|June 25, 2013||Gandolfini: big man, big heart||1 comments|
|June 13, 2013||Make up your mind||3 comments|
|June 04, 2013||Right call on terror||13 comments|
|May 22, 2013||Party of stupid||14 comments|
|May 16, 2013||Scandal going nowhere||6 comments|
|May 06, 2013||Iraq, now Syria?||19 comments|
|April 30, 2013||Lil’ Limbaugh sobers up||6 comments|
|April 22, 2013||Feeding frenzy||1 comments|
|April 15, 2013||Wealthy, white and privileged||15 comments|
|April 08, 2013||Dr. Carson heals himself||6 comments|
As Tony Soprano, the amoral, overbearing New Jersey mob boss with issues, James Gandolfini demonstrated his enormous acting talent, ranging from ruthless killer to shivering bowl of emotional Jell-O, sometimes in one episode.
Tony could be a charming dining companion one minute and viciously beat some poor mook with a pool cue the next, his family of hit men, thieves and miscreants living in abject terror and undying love of their capo de capo.
"This is the man I'm going to hell for," muttered Christopher Moltisanti, played by Michael Imperiale, one of The Soprano's outstanding cast members.
Over the last decade, the New Jersey born and bred Jim Gandolfini enjoyed tremendous success on the stage and screen in addition to television. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway comedy "God of Carnage" and played Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in last year's Oscar-nominated film, "Zero Dark Thirty."
So his death last week at age 51 while vacationing in Italy came as a shock, for Gandolfini seemed to be just hitting his stride.
One project that did not receive as much public notice as it should have was Gandolfini's documentary, "Alive Day Memories, Home From Iraq," in which the actor interviewed American servicemen and women wounded in battle about their injuries, their mental health and their hopes and dreams. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j08fvUk67U
Aired on HBO, "Alive Day" is a startling, sometimes shocking look at what our wounded warriors endured and what they are enduring as they re-enter civilian life. Some are missing limbs while others suffer post traumatic stress disorder. All of these young men and women volunteered to serve and deserve whatever it takes to help them assimilate and thrive in their post-war lives, which is the point of Gandolfini's film.
His friends and family remember Jim Gandolfini as a quiet, shy and generous man who, unlike a lot of stars, used his international celebrity for the greater good.
In expressing their wonderment, however, what conservatives actually reveal is their abject ignorance. It's another shining example of the epistemic closure I wrote about recently, in which right wingers live in their own information bubble stuffed with incorrect assumptions, falsehoods, distortions and lies.
They conclude that, because the Times isn't, say, Fox News, where virtually all coverage is tilted heavily to the right, it can't possibly be "objective".
I doubt few Cobb County conservatives bother reading the New York Times, so I can attest as a regular reader that Obama and his policies are routinely castigated or questioned by the Times' editorial and op-ed writers as well as in its White House coverage. Yet local conservatives are convinced - possibly because the newspaper is based in the Northeast - that the New York Times, one of the America's newspapers of record, is an unapologetic liberal rag that rolls over for Obama.
Realty check, please.
In the wake of 9-11, President Bush rushed to seize power, capitalizing on the fear and trepidation many of us felt after we watched the Twin Towers fall. The debate at the time, to the extent there was one at all, was that new, high tech tools were needed to fight international terrorism and we must unleash these against America's enemies.
We - you and me, friend - timidly allowed our elected representatives to ram through legislation like the Patriot Act that gives government busy bodies more, not less, power to intrude into our lives.
Now we're shocked these programs under Obama continue to cast a wide net, pulling in telephone and Internet communications records that can be used to zero in on, so we are told, suspicious traffic that could be terrorists...or might be just you or me chatting politics with friends, or visiting anti-government web sites, or reading about armed insurgencies.
Here's the thing: You allowed this to happen. So did I. As the comic strip character Pogo famously said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Do you want your security or do you want your freedom? Make up your mind.
To his everlasting discredit, Lyndon Johnson ginned up the rationale for all out war in Vietnam with his bogus Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Realizing what he'd done not long afterwards, to his everlasting credit, Johnson refused to run for a second term.
George W. Bush didn't have Johnson's courage or capacity for shame, otherwise he too would have declined to run for a second term after his bald-faced WMD lie was exposed.
None of this has stopped right wing commentators, many of whom assiduously avoided military service, from pushing their "Obama is surrendering the war on terror" B.S. It should be noted that many of these are the same people who were dead wrong when they were screaming for a war with Iraq 10 years ago.
As Gen. George Patton said of the Saturday Evening Post's editors, "(They) don't know any more about real fighting under fire than they know about (sexual intercourse)."
Unlike Vietnam, there was no conscription during the war on terror. If we had a draft, there would have never been an unprovoked invasion of Iraq without irrefutable evidence that Saddam had WMD. And there would have been a lot of hard thinking before U.S. boots were put on the ground in Afghanistan, history's cesspool.
Bush, who turned down a Vietnam tour, would never permit his wealthy friends to send their sons or daughters to Iraq.
I guarantee you, the College Republicans and Bush's Skull and Bones at Yale would have been the first guys protesting in the streets in 2003 if they had actually been compelled to go fight and perhaps die in Baghdad or Kabul.
I was in high school during Vietnam. My recollection is that protesters like the ones at the University of Wisconsin didn't want to be forced to put their lives on the line in a pointless conflict with no exit strategy. Nevertheless, Richard Nixon escalated the war when he took office in 1968 even though, by then, anybody with a brain knew Vietnam was a lost cause.
With neocon and right wing media chicken hawks cheering him on, Bush's response to a horrifying terrorist attack was to unleash America's military might on a relatively small number of stateless terrorists holed up in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was like using an nuclear bomb to kill flies; no real thinking, no long range planning. Just blindly swinging massive fists and hoping to connect.
We accomplished almost nothing in Iraq and next to nothing in Afghanistan at a cost 7,000 dead Americans and at least $2 trillion. For the first time in American history, taxes were not raised to pay for either war. Rather, Bush put his wars on the national credit card.
God forbid the wealthy should be asked to sacrifice even one dollar of their precious earnings.
Meantime, until Obama had the guts to give the politically risky order to kill him, Osama bin Laden was giving the finger to America. Now bin Laden and scores of his lieutenants are burning in hell and al Qaeda is a shell of what it was in 2008.
President Obama is exactly right to call off the dogs of war. It was the wrong answer to the terrorism threat from the get-go. Investigations, surgical strikes, black ops, espionage and all the rest is how you take down vicious international thugs, not sending hundreds of thousands of American troops to Iraq or Afghanistan to "nation build."
(And to my usual critics: No, I didn't serve in uniform. The Vietnam war was over and the draft abolished by the time I graduated from high school. America went to an all-volunteer military and I chose not to enlist. I honor those who do serve and never, ever want to see our young servicemen and women committed to unnecessary wars where they are asked to risk their lives for the sake of some politician's "legacy" or a military contractor's profitability.)
Gov. Nathan Deal wants more minorities to vote Republican because he suddenly realized all those black and Hispanic kids in our public schools will be the majority of the Georgia electorate in one more generation.
So to attract these young African-Americans and Hispanics and their parents to the GOP’s big tent, Deal signed an order last week restricting the Common Core curriculum, not because it’s bad for education, but because its adoption was encouraged by the Obama administration.
It’s the same far right pandering Deal engaged in when he refused Medicaid expansion dollars. That decision cost the state jobs and revenue while ensuring your federal tax dollars pay for expanded Medicaid in blue states New York without a nickel coming back to Georgia.
Sen. Chuck Schumer thanks you.
On the one hand, the GOP knows it will continue to lose elections without African-Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, Asians and other minority constituencies, not to mention women.
On the other hand, as noted by MDJ’s Don McKee, “One hurdle for Deal and other Georgia GOP leaders is the disaffected tea party and other conservatives like those who appeared at the state convention Friday to denounce ‘Republicans in name only.’”
See the problem for the party of stupid, as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal famously dubbed today’s GOP? They want it both ways.
We’ll let the radicals, the nativists, the religious right, the tin foil hat wearers, and the angry white men run the party - the same crowd that effectively destroyed the GOP’s 2012 presidential chances - but we’d sure like them black folks, Mexicans and ladies to vote for us!
Those RINOs the tea partiers detest are the same moderate Republicans who used to help conservatives win elections; you know, guys like Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
But with the far right wingers making noise disproportionate to their actual numbers – only 8 percent of conservatives self-identify as tea party according to Rasmussen – and Republican elected officials terrified of being “primaried” out of a job, the GOP leadership believes, falsely, that their party must accommodate extremism.
Those elusive minority votes won’t come until Republicans purge their ranks of the radical elements that are costing them elections.
Can you imagine the right wing’s reaction to President Barrack Obama donning a flight suit and then landing in a Navy jet on the deck of an aircraft carrier for the purposes of political theater?
That’s what George W. Bush did ten years ago this month, just weeks after he ordered the invasion of Iraq.
These are the kind of teachable moments we, as informed citizens, need to pay attention to. We should not forget or excuse them, but study and learn from them.
Beneath a White House-produced sign declaring “Mission Accomplished,” with the 2004 re-election campaign cameras rolling, Bush announced an “end of major combat operations,” telling Americans ,"In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”
“…I just died, and I said my God, it's too conclusive,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would later tell Bob Woodward.
In 2009, Bush admitted, "… putting 'Mission Accomplished' on an aircraft carrier was a mistake.”
Major combat operations weren’t over. In fact, things in Iraq were just heating up as Bush was prancing around in his flight suit on the deck of the U.S.S. Lincoln. They would culminate in a decade-long war of choice, a misadventure of historic proportions that cost the lives of 4,500 Americans and more than $1 trillion.
Worse, the Muslim world saw the slaughter of their co-religionists, more than 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, and reacted with outrage and contempt for America.
Bush’s Iraq debacle didn’t keep America safe; it further endangered America, radicalizing even more Muslims like the Boston bombers.
We also know from confirmed extemporaneous accounts that Bush was looking for any excuse to invade Iraq and overthrow its brutal tyrant, Saddam Hussein, perhaps because Saddam plotted to assassinate Bush’s father.
"After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad at one time," Bush smirked in 2007.
Other than Bush’s personal vendetta, there was no reason to invade Iraq, yet the administration worked feverishly in the run up to the war to sell Congress and Americans on the supposed threat Saddam posed; WMD “mushroom clouds” and all that B.S.
Anybody looking closely and paying attention at the time – people like Sen. Barrack Obama - knew Saddam was a danger only to the unfortunate people of Iraq, a garden variety dictator, just one of many blood-soaked tyrants around the world.
Question: If America was going to take Saddam out, why not all the others?
Answer: Saddam was the one sitting on one of the largest oil reserves in the world.
Now, the same conservatives who cheered for the Iraq invasion, who promised speedy victory, who said we’d be greeted as liberators, that Iraqi oil would pay for the war are demanding another war of choice, this time in Syria.
Ten years after “Mission Accomplished,” we have another teachable moment for America.
Are you paying attention?
When I saw 13-year-old Jonathan Krohn’s 2009 CPAC speech shortly after Barrack Obama was sworn in, like everyone else, I was struck by the lad’s eloquence.
Most 13-year-old boys would stand up before a crowd of adults, hands in pockets, and self consciously shuffle and mumble. This home schooled Christian kid from Duluth, Georgia was confident and forceful.
I disagreed with everything he said, of course. It sounded a lot like a mindless Limbaugh-Hannity-O’Reilly-Coulter mash-up - which he now admits it was - but Krohn’s performance was nonetheless impressive.
For awhile, Jonathan was the toast of the far right airwaves, cheered as the future of the conservative movement in America. His book, “Define Conservatism,” was a right wing must read.
Then the boy grew up.
“One of the first things that changed was that I stopped being a social conservative,” Krohn said in a recent interview. “It just didn’t seem right to me anymore. From there, it branched into other issues, everything from health care to economic issues...it’s just that I thought about it more. The issues are so complex, you can’t just go with some ideological mantra for each substantive issue.”
Well done young man. You began thinking for yourself. That’s the second step one must take if one hopes to kick conservative addiction. The first step is accepting you have a problem.
“An open mind and critical thought are like a metaphorical AA after a long bender on ideological wine,” Krohn acknowledges. “I’m proud to say that this program has gotten me three years sober.
Addicts often have enablers somewhere behind the scenes.
“I felt justified in my beliefs if for no other reason than no one actually told me I was wrong,” Krohn explained. “Instead, men like Bill Bennett and Newt Gingrich hailed me as the voice for my generation and a hope for America. “
Ah, Bill and Newt, the gambling addict and the serial philanderer; not exactly the best role models there, Jonathan.
As the recovering conservative dirty trickster David Brock says, you were blinded by the right. You were seduced into believing the world is simple; black or white, good or evil, with nothing in between, except that craps table or the comely blonde on your staff.
“The never-ending war between the left and the right seems to me like a couple of drunken college boys fighting over which one of their fraternities is cooler,” Krohn wrote.
As Jonathan now knows, our progressive fraternity is most definitely a lot cooler. George Clooney and Stevie Wonder are members. Over at the conservative frat house you’ll find Jon Voight and Lee Greenwood.
“I was tired of the right using me as an example of how young people ‘get’ what they’re talking about when it’s obvious that I didn’t get what I talking about at all. I mean, come on, I was between 13 and 14 when I was regurgitating these talking points!”
Meantime, Krohn’s recovery has not been welcomed by his old fraternity brothers. They take a very dim view of someone who kicks the habit.
“I have been treated by the political right with all the maturity of schoolyard bullies. The Daily Caller...wrote three articles about my shift, topping it off with an opinion piece in which they stated that I ... wear “thick-rimmed glasses” ... Why don’t they just call me ‘four-eyes’? These are not adults leveling serious criticism; these are scorned right-wingers showing all the maturity of a little boy. No wonder I fit in so well when I was 13.”
Finally, like Beck and Hannity, the Post latched onto the Saudi student story without doing any fact checking to ascertain if, indeed, the student was a suspect; again, basic journalism practice.
Instead, the Post simply reported the student had been "taken into custody" and was considered a "suspect."
See, most right wing media have no respect for the intelligence of their audiences. Their attitude is, facts? We don' need no stinkin' facts! We have a bunch of ignorant viewers and readers who only want their deepest, darkest prejudices and fears affirmed.
We just oblige 'em.
Dr. Ben Carson became an instant conservative star after he insulted the president of the United States at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Carson’s speech there was otherwise un-noteworthy except to the likes of Sean Hannity, who christened the African-American neurosurgeon a presidential contender on the strength of his churlish performance.
Hannity subsequently interviewed Carson and asked the doctor’s views on same-sex marriage.
“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” replied the doctor. Fair enough; that’s an opinion held by many. But Carson continued.
Gays and lesbians, he said, along with criminal pedophiles and degenerates who practice bestiality, cannot be permitted to change the “definition of marriage.”
Same-sex adult couples who love one another and wish to wed so they can enjoy the legal rights of marriage are the same sort as those who molest children or have sex with sheep, in Carson’s view.
Coming from someone with his intellect and academic credentials, Carson’s words were not only shocking, they revealed his abject bigotry.
The comments set off a fire storm at Johns Hopkins University, where Carson teaches at the institution’s prestigious medical school. In response, he appeared on MSNBC to offer an apology - sort of.
“…as a Christian…I have a duty to love all people and that includes people who have other sexual orientations…if anybody was offended, I apologize…My point was that once we start changing definitions, where do we stop?”
Well, Dr. Carson should have stopped right there, but on a radio show just a few days later, he tore into his critics.
“(They) take my words…and try to make it seem that I’m a bigot,” Carson declared. “They're the most racist people there are…‘you have to think this way, how could you dare come off the plantation?’"
If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, then the last refuge for a bigot like Dr. Carson is the metaphorical “plantation,” in which he casts himself as a slave, whipped by the awful lash of progressivism.
And, you know what they grow on that progressive plantation, Dr. Carson? The kind of freedom that got you through the front door of Johns Hopkins, that’s what.
Late last week, Carson had another change of heart. In an e-mail to "the Hopkins Community" he said, “I am sorry for any embarrassment this has caused. But what really saddens me is that my poorly chosen words caused pain for some members of our community and for that I offer a most sincere and heartfelt apology…”
Dr. Carson’s mea culpa appears to be motivated less by genuine remorse and more by the e-mail that preceded his own, one sent to faculty and students by Dr. Paul B. Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Carson’s boss:
“…we recognize that tension now exists in our community because hurtful, offensive language was used by (Dr. Carson)...
“Johns Hopkins Medicine embraces diversity and believes that the same civil rights should be available to all regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
“…It is clear that the fundamental principle of freedom of expression has been placed in conflict with our core values of diversity, inclusion and respect.”
Dr. Carson is free to speak his mind. He’s not muzzled by political correctness, as he alleged at the prayer breakfast, no matter how offensive or intolerant his words. But when such words revile many listeners the way his did, there are consequences.
In Carson’s case, it appears he has been uninvited to speak at the Johns Hopkins commencement ceremony as he was scheduled to do in honor of his retirement from the university.
It’s a sad coda to a stellar medical career. And his political future, if he ever actually had one, is D.O.A.