Celebrities & politicians

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“For still there are so many things that I have never seen: in every wood in every spring there is a different green. I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago, and people who will see a world that I shall never know.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

A couple of weeks ago, which seems like an eternity in the current Presidential election news cycle, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a candid, off cuff comment when asked in a New York Times interview what she would do if Republican nominee Donald Trump were to be elected President in November. She jokingly replied that her late husband world tell her “Time to move to New Zealand!”. Not surprisingly, her sardonic comment was met with outrage from Trump and others in the GOP.
Shortly afterward, after briefly doubling down, she backed off, calling her own choice of words “ill advised”.

With the increasing possibility that Donald Trump could, in fact, pull out a win in November, some have looked into the very real notion of relocating, at least for the next four to eight years, to New Zealand, or some other welcoming oasis.

Hopefully, self-exile will no longer be an issue come November.

VOTE!

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Game On: Donald vs. Hillary

Hillary tormented by Alien TrumpSo it’s come to this. As grueling as the campaigns have been on the nominees, sildenafil it’s been truly agonizing for the voters. And at the presumed end of the nomination process to determine the two most qualified candidates for the highest office in the land, it’s hard imagine coming up with two less likable individuals.* And with the proven effectiveness of negative ads, it’s only going to get uglier leading up to November’s general election.

Only five more months until it starts all over again.
And remember: in the voting booth, no one can hear you scream.

*In the latest polls , Donald Trump has an unfavorability rating of 63%, with Hillary Clinton only slightly better, with a rating of 61%

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The “Golden Wrecking Ball”

Sarah Palin's Trump "Golden Wrecking Ball"This Memorial Day weekend, sildenafil Sarah Palin gifted political cartoonists the world over with the perfect nickname for 2016 GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. In a glowing and rambling rally introduction, she dubbed him the “Golden Wrecking Ball”, a name that will hopefully follow him through the remainder of his campaign. Thank you Sarah!

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Hillary vs. Bernie- Showdown in New York

Today, Wisconsinites vote in their Democratic and Republican primaries. Until recently, best Hillary Clinton was comfortably ahead in the Wisconsin polls and was hoping to further widen her national delegate lead over Bernie Sanders.

But in the latest polls, Sanders has surged ahead by about 5 points, and is now predicted to win by a little, or maybe a lot, if his upset in Michigan was any indication. Realistically, Bernie Sanders still has a lot of catching up to do if he wants to wrest the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton. But no one can deny that the momentum is definitely with the Sanders campaign.

Which brings us to New York.

As elsewhere, Sanders’ New York rallies are drawing thousands of potential voters compared to the hundreds at Clinton’s rallies. Losing the state that twice elected her Senator would be a major blow to the Clinton candidacy and would be a huge game-changer. while he would still trail in the delegate count, there’s no doubt that a Bernie Sanders victory would send a message to the DNC that Sanders isn’t going down easily, and could, just maybe, pull the ultimate upset. His rejection of income inequality and special interest money controlling Washington resonates loudly with voters across all demographics.

As of now, Hillary still holds a single digit advantage over Bernie in the latest New York primary polls, after leading by 20-30 points just weeks ago, but the trajectory is undoubtedly in his favor. Whatever the outcome, New York’s April 19th primary should be a strong indicator of who will be the Democratic nominee come November.

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Trump the Entertainer


“Let me entertain you
Let me make you smile

Let me do a few tricks
Some old and then some new tricks
I’m very versatile”

-From the broadway show “Gypsy

Tonight marks the official start to the US Presidential primary season, and the likely coronation of Donald Trump as the nominee of the Republican party. As recently as a couple of months ago, virtually no political pundits would have seriously bet on Trump seizing the GOP nomination, but no more. What began as a novelty campaign marked by insults, vague platitudes, and jingoistic bombast has implausibly snowballed into a full fledged movement. We’ll know within the next few weeks whether the Trump candidacy is for real. Already in the past couple of interviews, there are signs that he’s toning down the lunacy in an effort to win over more moderates. If it works, he may just pull off the slickest trick ever in US presidential politics.

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Trump!

Morally bankrupt Donald TrumpIf the race for the Republican presidential nomination is a circus, Donald Trump is definitely its number one sideshow attraction. Whether repeatedly dropping the f-bomb at a speech in front of potential donors, giving out his opponent’s personal phone number, or lobbing cheap insults to anyone who disagrees with him, his campaign so far more closely resembles a Comedy Network roast or a WWE taunting rather than than a presidential run. And so far, the audience seems to be eating it up. As of this moment, he leads among the GOP contenders in the major national polls.

So keep it up, Donald! It should be an entertaining year ahead.

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Texas: land of the conspiracy theory


Note: This post was started before this past weekend’s disastrous flooding. So far the count stands at 17 dead and 10 missing. I considered holding off on putting it out there, but ultimately decided while we all sympathize with those affected by the deluge, we can still recognize the peculiar character of the state that will still be there long after the water recedes.

The state of Texas has long has a long reputation for marching to its own paranoid beat. So it makes sense that many of the fringiest and most persistent conspiracy theories trace their roots to the Lone Star State. How fitting is it that the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories originated on a Dallas street more than 50 years ago? The brief 8mm footage of the John F. Kennedy assassination taken by Abraham Zapruder has been dissected and analyzed more than any other film in history, healing and the general consensus of the official forensic experts is that Lee Harvey Oswald was the single assassin acting alone. But thanks in large part to Mark Lane’s 1966 book “Rush to Judgment” and Oliver Stone’s “JFK”, terms like “pristine bullet” and “grassy knoll” have become part of everyone’s vocabulary, and a large majority of Americans today believe that there was in fact a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. Though who exactly was involved is up for debate.

More recently, radio talk show host, blogger, and Texas native Alex Jones has yet to find a conspiracy too outlandish or offensive to broadcast. Some of his greatest hits include theories that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings were faked and the U.S. government was directly tied to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In a crazy hall-of-mirrors style twist, he himself is the subject of a conspiracy theory now making the rounds which posits that Alex Jones is none other than the alter ego of deceased comedian Bill Hicks (himself a firm believer in the JFK conspiracy theory). It’s pretty amusing to watch the video of Alex Jones accusing the “Alex Jones is Bill Hicks” crowd of being conspiracy theory loons.

Since President Obama has been in office, general distrust of the U.S. government has played a huge role in a number of conspiracy theories, especially when it comes to immigration policy. Starting with the general presumption that minorities tend to vote democratic, it wasn’t long before right-wing GOP politicians in Texas, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Louie Gohmert, promoted the idea that Democrats were busing young illegal immigrants across the border en masse who would eventually be allowed to vote, thus keeping them in power.

The latest conspiracy theory making the rounds in Texas and throughout the southwest involves the military operation code-named Jade Helm 15 (http://www.businessinsider.com/jade-helm-conspiracy-theory-2015-5). It’s a real Special Ops training exercise set to take place this summer. What really makes this theory stand out is the surprising degree of legitimacy it’s being given by people of influence. Walker:Texas Ranger himself, Chuck Norris was recently reported to have said that he has serious questions about Obama’s “scheming”. In addition, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has directed the state guard to monitor the operation. Whether he actually believes that the Jade Helm operation is an effort by the U.S. government to impose martial law or is simply pandering to right wing extremists, it’s a pretty defensive reaction to a standard military exercise.

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Warren in the Temple

I must confess, it’s been a while since I attended my last Catholic school religion class (which reminds me, it’s been eons since my last Confession too), but some of the New Testament stories and lessons have stuck with me and still resonate all these years later.

Albrecht Dürer

One that I’ve always found especially thrilling was the single documented incident in which Jesus lost his cool and, in a fit of rage, threw out a group of moneychangers doing business in the temple. The story was always presented to illustrate Jesus’ human side, and as young students, how could we NOT thrill to the story of a badass Jesus brandishing a handy whip and going all Indiana Jones on the greedy heathens, driving them from the temple, yelling, “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade!” (John 2:13-17).

While for the most part monetary transactions have been banished from the churches (though you’d never know it looking at Joel Osteen Inc.’s megachurch), the same can’t be said of the temples of government, where Wall Street bankers and corporate lobbyists have long been calling the shots in Washington.  Thanks in large part to the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” ruling, unlimited campaign financing has lead to the election of politicians who serve the interest of their corporate donors, not their constituants.

In this environment of decades-long erosion of middle class wages while the accumulated wealth of the top 1% has skyrocketed, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has made a name for herself by calling out the political corruption that has lead to such rampant inequality. Fighting the lonely fight for the middle and working classes, she, along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have declared a war of sorts against the overwhelming influence of the megarich on the legislative process.

Belying her stereotypical librarian appearance, she delivers fiery speeches  preaching against Wall Street corruption and its insidious power over US politics and policies. This has lead to a growing grassroots movement for an Elizabeth Warren Presidency not seen since the improbable  and meteoric rise of Barak Obama in 2007.  And it seems the more Sen. Warren flat out declares that she’s NOT running for President in next years election, the more enthusiasm builds for her potential candidacy.

As much as I’d love to see a Warren candidacy, barring a political vacuum in which, for whatever reason, Hillary Clinton decides NOT to seek the Democratic nomination, a 2016 run for President seems to me increasingly unlikely. But we can hope.

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President Obama and the Pope


This week in Rome, President Obama will meet with Pope Francis for the first time.

Since his election last year, Pope Francis has made numerous proclamations that many have found to be unusually liberal minded for the Church, both politically and even when it comes to social issues like gay marriage. During their closed door meeting on Thursday, President Obama and the Pope are expected to discuss an issue that’s been of great concern to both of them: the problem of growing inequality and lack of opportunity among the poor. In the U.S., some in the right-wing media have gone so far as to label the Pope a communist or, even worse, a LIBERAL. They’ve come to expect such talk from the President, but when the leader of the Catholic Church starts talking about the failure of ‘trickle-down economics’, he’s simply gone too far. According to Rush Limbaugh, “this pope makes it very clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to capitalism.” God forbid that the Church voice an opinion on unchecked greed and the plight of the poor.

While it’s true that President Obama and Pope Francis have plenty of common ground when it comes to helping the poor, there are also some areas where the two disagree. Obama’s use of drones and the civilian casualties that sometimes result are one. Legalized abortion is another. Still, Pope Francis has made it clear in words and actions that world poverty is his overriding concern and that’s what’s expected to be the focus of tomorrow’s meeting.

Change comes slow to government and even slower to the Church, but for progressives, it’s encouraging to see the subjects of inequality and world poverty even being discussed at all.

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Goes Off

Another day, buy viagra another startling revelation surrounding Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

Weeks ago, Ford came to attention of international media for his bumbling antics and roly-poly figure. While his “drunk Uncle” routine made him the butt of late-nite comedians’ jokes, it soon became clear that there was more to the story.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCHHyFVaYdk

Like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, Ford’s persona has become ever darker and more bizarre with each new revelation. Rumors of drug use heightened as local police revealed that they had videotape evidence of Mayor Ford’s smoking crack cocaine with known gang members. After weeks of repeatedly denying the charges, he finally admitted to his drug use when confronted with irrefutable evidence.

But even his confession was marked by an odd line of defense. At the press conference earlier this week, wearing a characteristically wacky necktie, he blamed his crack cocaine use on judgement impaired by “a drunken stupor”. More than one cable TV news crew has speculated jokingly what a shame it is that Saturday Night Live’s, Chris Farley isn’t around to lampoon Mayor Ford. Yes. What a shame. If only he hadn’t died tragically of…you know…a drug overdose, we could’ve all had a good laugh.

 

All of which brings us to today’s latest revelation. A tape has surfaced that shows Ford going off like De Niro’s Al Capone in the Untouchables. Maybe the context is missing here, but it’s hard to look at that and honestly say that this man should be running the fourth largest city in North America. (WARNING: strong, but slurred, language.).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcPD7tzcU60

Maybe the oddest part to the whole Rob Ford saga is his reputation’s resilience when it comes to bad news. Since the allegations of drug use surfaced, his poll numbers among Toronto residents have actually gone up. Whether he survives these latest bombshells politically is up to the voters. Surviving them physically is up to him.

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Worst Congress Ever Tops itself

“They didn’t break me. I broke myself.”
Max Brooks, viagra generic World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

As we enter the second week of the U.S. government shutdown, polls show that although most citizens still blame the GOP lead House of Representatives, they’re more than willing to spread the blame around.

How we reached the point where handful of renegadeTeaParty Rupublicans, lead by junior Texas Senator Ted Cruz, could bring the entire U.S. government to its knees shows just how broken the system is.

With the Budget ceiling deadline coming up on Oct.17th, the stakes for reaching an agreement have never been higher. Failure to raise the debt ceiling to pay off money already spent would likely result in a huge disruption to the world economy. In fact, because the stakes are so high, few believe that even the most dysfunctional Congress ever would dare cross that line. We’ll know soon enough.

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Syria’s Assad: Between Iraq and a Hard Place

“Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.” -Kurt Vonnegut ‘Cat’s Cradle’

As the second entry in my ‘ruthless despot’ series, I hereby present Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

It seems like only yesterday that South Korea’s Kim Jong Un was grabbing all the headlines for his nuclear threats against the west and his nearby neighbors. But no sooner had ambassador Dennis Rodman defused the situation there, than, like a endless game of Whack-a-Mole, another dictator pops up to grab the world’s attention.

Already, just a few weeks after Assad’s military launched a sarin gas attack on his own people, here in the U.S., the media’s focus has shifted more toward domestic budget issues for the time being.

Let’s hope the latest UN/Russian/US plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons doesn’t go up in smoke and the middle east can get back to it’s conventional mayhem.

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Kim Jong Un: North Korea’s Risky Business

North Korea's Kim Jong Un

As of this writing, North Korea’s mad boy king has yet to launch the missiles he has aimed at neighboring Japan and South Korea, best viagra but that could change at any moment.
When Kim Jong Un succeeded his father Kim Jong Il as Supreme Leader of North Korea in Late December of last year, some were hopeful that his youth and western education would give him the a more measured approach to global relations. Alas, that seems not to be the case.
The latest speculation is that to mark the April 15th birthday of his granddad, Kim Il Sung, in lieu of (or in addition to) ice cream & cake, Kim Jong Un may celebrate by launching his missiles.
If there’s any good to come from all this posturing on the part of North Korea, it could be that the US and China will find common ground, if even temporarily, in wanting to avoid all out war, and that a unified coalition may be able to get North Korea to rethink its aggressive behavior before it’s too late. Let’s hope.

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David Byrne and “How Music Works” at the Music Box Theater

The “big suit” may be gone, and the hair has turned white since his days as front man for the Talking Heads, but David Byrne still possesses the same creative energy that fueled one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the 80’s, and lead to his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Coming from an art school background background, it not surprising that Byrne’s creative work includes books, photography, and film in addition to his music. Since 1986, he’s written or contributed to nine books, including the Tabloid inspired “True Stories” and 2009’s “Bicycle Diaries”, which chronicles his experiences pedaling through the streets of New York City and other cities around the globe.

David Byrne’s latest book, “How Music Works”, explores the business and the process of making and experiencing music . Last night, I attended a talk by Byrne and Bettina Richards of Thrill Jockey Records at Chicago’s beautiful Music Box Theater. Music critic Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune MCed the proceedings and he did a terrific job of coaxing some thoughtful answers out of his sometimes bemused subject. Byrne, looking fit and more youthful than his 60 years, still has some of his trademark quirky mannerisms,and his occasional spontaneous chuckle makes you think there’s more going on his head than he sometimes lets on.

Some topics that came up in the discussion:

•On mp3s: Though he knows many musicians who despise the artificial sound quality, Byrne doesn’t see it as a big issue and thinks it’s remarkable how up to 80% of redundant sound information can be tossed out and still retain an enjoyable listening experience.

•Licensing music out for advertising: Given the declining revenue generated for record sales, Byrne sees the need for modern bands to sell music rights to advertisers, though he’s steadfastly declined commercial offers himself, saying simply “I don’t need to”.

•Visual aspects of performing: Byrne believes that every music act, even those bands that opt for street wear and no frills,  makes a conscious decision regarding what the audience will see as well as hear. He related a couple of anecdotes regarding his own “performance art” including a pre-Talking Heads’ performance which involved shaving his Amish-style beard onstage to the accompaniment of an accordion player, and more recently, emerging onstage in a tutu.

In all, Byrne came across as analytic but amiable, like a seasoned Sheldon Cooper.

David Byrne will perform this evening with St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) at the Chicago Theater, which he will presumably commute to via bicycle.

Bob Dylan’s “Tempest”

Soon, Bob Dylan will release his 35th studio album, Tempest. Rolling Stone has called it a “dark masterpiece”. The centerpiece of the album is its 14 minute title track dealing with the sinking of the Titanic.
Dylan’s typically offhand response to those who’ve found significance in the fact that “The Tempest” was the title of Shakespeare’s final play was simple: “The name of my record is just plain ‘Tempest.’ It’s two different titles.”
Though Dylan has never lacked for creative energy, stuff since 1997’s “Time Out of Mind”, he seems to have entered a new creatively fertile period that, from all accounts thus far, continues with “Tempest”.
The name of the album is a reminder that weather conditions (often violent)  have featured prominently in his lyrics and song titles, even from his earliest work.

Consider the following:

“Blowin’ in the Wind”

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” (Subterranean Homesick Blues)

“Buckets of Rain”

“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”

“A messenger sent me in a tropical storm” (Sara)

“You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing.” (Jokerman)

“Shelter from the Storm”

“When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky”

“Thunder on the Mountain”

“I ran into the fortune-teller who said beware of lightning that might strike.” (Idiot Wind)

“A change in the weather is known to be extreme.” (You’re a Big Girl Now)

“Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood)”

And this is by no means a comprehensive list.

Of course with any songwriter who’s released around 500 original songs and whose career spans over five decades, there are bound to be a number of references to a topic as ubiquitous as the weather, but just as the authors of ancient myths, Bob Dylan often seems to find inspiration in the heavens.

In keeping with the somber mood of the album, “Tempest” will be released on Sept. 11th.

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LP: New Artist, New EP, Amazing Voice


Chances are you might not recognize singer-songwriter LP by name (or initials),  but you’ve no doubt heard her unforgettable voice belting out her just released single “Into the Wild” in the Citi Bank commercial with the girl rock climber.
Though she’s already achieved some success as a songwriter and released several smaller label CDs, her just-released breakout EP featuring audio & live video versions of five new songs, and recent stories in Rolling Stone and on CNN confirm that she’s an artist on the rise.
From her recent live appearances at Austin’s SXSW festival and on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, it’s clear that LP delights in performing for a live audience. It’s also clear that her voice doesn’t need any studio wizardry to make an impression.
LP is scheduled to appear at Lollapalooza in Chicago on August 4th.

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