Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday night laundry

'Moving the center to the left'

Article by David Sirota here.

Just as Republican congressmen moved President Bush to the right, so Washington's Democrats are now pushing Obama to the left.

When they write their retrospectives about the era that ended with the 2008 election, economic historians will undoubtedly credit George W. Bush with almost single-handedly moving the country to embrace extremist conservatism. It’s a simple storyline: Cowboy president drives bewildered American herd over laissez-faire cliff. What such reductionism will ignore, though, is what we must remember now: namely, that Congress also played a decisive role in the stampede.

As former House Republican leader Tom DeLay said, he and his colleagues deliberately started “every policy initiative from as far to the political right” as possible, so as to shift “the center further to the right.” The formula emulated Franklin Roosevelt’s fabled admonishment to allies: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”

With Bush, congressional Republicans knew they had an ideological comrade in the White House. But they also knew he was confined by the (minimally) moderating desire for reelection and the (even more minimally) moderating limits of his national office. So, to reach their goals, conservatives had to compel their presidential friend to do what they wanted -- and compel him they did. When Bush’s tax cuts and deregulatory schemes hit the Capitol, Republicans inevitably expanded them to fully achieve the right’s objectives.

Of course, that triumph was the country’s loss, as Republican policies thrust the political center off a conservative precipice and America into an economic freefall. And as we plummet, we are desperately groping for a lifeline.

If we are lucky and we end up snagging one that saves us -- a huge if -- it will be one that is strong enough to snap the center back from the conservative brink. This super-durable bungee cord must have the force of law, meaning it will be woven by Democratic legislators now exerting as much pressure on President Obama's left as congressional Republicans focused on President Bush’s right.

When, for instance, Obama hedged on his promise to revoke $226 billion worth of Bush’s upper-income tax cuts, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, pushed him to fulfill the pledge and put the money into programs that better guarantee job creation.

When Obama initially offered up a stimulus bill filled with discredited business tax breaks, Democratic senators forced him to back off. Reps. David Obey, D-Wis., and Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., then argued that the president’s proposed infrastructure investments were too small to boost the economy. That led House Democrats to increase Obama’s spending targets.

As stimulus negotiations continued, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., tried to add provisions letting courts renegotiate banks’ primary-residence mortgages so as to prevent more foreclosures. It’s a common-sense proposal: Judges already have the power to renegotiate vacation-home mortgages, and the New York Federal Reserve Bank says existing bankruptcy laws are exacerbating the foreclosure crisis. While Obama opposed the initiative out of fear that banking industry opposition might slow the underlying stimulus bill, Conyers’ effort ultimately made the president commit to supporting the reforms in future legislation.

Then there was the progressive reaction to Obama’s demand for more financial bailout money. Turning a routine committee hearing into a modern-day incarnation of the Great Depression’s Pecora Commission, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., upbraided a Federal Reserve official for refusing to disclose which banks are receiving taxpayer dollars. The spectacle was one of many that whipped the House into passing a bill attaching strings to the funds. Obama responded by committing to enact some of the restrictions by fiat.

At once complementary and adversarial, this intragovernmental squabbling probably makes the conflict-averse Obama uncomfortable. But the “make him do it” dynamic could finally bring the center of Washington’s political debate closer to the progressive center of American public opinion. Even more important, it is precisely what will help the new president avert an economic disaster.

Waxing nasty, Steve Soto at The Left Coaster says this here.

[A]ll Obama can do is talk about putting politics behind us and getting work done. This guy still doesn't understand that he is dealing with an entire GOP House caucus and about 40 GOP senators who have no interest in working with him at all the next two years.

Obama needs to play hardball with the GOP and make them respect and fear him. He's got a 70% approval rating and is wasting it. His political strategy is based on working with a group in the House that wants nothing to do with him, and should be ignored and demonized. And Senate Republicans are about to own him while he stupidly appeals to a bipartisanship that doesn't exist in 40 of them.

Forget them and lead, dammit. You won the damn election and its about time you stopped being a pussy and started acting like a guy who won 350 electoral votes. Remember that George W. Bush acted like a guy who had 350 electoral votes, when in fact he never had a mandate. Obama actually has one and is squandering it trying to work with people who should be called out every day for what they are.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Today we had our yearly performance reviews at work. I'd been sitting on pins and needles, as I always do. But I got a perfect score and positive comments. Was relieved. Also got a small raise and bonus. I'm satisfied considering the condition the economy is in. They may raise the raises in July. They're taking a wait-and-see approach. My bonus was less than half of what I got last year. We all have to suffer for George Bush's governance (or lack thereof). I hope Obama "claws back" those billions in bonuses for the greedy, inept, irresponsible and immoral bankers we're bailing out with taxpayers' money.

We have to end this culture of rapacious greed and social irresponsibility that destroys our economy and puts us all at peril. The (dare I say) liberal notion that private enterprise can do no wrong, would never do anything that could hurt itself, that it can regulate itself based strictly on self-interest, is false. Look at what's happened. The banks are failing. This is not the first time this has happened.

Over the past eight years, the Bush administration did everything they could do to dismantle FDR's reforms, and the only thing they're going to be famous for (besides leading the country into a disastrous, unprovoked war) is showing that FDR was right.

When I got home from work tonight, I had a voice message from the countertop people. They want to come and fix the sink on Tuesday. My supervisor will be out on Tuesday, so it's not a good day. I'll have to call them back on Monday and see about a different date.

Was back at the gym tonight, then the grocery store, then Starbuck's for a tea. Bought Nathan's hot dogs on sale and will make Beanie Weenies. Also bought some frozen crab cakes. Weighed five pounds less than I did on Wednesday.

Will not stay up so late tonight and get up earlier tomorrow to work on a project.

Now when I come home from work and open the door, the cats, led by Lucky, rush out into the hallway (I don't know why -- because it's now dark inside the apartment at that hour?). This is a relatively new thing. In any case, Lucky especially likes to luxuriate in the hall carpet. (The floors in the apartment are all tiled.) I'm just afraid the cats will get fleas, since we have a lot of dog owners in the building. (Bootsy once got a flea and I had to buy some stuff to kill it.)

I've had cats with fleas before when I used to let them go outside when I had a yard. I had fleas jumping up on my legs, and I'd have to fumigate the carpets with flea-killer. I'm glad this place is tiled. That's what I wanted. No more carpets to accommodate fleas and trap dirt and allergens.

Time to check corporate greed: No more houses in the Hamptons for you!

Listen to Jonathan Alter. Recoup the billions in bonuses.

I have to say, I'm glad it's coming down to this. I've thought for years that the executive pay scale in the U.S. (in contrast to that in other so-called civilized countries) was way out of line.

Thursday night

No funny dreams today.

Tomorrow I F, T G. Saturday should be normal and I hope to be able to work on a project. I'd like to take Bootsy to the vet for a check-up but I'll try to do that next Saturday. Meanwhile I've been using some of Lucy's medicine in his ears.

Home Depot told me last Friday that they would call me this past Monday to go over the electrician's bill. I haven't heard a word from them all week. They also have to send somebody back here to fix the loose sink.

'The House Bill Was Crap'

From Deacon Blues at Left Coaster here.

Before too much energy gets spent being angry at House Republicans for voting en masse against the economic recovery package, let me get a few things off my chest:

1. This wasn't Barack Obama's bill, but rather a piece of wish-list crap from David Obey. It had pork, way too little infrastructure spending, and wasn't worth the paper it was written on.

2. Of course the GOP voted against it; this is Stage One. They knew the bill would go to the Senate, and then back to conference committee. They were trying to send a message to the White House: we won't vote for crap.

3. Obama isn't going to overreact at this stage, because this is still way early in the game, and he knows he'll need their votes later on on other issues, and they will need him later on. They'll be doing a lot of business together, so why should he waste any energy getting mad at them this early for not voting for Obey's "kitchen sink" approach?

4. Even GOP members of the House wanted creative things like billions for vouchers for consumers to buy American cars, and yet they were shut out by Obey, who instead used this opportunity to put pork and his off-the-shelf wish list items in this bill instead of real economic stimulus.

5. The one downside for the GOP from today's vote is that Obama has no need to be bound anymore to a $250 billion figure for tax cuts, and can now replace some of those with better investments.

6. Obey's bill was a joke when it came to infrastructure spending, where he only allocated $43 billion in direct spending on community needs. If we are going to do this right, the final package should have about $150 billion in tax cuts, $200 billion in aid to the states, at least $100 billion in assistance for troubled homeowners and the unemployed, and at least $400 billion for infrastructure including a good chuck for energy supply systems and green energy sources instead of the pitiful $32 billion he had in direct energy-related infrastructure spending. Anything less than this for infrastructure is a fraud.

There will be a better bill, with better choices and better balance, and it will get GOP support at the back end of this process. But there was no reason whatsoever for any GOP House member to alienate their red district constituents to vote for a sham and a liberal wish list. And Nancy Pelosi has no one to blame but herself for letting Obey run loose in the china shop to produce utter crap.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama lets rip at banks over executive pay

Guardian story here.

President Barack Obama let rip at troubled Wall Street banks yesterday for paying out billions of dollars in bonuses to staff, accusing them of displaying "the height of irresponsibility" and of letting down the American people.

In a sign that the new administration intends to take a far tougher line on financial excess than the Bush regime, Obama expressed outrage that banks spent $18.4bn (£12.8bn) on bonuses last year despite receiving emergency bail-out funds from taxpayers to avert bankruptcy.

"That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful" said Obama after a meeting his new treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner. "Part of what we're going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline, show some sense of responsibility."

Figures published by New York state's comptroller general on Wednesday showed that although bonuses fell by 44% the total payout on Wall Street was still the sixth largest ever, with bankers typically receiving $112,000 each.

"They have to start acting in a more responsible fashion if we are going to get this economy moving again," Obama said. "There will be a time for them to make profits and there will be a time for them to get bonuses. Now is not that time."

He singled out Citigroup for criticism, attacking the bank for trying to buy a $50m executive jet after receiving $45bn in rescue money from the Treasury's troubled asset relief program (Tarp).

"Secretary Geithner has already had to pull back one institution that was going ahead with a multimillion-dollar jet purchase at a time when it was receiving Tarp money. We should not have to do that."

He added: "The American people understand that we've got a big hole we've got to dig our way out of. But they don't like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they're being asked to fill it up."

Banks argue that their staff get relatively small basic salaries and bonuses are essential in retaining key talent. But critics say this explanation is hard to swallow after a year of large-scale layoffs in the financial industry, leaving precious few opportunities for bankers to seek better compensation at rival firms.

Goldman Sachs yesterday estimated that it could cost as much as $4tn to restore the financial industry to health. The sum would be needed to buy up bad assets if the US treasury presses ahead with plans to create a "bad bank" to cleanse balance sheets by swallowing up toxic financial instruments.

Joan Walsh: 'Battling Dick Armey'

Column here.

The most charitable explanation I can come up with for former GOP Rep. Dick Armey's wild retro outburst at me on Wednesday's "Hardball" is that he knows I'm a huge "Mad Men" fan, and wanted to throw me back into the sad straitened sex roles of the early 1960s, but without the afternoon cocktails or Joan Holloway's hot dresses.

Apparently I've been lucky. I've never before had a man try to win an argument -- public or private -- by saying "I am so damn glad that you could never be my wife," as Armey famously did, when he ran out of arguments about President Obama's recovery bill. But I should have known that the guy best known for calling Barney Frank "Barney Fag" would throw me a strange curveball. As far as I can tell, it flew around and hit Armey in the face. Just like the Rush Limbaugh insults we were supposed to be debating, it showed the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the right-wing political project in 2009. Judging from my e-mail and blogosphere reaction, Armey's attack on me was as effective as the House Republicans voting unanimously against the stimulus bill that passed the House overwhelmingly without them. (Glenn Greenwald links Armey's crazy assault with his impotent former House minions' latest moves very well, here.) . . .

See her column here also (includes videos).

Hey there

'Joan Walsh: No plans to marry Dick Armey'

From Salon's War Room here.

Former Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas) still needs some lessons in etiquette.

Armey, who once referred to fellow Rep. Barney Frank as "Barney Fag," lost his temper during an appearance with Salon editor in chief Joan Walsh on MSNBC's Hardball Wednesday, and lashed out, saying:

I am so damn glad that you could never be my wife, 'cause I surely wouldn't have to listen to that prattle from you every day.

Joan responded, "Well, that makes two of us." She'll have more to say in her blog later on. Video of the appearance is below; the exchange comes about 9:42 in. [See my post below.] . . .

I'm sorry but Dick Armey comes across as a megalomaniacal sociopath.

Joan Walsh on Hardball with ('political hack') Dick Armey

Administration vows bailout overhaul

This is reassuring. Full story here.

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is increasing transparency in the government's controversial $700 billion financial rescue program and said Wednesday that more reforms are in the works.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is promising an even bigger overhaul of the program and said such action will be announced relatively soon. . . .

The program has come under heavy attack for how it was operated during the Bush administration. Critics say the decisions were veiled in too much secrecy and the former administration did not impose enough restrictions to make sure banks used the billions of dollars they were receiving to increase lending. . . .

Tighter rules

In his first full day in office on Tuesday, Geithner said the new administration was tightening the rules governing how companies are selected to receive bailout support. The new rules are designed to crack down on lobbyist influence over the program and make sure political clout is not a factor in awarding rescue money.

The new rules on lobbying came in the wake of reports filed with the government showing some big banks stepped up their lobbying efforts late last year even after they received billions of dollars from the bailout program. . . .

Along with the new lobbying rules, the administration of President Barack Obama has pledged to better track lending patterns by financial institutions to ensure that they are using the government assistance to increase lending. The new administration also has sought to limit executive compensation at institutions receiving government support and prevent shareholders at those companies from benefiting at taxpayers' expense.

Related video:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday night

Tonight I was back at the gym. Feel better already. I weighed 178, so I'd gained a few pounds. Had to go back after eating a whole meat-lover's pizza for lunch yesterday. Will start watching what I eat again.

Today at work beginning at noon, they had a $5 salad bar to benefit Autism. Had a big plate of salad and some of Mom's Stroganoff for lunch. After the gym, I made giant hamburgers embedded with onion out of lean ground beef (on sale). Also cooked mixed vegetables. That will be for lunch tomorrow. I also fried up a couple of hot Italian sausages (also on sale). (Kind of cancels out the lean ground beef burgers but that's OK.)

Tonight after work I had another odd dream, but this wasn't a bad one. My mother was in this one also. I dream about her a lot. Sometimes she's nice, sometimes not. (She was bipolar later in life and always turned against me when she was in a manic state. She lived to be 59.) Today she was nice. (She's still very much alive in my mind, even though she passed away almost 24 years ago.) Lucky was in it too. The occasion was a casual wedding where the bride was in a motorized wheelchair. They were practicing before the wedding and I was sitting on the aisle. At one point the bride-to-be ran over my foot with her wheelchair when she was coming back down the aisle in a practice run. (The aisle was narrow and my foot was sticking out a couple of inches.)

At another point (after the wedding and before the reception), my mother and I were standing over a buffet table with a gold runner on it, talking, and Lucky jumped up on top of it. Since Mom and I were engaged in conversation, we didn't pay Lucky much attention and he jumped down off the table onto a chair and meowed "blah blah blah". My mother remarked how smart a cat Lucky was to do that.

(My mother, by the way, was a life-long conservative Democrat who always voted Republican in the presidential races, as does my father. My father switched to the Republican party during the Reagan years. We never talk politics. The last thing political I heard from him was when B. and I went to visit him in Homosassa last spring. He picked us up at the Tampa airport and drove us up to Homosassa. I remarked how pretty the wildflowers were in the median, and he made a wisecrack about Lady Bird Johnson beautifying the highway.)

I think exercise is a natural mood-lifter, but it's also mood-lifting to break away from that routine from time to time.

Time to take some melatonin. I see now they advertise a sleeping aid that contains melatonin, Valerian root (I take that too, later) and tryptophan (used to take that). See here and here.

Latest on stimulus package

Pay attention to what Richard Wolffe has to say.

Tuesday night

I've already taken my melatonin but I have to say this. I thought there were some strange things about the economic stimulus bill (e.g., money for family planning?). I thought this was supposed to be about creating jobs, rebuilding infrastructure, and stabilizing the economy. I don't think the Democrats should be larding this bill with their pet projects.

Meanwhile, I'm glad they're going after this guy, a big McCain supporter.

The "best people" I guess made dumb decisions and ran the company into the ground, and should be rewarded with bonuses? There's a big disconnect there.

Also see this: "The financial crisis for dummies: Why Canada is immune from a U.S.-style mortgage meltdown."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama gives interview on Arab TV

I think this is a step in the right direction.

What FDR had to say

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.
See here. If Obama wants to get things done, he has to be tough.

Obama, After Meeting With House GOP

'The Post Partisan Unity Schtick Meets Reality'

From Talk Left here.

Some are noticing this story. President Obama is meeting with Republicans today on the issue.

The question is this - is Obama posturing by holding this meeting or will he offer even more concessions (his proposal pre-conceded on a lot already)? Is this a play to the Media? If so, will it work? Or does Obama think this description was apt?

I'll wait to see what Obama does.

'Stimulus Showdown'

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday night

Don't have much time before I have to take my sleeping potion. Wrote an extensive email to my cousin Marion, the librarian.

Sadly, the Brazilian model who had blood poisoning (septicemia) and had to have her hands and feet amputated, died.

Had a nightmare during my nap after work, but will have to relate that later. Time to take sleep aids. If I write anything after this, it will probably be kooky and I'll have to delete it tomorrow. But I'll probably write something.

Here goes. I haven't had a dream this vivid in a while. It was so bad that at the end of the dream, while I was still dreaming, I said to myself, this is just a bad dream, and I woke up. (I've done this before.)

The dream centered on my mother (deceased) and a friend of hers (someone named Delores), a divorcee who lived in the house she won in her divorce settlement but which at the present time was in disrepair. There was an algae-infested swimming pool which occupied part of the interior of the house, and the water in it was apparently backed up. There was a concrete walkway across the pool that led to the kitchen, and the walkway was submerged in water a few inches and full of disgusting algae.

Delores and my mother had picked me up from work and brought me back to Delores's house. Apparently they had a few cocktails afterward and Delores was passed out in her bedroom. Meanwhile Delores's kids et al. had gone out and bought groceries for dinner, and I was expected to cook dinner. I refused to cook dinner since I refused to walk across the submerged, algae-infested walkway to the kitchen, and told them I wanted to go to a nearby bar for Happy Hour.

After they'd picked me up from work, back at the house I had changed into some thin corduroy pants and worn-out plastic shoes. I wanted to go to Happy Hour and was looking for my own pants and my black moccasins, which apparently I'd left in a bathroom or somewhere while I was changing. I couldn't remember exactly where and was searching. I was looking at my watch and wanted to get to the Happy Hour before 9:00.

Right about then, as I was trying to find my clothes, the house was invaded by Right-wing Christian Fundamentalists shooting machine guns. I thought I was going to die in gunfire. Purportedly they were invading the house because it was a biohazard. They were wielding plastic-looking weapons. They shaved the cats (including my cat, Lucky) on the muzzle (and I think on the rump also) and stuck biohazard stickers on them. The person in charge of this invasion was a white woman with short blond hair, but there was also a black woman and others, milling around.

At one point I asked the white woman whether she would mind if went into one of the bathrooms to look for my moccasins and pants, and she said yes. We weren't allowed to leave their sight. Meanwhile, Delores was still passed out in her bed.

I felt bad for Lucky since he'd been shaven and had the sticker on his face, and went over to comfort him. Then I realized I wasn't comforting Lucky but another cat, whose organs were falling out through his abdomen, where the skin was paper thin and opening up, but I didn't say anything. Then I found Lucky again and was reassuring him, and at about that time I said this has to be a bad dream and woke up.

I think one if not two of my former partners were in the dream also, and my brother too.

It was very disturbing and I was glad to wake up and for it to be over. I then got dressed and had tea at Starbuck's.

[Tues. Update: I left this pretty much as is.]

OK weekend

The condo meeting happens but once a year, and this year I was determined to go. (I think I missed it last year but had a proxy.) (Last year was an "annus horribilis," as Queen Elizabeth put it a few years ago after a bad year.)

Yesterday after my nap I did go to Starbuck's for a coffee and then to T.G.I. Friday's. I hadn't been out to eat in a while and was craving their French onion soup. I had no trouble getting a table and sat outside by the fountain, facing west as the sun was setting in shades of grey and rose. I had the soup, then the sliders appetizer (half off with a meal), then a burgundy-sauced flat-iron steak with fried onion rings. Everything was good. Took two of the sliders and most of the steak home. Then stopped back off at Starbuck's for tea.

Last night I cleaned the kitchen in anticipation of the counter people coming back in to fix the sink. I want the counter to be immaculate. Otherwise I have no motivation to keep anything immaculate. I'm pretty much a "shut-in" these days (as Stephanie Miller says) (of herself).

I stayed up way too late last night (too much coffee and tea?), got up today and did a few things, then took a nap. I made chili and "Mom's Beef Stroganoff," which I had for dinner, without noodles. Got to get back to the gym. I'm starting to fill out around the middle.

Watched some good TV tonight. Here's a "60 Minutes" segment on resveratrol. Forget about the gym. I want some of that.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Florida education funding RIP

Nobelist Krugman slams Sam Donaldson on recovery plan

'Obama Says No to Torture; Interrogators Say Yes to Obama'

Here via Firedoglake.

Interrogators are lauding President Obama for signing an executive order that will shut down secret CIA prisons and place the use of coercive interrogation techniques completely off limits.

"[The order] closes an unconscionable period in our history, in which those who knew least, professed to know most about interrogations," said Joe Navarro, a former special agent and supervisor with the FBI.

"Some die-hards on the right - who have never interrogated anyone -- are already arguing that forcing interrogations to be conducted within army field manual guidelines is a step backward and will result in 'coddling' dangerous terrorists," retired Colonel Stuart Herrington, who served for more than 30 years as a military intelligence officer, said soon after the order was signed. "This is a common, but uninformed view. Experienced, well-trained, professional interrogators know that interrogation is an art. It is a battle of wits, not muscle. It is a challenge that can be accomplished within the military guidelines without resorting to brutality."

The way interrogation works is largely misunderstood by the general public and some senior policy makers, according to Navarro, Herrington and other intelligence professionals.

"Interrogation is not like a faucet that you can turn on - and the harder you turn, the more information will pour out," explains Herrington, who conducted a classified review of detention and interrogation practices in Iraq for the U.S. Army. . . .

Getting a suspected terrorist to talk is much more subtle than what one typically sees in the movies or on TV. A new book, "How to Break A Terrorist" by Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym), provides an inside look at how interrogation can yield more information if it is done humanely. . . .

As Maddox and Alexander have proved, these are the sorts of techniques that work in the interrogation booth. Professional interrogators believe that the President's action not only returned the U.S. to high ground, they refocused U.S. intelligence operations on techniques that are effective. . . .

"The quality and quantity of intelligence we can gather will now begin to increase," said Torin Nelson, an intelligence professional who served as an interrogator with the U.S. Army and private military contractors.

To illustrate how torture can lead to poor intelligence, Nelson cites the case of Al Libi, a detainee who was tortured and, under duress, gave misinformation about a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. (Secretary Colin Powell quoted intelligence gained from Al Libi as justification to go to war with Iraq.)

Nelson, president of the Society for Professional Human Intelligence, said that he hoped we could end debate about whether or not torture works and instead work on providing interrogators with the training and resources they need to do their jobs effectively. . . .

'United States of Tara'

New show on Showtime with Toni Collette, who plays a woman with dissociative identity disorder. Review here. Saw a clip tonight on the Chelsea Lately show, which carried an interview with the screenwriter, Diablo Cody, who won an Oscar last year for "Juno" and who also used to be a stripper (and before that, a legal secretary).

When B. left, I discontinued Showtime and other channels. I rarely watched the premium channels myself. B. did, however. I do miss some of the shows that B. and I used to watch together (like "Big Love").

Joan Walsh: '"Torture is not moral, legal or effective"'

I saw her being interviewed on TV a couple of days ago and she did an excellent job. I think she comes across even better on TV than in print. (She's the editor of Salon but could use some editing herself.) I can't remember the show. Something on MSNBC. (It's not on YouTube.) Anyway, full column here. (I edit it as follows.)

I was moved Tuesday when President Obama said, "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals," that America would once again stand for human rights at home and abroad. Today he made good on that promise.

Guantánamo, that blight on our international conscience, will close. U.S. interrogators will adhere to common humane standards for questioning prisoners. Obama has ordered an interagency review of torture and detention policies over the last eight years. And he delayed the trial of Ali al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident who has been detained as an enemy combatant for five years without any charges being brought against him. . . .

"The message that we are sending the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism and we are going to do so vigilantly and we are going to do so effectively and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals," Obama said as he signed his four executive orders Thursday morning. . . .

At least 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody since 2002, and human rights groups have detailed terrible abuse and even torture that led to their deaths. . . .

This is so fundamentally un-American.

One more

More 'of Montreal'

Late night music interlude - 'of Montreal'

of Montreal -Wraith Pinned To The Mist
by kukundu

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday afternoon

Got up early for the condo meeting. Not that interesting but glad I went. Now that the president of the association keeps in touch with most (or a lot) of the unit owners via email, we pretty much know what's going on here from week to week or month to month. I did find out, however, that I'll get reimbursed for the $200 check I wrote to hire the new lawyers to get rid of the receiver. (We had to raise cash ourselves for the retainer, since the old receiver of course would not have approved the expense.) With the receiver now gone, the condominium should have a higher rating when it comes to potential buyers and owners getting financing. (Before the current credit crunch, I had been turned down for a home equity line of credit myself, solely because the building wasn't on the bank's approved list.) (My credit rating was 784.)

Also I found out that the new lawyers will be charging delinquent unit owners directly for their attorneys' fees, rather than charging the condominium association. I think we were paying something like a $7,000/month retainer to the other lawyers.

The new building manager, who's been here a year now, said that when she came on board there were something like 89 code violations--now there are 3 or 4. She's very good, and honest.

I had three (or four) doughnuts and left the minute the meeting was adjourned. Then came up the elevator and went back to bed.

The day is pretty much shot, but the weather is nice outside. I think I'll head over to Starbuck's, then have dinner up the street at T.G.I. Friday's.


Tomorrow morning is our annual condo meeting, so I have to get up for that. It's at 10:00. It'll be interesting. We recently got rid of the court-appointed receiver (long story) who had been in cahoots with the former corrupt management. Now the elected board is in sole charge of the management of the building.

Weather is getting warmer. Still, this morning I wore my leather coat and the hoodie.

Home Depot was back in touch with me today. The countertop people, who installed the sink, will be calling me about coming back and securing the sink in place so it doesn't move. Also, the acting kitchen expediter faxed me an itemization of the electrical contractor's charges. I have reason not to trust this outfit, and the Home Depot District Services Manager called to say he'll call me on Monday to go over the bill. I'm not cheap but I just don't want to get screwed. After the cabinets and countertop, the electrical work is the most expensive item.

I let Lucky back out onto the terrace today, for a while at least.

Torture, Guantanamo (must watch)

"That's what Guantanamo is, . . . a creator of terrorists."

Obama makes clear who's in charge ('I won')


From TPM

Friday, January 23, 2009

'Model Clings to Life After Losing Hands, Feet to Urinary Tract Infection'

I read about this in the elevator at work today. How horrible.

A Brazilian model whose feet and hands had to be amputated because of an infection is clinging to life at an intensive care unit in southeastern Brazil.

Mariana Bridi's condition deteriorated overnight and was changed from "serious" to "very serious" on Friday, the Espirito Santo State Health Secretariat said in a statement.

The 20-year-old beauty pageant contestant is suffering a generalized infection that forced the amputation of her hands and feet earlier this week because the flow of oxygen to her limbs was reduced. . . .

Bridi fell ill in December and doctors originally diagnosed her with kidney stones, local media said. But her condition worsened and doctors then diagnosed a urinary tract infection that spread. She was hospitalized on Jan 3.

Related: Urinary Tract Infections Common, Easy to Cure

Once she was hospitalized, doctors discovered septicemia had set into her limbs, cutting off circulation.

They were forced to amputate.

Septicemia is the presence of bacteria in the blood. It’s a serious, life-threatening infection that rapidly gets worse. It can arise from infections throughout the body, including infections in the lungs, abdomen, and urinary tract, the National Institutes of Health said on its Web site. . . .

Wall Street's culture of entitlement hard to shake

Incredible. Even Pres. Obama chimed in on this. Complete AP story here. That these people are extracting so much wealth out of the system while destroying it and causing so much suffering is astounding.

John Thain should have known the rules.

After all, when he became CEO of the New York Stock Exchange in 2004, he replaced Richard Grasso -- a man who embodied the excesses of the times and was forced out for taking a massive annual pay package of $187.5 million. Thain at the time accepted a much smaller $4 million.

But now, the Wall Street wunderkind is gaining similar notoriety. As head of Merrill Lynch, he sped up bonuses to several executives before Bank of America Corp. bought the investment bank on Jan 1. He also spent $1.2 million decorating his Manhattan office, according to media reports, as Merrill hemorrhaged money -- a decision that's invoking particular rage among Americans, including President Barack Obama. Thain left his post at Bank of America on Thursday after unexpectedly big losses at Merrill Lynch; the bonuses were a likely contributing factor in his departure.

Thain's actions exemplify how hard it is for the industry to wean itself off the hefty paychecks and spending the last decade brought -- even as financial companies now rely on taxpayer dollars to stay in business.

Last year, a clampdown by Citigroup Inc. on color copies and BlackBerrys made headlines, showing how the nation's faltering banks were having to cut back on nonessentials. But analysts say there's still a deeply ingrained culture of entitlement at financial companies. It's a mindset banks will have to work harder at changing as they come to grips with their failures, and as they face more scrutiny after accepting government help.

"You've always had this Wall Street ethic of, I'm going to push the rules as far as I can. That's been part of the culture," said R. Edward Freeman, academic director of the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics and Olsson Professor of Business Administration at University of Virginia's Darden School.

The long hours many bankers work help feed an attitude of entitlement, Freeman said.

"I've had former students talk about sleeping under their desks," he said. "This leads to this idea of, I'm entitled to being rewarded. But sometimes, that's disconnected from performance."

And, Freeman added, the government for years gave Wall Street carte blanche.

On Friday, citing the reports "about companies that have received taxpayer assistance, then going out and renovating bathrooms or offices," Obama said the lack of accountability and transparency at financial companies "have to be part and parcel of a reform package if we're going to be responsible in dealing with this economic crisis."

The reports of Thain's expenditures follow news just a few months ago that bailed-out American International Group Inc. spent about half a million dollars for executives to attend a beach retreat in California.

Wall Street employees came to expect big compensation packages as their paychecks kept ballooning year after year.

The difference between wages in finance and wages in other private sector industries was "excessively high" from the mid-1990s until 2006, according to a paper by New York University's Thomas Philippon and the University of Virginia's Ariell Reshef published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The last time the difference was similarly excessive was around 1930, they wrote -- right after the stock market crash of 1929.

Many bank CEOs and other executives gave up their bonuses late last year as the government started limiting compensation as part of its Troubled Assets Relief Program. Thain was among them, as were four other Merrill executives -- but only after Thain initially sought out a $10 million bonus, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Merrill Lynch paid Thain more than $83 million in 2007 -- making him the highest paid CEO on Wall Street that year. The firm then lost more than $37 billion over the course of 15 months, and was saved from collapse in a government-brokered buyout by Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America Corp. . . .

And Citigroup recently said it plans to tie executive pay more closely to performance. It spent $6.6 billion on total compensation and benefits in the fourth quarter of 2008 -- down 26 percent from the same quarter in 2007.

The changes were slow-moving, though, considering that the institution's problems started escalating in late 2007. For the first three quarters of the year, compensation and benefits were actually higher than in the same period a year earlier, even though Citigroup was losing money. That was before the company received a government bailout.

For all of 2008, Citigroup's spending on compensation and benefits was down 4 percent from 2007 -- although its work force shrank by a much larger 14 percent. That means the company's expenses per worker were rising as the company struggled. . . .

Managers argue that big bonuses are necessary to retain good employees . . . .

But those looking from the outside in are skeptical.

"How much does it take to retain good people? The truth is, there are an awful lot of talented unemployed people right now," Post said. "There's a mythology that there are only a precious few geniuses that can run these places." . . .

See this also ("John Thain's Top Ten Greatest Moments") from TPM. Thain was a big McCain backer, by the way.

U.S. taxpayers on the hook for obscene bonuses at Merrill Lynch before it fails

I say expunge these sociopaths from our financial system (and never let them back in). Better yet, incarcerate them. They're the biggest crooks that ever lived. (And meanwhile get us our money back!)

I have no qualms about the government taking over the banks, considering the way they've been run into the ground in private hands.

It makes no sense to pay exorbitant salaries and bonuses to people who undermine our financial system. That they then conspire to get the U.S. taxpayer to pay for it all is immoral and criminal. It's thievery.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

'"Center Right" America Opposes Torture "No Matter The Circumstances"'

Also from Talk Left, here.

Via Glenn Greenwald, WaPo must have been shocked that their slanted poll question on torture did not produce a pro-torture result:

Q. Obama has said that under his administration the United States will not use torture as part of the U.S. campaign against terrorism, no matter what the circumstance. Do you support this position not to use torture, or do you think there are cases in which the United States should consider torture against terrorism suspects?

By a wide margin -- 58-40% -- Americans say that torture should never be used, no matter the circumstances. Let's repeat that: "no matter the circumstance."

"Center Right" America has spoken, Newsweek and WaPO -- time to end your Extreme Right Wing campaign to continue the despicable Bush/Cheney torture policies.

Thursday night - Lucky rescue

Lucky fell off the terrace tonight. That's the second time it's happened. I'd been watching "30 Rock" and was cooking. Then I went to check up on him, called him, he didn't come, then went out on the terrace and called out to him and he meowed back. He was lying in the fern bed, one story below, and looked unharmed. (I live on the fifth floor and overlook the pool deck, which is on the roof of the parking garage, on the fourth floor.)

I told Lucky to hang on and immediately took the elevator down to the lobby, to the security desk, to get the key to the pool deck, since the door's locked (they're making major repairs at this time). The key the security guard gave me didn't work, but I again called out to Lucky and took the elevator back down to the lobby. The security guard couldn't find the key to the pool deck door. I was panicking but remained calm. Then they (including the former maintenance man here, who just happened to be standing at the desk) told me I could access the pool deck if I took the elevator to the third floor and walked west through the parking garage to a stairwell, and then walk up one flight. (This is a secret, by the way.) Sure enough, I did that and got onto the pool deck. I walked over by my apartment and called out for Lucky but he didn't meow back. Finally I walked over to the bed where I'd spotted him, and there was, lying in the same spot. He didn't say anything but let me scoop him up and bring him back upstairs without much of a struggle. Whew!

I let him out of my arms when the elevator reached our floor and he went running to the front door and ran into the apartment when I opened the door. He's OK. He ate something. Meanwhile I closed the screen door to the terrace. He's not going back out there tonight.

Short of not allowing Lucky onto the terrace, there's nothing I can do to prevent him from walking along (and perching on) the edge of the terrace beyond the glass railing or walking along the top of the concrete wall on either side (where he also likes to sit). When I tried to obstruct the openings on either side of the railing, he would just jump down there from the walls. He also walks across the top of the railing, which has an oval-shaped cap (i.e., it's not even a flat surface). Mainly he likes to perch out on the edge of the terrace, outside the railing, and watch whatever is going on in the bushes below (the fascinating lives of lizards, I suspect).

One reason I got this apartment is that it was a short fall to the pool deck below, since at the time I moved here (and until her death on June 30 last year), I had my cat Lucy. Lucy also used to fall off the terrace at the apartment from which I moved here, weaving through the bars of the railing. That is, until I got some reed fencing and wired it to the railing. I can't do that here, and it wouldn't work, anyway.

So that's my excitement for the night. Glad everyone's OK.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Roberts Re-Administers Oath to Obama

At first I thought this was a joke, but it appears to be for real. From Talk Left here.

The flub apparently made people nervous. Chief Justice Roberts re-administered the oath of office to President Obama tonight, out of an abundance of caution.

Don't worry, the White House says: Obama has still been president since noon on Inauguration Day.

Nevertheless, Obama and Roberts went through the drill again out of what White House counsel Greg Craig called "an abundance of caution."

Shorter version: It was unnecessary but made everybody feel better.

Stephanie Miller, Jim Ward and Chris Lavoie at Obama Radio Nation in DC last Sunday


New dress code in Oval Office

Here's Obama today in his office. Under Bush, jackets were required. (From Political Wire.)

Bush had so many misplaced priorities.

Bye-bye, Bushie

Stephanie Miller, who's in DC this week, just happened upon the Bushes' goodbyes and departure by helicopter yesterday. She was talking about it on her show this morning. I just miss her sound-effects box.(Video from MyDD.)

Worst president ever

Via MyDD

Wednesday night

Another cold one. After I got home from work and the dentist's, I didn't bother to change out of my heavy cotton slacks, flannel shirt, hoodie, and leather jacket before heading over to Starbuck's for a coffee, sitting al fresco while reading this (so far, so good). There were other people sitting outside, too.

This morning while walking to the bus stop and then walking the few blocks to work downtown (and it was windy, as it often is, since the Bay's right there), I had the hood pulled over my head, as well. Also when I was waiting for the bus after work and after the dentist appointment. Tomorrow I might even wear my ski gloves. I fished them out of a drawer tonight.

Watching Keith Olbermann. He just said Bush spent a third of his time in office on vacation. Last night I tried to watch Chris Matthews, but Pat Buchanan was on, more bilious than ever, mongering fear and sounding alarms about Obama--on the day he was inaugurated, no less. (The country already made its mind up about all that.) I couldn't watch it. Now, especially, after the abject failure of right-wing government in every respect, right-wing pundits have nothing to say to me. I do like watching Olbermann and (sometimes) Rachel Maddow, since they refuse to give right-wingers air time, except when they're skewering them, which is all they deserve now. One reason I could never stomach watching Bill Maher was he had the right-wingers on there spewing their venom, especially Ann Coulter, who was a frequent guest. (Whether she still is, I wouldn't know.)

It's about time to go back to the gym. I considered going back tonight, but I'd taken some Valium before going to the dentist's. My cold is long gone. It's getting a little boring around here after work, plus I'm starting to deteriorate.

Right now I'm wearing shorts, a short-sleeve shirt, and Gucci--I mean, Goofy--slippers. (Coincidentally, B. had Pepé Le Pew.) Lucky's afraid of them (a little). He'd never seen me wear them before.

Now they're talking about torture and closing Guantanamo. About torture, as a layman I'll say this: I can't imagine anything more inimical to our country's values. Our entire justice system is based on arriving at the truth, and our courts don't even consider coerced confessions. Furthermore, I can't see how gaining false or unreliable information by torturing people is going to make our country safer. And I've not read that the prospect of being tortured in any way deters terrorist activity -- the people who want to do us in are determined to do anything to advance their cause, including blowing themselves up, and they most likely come from countries where torturing prisoners is the norm (look what happened to the guy who threw the shoes at Bush in his new and improved Iraq). Torture seems to serve no purpose other than as punishment. Will punishing captives in cruel and unusual ways (which, by the way, is unconstitutional) burnish our image and ultimately make our country safer from attack?

When I was an exchange student in Germany, I talked to former German soldiers who had been captured by the U.S. during WWII and sent to POW camps back in the U.S. Their remarkably humane treatment in our POW camps gave them a positive impression of the U.S. which they held to that day. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, as they say. I see no value in giving your enemies reason to hate you more than they already do. How counter-productive is that? (Maybe it would be better to give them reason to like you.) Plus, it gives them justification to torture our own captured soldiers in retaliation. There are good reasons why torture is against both U.S. and international law.

P.S. I just turned the heat on to get the chill off the place, but it doesn't seem to be working. (I think I've had it on once the whole time I've lived here, almost seven years.) I guess I need to get that fixed. It did work the last time I turned it on.

P.P.S. Tonight on one of the shows, they had photos of front pages of newspapers from around the world. I saw one in German, which read, as closely as I can recall, "Americans vote for hope over fear."

P.P.S. The right wing (and Bush himself) touts how we haven't had another terrorist attack on our soil since 9/11 and that therefore the Republicans can best be trusted to protect our country against terrorism. (Pat Buchanan was making this argument yesterday on Chris Matthews.) The only problem with that argument is that -- HELLO -- 9/11 happened on Bush's watch. And after he'd been explicitly warned about it but had already begun channeling his energies into attacking Iraq, shortly after he took office. Does this need to keep being repeated? I'm sure Obama knows what the priorities are when it comes to the threat of terrorism, and he will not ignore, as did the Bush Administration, imminent threats. He's not blinded or distracted by the Neoconservative agenda -- and personal revenge -- as was Bush. And attacking Iraq, without any provocation, was not in this country's best interest. It has only radicalized the region more and made the situation more of a danger to our security here at home. (Al Qaeda did get into Iraq--after Bush destroyed the country.)

P.P.P.S. I just have to say that the bankrupt ideas of the right wing have resulted in -- bankruptcy. The bank is broken. Unrestrained capitalism is a thing of the past, I hope, unless they fool us again. (Watch out!) It has not only proven to be a serious threat to our way of life here in the U.S. but has also rocked the entire world order. Many more thousands of people here are being laid off. Just remember that Republican fiscal dissoluteness precipitated this horrible mess, just as it did the Great Depression. Which the Democrats had to come in and mop up, just as we're having to do now.

P.P.P.P.S. I should not have had that coffee at Starbuck's (better an Earl Gray tea). Also I shouldn't have had a snack tonight, but I was hungry (spare ribs and sauerkraut). I'll be OK, though.

P.P.P.P.P.S. I reserve the right to make changes to this post but am getting tired now and must go to bed. Good night!

Tuesday night late

"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works . . . ." - Barack Obama

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." - Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

The founding fathers took great pains to establish a robust government for us. It's time to make it work again--as the founding fathers intended it to work--for the whole country, and not just the privileged few. I think Obama made that clear today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural address on YouTube

Tuesday night

"We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things." - Barack Obama

Bye, Bushies!

It's going to be pretty cold here tonight--in the 40s, 30s inland. Tonight I did some laundry to make sure I have clean warm clothes to wear. Natural A/C tonight. I was over at Starbuck's earlier in jeans and a leather coat, having a tea and reading this article on health care. Worth reading.

Watching inaugural stuff on the TV (MSNBC). Don't much care for Michelle's gown myself, but I liked what she was wearing earlier. So I guess Obama gets down to work tomorrow, not a minute too soon. (He should get some good rest, however.)

Inauguration Day


Wouldn't you know: my Obama/Biden inaugural lapel button was sitting in its package on my chair this morning when I got in to work. I'd ordered it a few weeks ago from the Obama campaign. I opened the package and put the pin on right away. (Later I scanned it--above.)

Our office recently installed a flat-screen TV in the main lunch room, plus we have them in the large conference rooms. Today, the office manager invited us to watch the inaugural ceremonies on the TVs beginning at 11:00, with pizza to be served at noon. It was standing room only in the lunch room. Never in all my years of employment has the office management celebrated a presidential inauguration. That goes to show you how historic this day truly was.

Here's the swearing in:

(The oath of office, as set out in Article II, Section I of the Constitution, reads as follows: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.") (Chief Justice Roberts tried to recite it from memory and botched it, but no harm done.)

Full text of the inaugural address here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

World newspapers savage Bush

Complete story here.

Editorials worldwide pillory Bush one final time

BERLIN (Reuters) - Editorial writers around the world have been taking their final printed whacks at George W. Bush, accusing the president of tarnishing America's standing with what many saw as arrogant and incompetent leadership. . . .

"A weak leader, Bush was just overwhelmed in the job," said Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung under a headline: "The Failure." "He confused stubbornness with principles. America has become intolerant and it will take a long time to repair that damage."

Editorials hit out at Bush for two unfinished wars, for plunging the economy into recession, turning a budget surplus into a pile of debt, for his environment policies and tarnishing America's reputation with the Guantanamo Bay detention center. . . .

Canada's Toronto Star was categorical in its condemnation.

"Goodbye to the worst president ever," it declared. "Bush was an unmitigated disaster, failing on the big issues from the invasion of Iraq to global warming, Hurricane Katrina and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."

"Bush leaves a country and an economy in tatters," wrote the Sunday Times in London. It said America's national debt and unemployment nearly doubled on his watch. . . .

Via Firedoglake.

'I Love You Phillip Morris'

This just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, starring Jim Kerry and Ewan McGregor. It's a gay prison romance. Here's the trailer (good shots of South Beach).

Here's the "first clip."

See Advocate exclusive here (includes videos). Salon here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

John Barrowman

Bio here.

'MATT TAIBBI takes on porn-stached New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s greenish ways'

See here. Also see my recent post here (Glenn Greenwald takes on Friedman).

Hilarious smackdown of Friedman's new book by Matt Taibbi in the [New York Press]. . .

Friedman’s language choices over the years have been highly revealing: When a man who thinks you need to break a vase to get the water out of it starts arguing that you need to invade a country in order to change the minds of its people, you might want to start paying attention to how his approach to the vase problem worked out. Thomas Friedman is not a president, a pope, a general on the field of battle or any other kind of man of action. He doesn’t actually do anything apart from talk about shit in a newspaper. So in my mind it’s highly relevant if his manner of speaking is fucked.

Taibbi then eviscerates Friedman's method of social science research consisting of flying around the world and talking about what he sees out of his hotel room window. At the end he explains the real world consequences of printing such foolishness:

To review quickly, the “Long Bomb” Iraq war plan Friedman supported as a means of transforming the Middle East blew up in his and everyone else’s face; the “Electronic Herd” of highly volatile international capital markets he once touted as an economic cure-all not only didn’t pan out, but led the world into a terrifying chasm of seemingly irreversible economic catastrophe; his beloved “Golden Straitjacket” of American-style global development (forced on the world by the “hidden fist” of American military power) turned out to be the vehicle for the very energy/ecological crisis Friedman himself warns about in his new book; and, most humorously, the “Flat World” consumer economics Friedman marveled at so voluminously turned out to be grounded in such total unreality that even his wife’s once-mighty shopping mall empire, General Growth Properties, has lost 99 percent of its value in this year alone.

So, yes, Friedman is suddenly an environmentalist of sorts. . . .

Via Firedoglake.

One more

Good night!

Another one

Joel McHale

From 'The Soup'

Plane gets fished out of drink

See here, here and here.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Olbermann sums up

(If you don't believe it, "look it up!")

Via The Left Coaster

'Video of the Moment of Landing'

See here.

Update: Better video here.

Boy George jailed for shackling escort

"Singer sentenced to 15 months in prison after threatening Norwegian model with whips and sex toys". Full Guardian story here.

Boy George is jailed for handcuffing and beating male escort in drug-fuelled rage

Cocaine addiction, a bout of unfettered paranoia and the "callous and humiliating" handcuffing of a Norwegian male escort saw Boy George jailed for 15 months today. It was the latest chapter in a saga that has seen the singer metamorphose from an exotic symbol of the 1980s with his group Culture Club into a troubled and enigmatic solo artist.

George O'Dowd, as he was referred to at Snaresbrook crown court, east London, threw a quick glance at the family and fans who had packed court one to see him sentenced for falsely imprisoning and beating Audun Carlsen in April 2007.

The 47-year-old singer showed little emotion as his barrister outlined the mitigating circumstances in the case, speaking of the "world of paranoia" his client had inhabited and the "sordid and salacious" depths to which he had sunk. . . .

The musician had been found guilty last month of falsely imprisoning Carlsen, a 29-year-old escort and model whom he had met at the beginning of 2007 through the Gaydar social networking website.

The jury was told that when the two men got together in January that year, O'Dowd had performed oral sex on Carlsen as well as taking photographs and using cocaine with him. According to Heather Norton, prosecuting, O'Dowd, who was "wired" from the drug, flew into a rage, accusing Carlsen of tampering with his computer. His behaviour made Carlsen uncomfortable, and he left.

Carlsen said that he received a number of "bizarre" and accusatory emails from O'Dowd over the next two months, but agreed to see him again after the singer apologised, saying he had got the wrong person. When the two met at O'Dowd's flat in London on 27 April, they again took cocaine and Carlsen participated in a naked photo session.

It was only when he was invited into the bedroom that the escort realised that something was wrong. Carlsen said that the atmosphere changed when O'Dowd returned to the flat after ostensibly popping out to buy milk and cigarettes and ambushed him with the help of another man. The attack seemed to stem from O'Dowd's conviction that Carlsen had attempted to hack into his computer.

The singer told him: "Now you're going to get what you deserve." Carlsen said he was then beaten and handcuffed to a wall fixture while O'Dowd produced a box of leather straps, chains and sex toys.

Carlsen told the jury he only escaped after wrenching the fixture free, but was beaten with a chain by the singer as he fled into the street in Shoreditch, east London. In an apparently accidental allusion to Culture Club's 1982 No 1 hit, Norton asked the jury: "Did he really have to hurt him?"

The judge criticised O'Dowd today for the "wholly gratuitous violence" he had employed. It was sheer good luck, he said, that Carlsen had managed to escape and "in his distraught, barely clothed and still handcuff-wearing condition, seek the assistance of a kindly local newsagent".

He added: "Whilst I accept that Mr Carlsen's physical injuries were not serious or permanent, in my view there can be no doubt that your premeditated, callous and humiliating handcuffing and detention of Mr Carlsen shocked, degraded and traumatised him." . . .

Earlier, O'Dowd's barrister, Adrian Waterman QC, told the judge that O'Dowd's long-term drug use had played a large part in the attack. Waterman reminded the judge of the trial testimony of a witness, who described O'Dowd and Carlsen as sounding "like two drug-crazed idiots". He added: "I submit there is a good deal of truth in that ... both of these persons were severely affected by drugs - indeed habitually affected - by drugs."

Through their drug use, he said, the pair had "descended into lifestyles that were sordid and salacious". However, he insisted that O'Dowd was not just another druggy, musical egomaniac. This defendant is a kind and generous man who is typically mindful of other people's needs and who is the antithesis of the haughty and bullying star," he said.

He also argued that O'Dowd - who, he said, had given up drugs and was a regular visitor to Narcotics Anonymous - had already paid a heavy price for his actions. . . .

Saturday afternoon

Beautiful day here. Going to get out of the house (eventually).

'Going Out On Top . . .'

". . . of the list of worst Presidential approval ratings ever for an outgoing President:"

President Bush prepares to leave office with no evidence that public opinion toward him is softening during his final days in power, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. When asked about Mr. Bush’s performance over the last eight years, 22 percent of respondents said they approved. That matched Mr. Bush’s job-approval rating for much of last fall, the lowest of his presidency. In the current poll, 73 percent disapproved of his performance over the course of his two terms.

In contrast, Mr. Bush’s most recent predecessors left office with approval ratings ranging from 68 percent, for both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, to 44 percent, for Jimmy Carter. Mr. Bush’s father left with 54 percent.

"You did a heck of a job, Bushie." (From Big Tent Democrat here.)

And they said he would get a bump in the polls on his way out. A bump in the ass is more like it. Good riddance!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday night

It's a bit chilly here tonight, in the 50's, which is chilly for here. I took a nap when I got home from work (without the cats, since Lucky has been disturbing my naps by jumping around--Bootsy's fine). Then I bundled up and walked over to Starbucks for a cup of coffee and read my magazine. I say "bundled up"--I was wearing my usual denim shorts but had on a long-sleeve shirt, a jacket and my mocs (instead of my sandals). Of course we have natural air conditioning at home tonight.

I'm sad to report that 12 people were laid off yesterday from work, with severance. I'm just glad to report I wasn't one of them. I've been there before (without any severance), during a downsizing, and my employer at the time even lied about me in an attempt to prevent my getting unemployment benefits. They turned out to be a nasty, sleazy and cheap outfit, while the principals had lavish, spacious offices that looked like a reception hall for a king, and which even included private showers and toilets.

It had been bad enough that I was suddenly out of a job, but then to find out that my former employer had engaged in unethical (probably illegal) behavior in an attempt to block my benefits only made it more bitter. I curse them to this day, and it has partially worked. The attorney who presided over my dismissal--a partner with a beautifully furnished office that overlooked Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond--also lost her job there during a subsequent downsizing and now works as an associate at another firm (probably in a little office which wouldn't accommodate her former furniture, and with a shitty view), and has worked there for years now without any advancement, although she's already well into her 50s if not much older. (Meanwhile, the firm she and I used to work for, which used to have offices all over the state, is now practically non-existent.)

At any rate, my unemployment case was quickly adjudicated in my favor and I received the benefits, which surely helped me out at the time, modest as they were.

It's been over a month since Home Depot said to be patient about wrapping up things here. I called the kitchen designer on Monday (exactly a month later). I hadn't talked to her in a while. We discussed the itemized bill for the electrical work (haven't received one) and the need for the counter people to come back and secure the kitchen sink (it moves, and it's not supposed to, and the seal is broken, and water damage could occur). She agreed these things needed to be taken care of. She also said, by the way, that the general contractor that dropped the ball on my job is no longer working for Home Depot, and that the kitchen expediter whom I could never reach and who would never return my phone calls no longer holds her position (I dared not ask whether she'd been fired, which had been my fervent wish at times). Didn't hear anything else from them all week long. I can be patient. Meanwhile I hope I'm not getting water damage to my new cabinets by water leaking out around the sink. (I check and don't see any.)