Saturday, April 26, 2014

Michal Socha's new Simpsons opening

By Richard K. Barry

If you are a fan of The Simpsons, you've noticed some pretty interesting animation for their iconic opening "couch segments" this year. Most recently, Polish animator Michal Socha directed some work, which features a view of the inside of Homer's brain. (If you click on the link for his name, you'll find his portfolio).

Here's a blurb from a website specializing in animation because, you know, there are websites for everything:
Socha is an unexpected choice for directing a Simpsons opening, especially since he’s not a known name like the other artists who have created openings. The gamble paid off though, and audiences have been rewarded with one of the loosest, most fun pieces of Simpsons animation ever produced.

I agree (because my opinions about animation are really valuable).


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On the Hustings


(CNN): "Rand Paul on being libertarian-ish"

(Chris Cillizza): "What if the tea party decides to walk away from the GOP in 2016? It could happen"

(BuzzFeed): "Texas Republican spent over $30,000 in campaign cash on chocolates and ham"

(Roll Call): "How a Democrat could win a Senate seat in Georgia"

(Washington Post): "Caroline Kennedy signals support for Hillary Clinton in 2016"


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Abominable idolatry!

By Capt. Fogg

Abominable idolatry! Pretty spectacular language for an era so far removed from the Iron age, but then The United States is always an exception.
“Do you hear me ladies? It is an abominable idolatry to love your children more than you love your husband, and it will ruin your marriage. And yet you blame it on him because he ran off with some other woman!"

Them are fightin' words, from the fightin' preacher Det Bowers whom you probably never heard of if you're not from South Carolina. You're probably never heard a name like Det either and I can only speculate that it's short for something embarrassing, but anyway Detritus is trying to add Senator to his resume by entering the primary to challenge Lindsey Graham and although that sermon may have gathered some Amens from the flock, Detestable may have thought better about letting cynics or sane people or "the ladies" for that matter, hear it and he pulled it from the archives of his former employer, Christ Church of the Carolinas.

Seek and ye shall find, as the Bible says and Politico resurrected it.
“You just ran him off. You paid more attention to your children than you did to him,” he said. “‘Oh, he doesn’t need me?’ He needs you more than they do. He chose you, they didn’t. An abominable idolatry.

So sure, God thinks men need women more than children need women for some reason probably related to the certainty that God is a man. Yep, it's "Abominable Idolatry" and that means "unlawful Worship" as if the US or even South Carolina had laws regulating worship, if not guns. Good old Detumescence, or maybe it's (or should be) Detox. Det Bowers is a snake who wouldn't know a moral from a feral hog if he found himself in bed with it, but he's what South Carolina has become, what the Republican Party has become and if the Devil and a deranged public allows it, what America may yet become -- and that's abominable.

(Cross-posted to The Impolitic.)

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Behind the Ad: What ads look like in safe blue congressional districts

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Don Beyer (D) campaign

Where: Virginia's 8th Congressional District

What's going on: Rep. James P. Moran (D) is retiring. There are 10 Democrats running in the June 10th primary for the right to crush whomever the Republicans put up. Former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer is one of them. This 30-second ad crows about Beyer's commitment to women's issues like equal pay and abortion rights.

According to Roll Call, Beyer is the only candidate with enough money to make a significant ad buy this early, especially considering how expensive airtime is in the D.C. area. He is also referred to in the piece as the front-runner, so it he must be true, though I haven't seen any polling. 

Also running for the Democrat nomination are state Sen. Adam Ebbin, state Dels. Patrick Hope and Charniele Herring, and radio show host Mark Levine, among others.

President Obama won here in 2012 by 37 points, so this seat is all about the Democratac primary. 

A fun fact about the Virginia 8th is that it boasts the shortest commute to Capitol Hill in the country.

Grade: Considering that this is a safe blue seat, the point is to make Democrats comfortable with the candidates progressive values. No harm done, but could it be a more boring ad? C- 

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A.M. Headlines

(Politico): "Rep. Michael Grimm expected to be indicted"

(TPM): "RNC spokesman is furious the GOP has been lumped with Bundy"

(Bloomberg): "Keystone allies say new delay aids push to bypass Obama"

(Daily Beast): "Putin halts all talks with White House"

(New York Times): "Obama suffers setbacks in Japan and the Mideast"


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Friday, April 25, 2014

David Clayton Thomas at this year's Toronto Jazz Festival

By Richard K. Barry

The Toronto Jazz Festival takes place from June 19-28. I've already got my tickets for Earth, Wind, and Fire. If you're interested, the full lineup can be found here

David Clayton Thomas, a Canadian, and once upon a time the lead vocalist with Blood, Sweat & Tears, is a part of the show. 

This is a medley performed in 1982 with tunes you will recall, if you are old enough.  The man can sing.


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Cliven Bundy: This man's crazy is beyond belief

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Pay no attention to rich man's welfare!

That image is from All In. It shows yet another way that the government provides huge amounts of welfare to the rich. The normal price of private land grazing rights for one cow for one month is $16.80. The government basically gives it away for $1.35. That's a subsidy of $15.45 per cow per month. Bundy reportedly had 908 head of cattle on federal land. So even if he paid his fees, he would have been getting a subsidy of $14,028.60 per month, or $168,343.20 per year.

This doesn't come as a surprise to me. On 15 April, I wrote, Be a Patriot, Pay Your Taxes! It was a general article, but I included Cliven Bundy in the discussion. I said, "I'm sure that I can find more things in the federal budget that I don't like than Bundy can. One of the things I don't like is how the BLM allows ranchers to graze their cattle at below market prices. Of course, in Bundy's case, even that is too much. So it just steals it."

The truth is that I have no problem with the government subsidizing ranchers in this way. There are good reasons for a country to prop up the farm industry. A country always wants to be able to feed its own people by itself if it ever comes to that. But the problem comes in when people assume that farmers and ranchers are rugged individualists who get by just based upon the sweat of their brows. And that just ain't the case.

Read more »

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Behind the Ad: A very good ad from a GOP Senate candidate in Oregon

Who: The Monica Wehby campaign for U.S. Senate

Where: Oregon

What's going on: Dr. Wehby is a paediatric neurosurgeon who will face three other candidates in the GOP primary on May 20th. The winner will run again Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley (D).  Polling has Merkley with a decent lead over all comers at this point though Republicans are saying that Merkley could be vulnerable over local frustrations with Obamacare and the state exchange in Oregon.

Whatever the politics, the ad is quite stunning.

As The Hill describes it:

[T]titled "Trust," [it] runs a minute long and highlights the story of Lexi Liebelt from Gresham, Ore., whose daughter needed reconstructive surgery on her spinal cord shortly after she was born. In the ad, Liebelt tells the story of how Wehby helped her daughter that day.

Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post calls it one of the best political ads of 2014. It's worth noting in detail his reasons, which are that it:

a) Shows rather than tells how Wehby's background -- she's the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Randall Children's Hospital in Portland -- is decidedly different than most people running for office.

b) Conveys a story -- of a newborn with spinal problems -- that sticks with you.

c) Looks different. The image of Lexi Liebelt, the mom, crying as she recounts the story of how Wehby reassured her that her daughter would be ok is powerful. The shots of the now 12-year old Gabby Liebelt are equally moving.

Grade: For the moment,  I won't get into the curiosity of doctors taking issue with expanded health care coverage. As for the ad, a solid A

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The racist rancher; or, how Cliven Bundy is pretty much exactly what you thought he was

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So right-wing hero (and welfare rancher) Cliven Bundy was revealed by the Times, in an interview, to be, unsurprisingly, an abhorrent racist espousing slavery (and cotton-picking) as the proper place for "the Negro," a revelation he denied, claiming his comments were taken out of context, but then, well, there was the actual video, which is rather hard to deny:

In response, his chief right-wing cheerleader, Fox News's Sean Hannity, said Bundy's comments "are beyond repugnant to me. They are beyond despicable to me. They are beyond ignorant to me," which is really the least he should have said, but, really, what did you expect, you fucking idiot?


But do not think for a minute that Bundy's views, what with Hannity's distancing himself from them, are somehow beyond the current morass of ugliness that is contemporary American conservatism. As Slate's Jamelle Bouie writes:

In other words, the real problem with African-Americans today is that they’re addicted to welfare and unwilling to work. Sure, slavery wasn’t ideal, but at least the Negroes had skills (cotton picking!), work, and family.

Obviously, Bundy is a crank. But he’s not alone. Not only are these views shared on the survivalist fringe of American life, but they’re fairly common within the conservative movement...

[T]he only difference between Bundy and a whole host of conservatives is that the renegade rancher isn't sophisticated enough to couch his nonsense in soundbites and euphemism. Or, if Bundy has anything to say about "the negro," he learned it from the conservative movement.

This is not to say that all conservatives are Bundy-style racists, or that they all harbor similar views. It is to say, however, that Bundy's abhorrent views are alive and well in today's conservative -- and, yes, Republican -- ranks, and that they are far more comment than you might think, and than Hannity and his odious ilk would have us believe.

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Se Delan: "Tonight"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

How about some music this very early Friday morning?

How about a tune off the fantastic debut album from Se Delan, The Fall?

(Se Delan, signed to the great post-prog Kscope label (Porcupine Tree, Anathema, The Pineapple Thief, Gazpacho, etc.), is the duo of Justin Greaves and Belinda Kordic.)

How about "Tonight"?

(I'll blog again about Se Delan soon, as The Fall is currently in heavy rotation in my music world. Seriously, it's wonderful -- moody, intense, atmospheric.)



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Thursday, April 24, 2014

An interesting "apology" from Aaron Sorkin about The Newsroom

By Richard K. Barry

I had read somewhere that Aaron Sorkin "apologized" for The Newsroom, and though I haven't absolutely loved the production, I didn't think it was so bad as to require an apology. But then it became clear that he was doing something very different.

As Lindsay Weber of New York Magazine explains, in an interview at the Tribeca Film Festival,
he's apologizing for the misconception other people had about why the show was set in the present day. Not to insult the way journalists handled those stories, just so that we could all better relate: "I set the show in the recent past because I didn’t want to make up fake news."

Not making up fake news would seem, to me, to be a good thing. Obviously, however, he must have received some major shit for the impression some had that he was trying to tell journalists how to do their jobs. Again, wouldn't that be a good thing? 



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Behind the Ad: Don't confuse Michigan Republicans with logic

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Terri Lynn Land campaign for U.S. Senate

Where: Michigan

What's going on: I saw this one on CNN's ever-moronic morning show yesterday. I could tell it was CNN because the hosts were going on about how clever the ad is, which, given how stupid the ad is, is what you would expect from CNN. 

I'll let Daily Kos take it from here:
As gentle piano music plays, Land starts off by saying "Congressman Gary Peters and his buddies want you to believe I'm waging a war on women." Incredulous, Land asks, "Really?", then insists: "Think about that for a moment." The music shifts to a peppier, almost annoying trope that signifies "waiting around" as Land takes a sip of her coffee, looks at her watch, shakes her head ... and says nothing at all for 12 seconds.
Then, thinking she's the cleverest lady ever, Land finally breaks her silence and declares, "As a woman, I might know a little bit more about women than Gary Peters."

Are we really supposed to believe that the mere fact there are female politicians and candidates in the GOP means we therefore cannot have a substantive policy debate about how Republican policies adversely impact woman? Is that the point? If so, and I'm afraid it is, it's a stupid point.

Again, Kos nails it when they write that "[a]nyone swayed by this kind of 'argument' is almost certainly already very hostile to Democrats—the sort of conservative who declares, "There's no 'War on Women' because Monica Lewinsky!"

For the record, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin's decision not to run again has made this race competitive. Land, a former Michigan Secretary of State, will be running for the Republicans and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters for the Democrats. Polling done as recently as March and April has it close, which is likely how it will remain. 

Grade: As you can see, I don't think much of this cringe-making ad, which obviously wouldn't move any vote and might even alienate some who actually think for themselves. D-

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rep. Wasserman Schultz says the midterms will not be a referendum on Obama (Meet the Press)

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On the Hustings

(TPM): 'Entire North Carolina GOP senate field: Climate change is not fact"

(Washington Post): "Missouri legislature will begin impeachment proceedings against governor"

(CNN Politics): "Another N.J. bridge controversy brewing, and a familiar name surfaces"

(Tampa Bay Times): "Tea party candidate Curt Clawson wins Republican primary to replace former Rep. Trey Radel"

(Politico): "How Lindsey Graham outmaneuvered the tea party"


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Vast majority of conservatives are still against gay marriage (and the Pope is still Catholic)

By Richard K. Barry

According to a survey conducted by a Republican polling group, conservatives are still overwhelmingly opposed to same-sex marriage. 

The poll, by Wilson Research Strategies, found a whopping 82% of the GOP’s base (which included right-leaning independent voters) defined marriage as between a man and a woman, while 75% disagreed that politicians should be seeking to “redefine marriage.” In both cases the majority of respondents felt strongly or even “definitely” about the issue.

But, while the voting conservative public may have a clear view, many in the conservative leadership know that this is a problem for the future of the GOP. 

As reported in the Washington Post:
Fred Sainz, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, agreed that “a tectonic shift is taking place in the Republican Party on marriage equality.” He cited several polls showing shifting support and the growing number of lawmakers in favor of dropping opposition even as top leaders remain opposed. “For the Republican hierarchy it's a very straightforward question,” Sainz said. “How can they attract the next generation of voters and not support an issue young people have made their minds up on?”

How indeed.

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Behind the Ad: American Idol's Clay Aiken takes a run at politics

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Clay Aiken campaign 

Where: North Carolina 2nd Congressional District

What's going on: Former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken (D) is running for a seat in the House of Representatives in North Carolina. But before you dismiss this as some kind of a stunt, as I was inclined to do, consider the analysis by the well-respected Cook Political Report. They write this about an interview they conducted with the candidate (which is behind a paywall, so I won't bother linking to it):
Aiken was not only polished and poised, but relaxed, free-wheeling, persuasive, and politically realistic. He spoke passionately and fluently on a range of issues, from trade promotion authority to No Child Left Behind to continuous coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. In fact, he was better-versed and more in-depth than plenty of state legislators we have met. And, he was just as comfortable discussing the voting intricacies of the 2nd CD's counties as he was recalling his route to Idol success.

Aiken is running against a Republican incumbent, Rep. Renee Ellmers, who will be very hard to beat, especially in a midterm.  But, and I wouldn't be the first to point this out, running a credible congressional campaign, even a losing one, could well help launch a long political career.

The Aiken ad focuses on his difficult upbringing as well as his more recent philanthropic work.

I should note that Aiken must first secure the Democratic nomination, which is at this point a competitive three-way race with the first round in a couple of weeks. If no candidate gets 40 percent, there will be a run-off in June.

Grade: It is an interesting thing when a "celebrity" runs for office, whether from the left or right. For some reason they have to go a bit farther than others to explain why they would do such a thing. It is as if to say, I'm not simply trying to keep the cameras rolling by other means. That's what this ad is. And on that, it does what it's supposed to do. C


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A.M. Headlines

(TPM): "Sotomayor attacks John Roberts' views on race as 'out of touch with reality'"

(New York Times): "The American middle class is no longer the world’s richest"

(ABC News): "Rick Perry wants New York jobs — and debate with Andrew Cuomo"

(Charlie Cook): "Party paranoia could destroy hopes of immigration reform"

(New York Times): "Looking at costs and risks, many skip health insurance"


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Stop annoying Senator Warren

By Richard K. Barry

Today is Sen. Elizabeth Warren Day at The Reaction. I bought her book, we put her picture up in our "On the Hustings" segment, and now we post a clip of Sen. Warren saying for the umpteenth time that she is not running for president in 2016 (among other things in this ABC News interview). Put another way, Michael is under the weather, so I can do whatever I want today.


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On the Hustings

(The New Yorker): "The Warren brief"

(Roll Call): "Republicans spend millions on TV in primary for Trey Radel seat"

(Washington Post): "How big could the GOP House majority get?"

(FiveThirtyEight): "Democrats shouldn't count on an Electoral College edge in 2016"

(Fox Atlanta): "New poll: Perdue, Kingston lead crowded Senate race"


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Behind the Ad: Sen. Mitch McConnell takes no chances

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Sen. Mitch McConnell Campaign (R-Ky)

Where: Kentucky

What's going on: Mitch McConnell should have no difficulty dispatching Tea Party Challenger Matt Bevin (R) for the GOP Senate nomination in Kentucy, but he wants to make sure. As with other Republican incumbents who are being primaried from their right, McConnell has been forced to scream from the rooftops that he is in fact a conservative.
"Mitch McConnell: He's not a show horse, Mitch is a genuine Kentucky workhorse," the ad's narrator says. "Last year, he saved 99 percent of Kentuckians from an income tax increase. Mitch stopped bureaucrats from shutting down fishing below Barkley Dam, saving Kentucky jobs. Mitch fights for Kentucky miners against Obama's war on coal and he's leading the fight against ObamaCare. Mitch McConnell fights for our values, our future and our jobs."

The primary, which McConnell will win, is on May 20th. Then the real work begins as he goes head to head with Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) in the general election.

Grade: To explain the grading scale: Anything less than a C, in my estimation, starts to do the candidate damage. I consider a C anything that does what it has to do but probably doesn't move much vote.  A B may move vote in a positive way. And an A is a game changer, a "Morning in America" moment, if you will. With that in mind:

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A.M. Headlines

(Capital New York): "Patterson's pick, for the ages"

(New York Times): "50 years into the War on Poverty, hardship hits back"

(Washington Post): "As ‘Meet the Press’ struggles in the ratings, plenty of questions for host David Gregory"

(Time): "Boy Scouts of America shuts down Seattle troop over gay scoutmaster"

(CBS News): "A relationship with Putin now seems out of reach for Obama"


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Monday, April 21, 2014

Journalist John Dickerson says Jeb Bush has a shot in 2016 (Face the Nation). Discuss.

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