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Sledge Hammer

[ 27 ] September 13, 2014 |

One of the first TV shows I ever remember liking was Sledge Hammer, the 80s Dirty Harry spoof that lasted only a season and a half before being cancelled. I don’t know why I liked it then, certainly not because I understood all the jokes, but I remembered some funny stuff all these years later. I figured though that watching it today wouldn’t really pay off. But my brother, who reviews DVDs on the side, watched the series again and immediately said I had to watch it.

And you know what? It holds up pretty well. It has some of the problems of an 80s comedy. Too many episodes per season for one, leading to some bad ones. After the opening episode, at least they didn’t use a laugh track. But for the most part, this isn’t bad at all and some episodes are down right hilarious. It’s really a show ahead of its time. It really trusted its audience with all sorts of movie references, some of which that wouldn’t be all that super obvious to the average schlub watching ABC at 8 pm on a weekday night. Told political jokes. Made fun of other ABC shows. Comedies didn’t do these things in the 80s.

But most of all, it just told jokes that worked pretty well. Such as in “Comrade Hammer,” an episode you should watch. Hammer has to escort a Soviet dissident scientist to a conference. That means lots of Cold War jokes.

The NFL’s Domestic Violence Equation

[ 75 ] September 13, 2014 |

The NFL and its teams have a simple equation it calculates when players commit domestic violence. If the player is marginal, he’s cut and the NFL can say it doesn’t tolerate domestic violence. If the player is a star, he can do anything short of killing a woman or getting caught on tape beating her. Thus Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald will be playing on Sunday.

The Worst Person in History

[ 57 ] September 12, 2014 |

My god.

People across the county have begun to rally in support of a woman recently diagnosed with cancer after the doctor she worked for apparently sent her a callously crafted letter laying her off because of the diagnosis.

Hopewell Township resident Carol Jumper was diagnosed with cancer last month that is affecting her ovaries, liver, and pancreas.

“She just couldn’t sleep at night, she would get out of bed and sit in a chair in the living room, that’s the only way she could sleep was sitting up” said Dennis Smerigan, the woman’s fiancé. “It went on for 2 or 3 weeks, you don’t really think anything of it at first. I was cleaning out the bed of my truck one day and she came out, she said you got to take me to the emergency room.”

Jumper underwent testing and biopsies that confirmed a diagnosis of cancer.

“It was about a week later she gets this registered letter delivered at the house,” said Smerigan. “I was pissed when I read that letter. No kind of man sends a letter like that.”

What did this letter say?

DrVisnich

Somehow it bothers me even more that the doctor actually used a standard letter where he just filled in her name.

At the link above, there are instructions if you want to donate to this woman’s cancer treatment.

The Rhode Island Democratic Primary

[ 42 ] September 11, 2014 |

Dumpster-Fire

Above: the Rhode Island Democratic Party

On Tuesday, I voted in the Rhode Island Democratic primary. It was a dispiriting experience. The Rhode Island Democratic Party is a complete disaster. There are some good Democrats. But in a state where Democrats have a 69-6 majority in the House and a 32-5 majority in the Senate, for the most part, if you want power, you need to be a Democrat. And thus, the term “Democrat” means nothing. What has this enormous majority given us? A voter ID law. And then, earlier this year, the legislature decided to borrow a tactic from the great progressive state of Oklahoma and ban municipalities from setting their own minimum wage. This latter move was a response to the Providence City Council voting to place the $15 minimum wage on the ballot this fall.

So yes, the Rhode Island Democratic Party is openly implementing the ideas of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

All this means that the Democratic primary in Rhode Island is hugely important. Now, we aren’t talking about Georgia circa 1930 here. Republicans can win statewide office. Despite our very progressive senators and enormous Democratic majorities, Rhode Island has not elected a Democrat to the governor’s office since 1991, although Lincoln Chafee eventually converted to a Democrat in a failed attempt to win reelection (and according to a rumor I heard because his wealthy wife wouldn’t fund him as an independent since she didn’t want to foot the whole bill). But still, the real ideological divides are really in the primary.

Or they should be anyway. In fact, this primary consisted of nothing but terrible candidates. The winner of the primary for governor was Gina Raimondo. She is so deep in the pocket of Wall Street that she’s been attacked from the left in the page of Forbes Magazine. Forbes. Who knew that was possible. The state workers hate her because of her attacks on pensions. I could not vote for her in this primary under any circumstances.

Unfortunately, the other two options were almost as bad. At first, it looked like Providence mayor Angel Taveras would be a good option. Then Taveras fired all his progressive advisers and embraced Rheeism as a central tenet. Moving right to challenge a right-wing candidate made no political sense. Raimondo already had those votes wrapped up. Taveras ran a terrible campaign and ran out of money at the end.

The third option was Clay Pell, grandson of the famous senator. By most accounts, Pell is a wealthy plutocrat from a famous political family who is, to be kind, not very smart and has the charisma of a rock. We already have that exact thing in the statehouse right now. Although he is married to Michelle Kwan so that separates him somehow. He was also a Republican until just a few years ago. Youthful mistake perhaps.

Despite all of this, I voted for Pell. Do you know what it takes for me to vote for a dim plutocrat ex-Republican? That’s how bad these candidates were. But I figured he would govern to the left of the horrible Raimondo and increasingly terrible Taveras.

Of course, Raimondo is still probably better than the Republican candidate Allan Fung. Voting for her is going to be gross in November.

But wait, there’s more!

The Providence mayoral primary was also a lot of fun. First, you have the fact that ex-mayor, convicted felon, and unconvicted rapist Buddy Cianci is running again. He has a very strong chance of winning and making my adopted city a national embarrassment. He would also like you to know that he did not urinate on that man.

Who gets to face the vaunted Cianci? There were two, utterly horrible but very different, choices.

First, there was Michael Solomon. At first glance, this guy seems like the most generic kind of old-school Democrat with all the warts that entails. First of all, he’s a long time local pol and there are a lot of rumors about corruption which I have no doubt are true. Corruption is crazy widespread in this state. He is also the least articulate guy in the world. He makes Mumbles Menino in Boston sound like Bill Clinton. There wasn’t much reason to have faith in him until he bucked his long-time business allies and pushed the $15 minimum wage law. That was pretty impressive. Still, his negatives are real.

Then there is Jorge Elorza. This is an interesting case. He is the son of Guatemalan immigrants. In fact, that was the entirety of his campaign. Because of his story and because progressives will so often place a good story and diversity above the substance of a politician, Elorza received a lot of progressive endorsements. But not from the unions. And there’s a good reason for this. There is absolutely no evidence is he progressive on almost any issue. This is a powerful indictment of this right-wing empty suit, cut from the Cory Booker and Angel Taveras cloth, although he’s almost certainly worse than the latter at least. Specifically, Elorza publicly opposes raising the minimum wage, is an advocate for charter schools that comes right out of the Michelle Rhee playbook, and opposes raising taxes on the wealthy.

And of course Elorza wins, making the Democratic candidate for mayor in a poor city someone who opposes a fair wage for workers. Have to be pro-business after all. I voted for Solomon, corruption rumors notwithstanding. At least he stands for something positive. But at least Elorza is not Buddy Cianci.

Finally, there was my state House rep. To me, this summed up the incoherentness of the Rhode Island Democratic Party more than anything. I am represented by a woman named Maria Cimini who is reasonably good progressive with particularly strong environmental and gun control credentials. Her opponent was a right-wing Democrat by the name of Daniel McKiernan, who was supported by the horrible Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello. How did Mattiello become Speaker? Earlier this year, the slightly less terrible Gordon Fox resigned after the FBI raided his home and Mattiello won the race to replace him as Speaker. Cimini didn’t support Mattiello and he went after her.

McKiernan is a Republican in just about every other state. His whole campaign was anti-crime. He had these disgusting 1980s-style flyers about how Cimini opposed locking up child abusers, wanted to put criminals back on the streets, and the like. Every picture of him except a very few (the necessary one per flyer or ad) were with other white people in a district filled with Dominicans, Guatemalans, and African-Americans.

And of course McKiernan won too. Now the Rhode Island state assembly is even more right wing than before. Awesome.

What a state.

What Does Zephyr Teachout’s Challenge Mean?

[ 71 ] September 11, 2014 |

In the aftermath of Zephyr Teachout’s surprisingly strong challenge to Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary for governor of New York, there are a number of articles proclaiming that it is really meaningful. Joan Walsh, writing just before the primary, talks about Teachout reminding Cuomo that there is a liberal base and that you have to run real progressives in order to get policy made. This I agree with entirely.

John Cassidy’s post-mortem argues that the Teachout run is emblematic of something larger.

The Democratic Party establishment survived. But Teachout and Wu both achieved more than seemed possible a couple of months ago. By thoroughly embarrassing Cuomo, New York Democrats didn’t merely deliver a blow to whatever national aspirations he may have. They signalled to other Democrats, Hillary Clinton included, that the political center of gravity has shifted, and that a significant segment of Democratic voters won’t suffer gladly a return to the timid, pro-corporate policies of the Clinton years, which Cuomo represents.

That’s why what happened on Tuesday wasn’t just a New York story: it has national implications. The progressive movement that emerged from the financial crisis, giving birth to Occupy Wall Street and the de Blasio campaign, may still be inchoate and splintered. But it can’t be ignored.

Possible. I don’t know that Cuomo’s national ambitions are completely ruined. But the combination of the scandal and the fact that he’s already been targeted by a left-wing insurgency in his home state certainly can’t help. As for Hillary Clinton, I don’t know. Clinton so far has floated above all of this in a way that she absolutely could not in 2008. When Clinton announces, will there will be a real left-wing challenge like this? One hopes so and that is it credible. If Warren isn’t going to do it, Bernie Sanders would be useful if he runs within the Democratic Party primaries. Otherwise, he is wasting his time. And even if a left-running Democrat did make Hillary work a bit, would it mean anything at all in the general election or after she entered the Oval Office? Doubtful because everyone is going to be working hard for her, despite her flaws, when the opponent is Ted Cruz or whoever comes out of the clown show that is the Republican Party.

I don’t doubt that the Occupy Wall Street energy is part of this challenge. But I also think that wealthier white leftists tend to overstate the power of other wealthier white leftists to create change. In other words, Cuomo won because of his huge numbers in New York’s outer boroughs and any attempt to create real political change in New York is going to have to deal with the machine politics and the fact that a lot of voters have priorities not entirely or at all based around policy. So where all this goes, I really don’t know, but it is fascinating to watch and obviously hopeful. But anything concrete remains nascent at best.

Another interesting facet to this election is the actions of Bill de Blasio. Like Obama in 2008, de Blasio’s campaign used a lot of rhetoric around change, but once the office is taken, both largely promoted the status quo they always believed in. However, at least in the articles I’ve read, the criticism of de Blasio is less strident than I would have thought. This could mean only that I’m not reading the right lefties, I don’t know. But he really went all in for Cuomo in a way that is going to be hard for a lot of people to forget.

Also, the big loser in all of this is the Working Families Party. Although not really a third party despite its name, WFP is supposed to organize the left for positive change. But the WFP is reliant upon its consistuent groups because it is not a social movement. So when parts of organized labor came out for Cuomo, for reasons that made sense to them since it is the unions job to represent their own members’ best interests, the WFP had no real choice but go along. I know that supposedly de Blasio and the unions enacted concessions from him for the endorsement, but I’ll believe Andrew Cuomo follows through on a promise to the left when I see it. So I’m having trouble seeing what the point of the WFP is in political races if it can’t even buck Andrew Cuomo.

Anyway, I guess I’m mostly skeptical that the Teachout run has much in the way of larger implications for New York or national politics. But it is part of the larger dissatisfaction the base has with right-wing Democrats. Whether that appears in the 2016 presidential primary or not answers the question over these implications.

The Death of Western Forests

[ 36 ] September 11, 2014 |

The impacts of climate change upon my beloved American West are only just beginning to be felt:

Colorado alone could lose 45% of its aspen stands over the next 45 years, says the report released Thursday by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. Pine bark beetles alone have killed 46 million acres of trees across the west, an area nearly the size of Colorado.

“The wildfires, infestations and heat and drought stress are the symptoms; climate change is the underlying disease,” Jason Funk, the report’s co-author and a senior climate scientist at Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement.

Projections by the U.S. Forest Service that were included in the report, predict that if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue increasing at recent rates, by 2060 the area climatically suitable in the Rocky Mountains for lodgepole pine could decline by about 90%, for ponderosa pine by about 80%, for Engelmann spruce by about 66% and for Douglas fir by about 58%.

National forests and parks play a key role in the economies of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. National parks in those states, including Yellowstone and Glacier, host about 11 million visitors annually, generating $1 billion in tourist spending, the report, Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk, said. If the landscapes significantly change, tourists may no longer visit those areas, it said.

The last decades of my life are likely to be incredibly depressing.

Hopper

[ 87 ] September 10, 2014 |

Dennis Hopper’s personal journey may have brought him to Taos. But according to my New Mexico people who know Taos well, locals are furious that Hopper was buried there because now their little cemetery where they remembered their dead now has a bunch of hippies leaving joints and booze and smoking and drinking some of that weed and booze in it. And it’s hard to blame them since from Mabel Dodge Luhan and Georgia O’Keefe to Dennis Hopper and the thousands of recent arrivals to these places today, bohemian whites have been co-opting the cultures of non-white New Mexico for their own purposes. Stories like Hopper’s never have the local people in them except as a quaint backdrop. And in the end, that’s really wrong.

Blue Whales

[ 51 ] September 10, 2014 |

MARIA_(CRUISE-1854)_WHALE_HUNTING_IN_WESTMANNSHAVEN_BAY

It seems that the eastern North Pacific population of blue whales has recovered to its pre-hunting totals–about 2200.

2200 animals makes it pretty easy to drive an animal to extinction. I was just talking about the Pleistocene extinctions with my students and saying that the enormous size of the American megafauna made it pretty bloody easy for them to die off entirely when the combination of the end of the Ice Ages and the arrival of humans hit them. After all, how many beavers the size of the modern black bear can a forest support?

Cats vs. Stocks

[ 54 ] September 9, 2014 |

I have no idea why one would compare stocks with cats, except that capitalism and cats are both objectively evil and want to exploit us for profit, however they define it. So if you have to be exploited, it might as well be by something cute and fluffy.

According to new stats from the Federal Reserve, just 13.8% of U.S. families held any individual stocks like Apple (AAPL, Tech30) or Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) as of 2013. That’s down from nearly 18% in 2007 before the market meltdown.

“After experiencing severe losses in 2007 and 2008, investors with smaller portfolios have become more cautious,” said Lena Haas, senior vice president of retirement, investing and savings at E*Trade Financial (ETFC).

While less than 14% of families directly held stocks in 2013, 30% of households own at least one cat, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Where “Incivility” = “Language that Makes University Administrators and Wealthy Donors Uncomfortable”

[ 52 ] September 9, 2014 |

The broad-based attack on “incivility” from academics continues. But of course “civility” can only be defined as language that makes the administrator class comfortable. Given that these administrators see themselves as equivalent to corporate CEOs, this also means they want the power to fire anyone who they deem “uncivil,” which means nothing more than “language that makes them or wealthy donors uncomfortable.” That the University of California chancellor used the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement to make this claim is especially galling.

A Condiment for Children

[ 249 ] September 8, 2014 |

I need to visit this restaurant:

“We know, we know,” the eatery’s website explains. “People love their ketsup. But honestly, be ready. If you’re over 10 years old, ketsup will NOT be served.”

The eatery also says salt doesn’t make an appearance at its tables either. Instead, it asks diners to “trust the chef, and not have preconceived notions of what your dish is going to need.”

With salads, flatbreads and burgers on the menu, the Mad Fresh Bistro adds a gourmet touch to these dishes. The Parisian burger, for example, features bacon, brie, caramelized onions and a tarragon sauce. The fries aren’t ordinary either. They’re truffle fries with a tarragon aioli, according to the menu.

Chef owner Xavier Duclos explained his strict no-ketchup stand to WFLAby saying all his burgers come with sauce already.

“There’s no point in adding a sweet sauce on top of that,” he told the station.

This may be the best idea ever to come out of Florida.

The Carbuncle Cup

[ 153 ] September 6, 2014 |

The winner of England’s ugliest new building:

lead

Thoughts? Snarky comments?

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