Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017

If Only

Steven Pearlstein last Friday in the Washington Post:

Remember this day, July 28, 2017: The day Donald Trump became a lame duck president. More significantly, the day the tea party revolution ended and Washington began the return to “regular order.”

As much as I and a lot of normal Americans — and normal people around the world whose fate is tied to America — would like that to be so, it’s not going to come true.  The defeat of the repeal of Obamacare will energize the hater-base and result in the GOP finding and nominating more Trump-clones out in congressional districts where the last of the moderate GOP representatives reside and primarying them to oblivion.  While that could open the door to some Democratic wins, it won’t be enough to sway the party off its lemming-like run.  So many districts have been gerrymandered into Republican enclaves it would take a seismic shift of Watergate proportions to do in the GOP majority in the House.  So far, that doesn’t appear to be on the radar.

The other element is that the Trump base seems to get their rocks off on having Trump and his minions under siege.  The more the elites in Washington and New York and Miami and San Francisco rail against him, the more sure they are that they voted for the right guy; the one who will piss off the pointy-headed latte-sipping Volvo-driving Russian-loving (oh wait) snobs who mock Trump’s glitz and glamor.  Any move to impeach Trump will be seen as a conspiracy against the God-chosen One, and even if Trump is somehow removed from office, he won’t go quietly, and neither will they.

So we have a bit of a dilemma.  Attempts to remove Trump from office by legal means, be it the impeachment process or Amendment XXV, will only make things worse even if they succeed because there will always be the vocal base who claim it was a coup d’etat and they’ll try for their own.  But the longer he remains in control the worse things get both politically and practically.  As noted below, nothing can be done in Congress as long as they’re forming their own death squads.

One of my favorite movies is Dave, where the president is incapacitated by a stroke and his body double (both roles played by the incomparable Kevin Kline) takes over and starts undoing all the disastrous policies the real president had implemented, and even repairs his marriage.  It’s a fantasy, but if only…

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

And The Oscar Goes To… ?

I didn’t watch the show so I hear there was some confusion at the end.

“Moonlight” — the film — is based on the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney.  He’s a graduate of Miami’s New World School of the Arts and soon to be the head of playwriting at the Yale School of Drama.

Wow. Congratulations.

By the way, if Betsy DeVos had her way, there would never have been a New World School of the Arts.  The money for that public school would have gone to some scammer setting up a charter school and strip joint and that would be the end of it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hello, His Name Is Edmund

I met Edmund Lupinski in September 1971 when we were both cast in the University of Miami Ring Theatre’s production of George Farquahar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem, directed by the Old Professor.  (He had a lead as one of the beaux, I did two character parts.)  We did a number of shows together, everything from musicals such as Guys and Dolls to the 18th century comedy The School for Scandal, and I’ve always considered him to be a good friend.  He’s also a terrific actor, as you’ll see in this demo reel that he’s put together, including his most recent role on screen in Hello, My Name is Doris with Sally Field.  I thought I’d share this quick look at some of his work.  Enjoy.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Jesus, These Millennials

I’m seeing promos on cable TV for this new movie, “The Young Messiah.”

Tells the story of Jesus Christ at age seven as he and his family depart Egypt to return home to Nazareth. Told from his childhood perspective, it follows young Jesus as he grows into his religious identity.

It has all the makings of a Mel Brooks road-trip comedy: “Hey, Joseph, would it kill you to ask for directions?  Moses thought he could lead the people out of Egypt and it took forever!”  Later they meet up with a hitchhiking Mary Magdalene who causes Mom and Dad no end of worry about what kind of influence she might have on their kid while they’re riding together in the back seat.

If this is a hit, then there will have to be sequels, including “Hanging Out on Easter Weekend,” and “Rise and Shine!”

Monday, February 29, 2016

Short Takes

Reformists make gains in Iranian elections.

Seriously, Donald Trump doesn’t know who David Duke is?

Suspect in Virginia cop killing is identified as a Pentagon sergeant.

Air strike targets suspected ISIS convoy in Libya.

SpaceX scrubs third launch attempt this week.

And the Oscars went to…

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunday Reading

The Death of Antonin Scalia — Evan Osnos in The New Yorker looks at what lies ahead now that he’s gone.

Scalia gesture 02-14-16The abrupt death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia—the fiery, funny, polarizing face of the Court’s modern conservative turn—ended a chapter in legal history and opened a political battle of a kind that America has not seen in decades. The bitter divide of this Presidential election season—over visions for the economy, national security, and immigration—has widened to include the ideological composition of the nation’s highest court.

At seventy-nine, Scalia was the Court’s longest-serving Justice, a father of nine, and an outsized personality who thrilled conservatives and infuriated liberals like nobody else in Washington. Though he maintained close friendships with some of his combatants, including fellow Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and always hired a “token liberal” among his clerks, he openly relished the political implications of the Court’s affairs. Ever since he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, in 1986, he dedicated himself to combating the notion of a “living” Constitution that evolves in step with the nation. The very announcement of Scalia’s death was accompanied by a political declaration. In the first official notice, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the rule of law.”

The 2016 election has become a contest not only to determine control of the White House and the Congress but also to shape the future of the Supreme Court. The next President was expected to make multiple appointments to the court. (On Inauguration Day, Ginsburg will be nearly eighty-four, Anthony Kennedy will be over eighty, and Stephen Breyer will be seventy-eight.) With Scalia’s death, the partisan composition of the Court is now already up in the air. In a hastily arranged address on Saturday night, President Obama said he planned to name a nominee, over the protests of Republicans who could seek to prevent the Senate from voting on it. “I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor, in due time. There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to carry out its responsibility for a timely vote,” he said. The issues at stake, he added, “are bigger than any one party. They are about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his life.”

The outcome of the process has the potential to reshape American law on abortion, affirmative action, voting rights, energy, campaign finance, and many other issues. The political effects on the Presidential race cut in multiple directions: Will the suddenly inescapable vision of, say, a Cruz Presidency and a Cruz-chosen nominee bring more Democrats to the polls? And to which Democrat does that benefit accrue? Will the risk of a Sanders Court inspire evangelical voters to consolidate behind a Republican choice?

As news of Scalia’s death spread, hours before a Republican debate, the call for a moratorium on political strategizing around the news, in order to honor his achievements, was brief. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement that, in effect, called on President Obama to refrain from naming a replacement and allow the Court to operate with eight Justices. “The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” McConnell said.

Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who was a clerk for former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, agreed, marking Scalia’s passing in a tweet: “We owe it to him, and the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called on Obama to nominate a replacement immediately, saying, “The Senate has a responsibility to fill vacancies as soon as possible.” Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, called for the Senate to “delay, delay, delay” if President Obama attempts to name a successor.

Hillary Clinton said that Republicans who want the seat to remain vacant until the next President is in office “dishonor our Constitution” for partisan reasons. Bernie Sanders, who defeated Clinton last week in the New Hampshire primary in part by presenting himself as a different kind of politician, avoided any mention of the political implications: “While I differed with Justice Scalia’s views and jurisprudence, he was a brilliant, colorful and outspoken member of the Supreme Court. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his colleagues on the court who mourn his passing.”

When Obama does nominate a successor to Scalia, that could set the stage for a Republican filibuster in the Senate. If there is a filibuster of a nominee, it will be the first time that has occurred since 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson, blocked by Senate Republicans and Southern Democrats, reluctantly withdrew the nomination of his confidant Abe Fortas, whom he had appointed to the Supreme Court three years earlier, to succeed Earl Warren as Chief Justice.

That drama began in June of that year when Warren, a Republican known for his liberal decisions, informed Johnson that he intended to retire. Just months before Election Day, Johnson moved swiftly to nominate Fortas as a successor to the Chief Justice. But it emerged that Fortas had attended White House staff meetings, briefed Johnson on Court deliberations, and pressured senators to limit their opposition to the Vietnam War. Moreover, Fortas had been paid outside his salary to speak to students at American University. The Illinois Republican Everett Dirksen and others withdrew their support—sparking the first and, so far, the only Senate filibuster over a Supreme Court nomination. (Scholars and partisan opponents have debated, ever since, whether it was technically a filibuster or another form of parliamentary procedure, though Laura Kalman, a professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has said that “Abe Fortas and L.B.J. are spinning in their graves at the notion there was no filibuster.”)

While the White House weighs potential nominees, the courts and Presidential contenders face a range of puzzling implications. What will happen if the Supreme Court reaches a tie in any of the cases that are currently before the Justices? (The lower court ruling would stand but would not set a legal precedent.) Is there any liberal nominee who stands a chance of winning confirmation in a Republican-controlled Senate? (Early bets landed on Federal Appeals Court Judge Sri Srinivasan, an Indian-American jurist who has worked in both Democratic and Republican Administrations.) In his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Srinivasan won, in 2013, that rare achievement for a Democrat in today’s Washington—unanimous confirmation, with praise from Republicans.

It’s Not Just Flint — David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz report that a lot of cities and towns have bad water.

“I know if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself if my kids’ health could be at risk,” said President Obama on a recent trip to Michigan.  “Up there” was Flint, a rusting industrial city in the grip of a “water crisis” brought on by a government austerity scheme.  To save a couple of million dollars, that city switched its source of water from Lake Huron to the Flint River, a long-time industrial dumping ground for the toxic industries that had once made their home along its banks.  Now, the city is enveloped in a public health emergency, with elevated levels of lead in its water supply and in the blood of its children.

The price tag for replacing the lead pipes that contaminated its drinking water, thanks to the corrosive toxins found in the Flint River, is now estimated at up to $1.5 billion. No one knows where that money will come from or when it will arrive.  In the meantime, the cost to the children of Flint has been and will be incalculable.   As little as a few specks of lead in the water children drink or in flakes of paint that come off the walls of old houses and are ingested can change the course of a life. The amount of lead dust that covers a thumbnail is enough to send a child into a coma or into convulsions leading to death. It takes less than a tenth of that amount to cause IQ loss, hearing loss, or behavioral problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the government agency responsible for tracking and protecting the nation’s health, says simply, “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.”

President Obama would have good reason to worry if his kids lived in Flint.  But the city’s children are hardly the only ones threatened by this public health crisis.  There’s a lead crisis for children in Baltimore, Maryland,Herculaneum, Missouri, Sebring, Ohio, and even the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., and that’s just to begin a list.  State reports suggest, for instance, that “18 cities in Pennsylvania and 11 in New Jersey may have an even higher share of children with dangerously elevated levels of lead than does Flint.” Today, scientists agree that there is no safe level of lead for children and at least half of American children have some of this neurotoxin in their blood.  The CDC is especially concerned about the more than 500,000 American children who have substantial amounts of lead in their bodies. Over the past century, an untold number have had their IQs reduced, their school performances limited, their behaviors altered, and their neurological development undermined.  From coast to coast, from the Sun Belt to the Rust Belt, children have been and continue to be imperiled by a century of industrial production, commercial gluttony, and abandonment by the local, state, and federal governments that should have protected them.  Unlike in Flint, the “crisis” seldom comes to public attention.

Hollywood Comes to Cuba — Victoria Burnett reports for the New York Times on lights, camera, and action in newly-reopened Havana.

Cuba PosterDuring a shoot for the Showtime comedy series “House of Lies” last month, Don Cheadle sat outside a cafe in Old Havana, puffing on a fat cigar and clinking glasses with three compadres.

It was a novel scene — an American actor filming an American TV show on a Cuban street — and one that, until last month, would have been illegal under the United States’s economic embargo.

But regulations published by the Treasury Department on Jan. 26 now allow Americans to shoot scripted movies and shows in Cuba for the first time in half a century. The rules opened the door to American projects — which could include scenes for the next “Fast & Furious” movie and an Ethan Hawke film — and to collaboration between Hollywood and the island’s underfunded film sector.

“The world just got bigger because Cuba has become accessible,” said Matthew Carnahan, creator of “House of Lies.”

As a location, Cuba was inspiring, if challenging, he said, but added, “I’m dreaming up reasons to go back.”

A stream of American filmmakers needing to hire Cuban equipment and crews would be a boon to the country’s independent production industry, which sprouted in the late 1990s as digital technology made filmmaking more accessible and state money for movies ran dry.

Some Cuban filmmakers worry, though, that their government will open its arms to Hollywood while continuing to give its own filmmakers the cold shoulder. Independent production companies in Cuba operate in a legal limbo, getting little or no funding from the state and often struggling to get their movies past the censors.

“It’s great that people from Hollywood want to come to Cuba, but it’s caught us at a bad moment,” said Carlos Lechuga, a Cuban director. “We have stories to tell, and right now we don’t feel that we can do that.”

The thaw between the United States and Cuba in 2014 prompted a swell of inquiries from Americans eager to shoot there. The next “Fast & Furious” installment may be partly shot in Cuba, a spokeswoman for its studio, Universal Pictures, said, adding that the company “is currently seeking approval from the United States and Cuban governments.”

And Cuban filmmakers have been fielding inquiries. “There isn’t a day that I am not meeting with a potential client from the United States,” said Oscar Ernesto Ortega, 29, whose El Central Producciones produces music videos, commercials and documentaries for clients like the Puerto Rican band Calle 13 and Red Bull Media House from offices in Miami and Havana.

Boris Crespo, founder of BIC Producciones, in Havana, said he had been working flat out for the past year, providing production services for Conan O’Brien’s four-day visit to Cuba last year and the History channel’s “Top Gear,” which filmed an episode in Cuba in January.

Mr. Carnahan, who worked with Island Film, another Havana production company, said he was struck by the “passionate” crew and the quality of Cuban actors. (The “House of Lies” shoot was planned before the new regulations went into effect, so producers had to get a license from the Treasury Department.)

What Cuba is missing, he said, are decent cellphone connections, fast Internet access and even “basic things — hammers — things that we don’t give much thought to.”

And the process of procuring shooting permits was extremely slow, he said.

Mr. Crespo said that the state-funded Cuban Institute of Cinematic Art and Industry “drowns in its own bureaucracy.”

The Strip from The New York Times (Doonesbury’s site was off-line at the time of publication.)

The Strip 02-14-16

Friday, January 15, 2016

Short Takes

ISIS claims credit for the attack in Jakarta that killed seven.

President Obama took his SOTU tour to Louisiana.

Anglicans suspend entire U.S. Episcopal church over marriage equality.

Goldman Sachs to pay $5 billion in mortgage settlement.

The Oscar nominations were announced.

Tropical Update: A hurricane in January?  I blame Al Gore.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Spoiler Alert

I am going to see Star Wars The Force Awakens this afternoon.

If you have seen it and wish to share your thoughts, please do but also keep in mind that there are those who haven’t, so if you are going to reveal crucial plot points, twists, or details of the nature that would give away the story, go right ahead.  Readers who haven’t seen it: you have been warned.

I’m not going to look back here until after I’ve seen it.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Trailer Trash

The new Star Wars trailer is out.  I know people who are already getting their tickets for it.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to see it when it opens.  They suckered me in with the prequels and they all stank on ice.

I’m one of those people who thinks they should have left well enough alone after they had the funeral pyre for Darth Vader.

What really blows my mind is that I got in to the first Star Wars movie in 1977 with my student ID, and now I get in with my AARP card.