show you some cute animals to make you feel better after a long week. Unfortunately, I can't do it this week because this is happening right up the coast from where I live and it's breaking my heart:

That is a beautiful pelican drowning in fucking oil!!!

I won't show you the pics of the sea lions. It's too much. This part of the California coast is like the northern galapagos, tons of unusual species all living together usually pretty undisturbed.

This oil company undoubtedly figures this is the cost of doing business:
Plains All American Pipeline LP Chairman and CEO Greg L. Armstrong apologized at a news conference, according to the Associated Press: "We deeply, deeply regret that this incident has occured at all. We apologize for the damage that it's done to the wildlife and to the environment and we're very sorry for the disruption and inconvenience that it's caused on the citizens and the visitors to this area."

The L.A. Times went through federal records and found that Plains Pipeline, which is responsible for the oil spill and is the company that is part of the Plains All American Pipeline LP, has had a bad track record with safety. The records show that they've had 175 safety and maintenance infractions since 2006.

How's BP doing these days guys? Are their executives and shareholders ok? I worry.

Here comes Hucky boo-boo 

by digby

Mike Huckabee, proving that he's the one true social conservative, came out in support of Josh Duggar, the eldest son of the "19 Kids and Counting" clan who has admitted to molesting young girls (presumably his sisters among them) and who reports indicate was never treated or even really punished for his behavior:
"Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family," Huckabee wrote in a Facebook post. "Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn’t mean 'unforgivable.'"

Earlier this month, the Duggars announced that they had endorsed Huckabee for president, as they did in 2008. “America needs Governor Huckabee for president! Governor Huckabee has the communication skills of Ronald Reagan, and a common sense business approach to government.”

On Thursday, Duggar resigned his position as executive director of the DC-based FRC Action, a legislative organization that calls for the "renewal of ethical monotheism and traditional Judeo-Christian standards of morality." The star of 19 Kids and Counting, which recounts Duggar and his siblings' life as members of a large Christian family in Arkansas, told In Touch Weekly, which broke the story, that he "acted inexcusably" and was "extremely sorry" and that he and his victims had received counseling.

His place as a cultural and political star had meant that he had contacts with multiple politicians, including candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, sometimes of the picture-for-Twitter variety, and sometimes appearing with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Huckabee at FRC events.

"Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends," Huckabee ended his posting, referring to the Duggar family. "Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support."
That's nice. And I'll bet the hardcore religious right will do so as well. What he did was distasteful to them sure, but it's not as distasteful as admitting that all their "traditions" are actually just a cover for primitive immoral behavior among the top echelon males in the patriarchal organizations of both the family and the church. Josh Duggar is an eldest son. He was a sexually repressed, immature young man just exercising the privilege he felt he had from the time he was born.

It's always so interesting to see these religious super-stars fall from grace. The Jim Bakkers and Jimmy Swaggarts and Ted Haggards. Is it just that religious conservatives who seek fame and fortune are they types of people who do this sort of thing? Or is it that this type of thing is common among religious conservatives?

In any case, the Duggar connection runs deep in Republican politics. Josh was a player at the Family Research Council: his job for the past two years has been the executive director of FRC Action in Washington, the non-profit and tax-exempt legislative action arm. He's not just another guy getting his picture taken with a politician:

TLC fired Honey boo-boo when her mother got back together with someone her eldest daughter had accused of molestation. But then they were anything but squeaky clean religious icons were they? It's going to be interesting to see if the Duck Dynasty wingnut defenders come to the Duggars' rescue this time. S0o far, Mike Huckabee's the only one to step up.  My guess is that it will help him.


h/t to @GottaLaff and Diane Sweet

Rand's "Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act for 2015"

by digby

Oh, this is a sweet scam.  Rand Paul may actually get a vote on his proposal to allow employees of agencies to get bonuses for identifying "surplus funds" which will be sent to general funds and used for specifically for deficit reduction. Golly, what could possibly go wrong with that?

This is a very, very sneaky way of impounding congressionally mandated funds to use for purposes for which they were not intended. The bonus part is especially savvy --- it takes away the incentive some agency employees might have to properly do their jobs and instead put taxpayer money in their own pockets. This will make the agency less effective at the same time!  It's a two-fer.

They never quit.

*And by the way, he has a Democratic co-sponsor: Mark Warner.


The banality of torture

by digby

So torture works, which is why the supporters of the torture program insist they were right to do it. Well, it works on lily-livered terrorists, anyway.

This is the citation for Medal of Honor winner Lance Peter Sijan:
While on a flight over North Vietnam, Capt. Sijan ejected from his disabled aircraft and successfully evaded capture for more than 6 weeks. During this time, he was seriously injured and suffered from shock and extreme weight loss due to lack of food. After being captured by North Vietnamese soldiers, Capt. Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a prisoner of war camp.

In his emaciated and crippled condition, he overpowered 1 of his guards and crawled into the jungle, only to be recaptured after several hours. He was then transferred to another prison camp where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated at length. During interrogation, he was severely tortured; however, he did not divulge any information to his captors.

Capt. Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another prisoner. During his intermittent periods of consciousness until his death, he never complained of his physical condition and, on several occasions, spoke of future escape attempts. Capt. Sijan's extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the cost of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces./S/GERALD R. FORD

I can't help but think about that sociopath, ex-CIA chief John McLaughlin's comments on the Frontline documentary the other night in which he justified our depraved torture program by saying:
[W]hen I read the Senate report, and I read some of what’s in it, I don’t know how much to take it at face value, because I know of instances where they’re reciting emails that they have either distorted, or they have taken out of context. In one case, for example, they reported an email from an employee that they characterized as the employee saying, “Abu Zubaydah has no more to tell us,” when, in fact, if read in context, the entire email, what the employee is saying is, “He’s very resistant to interrogation techniques. He’s been well-trained.” … That’s the first point.

The second point is, there are often differences between headquarters and the field about the scope or magnitude or approach to use. Sometimes the field is right. But, frankly, sometimes headquarters is right, because at headquarters, you have people with a broader field of vision, who are looking at the large strategic picture, and who have, frankly, more information than you do in some isolated spot in the field about the larger picture.
That is such utter nonsense on so many levels it makes your head spin. First of all, he's the one leaving out necessary context. According to those emails, some of the torturers were disgusted by their own behavior and were sickened by what they were being asked to do knowing that the guy had nothing more to give up.  ("He, on the other hand, adquarters" seems to have been getting off on their titillating daily reports and just wanted more of it.)

Perhaps most importantly, there is one little fact about this that McLaughlin and company never acknowledge.
Zubaydah's connection to Al Qaeda is now often said to have been overstated,and in response to his habeas corpus petition, the U.S. Government stated in 2009 that they did not contend that Zubaydah had any involvement with the 9/11 attacks or that he had even been a member of Al Qaeda.
You see, we didn't just torture top military prisoners like Captain Sijan. We tortured low level grunts who knew nothing, ordinary people who were captured as part of a "reward program" that incentivized locals to name their personal enemies and sometimes we even tortured (or "rendered" to other countries to be tortured )completely innocent people and simple cases of mistaken identity. The only thing those men ever signed on to was have a middle eastern name. It's disgusting that they continue to pretend that this sadistic program, the gory details of which "headquarters" would sit around breathlessly discussing at their famous "5 o'clock" meetings had any moral basis at all.

I wish someone, Bill Maher for instance, would tell me why this is considered so civilized in comparison to those barbaric Muslims.

Is it just the utter banality of the evil of it? That the people who did it look like this?

h/t @JakeTapper
Christie lets fly. Again.

by digby

I'm guessing Chris Christie has pretty much figured out that he isn't going to be president:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) gave a speech on Wednesday full of vulgarities directed at reporters over the George Washington Bridge scandal, New Jersey's finances, and his travel history.

"We don't give a s--- about this or any of you," Christie told a crowd of 350 people at the Hamilton banquet hall on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg Politics. The event was an annual event in New Jersey which features a roast of the sitting New Jersey governor. Elected officials, journalists, and lobbyists attend the event.

The New Jersey governor said one journalist should "open your eyes" and "clean the s--- out of your ears."

"This is a guy who says he doesn't know what I'm doing every day," Christie said of another journalist according to the Bloomberg report. "Then just get the f--- away from me if you don't know what I'm doing."

Bloomberg obtained audio of Christie's remarks. Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said that Christie's comments were just jokes and made under the premise that they would not be published.

I know right wingers love bullies and hate the press. But when you're running for president you really can't go around saying stuff like "Get the fuck away from me" and "clean the shit out of your ears" in public. (Can you?)

And when are these idiots going to understand that everyone has recording devices at all times? There's no "off the record" in any speech you give to a group. One would have thought that was obvious even before everyone had recording devices.



The C word vs the L word

by digby

Lookee here.  After decades of demonizing the L word, it looks like it's making a comeback.  And the C word is no longer the proud identity it once was.

And here I thought it was a given that this country is a very conservative nation and that liberals are always on the fringe. How long do you suppose it will take for the Villagers to catch on? Or will they just ignore it?


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