Friday, December 19, 2014

Winding Down

Today is my last day at work before the two-week winter holiday.  Yesterday we had our annual office luncheon and Secret Santa gift exchange (thank you, Carmen!).  I missed that part of it because I was doing our first-ever live webinar in financial training.

This week has already been interesting.  On Monday the transmission in the Mustang basically fell apart, so I’ve been driving the Pontiac all week.  (At least I know its transmission is in good shape.)  I’ve been in rehearsal for a one-act play that I wrote for the New Theatre’s Miami 1-Acts Festival winter season.  Normally the playwright isn’t involved with the play after the first reading or so, but in this case the director couldn’t find an actor to play one of the roles, so for the first time since 1995, I’m performing on stage.  I’ve never acted in a play that I wrote, so this is an interesting learning experience as I occasionally wonder who wrote this shit?

Miami 1-Acts Winter 2014

I’ve also had a play selected for the Miami version of the national One-Minute Play Festival that goes on in January, so I’ll be meeting with the director of my offering for that sometime in the next couple of weeks.

This is my roundabout way of telling you that things are going to get a little quiet after today until New Year’s.  Posting will be light and variable through the break, but I will be here when I’m not doing something else like working on another play still in the works or one of the several other projects, plus a crossword or two.

He Will Find A Way

If John McCain stepped in a dog turd on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, he’d blame President Obama.

“Recently reported intelligence findings that North Korea directed cyber-attacks at Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Pictures’ decision to cancel the release of an upcoming movie in reaction to those cyber-attacks, are profoundly troubling.

“By effectively yielding to aggressive acts of cyber-terrorism by North Korea, that decision sets a troubling precedent that will only empower and embolden bad actors to use cyber as an offensive weapon even more aggressively in the future.

“But, make no mistake. The need for Sony Pictures to make that decision ultimately arose from the Administration’s continuing failure to satisfactorily address the use of cyber weapons by our nation’s enemies.

I’ll bet he’s even figured out a way to blame Obama for putting Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket in 2008.

The Dignity of the Office

The House of Representatives takes on a frat house flavor:

Congresssman Who Owns “Blow-Me.org” Sued For Sexual Harrassment

On its own, last week’s news that Republican Texas Representative Blake Farenthold registered the domain name “Blow-me.org” when he owned a computer consulting business in the ’90s is amusing, but inconsequential. However, add that to a new lawsuit accusing the congressman of sexual harassment (plus an old photo of Farenthold wearing duckie pajamas and standing next to a lingerie model) and you’ve got one of the more colorful accusations of congressional misconduct in recent memory.

In court documents filed Monday, Lauren Greene, Farenthold’s former communications director, claims that he regularly made comments meant to “gauge whether Plaintiff was interested in a sexual relationship.” She says she was cut out of important meetings after she complained, and was then fired in July 2014.

I wondered who was going to fill the void now that Michelle Bachmann has left town.

Thanks, Newt Voters

When Newt Gingrich ran for president the last time, he said that if we voted for him, he’d get gas prices below $2.50 a gallon.

Well, it worked.  The ten or so people who voted for him must have worked their magic because the nationwide average fell to $2.47.

Just for comparison, that’s equal to $0.38 a gallon in 1969 when I first started buying gas for my first Mustang.

HT to Steve Benen.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Question of the Day

From Julie (that she says she cribbed from another site):

The CIA used music to torture people. What music would you consider torture?

I listen to classical music all day, and I’ve grown to dislike music from the baroque era with screechy violins.  If they are playing instruments with catgut strings, it sounds as if the cats were still attached to them.  It sets my teeth on edge.

The Next Austin Powers Movie

I don’t think I’ve seen any of the Austin Powers movies since the first one (and only that under duress), but the news that North Korea has put the kibosh on the release of The Interview by threatening world domination sounds like a rejected treatment for a sequel.

Seriously; the “hermit kingdom” can tell America what movies it can watch?  And since when did a country that can barely make soap come up with the capability to hack like a college kid from Cornell?

Message For Marco

Hello, Sen. Rubio; Irrelevancy is on Line 1.

A couple of points to ponder as your presidential hopes begin to flicker and fade:

1.  It’s probably not a good idea to call out the pope for his role in negotiating the re-opening of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S.  That’s going to piss off the devoted.

2.  Calling Barack Obama the “worst negotiator since Jimmy Carter” may work among the knuckle-dragging “America Fuck Yeah” crowd, but Mr. Carter was able to get Egypt and Israel to lay down their arms for the first time since the Exodus, and he has done far more for the cause of peace than you’ll ever hope to accomplish in your pathetic little pandering career.

The “Moderate” One

Now that Jeb Bush is actively exploring running for president, it’s time to remember that there was a time he was considered the true heir to his father’s legacy as the next President Bush.  He was the smart one, the diligent and well-spoken son as opposed to George W, the wastrel that frittered his time away playing with baseball teams and being the goof-off.  If the Bush family was being cast in The Godfather, then Jeb would be Michael and George W would be Fredo.

But the people of Florida didn’t elect Jeb as governor in his first attempt in 1994, and George W got elected in Texas.  Jeb had to wait until 1998 and by then his older brother had already won the hearts of the GOP.  All Jeb had left was to support his brother, win Florida for him in 2000, and settle for being the first Republican to win two terms as governor of Florida.  His time would come; meanwhile he had time to polish his image as a nice, well-spoken, and moderate conservative, unlike his brother who was inarticulate, prone to gaffes, and who populated his administration with hard-core wingnuts like Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft.

But then fate intervened in the name Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was stricken with a heart attack and left in a vegetative state.  Governor Jeb Bush took it upon himself to wrestle the state government into trying to take control of her medical care, going so far as to call the state legislature back into special session to ram through a law to keep her body alive even though no reputable medical professional said it would do any good.

Ms. Schiavo’s husband remembers Gov. Bush all too well.

ThinkProgress spoke with Michael Schiavo and the attorney who represented him in the matter, George Felos, about Bush’s presidential candidacy. Both expressed concern that Bush’s record was one of government interference and opposing individual liberty.

“If you want a government that’s gonna intrude on your life, enforce their personal views on you, then I guess Jeb Bush is your man,” Schiavo explained, adding, “We really don’t need another Bush in office.”

Felos described Bush’s actions interference in Schiavo case as, “An egregious example of the fat hand of government inserting itself into a family’s medical decision and the obtrusive hand of government trying to override their decision.”

[…]

“Through the Dept. of Children and Family Services and through the Department of Law Enforcement they tried in the courts to ignore the higher court pronouncements – this was documented in an article by the Miami Herald,” he recalled, though, “when local authorities said you’re going to have to go through us in order to get her, and the state law enforcement agency backed down.”

Though Bush, then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), and social conservative activists protested that Terri Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state, an autopsy confirmed that she had been.

“It’s one thing to have your own personal beliefs,” Felos said, “It’s quite another to use your official powers and your official office to subvert the court and the lawful process.”

[…]

Michael Schiavo, nearly a decade later, said he believes Jeb Bush’s intervention was a purely political move and an act of buffoonery. “If you want a government that’s gonna be intrusive and interfere in your personal life, vote for Bush. If you want to live like that, want people to interfere in your personal lives, then vote for him,” he said.

Mr. Bush will have his own problems in running for the Republican nomination.  He’s vulnerable on immigration reform — he’s in favor of being nice to the undocumented — and he’s a proponent of the Common Core education standards, which is despised by the Tea Party base who think it is some kind of government plot to make America’s children smart enough not to vote for Republicans.  He also has his share of questionable financial dealings that remind people of the most recent GOP candidate.  But his biggest advantage remains that he comes across as a reasonable, nice, and so not Ted Cruz on TV that he could win over even a wavering Democrat who isn’t sure that it’s time for America to elect a black man as president.  Just as charming as Michael Corleone.

Which leads me to Paul Campos’s suggestion for a campaign slogan for Jeb 2016: “In five years the Bush family will be completely legitimate.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cuba Si

This is something a lot of people have been waiting for.

The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, President Obama announced on Wednesday.

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House. The deal will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”

The contractor, Alan P. Gross, traveled on an American government plane to the United States late Wednesday morning, and the United States sent back three Cuban spies who had been in an American prison since 2001. American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years, and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap, but was released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”

In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it.

“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s time for a new approach.”

If the reaction of the people in my office who have Cuban ties or are Cuban-American is any indication, it’s a stunning move.  Some are still holding on to the idea that if we just kept tightening the grip, the Castro brothers would finally give up and install Jeffersonian democracy.  Others — especially the younger ones who have no connection to the island other than through a parent or relative — see it as the beginning of the end of a policy that never worked and wasn’t intended to do much more than exact revenge for the Castros tossing out the capitalist exploiters and the Mafia.  They have been hoping for an end to the freeze not out of nostalgia but out of a promise of normalization…and the prospect of selling 11 million Cubans McDonald’s and car parts.

Not being Cuban or having any connection to the island, I have never understood the embargo.  I don’t have the visceral feeling that the Cuban revolution caused in the people who left everything behind and the hatred they have for the men who they hold personally responsible for upending their lives and killing people they knew.  But now, more than fifty years after the revolution and an embargo that did nothing but harm to the average Cuban and served as the excuse for further crackdowns, all that has come of it is the burning hatred that has consumed lives and torn families apart.

Hate only destroys.  Nothing good would come from continuing the mistrust and rhetoric. If reconciliation with Vietnam, where we fought a war that killed millions and caused a permanent scar across our nation, can happen, so it can with Cuba if we put hatred aside and show the world and ourselves that we can do it.

On This Date

December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers made the first powered flight.

First_flight2

To put it in perspective, my grandmother was born nine months before this flight.  By the end of her life she had flown around the world and taken a tour of the internet courtesy of my brother’s laptop.

That’s not only a testimony to a long and full life, but the fact that we went from horse and buggy to the moon in a life span.

For all the tragic flaws we inflict upon ourselves and others, there is something amazing in the human spirit.

Again and Again

I never know what to say when something like this happens.

It doesn’t matter if it is in Pakistan or in Connecticut; if it is in the name of religion or tribalism, or if it is just in answer to the voices in the head of someone who is desperately ill.

Because we don’t know what to say, we search blindly for answers or we lash out and vow revenge.  But more often than not there are no answers and vengeance does not renew or restore.  So we just go on, putting it out of our mind until it happens again.  And again.

Kansas Karma

I feel sorry for my friends who live in Kansas and have had to suffer under the rule of Gov. Sam Brownback.  He’s basically gutted the state budget in the name of Tea Party fiscal purity.

The state began bleeding when the governor and his party stalwarts cut taxes to practically nothing and the expected resurrection of Ronald Reagan did not happen, defying the prophecy that he would magically shower the state with money.  Of course they refused to implement anything to do with the evil federal government plans to socialize their healthcare.

But reality has arrived and now the state facing a massive budget deficit.  And it seems that the only way to fix it is through Obamacare.

Ah, the freude is especially schaden today.

Jeb the Explorer

Via TPM:

Bush, in a Facebook note, said that after conversations with his wife he had decided to look into running for president. He also said that in January he will start a leadership political action committee to help look into running for president.

What does “actively explore” even mean?  As opposed to “passively”?  Or just waiting for it to happen?

Steve M looks at the field and the positions that Mr. Bush has taken on immigration and education; positions that run counter to the blatherings of the hard-core base of the party.  Good luck with that.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014