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bleeding heartMember Since 18 Mar 2012
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Topics I've Started
27 October 2012 - 11:13 AM
William Friedkin, of The Exorcist fame, has teamed up with playwrite Tracy Letts to produce a darkest of dark comedies in the same vein: Killer Joe.
It's dank, it's filthy, it's funny, and it's painfully brutal. It received an NC-17 rating. I know why. It is quite horribly, even clinically violent...one particular scene is of such a violently-degraded sexual nature that it is jaw-dropping. I've never seen a scene like it, and don't really want to. Yes, it's that harsh. Fried chicken takes on an ominous cast in the rearview, here.
Matthew McConaughey is flat out brilliant as the title character (yes...you read that correctly). He's Joe, a Dallas police Detective who moonlights as a contract killer, at $25 000 a pop. He's one scary SOB...but this is no standard thriller, so he's no standard villain. A villain he is, sure, but so is everybody else.
Chris, a small-time drug dealer, a dim bulb who is still probably the most intelligent person in his southern-fried, poverty-stricken and degraded liitle dysfunctional family, is going to be murdered by loan sharks. But he has discovered that his mother has a tidy life insurance policy. So he and his father, Ansel, decide to have her killed. The beneficiary is sexpot girl-child Dottie, the only person faintly resembling "sweet" in this dank, unpleasant movie. Except Dottie is more than meets the eye, too, as we eventually find out.
Ansel is played by Thomas Hayden Church, and he is so good that only he can match McConaughey. Ansel is not very bright, he's perfectly aware of his shortcomings...and he is also quite a horrible person, moral weakness personified. Ansel's wife Sharla (his new wife, not his ex, the one to be murdered), played by Gina Gershon, is if anything the worst of the whole lot.
So, these cornpone morons decide to kill the woman, and collect the money. But Killer Joe is more than they bargained for. Smooth, seductive, cold and all Business, he's a psychopathic entrepreneur, and quickly puts everybody under his thumb.
Including young Dottie, whom he takes as sexual collateral until the money is paid.
The thing is, as events unfold (and they unfold badly, of course), it seems that Killer Joe has also met more than he bargained for: the family is so dysfunctional, so monumentally stupid, that things don't go as smoothly as planned, all his care and masterful control notwithstanding.
The last twenty minutes of this movie are so extreme that it's put some people off (and earned it the NC-17). It worked for me, but I get the criticisms, I really do. Obviously, the 77-year-old Friedkin has no qualms about shock and excess. Also, it's quite painfully depressing, and I think a sort of pessimistic parable of life at the beginning of the 21st century: perverse sex, lots of violence, casual murder, sheer greed, tv....crushing financial problems...and fried chicken. And did I mention that it's actually a comedy?
18 October 2012 - 04:20 AM
ROMNEY: “I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”
Recall back in March, when Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri introduced a bill that would allow employers to deny contraceptive coverage to employees.
Mitt Romney said: “Of course I support the Blunt amendment…. Of course Roy Blunt, who is my liaison to the Senate, is someone I support and of course I support that amendment. I clearly want to have religious exemption from Obamacare…. I really think all Americans should be allowed to get around this religious exemption.”
This one is pretty simple.
And then there's Romney's continual "job loss" insistence:
ROMNEY: “We have fewer people working today than we had when the president took office.”
This is flatly false. The Bureau of Labor statistics just revised estimates from March 2011 to March 2012 upwards by 386,000 jobs—meaning that Obama crossed the magic imaginary barrier of net job creation for his term, and has actually created a net positive 125,000 jobs. This is a simple fact. And there have been 868,000 jobs created in the private sector during this time, which have been offset by public sector job losses—something Mitt Romney would like to see continue.
Moreover, this is an awful tough metric to judge Obama on in the first place. As he’s fond of mentioning, the economy was hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month when he took office—so holding him to a net job creation standard means he has to make up for those massive losses that were out of his control entirely. But he’s still done it.
And so on......
03 October 2012 - 08:02 AM
The primary reason a nuclear Iran is an issue is because it would then have deterrence against aggression.
How dare they!
That Iran will use its nuclear weapons against the US and Israel is rather obviously the centerpiece of the fear-mongering campaign against Tehran, to build popular support for threats to launch an aggressive attack in order to prevent them from acquiring that weapon. So what, then, is the real reason that so many people in both the US and Israeli governments are so desperate to stop Iranian proliferation?
Every now and then, they reveal the real reason: Iranian nuclear weapons would prevent the US from attacking Iran at will, and that is what is intolerable.
The latest person to unwittingly reveal the real reason for viewing an Iranian nuclear capacity as unacceptable was GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the US's most reliable and bloodthirsty warmongers.
"They have two goals: one, regime survival. The best way for the regime surviving, in their mind, is having a nuclear weapon, because when you have a nuclear weapon, nobody attacks you."
Graham added that the second regime goal is "influence", that "people listen to you" when you have a nuclear weapon. In other words, we cannot let Iran acquire nuclear weapons because if they get them, we can no longer attack them when we want to and can no longer bully them in their own region.
Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute and the New American Century Project has long been crystal clear that this is the real reason for opposing Iranian nuclear capability [my emphasis]:
"When their missiles are tipped with warheads carrying nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, even weak regional powers have a credible deterrent regardless of the balance of conventional forces … In the post cold war era, America and its allies, rather than the Soviet Union, have become the primary objects of deterrence and it is states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea who most wish to develop deterrent capabilities."
"The surest deterrent to American action is a functioning nuclear arsenal …
"To be sure, the prospect of a nuclear Iran is a nightmare. But it is less a nightmare because of the high likelihood that Tehran would employ its weapons or pass them on to terrorist groups although that is not beyond the realm of possibility and more because of the constraining effect it threatens to impose upon US strategy for the greater Middle East.
As Jonathan Schwarz has extensively documented, this is what US policy elites have said over and over. In 2001, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned:
"Several of these [small enemy nations] are intensely hostile to the United States and are arming to deter us from bringing our conventional or nuclear power to bear in a regional crisis."
In 2002, State Department official Philip Zelikow said that if Iraq were permitted to keep its WMDs, "they now can deter us from attacking them, because they really can retaliate against us." In 2008, Democratic Senator Chuck Robb and GOP Senator Dan Coates wrote an incredibly hawkish Washington Post op-ed all but demanding an attack on Iran, and wrote:
"[A]n Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons capability would be strategically untenable. It would threaten U.S. national security … While a nuclear attack is the worst-case scenario, Iran would not need to employ a nuclear arsenal to threaten US interests. Simply obtaining the ability to quickly assemble a nuclear weapon would effectively give Iran a nuclear deterrent."
OK....so, predicting that some posters might consider this all pretty rational and justifiable...it nevertheless strongly suggests that the "threat of an Iranian nuclear attack" or "wiping out Israel" are not the prime motivators for the calls to military action.
It's good to have clarity on what the debates are actually about: and an aggressive Iran is not what calls for military intervention are primarily about. It's a credibly defensive Iran that is making the war drums sound.
25 September 2012 - 10:59 AM
It has been formally designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department for many years.
So under U.S. law, it is a felony to provide any "material support" or any "aid whatsoever" to the group.
And in fact, in 2003, the Bush administration used them as part of their pretext for attacking Iraq:
Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians.
( http://georgewbush-w...cade/sect5.html )
It's all pretty clear cut...except for the potentially embarassing (and explosive) fact that a bi-partisan group of major (very major) politicians have been not only speaking on the MEK's behalf...but have taken money from them, for speaking fees and political advocacy.
This is an open breach of the "material support" and "any aid whatsoever" sections of the law, and constitutes a felony.
Indeed, people, notably American Muslims, have been prosecuted for far, far less egregious acts.
Further, this open support for a terrorist group (and for terrorism itself) is, as I said, totally bi-partisan, and the names are big ones:
....and many more, including journalists, and Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel.
So, ok...these well-known and extremely influential political luminaries (and commentators) from both major parties are paid supporters and advocates for an officially designated terrorist organization, who also happen to be a weird religious cult.
So how is it that this is not criminal?
Well, it is, of course, criminal, by every and any definition.
So how is Officialdom to keep these brazen, terror-supporting lawbreakers out of trouble?
Why...de-list the MEK as a terrorist organization, of course! Beautiful, simple, perfect.
After all, they are the sworn enemies of Iran...and Howard Dean himself said that their leader should be recognized as "Iran's President" (because little matters like "elections" are irrelevant).
However, de-listing--a cynical and coldly-calculated political act, divorced from considerations like actual terrorism--does not, legally, retroactively exonerate the perpetrators. The group was officiall, formally designated as a Terrorist Group while these little gangsters were heping them out and taking payment for it.
Here's Glenn Greenwald, who has written quite extensively on the subject:
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, is an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the US State Department as a "foreign terrorist organization". When the Bush administration sought to justify its attack on Iraq in 2003 by accusing Saddam Hussein of being a sponsor of "international terrorism", one of its prime examples was Iraq's "sheltering" of the MEK. Its inclusion on the terrorist list has meant that it is a felony to provide any "material support" to that group.
Nonetheless, a large group of prominent former US government officials from both political parties has spent the last several years receiving substantial sums of cash to give speeches to the MEK, and have then become vocal, relentless advocates for the group, specifically for removing them from the terrorist list. Last year, the Christian Science Monitor thoroughly described "these former high-ranking US officials - who represent the full political spectrum - [who] have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK." They include Democrats Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Wesley Clark, Bill Richardson, and Lee Hamilton, and Republicans Rudy Giuliani, Fran Townsend, Tom Ridge, Michael Mukasey, and Andrew Card. Other prominent voices outside government, such as Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel, have been enlisted to the cause and are steadfast MEK advocates.
Money has also been paid to journalists such as The Washington Post's Carl Bernstein and the Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page. Townsend is a CNN contributor and Rendell is an MSNBC contributor, yet those MEK payments are rarely, if ever, disclosed by those media outlets when featuring those contributors (indeed, Townsend can go on CNN to opine on Iran, even urging that its alleged conduct be viewed as "an act for war", with no disclosure whatsoever during the segment of her MEK payments). Quoting a State Department official, CSM detailed how the scheme works:
"'Your speech agent calls, and says you get $20,000 to speak for 20 minutes. They will send a private jet, you get $25,000 more when you are done, and they will send a team to brief you on what to say.' . . . The contracts can range up to $100,000 and include several appearances."
On Friday, the Guardian's Washington reporter Chris McGreal added substantial information about the recipients of the funding and, especially, its sources. As he put it, the pro-MEK campaign "has seen large sums of money directed at three principal targets: members of Congress, Washington lobby groups and influential former officials", including the GOP Congressman who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.
And all this doesn't even touch on the other subject in the article: the direct comparisons to those who have been prosecuted for less egregious behaviours under the selfsame Terrorism laws.
02 September 2012 - 12:40 PM
I haven't decided which piece I like best. Anyway, worth a look, and a laugh. Here's a sample from each:
Most grating, for someone who wrote a book titled The Moral Landscape, Harris' “War on Islam” zealotry is numerically unjustifiable. You're four times as likely to die of a lightning strike than you are from a terrorist attack, and yet this constitutes the gravest threat to Western civilization, but 100,000 (at least) civilian casualties in Iraq is mere fodder for thought experiment apologia. Harris is basically a low-rent Hitchens, sans wit or the wisdom to waterboard himself.
The “Real Time” host's thinly veiled misogyny, obtuse notion that fat, poor people just need to, like, shop at Whole Foods, and self-righteous condescension in all things religious and political might be tolerable were it not for the fact that he's on comedic par with cervical cancer. The only difference being: cervical cancer doesn't blame its victims for failing to laugh. Compounding the unpleasant nature of Maher's wheat-grass pomposity is that, from vaccines to the news items he discusses, he's just not very well informed.
Like many skeptics, the bloviating, ponytailed half of Penn & Teller arrived at his disbelief via the world of magic. However, like giant mystified toddlers, the smoke and mirrors of economic libertarianism has the two performers completely duped. Unable to call bullshit on Ayn Rand, they used to carry a dogeared copy of Atlas Shrugged around on tour—to give you some idea.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Hirsi Ali notoriously received death threats for writing the screenplay to Submission, the documentary which inspired the assassination of its director Theo van Gogh, and her ridiculous objectivist spin on this tragedy was nothing short of shameful:
“[The killer] was on welfare....he had the time to plot a murder, which in the United States he would not be.”
The consummate over-reactionary, what could have been an inspiring career based on reason and social justice quickly devolved into one of neoconservative lunacy. As a former Muslim and current fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, she lends an illusion of street cred to all manner of egregious “free-market” worship, global warming denial, and Western aggression.
she's chummy with Glenn Beck because idiotic atheists and idiotic Mormons have a natural alliance. Cupp's self-loathing-token-atheist-in-the-conservative-media routine seems so geared toward delegitimizing atheism, and selling books to fundie Fox types, that is strains credulity. She recently said, “I would never vote for an atheist president. Ever,” because she thinks religion serves as a “check” on presidential power.