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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies

Rome for the holidays: The Great Beauty & Black Nativity

By Dennis Hartley

Everybody loves Jep: The Great Beauty

It doesn't take long for the Fellini influences to burble to the surface in Paolo Sorrentino's La grande bellezza ("The Great Beauty"). The viewer is immediately thrown into the midst of a huge, frenetic birthday party in honor of 65 year-old writer Jep Gambardella (Tony Servillo), and we are definitely freakin' at the Freaker's Ball with some of the more oddly-featured and garishly-attired denizens of Rome's upper-crust literati. Although many decades have passed since the singular success of his sole novel, Jeb has ingratiated himself into Rome's high society over the ensuing years as a glib arts critic, serial womanizer and entertaining gadfly at parties (when accused of being a misogynist, Jep retorts that he is much more open-minded...he prefers to be addressed as a misanthrope).

However, Jeb's ebullient birthday mood is about to get quashed. When an old acquaintance he has long lost touch with (and who ended up marrying Jeb's teenage sweetheart) contacts him out of the blue to share the news that his wife has died, Jeb has an unexpected reaction, triggering a deep malaise. He begins to take stock of the self-indulgent pursuits that he and fellow members of Rome's idle class indulge in to distract themselves from the shallowness of their lives. The ensuing existential travelogue snaking through Italy's ever-cinematic capital begs comparisons with Fellini's La Dolce Vita, as well as Antonioni's La Notte , another drama about a Rome-based writer in crisis.

While beautifully photographed and cannily evocative of a certain surreal, free-associative style of filmmaking that flourished in the 1960s (even if the narrative is set in contemporary Bunga Bunga Rome), Sorrentino's film left me ambivalent. Interestingly, it was very similar to the way I felt in the wake of Eat Pray Love. In my review of that film, I relayed my inability to empathize with what I referred to as the "Pottery Barn angst" on display. It's that plaintive wail of the 1%: "I've got it all, and I've done it all and seen it all, but something's missing...oh, the humanity!" It's not that I don't understand our protagonist's belated pursuit of truth and beauty; it's just that Sorrentino fails to make me care enough to make me want to tag along on this noble quest for 2 hours, 22 minutes.

Miracle on 125th Street: Black Nativity

I make a concerted effort to avoid trite phrases like “warm-hearted musical that the whole family can enjoy” when dashing off a film review. But when it, erm, comes to warm-hearted musicals that the whole family can  enjoy…I suppose you could do worse than Black Nativity, a Yule-themed musical inspired by Langston Hughes’ eponymous early 60s Off-Broadway play and helmed by writer-director Kasi Lemmons (Talk to Me). Glossy as a Hallmark card (and just about as deep), the film nonetheless ambles along agreeably enough, thanks to a spirited cast and a blues-gospel tinged soundtrack. Jennifer Hudson plays a struggling single mom who lives in Baltimore with her teenage son, Langston (Jacob Latimore). She decides (much to Langston’s chagrin) that this Christmas would be as good a time as any for her son to get acquainted with her parents (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett) from whom she has been estranged for a number of years.

After a long bus ride to NYC (which yields the film’s best musical number, a haunting, beautifully arranged rendition of “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”), Langston no sooner sets foot on Big Apple pavement than he’s being accused of theft and getting hauled off in handcuffs after an earnest attempt to return a wallet to a man who has absent-mindedly left it on a store counter (I suspect I’m not the only person in the audience who flashed on the hapless newbie who gets racially profiled in the center section of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City”). Luckily, his grandfather (a reverend graced with the punny name Cornell Cobb) clears up the misunderstanding and gets him out of stir. Sullen Langston and his pious (if well-meaning) grandparents are off to a shaky start for their “getting to know you” romp, which includes the rev’s annual “Black Nativity” church event, some family melodrama, and (wait for it) A Christmas Miracle.

Were the film not buoyed by the presence of the charismatic Whitaker and Bassett, and the fact that someone is inspired to break into song every 6 or 7 minutes, the entire cast may have been in grave danger of drowning in clichés. Still, Lemmons’ film earns extra points almost by default, due to the fact that the “family holiday musical” is on the endangered species list. So if you’re into that sort of thing, hey…don’t let me be Scrooge.

So it took Judge Janice Brown living up to her extremist promise to wake up the Democrats?

by digby

If the Republicans want to bellyache about losing the filibuster for judicial nominees, maybe they ought to call in truce in the War on Women:
Within hours of each other, two federal appeals courts handed down separate decisions that affirmed sharp new limits on abortion and birth control. One on Oct. 31 forced abortion clinics across Texas to close. The other, on Nov. 1, compared contraception to “a grave moral wrong” and sided with businesses that refused to provide it in health care coverage.

“These are the kinds of decisions we are going to have to live with,” a blunt Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, warned his caucus later as it weighed whether to make historic changes to Senate rules. Those changes would break a Republican filibuster of President Obama’s nominees and end the minority party’s ability to block a president’s choices to executive branch posts and federal courts except the Supreme Court.

The moment represented a turning point in what had been, until then, a cautious approach by Democrats to push back against Republicans who were preventing the White House from appointing liberal judges. All the more glaring, Democrats believed, was that they had allowed confirmation of the conservative judges now ruling in the abortion cases. Republicans were blocking any more appointments to the court of appeals in Washington, which issued the contraception decision.

Faced with the possibility that they might never be able to seat judges that they hoped would act as a counterweight to more conservative appointees confirmed when George W. Bush was president, all but three of the 55 members of the Senate Democratic caucus sided with Mr. Reid. The decision represented a recognition by Democrats that they had to risk a backlash in the Senate to head off what they saw as a far greater long-term threat to their priorities in the form of a judiciary tilted to the right.
It's kind of hard for me to believe it took this long for them to figure that out, but better late than never.
Very quickly and unexpectedly, abortion and contraceptive rights became the decisive factor in the filibuster fight. First there were the two coincidentally timed decisions out of Texas and Washington. Then momentum to change the rules reached a critical mass when Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California and a defender of abortion rights, decided to put aside her misgivings, in large part because the recent court action was so alarming to her, Democrats said.

Mr. Reid and many members of his caucus found it especially disquieting that in 2005 they agreed to confirm the two judges who wrote the recent decisions — Janice Rogers Brown of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and Priscilla R. Owen of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit — as part of a deal with Senate Republicans, who controlled the chamber at the time and were threatening to limit Democrats’ ability to filibuster judges if some of Mr. Bush’s nominees were not approved.

Imagine that. You back off and play nice and confirm right wing extremists to the courts and look what they go and do. They issue extreme right wing rulings. I hate when that happens.

Anyway, it seems to have finally awakened the Democrats to the fact that the judicial legacy of eight years in the White house was going to be nil, leaving their mistakes during the Bush administration unbalanced for decades to come. (Pigs will fly out of my crock pot sooner than the GOP will back down on this.)

This isn't quite right, though:
Conservatives have always viewed the federal courts as a last line of defense in the country’s cultural and political fights. Among their base it is a central tenet that electing Republican presidents is vital precisely because they appoint right-leaning judges who will keep perceived liberal overreach in check.

The issue has never been as powerful for liberals. Consider, for example, how often Republican candidates laud Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas compared with how relatively rarely Democrats mention liberal justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“Republicans and conservatives have been better about the base understanding the significance of judicial nominations than the groups left of center,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which fights for conservative causes in the courts.

Actually, liberals spent decades chasing a dream that they could get back the white conservative vote they lost back in the 60s and one of the primary strategies for doing so was to shed the image of the Warren Court what with all the civil rights and civil liberties that upset those good old boys and girls so much. It was a conscious decision. And it has blown up in their faces with no political benefit. It's too late to stop the Federalist Society revolution, but maybe now they will at least start to mitigate the damage a little.

This is the result of their "grown-up in the room" strategy:
In the case before the Washington appeals court, Judge Brown issued an opinion siding with Freshway Foods, a produce company that opposes contraception and abortion so strongly that some of its delivery trucks have been emblazoned with signs declaring, “It’s not a choice, it’s a child.” In the opinion, she likened the government’s requirement that the company cover birth control for its employees to affirming “a repugnant belief” and wrote that the company would be forced to be “complicit in a grave moral wrong.”
For a long time the Democrats bargained with women's bodies to try to get votes from people who would never vote for them and it never worked.  Some things you just can't split the difference on (and that's assuming the other side isn't simply playing you for a fool.) I'm ever so slightly optimistic that our leaders may have finally learned their lesson.

From the "who's really a threat?" file

by digby

There's been so much detailed information revealed in the Snowden documents that sometimes I find myself a little bit overwhelmed.  And I miss things.  Like this one from Greenwald in The Guardian back in September:
Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of "propaganda campaigns" from America's "adversaries".

The entry is part of a top secret internal US government website, similar in appearance to the online Wikipedia site. According to a June interview with Snowden in Hong Kong, the only individuals empowered to write these entries are those "with top secret clearance and public key infrastructure certificates", special access cards enabling unique access to certain parts of NSA systems. He added that the entries are "peer reviewed" and that every edit made is recorded by user.

One specific entry discusses "threats to unmanned aerial vehicles". It lists various dangers to American drones, including "air defense threats", "jamming of UAV sensor systems", "terrestrial weather", and "electronic warfare employed against the command and control system".

But alongside those more obvious, conventional threats are what the entry describes as "propaganda campaigns that target UAV use".

Under the title "adversary propaganda themes", the document lists what it calls "examples of potential propaganda themes that could be employed against UAV operations".

One such example is entitled "Nationality of Target vs. Due Process". It states:
Attacks against American and European persons who have become violent extremists are often criticized by propagandists, arguing that lethal action against these individuals deprives them of due process."
In the eyes of the US government, "due process" – the idea that the US government should not deprive people of life away from a battlefield without presenting evidence of guilt – is no longer a basic staple of the American political system, but rather a malicious weapon of "propagandists". The ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights, among many other groups, have made exactly that argument against the US drone targeting program ("the US government's killings of US citizens Anwar Al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011 violated the Constitution's fundamental guarantee against the deprivation of life without due process of law").
Now I realize that we are all supposed to feel quite confident that unless we are Muslim, this will never be used against us, so why worry, right? (Too bad about the millions of innocent American Muslims, and Muslims around the world, but hey, waddayagonnado?) Still, the fact that the legal justification even exists to target those who are anti-drone activists as "propagandists"  and, therefore, subject to terrorist surveillance programs should at the very least make you wonder how far this could go under the right circumstances.  After all, we've had prominent Americans calling for Greenwald's arrest and characterizing his partner as a drug mule. Imagine if there is a major terrorist attack.  Do you think they won't do it?

Update: Alan Rusbridger editor of The Guardian did a Q&A with the Washington Post today. Very interesting. It certainly makes one realize why the old boys who insisted on constitutional freedom of the press did so.

Happy Birthday Shirley Chisholm

by digby

“Of my two handicaps, being female put many more obstacles in my path than being black."

I don't know where I first heard that famous Shirley Chisholm line but I do remember that I was shocked. It represented of huge moment of consciousness raising for me --- until then, as a child of the 1960s, I could not imagine that anything could be as daunting as being black in this world. Certainly, I didn't think I was a person who might have obstacles to overcome, however insignificant they might be by comparison. And then I learned that I did.

Shirley Chisholm was an early political hero of mine for a lot of different reasons. I remember the 1972 campaign as a teenager and thinking, "wow, a woman president?" I voted for her in my AP history class --- the only one who did, if I recall correctly. I think I foolishly assumed that now that everyone could see how absurd it was that half the population was barely represented in our democracy it would happen quite soon. Funny. It's more than 40 years later. But I'm assured by everyone that it's almost a woman's turn, so that's good. Maybe it will happen before I die.

Anyway, today is Shirley Chisholm day. If you want to read a nice piece about her life and her legacy, I enjoyed this one from Andrew O'Hair from a couple of years back. She was an original. As she said, somebody had to go first, and so she did.


Quagmires, sunk costs and apple pie

by digby

There is never a time when our humanitarian war makers want to call it a day. Once we've "sacrificed" American lives we have all these sunk costs and we must "see it through." Every damned time.

Here's our good friend the Very Serious Iraq war hawk Michael O'Hanlon making the case for us to own Afghanistan forever:
And finally, let's not forget the progress purchased so dearly in this decade and more of war. We must not permit Mr. Karzai's pique to flush all this down the drain. The United States can ride this one out. And given the enduring American strategic interests in this part of the world, as well as our huge sacrifice, that's exactly what we should do. In the end, this is about the American and the Afghan peoples, not about Hamid Karzai.
"Ride it out" is an interesting euphemism for continuing a military occupation.

Anyway, Charles Pierce makes the obvious Westmoreland analogy much more colorfully than I ever could and then concludes:
Jesus H. Christ on the bill at the Fillmore, it's 1967 all over again. And, not for nothing, but there once was a country in that region where women were comparatively free. That was Iraq. Then, Michael O'Hanlon and his friends helped euchre us into a war there and now, well, not so much for that women's rights thing. Turns out Poppy Bush was right. We have kicked The Vietnam Syndrome. We punted it all the way into the Brookings Institution.
Maybe one of these days the Very Serious People will convince our government to do something that won't make things worse. It hasn't happened yet in my lifetime, but I'm sure it must be possible.


Torture yourself for charity: the new American safety net

by digby

Electro-shock for a good cause:
A police chief of a small eastern Indiana town who was shot by a stun gun at fundraising event to buy a new squad car says he raised about $800 in cash and received a $25,000 pledge from a Texas company.

Knightstown Police Chief Danny Baker says he's been receiving calls from all over the country and expects to collect more money. His goal was to raise $9,000 so the town of about 2,100 people about 25 miles east of Indianapolis could lease a new squad car. He says he might be able to get a second car.

He says the feeling of being hit with 50,000 volts of low-amp electricity Wednesday night felt like someone hitting him in the back of the head repeatedly.

That's interesting, isn't it? Apparently, this police chief must think it's ok to inflict what feels like repeated hits to the head on anyone who doesn't comply with an officer's orders. (I assume he thinks that's ok, since most police officers do.) And yet, if police were to actually hit everyone from five year old kids to bedridden senior citizens over the head repeatedly I don't think people would think it's such a wonderful new policing technique.

It's the fact that it's high tech, sanitary and doesn't leave many marks that makes it so grand. Sure, it kills a few people, just like hits to the head do. But it's done from a distance and is much more clinical. If I were given to hyperbole (which I am) I would have to evoke Hannah Ahrendt here. This is an example of the banality of evil.

It's lucky this police chief wasn't among the thousands of the people who die from taser shots, isn't it? Boy would that have been embarrassing ...

The one good thing

by digby

Here's a hopeful sign for one victim of a miscarriage of justice:
A Florida woman sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a "warning shot" during an argument with her abusive husband has been released on bond while she awaits retrial under a controversial part of the state's self-defense law.

The case of Marissa Alexander, who was convicted of aggravated-assault with a deadly weapon, touched off a furor when her supporters compared it to the self-defense case of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted earlier this year of murdering an unarmed black teenager.

Although no one was injured in Alexander's case, the court gave her a 20-year prison sentence under the state's mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines because she had fired a gun during the assault.

A state appeals court ruled in September that Alexander, who is black, deserved a new trial because the judge failed to properly instruct the Jacksonville, Florida jury about her self-defense argument. She was convicted in May 2012.
A slightly built woman who stands 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 meter), Alexander said her 245-pound (111 kg) husband was about to attack her when she fired into a kitchen wall during the August 2010 incident. He had previously been convicted of domestic violence for attacking her.

Prosecutors said the shot endangered Gray. At the time, Alexander had an active restraining order against her husband and she carried a concealed weapons permit.
It shouldn't have taken the murder of an unarmed 17 year old boy to gain attention to this case. But it did. And maybe that's the one good thing that will come out of the whole ugly mess.

h/t to @Chicago_Todd

Friday, November 29, 2013

Stephen is the reason for the season

by digby

Just ... enjoy:

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

I wasn't watching TV today so I wasn't able to keep up with all the fast breaking shopping news. I assume they were the usual scintillating stories about lots of people walking around malls buying stuff.

It's never to soon to panic

by digby

Here’s the scenario the Obama administration wants to avoid at all costs on Saturday: It declares the Obamacare website fixed, a bunch of cable news network anchors try to log on again on live TV, and they get more error messages.

And suddenly, everyone’s showing that clip of George W. Bush standing on the USS Abraham Lincoln in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner.

But Democrats on Capitol Hill have their own nightmare scenario, too: The White House gives them nothing to brag about, no evidence that the site is actually better — just as some of the most vulnerable Democrats are getting ready to blast the administration if they’re not convinced it’s fixed.

That leaves the administration with two jobs ahead of the deadline Saturday when the federal Obamacare enrollment website is supposed to be fixed — or at least useable for most Americans. They’ll tiptoe to avoid declaring victory on the site too soon, but still give those vulnerable Democrats something to seize.
Even though I have long criticized this administration --- and the Democratic Party in general --- for celebrating their alleged victories prematurely, I cannot imagine they are dumb enough to do that with the Obamacare implementation. It would be catastrophically dumb. Vulnerable Democrats aren't facing an election until next fall. They're just going to have to wait to see what happens. And let's just face facts: if that web site isn't working by then they have much bigger problems.

Everybody needs to just relax on the politics of Obamacare. There is nothing Democratic politicians can do except pray/hope/wish that the administration does what it takes to make it works better over the next few months. Panicking won't help.

Beltway conventional wisdom ... oy.

They're mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore

by digby

Meanwhile, in the land of smiles:
Protesters in Thailand stormed the grounds of the national army headquarters on Friday, asking the military to support their increasingly aggressive campaign to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The army insisted it will not take sides in the dispute.

In a letter addressed to the army chief, the protesters stopped short of calling for a coup but urged military leaders to "take a stand" in Thailand's spiraling political crisis and state which side they are on. The crowd of 1,200 people stayed on the sprawling lawn of the Royal Thai Army compound for two hours before filing out peacefully.

Army commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha responded with a call for the protests to be democratic and law-abiding.

"Don't try to make the army take sides because the army considers that all of us are fellow Thais, so the government, state authorities and people from every sector must jointly seek a peaceful solution as soon as possible," Prayuth said in a statement.

Yingluck has proposed talks but the protesters have rejected them.

The incursion on the army's turf was a bold act heavy with symbolism in a country that has experienced 18 successful or attempted military coups since the 1930s.

The most recent was in 2006, when the military ousted Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is living overseas to avoid a corruption conviction but is central to Thailand's political conflict.

Protest organizers later declared that Sunday would be their "victory day," and told followers to seize all state ministries, state telecommunications agencies and other state enterprises, police headquarters and the zoo.

The targets also include the prime minister's offices. In 2008, anti-Thaksin demonstrators occupied those offices for three months to back their demands that his allies step down.
Sounds like Occupy Wall Street on steroids, doesn't it?

But there's an interesting wrinkle:
For the past week, thousands of anti-government protesters have marched in Bangkok in a bid to unseat Yingluck, whom they accuse of serving as a proxy for her billionaire brother. Thaksin is adored by much of the country's rural poor and despised by the educated elite and middle class who accuse him of widespread corruption and other offenses.
So, Thaksin is a billionaire, and he and his sister are widely loathed by the middle class and elites for their alleged corruption. But the rural poor revere him. (In fact, in 2010 the current government killed about 90 of them in street protests.)

I know very little of Thai politics, obviously. I've written a bit about it from time to time because I lived there as a child and my brother has lived there for many years. It's clearly very complicated, with many details unique to the Thai system and culture. But regardless of how it shakes out, I think it's yet another example of how the status quo is no longer holding anywhere on the planet.

Just because it was a lie doesn't mean it wasn't true

by digby

No surprise here:
CBS News confirmed on Monday that Logan and producer Max McClellan were asked to take a leave of absence after an internal review of her reporting found major flaws. Logan had been forced to apologize and issue a partial retraction when reports from other media outlets showed that her source, security contractor Dylan Davies, was not at the U.S. mission in Benghazi during the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attack as he had claimed.

On Wednesday morning, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade asked Huckabee to respond to the news that Logan had been effectively suspended indefinitely from 60 Minutes.

“Very shocked,” Huckabee said. “And I think that the fact is that we’re missing the big story here. We still don’t know what happened in Benghazi. Our government lied to us, they covered it up.”

“Lara Logan is certainly a hero journalist to at least attempt to get the story out,” he added.
She is a hero journalist who has been in the path of great danger over the years, true. But in her "attempt to get the story out" as she wanted to tell it, she reported a hoax. Maybe if she hadn't jumped to conclusions about what happened in Benghazi from the beginning (as the whole right wing has done) she wouldn't have been so eager to believe her source's absurd story --- which anyone with half a brain could see was right out of a cheap novel or video game.

But this does illustrate how Fox News looks at the facts. They just don't matter. Which is not "advocacy journalism." It's propaganda.

The "social justice" boogeyman

by digby

Check out this charming little tid-bit from Lee Fang:

Worker Center Watch has no information its website about its sponsors. Yet the group attacks labor activists and community labor groups for lacking transparency. “Hiding behind these non-profits, unions mask their true motivations, circumvent operational requirements and skirt reporting and disclosure obligations,” says Worker Center Watch, referring to labor-supported worker centers like OUR Walmart.

TheNation.com has discovered that Worker Center Watch was registered by the former head lobbyist for Walmart. Parquet Public Affairs, a Florida-based government relations and crisis management firm for retailers and fast food companies, registered the Worker Center Watch website.

The firm is led by Joseph Kefauver, formerly the president of public affairs for Walmart and government relations director for Darden Restaurants. Throughout the year, Parquet executives have toured the country, giving lectures to business groups on how to combat the rise of what has been called “alt-labor.” At a presentation in October for the National Retail Federation, a trade group for companies like Nordstrom and Nike, Kefauver’s presentation listed protections against wage theft, a good minimum wage and mandated paid time off as the type of legislative demands influenced by the worker center protesters.

The presentation offered questions for the group, including: “How Aggressive Can We Be?” and “How do We Challenge the Social Justice Narrative?”

Isn't that special? These rich bastards must lie awake at night worrying that "social justice" might appeal to average peoples' moral values and then where will be be?

It's only a matter of time before they have to go full Randroid and take on Jesus himself.

The Black Friday Walmart strikes are happening all over the country. You can follow the action on twitter at #WalmartStrikers

An iconic report card

by digby

A blog joke was born:

For those who weren't following the news of those days, it's hard to get just how giddy and sycophantic the press corps was toward these endless phony-baloney presidential photo ops.  The "secret drop-in" in the dead of night to serve the troops Thanksgiving dinner was especially bad.  And Atrios memorialized it with that "self-evaluation" report card (which had been in the news as an unrelated story).

*I don't know if everyone also recalls that the famous image of Bush serving the turkey was actually a picture of him carrying a decorative turkey centerpiece. The revelation of this fact evidently still irks the right wingers, which makes me happy.

QOTD: jackass edition

by digby

Who else but Kanye West?
"Man, let me tell you something about George Bush and oil money and Obama and no money. People want to say Obama can't make these moves or he's not executing. That's because he ain't got those connections. Black people don't have the same level of connections as Jewish people. Black people don't have the same connection as oil people.

"You know we don't know nobody that got a nice house. You know we don’t know nobody with paper like that we can go to when we down. You know they can just put us back or put us in a corporation. You know we ain’t in situation. Can you guarantee that your daughter can get a job at this radio station? But if you own this radio station, you could guarantee that. That’s what I’m talking about."
Somehow, I think Kanye's going to have enough to get him through whatever hardships he's going to face.  He's reportedly worth a hundred million dollars.

And he certainly knows people with a nice house. This is where he's currently staying with his girlfriend and her family:

But that's only temporary until his 11 million dollar mansion is fully renovated:

Obviously Kanye is planning a run for president.

You know, I get the point he's trying to make about money.  But he's a very wealthy meathead who sounds like a fool talking that way.  There are a lot of reasons why being the first black president creates unique problems.  Lack of access to money isn't one of them.

And he's also, apparently, a bigot.

sigh ...
British plutocrats get into the Objectivist game, too

by David Atkins

Whether it's the U.S. or Britain, the plutocratic class isn't even trying to hide the contempt anymore:

The growing gulf between rich and poor is inevitable because millions of people are too stupid to get on in life, top Tory Boris Johnson suggested tonight.

Mr Johnson said that the resentment felt towards the super rich in the wake of the financial crisis and “fives years of recession” was irrational.

“It would be wrong to persecute the rich, and madness to try and stifle wealth creation and futile to try to stamp out inequality,” he said.

The Mayor of London, who dreams of being Prime Minister, said that the Government had a duty to care for those who could not look after themselves and give everyone else the chance to get on.

But he also said: “It is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85, while about 2% have an IQ above 130.

“The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.”

Also, this courtesy The Mirror:

It seems that the more the top 1% has, the more insecure they are about it (they do know deep down they don't deserve it, after all), and the more they defensively lash out at everyone else.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Solidarity with the whole human race

by digby

This joint statement from AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and Stephen Blair, the Catholic bishop of Stockton and a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ domestic policy committee, is another welcome sign of an important and growing economic coalition:

Unions and Catholic leaders have long found common cause in advocating for policies that defend the dignity of workers and protect immigrant families. Over the past several years, we have worked together to win congressional approval of comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Although such legislation has passed the U.S. Senate in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, the House of Representatives is now delaying consideration of either the Senate bill or its own version of reform.

While we commend President Barack Obama’s strong commitment to humane and responsible reform, we now stand together again to urge him to halt the deportations of immigrants who would achieve legal status and eventual citizenship under the Senate bill. It is inconsistent to advocate on behalf of immigrants and their families on one hand – including giving them an opportunity for citizenship – and devastate and separate their families through enforcement actions on the other.

A philosophically diverse coalition of business, faith and labor leaders has joined Obama in a clear call for making urgent legislative changes to a broken system, and we remain committed to achieving passage of comprehensive immigration reform. We must not allow extreme positions outside the American mainstream to define the debate and hinder the achievement of the common good, which calls for comprehensive immigration reform.

Despite our optimism that Congress will eventually do the right thing, we remain deeply troubled that the number of undocumented immigrants deported since Obama took office five years ago will soon surpass 2 million people. This represents a moral and political failure. Simply put, tearing apart tens of thousands of children from parents is morally unacceptable.

We are a nation of laws, but also a nation guided by enduring principles and the practical sense to fix what is broken. A strictly punitive approach to immigration is an imprudent and impractical response that ignores the root causes driving migration, such as trade policies that benefit multinational corporations over workers. Global poverty and unstable governments all contribute to complex challenges that will not be solved by higher walls or tough rhetoric.

Moreover, the economic case for an immigration overhaul is strong. Despite the ugly myths and fear stoked by anti-immigrant groups, the fact is that comprehensive reform will be good for American workers, families and our economy.

Most immigrants work hard, pay taxes and contribute to our communities. But in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago alone, low-wage workers in immigrant-heavy industries lose about $56 million per week in wage theft from unscrupulous employers. The best defense against workplace exploitation is bringing immigrants out of the shadows.

In this regard, we support immigration policies that offer immigrant workers a fair and just path to citizenship, so that their human rights are protected and the wages for all workers rise.

The low wages and fear that trap many immigrants and U.S. citizens in dead-end jobs have only gotten worse with declining union membership and growing income inequality. Fixing our broken immigration system will help all workers, strengthen a shrinking middle class and set our nation on a more stable path to compete in a diverse global economy. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that immigration reform with a path to citizenship would generate an additional $1.5 trillion to the economy over the next decade.

It’s time to reject false choices and inconsistent and immoral enforcement policies. Let’s secure our borders at the same time that we provide an earned path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. We can protect both American-born workers and aspiring Americans by fixing an immigration system that encourages manipulation and abuse by employers. The status quo is unacceptable.

As labor and faith leaders, we urge all people of good will not to rest until the fight for a fair and just immigration system is won.

"Just enjoy it while you can"

by digby

At one point Dennis Hartley tried to put together a list of great Thanksgiving movies and these were all he could come up with (so he went with food movies instead, which I can totally appreciate): The House of YesHannah and Her SistersThe Ice Storm Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Alice's Restaurant

Well, I happen to love Hannah and her Sisters. It's on my all-time Top Ten list so I have no problem finding a Thanksgiving movie to watch.

Here's why I love it:

Right wing hissy fit for T-Day

by digby

So the right wing is clutching itspearlsover the fact that the president used the term "teabagger". The humanity.

Here's what he wasted his valuable time doing:

But here's the thing.  He was quoting the guy who wrote the letter:
Thomas Ritter, a fifth-grade school teacher from Irving, Texas, has sent the president a note criticizing Obamacare – the controversial law offering health care to the uninsured, which has become the butt of jokes following a disastrous launch last month.

'This bill has caused such a ­divisive, derisive and toxic environment... The reality is that any citizen that disagrees with your ­administration is targeted and ridiculed,' the Texas man wrote to the commander-in-chief.

Ritter went on, saying that he had been hesitant to write to the president for fear of 'retribution,' according to the New York Post's Page Six.

'I watched you make fun of tea baggers and your press secretary make fun of Ms. [Sarah] Palin which was especially beneath the dignity of the White House,' the teacher fumed. 'Do the right thing not the political thing. Suggest a bill that Americans can support.'
I'm sure the president should have thought twice about repeating that term, even though they routinely call him Hitler. He should know by now that they are allowed to act like animals because they are right. The rest of us must mind our manners.

But what continues to gall me about this is the fact that, as David Neiwert fully documented, they are the ones who started using the term in the first place:

Here's Fox News doing a story about a Tea Party initiative called "Teabag the fools in Washington." I'm not kidding:

Can you imagine the right ever letting us off the hook if we made that kind of error?

Anyway, today's Thanksgiving and it's not nice to dwell on such things. So, I thought I'd just reprise a famous Michael Bérubé protest song from the Teabagger Wars of 2009:

The night the country died

In the deep of a Sunday night
In the land of the health care bill
When the free republic died
And they talk about it still

When a man named Al-Barack
Took his fascist voting bloc
And he called his gang to war
With the forces of the law

I heard my grandma cry
I heard her pray the night the country died
Brother what a night it really was
Brother what a fight it really was
Glory be

I heard my grandma cry
I heard her pray the night the country died
Brother what a night the people saw
Brother what a fight the people saw
Yes indeed

And we took our tea in bags
Through the streets around the Hill
As we screamed at blacks and fags
Chanting, “n****r kill the bill.”

There was Boehner on the floor
And threats of civil war
But by midnight it was done
And the socialists had won

I heard my grandma cry
I heard her pray the night the country died
Brother what a night it really was
Brother what a fight it really was
Glory be

I heard my grandma cry
I heard her pray the night the country died
Brother what a night the people saw
Brother what a fight the people saw
Yes indeed

Then there was no sound at all
But a hush upon the Mall
For as the clock struck one
The death panels had begun
And then at the break of day
Obama took grandma away*

The night the country died
The night the country died
Brother what a night the people saw
Brother what a fight the people saw
Yes indeed

Oh, ok, here's another one from one of his commenters:

I dreamed they passed the Bill last night,
Those friends of Mao and Ché.
Says I, “You didn’t have no votes.”
“We had enough,” says they.
“We had enough,” says they.
“When Scott Brown won,” says I to them,
Them standing by my bed,
“You folks were looking mighty blue.”
Says they, “We’re turning Red.”
Says they, “We’re turning Red.”
“The talking heads denounced your Bill,
They shot it down,” says I.
“Takes half the votes to kill a Bill,”
Says they, “It didn’t die.”
Says they, “It didn’t die.”
And standing there as big as life
Each face split by a smile,
They says, “What they forgot to kill
Went on to reconcile,
Went on to reconcile.”
“The Bill ain’t dead,” they says to me,
“The Bill ain’t never died.
When working men are sick in bed
The Bill is at their side,
The Bill is at their side.”
“From San Diego up to Maine,
In every mine and mill,
Where workers need some health care help,”
Says they, “You’ll find the Bill,”
Says they, “You’ll find the Bill.”
I dreamed they passed the Bill last night,
Those friends of Mao and Ché.
Says I, “You didn’t have no votes.”
“We had enough,” says they.
“We had enough,” says they.

I can't believe they're still on exactly the same page four years later. Oy. This is going to be a long war.

These "teabaggers" sincerely believe that health care reform is the worst thing that ever happened to this country. And that means they're nuts.

Game Changers and Double Downs

by digby

This conversation on Up with Steve Kornacki about campaign "game changers" was interesting (and not just because he quoted me at the top of the segment:)

I've thought about this quite a bit. I'm sympathetic to the idea that most of the time the presidential election is pre-ordained because of external conditions and the candidates are either riding the tide of good times or swimming against it. By the time of the general election we most often do know who's going to win just based on the general mood of the country. Even without looking at polls I usually predict the winner pretty early on that basis (unless they steal it ...) But I remain unconvinced that this is the whole story. Even aside from the good points that Sasha Issenberg makes about how the narrative of the winning campaign informs us about the approach to governance of the eventual winner, I still think campaigns themselves could surprise us, even though they haven't yet. There just haven't been enough of them measured in this way ultimately to prove it.

Be that as it may, the numbers are what the numbers are and they show as of now that the winners of presidential elections can be correlated to certain factors having to do with the economy and (I assume --- I haven't read he book) national security. But author John Sides says something in his comments above that's very important and which I don't think most people quite understand: the only elections they feel can be predicted with this specificity are presidential general elections. And yet I see pundits and other observers applying these findings to elections of all sorts and that's definitely a big mistake. All you have to do is look at presidential primaries to see just how volatile elections can be and how important campaigns are to the outcome.

I hope that people will come away from this understanding that elections at all other levels are still very much dependent on what we call campaigns and political talent, however you define that. There are wave elections and referendums on certain policies of the party currently in charge. But the factors that go into any winning specific race are highly individual and even our favorite numbers crunchers are not going to be able to predict them based on polling alone.

Anyway, thanks to Steve Kornacki for calling out my post (and picking one that sounds halfway literate.)

Btw: Heuristic

Stereotyping for Real Americans

by digby

Lulz. To conservatives, every liberal is a wealthy vegetarian with the brain of a Hollywood starlet:
The Thanksgiving Guide to Making Conservative Arguments Liberals Can Understand

By: Timothy Carney

Your Baby Boomer aunts are unshakable in their faith in Hillary Clinton. Your nephew Trevor won't stop spouting vapid Democratic talking points in favor of Obamacare.

When Thanksgiving talk turns political, do you feel like you and your liberal relatives can't communicate?

It's okay. I can help you. I was born in Greenwich Village to a lawyer dad and community-organizer mom. I used to live on Capitol Hill, and now I live in Montgomery County in Maryland. I even served a year as an MSNBC contributor. This is all to say, I speak liberal.

You won’t win over your lefty in-laws with appeals to liberty. Those warnings about hubris that tickle your Edmund Burke nerve will ring hollow with Nephew Trevor, who is still infected with his 2008 case of Hope & Change. You need to speak their language.So let me offer my conservative and libertarian readers the first annual Thanksgiving Guide to Making Conservative Arguments in Liberals’ Language.

Regulators will ban your organic kale.

Your liberal relatives generally trust government regulations to solve problems. They don’t sweat the costs to the economy as much as you do. Throw in a healthy distrust of Corporate America — often even an unhealthy disdain for it — and progressives (this is what they call themselves these days) end up regarding regulation as a force for good.

You can plant a seed of skepticism about regulators’ ability to do good, though, by pointing to the salad course Trevor brought. The organic, local, sustainable kale in it might be impossible to get after the Obama administration’s food safety rules go into effect.

The Food Safety Modernization Act that Obama signed is finally being implemented, and it has locavores up in arms. Quote Nathanael Johnson at Grist (your relatives know this site): “Everyone wants safer food, but some small farmers fear the rules could force them out of business.”

Proposed federal rules on manure-spreading and water-testing seem tailored for industrial farming, impossible for smaller farms to meet. As you discuss this, throw in references to author Michael Pollan.

At work here are two dynamics common to regulation: They’re called “regulatory capture” and “the overhead smash.”

Obama's food safety czar is Michael Taylor, former top lobbyist for Monsanto. (You'll be amazed at the power of the word “Monsanto” with some of your relatives.) Industrial farms and major food processors hire the best lobbyists and thus get a seat at the table when the FDA writes the rules. Thus, the biggest players in the regulated industry have “captured” the agency that regulates them.

“The overhead smash” is my phrase for the tendency of regulations to add to overhead — the fixed costs of doing business — which smashes smaller competitors while protecting the big guys. In the food safety realm, small farms are begging to be exempted from these rules that only big farms can afford.

In case your aunts think this is an aberration, point them to similar phenomena in the realms of handmade toys, taxi services, bakers, hair-braiders, casket-makers and so on.

Also too: tell them that Social Security is racist so they'll stop supporting it.

If you'd like a liberal guide to talking with your right wing relatives that isn't just snarky, stereotypical nonsense, check out Chris Hayes Very Very Special Thanksgiving Dinner Special Show from last night.


Gobble, gobble

by digby

The Congressional Progressive caucus sent this out so you will have something to show your right wing relatives today:

Haha. Happy Turkey Day everyone.
Demographic winter in action

by David Atkins

If you ever wanted to know what the electoral college in 2012 would have looked like if only white men could vote, here's an eye-opener for you:

When you hear Tea Party types say they "want their country back," it's a pretty good bet this is what they mean. Some people in this country feel very threatened by modernity.

As a white man, I have to say it's pretty embarrassing.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Karen Tumulty Pumpkin Cake

by digby

A few years back on Thanksgiving eve I ran this recipe for Pumpkin Cake and received a very nice note from journalist Karen Tumulty saying that she'd been tooling around the web for something to bake and tried it and liked it very much. Ever since then I've called it Karen Tumulty cake.

It's easy even for non bakers and it really is very good.

For cake

* (3/4 cup) softened unsalted butter.
* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 2 tablespoons crystalized ginger, finely chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
* 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk 
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
* 3 large eggs


* 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons well-shaken buttermilk
* 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, 
* 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
* a 10-inch nonstick bundt pan 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bundt pan generously.

Sift flour (2 1/4 cups), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, 3/4 cup buttermilk, ginger and vanilla in another bowl.

Beat butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, just until smooth.

Spoon batter into pan, then bake until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and reinvert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.


Whisk together buttermilk and confectioners sugar until smooth. Drizzle over warm cake, sprinkle with chopped walnuts (keep a little icing in reserve to drizzle lightly over walnuts) then cool cake completely. Icing will harden slightly.

Easy as pie (easier, actually.) 

Update: Taste's great with some eggnog.  If you've never made the real thing, this one from Alton Brown is really, reallllly gooooodmmmmmm....

McClatchy takes the 60 Minutes "review" to task

by digby

McClatchy, which did an excellent analysis of problems beyond the hoax in Lara Logan's Benghazi story now takes a look at the obvious deficiencies in the "review" that resulted in Logan and her producer being suspended (with pay evidently):
Ortiz’s 10-point summary of his findings skirts some of the main issues still lingering about the segment. He offered no explanation, for example, of how Logan came in contact with Dylan Davies, the main source for the story, or why Logan did not reveal that Davies had written a soon-to-be-published book for another CBS-owned company. The book project since has been canceled.

The review also did not explain Logan’s assertions that al Qaida was behind the attack – that is a widely disputed assertion – or that the hospital where Stevens was treated was controlled by al Qaida, something that was inaccurate. The review concluded only that Logan had not attributed those assertions properly.
Ortiz did not address whether Davies was put in touch with “60 Minutes” by the would-be publisher of his book, Threshold Editions, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS. “‘60 Minutes’ erred in not disclosing that connection in the segment,” Ortiz concluded.

The review also refers to other questions raised by McClatchy. The 15-minute segment repeatedly referred to the attack as an al Qaida operation, saying that fact was “well known,” and claimed Stevens was treated at a hospital controlled by al Qaida.

But who took part in storming the compound is disputed, and there is no known information that the attack was led by al Qaida. Instead, the attackers consisted of members of several jihadist groups, including Ansar al Shariah, a Libyan militia that was responsible for security in much of Benghazi. Several Libyans told McClatchy the hospital was guarded by Ansar al Shariah, not al Qaida.

The journalistic review did not question the accuracy of Logan’s assertions about al Qaida but said they were inadequately attributed in the segment.
The review also backed the report’s assertion that Stevens’ schedule for Sept. 12, 2012, had been found in the compound more than a year after the attack. But it skirts the fact that the only person CBS dispatched to Benghazi during what “60 Minutes” called a “year-long investigation” was a security contractor who, in his words, “works in journalism.”

“Video taken by the producer-cameraman whom the ‘60 Minutes’ team sent to the Benghazi compound last month clearly shows that the pictures of the Technical Operations Center were authentic, including the picture of the schedule in the debris,” the memo said.

But the contractor did not describe himself as a producer-cameraman in a conversation with McClatchy, in which he recounted hiring two Libyans to accompany him on Oct. 4-7 for the story. The contractor, who contacted McClatchy, refused to give his real name or name the company for which he works, but he provided photos from his visit.

On Tuesday, McClatchy found the memo shown in the “60 Minutes” report, lying on top of debris in the compound’s technical operations center.

The memo, however, undercuts Logan’s assertion that the Benghazi Medical Center was under al Qaida control at the time of the attack. The schedule shows that Stevens was scheduled to visit the medical center at 11 a.m. – an unlikely destination if the hospital had been controlled by al Qaida.
I don't even know what to say about the fact that this contractor-journalist just happened to find Ambassador Stevens' schedule lying atop the rubble a year after the event, but it is more than a little bit curious.

Up until now, I haven't written about Logan's contractor husband because I'm just not comfortable attributing any problems with her journalism to what he does. But this does make me curious now because it turns out we're dealing with two contractors in the middle of this bogus story, one who's been completely discredited and one who's some kind of mercenary reporter. And Logan's also married to one (although there's some dispute as to just how much of a real spook sort he really was.) When you combine tall hat with Logan's lugubrious characterization in her piece of the contractor con man as someone "who's been keeping our diplomats safe from harm for years" you start to think there really could be a connection. I have no real evidence of it obviously, but it's pretty clear that the world of contractors in general may have been a factor in this hoax.

In any case, you just have to laugh at this:
When Logan and Burkett began their affair in Baghdad, he was married and she was in a relationship. They were married in 2008. “I knew him for about six years before we got together,” she told The New York Times in a soft-focus feature in 2012. “He had a very secretive job, and I always respected that. I know tons of people in that world, and I never ask them questions because it’s a violation right there.”

“He never crossed my boundaries,” Logan said of Burkett. “I never crossed his.”
Can you see the problem here? She knows tons of people in "that world" but never asks them questions because it would be a "violation?" Logan is CBS News' Chief Foreign Correspondent. I don't know what she thinks she's "violating" but it's obvious to me that she's violating the terms of her employment. Journalists ask questions. It's the most basic requirement of the job.


No, private charity can't make up for government programs

by David Atkins

Not that anyone with a modicum of intelligence should have had any doubt about this since the 1930s, but cuts to food stamps are forcing private charities to try to help pick up the slack. Needless to say, they aren't able to keep up with the need:

American food banks that saw demand for emergency meals take off during the recession are working to meet yet another increase for 2014, following cuts to food stamps that took effect Nov. 1, 2013.

The $5 billion cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will affect 47.7 million people, one out of every seven Americans. A family of four will lose $36 a month in food assistance, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, dropping from $668 to $632 a month.

In New York City, with 63 percent of pantries and kitchens reporting shortages, the cuts will add stress to an already strained system, says Triada Stampas, a spokesperson for Food Bank for New York City. That food bank, the nation's largest, delivered 72 million meals last year. The organization calculates that across the five boroughs, SNAP cuts will mean that New Yorkers who get assistance will eat a total of 76 million fewer meals acquired with food stamps in the next year.

"We've been talking to private donors for months about these cuts," said Stampas. "But I want to dispel the notion that private charity can make up for the cuts, that's simply not possible. "

Bob Aiken, the CEO of Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks nationwide, said their branches are going to see more visitors as SNAP cuts shrink monthly food budgets.

Feeding America expects to deliver 3.3 billion meals in 2014, an increase from the 3.2 billion meals delivered in 2013 and the 2.2 billion meals delivered in 2009.

With a 46 percent increase in the number of people seeking meals after the recession hit -- from 25 million in 2006 to 37 million 2010 -- Feeding America has been struggling to keep up with demand.

"We are very concerned about the impact this cut will have on struggling low-income people and our network food banks," Aiken wrote in a statement in response to the SNAP cuts. "Unfortunately, our food banks across the nation continue to be stretched thin in their efforts to meet sustained high need in the wake of the recession."
When conservatives insist that private charity substitute for real universal programs, they are in essence saying "let people die." It never did work, doesn't work now, and won't work in the future.

Rush Limbaugh declares war on the Pope

by digby

Well, not really. But he might as well have:

LIMBAUGH: I mentioned, last night -- I was doing show prep last night -- usual routine. And I ran across this -- I don't actually know what it's called -- the latest papal offering, statement from Pope Francis. Now, up until this -- I'm not Catholic. Up until this, I have to tell you, I was admiring the man. I thought he was going a little overboard on the "common man" touch, and I thought there might have been a little bit of PR involved there. But nevertheless, I was willing to cut him some slack. I mean, if he wants to portray himself as still from the streets of where he came from and is not anything special, not aristocratic, if he wants to eschew the physical trappings of the Vatican -- OK, cool, fine.

But this that I came across last night -- I mean, it totally befuddled me. If it weren't for capitalism, I don't know where the Catholic Church would be. Now, as I mentioned before, I'm not Catholic. I admire it profoundly, and I've been tempted a number of times to delve deeper into it. But the pope here has now gone beyond Catholicism here, and this is pure political. Now, I want to share with you some of this stuff.

"Pope Francis attacked unfettered capitalism as 'a new tyranny.' He beseeched global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality, in a document on Tuesday setting out a platform for his papacy and calling for a renewal of the Catholic Church. In it, Pope Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the 'idolatry of money.' "

I've gotta be very caref-- I have been numerous times to the Vatican. It wouldn't exist without tons of money. But, regardless, what this is -- somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope. There's no such -- "unfettered capitalism"? That doesn't exist anywhere.

Ok, now I'm starting to really enjoy this. Has anyone alerted Wild Bill Donohue to the fact that Rush Limbaugh is calling the pope a Marxist? If Donohue were anything other than a broken down right wing hack, he's be bringing forth the anti-gay, drug addict slurs right about now. (After all, the guy usually defends everything the Church does, including priest pedophilia.) Nothing? Chirp???