Saturday, May 03, 2014

Se Delan: "Dirge"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Last week, I posted "Tonight" by Se Delan, the fantastic new duo whose debut album The Fall was recently released on Kscope.

The more I listen to The Fall, and I've been listening to it a lot, the more I appreciate it, delving into its nuances and complexities, its absorbing textures. It's simply a gorgeous album.

Here's the video, the duo's first, for another track, "Dirge." (These are two of the better songs on an album that is strong from start to finish, but "Beneath the Sea" is probably my favorite.) Enjoy!


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Friday, May 02, 2014

A bit of an eye-opener

By Carl 

When you think "poverty in New York City," what springs to mind? What stereotype has been so drilled into our heads from the newspapers, magazines and TV shows we all watch, like Law & Order or The Wanderers?

The very poorest among us in this city are Hispanics, perhaps African-Americans. Want to portray a neighborhood as poor in a TV show? Get a graffiti-coated wall, and stick a couple of Latinos playing handball against it.

Right? I mean, that's the face of poverty in the Big Apple. Right? 


Despite a rise in employment, nearly half of New York City's population is living near poverty levels -- a problem that is particularly striking in the city's Asian population, which has surpassed Hispanics as the city's poorest group, according to a new report conducted by the Center for Economic Opportunity.

The study revealed 45.6 percent of New Yorkers are barely making ends meet, even with more adults working full-time since the recession. A combination of low wages, rising rents, and a lack of benefits is largely to blame.

The dismal numbers, presented Tuesday to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, follows a growing number of studies showing the harsh realities of income inequality in New York. Just last week, city comptroller Scott Stringer released a study showing just how unaffordable the city has become, with the median rent in New York City rising a staggering 75 percent from 2000 to 2012.

The annual study also showed significant shifts within racial and ethnic demographics. As the report indicates, the poverty rate of Asians and Hispanics were "statistically identical" in 2008, at 22.4 percent and 23.5 percent, respectively. But by 2012, the rate surged to 29 percent for Asians, more than 3 percent higher than Hispanics.

The Stringer study is of particular note, as the rules governing rent control and rent stabilization in New York were amended in the last twenty years to allow landlords to force tenants above a certain income threshold to pay market rents. This effectively took a percentage of affordable housing off the market. An additional form of vacancy decontrol, as it's known, is to vacate an apartment for a year, make renovations, then petition the city to remove the rent controls. The landlord is entitled to an immediate 20% rent increase, plus one-fortieth of the costs incurred in renovations (which means premium pricing on plumbing, HVAC, and so on).

Estimates range as high as 300,000 units of affordable housing being taken off the market in the past twenty years.

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

Respect your elders

By Capt. Fogg

One of the things that annoys me the most about living in the most crimson county in a red state is the presumption by the inmates that you couldn't possibly be anything else but one of them. The lack of inhibition allowing them to launch into some vicious right-wing verbal assault, packed like a fat kid's lunchbox with unhealthy swill gives me no end of grief, but of course there are times when it backfires on them.

Republican Governor Rick Scott had one of those precious moments the other day, naturally assuming that a group of retired folks in nearby Boca Raton would, like a juke box, play his song when he pushed the right buttons. Wrong. The expression on his face tells it all.

Scott, who is filling my TV screen every evening with scurrilous lies and sleazy half truths about his Democratic opponent, blaming him for the recession, but worse, blaming him for not hating Obama and everything he's done enough -- Scott who oversaw what was at the time the largest medicare fraud in history, expected the doddering old folks to respond Republican-style to his questions about just how much they hated Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.

What he found was a satisfied group with few complaints, says the Sun Sentinel. Some actually praised "Obamacare." One woman, some years younger than I responded that if young people don't have insurance the rest of us will have to pay their bills and if there really were cuts necessary under the ACA to provide equal care for others, as Scott claims it would, ( he lies) then people like her weren't going to fight to keep every last benefit because "it isn't the United States of senior citizens."

Another older fellow said if there really were cuts to Medicare, he hadn't seen them and that's of course because the cuts aren't to the beneficiaries but to service providers.  Perhaps people with some time to read noticed that the "cuts" were actually Medicare cost-savings passed by a Republican Congress.

Other people confirmed that they had seen no cuts, that they were satisfied.  Others affirmed that contrary to Scott's claims no doctors were quitting.  We get used to the image of everybody over 65 as feeble, barely rational and uninformed. That's as wrong as Scott's (did I mention that he ripped off Medicare for billions?) similar presumption that they aren't only drooling morons but Republican stooges? Is that redundant?

Did Scott's condescension and presumptions irritate his audience as much as his corruption and apparent dishonesty? Who knows? Stealing so much money from Medicare that he can become a governor through paid TV lies about Medicare, makes me glad I wasn't there at the Volen Center in Boca Raton to comment. I'm old enough, of course, but sorry to bust the stereotype, I'm more likely found in other venues like gun ranges, waterfront dives and biker bars where we've seen too damned many liars and con men like Rick Scott and remember him all too well to be fooled again.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Fatal mess

By Carl 

I wish I could say Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin will lose sleep over this, but somehow I doubt it.

Clayton Lockett, 38, was declared unconscious 10 minutes after the first of three drugs in the state's new lethal injection combination was administered. Three minutes later, though, he began breathing heavily, writhing, clenching his teeth and straining to lift his head off the pillow.

The blinds were eventually lowered to prevent those in the viewing gallery from watching what was happening in the death chamber, and the state's top prison official eventually called a halt to the proceedings. Lockett died of a heart attack a short time later, the Department of Corrections said.

"It was a horrible thing to witness. This was totally botched," said Lockett's attorney, David Autry.

"Botched" is legalese for "full metal fuck up."

You may recall a story from a few years back where certain drug manufacturers refused to sell combinations of medications to states that maintained the death penalty. Corporate conscience. Whoda thunk?

And whoda thunk corporations would have more soul than many governors in the South? They scurried to find new ways of killing inmates, and hit upon this combination.

Which has now failed at least twice this year alone.

We've turned our prisons into an industry: private corporations make profits off human beings when they are incarcerated, they make profits when inmates get sick, and they make profits when they are killed.

This is immoral. End of discussion.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Vimeo of the Day: "Paris in Motion (Part 4)"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Yes, Paris is a gorgeous city, and this is a lovely video. Make sure to watch Parts 1-3 as well.

Paris in Motion (Part 4) from Mayeul Akpovi on Vimeo.

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Religious belief doesn't trump law

By Frank Moraes 

The United Church of Christ (UCC) has been performing same-sex marriages since 2005. So they decided to pursue a legal challenge to North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriages. They are arguing that the state is violating their freedom of religion. That is too delicious not to talk about.

But I think the case is very clear. People's rights to free expression do not trump laws. The Rastafarians believe very much that they should be allowed to ingest cannabis, but that has never stopped one of them from being imprisoned for that "crime." So I don't think that the UCC has a religious right that trumps North Carolina law. Of course, there may be details in the law that would push me in the UCC's direction. But as it stands, it seems pretty simple.

I am just being consistent here. I also think all of these religious based attacks on Obamacare should have been thrown scornfully out of court at the very beginning. And there are lots of similar cases, like where a Christian pharmacist claims he has the right not to fill prescriptions for birth control pills. The Rastafarians have a far better claim to their drug rights than do hobby stores who want to micromanage their employees' healthcare coverage.

But given all the time and efforts that conservative Christians have put into destroying Obamacare using such arguments, you would think that they would be in support of the UCC. After all, it is a matter of religious liberty. It shouldn't matter that it is in the name of a specific policy that they don't accept. But, of course, it does matter. North Carolina Values Coalition (NCVC) executive director Tami Fitzgerald said in a press release that because a majority of the voters in the state voted for the law, the UCC should have no rights. She then went on to talk about how she was the ultimate arbiter of what Christianity is and that the UCC is just wrong.

Of course, when Hobby Lobby was before the Supreme Court, Fitzgerald was firmly behind it, urging people to Pray for Hobby Lobby. But I'm sure that is not the only bit of hypocrisy that Fitzgerald and the NCVC have in store. Right now it is all about the fact that 61% of the electorate of North Carolina voted to ban same-sex marriage. As soon as the people become in favor of same-sex marriage, she will be using a different argument. And it won't be long. Last year, the people of North Carolina were against same-sex marriage by a tiny 45%-44% margin.

We'll see what happens to this case. I wouldn't be at all surprised if conservative judges find that a same-sex marriage ban did not violate the UCC's religious rights even while they find hitherto unknown religious rights of hobby stores. Luckily, the same-sex marriage issue will be resolved by the people very soon. 

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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Louisiana aims to punish the homeless by making it illegal to beg

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Oh, you're a homeless person? Well, fuck you.

That's not me saying that, it's the State of Louisiana, which is about to punish those who live on the streets, among others:

If you are poor, live in Louisiana, and have the audacity ask someone else for help, be prepared to spend up to six months in jail.

A new bill to outlaw panhandling is quickly moving its way through the Louisiana legislature. HB 1158 would criminalize solicitation, making it a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum fine of $200 and up to six months in jail. The bill is targeted not just at panhandlers, but hitchhikers and those engaged in prostitution as well. 

The bill passed the Louisiana House last week by a vote of 89-0. There was no floor debate. It is now being taken up by the Senate, where it will be acted on Tuesday.

The bill's author, State Rep. Austin Badon (D), told Post TV that he hoped that banning begging will somehow lead to fewer poor people on the streets. He doubted that many were in actual need, saying, "they're paying their cell phone bills, they're paying their computer bills. It's a racket."

Yes, that's a "D" after his name. While Republicans dominate the world of ignorance and injustice, they do not quite have a monopoly over it. (And this Badon asshole is our Worst Democrat of the Day.)

Badon is echoing a familiar trope — that panhandlers are living large from others' charity. But it's not based on any actual research. In fact, a major study of panhandlers in San Francisco last year found just the opposite: the vast majority make $25 a day ($9,125 per year) or less. That meager income is largely used to eat.

It is simply insane to think that the homeless are voluntarily homeless or otherwise aren't in desperate need of help. Many are are severely mentally ill and most certainly suffer from mental illness of some kind. By and large these are people who have been abused not just in their own lives but by a society that in many ways resembles the Hobbesian state of nature in its preference for brutality over dignity. Sure, many of them use drugs, but that's because they're addicts in need of help. It's hardly a choice, and really what options do they have?

And of course with Louisiana we're talking about a place with warm weather (that attracts those who have no other place to go but the streets), a terrible education system, poor health care generally, and various other social problems, not to mention a Republican governor (Bobby Jindal) and basically an entire political establishment that sees homelessness not just as a nuisance but as a criminal "racket," as a problem to be criminalized instead of one that should arouse compassionate public policy to deal not just with homelessness itself but with the conditions that cause it.

Most of these assholes supposedly being Christian, I suppose we can ask that stupid question of the Christianist ideology, what would Jesus do? Well, from what we're told, he'd help the homeless, for he had nothing but compassion for the poor, and then call out the injustice all the around him. And in Louisiana, as in so many other places throughout our rich and prosperous land (for the few, as in his own time), he'd have an awful lot of it to call out.

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Welfare leech Cliven Bundy and the proliferation of Republican racism

By Marc McDonald 

I don't know much about the cattle business. But I'd suspect that if one owns a cattle ranch, your biggest expense by far is buying food for your cattle.

Wingnut hero Cliven Bundy owns a prosperous cattle business. His cattle get to graze for free on publicly owned land. (That's right: all taxpayers, including you and me, are subsidizing Bundy's business.) He refuses to pay the $1 million he owes the government for supplying his cattle with free food over the decades.

In short, Bundy is a government welfare leech. He can't be bothered to pay the same grazing fees that tens of thousands of other ranchers across the West pay every year.

And yet, incredibly, this right-wing asshole has the gall to criticize African-Americans for living off "government subsidies." That, in and of itself, is an outrageous lie. The vast majority of African-Americans in fact never collect any kind of government subsidies (although this is widely believed by the Rush Limbaugh crowd).

Speaking of which, Bundy's comments on African-Americans sent the previously supportive right-wing media scurrying away from Bundy on Thursday.

Which raises a question: why?

After all, the right-wing media and its wingnut followers pretty much all believe what Bundy said about African-Americans. Switch on a wingnut talk radio station on any week day and you'll hear similar views (although perhaps not as crudely or explicitly expressed). I myself have had countless discussions with right-wingers over the years and they all have expressed similar views to Bundy's.

Limbaugh, the de facto spokesman for the GOP has in fact been making racist and offensive remarks about African-Americans and other minorities for many years. So has Fox News.

And yet, Fox News, after strongly supporting Bundy earlier this month, meekly tiptoed from the whole story after Bundy's racist remarks.

(Cross-posted at BeggarsCanBeChoosers.)

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Piketty fence

By Carl 

So I’m back from vacation and I keep seeing this name on my Tweeter and FacePlace feeds: Thomas Piketty.

Sounds vaguely Dickensian.

From what I gathered, Piketty wrote a book proposing a new economic theory that would put paid to many of the basic notions that support capitalism. 

Let's take a look:

Piketty's argument is that, in an economy where the rate of return on capital outstrips the rate of growth, inherited wealth will always grow faster than earned wealth. So the fact that rich kids can swan aimlessly from gap year to internship to a job at father's bank/ministry/TV network – while the poor kids sweat into their barista uniforms – is not an accident: it is the system working normally.

If you get slow growth alongside better financial returns, then inherited wealth will, on average, "dominate wealth amassed from a lifetime's labour by a wide margin", says Piketty. Wealth will concentrate to levels incompatible with democracy, let alone social justice. Capitalism, in short, automatically creates levels of inequality that are unsustainable. The rising wealth of the 1% is neither a blip, nor rhetoric.

To understand why the mainstream finds this proposition so annoying, you have to understand that "distribution" – the polite name for inequality – was thought to be a closed subject. Simon Kuznets, the Belarussian émigré who became a major figure in American economics, used the available data to show that, while societies become more unequal in the first stages of industrialisation, inequality subsides as they achieve maturity. This "Kuznets Curve" had been accepted by most parts of the economics profession until Piketty and his collaborators produced the evidence that it is false.

In fact, the curve goes in exactly the opposite direction: capitalism started out unequal, flattened inequality for much of the 20th century, but is now headed back towards Dickensian levels of inequality worldwide.

Well, at least now I know why his name sounded Dickensian.

A cursory examination of the history of the American economy... indeed, any Western economy after the 1700s... would support Piketty's theory. There are numerous instances where income inequality expands, and then contracts after an economic bubble bursts. This is usually because the investor class – you know, the 1% – milks the excess cash and assets out of an economic entity, then walks away to leave it unbalanced and unstable.

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Beverly Hills Cop: Obama's Asian Tour

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is weird but also sort of awesome:

MANILA – Move over "Hail to the Chief," the official musical flourish for President Obama here just might be the theme song to "Beverly Hills Cop."

A local ceremonial band hammered out the tune on xylophones and tooted from long cylindrical instruments as Obama and Philippines President Benigno Aquino walked the red carpet to the Malacanang Palace.

By the way, did you know they're making a fourth one? (The first was great, the second was good, the third sucked. Let's hope they get it right. Seriously, Ratner and Murphy, don't fuck this up.)

Okay... here you go:

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Even some conservatives think Sarah Palin is an extraordinary idiot (not least for her gleeful torture enthusiasm)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So, yes, Sarah Palin, clamoring for attention, said that -- if I may paraphrase -- she's a gleeful torture enthusiast. And, yes, her gleeful torture enthusiasm went over really well with the retrograde morons who attended the NRA gunfest in Indianapolis. And, also, gleeful torture enthusiasm is alive and well on the right, and throughout the Republican Party, where human degradation thrives at its core and in its policies.

But there are exceptions.

Yes, some conservatives don't much care for Palin (actually, quite a few of them), and some even had the nerve to come out ferociously against her gleeful torture enthusiasm. For example:

Rod Dreher, The American Conservative:

Man, the 12 minute speech Sarah Palin gave to the NRA convention is awful. It's just witless, red-meat blathering, delivered in that nasal whine of hers that makes it sound like she's chewing wads of tinfoil. For people who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like.

Palin and all those who cheered her sacrilegious jibe ought to be ashamed of themselves. For us Christians, baptism is the entry into new life. Palin invoked it to celebrate torture. Even if you don't believe that waterboarding is torture, surely you agree that it should not be compared to baptism, and that such a comparison should be laughed at. What does it say about the character of a person that they could make that joking comparison, and that so many people would cheer for it. Nothing good — and nothing that does honor to the cause of Jesus Christ.

Well, that's an overly religious view of the matter -- torture is torture regardless of what Christianity has to say about it (and the long history of brutality in the name Christianity means it has next to no credibility). So how about this:

Patrick Brennan, National Review:

Torture — waterboarding being something reasonable people may consider to constitute it — is and should be a question of grave moral consequence for Christians, and is for any Catholic familiar with the Catechism. Palin wasn’t even just jokingly comparing a serious violation of human dignity into one of the most important transcendental recognitions of it – she was mounting an expansive defense of something near torture, on the grounds that our prisoners ”would obviously have information on plots,” and therefore ought to, apparently, be subjected to a horrible practice not as a morally necessary last resort but a habit of quotidian intimidation. There’s a word for that kind of practice: barbaric. The Greeks used to use it to describe the other guys.

Well, okay, that's a Christian response as well, but, better. Yes, here's a conservative calling torture "a serious violation of human dignity" and Palin a barbarian. And that's awfully refreshing.

Sure, this is just a small minority view on the right. Generally, Republicans fall all over themselves espousing their pro-torture bona fides, pandering to the baser of the base instincts of the party base but also presenting such brutality as good in and of itself. But at least there's a bit of debate among conservatives over torture and at least some conservatives express something other than the violent bloodlust that coursed its way through Palin and her audience.

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Grimm fraudster: Indicting one of the GOP's leading bullies

By Michael J.W. Stickings

You probably remember Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY -- Staten Island, to be precise) as the guy who threatened violence (murder, perhaps) against a reporter earlier this year. While the media insisted on giving him a platform as a national security "expert" (he was on CNN talking about MH370, fitting in nicely with that network's, and specifically host Don Lemon's, atrocious coverage of that story), he's basically just a violent thug, a goon even by Republican standards. And now he's facing justice:

The FBI arrested New York Congressman Michael Grimm -- a former FBI agent -- on fraud and perjury charges today and then ripped into him for dishonoring the FBI code.

Grimm, a Republican from New York City's borough of Staten Island, surrendered to the FBI this morning. After taking him into custody FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos issued a scathing assessment of Grimm.

"As a former FBI agent, Representative Grimm should understand the motto: fidelity, bravery, and integrity. Yet he broke our credo at nearly every turn. In this twenty-count indictment, Representative Grimm lived by a new motto: fraud, perjury, and obstruction," Venizelos said...

Grimm, 44, a former Marine as well as an ex-FBI agent, was indicted on charges of fraud, perjury and obstruction.

To say the least, he's an embarrassment to the FBI, the Marines, Congress, and his constituents. Hopefully he gets what he deserves.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Vimeo of the Day: "The wet images of Andrei Tarkovsky"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Of all the great film directors, the most enigmatic to me is perhaps Andrei Tarkovsky. His movies, simply, are starkly beautiful and existentially unsettling.

If you ask me, Andrei Rublev is one of the greatest films ever made, an astonishing depiction of one man's artistic obsession in medieval Russia, but his six other feature films are similarly impressive. Indeed, it was his final film, The Sacrifice, a Bergmanesque masterpiece made in Sweden, that first drew me to him, posing questions about the human condition, within a bizarre story that appears to make little narrative sense, that I found profoundly disturbing but also profoundly important.

And yet it's never really clear what his films are about, beneath the surface, and for that reason he was not just an enigmatic filmmaker but a fascinating one as well. (One of his five Russian films, Solaris, was remade by Steven Soderbergh, starring George Clooney. It's a fine effort, but the original is much weirder and rather less accessible.)

Anyway, the point here is not to delve into Tarkovsky's work (and I encourge you to do that; three of his films are available at Criterion -- I highly recommend Ivan's Childhood, his first film, which along with Solaris has been gorgeously remastered; I'm waiting for the Blu-ray special edition of Andrei Rublev) but to introduce a wonderful Vimeo called "The wet images of Andrei Tarkovsky." It captures some of the beauty of Tarkovsky's work, and here it is. Enjoy!

1+1=1 | The wet images of Andrei Tarkovsky from Luis Enrique Rayas on Vimeo.

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Charles Murray says the real money comes form taxing the middle class

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On the Hustings

(The Spokesman-Review): "McMorris Rodgers says ACA likely to stay"

(Washington Post): "Bob Schieffer: Romney may consider 2016 run if Jeb Bush doesn’t"

(Washington Post): "Young people loved Obama in 2008 and 2012. But they might not love him enough in 2014"

(Real Clear Politics): "Santorum ponders '16 run w/focus on blue collar"

(Politico): ""Michael Grimm could cost GOP swing House seat"


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If she were in charge

By Mustang Bobby

Sarah Palin speaketh:
“C’mon! Enemies who would utterly annihilate America, they would obviously have information on plots. They carry out jihad. Oh, but you can’t offend them. Can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen,” Palin said on Saturday during a speech at the National Rifle Association’s “Stand And Fight” rally. “Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.”

John McCain, who said he believed waterboarding was torture — and he knows something about torture — was the one who inflicted this plague of ignorance and chickenhawk opportunism on an unsuspecting and vulnerable nation. He’s the one who opened the door for this dipshit and he should take the blame for it.

Sarah Palin can’t help it. This is who she is: a huckster and a grifter who has done nothing on this earth to earn anything worth the money the boobs throw at her. But Mr. McCain should have known better. Certainly the voters of America did in 2008. But now we’re stuck with this con artist who would make Elmer Gantry quit the business until she finds some other way to get rich without having to pluck the drooling pigeons.

John McCain, you owe your country an apology for getting us that close to having her in charge of anything more than the perfume counter at Wal Mart.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Behind the Ad: A California frat boy does an ad in someone's basement

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The David Kanuth (D) campaign

Where: The California 33rd Congressional District

What's going on: In this safe Democratic seat, some guy by the name of David Kanuth is running against a slew of better known candidates. Rep. Henry Waxman (D) will be retiring so there is no incumbent.
Other Democrats in the field include state Sen. Ted Lieu, former Los Angeles Controller Wendy Greuel and radio show host Matt Miller. Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Elan Carr is running as a Republican, while spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson is waging a bid as an independent.

I count 18 candidates in all. And California has that quirky blanket primary system, or top-two system, which allows all candidates to run and all voters to vote but only moves the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, to the general election.

In this ad, Karuths gives a shout-out to Boston on the day of this year's marathon because, I guess, he's a Harvard alum. This thing that looks and feels like it was produced in the basement of Karuth's Harvard frat house, as he says, "[w]ay to take this marathon back. This is out fucking city," though "fucking" is bleeped.

To be fair, he's received some attention for an $804,000 first quarter fundraising haul, so he might not be total joke. 

Grade: The first thing to know is that this district is home to many Hollywoods stars. Maybe the sensibilities of the rest of us don't apply. But I still thinking dropping an F-bomb in a campaign ad, whether bleeped or not, is a bit much. And the low tech production values? Who knows, maybe that's cool. I stick by the frat boy assessment. D+

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A.M. Headlines

(Huffington Post): "Obamacare's poll numbers improve in Republican districts"

(New York Times): "Gay rights push shifts its focus South and West"

(The Hill): "Warren blasts financial services industry"

(Deadspin): "Exclusive: The extended Donald Sterling tape"

(New York Times): "Sanctions revive search for secret Putin fortune"


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Sunday, April 27, 2014

President Obama's weekly address focuses on the minimum wage

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On the Hustings

(Daily Kos): Primaried colours: A look at House incumbents in danger of losing renomination"

(Tea Party): "Tea party PACs reap money for midterms, but spend little on candidates"

(Roll Call): "Mia Love clinches GOP nomination for Congress"

(Reuters): "Republicans seek North Carolina seat that could swing Senate balance"

(New York Times): "Governor with eye on 2016 finds his rise under scrutiny"


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Behind the Ad: Anti-Keystone pipeline group targets Sen. Rubio

By Richard K. Barry

Who: NextGen Climate (billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer's political action group)

Where: On Florida NBC affiliates in Miami, Tampa and Tallahassee

What's going on: The ad is aimed at Sen. Marco Rubio as it presses him to ask pipeline developer TransCanada where the petroleum transported on Keystone XL will ultimately end up. The point of this is to suggest that the oil, after being refined, will benefit foreign countries. The "money line" in the add is "Rubio, don't be taken for a sucker."

In a bizarre approach, Rubio was chosen as a target of the attack ad after Steyer's group asked people to vote online on who should be the object of their attention. Rubio won!

According to The Hill, "Democrat strategist and one of Steyer's close advisers, Chris Lehnane, has said one of Steyer's priorities is to help Democrats keep the majority." Given that support for the pipelines cuts across party lines, it's difficult, however, to understand how this particular effort could be effective as a partisan tool. For example, Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu has appeared on the Steyer hit list.

Bottom line is that third party money is a blunt instrument in elections and doesn't always promote what you would think is the intended end game. Single issue efforts are particularly like that.

Grade: It's an interesting approach. If one argues Keystone as an environmental issues, the battle lines are clearer. Back in the 70's there was a famous bumper sticker that read: "Unemployed? Eat an Environmentalist." But to argue based on the issue of energy independence to say that the pipeline will really benefit foreign interests, is something else. Americans love their xenophobia. It potentially changes the premise of the debate to one those opposing the pipeline could win. B

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A.M. Headlines

( "Obama, others respond to alleged racist statements by Clippers owner Donald Sterling"

(Roll Call): "Obama pressures GOP on unemployment extension, minimum wage"

(New York Times): "The Koch attack on solar energy"

(Washington Post): "‘Happy Days’ no more: Middle-class families squeezed as expenses soar, wages stall"

(Politico): "Trio of Democrats stuck in Medicaid morass"


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