Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

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

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018 December 2018 January 2019 February 2019 March 2019 April 2019 May 2019 June 2019


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies

Frightfully amusing: 10 horror comedies for Halloween

By Dennis Hartley

The nightly news is horrifying enough…so here’s ten funny ones. Alphabetically:

Bubba Ho-Tep - This 2002 tongue-in-cheek shocker from director Don “Phantasm” Coscarelli could have been “ripped from the headlines”…that is, if those headlines were from The Weekly World News. In order to properly enjoy this romp, you must first unlearn what you have learned. For example, JFK (Ossie Davis) is still alive (long story)…and he’s now an elderly African-American gentleman (even longer story). He currently resides at a decrepit nursing home in Texas, along with our hero, Elvis Presley (midnight movie icon Bruce Campbell). The King and the President join wheelchairs to rid the facility of its rather formidable pest…a reanimated Egyptian mummy (with a ten-gallon hat) who’s been lurking about waiting for residents to pass on so he can suck out their souls. Lots of laughs, yet despite the over-the-top premise, Campbell’s portrayal of “Elvis” remains respectful; even poignant. Davis also nails that sweet spot; he embraces the inherent campiness of his “JFK”, yet he somehow retains the dignity of its namesake.

Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter - “What he doesn’t know about vampires wouldn’t even fill a flea’s codpiece!” This unusually droll Hammer entry from 1974 benefits from assured direction and a clever script by Brian Clemens, one of the creators behind The Avengers TV show. Captain Kronos (Horst Janson) and his stalwart consultant, Professor Hieronymus Grost (John Cater) are called upon by a physician to investigate a mysterious malady befalling residents of a sleepy hamlet…rapidly accelerating aging. The professor suspects a youth-sucking vampire may be involved…and the game is afoot. Along the way, the Captain finds romance with the village babe, played by lovely Caroline Munro (*sigh*). The film was released toward the tail end of Hammer’s classic period; possibly explaining why at times, Clemens appears like he is doing a parody of “a Hammer film”.

Delicatessen- Love is in the air…along with the butcher’s cleaver in this seriocomic vision of a food-scarce, dystopian “near-future” along the lines of Soylent Green, directed with trademark surrealist touches by co-directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro (The City of Lost Children). The pair’s favorite leading man, Dominique Pinon (sort of a sawed-off Robin Williams) plays a circus performer who moves into an apartment building with a butcher shop downstairs. The shop’s proprietor seems to be appraising the new tenant with a “professional” eye. In Jeunet and Caro’s bizarre universe, it’s all par for the course (and just wait ‘til you get a load of the vegan “troglodytes” who live under the city). One particularly memorable and hilarious sequence, an imaginatively choreographed lovemaking scene, stands as a mini-masterpiece of film and sound editing.

Eating Raoul - The late great Paul Bartel directed and co-wrote this twisted and hilarious social satire. Bartel and his frequent screen partner Mary Waronov play Paul and Mary Bland, a prudish, buttoned-down couple who are horrified to discover that their apartment complex is home to an enclave of “swingers”.  Paul is even more shocked when he comes home from his wine store job one day and discovers Mary struggling to escape the clutches of a swinger’s party guest who has mistakenly strayed into the Bland’s apartment. Paul beans him with a frying pan, inadvertently killing Mary’s overeager groper. When the couple discovers a sizable wad of money on the body, a light bulb goes off-and the Blands come up with a unique plan for financing the restaurant that they have always dreamed of opening (and helping rid the world of those icky swingers!). Things get complicated, however when a burglar (Robert Beltran) ingratiates himself into their scheme. Yes, it’s sick…but in a good way. Just wait until you meet Doris the Dominatrix.

Ed Wood- Director Tim Burton and his favorite leading man Johnny Depp have worked together on so many films over the last 20-odd years that they must be joined at the hip. For my money, this affectionate 1994 biopic about the man who directed “the worst film of all time” remains their best collaboration. It’s also unique in Burton’s canon in that it is somewhat grounded in reality. Depp gives a brilliant performance as Edward D. Wood, Jr., who unleashed the infamously inept yet 100% certified camp classic, Plan 9 from Outer Space on an unsuspecting movie-going public back in the late 1950s. While there are lots of belly laughs, none of them are at the expense of the off-beat characters. There’s no mean-spiritedness here; that’s what makes the film so endearing. Martin Landau nearly steals the film with his droll Oscar-winning turn as Bela Lugosi. Bill Murray, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette and Jeffrey Jones also shine in their roles.
I Married a Witch - Clocking in at 77 minutes, Rene Clair’s breezy 1942 romantic fantasy packs in more wit, sophistication and fun than any ten modern “comedies” you’d care to name put together. I’ll tell you what else holds up pretty well after 70 years…Veronica Lake’s allure and pixie charm. Lake is a riot as a witch who re-materializes 300 years after putting a curse on all male descendants of a Puritan who sent her to the stake. She and her equally mischievous father (Cecil Kellaway) wreak havoc on the most recent descendant (Fredric March), a politician considering a run for governor. Lake decides to muck up his relationship with his fiancé (Susan Hayward) by making him fall in love with his tormentor. All she needs to do is slip him a little love potion, but her plan fizzes after she accidently ingests it herself. And yes, hilarity ensues.

J-Men Forever!- Woody Allen may have done it first (What's Up, Tiger Lily?) and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 troupe has since run the concept into the ground, but Firesign Theater veterans Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman did it best with J-Men Forever. I am referring to the concept of re-appropriating footage from corny, no-budget B-films and re-dubbing the soundtrack with comic dialogue. I’ve been a devotee of this film since it  aired on the USA Network’s after hours cult show Night Flight back in the 80s (alright, raise your bong if you remember that one). The creators had a sizable archive from the old Republic serials to cull from, so they were not restricted by the narrative structure of one specific film. As a result, Proctor and Bergman’s wonderfully silly concoction about saving Earth from a nefarious alien mastermind called “The Lightning Bug” benefits from quick-cut editing, perfectly synched with their trademark barrage of one-liners, puns and double-entendres, all set to a rock‘n’roll soundtrack. “Schtay high!”

No Such Thing- Director Hal Hartley's arch, deadpan observations on the human condition either grab you or leave you cold, and this modern Beauty and the Beast tale is no exception. TV news intern Beatrice (Sarah Polley) is sent to Iceland to get an exclusive on a real-life “monster” (Robert Burke), an immortal nihilist who kills boredom by drinking heavily and terrorizing whoever's handy. After her plane goes down en route, her cynical boss (Helen Mirren) smells an even bigger story when Beatrice becomes the "miracle survivor" of the crash. The Monster agrees to come back to N.Y.C. if Beatrice helps him track down the one scientist in the world who can put him out of his misery. The pacing in the first half is leisurely; dominated by the Monster's morose, raving monologues, set against the stark, moody Icelandic backdrop (I was reminded of David Thewlis’ raging, darkly funny harangues in Naked). Once the story heads for New York, however, the movie turns into a satire of the art world (a la Pecker), as the couple quickly become celebrities du jour with the trendy Downtown crowd. Obscure, but worth a look.

Rocky Horror Picture Show- 40 years have not diminished the cult status of Jim Sharman’s film adaptation of Richard O’Brien’s original stage musical about a hapless young couple (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) who have the misfortune of stumbling into the lair of one Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) one dark and stormy night. O’Brien co-stars as the mad doctor’s hunchbacked assistant, Riff-Raff. Much singing, dancing, cross-dressing, axe-murdering, cannibalism and hot sex ensues-with broad theatrical nods to everything from Metropolis, King Kong and Young Frankenstein to cheesy 1950s sci-fi, Bob Fosse musicals, 70s glam-rock and everything in between. Runs out of steam a bit in the third act, but the knockout musical numbers in the first hour or so makes it worth repeated viewings. And at the risk of losing my “street cred”, I admit that I have never attended one of the “audience participation” midnight showings. I now fully anticipate being zapped with squirt guns and pelted with handfuls of uncooked rice (ow!).

Young Frankenstein- Writer-director Mel Brooks’ 1974 film transgresses the limitations of the “spoof” genre to create something wholly original. Brooks kills two birds with one parody, goofing on James Whale’s original 1931 version of Frankenstein, as well as his 1935 sequel, Bride of Frankenstein. Gene Wilder heads a marvelous cast as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced, “Franken-schteen”) the grandson of the “infamous” mad scientist who liked to play around with dead things. Despite his propensity for distancing himself from that legacy, a notice of inheritance precipitates a visit to the family estate in Transylvania, where the discovery of his grandfather’s “secret” laboratory awakens his dark side. Wilder is quite funny (as always), but he plays it relatively straight, making a perfect foil for the comedic juggernaut of Madeline Khan, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman (“Blucher!”), Terri Garr and Kenneth Mars, who are all at the top of their game. The scene featuring an unbilled cameo by Gene Hackman is a classic. This is also Brooks’ most technically accomplished film; the meticulous replication of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory (utilizing props from the 1931 original), Gerald Hirschfeld’s gorgeous B & W photography and Dale Hennesy’s production design all combine to create an effective (and affectionate) homage to the heyday of Universal monster movies.

More posts with Halloween themes:

New! More reviews at Den of Cinema

--Dennis Hartley

Because you need this

by digby

No cute animals tonight.  Just a bad lip reading of the First Democratic debate:

I hear the DNC has complained about this being like totally unfair and unfunny and so they're going to boycott all YouTubes forever. Also too, all the candidates are going to hold their breath until they turn blue.


Hunkering down in Bizarroworld

by digby

National Memo's Joe Conason notices that even some conservatives are stunned by the blatant lying by their presidential candidates:

To loud booing from the partisan audience, moderator Carl Quintanilla asked the soft-spoken neurosurgeon about his long and lucrative involvement with Mannatech, a nutritional supplement manufacturer that has been cited for false health claims for its “glyconutrients.” (How bad was Mannatech? Bad enough to provoke a fraud action brought by Greg Abbott, the former Texas attorney general who is now that state’s very conservative governor.)

“I didn’t have an involvement with [Mannatech],” retorted Carson. “That is total propaganda, and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda.”

What Carson’s noisy fans probably didn’t know is that this was no “liberal media” setup. The doctor’s decade-long relationship with Mannatech – which turns out to have included a written contract, paid speeches, and a video endorsement on the company’s website – was exposed last year by Jim Geraghty of National Review, the flagship publication of American conservatism. Following the debate, Geraghty slammed Carson for “bald-faced lies” and “blatantly lying” about his relationship with the supplement firm.

Equally mendacious about his own personal history was Marco Rubio, who “won” the debate according to many observers. When Becky Quick of CNBC asked a predictable question about his checked financial affairs, which have included foreclosures, liquidations, phony expense accounts, and other embarrassments, the senator from Florida shot back: “You just listed a litany of discredited attacks from Democrats and my political opponents, and I’m not gonna waste 60 seconds detailing them all.”

Discredited attacks? Actually, Quick’s question was premised on facts that are not in dispute – as even Rubio himself acknowledged in his own campaign book. So frontally deceptive was his response that an outraged Joe Scarborough, his fellow Florida Republican, called him out on MSNBC’s Morning Joe the next day.

“Marco just flat-out lied to the American people there,” Scarborough complained. “And I was stunned that the moderators didn’t stop there and go, ‘Wait a second, these are court records. What are you talking about?…Becky was telling the truth, Marco was lying. And yet everybody’s going, ‘Oh, Marco was great.’ No, Marco lied about his financials.” Not incidentally, Rubio also lied about the effects of his tax plan, claiming his tax cuts would mostly benefit lower-income families when in fact its biggest benefits would accrue to the top one percent, as Republican tax schemes almost always do.

There's more including Fiorina's truly impressive latest contribution to the genre. And it's not the Planned Parenthood whoppers.

It seems that even some members of the right wing are starting to see the problem with this post-modern epistemic relativism. It becomes very hard to keep track of reality. Even for them.

This has been coming on for a long time. They created their alternate media for the purpose of shaping public opinion in a way that favors them. And it's gotten away from them. I don't know how they put it back. Judging by their reaction to the Commie CNBC's debate, it looks like their just going to hunker down in Bizarroworld. I don't know how many people will want to live there with them.


Speaking of the grift

by digby

This one is spectacular:
CHQ's Conservative Alert

Below please find a special message from one of our advertisers.
Are Obama and FEMA going to buy up all the survival food?
Something just happened that explains why tons and tons of survival food are literally flying off warehouse shelves.
The sad part is, that if everyone could see what I see, we’d have half a chance! They think having a food stockpile ready for a natural disaster is something they can put off for "someday" or "never".
As it stands right now, it’s going to be every man for himself!
You've seen the evidence and you know the situation is way too serious not to do something about it. When a crisis hits, you'll be ready. I can show you how to make sure you and your family are safe…. right here.

The fact is, if you don't take action or if you stockpile the wrong foods, you could be setting your family up to be hungry in a time of crisis. It sounds harsh, but the truth is too many people with good intentions are making critical mistakes with their food stockpiles.

Mistakes like...
  • Buying MREs with a 5 year shelf life (depending on where you buy them from they could be near expired)...
  • Getting gross survival foods that are tough to stomach and so high in salt, MSG and preservatives you could clog your arteries and get yourself sick...
  • Or simply buying the wrong foods and leaving a critical hole in your meal plan, which means your family can become malnourished...
Well, I decided to stop worrying. Obviously, waiting for the government to give me a handout in a disaster just wasn't an option for me. And I was completely turned off by the crazy prices of survival food sold by most stores.

So I got in touch with my buddy Frank and put my order in for his Food4Patriots survival food kits. This is Frank's new line of survival food and there are 4 reasons why it's literally flying off the shelves:
  • Food4Patriots is an incredible value. This high quality survival food without any fillers or poor-quality "franken-food" that the other guys use to pad their survival meals. They are made and packaged right here in the U.S.A. You won't believe the prices on these kits – a fraction of the price what some other brands charge.
  • There's no fancy packaging, it's military-grade sturdy stuff and can stand up to the crazy things that happen in a crisis.  This food has a shelf life of up to 25 years, so you have complete peace of mind for the long term. And he's using the most compact kits so you can store them anywhere in your home without any extra hassle. They're sturdy, waterproof and stack easily. And extremely covert too.
  • You can make these meals in less than 20 minutes; just add boiling water, simmer, and serve. I tried ‘em and I think they taste as good or better than any other survival food I've EVER had. And you get a whole slew of choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner so you don't get stuck eating the same thing day-in and day-out.
  • Frank has come up with some impressive FREE bonuses that are ONLY available to folks who purchase one of his kits on a first-come, first-served basis. For example, my kit 3-month came with 5,400+ heirloom survival seeds, 4 hard copy books, a 11-in-1 survival tool, and some other cool stuff.
I want to make sure you don't miss out on this because THIS is the #1 item you should be hoarding.

You need to get ‘er done right now.

Here's why... If you don't take action to get your food stockpile right now, you'll be in the same boat as the brainwashed masses who think "everything is fine." And if a crisis hits and your family asks, "What are we going to eat?" your mouth will go dry and you'll feel powerless.

But what if you decide right now to secure your food stockpile instead? Just imagine how much better you'll feel right away. And if a crisis hits and your family asks, "What are we going to eat?" you'll calmly reassure them that they're safe and they will have plenty to eat.

Listen, I can't predict the future. I don't know exactly when or how a crisis will hit. But from everything I see, it could be soon and it could be a big one.

That's why I really want you to get the same peace of mind that I do.

>> Go grab your kit now before they're all gone

P.S. Got a call from Frank and you'll never believe what 4-letter government agency just tried to buy up his entire supply of food! See proof in this shocking video. 

(Yes, that's a real link to the shocking video.)

Digging for dirt in the Benghazi trash

by digby

So Politico has gone through the latest batch of Clinton emails and they've published what they deem to be the 13 "must-read" emails in the bunch. (I believe there are 7,000 of them.)

Here's one of them which gives the flavor of the type of information they believe the public needs to know:

In a January 2012 email from Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former top aide told Abedin that her son "said S [Secretary Clinton] looks like Lisa Kudrow! High praise indeed... pse pass it on."

"Truly, Alexander, the younger, watched her walk in to Congress and said: 'she looks like Lisa Kudrow —you know, on Friends....'," she added.

Abedin then passed along the message to Clinton, writing, "This is a nice compliment[.] Lisa is an attractive actress!"

Clinton's response is fully redacted.

Abedin's response to that email: "[Redacted] certainly thinks you are cameron diaz!! [redacted]
There's more stuff about her hair and Ben Affleck and Lady Gaga and how she doesn't know how to make emojis for her Blackberry and properly use the fax machine. You know, all the essential stuff.

People give me grief for saying that the press is interested in the emails because they want to dig around in Clinton's private life looking for tabloid dirt. I've been watching these people for a long time. This is what they do.

The biggest grift of all

by digby

Nobody writes about the wingnut grift like Rick Perlstein. He's got a piece up today about the biggest con of all:

Let’s take a look inside the tent. I noted a watershed some years ago. A National Review writer named Kevin Williamson wrote a worried dispatch in 2010 called “Goodbye, Supply Side.” He quoted Rep. Louie Gohmert, boasting (he really did!) about the economic policy triumphs of George W. Bush’s administration. Williamson: “After 9/11, [Gohmert] argues, the United States was headed for a serious recession, even a depression, but tax cuts saved the day––and increased government revenues in the process. ‘With a tax cut, then another tax cut, we stimulated the economy, and record revenue like never before in American history flowed into the United States Treasury,’ he said in a speech before the House. ‘As it turned out, the tax cuts helped create more revenue for the Treasury, not destroy revenue for the Treasury.’ That last bit is fantasy. There is no evidence that the tax cuts on net produced more revenue than the Treasury would have realized without them. That claim could be true—if we were to credit most or all of the economic growth during the period in question to tax cuts, but that is an awfully big claim, one that no serious economist would be likely to entertain. It’s a just-so story, a bedtime fairy tale Republicans tell themselves to shake off fear of the deficit bogeyman. It’s whistling past the fiscal graveyard. But this kind of talk is distressingly unremarkable in Republican political circles.”

I found this conservative’s daring foray into the reality-based community exhilarating. (How did it manage to slip by the National Review editors?) Three years after he wrote it, I tracked him down and asked what happened next: what ripple effects had come from his patient proof that Republican economic dogma was based on a fantasy?

“None,” he replied. Williamson then reflected upon further questioning that, well, some: certain Republican politicians admit privately that he is correct, but “it’s hard to get them to acknowledge it in public because it’s become such a piece of dogma.”

Fast forward to Wednesday’s “Your Money, Your Vote” Republican debate.

Governor George Pataki, in the “kiddie table” debate that preceded the main event: “My plan, the Tax Foundation said, would create five and a half million new jobs over the next decade.”

(The Tax Foundation is a former arm of the Koch Brothers’ Citizens for a Sound Economy, and exists to manipulate statistics to pretend that tax cuts produce unicorns and rainbows.)

Rick Santorum, on his flat tax proposal: “Well, if you look at a plan that I introduced, the 20/20 clear vision for America, we increased growth by 10 percent, 1 percent a year. So we go from 2.3 to 3.3.”

Moderator John Harwood, questioning Donald Trump about his tax plan: “You say it would not increase the deficit because [when] you cut taxes $10 trillion, the economy would take off like a rocket ship.” Trump: “Right. Dynamically.” Harwood: “I talked to economic advisers who served presidents of both parties. They said that you have as [much] a chance of cutting taxes that much without increasing the deficit as you would of flying away from the podium by flapping your arms.” Trump: “Then you have to get rid of Larry Kudlow, who sits on your panel, who’s a great guy, who came out one day and said, ‘I love Trump’s tax plan.’”

(Larry Kudlow, um, also exists to manipulate statistics to pretend that tax cuts produce lollypops and rainbows. Wikipedia: “Kudlow . . . served as an economic counsel to A.B. Laffer & Associates, the San Diego, California, company owned by Arthur Laffer, a major supply-side economist and creator of the Laffer Curve, an economic theory tying lower taxation to increased government revenue . . . . He was a member of the board of directors of Empower America, a supply-side economics organization founded in 1993 that merged with the Citizens for a Sound Economy to found FreedomWorks.”)

Dr. Carson on his other magic elixer, a flat-tax rate of 15 percent, after the moderator said it would leave a $1.1 trillion hole in the federal deficit: “We can stimulate the economy. That’s gonna be the real growth engine . . . when we put all the facts down, you’ll be able to see that it’s not true, it works out very well.”

(And also cures cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.)

Senator Cruz interjects: “Becky, if you want a 10 percent flat tax where the numbers add up, I rolled out my tax plan today. . . . The Tax Foundation . . . shows that this plan will allow the economy to generate 4.9 million jobs, to raise wages over 12 percent, and to generate 14 percent growth. . . . Those are the hard numbers.”

(Very hard numbers, considering the highest quarterly growth rate since World War II was 13.4 percent, in the fourth quarter of 1950.)

Jeb: “You don’t have to guess about it, because I actually have a record. Nineteen billion dollars of tax cuts, 1.3 million jobs created.”

There you have it. Step right up! Be amazed, be enchanted, by the magic GOP unicorn-and-rainbow-producing tax cut machine!

And for some reason those angry commies at CNBC failed to challenge them on any of it. Go figure.

There's more. It's great.

The Great Game revisited

by Tom Sullivan

Taking a break from domestic politics this morning to revisit the South China Sea. Back in June, we looked at the Chinese efforts to turn shoals and reefs in the Spratly Islands into toeholds in the middle of the important sea lane, a sort of Great Wall of Sand. While Americans focused on the stultifying spectacle of the Republican debate this week, on the other side of the planet, geopolitics rolls on. Or maybe, sails on.

American naval exercises near the Spratlys this week prompted a protest from the Chinese:

The USS Lassen guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of at least one of the land formations claimed by China in the disputed Spratly Islands chain on Tuesday.

The move prompted the Chinese government to summon the US ambassador in Beijing and denounce what it called a threat to its sovereignty.

The US said after Thursday’s talks that the Chinese had expressed no desire to cancel scheduled visits by Chinese ships to a Florida port next week and that an upcoming visit to China by the commander of the US Pacific Command would still take place.

What for the US are "routine operations in the South China Sea in accordance with international law", are for the Chinese illegal.

Foreign Policy  explained the strategic importance of the South China Sea in 2011:

The South China Sea joins the Southeast Asian states with the Western Pacific, functioning as the throat of global sea routes. Here is the center of maritime Eurasia, punctuated by the straits of Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar. More than half the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic. The oil transported through the Strait of Malacca from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia through the South China Sea, is more than six times the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and 17 times the amount that transits the Panama Canal. Roughly two-thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60 percent of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy supplies, and about 80 percent of China’s crude-oil imports come through the South China Sea. What’s more, the South China Sea has proven oil reserves of 7 billion barrels and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, a potentially huge bounty.

States along the margins of the South China Sea have made competing claims for years to islands and archipelagos in the area, with China claiming an area (the "cow’s tongue") that reaches far south of its southernmost province.

  Image: Voice of America

The result is that all nine states that touch the South China Sea are more or less arrayed against China and therefore dependent on the United States for diplomatic and military support. These conflicting claims are likely to become even more acute as Asia’s spiraling energy demands — energy consumption is expected to double by 2030, with China accounting for half that growth — make the South China Sea the ever more central guarantor of the region’s economic strength. Already, the South China Sea has increasingly become an armed camp, as the claimants build up and modernize their navies, even as the scramble for islands and reefs in recent decades is mostly over. China has so far confiscated 12 geographical features, Taiwan one, Vietnam 25, the Philippines eight, and Malaysia five.

The New York Times Magazine visits "the world’s most surreal fishing camp," the Phillipines' ship Sierra Madre, essentially a derelict WWII tank-landing ship (originally named the U.S.S. Harnett County) that the Philippine government ran aground on the Ayungin shoal in 1999. This rusting outpost houses eight Filipino troops there to maintain their country's toehold on a shoal now guarded by two Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

The Chinese "cabbage strategy" for this and other contested reefs and shoals "entails surrounding a contested area with so many boats — fishermen, fishing administration ships, marine surveillance ships, navy warships — that “the island is thus wrapped layer by layer like a cabbage.”

At Ayungin, the Chinese can simply wait:

There can be no question that the cabbage strategy is in effect now at Ayungin and has been at least since May. General Zhang, in his interview several months ago, listed Ren’ai Shoal (the Chinese name for Ayungin) in the P.L.A.’s “series of achievements” in the South China Sea. He had already put it in the win column, even though eight Filipino marines still live there. He also seemed to take some pleasure in the strategy. Of taking territory from the Philippines, he said: “We should do more such things in the future. For those small islands, only a few troopers are able to station on each of them, but there is no food or even drinking water there. If we carry out the cabbage strategy, you will not be able to send food and drinking water onto the islands. Without the supply for one or two weeks, the troopers stationed there will leave the islands on their own. Once they have left, they will never be able to come back.”

The New York Times Magazine piece contains multimedia clips that give sense of the remoteness and loneliness of these geopolitical standoffs on the other side of the world. The Wall Street Journal has this sketch of the dispute:

Watch this space.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Trick or treating at the big house

by digby

And the first dogs are, as always, awesome:

This little pope costume and pope mobile is too adorable:

Via Huffington Post which reports that these are what you might get if you're trick or treating at the White House tonight:

· A box of White House Hershey Kisses
· A White House Halloween Cookie
· A box of White House M&Ms
· Fruit Bars
· Kettle Corn
· Bo and Sunny baseball cards
· An assortment of candies
And the good news is that the kids can actually enjoy the homemade treats without everyone being  paranoid that someone has slipped razor blades into the fruit bars. At least I assume that nobody would think that ...

QOTD: John Boehner

by digby

A warning from an old friend?

“He said, ‘Boehner, man, I’m gonna miss you,' ” Boehner recalled in an interview broadcast Friday on Fox News.

“Yes you are Mr. President. Yes you are,” Boehner replied.

I think he's right. The people who insist that Paul Ryan is Ayn Rand Jesus are kidding themselves.

By the way, he still blames the president for the grand Bargain falling apart. It isn't true. The House wingnuts ruined that one. Thank goodness.
Crybaby quiz

by digby

I just cannot get over the GOP pearl clutching over this debate. It's gone beyond parody now. Even some of the conservative pundits are starting to get a little bit embarrassed by the endless weeping and wailing. It's not a good look.

The Fix put together a little quiz with some debate questions for all the debates we've had so far. You are supposed to guess which ones came from the CNBC horror show that no decent news network would ever be a part of and all the good debates where the moderators were very nice and respectful:

Remember this deep substantive question?

I got all those right because I sat through all of these debates. Every, last minute of them. So it didn't seem to me that the CNBC debate was any more rude than the others.  Because it wasn't. They're all like that. It's just the Republicans are a bunch of whiny little crybabies who are trying to work the refs and play up their victimization for the whiny little crybabies who vote for them.

I'm hearing they're thinking about having Glenn Beck and a couple of his associates moderate one of the upcoming debates.

Yes, he would have been executed in the US

by digby

No doubt about it:

It happens all the time. Our police are trained to shoot anyone who poses a threat.  There are other ways.  Of course.

Recall this post from a few months back:

The way we treat the mentally ill in this country is a crime

by digby

The Supreme Court ruled this week that police shooting an agitated schizophrenic woman is justified even if they could have stood outside in a hallway and left her alone in a room until more help arrived. The Justices felt that it was reasonable for them go bursting into the room and shoot her even though they had already been in there, had retreated and knew that she couldn't harm anyone but herself.
The incident involving Sheehan started when social worker Heath Hodge believed Sheehan’s schizophrenia had deteriorated to “gravely disabled” after Sheehan stopped taking her medication, and called police for help transporting her to a mental health facility for involuntary commitment and treatment.

When police showed up at the San Francisco group home where Sheehan lived without a warrant, Sheehan “reacted violently,” wielding a knife and telling the officers she would kill them. In response, officers safely retreated to a hallway. “The officers called for backup,” the Ninth Circuit decision explained, “but rather than waiting for backup or taking other actions to maintain the status quo or de-escalate the situation, the officers drew their weapons and forced their way back into Sheehan’s room, presumably to disarm, subdue and arrest her, and to prevent her escape (although there do not appear to have been any means of escape available). Sheehan once again threatened the officers with a knife, causing the officers to shoot Sheehan five or six times.”

Sheehan argued that officers failed to reasonably accommodate her disability by “forcing their way back into her room without taking her mental illness into account and without employing tactics that would have been likely to resolve the situation without injury to herself or others.”

And expert witness Lou Reiter provided testimony that officers, in fact, did not follow that protocol at all. He said officers are trained not to agitate or excite individuals who are mentally ill, to “respect the person’s comfort zone, use nonthreatening communications and to employ the passage of time to their advantage.” He also cited materials used by the San Francisco Police Department that advise officers to request backup, to calm the situation, to communicate, to move slowly, to assume a quiet, nonthreatening manner, to take time to assess the situation and to “give the person time to calm down.”

“Reiter deemed the officers’ second entry into Sheehan’s home tactically unreasonable under those policies,” the lower court noted, finding that the officers should have awaited back-up and considered seeking a warrant.

In Monday’s opinion, the justices noted that whether the officers followed training protocol is not a factor in granting police officers what is known as “qualified immunity,” the broad federal protection that shields the police and other government entities from civil rights lawsuits.

“Considering the specific situation confronting Reynolds and Holder, they had sufficient reason to believe that their conduct was justified,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court.
There is something called Crisis Intervention Team policing they can use. Some police departments are trying it. But mostly we just say they should shoot first and ask questions later.

H/t to TS
GOP health care plans: Gibberish and snake oil miracle cures

by digby

I wrote about a couple of the GOP presidential candidates' "health care plans" for Salon today:

Dr. Ben Carson might be expected to have a serious health care plan since he is a serious medical professional and all. But he has struggled to explain exactly what it is. Indeed, he’s been so incoherent on the subject that he seemed to have given Fox News’ Chris Wallace a migraine trying to sort it out.
However confused he is on the details of health care policy, it’s more disturbing that he thinks a useless supplement will cure serious diseases and used his reputation as a world class doctor to dupe people into buying it:
Carson was a spokesman for Mannatech, which claimed its “glyconutrients” could treat cancer, autism, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS. “The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel,” Carson said in a 2013 speech praising the company. On Wednesday, he denied any involvement with Mannatech.
Carson even credited the supplements as being powerful enough that he didn’t need surgery for advanced prostate cancer. Dallas Weekly reported in a 2004 interview that Carson “said his decision to have a medical procedure resulted from his concern for those people who might neglect traditional medical procedures because they had learned of his personal experience with supplements.”
The neurosurgeon told Dallas Weekly that he had his prostate removed to be a role model.
“I knew that other people with my condition might not have been as religious about taking the supplements as I had been,” Carson said.
You’ll recall that on Wednesday, this man of allegedly great integrity said it was “propaganda” to say he endorsed this product when asked about it in the debate. Carson insists that while he was paid for some speeches he wasn’t a paid endorser and that he genuinely believes in the product. He must know that as attorney general, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, hardly a big government liberal, sued this company for false advertising. It’s hard to know whether it’s worse that he might be scamming vulnerable people with false hope or if he actually believes this product can cure diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. Either way, it’s yet another example of Ben Carson’s very, very odd duality: the brilliant neurosurgeon vs. the frighteningly vacuous public figure.
Carson is not the only Republican presidential candidate who takes a radically unorthodox approach to health care policy. Former Governor Mike Huckabee’s approach may be even weirder. Recall what he said in Wednesday’s debate:
HUCKABEE: We need to be focusing on what fixes this country. And I’ll tell you one thing that we never talk about — we haven’t talked about it tonight.
Why aren’t we talking about — instead of cutting benefits for old people, cutting benefits for sick people — why don’t we say, “let’s cure the four big cost-driving diseases…
QUICK: Governor?
HUCKABEE: …”diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s?”
QUICK: Governor, I’m sorry…
HUCKABEE: If you do that, you don’t just change the economy, you transform the lives of millions of hurting Americans.
And then he returned to it a bit later:
HUCKABEE: Well, and specifically to Medicare, Becky, because 85 percent of the cost of Medicare is chronic disease. The fact is if we don’t address what’s costing so much, we can’t throw enough money at this. And it’s why I’ve continued to focus on the fact that we need to declare war on the four big cost drivers because 80 percent of all medical costs in this country are chronic disease. We don’t have a health care crisis in America, we have a health crisis.
And until we deal with the health of Americans and do what we did with polio — when I was a little kid, we eradicated it. You know how much money we spent on polio last year in America? We didn’t spend any. We’ve saved billions of dollars.
You want to fix Medicare? Focus on the diseases that are costing us the trillions of dollars. Alzheimers, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Eradicate those and you fix Medicare and you’ve fixed America, its economy and you’ve made people’s lives a heck of a lot better.
Huckabee’s health care “plan” is to find cures for diseases so we that people don’t get sick anymore. And since he said this in the context of Medicare, he presumably believes that once we accomplish that, people will live forever.
Not that there’s anything wrong with putting effort into curing disease, of course. But Huckabee, being a doctrinaire anti-choice zealot would foreclose some of the most promising research into all of these diseases. The phony Planned Parenthood videos have accomplished their goal of inflaming the culture war against abortion but the unfortunate side-effect is that labs that have been dependent on fetal tissue research are now in danger of being unable to do their vital work.
Since July, an anti-abortion group’s deceptively edited videos targeting Planned Parenthood for allegedly profiting off sales of fetal tissue appear to have prompted at least four arson attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics. And even though the allegations were bogus, the vilification of the women’s health organization has done additional damage: Violent threats and a political chill in the wake of the videos have begun to undermine potentially life-saving research on diseases including diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Fetal-tissue donation programs essential to such research have been shut down, supplies of the tissue to labs have dwindled, and legislation is brewing in multiple states that could hinder cutting-edge scientific studies.
Many states are in the process of banning all fetal tissue research and there are plans to introduce a federal ban in the new Congress.
Ben Carson participated in some research that used fetal tissue, but he has distanced himself from the practice, calling any suggestion that he is a proponent of it “propaganda.” (Naturally.) Huckabee himself suffers from diabetes and, like Carson with the bogus cancer cure, he too has been involved with an “alternative medicine” outfit that sells a product (in this case a “kit” that tells people to exercise and diet) promising a cure for the disease.

There's more at the link.

Update: Oh my:

Armstrong Williams told CNN's Jake Tapper that he negotiated the retired neurosurgeon's contract himself.

Carson said in response to a question at Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate that it was "total propaganda" to suggest he had a relationship with Mannatech Inc., which claims to cure autism and cancer with its products and settled a $7 million false advertising lawsuit. National Review's Jim Geraghty, who reported on the candidate's ties to Mannatech earlier this year, called Carson's claim that he wasn't involved with the company a "bald-faced lie."

The audience loudly booed CNBC moderator Carl Quintanilla when he asked Carson whether his ties to the company "speak to your vetting process or judgement in any way." "See, they know," Carson said, implying the question was off-base.

Yet Williams told Tapper on "The Lead" that he thought it was fair for Quintanilla to ask Carson about his ties to the company. He argued that Carson wasn't involved hammering out the details of his speeches or testimonials for the company, though.

"Nothing is ever what it appears to be," he said. "What is good about this is that I actually negotiated the contract as his business manager."

After Tapper played a clip of Carson speaking in a Mannatech promotional video, Williams started talking about an entirely different video that Carson appeared in for the company. He recounted that when Mannatech asked Carson to travel to Arizona to tape a special for PBS, Carson called him to express discomfort with the script the company provided. Carson ultimately ditched that script in favor of saying "what he wants to say," according to Williams.

"He said 'I don't believe this. I'm not going to do it,'" Williams said. "That was showing his integrity. And when that was over he made it clear to me 'You need to get me out of this, I'm not going to do this again.' And it was over."

Not that anyone will ever ask him about this again. It's a "gotcha" dontcha know. Those are only allowed for Democrats.