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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hoping for the Pope to Sing a Few Bars of This

As he exits.  Elvis Costello, "The Angels Want to Wear My Red Shoes."


Bradley Manning Offers Guilty Pleas--and Key Statement

UPDATE #5   Manning's full statement in one place here.  Among other things, interesting blow-by-blow on his viewing and response to "Collateral Murder" video and his research into the incident and how "embedded" journo David Finkel had handled it.


UPDATE #4  Recess arrives.  Judge has accepted Manning's guilty pleas--but, sadly, prosecutors still plan to press ahead with the many other, in some cases more serious,  charges.


UPDATE #3 As you'll see below, Bradley Manning claims he called the NYT's public editor in early 2010  before leaking docs to WikiLeaks--he left a phone message and got no reply.  Mike Calderone of Huff Post has asked the public ed. at that time, Clark Hoyt, about this, and Hoyt has no recollection.  Ironically, Hoyt had led the much-lauded Knight Ridder office in D.C. which led the way in providing the rare skeptical looks at the Bush claims on WMD in Iraq. 

UPDATE #2   Charlie Savage's report in NYT.   Manning can not or will not say for certain that the WikiLeaks person he talked to was Julian Assange.   He pronounced his name "As-sangh-jay." New York magazine now with a summary.  


UPDATE #1:  Kevin Gosztola is tweeting Manning's statement.  Great stuff on his efforts to leak the "war logs" to mainstream news outlets.   "Bradley Manning contacted WaPo, NY Times and Politico before providing war logs  to WikiLeaks....Manning said he talked to person at WaPo who he did not think took him seriously  ...Bradley Manning contacted NYT & left message it was very important. He had information. He left email/Skype address. No response....Bradley Manning tried to contact POLITICO. Weather conditions hampered travel to office....Manning on 'Collateral Murder' video: 'Most alarming was the bloodlust' of the air weapons team."

Charlie Savage of NYT tweets:  "Manning decided 'world would be btr place' if public saw State cables & sensitive ones not in SIPRNet--US might be 'embarrassed' but no harm....Manning said talked extensively w/ someone he assumed was Assange & later was disillusioned about the friendship, but WL never pressured him...Manning said no one from WL pressured him to send more info. 'I take full responsibility.'"  Also:   "Manning attempt to call NYT = calling public editor #; got automatically routed to a voicemail that wasnt rtrnd. Not clear reached newsroom."

Earlier: Kevin Gosztola, co-author of our book on Bradley Manning, is covering his dramatic day in court today.  Follow it here.  He has just pleaded guilty to several charges, as expected, but NOT to release of one of the attack videos.  Now he is about to read statement.   Our book here.  Today:
Between supporters, commentators and open government advocates, there have been multiple assertions, claims and intimations about what was going through Pfc. Bradley Manning’s mind when he released information to the media organization, WikiLeaks. There will be no need to sift through chat logs and anecdotes from friends, family and soldiers who served alongside him after today’s court martial proceedings at Fort Meade. Manning is pleading guilty to committing some offenses and will be sharing what was going through his mind when he decided to send the information to WikiLeaks.

Nick Drake: Another Leaf Left

Amazing find:  "Lost" album by the mom of the late great Nick Drake surfaces.  Listen to a cut or two ("Poor Mom" could have been written by Nick).  Below, another great little Nick-like song from Molly.
Squirrel Thing Recordings, the label behind the mysterious lost recordings of Connie Converse, is proud to announce the release of Molly Drake—a self-titled collection of never-before-heard songs recorded in the 1950’s at the Drake family home, and lovingly restored by Nick Drake’s engineer John Wood. According to Joe Boyd, legendary producer of Five Leaves Left and Bryter Later, “this is the missing link in the Nick Drake story.”
Molly Drake is a comprehensive first look at a singular and sophisticated artist, whose influence on her son’s celebrated musical style is undeniable. The CD features a custom letterpressed jacket, family photos, and a biography by her daughter, Gabrielle Drake.
Much like her son, Molly Drake’s music is at once beautiful, charming, dark and pensive. The easy elegance of her lyrics belies their deeper themes of regret, memory, dread, and the sublime, crystallized as only a poet can. Her performances are intimately staged in the family sitting room, and perfectly complemented by her own piano accompaniment.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bob Woodward and 'Politico' Under Fire

 UPDATE:   From the White House, Politico has released the full emails between the Obama official (now IDed as Gene Sperling) and Woodward.  They give full lie to Woodward's claim of feeling "threatened," as you'll see in Woodward's reply and Sperling calling him "my friend."  Vandehei and Allen bring even more shame on themselves as the release reveals that they left out the key "as a friend" lead-in to the alleged "threat."

From the "threatened" Woodward reply to Sperling: "You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. "

Earlier: Top writers/editors Vandehei and Allen join Bob Woodward in fully blaming Obama for sequester mess. Of course, this after Woodward lets them come to his famous dining room table and pulls out one of his "famous folders."   Woodward has become such a tool he takes someone  saying "you'll regret this" as a serious "threat" rather than a simple prediction--so he must never fear that he ever gets a fact wrong or has the wrong take on anything.

Dan Froomkin calls it in tweet: "Bob Woodward's Mad Hatter tea party with Allen and Vandehei:...All of them puffed up and delusional."

Woodward also charged that Obama was becoming Nixonian.  I guess except for ordering the multiple break-ins, paying hush money, suggesting that a think-tank's office get firebombed,   destroying evidence and more. 

Derp Throat? Or Deep Threat? Dope Threat? You, too, can play.

Meanwhile, we are waiting for Bob to call a press conference and declare either 1) "I am not a kook" or 2) "You won't have Woodward to kick around anymore" or maybe 3) "Follow the dummy."  Or, a la The Godfather, he's petrified that he will wake up tomorrow and find in his bed a horse's...ass.

Zero Dork Thirty

Hot video today is this send-up of Lena Dunham auditioning for the Jessica Chastain role in ZDT.   As usual, it's all about her.  UPDATE Victory!  Lena herself on Twitter tonight takes note: "Um, this girl is very funny and has me doing a lot of self-searching."  Or "cavity searching," she adds.

Today's Horror Story in Gun Nutty USA

Sadly, again in Connecticut:   Woman picks up two her two grandchildren, age 2 and six months, and instead of driving home, takes them out and shoots and kills them, then herself.  She suffered from bi-polar disorder but naturally got a revolver, which apparently people knew about, along with her mental issues.  She was supposed to take the two-year-old home to open birthday presents.  More details on the killer in this story

The Original 'Van the Man' Dies at 78

The great Van Cliburn, suffering for so long from bone cancer, has died at 78 in Fort Worth.  Most folks today could be forgiven for not knowing much or anything but he was a true giant in my youth, in late 1950s and early 1960s, when he was on TV often and helped forge an easing in the Cold War in his much-covered trips to the Soviet Union.  With Leonard Bernstein and Glenn Gould, he also helped "popularize" classical music at that time (or as much as it could be).  He faded from view later, although he still hosted the important Cliburn piano competition every year, and drew notice when he came out as gay.  

From my friend Tim Page's obit just now at The Washington Post:  "Mr. Cliburn’s achievement was reported on the front pages of newspapers throughout the world. He returned home to a New York ticker-tape parade and the sort of shrieking, unfettered adulation that a few years later would be transmuted into Beatlemania. In May 1958, Time magazine put him on its cover with a banner that read The Texan Who Conquered Russia."

Here is one of my favorite music videos--Van doing Beethoven's  piano concerto No. 5, 2nd movement, in Moscow, as young man.  Never been better.

Still 'Where It's At'

Thirty years ago today,  joined in wedded bliss with the (still) lovely and (still) talented Ms. Bedway.  As in many other things, Sam Cooke sang it best, in two cuts below, the second being one of the greatest live performance ever recorded:



Hannity Hit

In heated debate last night, Rep. Keith Ellison calls Sean Hannity "immoral" and "the worst excuse for a journalist" and even--a "Republican."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Editor in Gun Records Disgrace Quits

You may have read yesterday about the disgraceful actions of the publisher of a small newspaper  in North Carolina, the Cherokee Scout, who wrote one of  the most embarrassing "note to readers" ever in genuflecting to local gun owners, apologizing and seeking their forgiveness--even though some of them had apparently threatened the life of the editor who dared put in a public records request to the local sheriff.  The editor, Robert Horne,  43, had not even planned to publish the names of local gun permit holders--as happened with the controversy surrounding my own local paper, The Journal News, in New York--but simply to tally their numbers.

Now the other shoe has dropped--and the editor has been forced (we presume) to resign--though Horne tells Jim Romenesko that he chose to go (and is even moving out of the state, no wonder).   Catch up with the whole hideous story here.

The Terrorist Next Door

UPDATE #2  More details on the kook's Facebook threats, including one against an unnamed "activist."   Interesting arguments on how they are not covered by First Amendment--particularly since the called on others to pick up rifles (even a particular kind) and take action. 

UPDATE #1:  My new piece at The Nation with more on this. 

Earlier:  Well, not quite next door.  This fellow lives about three miles west of me, straight out Route 59 in the strip mall paradise of Nanuet, N.Y.   Local news outlet charts his arrest, essentially on domestic terrorism charges, after making threats against various Democrats (Cuomo and Pelosi and Harry Reid and Schumer and members of the Black Caucus, of course) and saying followers of Obama are traitors and should die.  Was follower of the rightwing Sovereign nation.  Veteran drunk driver with felonies in several locales but still got an arsenal (see below).  Of course, he was flipping out over proposed new state gun laws. On his Facebook page he reportedly wrote, "I cannot wait to start killing the scum...I want these scumbags DEAD!!! ... Death to them all."
Mulqueen was taken into a custody and Cummings said the raid on the home found body armor, weapons and ammunition including:

1 10.62x54 Bolt Action Rifle
1 Remington 35 Pump Action Rifle loaded with 6 rounds
1 Bulletproof Body Armor
Approximately 100 rounds of Ammunition, including 27 rounds of .50 caliber armor piercing bullets (tank buster)
2 Rifle bayonets
1 Rifle Scope
1 Sword
1 Metal Knuckle Knife

'Wash Post' Sinks Deeper

James Fallows at The Atlantic with much-needed blast today at Wash Post editorial mainly blaming Obama for failure to dig out of the sequester dung pile--as they follow out-of-it Bob Woodward's lead.   The usual "false equivalence."  Obama moves to center, then they want him to move to center between that and the GOP's far-right.  Nothing changes.

Laundry Day, Island of Burano, Italy

Sample from my photo blog.  Go here as I add one of my pictures daily.

Monday, February 25, 2013

UPDATED: Michael Moore Fires Back at Buzzfeed Writer

UPDATES (late Tuesday):  Buzzfeed has a new piece--and Moore a fresh response to that.  And here's an Atlantic Wire piece that includes the detained director's account.

Tuesday:   See my new piece with updates at The Nation.

Buzzfeed just added this "correction":  "An earlier version of this article referred in its deck and first sentence to 'source'  at LAX; in fact, as the body of the story made clear, the criticism of Moore's account came from a single airport official."  They also took "publicity stunt" out of its headline but left "baloney" in the deck.

Waiting for Buzzfeed post:  "8 Things Wrong With Our Michael Moore Story," complete with gifs and photos.

Earlier: You may recall: A few days back, I covered the charge by Michael Moore that the Palestinian co-director of the Oscar-nominated doc, 5 Broken Cameras, had been detained for quite awhile at the L.A. Airport, seemingly racially profiled by agents who could not believe this guy and his Muslim family were in town for the Oscar show.  Moore tried to help him get released.  Today, Buzzfeed published a report by Tessa Stuart claiming that the whole affair was nothing but a "publicity stunt" for the movie and the director, Emad Burnat, was held for just 25 minutes and very SOP.   This was based, however, on just one unnamed source in the Homeland Security apparatus.

Just a few minutes ago, Moore fired back on Twitter: "Tessa Stuart of Buzzfeed has lied about the Palestinian filmmaker detained at LAX and I can prove it. Tessa, I'll give u an hr to correct."  And: "Feel bad for you, being snookered by Homeland Security. Re-read your story and look for the clue of how u got used.

And in further update:  Moore, after getting no correction, has now tweeted:  "Time's up. Buzzfeed today tried to raise doubts that Oscar nominee, Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat wasn't really detained at LAX on Tues...Buzzfeed quotes a 'source' at LAX who said that Burnat was simply asked to produce his ticket to the Oscars and when he 'couldn't' he was...moved 'to a secondary inspection area where he (Burnat) found his ticket' to the Oscars & was then 'immediately allowed' into the US...Well, there's just one little problem with this story - and if Buzzfeed had bothered to ask any of the 6,000 Academy members... You see, Buzzfeed, there was no way for Emad Burnat to show Customs an Oscar ticket on Tuesday because there were no Oscar tickets on Tues!....So that's just an outright lie. Completely fabricated and easy to disprove with 1 call to the Academy. But why do that?...When the intent of your 'story' was to cast doubt on this Palestinian who was being threatened with deportation last Tuesday night at LAX..."

And Stuart replies to Moore on Twitter:  "Please help me tell both sides. I've called and emailed the director, called 2 of your agents, emailed & tweeted to you for comment." Later she added at the bottom of her story: "Having now received Moore's response to the story via Twitter, the accuracy of the TSA's account seems to hinge on the characterization of the document being searched for as a 'ticket.' BuzzFeed has now asked our TSA source to clarify and will update the story as soon as that we receive more information."

A Dog-Shoots-Man Story

Today's tale from gun nutty America seems improbable but apparently is not a shaggy dog story.   Man, 35,  in Florida gets shot in the leg, thanks to his pooch, he says.  Dog kicked loaded gun sitting on front seat floor or truck.  Favorite line in story:  "Sebring Police Cmdr. Steve Carr said police did not arrest the dog or detain the animal, pending the investigation. He said he has never heard of a case like this."

Start Wine-ing Now

A few years back, when various studies seemed to show that drinking a little wine every day was actually beneficial for your health, I thought the usual "whoops we were wrong" backlash would appear by now.  But no, happily, we just keep seeing more confirmations.   Top story on NYT site now touts the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which includes, guess what.
About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study found.

'The Onion,' After Outcry, Apologizes

Just posted, after slicing and dicing.  Seth, you're next?
Dear Readers,

On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhan√© Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.

No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.

The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.

In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.  Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.

Sincerely,
Steve Hannah
CEO 
The Onion

Greg Mitchell is author of more than a dozen books, including several where Hollywood politics play a key role.

Searching for the Politics of 'Sugarman'

My new piece at The Nation: The other great Oscar nominees for best doc were more "political," but don't diss Searching for Sugarman on that score.

Less Than 'Zero'

Glenn Greenwald, one of the first to raise objections to Zero Dark Thirty's handling of torture (I believe I was about a day behind, and I was first to have done that after actually seeing it), celebrates today with this column.
It is a rare case of some justice being done. There's little question that the objections to its pro-torture depictions and CIA propaganda were what sunk the film. In explaining why its Oscar chances had all but disappeared, the Atlantic's Richard Lawson explained last month that as a result of the controversy, the film has "just become something vaguely taboo". That's a good thing, as it should be taboo. The film is unsurprisingly a box office success, earning in excess of $100 million. But still, it's both gratifying and a bit surprising to see that this CIA-shaped jingoistic celebration of America's proudest moment of the last decade - finding bin Laden, pumping his skull full of bullets, and then dumping his corpse into the ocean - ended up with the stigma it deserves.

The Great Chase


 Cool story today in The New York Times on "Prince Hal" Chase from the original New York Yankees, one of the most gifted players ever--also a cheat, who threw games, and had "a corkscrew brain." Eventually banned.

Nate Silver Picks the Gold for Oscar Night

UPDATE Nick got four of the top six correct.  Missed same ones most others missed. 

Earlier:  And you better not bet against him.  At his NYT blog he just used some of the same stat analysis he uses to predict elections to the current Oscar race.   First he charts how the major awards groups have been predictive in the past, then weights that this year and comes out with expected winners.  Not too many surprises, except may in some cases who is 2nd in line.   Otherwise we get the favorites others have picked:  Argo, Day-Lewis, Lawrence etc.   Sometimes you don't need deep analysis (as some of us even claimed in the 2012 election).

Sample: "Lincoln, once considered the front-runner, has been nominated for almost every best picture award but won none of them. Counting on a comeback would be a bit like expecting Rudolph W. Giuliani to have resurrected his campaign in Florida in 2008 after finishing in sixth place everywhere else."

And:  "Anne Hathaway as about as safe a bet to win for Les Mis√©rables as Mitt Romney was to win Utah. If Sally Field or Amy Adams wins instead, it will probably be time for me to retire from the Oscar-forecasting business."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

More Tales from Gun Nutty USA

Sunday:  Boy in Houston, age 4, finds Dad's gun, shoots himself dead.  It was an illegal gun, not that it mattered to the boy.  "At one point, police had to restrain a grieving family member who later arrived at scene and began yelling. 'I’m gonna kill him! I’m gonna kill him!' the woman shouted as she crossed the yellow crime-scene tape."

Earlier: Our story of the day thankfully is not as tragic as most, which often end with kids dead or maybe three or four bodies scattered on a street.  But illustrative enough.  It seems that a Florida woman this week (the Tampa daily paper reports) got the munchies late one night and decided to preheat her oven before popping in some frozen waffles.  Been there, done that.  But what followed I have somehow missed.  The stove started firing bullets at her, she got hit, and ended up in the hospital.   Man, those were nearly "killer waffles."  Leslie Knope would be horrified.

Turns out her boyfriend had been storing an ammo magazine for his Glock in the oven.  Just for safe-keeping, I guess.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Federal Court Says Concealed Weapons Not Backed By 2nd Amendment

(AP)  A federal appeals court has ruled that permits allowing people to carry concealed weapons are not protected by the Second Amendment.

The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit was issued Friday in a case involving a Washington State resident, Gray Peterson.

A federal judge in 2011 tossed out Mr. Peterson’s lawsuit filed against Denver and Colorado’s Department of Public Safety. He claimed that being denied a concealed-weapons permit because he was not a Colorado resident violated his Second Amendment rights to bear firearms.

According to gun rights groups, Colorado is one of about two dozen states that do not honor concealed weapons permits from Washington State.

One Hooker to Remember

The late great John Lee Hooker with the astounding "I Cover the Waterfront," with a little help from Van the Man and, below that, his much earlier version.  John Lee also did greatest version of "Gloria," if you were wondering.  And then there was "Boom Boom." 






POTUS Gets Equal Time

With all the attention on the FLOTUS dance number with Jimmy Fallon we thought the POTUS  deserved equal time, as we reach back for Obama slow-jamming the news.

Rosetta: Stoned Terrific

If you wonder why, in the eye-opening PBS doc on Sister Rosetta Tharpe last night, she was hailed for her influence on Chuck Berry's guitar  and called "The Godmother or Rock 'n Roll" check out this little ditty from the late-1930s:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fallon in Love With the First Lady

Vid already out of Michelle mom-dancing with Jimmy for tonight's show.  Story about it.

Torture Expert Calls 'Zero Dark Thirty' Bunk

UPDATE:  And now, more criticism--this time from family of heroic stewardess on 9/11 whose voice is used at start of film.  Family raise several demands--including one that is torture-related.

Earlier: The NYT has posted, early, a few pieces from its Sunday Review section, including two related to Zero Dark Thirty, which probably will NOT win the Oscar for Best Picture on Sunday.   Regular contributor Tim Egan says the film does not deserve to win because it tried to have things "both ways."  He loved the film when he first saw then changed his mind on a second viewing, and now writes: "It’s obvious, now, why the C.I.A. was cooperative with the filmmakers: they couldn’t have asked for better product placement....the C.I.A. has shown just how adept it is at spinning Hollywood."

But the key piece is an op-ed by Ali Soufan, the well-known former FBI special agent  who interrogated suspected al-Qaeda operatives.  He says simply:  "As a movie, I enjoyed it. As history, it’s bunk."  The headline on his piece outlines it this way:  "Torture, Lies and Hollywood." Just one point:
Portraying torture as effective risks misleading the next generation of Americans that one of our government’s greatest successes came about because of the efficacy of torture. It’s a disservice both to our history and our national security.
While filmmakers have the right to say what they want, government officials don’t have the right to covertly provide filmmakers with false information to promote their own interests. Providing selective information about a classified program means there is no free market of ideas, but a controlled market subject to manipulation. That’s an abuse of power.

One in Four Maybe Don't Want You to Vote

Or so it seems.  A classic new Rasmussen survey finds that 27% of Americans feel it's now too easy to vote in the USA.  Perhaps they want even longer lines in poor sections and college towns, or maybe the return of the poll tax.  Compare this to the mere 17% in this poll who say it's too hard to vote.    And 71% favor requiring voter ID at the polling place.

Cruz (Out of) Control

Remember when Sen. Ted Cruz this week made certain statements that caused Sen. Barbara Boxer to suggest that he might be a new Joe McCarthy?  Well, Jane Mayer of The New Yorker writes today that there might be something to this.  She happens to have covered a conference at which Cruz spoke a few years back and files this report today:
Boxer’s analogy may have been more apt than she realized. Two and a half years ago, Cruz gave a stem-winder of a speech at a Fourth of July weekend political rally in Austin, Texas, in which he accused the Harvard Law School of harboring a dozen Communists on its faculty when he studied there. Cruz attended Harvard Law School from 1992 until 1995. His spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request to discuss the speech.
Cruz made the accusation while speaking to a rapt ballroom audience during a luncheon at a conference called “Defending the American Dream,” sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit political organization founded and funded in part by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch. Cruz greeted the audience jovially, but soon launched an impassioned attack on President Obama, whom he described as “the most radical” President “ever to occupy the Oval Office.” (I was covering the conference and kept the notes.)
He then went on to assert that Obama, who attended Harvard Law School four years ahead of him, “would have made a perfect president of Harvard Law School.” The reason, said Cruz, was that, “There were fewer declared Republicans in the faculty when we were there than Communists! There was one Republican. But there were twelve who would say they were Marxists who believed in the Communists overthrowing the United States government.”
“We are puzzled by the Senator’s assertions, as we are unaware of any basis for them,” Robb London, a spokesman for Harvard Law School, told me.

 Greg Mitchell is author of more than a dozen books, including four on influential American political campaigns,  such as Obama-Romney 2012.  

Jon Stewart Gets 'Foolish'

UPDATE:   Think the Daily Show doesn't influence intelligent book buying?  In the day after Helene appeared this week, her book shot up from ranked #4600 at Amazon all the way to....#22.  It's still at #25.

Earlier:  Great to see Helaine Olen on The Daily Show last night talking about her very valuable new book Pound Foolish, which my wife did some research for.   The book, as the subtitle puts it, exposes "the dark side of the personal finance industry." Here's the segment that aired (below), and here's link to the "extended" interview.   Co-starring Jim Cramer and Alan Greenspan as "Yoda."

The Godmother of Rock 'n Roll

Yes, children, it was Sister Rosetta Tharpe and long-overdue PBS "American Masters" doc coming up tonight, Feb. 22.   Here's the too-short trailer:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Three Murders Tonight--By the State

A big night for the execution machine in America tonight with two prisoners put to death in Georgia and another in Texas (that state's first of the year, as it's off to a slow start).   Andrew Cook was the latest to die, at 11:22 tonight, after his final Supreme Court appeal.  My e-book on the death penatly in the U.S., through history down to today, here.

Elvis, Without Tears

Twenty-seven years ago today, release of great album, Elvis Costello's King of America.  One of several highlights:

Piercing Obama's Latest 'Deal'

In a typically great posting, Charles P. Pierce lacerates the rumored/reported Obama deal with the GOP nuts in Congress--he'll release more material on the Benghazi attack but keep info on drone program secret.   Chas observes, " I swear, if this deal goes through, Lindsey Graham is going to have a woody you could see from space."  And then concludes:
This is what happens when you elect someone -- anyone -- to the presidency as that office is presently constituted. Of all the various Washington mystery cults, the one at that end of Pennsylvania Avenue is the most impenetrable. This is why the argument many liberals are making -- that the drone program is acceptable both morally and as a matter of practical politics because of the faith you have in the guy who happens to be presiding over it at the moment -- is criminally naive, intellectually empty, and as false as blue money to the future. The powers we have allowed to leach away from their constitutional points of origin into that office have created in the presidency a foul strain of outlawry that (worse) is now seen as the proper order of things. If that is the case, and
I believe it is, then the very nature of the presidency of the United States at its core has become the vehicle for permanently unlawful behavior. Every four years, we elect a new criminal because that's become the precise job description.

Fired for Blowing Whistle on Threat to Obamas

A police officer in Richmond, Va. has been fired for going on local TV and talking about two police officers who talked about shooting the president or blowing up the stage where he'd speak.  The cop's face and voice was "scrambled" in the interview but apparently his department was able to "unscamble" it (others be warned). 
The whistleblower told CBS 6 last year that the inappropriate comments were made by a 20-year police veteran who was talking on the phone to an officer assigned to provide outside security for the president and first lady. The whistleblower reported that the veteran suggested the officer “take a couple of shots . . .” and that another voice in the background talked about planting a bomb under the stage.
The Secret Service investigated and found no criminal act, but the two officers were fired amidst the furor. The fired officers have been fighting to get their jobs back.

No Longer Young But Still Rascals

UPDATE:  Just announced, Steve Van Zandt bringing the boys to Broadway starting in mid-April.

Earlier:  I was never a big (Young) Rascals fan but always appreciated their pro-civil rights songs and stances, but big music news today re: their decision to re-unite after, like 40 years, thanks to Miami Steve Van Zandt--for three shows at the newly restored Capitol Theater outside NYC, based on a multi-media script by...Steve.  Here's his induction speech at Rock Hall of Fame thing.

Meet the Simpson

Good to see SOMEONE in the press take down this guy.  Former Sen. Alan Simpson--allegedly witty, in his crickety way--has been a darling for decades,  harmless enough at points (like now) where he is doing real damage.  So kudos to Paul Krugman for stepping up to the plate in his blog post at NYT.   Concludes:   "So what is it that makes Simpson the figure he is? Clearly, it’s an affinity thing: never mind his obvious lack of knowledge, his ludicrous track record, reporters trust and idolize Simpson because he’s their kind of guy.

"And think about what it says about them that their kind of guy is this cantankerous, potty-mouthed individual, who evidently feels not a bit of empathy for those less fortunate."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Scary Warning from Nate Silver

When the nerd/seer speaks you better listen, and in a new post today at the NYT site, Nate warns that that Dems could very well lose the Senate in 2014.  How is that possible given national sentiment and demographics running in their favor? 
Twenty-one of the 35 seats up for election are now held by Democrats. Moreover, most the states that will be casting ballots for the Senate in 2014 are Republican leaning: 7 of the 21 Democratic-held seats are in states carried by the former Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, while just one of the Republican seats is in a state won by President Obama.
Democrats could also suffer from the downside to presidential coattails. Most of the seats up for grabs in 2014 were last contested in 2008, a very strong Democratic year. Without having Mr. Obama on the ballot, and with an electorate that is likely to be older and whiter than in presidential years, some Democrats may find that their 2008 coattails have turned into a midterm headwind instead.
He also charts and predicts (for now) EACH race.   Doesn't hold out much hope for Ashley Judd or Dems in W. Virginia.  

 Greg Mitchell is author of more than a dozen books, including four on influential American political campaigns,  such as Obama-Romney 2012. 

Ten Minutes of Solace and Perfection

Far from his greatest chamber piece, but one of his most perfect: the slow movement for Beethoven's piano trio no. 2.

PBS Gun Probes Miss Mark

Earlier this week I raised concerns about the PBS Frontline episode, which aired last night, after reading a lengthy piece on the same subject at the Hartford Courant, its partner in this probe of Sandy Hook mass killer Adam Lanza and his mother.  Yesterday I  pointed out, further, that the NYT review of another PBS show, which aired just before the Frontline piece, found it to be weakly even-handed on the national gun debate.  Alas, these fears were realized, I decided after watching the two-your block last night.

The Lanza segment was excellent on the boy's troubled upbringing and afflictions, and some of the questionable moves his mom, Nancy Lanza,  made on his schooling and failing to join support groups.   One of Adam's former teachers questioned her decision to take him to target practice.   But it completely failed on two major points--crucial in exploring this tragedy in the context of the new gun debate (which, indeed, was the subject of the final one-third of the program).   It never explained why she suddenly decided to buy the four weapons used by Adam in his rampage, or why she felt she needed an assault rifle--and it did not detail where and how she kept the guns in her home, within easy reach of her son. 

These are absolutely central to the issues raised about the currentoverkill in gun sales,  so-called "responsible" gun ownership, and the Second Amendment,  that PBS purports to probe this week.    In fact,  the program was framed by the question: Is Nancy Lanza the forgotten "victim" of Adam's crimes?  Hardly, given the evidence.  If anything she was the enabler of those crimes. 

As for the program on the gun debate in America:  It was "balanced" to the point of worthlessness.  Every time a critic raised a question about the staggering number and lethality of guns in our society we heard reverent references to hunting (which only 5% of us practice),  American's historical gun "identity" or "gun culture"--it's just the way we are.  Hell, we also have a "drinking culture" and "drug culture" but we severely (try to) regulate them.  (Remember when our proud "identity" of lighting up cigarettes anywhere we want seemed like it wouldn't, and shouldn't, be curtailed?)   We heard a brief reference to guns "streaming" into Chicago, where they are outlawed, but not where they come from--that is, from the gun-loving South in the main. 

On assault rifles there were no questions about why anyone really needs them, let alone needs eight of them--beyond a claim that they sure are fun to use at target ranges.  They visited gun shows but did not focus on the insane and the criminal who can easily buy weapons at these sites.  There were frequent references to the need for guns for self-defense, but again, no explanation of why some people possess an arsenal in their homes.   And there's the claim by the narrator that the "fear of mass shootings" is what's driving the upsurge in gun sales in the past few years and not a word about right-wing paranoia, survivalists, anti-Obama sentiment,  or other issues.  Again: It's just the way we are.  Can't we all just get along?

Oscar Nominee Threatened--With Deportation

What an outrage.  The Palestinian co-director of 5 Broken Cameras--which ought to win the Oscar on Sunday for Best Documentary over a strong field (you can watch it on Netflix now)--was detained, along with wife and child, at L.A. airport last night and threatened with deportation.  Michael Moore tried to help and tells the tale here. "Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee,"Moore observes, angrily.

"He was certain they were going to deport him," Moore said. "But not if I had anything to do about it…After one and a half hours, they decided to release him and his family and told him he could stay in LA for the week and go to the Oscars. Welcome to America."  Trailer for film:


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

PBS Probes Guns and Adam Lanza

UPDATE #2  As feared (see below), the first PBS show tonight was disastrously "evenhanded" on the gun debate, and the Frontline did the same and also failed to mention exactly how and where Lanza's mother kept her arsenal, so revealing in the current debate.   And enough with talk of her as "victim."  More tomorrow. 

UPDATE #1   Today's NYT preview of the entire week of PBS shows on guns does not give me a lot of confidence that they have used this time and money well to move the ball forward.  False balance run rampant?  But we will see. 

Earlier: As we noted a few days back, PBS Frontline airing first of two-part series on Adam Lanza, Sandy Hook and the national and local debate sparked by the gun massacre.  They are doing it with the Hartford Courant, which ran its first, lengthy, story on Sunday.  It does a full job in tracking his childhood and school and social problems, also his collection of violent video games (which cost "thousands" of dollars) and his mom making some poor decisions and also leaving him alone a lot lately.

Here's an excerpt on the gun angle--but the reporters elsewhere seem to quickly accept claim that the mother, Nancy Lanza, was not a "gun nut," was not a "survivalist" or "prepper," despite some evidence to the contrary.  Yet, if that's not true,  they give zero explanation why she suddenly bought the four guns, including an assault rifle, in short order not long ago,  and loved target shooting--not exactly common practices for women in the Northeast (although she had also done it years earlier).  Or why she took Adam shooting when all of his life he was supposedly frightened by loud noise.  Or what political or media views might have influenced her.   If Frontline goes no further it will be doing a real disservice.
Adam was exposed to guns at an early age and he continued to shoot at target ranges with his mother through his late teens, friends and other sources said. Shooting weapons was something Peter and Nancy Lanza did with their children dating to the early days in Kingston. But after the killings, investigators would focus on Adam Lanza's involvement with firearms and his immersion in the video-game culture as they tried to unravel the riddle of Lanza's last two years.
Nancy Lanza purchased four firearms between 2010 and 2012, according to law enforcement sources. During that time, she told a friend, landscaper Dan Holmes of Newtown, that she took both sons target shooting at a gun range.
"She said she took her kids target shooting, that they bonded over that," said Holmes, who planted flower beds and tended the 2 acres surrounding Nancy and Peter Lanza's $500,000 home.
Since the Sandy Hook shootings, officials from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives have visited gun stores where Nancy Lanza is believed to have purchased the weapons, as well as gun ranges where she is believed to have shot with Adam. An ATF official told The Courant in December that the agency doesn't believe either Nancy or Adam Lanza engaged in target shooting over the previous six months.
Mark Tambascio, owner of the My Place Pizza & Restaurant in Newtown, which Nancy Lanza frequented, and a friend of hers since 1999, said a retired police officer instructed Nancy in the use of her firearms.
"She really took to it," Tambascio said. "I grew up target shooting myself and so we talked a little bit about it."

Military Satire Is in the 'Bag'

Didn't know there was a military parody version of The Onion, called The Duffel Bag.  It can be so right that it even fooled Mitch McConnell.  Oh, wait, that's not much.  Spencer Ackerman: 
[I]t provides pitch-perfect military parody online, such as this piece about Syria hosting Iraq War reenactors (bylined by “G-Had”) or this one about a Google Street View Prius getting blown up in Kandahar. The Duffel Blog, as dutiful readers know, is America’s oldest online source for fake military news, founded in 1797 in a moment of farsightedness. It often gives more real talk than most legit journalistic institutions, but there is no way you can confuse it with the real news.

Donald Richie, Forever Linked to Kurosawa, Dies

The great Donald Richie has passed away at the age of 88.  His many writings on Japanese film were a big part of my life during the 1980s--especially his books and articles on Kurosawa (who I interviewed more than 30 years ago).  Richie also wrote subtitles for a few of the master's films, such as Kagemusha.   In his memory, the original 1954 trailer for one of the ten greatest films ever, Seven Samurai.



Smokey Still on Top

Here's to you, Mr. Robinson, on his 73nd birthday.  One of his lesser known (but among my favorite) songs, was even on my highly exclusive Wedding Tape.

Just Another Gun Nutty Day in USA

Four dead in Orange County as man shoots someone in home, flees in SUV,  shoots two more in carjackings, then offs himself as police close in.  
“The suspect shot and killed himself,” Garaven said, before officers were able to contact him.

"Residents stood outside of the crime-scene tape, where the body of the gunman was still visible under a yellow tarp.

"I've never seen anything like this in this neighborhood," said leo Kueny, a 44-year-old resident. "It's a very strange day."

When Crybaby Interviewed the President

A lot of outrage, and not-so-gentle mockery, this morning over a classic Politico piece by editor Jim VandeHei and chief reporter Mike Allen complaining about President Obama manipulating the press, or just ignoring them, or shutting them out, or something.  In any case, Obama is the "Puppet Master."   They seem to feel this is unprecedented and a  turning point for the Republic!

So John Cook, editor of Gawker, just performed a public service by posting on Twitter every question Allen chose to ask President Bush when he did get full access back in 2008.   You may remember 2008--the economy was about to collapse and we were still in a full shooting war in Iraq.  Go to his feed  @JohnJCook for all of the Qs (a few are even serious), but these below catch the spirit.  Keep in mind that Allen wrote today that  Obama avoids Politico reporters in part because they "ask tough, unpredictable questions." And don't miss Charles P. Pierce's full, fun,  autopsy here.
All right. Mr. President, who does the better impression, Will Ferrell of you, or Dana Carvey of your father?

Mr. President, I know you're going to hate this, but I'm hoping that we may twist your arm and talk about baseball for just a moment.

Now, Mr. President, I wonder if you think that Major League Baseball is doing enough to combat steroids use?

Mr. President, you haven't been golfing in recent years. Is that related to Iraq?

Now, Mr. President, you and the First Lady appeared on American Idol's charity show, "Idol Gives Back."   And I wonder who do you think is going to win? Syesha, David Cook, or David Archuleta?

When you took her arm [at daughter's wedding], Mr. President, what were you thinking? What was your toast?

What are you looking forward to when you finally get your computer back?

In the spirit of the Internet, I wonder if we could ask a question from one of our users?

Mr. President. You talked about some tough decisions -- what was the happiest moment you've had in this amazing room?
Greg Mitchell is author of more than a dozen books, including four on influential American political campaigns,  such as Obama-Romney 2012. 



Whistleblowers Get 'Silenced'

My new piece at The Nation on upcoming film by 2012 Oscar nominee on the federal war on whistleblowers.   Yes, I know something about this, having written a book (my first) profiling whistleblowers more than (ouch) thirty years ago...

Monday, February 18, 2013

When the Media on Iraq Were 'So Wrong for So Long'

Rachel Maddow's "Hubris" special tonight on the run-up to the Iraq war was very fine as far as it went--in showing the Bush administration lies, with the help of George Tenet and the CIA, and Colin Powell at the UN and on and on.  But the media complicity--and enabling--got only about 30 seconds in the hour: one reference to a cooked NYT front-page story and a brief Mike Isikoff critique of the media at the very end.  I understand that her focus was on the White House and Pentagon but still a viewer who did not closely live that sad era might ask, "How did they get away with it?"  Or: "Why did so many in the public go along with it?"  Needless to say, there was no MSNBC criticism of NBC's role in all this.

As it happens, I wrote a fairly well-known book about the media crimes a few years back that's still relevant today.  It's called So Wrong for So Long:  How the Press, the Pundits and the President Failed on Iraq.   The blurbs for the book follow. It features a preface by Bruce Springsteen and a foreword by Joe Galloway.  This interview covers some of my main points.  Here I am on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, but I also sat with Bill Moyers and Jim Lehrer. 

"Greg Mitchell has given us a razor-sharp critique of how the media and the government connived in one of the great blunders of American foreign policy. Every aspiring journalist, every veteran, every pundit—and every citizen who cares about the difference between illusion and reality, propaganda and the truth, and looks to the press to help keep them separate—should read this book. Twice."— Bill Moyers

“The profound failure of the American press with regard to the Iraq War may very well be the most significant political story of this generation. Greg Mitchell has established himself as one of our country's most perceptive media critics, and here he provides invaluable insight into how massive journalistic failures enabled the greatest strategic disaster in the nation's history.”— Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com writer and author of A Tragic Legacy and How Would a Patriot Act?

"With the tragic war in Iraq dragging on, and the drumbeat for new conflicts growing louder, this is more than a five-year history of the biggest foreign policy debacle of our times—it's a cautionary tale that is as relevant as this morning's headlines. Read it and weep; read it and get enraged; read it and make sure it doesn't happen again."— Arianna Huffington

"Anyone who cares about the integrity of the American media should read this book. Greg Mitchell asks tough questions about the Iraq war that should have been asked long ago, in a poignant, patriotic, and thoughtful dissection of our war in Iraq. Mitchell names names and places blame on those who’ve blundered. Examining the most complex issue of our time, he connects the dots like no one else has."— Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America and author of Chasing Ghosts

Lanza Was Going for Record?

CBS out tonight with story that claims law enforcement sources say Adam Lanza may have trying go top the world record for mass killings by an individual with a gun, set by that Norwegian nut, of sixty-nine--and Sandy Hook Elementary was simply the nearest target with clusters of large groups of would-be victims.  Also:  He was stimulated by video games, they say, and acting out fantasies from them.  Note, however, add at bottom of story in which police deny all this, saying motive not yet firmed up.  See my story from earlier today on PBS Frontline special tomorrow.

Maddow Special on Lies and Damn Lies

My new piece at The Nation on Rachel Maddow's special "Hubris" on lies that led to Iraq war, coming tonight at her usual time.   Preview:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why Matthew Had to Go

Downton fans may be mad at Julian Fellowes for killing off M. Crawley tonight but, according to this article, he had no choice.  Actor Dan Stevens wanted out.   British fans went nuts when episode was aired two months back:
"Lord Fellowes, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of Gosford Park, disclosed he would have written an alternative ending for Matthew’s character had circumstances been different. 'If he [Stevens] had been prepared to come back for maybe two or three episodes in a series, that would be different. Then we could have had a foreign posting or invented a career that would have made it possible for him to be away.
“'Otherwise we would have had to make this tremendously successful love affair between Mary and Matthew unhappy, which I didn’t feel would be believable.'"

A Sunday Smile

From one of my favorite younger groups (share this with my daughter in Nantes):

Forgive Them DJesus, They Know Not What They Do

SNL's video parody last night,  "Djesus Uncrossed."   With Samuel L. Jackson as (naturally) Judas.  Still: Not as funny as "Life of Brian."   Paging Mr. Dickus!

Gimme Some Peanuts and Cracker Jacks (Cards)

Exposing myself to (until now rare) charges of geekdom or even nerdiness, I have launched a blog here to showcase my small collection of vintage baseball cards--mainly from 1880s to 1920.  Since I am highlighting the "artiness" of these objects from back in the day, it was gratifying to get a shout out on Twitter this morning from none other than the executive editor of Art News!  Hell, these little slices of cardboard life do hang in a special gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I even went to a concert there last year in tribute to them, featuring Peter Buck of REM. 

Sunday Morning in the Church of Beethoven

My weekly feature, this time with the great Paul Lewis and the slow movement of piano concerto no. 3.   And my Beethoven book, with Kerry Candaele.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hallelujah, It's Jeff Buckley

Reading the new Allen Light book about my man Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and just getting to long section on Jeff Buckley, who did the key early cover.   Did not know Jeff was once Glen Hansard's roadie and Glenn got him breakthrough gig at East Village Irish bar Sin'e that we used to visit when I was at Editor & Publisher.  So here's Jeff doing NOT that song but another fine one off his debut lp, "Love You Should Have Come Over," and then Nina Simone's "Lilac Wine."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Heavy Metal Thunder

Well, didn't the Germans invent the Zeppelin?  A little Ludwig Van to get you out the door on this Friday night, my droogies.  The original rock and roll. 

Pre-Teens Planned Murder With Gun

Another case of "American exceptionalism." Two male fifth-graders in tiny Colville, Wash., plotted to kill an "annoying" girl.  Just a joke?  Well, a knife and gun was found in a backback and they may be charged with some form of conspiring to murder.  L.A. Times here.   They had also, it is claimed, planned to harm six other kids at the school.   Of course, this raises more nutty calls of arming teachers with guns.
"This was a plan. And it was a plan to kill," Stevens County prosecuting attorney Timothy Rasmussen said Thursday. Rasmussen said he would argue that the 10-year-old and his 11-year-old codefendant be held criminally responsible on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and witness tampering — a charge filed after authorities said the boys promised to pay $80 to a student if he agreed not to tell anyone about the plot.
According to a court affidavit made public this week, the incident came to light shortly before 8 a.m. on Feb. 7, when a fourth-grader told a teacher he had seen an 11-year-old boy with a knife.

Kickin' Asteroid

Hopefully, this space object will NOT hit earth.  But it's the closest approach by such anyone knows about--just 17,000 miles.  It's in orbit so might not hit us.  Not viewable from earth today, but via observatories, and below you will find a live stream from same.  Article here discusses chances of getting smashed by one, some day, making us "go the way of the dinosaur." 

Live Video streaming by Ustream

Warren in Action

At first hearing yesterday.  Calling out bank and financial regulators, and why they cave and "settle" with bad actors--who simply pay up out of profits they gained from their crookery.   No one in room can identify the latest time anyone took a Wall Streeter to trial.  "Too big to fail has become too big to trial.  It just seems wrong to me."

Raising Hell: PBS Previews Adam Lanza Show

Frontline has now posted preview and video trailer for two-part series next week on  Sandy Hook mass killer Adam Lanza, how he was raised, the gun debate it set off locally and nationally--and portraying mother as "the 27th victim." Really?  I would say "enabler" or even "accomplice," with her collection of guns, at the ready, which he took to school.   Or perhaps I will change my mind after viewing series, which also looks at the gun debate set off by the tragedy.   Here's trailer and excerpt. 
 
Watch Raising Adam Lanza Preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Watch Adam Lanza As a Child on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Disaster Movie in Real Life

UPDATE #2  Amazing new videos cropping up.  This brief one shows blast wave coming through windows. 



UPDATE #1  From Russian news outlet: "725 people have sought medical attention in Chelyabinsk alone because of the disaster, 112 of whom have been hospitalized, of them two in heavy condition. Among the injured there are 159 children, Emergency ministry reported."  Three large blast holes found already.  No radiation levels.  Wild claim:  Air defenses blew it up, but ministry denies.  In what's being dubbed only a "cosmic coincidence," the closest recorded approach of an asteroid is coming tomorrow, at just 17,000 miles from Earth.

Earlier: And there was no super-hero to save us.  A meteorite fell toward earth today in western Siberia, burning up and showering fragments below--also with large boom that broke windows and damaged buildings over wide path--and at least 500 injured, many from glass shards.   Mobile networks down for two hours.    Reuters photo left.  Story here. See video below.  Other videos here

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Map Quest!

This is catnip for people (like me) who hate the electoral college and also the equality tiny, tiny states get in the U.S. Senate:  a re-drawn map where each state has about the same population.  You will see a method in the madness in terms of where line are drawn.  For example, western PA and western NY are joined together--and indeed they have more in common with each other than with the other parts of their states.  And so on. He lists some problems, such as county names being duplicated, but here goes:


Testing a Medal: Fail?

Marine Times covers disgrace of Pentagon instituting a new medal for brave service (which will trump the Bronze Star for Valor and be just below the Distinguished Flying Cross)  to....drone pilots. who never take to the air, needless to say.  "The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to pilots of unmanned aircraft, offensive cyber war experts or others who are directly involved in combat operations but who are not physically in theater and facing the physical risks that warfare historically entails."

Joni's Valentine for...Beethoven

Perhaps her greatest love song? Certainly, at moment, and perhaps others, her immortal beloved.

Blue Valentine

For balance, here's Dylan's "Love Is Just a Four-Letter" from Joan Baez (who knows it well, re: Bob).

Oscar 'Bladerunner' Pitorius Charged With Murder

Shocker out of South Africa this morning, as the famed Olympics runner--who competing on blades--has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, age 30, a model.  Apparently he is claiming it was case of mistaken identity but said said "there were no signs of forced entry to the home and said that police would oppose any application Pistorius might make to be released on bail."  They also suggest there was previous incidents involving domestic violence.  On the eve of Valentine's Day she had tweeted,  "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???"   A 9 mm handgun, apparently.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Frenchman Survives High-Speed Adventure

A story too incredible to be true, but it is (see The Guardian account).    This fellow was just making a little supermarket run  in his town when his car--specially adapted for the disabled--started accelerating every time he hit the brakes.  Soon he was up to 125 mph and the brakes did not work.  Did he soon crash? Hardly.  Instead he stayed on the highway for an hour, speeding for 120 miles and ending up in Belgium.  Finally he ran out of gas, before he got to fuckin' Bruges.

Dresden Protests: Nazis vs. Anti-Fascists

Like many in my generation, I (sadly) didn't know much about he Allied firebombing of Dresden until Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s classic novel Slaughter-house Five came out in the late 1960s.   It was indeed a massacre from the air and I later studied it thoroughly in writing my books on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Anyway:  We are now at the 68th anniversary and here's an account of a very interesting battle there between a fairly large number of neo-Nazis and a larger gathering of anti-Fascists meeting their protest.  The new Nazis want to use the mass killing to show how horrible the Allies were, thus making their guys a little nicer.  They also inflate death figures (which are bad enougth) and use the word "holocaust" to balance the oven and death camps (that is, when they are not denying that). 

Actress Makes a Splash at Keystone Protest

Photo:  Jim Lo Scalzo
UPDATE:  See photo of McKibben and Sierra Club's Brune chained to White House fence below (photo by David Fenton).

Earlier:  Daryl Hannah (left)  was one of several prominent folks arrested at the big Keystone XL protest at the White House today.  Others includes Robert Kennedy Jr. and Bill McKibben.   They tied themselves to gate.  And dig this:  "Executive director Michael Brune is the first Sierra Club leader in the group's 120-year history to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience. The club's board of directors approved the action as a sign of their opposition to the $7 billion pipeline, which would carry oil derived from tar sands in western Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast."

Big rally coming Sunday, hopes for tens of thousands.   McKibben says aiming for "biggest climate rally" ever.

Controversy Surrounds Oscar Nominee

My favorite doc of the year--sorry, "Sugarman"--is 5 Broken Cameras, and it has stirred debate because of its joint Palestinian-Israeli production (it was shot by a man in the West Bank, whose footage was edited by an Israeli, with funds from France and Israel).  Although its focus in on the settlements, from a purely Palestinian perspective, it has been banned in most Arab lands because of the Israeli connection.   Fine new interview with the pair at NYT online just now.   Trailer:

Flood of Rock Star Bio-Pics Coming to Screen

Hollywood Reporter runs them down:  Jimi, Marvin, Jeff and Tim Buckley, Joplin,  Nina Simone, plus the CBGB epic, many more.  But also a look at how difficult it is to get them made, especially if artist is still live, and the problem of "life rights."
"Biopic! It sounds like something you'd see on a slide in a class you'd be better off skipping," sneers Daniel Algrant, director of Greetings From Tim Buckley, which stars Penn Badgley as Jeff Buckley, the musician who came to fame at a memorial concert for the famous father he never knew. "Biopics like Bird or Ray just become so predictable. People want to see what they don't expect, something that's hard to do and true." Algrant says his film, coming in May from Tribeca/Focus World, is no biopic but an innovative narrative duel between father and son (a structure that, coincidentally or not, resembles that of the 2001 book by David Browne that popularized the Buckleys' story, Dream Brother).

Footage of Dorner Shootout and Fire

First close-up looks I've seen:

Obama's Kill Policy: Tutu, Bad

It was easy to miss so here is Desmond Tutu's letters to the editor as published by NYT online:
I am deeply, deeply disturbed at the suggestion in “A Court to Vet Kill Lists” (news analysis, front page, Feb. 9) that possible judicial review of President Obama’s decisions to approve the targeted killing of suspected terrorists might be limited to the killings of American citizens.
Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.
I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.
DESMOND M. TUTU

Rubio Meets His Waterloo?

My new post at The Nation: 5 classic songs offering Rubio more water, from Otis, Van, Beach Boys, Leadbelly, Hank Sr.

Homeless, Washington Square Park

My photo of the day at my new photo blog.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

For Rubio: More Water

Poor Marco had to duck and reach off-screen for a small bottle of Poland Spring midway through his SOTU response.  Sure to be mocked on SNL and elsewhere.  So here's the classic Sons of the Pioneers, "Cool, Cool Water."  About someone else facing a "barren waste."  Below that a little known Hank Williams version.

Minneapolis Man 'Randomly' Shoots Kid

When will the madness stop? (I know, I know: Never.)  Read horrid story about man with apparently  lawful semi-automatic pistol in Minneapolis area suddenly started firing at passing cars, at random.  Killed boy, age 9, coming home from school.  At least two other cars got shot up.  Man described variously as "calm" and "paranoid."

Not Glad All Over

Original bassist for Dave Clark Five -- who were #2 just behind the Beatles for a short while during the early weeks of the British Invasion of 1964--has died at age 72.    Rick Huxley by name.  I know they were Tom Hanks' favorites--I think he inducted them in Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.  Back in the day:


Shootout with Ex-Cop Dorner, One Dead

FINAL UPDATE   Overnight police say they have now found charred body, have to test to ID but have called off manhunt.

UPDATE #9  Numerous sources say dead body found in cabin.  But now, at 11:30 ET, L.A. Times headlines that conflicting stories--with sources saying no body found because cabin still to hot to enter.  Also will no be able to ID charred body for hours or days.  The NYT just now reports:  "News organization had widely reported that Mr. Dorner’s body was found in the building, but a spokesman from the Los Angeles Police Department said Tuesday evening that they did not have the body. Even once police retrieved the body, it could take days or weeks to identify it, officials said."

UPDATE #8  9:20 ET  L.A. Times story reveals step-by-step assault on cabin.  Repeats earlier claim they heard one single shot and then nothing.  Will search basement for Dormer. 

UPDATE #7  San Bernardino briefing just now merely says suspect in cabin and it's on fire.  One officer dead but other officer "expected to survive."  Still "not confirmed" that it is Dorner. 

UPDATE  #6 CNN reporter in area lends some credence to report that Dorner may have set off device and escaped or is nearby.  However, CBS reporter near scene says police heard single shot in cabin as fire spread, perhaps self-inflicted shot. 

UPDATE #5  7:15 ET   Police says "tactical operation" under way and tear gas fired into cabin.  Assumption no hostages inside.  SWAT team has entered cabin.  Live shot of smoke coming from cabin.  Another report that ammo exploded.

CNN now showing large flames leaping from cabin or cabins but can't see police on ground-- and no attempt to put out.  Is it possible Dorner not there?   Some folks listening to scanners say unconfirmed reports that he may have escaped to "a horse corral."  Huh?


UPDATE #3  LA Times reports one of officers shot today has died. 

UPDATE #2   LAPD press briefing at 6 pm ET.  Not much new.  Confirms that started at 3:22 ET.  Report of vehicle stolen, police trapped, Dorner fled, and the shootout took place at cabin only.   Still "not positive" it is Dorner.  Nothing new on condition of two shot. 

UPDATE #1   CNN quotes L.A. Times saying Dorner has two hostages in cabin. Unconfirmed.  L.A. Times says "hundreds of rounds" have been fired.  

CNN right now carrying scanner noise from scene of earlier shoot out--loud voices, maybe gun shots, shouting, hard to say what it was but horrible soundingCNN crawl says "bunker buster SWAT team" has arrived, whatever that is. 


L.A. Times with update with new details on chain of events.   MSNBC picking up live feed from KNBC in California.  Shows police at road close to cabin.  Armed tank-like vehicle went through at one point.  Seems that he held couple for days in one cabin--on Club View Dr. in Big Bear Lake-- but now is in another many miles away.  

CNN quoting sheriff's office that seems to say he is "barricaded" in cabin, or may be outside.  Still armed.   May be woman at cabin, or not.   In any case: still "pinned down."

Media told by police to stop showing aerial shots of area where Dorner may be--and CNN complies.  Might mention this--not 100% certain this is Dorner, though likely.

Earlier: Reports just out that ex-cop and killer Chris Dorner was in shootout with cops today in Big Bear area.  NBC just now says two officers wounded and taken to hospital, no word on condition.  Report of a home invaded by Dorner, couple tied up, someone made 911 call, Dorner stole truck, cops gave chase.  Truck abandoned.  Police followed footprints in snow and shootout ensued.  CNN says he shot at a "roadblock" but also says shootout was at cabin.  Obviously confusion now.

Mayor of Big Bear Lake on CNN just now says "pinned down" eight miles from town in "very rural" area.  

No word if he is surrounded, "firefight" in process or escaped or what.  Scanner reportedly reveals he is "pinned down." Stay tuned.  Will we get another O.J. chase for State of Union coverage tonight? CNN and MSNBC covering live.