Friday, October 30, 2009

Hefty Fine

Former Guv Easley has been fined $100,000 by the State Board of Elections.

PLUS ... the Board referred the matter to the state prosecutor "to investigate whether laws were broken."

Yes We Can't

A few days ago a large manila envelop arrived in the mail. In it, an 8 x 10 glossy photograph of the 44th President of the United States, a little keepsake just for us (and a few million other of his supporters, we guess), a small reminder that he still holds us in high esteem, a billet-doux with a clear subtext: "Do you still love me?"

How did he know? How did he guess that our affection has been going south ever since it became abundantly clear that his message during the campaign about actual, fundamental change to American corporate cronyism was pretty much political theater (and just as nourishing)?

Okay, okay, we know all that cobwebby stuff about pragmatism and compromise being the lifeblood of political progress, that no one ever actually gets immediately what would be right and just but must accept baby steps and half-measures ... like, say, the House Democratic health-reform bill trotted out yesterday by Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the party leadership as though it were The Tablets brought down from Sinai.

So far, we ain't buying it, keeping in mind that the severely watered-down House version of health reform is just the starting point for further watering down, as everything in the weeks ahead tips rightward toward the real bill that will eventually emerge as the so-called "victory" for Change in America: that is to say, a huge corporate give-away with a mythical "trigger" meant to rein in the corporations some day down the road, like maybe never.

I think I'm just not cut out for compromise. "Compromise is never anything but an ignoble truce between the duty of a man and the terror of a coward." Somebody said that. I don't know who. Whoever it was obviously knew some Democrats, probably Blue Dogs.

It dawned on a lot of us months ago that the 44th President of the United States made a deal with big insurance corporations and Big Pharma and gawd knows who else approximately 30 minutes after Rahm Emanuel installed his favorite coffee mug on his White House desk, a deal that this administration would NOT challenge corporate control of our government and the legislative process. They've been dodging around ever since, trying to get someone else, like Harry Reid in the Senate, to take the fall for failing to deliver real reform. The White House is the culprit. They have not negotiated in good faith, far as we can tell.

So, no, I ain't happy, and I haven't framed your picture yet.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Some Car Wrecks Are More Fatal Than Others

It had to be a cringe-inducing moment for members of the State Board of Elections yesterday, meeting this week to hear testimony and decide whether former Gov. Mike Easley flagrantly (or only innocently) violated campaign finance laws.

From Mark Binker's eye-witness account, as the former Guv settled into the witness chair yesterday for almost five hours of motor-mouth self-explanation, he said to the members of the Board who will decide his fate, "Before we go any further, I do want to say I appreciate the board serving. I know it's an inconvenience and I know it doesn't pay that well. But I do hope since I had the privilege of appointing some of you on to say thank you for the service."

Would that not make your toes curl if you'd been appointed to the state Board of Elections by this man? Would you not wonder whether he was really saying, "Lookee here, Bucko, I gave you this job, so you'd better do right by me"?

In other words, AWK-WARD.

Chris Fitzsimon has a thorough summary of the whole scene that's worth reading.

The ex-Guv's "tell" was his general demeanor ... the famously anti-social Easley was all Junior-League smiles and air-kisses, hand-shaking with everyone in the room, back-slapping, striking a wholly unconvincing pose of "nothing to see here, and butter will never melt in MY mouth."

Using Blue Cross's Dime

It didn't take long for North Carolina citizens to figure out what to do with those Blue Cross NC postage-paid & pre-printed messages to Sen. Hagan opposing health-care reform. If you got one of those little pieces of propaganda, you might want to take a lesson in what to do with it.

Would-Be Book-Burner Threatened with Fine for Polluting the Air

Update on Rev. Marc Grizzard of Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Bethel, N.C., and his announced plans to burn a whole bunch of Bibles that aren't King James versions and other literature similarly inspired by the devil, including tomes written by Christian mullahs like James Dobson, and so-called Christian music by the likes of Amy Grant et al.


Today's development.

Jacumin Out in the NC Senate-44

Jim Jacumin (R) has been representing Caldwell & Burke counties in the NC Senate for three terms, but he's announced he won't be running again next year ... opening up a real opportunity for Democrat (and Caldwell County veternarian) Beth Jones, who has already built a campaign structure and offers a younger, more vigorous, and more forward-looking vision for our sister Senate district down the mountain. Check her out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This Person Is on Medicare

Virginia Anne Foxx ... Medicare recipient.

Virginia Anne Foxx, who HATES "socialized medicine," is receiving socialized medicine.

Virginia Anne Foxx, who has HERS, will deny you YOURS.

Blue Cross Is SO Going to Hell

The North Carolina insurance monopoly of Blue Cross/Blue Shield NC, the company raking in the "nonprofit" profits to enable it to pay its CEO some $3.99 million -- MILLION -- in "nonprofit" salary -- that company is flooding the state of North Carolina with little postcards designed for postage-paid mailing to Sen. Kay Hagan, saying we're opposed to socialistic, communistic, zombie-istic health care reform that might eat into said "nonprofit" profits.

If you get such a card, be prepared for the robo-call followup, as testified about in an e-mail this a.m. from some Ashe Countians:
Have people in Watauga County been receiving the BCBS postcard to send to Kay Hagan? At our house it was followed up by a robo call the next day telling us how easy it would be just to sign the card and send it in. I called the Greensboro Hagan office and learned that hundreds of cards had already been received. It is discouraging to fight a gorilla with so much money.

So much money that is otherwise NOT going to the health care of their clients but rather to fight much needed reform of the sort of criminal immorality that Blue Cross NC so amply illustrates.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight

That's Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger with a wheelbarrow load full of "voter surveys" which he later delivered to Gov. Perdue's office to show just how displeased North Carolinians are with Democratic rule in the state.

Two small problems with that load o' survey crap:
1. The questions were asked only of "conservative Republicans," and the questions were just a smidge prejudicial. Sample: "Do you think death panels made up of government bureaucrats should decide if your loved ones live or die?" Wait! Let me think about that.

2. Phil Berger himself did not know what was in those envelopes, because apparently neither he nor his minions had bothered to open them and read the contents. Well, the governor's office did open them and found a few surprises. By late yesterday, an aide to the governor had opened about a third of the 3,000 "surveys" and found (among other things) a check made to Phil Berger for $50 (unclaimed and uncashed) and a few comments suggesting that all of those "conservative Republicans" are not all that happy with the North Carolina Republican Party. Such as ... "I am embarrassed to be associated with this organization. Your tactics are disgusting and you're going to lose a generation of voters" and "Stop wording questions so geared up to get the answers you want and start wording them to actually find out the people's opinion, not just confirm your own. There are probably only three questions on here that are legitimate" and "Not sending you any more money."

After "Under the Dome" spilled these latter beans, a self-identified Republican posted a rueful comment, comparing the NCGOP to Wile E. Coyote and the Democrats to the Roadrunner:
We just cannot seem to catch up with the Dems. We're comfortable being bumbling idiots. Nothing ever works out for us politically. We would be in a mess if we had not been born rich.

Dear Heath Shuler

Congressman, can you read? Or has all that Special Interest cash seared your retinas?

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office sez that the House bill with the "more robust" public option would reduce the federal deficit in the first 10 years.
Moderate [sic], "blue dog" Democrats in the House largely oppose the robust public option and instead argue for a government run insurance option that could negotiate reimbursement rates directly with doctors and hospitals. CBO's analysis of that approach was not available according to Democratic sources, but aides say the preliminary analysis shows it does not save as much as the approach pushed by Pelosi.

Or, by tomorrow, will there be a new excuse for not supporting actual competition?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Watauga County Commission banned any more billboards in Watauga County last night and put an end to speculation that existing, grandfathered signs could be converted to digital displays.

We're relieved and grateful.

Dick Burr, Wrong for N.C. in So Many Ways

The Senate Guru lists "Eight Ways Richard Burr Displayed Poor Judgment, a Lack of Integrity, and Utter Contempt for Others." Let us recite some of the ways:
2) Richard Burr Lied About Supporting Additional Funding for the Successful "Cash for Clunkers" Program

Promised he would vote for an additional $2 billion, money already appropriated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but then voted "nay."

3) Richard Burr Voted to Keep "Being a Victim of Domestic Violence" as a Pre-existing Condition Worthy of Denying Insurance Coverage

It's just a basic fact that women have more "pre-existing conditions" than men. Whattya gonna do?

6) Richard Burr Is a Shameless Hypocrite When It Comes to President Obama's Economic Stimulus Bill

Voted against President Obama's stimulus plan as "wasteful" spending, then shows up for the photo op and takes credit when money gets handed out in N.C.

8) Richard Burr Ordered His Wife to Make Some Notorious Trips to the ATM

Everyone's most memorable Burr is the Burr with inside knowledge about an impending bank crisis who was generous enough to let all us ordinary people know about it. No, wait. This is the Burr who sent his wife to grab what she could before the rest of us depleted the cash pool.

There is more in this vein at Senate Guru.

The most recent and perhaps the most outrageous example was Burr's vote against the Franken amendment to a defense appropriations bill that would ban federal funds going to companies (like Halliburton) that require arbitration in the case of sexual assault, rather than allowing a raped woman to seek redress through criminal court proceedings. The measure passed 68 to 30 with all the Democrats and all the Republican women voting for the Franken amendment. Burr was one of the 30 Republican men who were much more concerned about protecting no-bid contractors than protecting the rights of women.

Glad to see Elaine Marshall out this a.m. with a statement condemning this last vote by Burr. Meanwhile, Burr is scrambling to explain it all away, kicking up a small cloud of dust that the amendment doesn't really do women any good and, by the way, some of his best friends are women.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Entertainment News

Little Patty McHenry of the NC-10 draws two Republican challengers in next year's primary. Which means he walks right in again.

One strong challenger might add up to something, but two? Fuggedaboutit.

Interesting tidbit in this coverage: McHenry's having trouble raising money. Guess that Cuban cigar concession didn't work out.


Raleigh, N.C., makes the list of best places in the country to launch a small business. (I'm thinking ... a major yard-art manufacturing installation.)

Problem Senators

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), quoted in this a.m.'s NYTimes: "There are 52 solid Democrats for the public option. Only about five Democrats oppose it. Should the 52 give in to the five? Or should the five go along with the vast majority of the Democratic caucus?"

Harkin doesn't name "the five" (though six might appear to be the correct number, if 52 + 6 still equals 58, which is the total number of Democrats in the Senate, not counting the two unaffiliated senators who caucus with the Democrats). So let's guess:
Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas)
Kent Conrad (North Dakota)
Ben Nelson (Nebraska)

That's five right there, based just on public statements and some committee votes. That's five without adding Max Baucus, since he has said he'd be for a public option, if the planets in this and every other solar system aligned just right.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Conspicuous Consumption

In 2002 the state of North Carolina was experiencing a major drought, "the worst in a century." Gov. Easley first solemnly requested that citizens "turn off the faucet when brushing their teeth," then issued a directive that local water systems and businesses "take quick steps to reduce their water use by 20 percent." Before the crisis began to end, Easley directed all state agencies to stop "nonessential" water use, including grass watering, saying the state should "lead by example."

While all this was going on, the N&O reveals this morning, the governor or the governor's office (you know how vague these lines of responsibility become!) was also pulling strings to make sure that The Guv's private golf club in Chatham County got access to some 6 million gallons of water to keep those golf greens nice and vibrant.

The details of how those strings were pulled, you can read for yourself, but it's very clear that the comfort of the 300 rich members of the Old Chatham Golf Club (monthly membership dues: something over $500) was a good deal more important than the drought. Let the little people conserve water! The good ole boys need the green. (It's fairly edifying, too, to read the Old Chatham Golf Club website, especially the page devoted to the exclusivity of the membership, which included, only incidentally, NC Senate Honcho Tony Rand.)

Wanna know the icing on this particular Devil's Food cake? Easley got his membership FREE, and he didn't bother to report that benefit on his financial disclosure forms.

Friday, October 16, 2009

If We Have To Apologize to Harry Reid, We Will


On our knees, in the snow ... if he actually comes through.

Still don't think he's much of a leader for the 21st Century.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mike Stark Hunts Foxx

Mike Stark is a royal pain in the ass.

Which is to say, he's a citizen with a video camera not at all afraid to aim the camera at the people's representatives on the public streets surrounding the Capitol and to ask questions.

Of all the members of Congress he might have picked for grilling, can you imagine anyone who would welcome freelance questioning LESS than Virginia A. Foxx? She is sooo terrified of being confronted that she ran from him and called the Capitol police on him. Read about it here.

The woman needs psychological help. To run for public office and fear the public this much, to say the outrageous things she sez and not to expect a little cross-talk, to make oneself as notorious as she's managed to make herself without being able to take any heat whatsoever ... why, isn't that evidence of a deep-seated bad self-image?

Wrong-Way Reid

Yep. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs to go.

Into retirement. Into the dustbin of history. On a cruise of the Bahamas. To the nearest Target. We don't care. Just go.

The Dems have a technical "majority," but Reid is no "leader" of it.

Tom Daschle was a terrible leader of the Dems when they were in the minority. Harry Reid is much, much worse now that they have their so-called majority.

We're witnessing the squandering of seed corn.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fahrenheit 3:16

The Canton, N.C., Amazing Grace Baptist Church will hold a good old-fashioned book burning on Halloween night. Every version of the Bible which is not the 1611 King James Version is scheduled for the flames. (How did that old pederast King James I of England get so privileged?) You have to check out Pastor Marc Grizzard's own high-octane website to believe all this, which is NOT, evidently, a hoax.

And just to keep the flames licking, the church is planning on adding in all the country music and Southern gospel they can find, among other musical genres, and pretty much the entire gamut of "Christian" books written by fake, Satan-worshipping frauds, like Rick Warren, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, James Dobson, Chuck Colson, and the Pope:
...We will also be burning Satan's music such as country , rap , rock , pop, heavy metal, western, soft and easy, southern gospel , contempory [sic] Christian , jazz, soul, oldies but goldies, etc.

We will also be burning Satan's popular books written by heretics like Westcott & Hort , Bruce Metzger, Billy Graham , Rick Warren , Bill Hybels , John McArthur, James Dobson, Charles Swindoll , John Piper, Chuck Colson, Tony Evans, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swagart, Mark Driskol, Franklin Graham , Bill Bright, Tim Lahaye, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn , Joyce Myers, Brian McLaren, Robert Schuller, Mother Teresa , The Pope , Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, Brennan Manning, William Young, etc.

The Big Question for this huge congregation of 14 would be ... how many of these documents will that group be able to amass from their vast libraries or from the bookshelves of their alarmed neighbors? Or should this be more properly regarded as a Wish List?

Nothing sez "Prince o' Peace" like a book burning!

(Incidentally, the Pastor's website is a veritable smorgasbord of Christian dee-lites, though the hyperbolic, screaming colors may induce corneal searing.)

The Best Movies You've Never Heard Of (Part II)

The self-indulgence continues. Anything to avert our gaze from Democratic Congressional "muddling through" and the further Republican descent into nasty irrelevance.

19. The Trial (1962)
You'll either hate it or love it, and if you're in the "love it" camp with me, it'll be because of the sheer theatricality of the visual imagery, not because the story makes, uh, perfect sense or has a clear beginning, middle, and end. It's based on a Franz Kafka story, after all, so it's all about paranoia and motiveless malignity. Stars Anthony Perkins (a couple of years after he made Psycho) as the hapless "Josef K.," who finds he's an enemy of the state for reasons he can never figure out. The real star, however, is the great Orson Welles who directed it and also acts in it as a cigar-chomping lawyer. The set pieces are dazzling, in black and white (natch!).

20. I Am Cuba (1964)
I saw this amazing Russian-made propaganda piece only recently, and perhaps we're far enough away politically from the Cuban Revolution to view this incredibly beautiful docu-drama without the over-burden of debilitating politics. The film tells several peasant stories and makes the case, effectively, for revolution against the corrupt, cruel Baptista regime. It's the visuals, again, that make this movie riveting and unforgettable.

21. Wings of Desire (1987)
Believe in angels? Then this is the movie for you, though prepare yourself for the jolt of discovering that an angel's existence is fraught in ways you never could have guessed. They stand watch over all our human grief and fury and longing, forced to witness silently and absorb it all patiently, without the release of emotion. This is German director Wim Winders' great poetic ode to post-war Berlin, which, though bombed-out and strafed as it was, proved a lovely venue for the story of one angel's quest to be released from heavenly duty (and detachment), to take on human form and human joy and the muddiness of decay. The scenes shot in the immense Berlin public library are too haunting and beautiful for words.

22. Trainspotting (1996)
When I heard it dealt with heroin addiction, I avoided it. I'm squeamish about needles. Senator Bob Dole, running for president against Bill Clinton at the time, attacked the movie as a threat to American values (he later admitted he'd not seen the film). Well, given the provocation, how could I not eventually check out what was supposed to destroy my eternal soul, if not my patriotism? Amazingly, I found Trainspotting so ... jaunty and outrageously funny and very strangely logical and, yes, morally strict. The main character, played by young Ewan McGregor (long before he was Obi-Wan Kenobi in those dreadful "Star Wars" prequels) is totally self-aware and undeluded. He sez, ruefully but in self-defense: "Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin' else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?" Expertly directed by Danny Boyle, who recently achieved the much more mainstream "Slumdog Millionaire" (go figure the karma of that!), this is the first great movie on my list that's actually in color.

23. The Journey of August King (1996)
Made on location in the western North Carolina mountains, based on Asheville writer John Ehle's novel about an escaped slave girl and the white farmer who helps her despite himself, and directed by an Australian who had the right touch for depicting American regional culture in the 1820s, this was the undiscovered gem of 1996. A movie with so much heart and so much scenic beauty and so much actual research into early settlement in these mountains, it should be on everyone's must-see list.

24. City of God (2002)
Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles, this portrait of the wild children of the streets in Rio de Janeiro earned Meirelles a Best Director Oscar nomination in 2004 (he lost to Peter Jackson for "Lord of the Rings"). Meirelles brings a tough humanism to those mean streets, depicting both the realities of lives trapped in violence and the possibility of escape.

25. Frida (2002)
Three major contributions to this sensual, sexy bio-pic of Mexican revolutionary artist Frida Kahlo: Selma Hayek, starring as the artist; the inventive, sensitive direction of Julie Taymor, the woman behind the Broadway version of "The Lion King"; and some of the actual artwork of Kahlo which not only decorates the narrative but comes to life in surprising ways. What is depicted actually happened (mainly), making the surrealism of Kahlo's art seem cosily domestic. Plus you get a pretty good dose of Mexican history in the early 20th century.

26. The Corporation (2004)
The only true documentary on this list, and the only documentary you'll ever need to understand the fix our democracy now finds itself in -- a country of, by, and for large corporations. Made by a Canadian team who were not blinkered by nationalistic pieties, this film will certainly educate you and might just change your life.

27. Hustle and Flow (2005)
I had not seen the movie when it's main song, "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Original Song, beating out the far superior Dolly Parton song, "Travelin' Thru." I thought at the time, "Oh brother!" but then I got around to seeing the movie and discovered that it really IS hard out here for a pimp. In fact, the song -- the making of the song -- by pimp Terrence Howard is pretty much the plot of the movie, which is really in some sense a bio-pic about the city of Memphis, its black culture and its music scene. The fact that the writer/director of "Hustle and Flow" is a white boy from a privileged background just flat out amazes me, that he could muster that level of insight and empathy.

28. Paradise Now (2005)
A story about the recruitment, the training, and the self-doubt of Palestinian would-be suicide bombers, written and directed by an actual Palestinian. In other words, a dangerous subject told from a viewpoint not seen much in American media. It might have become a piece of pure propaganda, but that's not the case. It's a patient and understanding exploration of the social reality of that world and of its two main characters, childhood friends who have suffered under Israeli occupation and who have grown to hate and who are easily manipulated into wanting to end it all in a blaze of Israeli blood. I won't reveal what actually happens, but the focus is on the inner turmoil of one of those two boys, and it offers a perspective I'm glad to have.

29. The Squid and the Whale (2005)
Maybe the best movie ever made about the breakup of a marriage and the effects on children ... okay, a dark topic, but handled deftly (and with a lot of knowing humor) by writer/director Noah Baumbach, who drew on his own biography. Best thing: it stars Laura Linney as the mother, with Jeff Daniels as the father. I'd watch Laura Linney read the phonebook any day. With pleasure.

30. The Weather Man (2005)
When's the last time Nicholas Cage made a good movie? We date it to "Raising Arizona" and "Moonstruck" in 1987. Then came all that dreck, stuff like "Honeymoon in Vegas" and those awful "National Treasure" movies and (ick) "Ghost Rider." But tucked in there was this little adult gem, which absolutely nobody went to see but which deserved a big and wide audience. Cage plays a middle-aged man who earns a very good salary as a Chicago TV weatherman, without, ahem, meteorological qualifications. People hate him automatically because he forecasts the weather, and he often gets it wrong. His wife has left him, his kids are a trainwreck, his own father (played by Michael Caine) is a successful writer, a man with purpose and distinction in his life. The weatherman-son has neither. This is a comedy, yes, but also a serious look at the true nature of "success" and the importance of human connections.

31. Friends with Money (2006)
Written and directed by independent moviemaker Nicole Holofcener, with the radiant Catherine Keener (she who can do no wrong) and (surprise) Jennifer Aniston, playing very much against type as a poor woman who cleans other people's houses. It's an ensemble piece, featuring the intertwining lives and jealousies of four women friends, some of whom have money and some of whom don't, some of whom have men and some of whom don't. It's funny and carefully observed and nuanced ... all the qualities that mainstream Hollywood junk doesn't offer.

32. Brand Upon the Brain (2006)
One of the oddest, warped-est, funniest films you'll ever see, done by Canadian Guy Maddin very much in the style of mid-1920s German expressionist silent film with voice-over narration by Isabella Rossellini. If you have no taste for silent movies, you might want to avoid this. But if you like the pioneering achievements of early moving pictures, you'll find this "towering monument to weird" (as it's been described) both unforgettable and often laugh-out-loud funny. And you'll wonder, how did Guy Maddin do that?

33. I Served the King of England (2006)
A Polish movie about both Nazi-sympathizers and Nazi-haters in Poland before, during, and after World War II, but that's just the topic. The tone of this is pure hilarity, or at least dark comedy, with the main character a little Candide-like figure of surpassing innocence and wide-eyed acceptance, who drifts through life at everyone's beck and call. It's freakin' brilliant. And very sexy.

34. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
One of the more improbable plot devices in these last hundred years! A shy, practically dysfunctional young man falls in love with a rubber sex doll that he insists on treating like a living person. In fact, he treats her like a mighty virgin and becomes her courtly, chivalrous suitor, while his family and community humors the delusion in hopes of helping him out of his shell. Family and community end up buying into the "humanity" of the doll themselves, and everybody is healthier for it. Sounds as bad as a movie plot could get, right? But it works and is howlingly funny to boot.

35. In Bruges (2008)
Colin Farrell's best movie evah. He plays a mob hit man who is terribly unqualified for the job because of his guilty conscience: on a recent snuff job in London, he accidentally killed a child, and he is totally haunted by that memory. The Big Crime Boss has sent him to Bruges, Belgium, the best preserved medieval city in all of Europe, to hide out. Farrell is accompanied by his closest friend and fellow assassin, who is both fatherly toward him and also secretly assigned to rub him out on the Big Boss's orders. Mayhem, death, and redemption follow. The plot is the least of it. The dialogue is some of the most hilariously profane I've ever encountered in any movie, outdoing even Scorsese. "Maybe that's what hell is, the entire rest of eternity spent in fucking Bruges."

36. JCVD (2008)
Brace yourself: those initials stand for "Jean-Claude Van Damme," the action hero from Belgium who has starred in many a wildly improbable shoot-'em-up, but this film is a rueful reexamination of all that film hype, a very thoughtful psychological study by the film star himself of the differences between film stardom and the grubby realities. So, yes, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays "J.C.V.D." who stumbles into a post office robbery gone very wrong. J.C.V.D. first gets blamed by the police for masterminding the crime (because, hey! He's Jean-Claude Van Damme, and this is the sort of thing he could do) and then becomes chief negotiator between the real criminals and the police. It's a tour-de-force of actual, genuine acting, brave in its self-exposure, especially when near the end Van Damme speaks directly to the audience about the wear and tear that his violent film career has had on his psyche and our complicity in trapping him with that super-hero image.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Best Movies You’ve Never Heard Of (Part I)

Here’s a modest list of movies to get hold of for the reasons outlined below. If you’re not a movie buff, you’ll want to stop now. If you consider yourself a movie buff, but don’t know squat about the pleasures of black-and-white cinematography, then it’s time you began to educate yourself. This list isn’t meant to be definitive. It’s eccentric as hell, with no attempt to account for the “best movies of all time” but only for the best movies I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across in my tireless search for the magic that can only happen while watching images projected in the dark. All of these were made by Americans and are deeply “American” in outlook and in technique. I mean no disrespect to our foreign makers of great films. I’ll get around to some of them in Part II.

1. Wild Boys of the Road/Heroes for Sale (1933)
Two height-of-the-Depression William A. Wellman features recently liberated to DVD in crisp restorations. If you’ve never delved into early talkie movies, here’s a place to start. The camera work is fluid and masterful, and the social commentary on a country coming apart at the economic seams may shock you, as will the frank depiction of drug addiction and sexual assault. This was pre-Production Code stuff, after all, before Hollywood started censoring itself to satisfy the blue noses.

2. Cat People (1942) /Curse of the Cat People (1944)
Val Lewton was the genius producer at RKO studios who pioneered the earliest “horror” genre, though confusing Lewton’s psychological studies with contemporary “horror” would be a serious mistake and will only lead to resentment and recriminations. This DVD disk features his first effort (Cat People) and (in my mind) his best (Curse of the Cat People). The Lewton atmospherics are all black-and-white spookiness. Because Cat People was a surprise hit, the studio demanded a sequel and insisted it be called Curse of the Cat People. Lewton took the title and then did what he pleased, which really has little to do with the first movie. Curse of the Cat People stands out as one of the few Hollywood movies that puts an innocent child under threat of bodily harm, and it looks deeply into the secret lives of children. If you prove yourself capable of appreciating Val Lewton’s art, you should then treat yourself to the other films in his “horror” series, all of them now available on DVD: I Walked With a Zombie (1943), The Leopard Man (1943), The Seventh Victim (1943), The Ghost Ship (1943), The Body Snatcher (1945), Isle of the Dead (1945), and Bedlam (1946). Nothing opened up my appreciation for black-and-white cinematography like these works.

3. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
Okay, you’ve heard of this one, but have you seen it? It’s another outstanding William A. Wellman-directed movie, a western totally unique in that every bit of it, stomping horses and all, was filmed on a sound stage rather than outdoors. Sounds unlikely, doesn’t it, but it actually works. It works primarily because of the dark psychology of mob violence and for the performance of Dana Andrews, one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood back then, as a falsely accused drifter. Wellman was a master of the basics – where to put the camera in order to tell a suspenseful story.

4. Detour (1945)
Low-budget, mean-spirited, bleak in outlook, where would you find a darker film that better summed up the trapped American male of post World War II America? This strange, almost hallucinatory yarn has attracted a cult following, particularly because of its female star, the appropriately named Ann Savage, who dismantles gonads as a hobby.

5. Born to Kill (1947)
It may be obvious by this point that I love black-and-white crime and suspense movies, and there are thankfully many to watch on DVD in beautifully restored versions. This one, directed by Robert Wise, stars Lawrence Tierney, who plays a thug as well as a thug has ever been played. Tierney was a much-used “heavy” in the movies and did a ton of TV work before his death in 2002. He’s beloved in my household for the one episode of Seinfeld he appeared on, playing Elaine Benes’s intimidating father (the episode when Jerry turns his new suede coat inside out to save it from the weather, only to become the “pink boy” to Elaine’s hyper-virile father, who already thinks everyone he meets is gay). Tierney appears in Born to Kill opposite Claire Trevor, as the wicked woman. Also features the ever dependable Elisha Cook Jr. as the squirrelly side-kick.

6. The Naked City (1948)
Directed by Jules Dassin on location in New York City at a time when Hollywood movies were rarely shot on location. This is the movie that launched the TV show of the same name that dominated 1950s TV dramas. Gritty realism, police procedure, masterful camera work from a filmmaker who probed deeply into the American underbelly and who got himself blacklisted as a Commie for his efforts. This is the first of four Dassin movies on this list, which would make him, if not my favorite director of all time, at least my favorite dead director of all time.

7. The Set-Up (1949)
Another Robert Wise-directed film, starring Robert Ryan playing a long-shot boxer wearing the whiff of failure. He’s so washed up as a prize fighter than his own manager sells him out to the Mob. This is the ultimate realistic film about the corrupt world of professional boxing, done in real time, which is to say that the story as told lasts 72 minutes, which is the precise running time of the movie.

8. Gun Crazy (1949)
Also known as “Deadly Is the Female,” and they ain’t kidding! Oh my God, if you’re a film nut and haven’t seen this, you’re not going to believe your eyes. Directed by the little known Joseph H. Lewis, this movie is like no other noir you’ve ever seen. From the brilliant entrance of the deadly femme Annie Laurie Starr, the blond carnival performer with guns in both hands, to the famous long single take of a bank robbery and getaway in progress, all shot from the backseat of the getaway car, Lewis shows you what a master could do with no budget to keep you riveted on the screen.

9. Thieves Highway (1949)
The second of my Jules Dassin movies on this list, starring one of my favorite actors from this period, Richard Conte. Dassin always takes the side of “working stiffs,” and Conte is just a common man, a war veteran, trying to earn a living hauling fruit to the San Francisco fresh-market brokers. The main villain is the boss broker, played well by professional heavy Lee J. Cobb.

10. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
You’re bound to have heard of this one, if for no other reason because of the brief small role by a very young Marilyn Monroe, but this well textured crime drama directed by John Huston is essential to your appreciation of what black-and-white cinematography achieved as an art form. Remarkable for Sterling Hayden’s starring role as a “hooligan” with a dream of horse farms in Kentucky and for the surprise casting of little Sam Jaffee (most famous, perhaps, for playing Einsteinian eggheads and philosophers) as the criminal mastermind with a foreign accent. The Jaffee character says ruefully at one point, “Experience has taught me never to trust a policeman. Just when you think one’s all right, he turns legit.”

11. Night and the City (1950)
Jules Dassin again. This film, starring Richard Widmark as a loser-hustler, was made entirely on location in London, England, where Dassin had gone to evade the Hollywood blacklist. He had been “outed” as a past member of the American Communist Party (back in the agitated 1930s) and was not going to be able to work again, but Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, gave him this assignment to be completed in England, thus avoiding the blacklist. Dassin never made a film in the U.S. after this, nor another film for an American producer. Both Dassin and Widmark died within days of one another in 2008.

12. No Way Out (1950)
Starring Richard Widmark, who was typecast often as a vicious character, and Sidney Poitier in his first screen appearance as a black doctor who must save the life of a white racist who hates his guts (Widmark). Poitier was 22 years old when he made this film. Widmark, though he played a lot of psychotics, was by all reports the gentlest and kindest of men. Startling that such material got an airing in the Age of Eisenhower, particularly some of the racist language that comes out of Widmark. Written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, this amazing movie features a vivid race riot that strips the hide off American illusions of equality.

13. Panic in the Streets (1950)
Richard Widmark again, this time playing the good guy, a Naval medical officer trying to head off an epidemic of plague in New Orleans, which is being unwittingly spread by a creepy member of the underworld played by Jack Palance. Directed by Elia Kazan. Gorgeous black and white photography.

14. 14 Hours (1951)
The ultimate man-on-a-ledge suspense thriller, with Richard Basehart threatening to jump for the 14 long hours of the title, while gentle schlub policeman Paul Douglas tries to talk him out of it. Things only get worse when the jumper’s girlfriend and mother show up, leaving his motives for suicide a little easier to figure. The clarity of the black and white photography is just so crisp on the DVD.

15. Ace in the Hole (1951)
Only recently liberated from film archives to DVD, this Kirk Douglas feature is one of Billy Wilder’s best films and one of the least known. Based loosely on the famous Floyd Collins case in 1920s Kentucky, when Collins got stuck in a cave hunting Indian relics while hundreds of rescuers worked over several days to free him. The Collins episode captivated the attention of the entire nation. This Billy Wilder version is moved to the New Mexico outback (it was filmed on location near Gallup, N.M). Wilder turns it into a probing examination of the American love of spectacle, as the attempt to rescue a man trapped in a cave turns into a “big carnival” (which was the alternate title for the movie). Kirk Douglas plays a newsman-on-the-make who happens to be in the right place at the right time to “own” the story of the rescue. When other news reporters try to get access, one of them reasons with Douglas: “We’re all in the same boat.” The Douglas character answers, “I’m in the boat. You’re in the water. Now let’s see how you can swim.” This is an abrasive portrait of American hucksterism like none you’ve ever seen.

16. The Desperate Hours (1955)
You’re a nice, respectable American businessman living in an upscale American suburb, with a nice wife and two nice kids. And one day a desperate escaped convict (played very well by an aging Humphrey Bogart) and his two escaped convict pals break into your home and hold you and your family hostage. Directed by William Wyler, this little black and white thriller is appropriately claustrophobic, and Bogart is just fine playing bad.

17. Rififi (1955)
The last of the Jules Dassin movies on this list, this one was filmed five years after “Night and the City,” a span of time during which the genius Dassin could not get work. He was handed this script by French movie producers, who wanted a little crime drama about dark-skinned North African immigrants in Paris robbing a famous jewelry store. Dassin shaped the material in a different direction, turning the robbers into his own brand of working-class heroes, and filming one of the most amazing 30-minute robbery sequences, with hardly a word of dialogue. Dassin himself took the role of one of the robbers under the screen name of “Perlo Vita.” I could rave about this film at length. Suffice it to say that Dassin was one of America’s great filmmakers who was driven from our shores by intolerance and political bigotry, which makes him doubly a hero.

18. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
Another Robert Wise-directed movie, this one remarkable in many ways – for casting singer Harry Belafonte totally against type as a small-time crook, for casting Robert Ryan totally according to type as a slightly bigger-time crook with another racist chip on his shoulder about having to team up with a black man, and for Ed Begley Sr. as the most unlikely mastermind of a big bank heist. The movie is also distinguished by a pulsing jazz soundtrack, quite unusual at the time. With this movie, we’re at the end of that incredible long period of distinctive, astounding black and white artistry that really defined the movie experience in America for decades ... before color photography and computer-generated-imagery ruined everything.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Clotheslining the Clothesline Bans

Here's a factoid, which leads to a sign of the times: Electric clothes dryers use at least 6 percent of all household electricity consumption.

That, from an article in today's NYTimes about the national movement to overturn local ordinances and property-owner covenants to allow the air drying of laundry outside.

Who'd have thunk it would come to a national "movement"? We've already waxed poetic about the aesthetics of wind-blown laundry, but that was set off by a purely parochial case of snobbishness in our own Hendersonville. Apparently, there's a nationwide uprising, with states from Vermont to Hawaii passing laws to affirm that it's an American right to air-dry.

For some upscale property owners, however, flapping laundry appears to signal nothing more than poverty, and they don't want to be associated with poverty, nor have their eyes assaulted by such poor homework.

How 1950s of them!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Howard Dean Supports the Opt-Out

He sees the opt-out compromise as a pragmatic step for getting a public option.

The opt-out is being heatedly dismissed on the left, but we implicitly trust Dr. MeanDean, especially on health-care reform.

Given a strong public option in a national health insurance reform, we would bet that many of our more Republican states would allow their political leaders to huff and puff about how awful it all was while conveniently forgetting to opt out ... sort of the way they publicly eschewed the stimulus money but took it anyway.

And those red state legislators who do opt out will be exposed to their constituents as caring much more about insurance industry profits than their citizens.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Since Sam Stein's report on Huffington Post yesterday about an opt-out compromise to a strong public option in health care reform ... the InnerTubes have been absolutely ablaze with consternation and denunciation and ... dawning delight. We're daintily sipping from that last chalice, at least for the moment.

If there's a strong national public option out of which individual states may choose to excuse themselves (and all their citizens), that would appear to kill two birds with one shot, both the need for offering universal coverage (with emphasis on the offer) and the interests of individual red states to protect their citizens from awful "socialism." Don't know how but we're sure the "states-righters" will find a way to scream that they don't want the option. Perhaps the state legislators of, say, Alabama will not want to face their constituents while piously "saving them" from affordable health insurance.

We note that our reform guru Jane Hamsher is bitterly opposed. With all due respect.

But we're more persuaded by the reader's comment posted by Josh Marshall:
It's a game changer. The proposal is consonant with Obama's own approach to reform -- what Cass Sunstein labeled 'visionary minimalism' -- in its incremental, consensual approach that nevertheless possesses transformative potential. Instead of coercing adoption by imposing a mandate on the states, it invites their participation and preserves their choice.

As compromises go (and that often ain't far), this seems pretty good to us. Perhaps because we would not expect North Carolina to opt out. I mean, how stupid could we be?

Righteousness Has Gotten More Expensive

[Franklin] Graham acknowledged last week that his compensation total "looks terrible" and that "people won't understand it."
Charlotte Observer, 8 Oct. 2009

The Charlotte Observer has found that Franklin Graham is getting two CEO salaries, as head of both Samaritan's Purse, headquartered in Boone, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, headquartered in Charlotte. Together, that compensation amounted to $1.2 million last year, which makes Graham the highest paid leader of a US-based international relief agency.

Jesus made such a point about the corruption of riches that his parable of a camel getting through the eye of a needle easier than a rich man getting into heaven made it into three of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Only the Gospel of John goes easy on rich men (and even throws in that off-hand little hint, "The poor always ye have with you," which has sanctioned a good deal of Christian complacency over the years).

Mr. Graham's reaction (quoted above) to this news coming out in the Charlotte Observer speaks to the political context of today's public Christians. It's all about appearances. The underlying substance does not change, and we wouldn't look for the good reverend to be donning sackcloth any time soon.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Dell to Forsyth County: "See ya, suckahs!"

Don't we love us that corporate welfare!

Arsenic and Old Ash

The corporate gift that just keeps on giving! Some 13 coal ash ponds on the Yadkin, the French Broad, and five other North Carolina rivers are leaking arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and lead -- metals known to cause cancer, neurological problems and other serious illnesses -- at levels, in some cases, exceeding 380 times state groundwater standards.

Three of the waste ponds border the Catawba, which supplies drinking water to the greater Charlotte metropolitan kingdom.

But, who cares, really? Don't coal ash ponds signal JOBS, JOBS, JOBS? So what if a few hundred people get weird cancers? Who'll ever prove it was because of the drinking water?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Meek Will Inherit Squat

Just what the world's been waiting for ... "a fully conservative translation of the Bible"! The "Conservative Bible Project" intends to flush all that sissy "Do unto others" and "Blessed are the peace-makers" crap for something a little more in line with a militarized, Republicanated, Limbaugh-esque version of The Prince of Peace (which, it turns out, was a freakin' hippy imposter. The real Jesus was apparently a good deal closer in outline to Chuck Norris, or the Taliban).

There's much to admire in this new agenda, the rules that will be guiding this new translation, but here are our favorite marching orders for cleaning up the New Testament:
2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other modern emasculation of Christianity

Jesus was as much a swinging dick as Brigidier General Jack Ripper, say, or Dick Cheney.

And perhaps the best of all, the stuffed cherry on top of this Holy Sundae:
7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning

Turns out that the passage about the odds of rich men getting their complacent asses into heaven was badly mistranslated, and incidentally, God hates unions.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Phony Patriotism

The boorish chortling of conservatives over Chicago's loss of the Olympics in 2016 may end up hurting the Republican Party more than ... say, the last eight years hurt them.

Celebrating an American defeat -- reveling in it -- is not only un-American, in the most basic meaning of that term, but just GROSS, in the medical meaning of that term.

Once again, Republicans seem so bankrupt, so morally uncentered, they're quite content to follow Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and little Billy Crystal off the cliff in the interests of personal animus.

Their laughter and applause at an American loss may echo down the halls of history a lot louder than their pious, empty posturing on "patriotism."

Is There Water in Those High Clouds?

At last, signs that the "public option" is far from dead and that President Obama is beginning to work behind the scenes to match his leverage to his election race rhetoric.

Jane Hamsher, however, remains skeptical.

Access to Public Information

We chuckled last week when we came on the story of a local blogger in Portsmouth, Oh., getting cussed out royally by the city's mayor for requesting access to public documents. The mayor wrote an e-mail to the blogger:
If there is anything else that I can do for you, which is required by law, don't hesitate to call my office. If it isn't required by law then don't bother asking, because I think that you're a worthless piece of s**t and I wouldn't p**s on you if you were on fire (my opinion). You're a poor, lonely, jealous, old man with aspirations of being a writer. You write your lies and uneducated opinions on people and issues from behind the safety of your slobber stained keyboard with the hope that somebody will read them that doesn't know you and believe that you're more than the pitiful, broke-down, lizard-looking thing that you are, in my opinion. Get a life old man. On second thought, don't bother..............

Apparently, it felt good to get that off his chest, though the mayor also coughed up the requested documents.

The recent local case of stone-walling public access to governmental documents, as recounted in Deborah Greene's letter to the editor in Friday's Watauga Democrat (scroll down to "Open records should not be expensive") is not as colorful in its language but is in some ways more egregious than the Portsmouth case.

It's one thing if a rattled superintendent of schools came up with those road blocks on the fly. It would be far more troubling if he did so on the advice of School Board counsel.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Oh, Shut Up

Ex-Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist, safely out of office so that he can prevaricate at will about what he would have done, told Karen Tumulty of Time magazine that he would vote for the Democratic health-care reform bill (whatever that ultimately turns out to be): "As leader, I would take heat for it .... That's what leadership is all about."

If you can suppress your gag reflex long enough, recall that this is the same senator who confidently diagnosed Terri Schiavo's condition from hundreds of miles away and led the U.S. Senate on a midnight charge to interfer in a private family's decision, all in the interests of "right-to-life" politics.

If Bill Frist were still in the U.S. Senate, he would be talking daily to the microphones about "Obama's socialized medicine," ululating like a Swiss goat-herder yodeling in the Alps.

City of Concord, A-Feared of Chickens

We just heard about this nonsensical piece of September news. The city of Concord, NC, petitioned by a group of residents who are advocates for "eating locally," refused to amend city ordinances to allow a homeowner to keep up to six laying hens in her backyard for fresh eggs.

The Concord Chicken Club had proposed very strick rules to placate nervous city officials: no breeding of chickens, no chickens raised for meat, no crowing roosters.

The request went first to the Concord Planning and Zoning Commission, which bwak-bwak-bwaked for an hour, split pretty much down the middle, but voted narrowly against allowing laying hens: "The commission expressed concerns about the appearance and structural integrity of the henhouse, permitting enforcement and waste management." A tremendous case, it appears to us, of getting a non-existent piece of grit caught in their craw.

The issue then went to the Concord City Council, which split 2-3 against Henny Penny and her sisters. Only one person spoke against chickens at the public hearing, stating that they "would decrease the quality of life in Concord." One of the three-person majority on the City Council who decided to continue the ban on hens said he didn't think they were best "for the city as a whole."

"This is not just an issue of chickens. The planning and zoning commission gave us a negative recommendation," he said. "It's up to us to say what is best for the 80,000 citizens of Concord."

Beware of homegrown food is now the official doctrine of the Concord City Council. Reminds us of the NC Senate: There will be no wind-generated energy on mountain ridges.

The only (chicken) bone we have to pick with the Concord Chicken Club is the "no roosters allowed" provision in their proposal. What's a sunrise for, if not to give a boastful Rhode Island Red mister-man his opportunity to challenge the sun?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Cary Allred, the GOP Gift Who Keeps on Giving

It's one thing for the likes of me to call Republicans self-righteous hypocrites. It's far more effective for a Republican legislator (make that a "former" Republican legislator) to point out the obvious, even though he did it out of pure self-interest.

But, really, who better to know the inner workings of self-righteous hypocrisy?

Harry Reid Blows Hot

Noted frail reed Sen. Harry Reid, our least favorite Democratic Senate Majority Leader since the last Democratic Senate Majority Leader, put it on the record yesterday that there will be a public option in the final health insurance reform bill that goes to the president's desk.

Reid will be on the reconciliation committee, to meld House and Senate versions of reform. That much is a cinch. So he would be in a position to deliver on that promise. Not that we believe him in the first place, and not that we have any actual hope that the reconciled bill will contain any public option that isn't (a) "triggered" (something Congressional Democrats can later renege on, which they are so good at) or (b) so weak and watered down as to be meaningless (something else Congressional Democrats have shown past talents at accomplishing).

Jane Hamsher's take on the back-stage maneuvering is, once again, invaluable.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Meet the Fockers II

To recap: the five Democrats who voted against the Jay Rock public option amendment to the Baucus health reform bill in the Senate Finance Committee: Max Baucus of Montana, Tom Carper of Delaware, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and Bill Nelson of Florida.

What's the insurance market like in those five senators' states?
NORTH DAKOTA -- 89% controlled by Noridian/Blue Cross Blue Shield North Dakota

ARKANSAS -- 75% controlled by Blue Cross Blue Shield Arkansas

MONTANA -- 75% controlled by Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana

DELAWARE -- 42% controlled by CareFirst/Blue Cross Blue Shield

FLORIDA -- 30% controlled by Blue Cross Blue Shield Florida

NOTE: The U.S. Department of Justice defines a "highly concentrated" market as one where a company controls at least 42% of the market share.

An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics found that those Senate Democrats who opposed the public option amendments got more cash from insurers than those who supported it:
* The Democrats who voted against the Rockefeller amendment have collected $97,472 more on average from insurance companies since 1989 than the Democrats who voted for it -- $325,424 compared to $227,952.

Hat-tip: Chris Kromm & Sue Sturgis of Facing South


We mentioned a week or so ago that there is no federal shield law for journalists. We were reviewing a movie at the time, a fictional work about a journalist who goes to jail rather than reveal a confidential source that spilled the identity of a CIA spy.

The non-fiction truth of the matter is that since 2001 at least 19 journalists have been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors for information about confidential sources, and four have been imprisoned for refusing to comply, including Judith Miller of the NYTimes who was involved in the outing of Valerie Plame. Prosecutors have also threatened to put two San Francisco Chronicle reporters in jail for reporting leaked grand jury information about steroid use by professional athletes.

Following the Plame affair, legislation began moving in Congress to shield reporters from giving up confidential sources. Former President George W. Bush, that great expander of executive power, naturally opposed the bill, but a strong version has already passed the House and its twin is now pending in the U.S. Senate, introduced by senators Chuck Schumer and Arlen Specter.

Enter the Obama White House, which has sent word to the senators that "it opposes legislation that could protect reporters from being imprisoned if they refuse to disclose confidential sources who leak material about national security." The big problem with that "national security" classification is who gets to decide what it is. Under the expansive definitions of the Bush White House and its g.d. U.S.A. Patriot Act, "national security" can be almost anything. And who's to say when an administration is simply lying about what they're labeling off-limits? Abu Ghraib, anyone?

Instead of breaking with the Bush past, the Obama White House seems content to let the secrecy ride. Boo.

If the American Taliban wants to attack our president on something meaningful, how about this, instead of stoopid stuff like his lobbying for the 2016 Olympics or the complete lie that some religious/civic group is actually praying to Obama rather than to God.

'Course, if the Right Wing did protest the current White House's stance on extending the secrecy prerogatives of The Littlest Bush, we'd probably be forced to point out, once again, their utter hypocrisy.