Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld lang syne, "Mad Men"-style


A remembrance of happier times: Betty and Don Draper (January Jones, Jon Hamm) ring in the new year, 1956. This would be No. 5 on the AMC bloglist below.

by Ken

Once again the industrious elves at the AMC website have come through with an inspired blogpost: "Happy New Year! Mad Men's Most Memorable Kisses."
The beginning of a new year is always a cause for kissing. Mad Men features plenty of that particular activity. If you need a refresher, here is a random sampling of memorable Mad Men kisses to get you in a Mad Men frame of mind for 2012. Remember a kiss that isn't listed here? Share it in the comments section below.

Here's the list of a dozen the elves came up with (links onsite):
Don and Rachel Menken in Season 1, Episode 3, "Marriage of Figaro"
With the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, Don and Rachel share their first kiss on the Menken's rooftop. As a bonus, Rachel gets a doggie kiss from one of her German Shepherds.

Pete and Peggy in Season 1, Episode 8, "The Hobo Code"
Pete and Peggy arrive early for work at Sterling Cooper, which provides a perfect opportunity for whispered confessions and a morning tryst.

Sal and Joan in Season 1, Episode 12, "Nixon vs. Kennedy"
Sal and Joan kiss while performing a reading of Paul's play at Sterling Cooper's election party. Afterward, Sal basks in the whistles and cheers while Joan casts her eyes downward.

Harry and Hildy in Season 1, Episode 12, "Nixon vs. Kennedy"
Nixon takes Ohio, prompting Harry to give Hildy a celebratory smooch at the office party. One thing leads to another and the two end up spending the night together in his office.

Don and Betty in Season 1, Episode 13, "The Wheel"
Betty and Don welcome 1956 with an embrace -- an image Don includes in his pitch for the Carousel slide projector, a device that brings people "to a place where we know we are loved."

Sal and the Bellhop in Season 3, Episode 1, "Out of Town"
Sal's on a business trip and doesn't resist when a bellhop removes his own shirt, undoes Sal's belt and zipper and starts to go even further -- until a fire alarm spoils the fun.

Don and Betty in Season 3, Episode 8, "Souvenir"
It's Rome, and Betty's wanted by locals and Don alike. In their hotel room, Don nuzzles Betty's neck and undresses her as she stands with her back to him.

Sally and Ernie in Season 3, Episode 8, "Souvenir"
"Sally and Ernie sittin' in a tree," Bobby sings after Sally kisses Francine's son. Sally then beats Bobby up. Betty reprimands Sally, "I don't want you running around just kissing boys."

Don and Betty in Season 3, Episode 12, "The Grown Ups"
Betty and Don dance at Margaret Sterling's wedding and kiss deeply on the dance floor. The next day, Betty reveals to Don that "I kissed you yesterday. I didn't feel a thing."

Allison and Don in Season 4, Episode 2, "Christmas Comes But Once a Year"
Don, drunk, asks Allison to tend to him. As she leaves, he takes her hand and pulls her onto his lap for a kiss. She tries to resist but gives in to his advances. "I feel dizzy," she says.

Peggy and Abe in Season 4, Episode 4, "The Rejected"
During a police raid, Peggy finds herself nestled in a closet with Abe. "I feel like I should kiss you," he says. Peggy leans in and he does, just as they're interrupted by Joyce.

Roger and Joan in Season 4, Episode 9, "The Beautiful Girls"
A mugger holds up Roger and Joan on the street, prompting a shaken Joan to kiss Roger, imploring him, "Don't stop." The next day, Roger tells her, "I feel something. And I know you do."


. . . to one and all from all of us here at DWT!

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Sunday Classics, New Year's Eve edition: "In the fiery sap of the vine, there sparkles a life divine": The King of All Wines, Champagne!


Prince Orlofsky: "And now, ladies and gentlemen, for some refreshment. And let me propose a toast to his august majesty, King Champagne!"

Mildred Miller (ms), Prince Orlofsky; Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Tibor Kozma, cond. Metropolitan Opera Record Club, recorded c1955

by Ken

Last night I set out to try to explain what makes Die Fledermaus so special to me. We'll finish that discussion tomorrow. Tonight we'll just use the operetta as a jumping-off point for celebrating New Year's Eve -- starting, rather unoriginally, with the Champagne Trio of Act II, of which we heard just the first stanza, Prince Orlofsky's, above.

In the click-through we'll have a special gala musical celebration. For now, let's hear the full trio, still in English, from the LP's worth of excerpts made at the time of the Met production of Die Fledermaus that was part of Rudolf Bing's first season as general manager, 1950-51. (With artist contracts split between record rivals Columbia and RCA, some cast members participated in Columbia's official Met complete recording, conducted by Eugene Ormandy, while some -- notably the Orlofsky, Risë Stevens, sang in the RCA excerpts LP under Fritz Reiner.) We should note that this performance reverses the sequence of the second and third stanzas, with Eisenstein going second and Adele third.

J. STRAUSS II: Die Fledermaus: Act II, Champagne Trio (in English)

Risë Stevens (ms), Prince Orlofsky; James Melton (t), Gabriel von Eisenstein; Patrice Munsel (s), Adele; Robert Shaw Chorale, RCA Victor Orchestra, Fritz Reiner, cond. RCA, recorded c1950



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Roger Angell confronts a future without real honest-to-goodness letters


"Losing the mixed pleasures of just arrived letters may not mean as much in the end as what we're missing by not writing them. Writing regularly to several people -- a parent, a friend who's moved to another coast, a daughter or son away at college -- requires one to keep separate mental ledgers, storing up the weather or the idle thoughts or the disasters we need to pass on. We're always getting ready to write. The letters out and back become a correspondence, and mysteriously take on a tone of their own: some rambly and comfortably boring; others cool and funny; some financial; some confessional. They stick in the mind and seem worth the trouble."
-- Roger Angell, in his January 2 New Yorker
"Comment" piece,
"Life and Letters"

by Ken

The post-Christmas week "will produce shiny bargain-sale notices, some bills and invitations, an early thank-you note for a gift, and a late Christmas card or two, but perhaps not an actual letter," notes longtime New Yorker editor and writer Roger Angell (the son of legendary editor Katharine White and stepson of E. B. White, to whose Elements of Style franchise he succeeded), who has been driven to melancholy speculation about the future of letters by the combination of the holiday mail lull and the rumblings about the future of U.S. mail delivery.

"There's nothing new about this," he writes, "but a bit of sadness, a pang has remained" since the Postal Service's announcement that it is officially renouncing "any promises of next-day delivery for first-class letters." In rehashing the Postal Service's litany of financial woes, he notes:
We've done this to ourselves, of course, and done it eagerly, with our tweets and texts, our Facebook chat, our flooding e-mails, and our pleasure in the pejorative "snail mail." Well, yes, O.K., but where's the damage? Why these blues?
Roger says he knows we're not about to witness the end of letter-writing, period.
Condolence letters can't be sent out from our laptops, and maybe not love letters, either, because e-mail is so leaky. Secrets -- an expected baby, a lowdown joke, a killer piece of gossip -- require a stamp and a sealed flap, and perhaps apologies do as well ("I don’t know what came over me").
But "not much else," given that "e-mail is cheap, and the message is done and delivered almost as quickly as the thought of it."

In fact, once upon a time, thanks to the coming of quick delivery, mail itself was valued for its timeliness. Roger himself "can recall the four-o’clock-in-the-afternoon arrival of the second mail of the day at our house when I was a boy, and the resultant changes of evening plans." But it obviously can't compete with e-mail for speed. So "where's the damage? Why these blues?"

If we stop writing letters, who will keep our history or dare venture upon a biography? George Washington, Oscar Wilde, T. E. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, E. B. White, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Vera Nabokov, J. P. Morgan -- if any of these vivid predecessors still belong to us in some fragmented private way, it's because of their letters or diaries (which are letters to ourselves) or thanks to some strong biography built on a ledge of letters.

He recalls getting "a whole new sense of the Civil War" from Ken Burns's TV rendering, "which took its poignant tone from the recital of Union and Confederate soldiers' letters home," and notes how epistolary GIs continued to give us a sense of what it was like to be engaged in wars from World War II through Iraq and Afghanistan -- although that function has by now been taken over to a large extent by electronic correspondence means.

Roger speculates about how famous letter-writing literary types of the past would have adapted, or not adapted, to e-mail. The British diplomat Harold Nicolson, for example, who "wrote incessantly to his wife, Vita Sackville-West, at Sissinghurst Castle, their home in Kent," and then "when their sons Ben and Nigel went off to war," added them to the list. "It's my guess," he writes, "that the avidly busy Nicolson would have relished e-mail but would not have skipped a single letter."


He wrote his stories and novels and reviews on a word processor but avoided e-mails. He reserved a typewriter for his letters and private postcards. These last mostly contained compliments -- a good word to an unknown writer whose novel he'd happened upon; a piece he'd liked in the magazine -- but he also permitted himself room for a whine or something cranky. Somewhere he complains about a sprained right pinkie that's messed up his typing -- the finger that has all the best letters. What's certain also is that he expected to be preserved; every jam-packed small card touchingly begins with the full date -- Oct. 24. 03, and so on -- in the top right corner.

But it's not just, Roger stresses, letters "from the gifted or famous few, or even from someone we know," that claim our attention.
Until recently, tourists stopping in a roadside antique shop could expect to find stacks of anonymous old local postcards lying in a box: relics of family yard sales, no doubt. I know one that depicts a stiff-sided, two-story summer structure, with a narrow porch and a printed "The Mountain Ash Inn" label. It was mailed in 1922 or 1932: the circular cancelling stamp is smudged and it's hard to be sure which. The two-line address, in a nice cursive, is "J. M. Voss" over "P.O.," nothing else, and the message reads, "Ida and her uncle went to Swans Isl after all but return tomorrow. Supper Tuesday." It's signed "Do."

This would be an e-mail now but an invitation without a future. I've kept the original -- it's in my summer cottage in Maine -- and I'm accepting. How was Swan's Island, Ida? What's for supper?

Mammon, Quetzalcoatl And Mitt Romney


Serpents of a feather flock together

Many people who have followed Romney's long-running thirst to make Mormon charlatan prophet Joseph Smith's dream of taking over the White House true may have thought Romney's only object of worship is Mammon. This whole brouhaha of him being the only serious presidential candidate in four decades to refuse to release his tax returns reinforces the idea that he's hiding something. His promise to craft a statement of his assets-- it's well-known that between his family wealth and what he made as a Bain vulture capitalist he's amassed something like a quarter-billion dollars-- is more subtle subterfuge for keeping the public from seeing his tax returns.

As he's explained, the bishop's been unemployed for years, plotting how to make Joseph Smith's dream come true, but he still manages to make huge amounts of money, money he pays almost no taxes on. I'm sure, or almost sure, that what he does is legal in the broadest sense of the word, but people with that kind of wealth find plenty of ways to avoid paying taxes. You think he wants Bachmann carping, Newt pontificating or Santorum whining during the primaries? And what do you think the Democrats will have to say about him paying a smaller percentage of taxes than schoolteachers, secretaries and average Americans? He says that if he's elected he'll consider releasing his returns. Like I said, people are wondering what's he hiding.

But back to Mammon. That isn't the only thing Romney worships. His family fled to Mexico in the 1800s in order to preserve their polygamist way of life and lived there for generations. I'm in the Yucatan now and have been visiting Mayan sacred sites all month. I've heard again and again from Mayans that Mormon missionaries-- they're everywhere in Mexico, thick as fleas-- tell them that the Mayan feathered-serpent god Quetzalcoatl was the resurrected Jesus Christ, who Mormons believe as a prime tenet of their "religion" visited the Americas after being crucified.

The chief Mormon after Brigham Young, John Taylor, who began the Mormon colonization of Mexico, wrote: "The story of the life of the Mexican divinity Quetzalcoatl closely resembles that of the Savior; so closely, indeed, that we can come to no other conclusion than that Quetzalcoatl and Christ are the same being." Does Mitt Romney worship Quetzalcoatl as the resurrected Jesus? He won't say. In fact, for a powerful Mormon bishop, he sure hates talking about his faith. The Huffington Post got him to open up a little about his Mormon life this week.
"I read scripture regularly, and seek the counsel of my creator on a daily basis."

"I pray every day. I don't read scriptures every day, probably should," he added.

Ann Romney, who sat on the couch in the Romney campaign bus next to her husband fiddling with an iPad, held up the device, prompting an exclamation from Mitt.

"There we go, just did. I got them on my iPad," he said. "I should probably read scriptures every day, but I read them frequently, but not every day."

"Sometimes I read to him. If we're on the phone, I will read him chapters," Ann Romney said with a smile.

"But I go to church every Sunday," Romney said brightly.

That was the same interview where he who worships the feathered-serpent God from Mexico, and sits on a quarter-billion barely taxed dollars, compared President Obama to Marie Antoinette.

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The Noah Diaries 2011 (13): A rapper in the Obama White House? Oh, horror!


What liberal media?, SD campaign in war on women, Ryan sinking Repugs?, FCC shill goes on Comcast payroll officially, and more

by Noah

5/10/11 -- "Liberal media"? Allow me one last word on the reaction to the death of bin Laden

This comment is really a comment about what some say is "the librul media." If ever there was any doubt about the lack of class in the Bush Crime Family, the reaction of the Bushies in the wake of the killing of bin Laden showed the self-revealing truth about them for the world to see as they quickly fanned out all over TV, seemingly en masse, not to celebrate the death of a mortal enemy of their country (if this is their country), but to use the event for self-glorification and as justification for torture.

Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney, Andrew Card, Dana Perino, even Liz Cheney (as if she has even an illusion of credentials), Dick Lugar, the pathetic Rudy "9/11" Giuliani, Bush CIA Director Michael Hayden, Michael Chertoff, Rep. Tom Davis were all invited by the corporate media to spread their horse manure all over the Sunday-morning talk shows. At the same time, the shows had Sen. John Kerry, former White House communications director Anita Dunn, and current White House national security adviser Tom Donilon. That’s nearly 4-to-1 Republicans-to-Democrats. Fair and balanced? Nope. Typical? Yep? Liberal media? Are you f---ing kidding me?

5/11/11 -- The jihadists waging war on women would have us worry about Sharia?

Meanwhile, the Republican jihadists in South Dakota have come up with a new anti-abortion law that makes women wait three days after they arrive at the only abortion-providing facility in the state, a Planned Parenthood clinic. If the law goes into effect, women would be required to make more than one trip across a large state or find a hotel for a few days while they go through the Republican-imposed rituals, which include counseling at "pregnancy help centers" (Big Government?), designed to persuade them not to go through with the abortion. Most women these days can’t afford the additional expenditures of increased travel and a hotel stay. The new law will also intrude on a woman’s right to privacy, but did a Republican anywhere ever think that women have rights at all? The jihadists hope their law will become a test case to go after Roe vs. Wade. Previous laws designed by the state’s neo-fascist jihadist element have been overturned by the voters.

Seven months later: A federal judge blocked the law in June on constitutional grounds, and now the governor is hoping for a handout of taxpayer money in order to defend his law. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the case.

5/11/11 -- Poetry night at the White House, and a rap guy gets invited!

A Grammy-winning one at that. Oh no, it’s that guy Common! Hip-hop! Blackblackblackblack! Negro alert! Negro alert!

Un-American values! Obama goes "back to his radical roots," says white-supremacist handmaiden Sean Hannity! Says Karl Rove, "Thug!" Do we hear another "Kenyan world view" from Newtie? Do we hear another "Mau-Mau" from Huckabee? Can we get a "Mau-Mau," reverend? Yeeesh, and they bitch about every reverend at every church the Obamas go to. New Jersey’s State Police even got in on the act ("Cop killer lyrics cause of N.J. State Police reps' outrage over Common's invitation to White House").

Hmmm. FOX had no problem when Bushie had Eazy-E over, or when Ted Nugent said Obama should suck on his machine gun. Leaving the psychology on that one behind, how about when FOX promoted Common as a good guy for his social activism? Why didn’t the NJ State Police complain then? They also didn’t bitch when Bob Dylan, whose song "Hurricane" is similar, was invited to the White House. Bruce Springsteen, who wrote "41 Shots," about the police murder of an innocent New Yorker, has also been to the White House, as has Bono ("Sunday Bloody Sunday"). No complaints from the righties then! But Common? Well, that’s just a bridge too far for some. I think we know why.

Earlier today I was in a record store down in South Jersey, aka the post-WWII German-Resettlement Sector of the state. The guy who owns the store had the radio tuned to Michael Savage. The amount and intensity of vile racist spew this assclown was shooting out was unfathomable, at least to any sane person. He clearly had never heard the song and just as clearly had never heard of Common, but that didn’t matter. It was black, and it was hip-hop. That was all that mattered. I’ve heard milder speeches from KKK grand wizards.

Savage was so angry that it seemed he might die right on the air in an explosion of hate and vitriol. The guy in the store thought it was funny. He would have had no problem taking my money for a Common CD had I chosen one, though.

In the real world, Common is a positive guy who seems to have been on every major mainstream TV show as both a musical performer and an actor. He uses his fame and influence to tell children to stay in school. He himself went to college and studied business. Maybe that’s what scares Repugs the most; can’t have those minority kids getting educated, you know!

I, for one, have always regarded Common as talented but really a kind of Bill Cosby of hip-hop compared with a lot of what’s out there. But Tucker Carlson immediately played the race perspective (surprise, surprise!), saying that if Common was white he wouldn’t have been invited. This harks back to the Beatles song "Helter Skelter" being blamed for Manson and AC/DC and Ozzy and Judas Priest being blamed for everything from devil-worshipping to teen suicide. If those guys were black, the crackpot contingent would still be harping on it.

I’ve always said that FOX is nothing but Romper Room for cranky old white people, white people with a sicko fear of all things African-American. Remember the insanity over President Obama giving the traditional annual speech to schoolkids? Suddenly, because Obama was doing it, it was "indoctrination," indoctrination into some super-secret socialist-commie Muslim black thing. Earth to FOX viewers: There’s a black dude in the White House, get over it.

Prediction for 2012: The Repugs have hit Obama with everything in their indignation and frustration that Obama is president. They’ve charged him with aiding terrorism, palling around with . . . rappers in the White House, not being from America, you name it. At some point, when they feel they have nothing left and nothing left to lose, some Republican somewhere, probably right on FOX, will "allege" that President Obama is having or had an affair with a white woman, preferably an underage one.

5/12/11 -- House Majority Leader Eric Cancer doesn’t want to honor the Navy Seals who offed bin Laden

So much for supporting the troops. Cancer says it’s not "substantive and meaningful." He also says the Repug-run Congress doesn’t do that kind of thing because it takes up time. Right. But they did find the time recently to honor Sonny and Poppy Bush by naming a building after them in Midland, Texas. What’s next, the Lee Harvey Oswald Courthouse? Gotta take care of your heroes.

5/12/11 -- It’s hard to have a reasonable discussion when one side doesn’t base its arguments on facts

The Freaks on Xtasy channel and the Repugs start with made-up factoids and go from there. It caught up with them recently when the Ryan budget proposal was based on the assumption that Americans would go along with Medicare being done in. That played well only in the Republican alternate universe. It worked on FOX and similar nut places, but not out in America. The Repug congresscritters found this out when they actually went outside the Beltway for some acrimonious town hall meetings. My idea of town hall meetings would include dunking stools, which were sort of an early more "civilized" form of waterboarding. Ryan went from "genius" to maybe not-so-much real quick, but his party still regards him as a man to watch for the future. All of us should watch him.

5/12/11 -- Washington bought and sold? Sleaze and corruption? Nah! Couldn’t be!

FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker has announced that she is leaving the FCC to become a lobbyist for -- drum roll, please -- Comcast! Four months ago she voted to approve the Comcast-NBC merger. Will she be getting work as a commentator on NBC as well? A new car? Free cable?

Before being appointed to the FCC in 2009, Meredith Attwell Baker was already serving the Comcast cause -- as the Bush regime's acting (because unconfirmable) assistant commerce secretary -- in its battle with the FCC over Net neutrality.

Amazing! She gives Comcast exactly what they want, and then gets a high-paying job from them! No need to connect the dots on this one. Obviously, she treated the hearing on a very serious matter as a job interview. For centuries people have been known to sell themselves in all kinds of ways to get a high-paying job. In Washington it’s simply "how things are." Dirtbag Central. Someone should do a remake of the film Chinatown but center it on Washington. In pictures that accompany her announcement, Commissioner Baker shows off a nice matching pearl necklace-earring set. I wonder what ruling got her those.

History in the making:
Selections from THE NOAH DIARIES 2011

Yesterday: (12) Obama's real death panel -- the death of bin Laden. Crazed Repugs don't know how to react. Plus: Mel Gibson learns a better way to communicate, and more bin Laden craziness (5/2-7/11)
Tomorrow: (14) Billions for Big Oil, pennies for food stamps. Plus: Gas prices rise and fall, Meghan McCain lashes back at Glenn B, the $enate & Big Oil, Newt plays the food stamp card, and more (5/13-18/11)


And don't forget 2010's Year in Review series and 2009's "12 Days of Christmas Scorn"!

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Sunday Classics: Beginning a "Fledermaus" New Year's -- "Happy is he who forgets what can't be changed anyway"


Laura Albino as Rosalinde and Keith Klassen
as Alfred in Toronto last January

J. STRAUSS II: Die Fledermaus: Act I, "Glücklich ist, wer vergisst, was doch nicht zu ändern ist"
ALFRED, later joined by ROSALINDE:
Happy is
he who forgets
what can't be changed anyway.
Richard Leech (t), Alfred; Kiri Te Kanawa (s), Rosalinde; Vienna Philharmonic, André Previn, cond. Philips, recorded November 1990

by Ken

Sometimes these music posts take shape just the way they formed in my head, which is swell, sometimes. (Sometimes you wish they hadn't.) More often they balk and resist, or -- at happier times -- take on a life of their own. I think that's what's happening this weekend.

Some of you may recall from last week's holiday posts devoted to Part I of Handel's Messiah that this week we were scheduled to do the same sort of thing with Part I The Childhood of Christ, Berlioz's always-unexpected and deeply moving oratorio. And we'll get to that eventually. But I thought for this more carefree holiday weekend we would go in a different direction, ringing in the new year with a frequent New Year's celebration vehicle, Johann Strauss II's operetta Die Fledermaus.

Tomorrow night in a special New Year's Eve edition of Sunday Classics we're going to be crashing the masquerade ball at Prince Orlofsky's, where by three quite different routes three members of the household of Gabriel von Eisenstein will find themselves -- in disguise, of course -- in attendance, none of them knowing that the others are there. How this comes to pass we'll hear a little more of in the click-through, but for now I thought we'd hear the whole scene of which we've just heard that juicy morsel from near the beginning.

To set the scene: On the very day when Herr von Eisenstein is due to turn himself in for a brief prison sentence for some indecorous behavior, his wife Rosalinde's ex-boyfriend, an Italian tenor named Alfred, has turned up hoping to renew auld acquaintance. It's Alfred who espouses the giddily sensible philosophy of life we heard above. And for once I think we need to at least look at it in the original language, which is impossible to translate with the economy and rhyming brio of the German:
Glücklich ist,
wer vergisst,
was doch nicht zu ändern ist.
Three lines, note, of three three, and seven syllables, respectively, neatly rhyming -- bubbling over almost irresistibly.

Naturally Fledermaus is often performed in the local language, and translation is always a near-insoluble ordeal. In addition the kinds of problems I've suggested with these lines, there's the problems of tone. There's a tendency in particular to resort to cartoony "cuteness," which changes the character of the piece. (Of course as many German-language performances show, it's quite easy to transform the tone of the piece in this direction even in the original, but when the text you're singing performs the task for you, this particular battle is lost before the first shot is fired.)

The translation we're going to hear in a moment, by contrast, seems to me quite clever, and even singable -- good enough that you think somebody really ought to set it to music. Certainly Johann Strauss didn't, and especially not to this music. The problem is that the English text is hardly even related to what the characters are singing at the moment. Oh well, it's a nice performance musically and vocally.

To finish setting the scene: Eisenstein has already made his departure, presumably (or so Rosalinde thinks) to make his way to prison. Alfred, wearing Eisenstein's dressing gown, makes his presence known, and he and Rosalinde are flirting and sparring when who should appear but the prison governor Frank, come to haul the master of the house off to the pokey. Naturally he assumes that the gentleman in the dressing gown is his quarry, and Rosalinde is hardly in a position to disabuse him.

Die Fledermaus: Act I finale: Scene, Alfred-Rosalinde; Scene, Frank-Rosalinde-Alfred (English translation by Mel Mandel and Norman Sachs)

Sergio Franchi (t), Alfred; Anna Moffo (s), Rosalinde; John Hauxvell (b), Frank; Vienna State Opera Orchestra, Oskar Danon, cond. RCA, recorded June 1963


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Verizon may have pulled back on that $2 fee for paying bills online, but this is a battle that's only begun


Companies like Verizon and Time Warner Cable don't need masks and guns to rob us, as long as they have pricing power over us.

"It’s not just about the money (though if you’re like me, you don’t have extra cash to be sending to a giant phone company in order to pay your own bills). It’s that Verizon thinks it can do anything to its customers, and that we’re powerless to stop it."
-- Molly Katchpole, in a e-mail (see below)

"At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers. Based on their input, we believe the best path forward is to encourage customers to take advantage of the best and most efficient options, eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time."
-- Verizon CEO Dan Mead, in a statement

"Pricing power is the ability to raise your prices beyond the inflation rate and expect that most people will pay. It occurs in monopolies and oligopolies and in necessities during crises (how much is a loaf of bread worth if you'll die without it?)"
-- Ian Welsh, in his post "You don't get the payroll tax 'cut' "

by Ken

By now I'm sure you've heard about Verizon's latest plane -- already rescinded (we'll come back to this in a moment) -- for sticking its hand in our pockets. The plan was to slap on a $2 fee, as of January 15, every time a customer makes a one-time payment by credit card or debit card, either online or by phone. I had a feeling this wasn't going to happen, that the uproar would be too great, and indeed before I could even write about it, Verizon has pulled back ("Verizon scraps $2 fee to Pay Bills Online").

But you can be sure they'll be back -- Verizon and everyone else who's in a position to stick their hands in our pockets. Which is why the e-mail from Molly Katchpole of seems to me every bit as pertinent now as when she sent it out.
Remember when together we beat Bank of America -- and the whole banking industry backed away from charging us just for using our debit cards?

Well, it’s time to get the band back together. Verizon just announced a new fee for paying your bills online. Really. Even though paying via internet is fully automated.

It’s not just about the money (though if you’re like me, you don’t have extra cash to be sending to a giant phone company in order to pay your own bills). It’s that Verizon thinks it can do anything to its customers, and that we’re powerless to stop it. (Spoiler alert: We’re not.)

By the way, I found out that a recent report says Verizon paid zero federal income tax from 2008-2010, and actually got almost a billion dollars in rebates from taxpayers. So they definitely shouldn't be nickel and diming us.

As a Verizon customer, I've started a new petition demanding that the phone company drop the fee for paying bills online. I'd be grateful if you signed it. You can click here to add your name. [Bear in mind, again, that Verizon has already rescinded the payment fee. -- Ed.]

We can win this. And, if we do, we’ll save a lot of money for millions of people, many of whom are like me - not exactly swimming in a billion dollars of rebates.

But we’ll also prove again that times are changing. People like us have real power when we organize together! Lots of people will see this petition, and maybe some of them will start their own, realizing that they can change something in their own community.

First things first, though. Let’s stop Verizon from charging us a fee to send them money. Click here to sign my petition.

Thanks! And happy new year!

- Molly Katchpole

As it happens, I'm not a Verizon customer, even though Verizon is my local phone company. I'm not a Verizon wireless customer either, simply because when I finally had to get a cell phone to maintain contact with my declining mother a thousand miles away, I picked a provider more or less blindly, and it was someone else. However, in the years when I was taking care of my mother's bills as well as my own, I came to depend heavily on online bill-paying, which was actually a godsend. Nowadays I probably pay 98 percent of my bills that way.

Which of course, multiplied by all those millions of other online billpayers, has contributed so much to the financial crisis of the Postal Service. I mean, with two sets of bills to pay by mail I used to feel as if I were buying first-class stamps by the truckload. Now that the USPS is out of the billpaying picture for so many of us, the people who collect our money are now in a position to soak us.

They don't even bother trying to pretend that they're just making up for costs incurred in processing these newfangled payments. As we all know, there aren't any such costs -- they're saving money, and I'm guessing tons of it. We're now plugging our payments directly into their computer systems. Why do we think they encouraged the transition to begin with? But as I say, they don't even pretend to have a rationale, at least not seriously. (I wouldn't be surprised if there was some lame-ass assertion to that effect buried somewhere in the original Verizon announcement. I didn't bother to dig into the innnards of it.)

No, as Molly says quite rightly in her e-mail, Verizon unveiled the plan because they thought they could get away with it. And while this time there was plenty of pushback, I wouldn't be surprised if they anticipated that, and already have Plans B through J ready to roll out when the times are ripe. Just the way the banks have been adding new sets of fees every month, based not on costs incurred or even necessarily their financial needs -- it's all based on what we can get away with.

As it happens, there's a standard economics term for this: pricing power. It's not something most of us think about, but for some time now as I've eavesdropped on my economically more literate friends and colleagues, it's a term I've heard come up a lot. And by chance Ian Welsh just wrote about it again. And as it happens, the example he uses, the case in point that set off this post, concerning the incessant price increase of Time Warner Cable, does strike me personally, because I am a TWC customer -- for cable TV, online service, and phone service. And for years now I've been watching my TWC bill soar, despite everything I've tried to do to control it, short of canceling the services, which I'm afraid I'm pretty well addicted to. The result is a love-hate relationship with the company -- they actually provide some pretty good services, which I rely on heavily, and yet I always feel that their only interest in me is how much more money they can squeeze out of me each month.

Because what am I going to do, cancel my cable (remember, in Manhattan we basically don't get TV reception without cable), online access, and phone service?

Anyway, here's Ian's take.
You don't get the payroll tax "cut"

2011 December 27

by Ian Welsh

There has been much ballyhoo about how there is a payroll tax cut and that an extra $40 per paycheck (every two week) will make a big difference.
Sure, if you get to keep it (via Americablog):
Some rates will be significantly higher, such as a 27.4% increase to $17 from $13.34 just to receive local broadcast channels. Others will be modestly higher, such as a 9.5% increase to $69 from $63 for broadcast plus basic cable channels, or a 7.3% increase to $58.99 from $54.99 for the digital video package. Compare that with a 3.5% annual inflation rate as of October. "The cable industry maintains a near-monopoly over television services," said Doug Heller, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica advocacy group. "Their prices are completely disconnected from the real lives of their customers."

Pricing power is the ability to raise your prices beyond the inflation rate and expect that most people will pay. It occurs in monopolies and oligopolies and in necessities during crises (how much is a loaf of bread worth if you'll die without it?)

American consumers and workers, as a group, do not have pricing power and they do not have alternatives. They cannot charge more for their labor, because there is a huge surplus of workers. Because almost every major industry is an oligopoly or a local monopoly, as consumers, they cannot move from one company to another, as the companies are almost all in collusion and raising prices more or less in lockstep. There is no real competition on price in most industries (certainly not in telecom).

Until Americans have the ability to opt out, things will not get better. And tax cuts will do NOTHING. If you give money to ordinary people corporations with pricing power will take it away. If you give money to corporations or rich people, they will use it for leveraged financial plays (job destruction), offshoring or outsourcing (job destruction) or on luxury consumption like $50,000/night hotel rooms and private jets (some job creation, but destroying the quality of services you get.)

What the US needs right now is a massive tax increase on the rich and corporations. They are not spending their money usefully, and in the case of corporations are sitting on billions. In fact, every extra dollar of profit makes things worse, not better. If corps and the rich can't use money to create growth, and in fact are using it in destructive ways, you take it away and use it to create growth (assuming the Obama administration knew how to do that, which it doesn't. But theoretically, assuming competent individuals of good will in power. Yes, you can laugh hysterically now.)

If you're not accustomed to thinking in terms of pricing power, the way I'm not, now is a good time to start. It really is essential to trying to understand the world around us. Not that, in the grand scheme of things, there's much you or I can do about it. At the least, though, we can be vigilant for more schemes like this Verizon one, but I don't kid myself that we can do more than stick a finger in the dike. Still, maybe -- and I really mean maybe -- there's some value in knowing how our guts are being squeezed out of us.

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The Far Right Makes Its Case Against Willard


Whether they call themselves teabaggers, Know Nothings, Nazis or fascists, right-wing populists have historically had an uneasy alliance with the one percenters who finance-- even own-- their political parties. Long ago the Republican Party Establishment decided it was Mitt's turn and that he would be the nominee, even if it meant another McCain-like rout. Whether you buy into the theory that Rove has disposed of one Tea Party fave after another-- the pathetic Not-Romney menagerie the right put up-- you have watched the inevitable unfolding before your eyes.

Wednesday the big extreme right-wing website Red State unloaded on the Establishment's candidate. "His only contribution to the party," wrote Daniel Horowitz, "has been his five-year interminable presidential campaign, despite his insistence that he never intended to run for office again after 2008." He tries to make the case that Romneycare is the same as the hated Obamacare.
Politically speaking, if Romney were to be the nominee, how can he assure us that he will be able to effectively use Obamacare-- our biggest political weapon-- to our advantage? Even if we concede that there are some differences between Romneycare and Obamacare, are they evident enough for him to feel comfortable while attacking Obamacare?

The bottom line is that we all know he will avoid Obamacare like the plague in the general election, thereby disarming Republicans of their most potent political weapon.

Romney’s primary vice is that he fundamentally has no conservative principles. While most of the other candidates have significant and diverse flaws-- both personal and ideological-- they have fought for conservatism on some level and at some point in their career. The highest honor in the Republican Party-- the presidential nomination-- should be bequeathed to an individual who has fought in the trenches for the ideals of the party. Romney, unlike any other candidate, has produced absolutely nothing for conservatives. Romney merely served for four years as a liberal governor, while promoting policies that are antithetical to our beliefs-- with no counterbalance of conservative achievements to ameliorate his abysmal conservative record.... Has our swift growth as a movement over the past few years been only to nominate someone like this for the highest honor of our party?

Then there are the normal people, people who vote in general elections, not in Republican Party primaries, where even Mussolini might be considered too moderate these days and where candidates are supposed to name their children after characters in romance novels by Ayn Rand, not after celestial Latter Day spirit- world figures. I don't know if Tagg is a Mayan name, but part of Mormon dogma-- and Mitt is a Mormon bishop-- says that when Jesus, who came to earth as a spirit god from a distant planet, was crucified, he went to America and that the Mayan feathered serpent deity Quetzalcoatl is (wait for it) Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. This guy:

Anyway, about those normal voters who don't vote in GOP caucuses or worship ancient feathered serpents named Quetzalcoatl whom they call Jesus-- the Bain narrative that's coming more and more into the fore won't be an issue in the primary but sure will be in the general.
Rudy Johnson, a labor organizer who was laid off in 1992 by Ampad, a company run by Bain Capital under Mitt Romney, took to the press this week to condemn Romney’s business record. In an interview with ABC News, Johnson recounted the horror of downsizing at his Marion, Indiana factory.

“It was really one of the worst things I think I’ve had to deal with, because people … were at my desk crying, ‘What do I do? I don’t have a good college education… I just wanted to get to retirement,’” Johnson said. “Families were devastated. In some cases, the husband and the wife both worked there. They lost all their income. It doesn’t get much worse than that.”

Meanwhile Willard-- and no one is suggesting he was referring to Quetzalcoatl-- was touring Iowa Wednesday when he declared that "we’re not going to kill Big Bird... but Big Bird is going to have to have advertisements." Weird, especially from the only Republican who is refusing to make his very suspect tax returns public, which would prove once and for all that he's an agent of Chinese expansion and that he's used every trick in the book to make sure his tax rate is far lower than normal Americans'.

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New Year's Eve And The Class War The Rich Are Waging Against America Is Going Very Well For Them


It's always been odd to me to see working class people vote for Republicans, a political party that would like to see their children enslaved. OK, maybe that's a little extreme... but GOP policies point, at the minimum, toward indentured servitude or serfdom for the vast majority of Americans.

Of course, it isn't only Republicans. Ben Nelson's political career has always been based on class war in favor of the 1%. He's not only one of the richest members of Congress (2008 net worth was over $12 million), he remains an unswerving warrior for the corporations that have handed him a life of Riley, despite the consequences for the useful idiots in his home state who vote for him. Nelson has a "D" next to his name, but his patterns-- and, to a large extent, his voting record-- are pure GOP. Many Nebraskans don't know how lucky they are that he's finally leaving, even if the net result is to just encourage Democrats in the state to build up a pathetically weak bench and force them to reach out to their neighbors and explain that the Fox explanation for the difference between progressives and reactionaries is, at the very least, inadequate.

And we don't even get into discussions of Tiffany's revolving credit, Jon Huntsman's billionaire dad or Mitt Romney's ass-backwards remarks about Marie Antoinette yesterday to show how joined at the hip the party is to the plutocracy. This week at AlterNet Sarah Jaffe singled out 10 ultra-rich congresspeople who 'represent' some of the most financially screwed districts. "The hard times that most Americans continue to experience," she writes, "don't seem to be making an impact on their representatives in Washington."
Now a new report might shed some light on why. According to a Washington Post story this week, “Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled, according to the analysis of financial disclosures, from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home equity.”

Members of Congress have only been getting richer over the last 25 years.

“Over the same period,” the Post continued, “the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500."

Unfortunately, though understandably, Jaffe concentrates almost exclusively on Republicans, including just one Democrat, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), in her gaggle of perps.
1. Rep. Mike Kelly, Republican, Pennsylvania District 3

The Post quoted Kelly, who represents a working-class Western Pennsylvania district, as saying, “Let’s stop railing against the really wealthy because I got to tell you something, as a guy who has had to pay his own way his whole life, I am greatly offended by the idea that somehow someone in Washington knows how to spend my money better than I do.”

But Kelly's idea of paying his own way includes inheriting a car dealership, marrying a wealthy oil heiress, and making some money from the government bailout of the auto industry. As a car dealer, he also profited from the government's “Cash for Clunkers” program. In 2010, he was the 22nd richest member of Congress, with an average net worth of $34,612,518.

Meanwhile, 16 percent of the people in his district-- and a whopping 46 percent of its African-American population-- live in poverty. 33,403 children, or 24 percent, are poor, and 9.2 percent of the adults are unemployed. The household median wage is a mere $42,639-- almost $8,000 less than the national average-- and 9 percent make less than $10,000 a year. Only 1.5 percent make over $200,000 a year, and nearly 14 percent used Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (commonly known as SNAP or food stamps) in the past year.

2. Rep. Diane Lynn Black, Republican, Tennessee District 6

Black was elected to Congress as part of the Tea Party class in 2010, from a mostly suburban and rural area east of Nashville, and is the 25th richest member of Congress, with an average net worth, according to the Post, of $31,272,522. Her husband is CEO of a company called Aegis Sciences Corp., which according to its Web site “was founded as a sports anti-doping laboratory at Vanderbilt University” and “has evolved into a full service forensic sciences company providing toxicology and consulting services.”

Despite the fact that 16 percent of her constituents live in poverty, including 23 percent of the children and a full 39 percent of Latino residents, Black voted against the payroll tax cut and unemployment extension. (Her district also has 11.1 percent unemployment.) The median income for a household is $43,712 a year, and 8.1 percent make under $10,000 a year, with 15.2 percent needing food stamps to help feed their families.

3. Rep. Jim Renacci, Republican, Ohio District 16

Jim Renacci was also elected to Congress in 2010, and with his average net worth of $42,060,709, became the 20th richest lawmaker. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, his fortune comes from nursing homes, real estate investments, car and motorcycle dealerships, a bar and grill, an arena football team and a minor-league baseball team. The Plain Dealer also reported that he sold 40 cars worth $754,167 under the Cash for Clunkers program, and that he had to pay $1.3 million in back taxes in 2006 to make up for misreporting on his 2000 form.

Meanwhile, in Renacci's district, unemployment is 11 percent, 83,518 people (or 13 percent) live in poverty, which includes 22 percent of the children and 39 percent of African Americans. Only 2.2 percent make over $200,000 a year, while 6.5 percent make less than $10,000 a year and the median household income is around $46,000.

4. Rep. Kenny Marchant, Republican, Texas District 24

Marchant was a close ally of then-Texas governor George W. Bush, and according to the Sunlight Foundation has the fifth-largest holdings in oil companies among members of Congress. The 17th richest Congressperson in 2010 is a member of the Tea Party Caucus and has an average net worth of $49,340,275. Marchant is a real estate developer who owns a home construction company.

Marchant's district is fairly well-off, with a median income of $57,031 a year, but 20 percent of its children still live in poverty as does 23 percent of its Latino population.

5. Sen. James E. Risch, Republican, Idaho

Risch was elected to replace the disgraced Senator Larry Craig (who was arrested for soliciting in an airport bathroom). He's the 16th richest member of Congress, with an average net worth of $54,088,026. A longtime politician and former Idaho governor, Risch apparently came to his wealth through his time as a lawyer. According to the Spokesman-Review, “Risch is well-known in Idaho as a self-made millionaire who built a fortune as one of the state’s most successful trial lawyers while also building a political career as a longtime state senator from Boise.”

Meanwhile, back in Idaho, 15.7 percent of the population are living in poverty, including 80,316 children. Thirty-two percent of the state's Native American population also fall beneath the poverty line. The median household income is only $43,490, and only 1.8 percent make more than $200,000. Ten percent of Idaho's civilian labor force is unemployed, and 12.5 percent were on food stamps at some point in the last year.

6. Sen. Bob Corker, Republican, Tennessee

Corker is the largest landowner in Hamilton County, Tennessee. He was accused, when mayor of Chattanooga, of illegally using his position to push through a land deal between one of his companies and Wal-Mart. The 15th richest congressman, Corker's average net worth in 2010 was $59,550,022, according to the Post. And he's a fan of the Bush tax cuts, which unsurprisingly keep his own taxes low.

Corker's constituents in Tennessee have a median wage just over $40,000 a year, and 17.7 percent of them are below the federal poverty line. Twenty-six percent of Tennessee's children, 29 percent of its African-American population, 34 percent of its Latinos and 36 percent of its Native American residents live in poverty, while 11.3 percent are unemployed and a full 17 percent used SNAP benefits to get through the last year.

7. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Democrat, West Virginia

Yes, he's one of those Rockefellers. He's a great-grandson of the famed John D. Rockefeller, the first Democrat in a Republican family, and often a fairly progressive voice on economic issues. He offered a public health insurance option amendment to the Senate's version of the healthcare reform bill (it failed) and co-authored the CHIP program, which gives low-income children health insurance.

Still, the fact remains that Rockefeller is incredibly wealthy. The 10th richest member of Congress in 2010, his average net worth was $99,057,011 according to the Post. Meanwhile, his constituents are the poorest on this list-- 18.1 percent of West Virginians live in poverty, and the median household income in his state is $38,218. Just 1.4 percent make over $200,000, and 15.4 percent have used food stamps to get by this year. 8.9 percent of West Virginians are unemployed.

8. Rep. Vernon Buchanan, Republican, Florida, District 13

Buchanan, the eighth richest member of Congress in 2010 with a net worth somewhere around $136,152,641, was the founder of American Speedy Printing Centers and also got rich selling cars. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported in 2006 that Buchanan “uses offshore reinsurance companies in Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands to reduce taxes on extended warranties sold by his auto dealerships,” which, it pointed out, is neither illegal nor uncommon, but is controversial and provoked a defensive statement from the then-candidate that he had always paid his taxes, “But I don't think anyone should pay more taxes than they owe."

Buchanan's district has seen poverty rates increase since 2007, with 15 percent now under the poverty line and 13.7 percent unemployed. Nine percent have used food stamp benefits in the past year, and 6.1 percent are making less than $10,000 a year.

9. Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican, Texas District 10

McCaul is married to the daughter of Clear Channel Communications' chairman and was the second richest member of Congress in 2010, clocking in with an average net worth of $380,411,527. In addition to voting against the payroll tax cut, McCaul voted to cut off mortgage modification aid for underwater borrowers under the Home Affordable Modification Program and echoed the same old claim that the wealthy are “job creators.”

But back at home in Texas, plenty of McCaul's constituents are still having a rough time: 7.3 percent of them are unemployed, and the poverty rate has increased since 2007, with 13 percent of the population and 18 percent of children living below the poverty line. Nearly half his district's poor (65,142 out of 128,357) are Latino.

10. Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican, California District 49

“In Mr. Issa’s case, it is sometimes difficult to separate the business of Congress from the business of Darrell Issa.”

Those were the words of Eric Lichtblau, writing in the New York Times this August about the activities of the man the Washington Post calls the richest in Congress. According to the Post, he has an average net worth of $448,125,017, and Lichtblau noted that unlike many other wealthy members of Congress (including Rockefeller and Sen. John Kerry), Issa takes a direct hand in running his outside business.

In Issa's Southern California district, 14 percent of the people and 21 percent of the children are living below the poverty line. 13.8 percent are unemployed, and 5.1 percent used food stamps in the past year. Median household income is relatively high-- $57,399-- but 5 percent still make less than 10K. While Issa has been good at bringing home projects that enhance his private wealth, it seems that many of his constituents are not feeling the benefits.

Lichtblau wrote, “As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.”

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The Noah Diaries 2011 (12): Obama's real death panel -- the death of bin Laden


Crazed Repugs don't know how to react. Plus: Mel Gibson learns a better way to communicate, and more bin Laden craziness

by Noah

5/2/11 -- Obama's real death panel -- the death of bin Laden

Coincidentally, Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden were both pronounced dead on May 1st -- Hitler in 1945, bin Laden in 2011. The most interesting thing to me, however, is how the two deaths were received here in the U.S. In 1945, if any prominent Republicans such as Prescott Bush regretted Hitler's death, they kept silent, at least in public. Hitler's death was viewed, at least outwardly, in terms of a victory, a good thing, good riddance to one of the most evil men in history. Party lines did not come into play.

Not so with bin Laden. Instead, the death is being viewed by some in purely political terms. It has made Republicans anxious. You could all but hear a scream of "Oh shit!" coming from the RNC headquarters. Republican media slaves are squirming and fidgeting out loud. They have lost their bogeyman, a cudgel they liked to use on President Obama to convince the gullible that he's soft on terror and an appeaser. Obama issued the order and chose the strategy to get bin Laden. It is apparently more than Republicans can bear.

Cases in point: In a state of frenzied denial, Emily Miller, a senior editor at the Washington Times, the favorite newspaper of the Bush family, has demanded via Twitter "proof" that bin Laden is dead. It's a case of "He can't be dead -- how will we continue to paint Obama as weak on terror?"

J. Michael Waller, writing on Andrew Breitbart's Big Peace site, is pushing the idea that bin Laden actually may still be alive. "For us Doubting Thomases out there, we need to see in order to believe."

Oh, J. Michael, you're out there, all right. To Republicans, the death of bin Laden is either a hoax like (as über-loon Ben Stein would say) global warming or the health-care crisis, or it's something to be used to once again cast doubt upon President Obama. It's a case of "there's no oil loose in the Gulf of Mexico" or "Evolution is just a theory" all over. Osama bin Laden's death is just a "theory."

Republicans are just always uncomfortable with the truth. It gets in the way of their bigotries and agendas. They seem impervious to facts. Sen. Lindsey "Mr. Rogers" Graham is among those who say they want proof that bin Laden is dead. Like all of the Doubting Thomases, Graham has, in questioning the president, also questioned the integrity of our entire military and the intelligence people who witnessed the operation. Most of all he is questioning the integrity of the Navy Seals who accomplished the task.

So much for Republicans supporting the troops. I'd like to think they actually believe the crapspews that exit their mouths, but no, lying is just their life's blood. You can almost have more respect for thugs who believe that 72 virgins await them after death, because they ain't lyin'; they believe it. FOX does it for its own dishonest, twisted agenda. Which is worse? You decide.

What's left for Republicans? Don Larsen never pitched that perfect game in the '56 Series? There's no proof that Lincoln freed the slaves? Oh, they'd like that one a lot.

Did it really happen? Anyone can fake a baseball card.

It hasn't taken 10 hours since bin Laden's death was announced for us to see just how full-blown the Republican psychosis really is. They can't stand that this has happened on the watch of the man they've devoted their entire beings to hating. They're demanding to see a death certificate.

5/4/11 -- The Republican response to the death of bin Laden is evolving

Now the politicization is complete. Bush deserves the credit. Says Donald Rumsfeld via Facebook:

"All of this was made possible by the relentless, sustained pressure on al Qaeda that the Bush administration initiated after 9/11."

Yeah, relentless, sustained pressure like when Bushie let bin Laden go after he had him boxed in at Tora Bora. Gotta preserve a bogeyman. He'll be useful! There's actually a bit of an admission in Rumsfeld's statement. Bush, it appears, only put pressure on bin Laden "after 9/11," even with the warnings from the Clinton administration and the famous memo of 8/5.

Here's House Majority Leader Eric Cancer: "I commend President Obama, who has followed the vigilance of President Bush in bringing bin Laden to justice."

And how about former Bush chief of staff Andy Card? "Bush made sure everything was in place so that President Obama could have an opportunity to get Osama bin Laden."

How about the teabags? Tea Party Nation leader Judson Phillips has gotten his total freak on, claiming, "The death of Osama bin Laden happened in spite of President Obama" -- and then he criticized the president for announcing the breaking news during Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice TV show! He also said Obama only killed bin Laden to help his reelection campaign. Yep, it's all just politics to the Repugs.

This will go on and on. FOX will be saying that Bush got him, just like they now say that there were no terror attacks on Bush's watch. They also did one of their standard conflation moves, running a header that read "OBAMA BIN LADEN DEAD." Meanwhile over at MSNBC one of its house righties, Norah O'Donnell, announced that President Obama had been shot and killed. Wishful thinking?

Confusion at FOX, or a bit of wishful thinking? You decide.

Personally, I would have preferred that bin Laden have a slow and excruciatingly painful death, but at least he's dead and food for the sea worms. This could have been done 10 years ago, but it's done now. To the Republicans who insist on still exploiting bin Laden for their own agenda and are demanding proof that he's dead, I say, "That that can be arranged." Repugs, the solution to your problem involves a cinderblock, some rope and a trip to the Arabian Sea, where you can then see for yourselves.

I will close this entry with this clip.

5/6/11 -- Mel Gibson's new movie, The Beaver, opens today

In the movie, In the movie, the hateful nutball actor plays a guy who communicates best when he does so using a hand puppet-beaver. Maybe Gibson should use the beaver puppet to speak for him in his off-screen life as well. That way he could always blame the beaver for the nasty things he says and does.

I would like to see this same approach adopted by all manner of politicians. I'd love seeing John Boehner communicating through a hand puppet! Imagine Eric Cancer speaking through a ventriloquist's dummy. You'd hardly be able to tell which was which. Ditto Mitch McConnell. He has the chin for it. This could really take hold in Washington. They're all puppets anyway.

5/7/11 -- The crackpot party was really into that "Bin Laden Dead or Alive" thing -- until he's finally killed, when they object!

The madness deepens. The evidence grows, and grows. Is this the ultimate case of "whatever Obama's for, I'm against it"?

Glenn Beck says President Obama's visit to the WTC to honor bin Laden's victims and visit with their families is "disgusting," while Jabba the Limbaugh says Obama should apologize for taking so long to achieve success in the matter. Hmmm, Obama has been in charge for two years. Bushie was in charge for eight.

Now the Republicans call Obama a murderer for sending the Seals after bin Laden. I thought the murderer was the guy the Seals got. I coulda sworn! Will we now see Republicans wearing bin Laden T-shirts like far lefties once wore Che Guevara shirts? Will Republikook college students now have bin Laden posters on the walls of their dorm rooms? The Republican Party, always mentally off, has lost it completely -- cheered on by the out-on-a-day-pass folks at FOX (Freaks On Xstasy), Politico, and the Washington Times.

This Repug Krazy stuff isn't new, it just keeps getting more bizarre. At the debate in South Carolina on the 5th, the audience even cheered Ron Paul's idea of legalizing heroin. I support that, but only if it's regulated, like in Britain. It's sure getting surreal if Republicans start sharing my views! But of course Republicans don't want any stinkin' regulation. The freaks in SC just want their streets flooded with heroin. Maybe Republicans see a golden opportunity for a fast-food-type chain called Smak-Hut or Smack-o-belle. Over One Billion Dime Bags Sold.

Want more evidence? The few so-called sane Republicans hold a torch for Romney the Dog Torturer, the godfather of "Obamacare," but since President Obama took more than a page from Romney on health-care reform, health care is now a pact with the devil. As with the killing of Osama bin Laden, the problem for the crazy party isn't what but who, and don't think the color of his skin doesn't have anything to do with it.

As I think about it, I guess the utterances of Repugs on the bin Laden matter shouldn't come as a complete surprise since the Republican philosophy is based on oppression, whether of people, animals, or the very land we walk on. Whereas being a Democrat means joining a loose conglomeration of folks with different priorities, such as rights of gays, rights of women, workers, environmental issues, etc. Being a Repug means joining a religion and adhering to a strict code. In this way it's actually much like joining Al Qaeda. The basis of both is a nihilistic, hate-motivated, fear-based fundamentalist religion with a fear of "others," and a prominent fear of anything to do with sex. Is it any wonder that so many Republicans are now defending bin Laden?

History in the making:
Selections from THE NOAH DIARIES 2011

Yesterday: (11) Birther nonsense is all about dehumanization: FOX's birther "experts" debate, nutters rage over Obama's choice of church, Big Bad Gov't except . . . , Repugs & Ayn Rand (4/27-29/11)
Tomorrow: (13) A rapper in the Obama White House? Oh, horror! Plus: What liberal media?, SD campaign in war on women, Ryan sinking Repugs?, FCC shill goes on Comcast payroll officially, and more (5/10-12/11)


And don't forget 2010's Year in Review series and 2009's "12 Days of Christmas Scorn"!

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Demography Tonight: NYC isn't the whole country, but still, "Isabella" and "Jayden"?


Whereas Britney, Courtney, Bentley, and Otto
are either the least liked or the most exclusive

by Ken

Unbeknownst to me until I read today's DNAinfo report on the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene's newly released report on the results for 2010, it was only in October of this year that the department released the 2009 results.

And on the main point, the findings are eerily consistent: The No. 1 baby name in New York City for these two years running were Isabella for girls and, yes, Jayden for boys.

Isabella, as DNAinfo's Della Hasselle reported in October, had made a comeback in 2009. "The most recent tally of birth certificates indicates that Isabella, the top name in 2007, came back to triumph over Sophia." She notes that Jayden was a repeat winner for 2009.

Here are the numbers for 2010:

Among the girls, as DNAinfo's Ben Fractenberg reports (and as you can see for yourself): "Nine of the top ten names for girls were holdovers from last year, with Chloe pushing Ashley off the list." Poor Ashley! (Best keep an eye on that Chloe.) Among the boys, Ben notes, "Jacob and Joseph made it back into the top ten after falling out in 2009. Michael, which was the most popular name from the 1980s through early 2000s, fell from fourth place in 2009 to seventh in 2010."

"Some of the least popular names for boys," Ben adds, "included Bentley and Otto. Britney and Courtney were lowest on the list for girls."

At the time of the release of the 2009 data, the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene press release stressed the role of ethnicity in baby-naming:
Preferences vary broadly across racial and ethnic groups. Isabella was the most popular female name for Hispanic families, while Madison remained a favorite with black parents. Sophia, the top pick for Asian girls in 2007 and 2008, retained the crown in 2009. Olivia held the lead among white families. Among boys, most Hispanic and black families again opted for the ever-popular Jayden, while Asian families stuck with Ryan and white families favored Michael.
(For more detailed information, including breakdowns and breakouts, readers were directed to a Vital Statistics links page.)

The department's release for the 2009 data also noted the role of pop Culture --
New Yorkers continue to take cues from movie, music, sports and fashion icons as they search for the perfect name. Last year’s big draws included actresses Scarlett and Penelope (tied at #104), singers Usher (#158) and Rihanna (#107), athletes Peyton (#171) and Brady (#158), model Iman (#147) and fashion designers Chanel (#139) and Armani (#150). Zahara (#145) and Jayden (#1) – names chosen by celebrity parents Angelina Jolie and Will Smith – were also popular.
and judged biblical names "an even bigger source of inspiration" --
Holy names for girls included Esther (#21) and Genesis (#43), while Joshua (#8), Jacob (#12), Noah (#30) and Jeremiah (#34) were often bestowed upon boys.
Della Hasselle added in her DNAinfo report: "Jayden is closely related to Jaden, the name of Will Smith’s son, and “Bella” is a common nickname for Isabella, the girlfriend of vampire Edward Cullen in the Twilight series."

As for 2010, Ben Fractenberg notes the influence of "area sports stars" ("Eli came in at number 49 last year and Carmelo snuck in at 168") and points out: "One of city's boroughs was also an inspiration with Brooklyn making it in at number 138." I"m guessing that Eli, Carmelo, and Brooklyn may have been less popular choices in other areas.