Archive for January, 2011

Totally shedding irony and calling it like he saw it, Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais slammed some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and the sponsor of Sunday’s gala awards show, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, with vicious putdowns not to be taken with any sort of humor whatsoever.

“Johnny Depp is a no talent hack,” said Gervais, popping open a split of champagne and sitting down cross-legged on the stage with a big sandwich. “And Angelina Jolie is a whore. I suggest her next tattoo be a warning label.”

The Golden Globes audience and viewers at home were shocked and offended by Gervais’ scandalizing of Hollywood’s elite within minutes of the show’s opening, but he showed no signs of remorse, and in short order dispatched Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Cher. He was especially harsh on Jolie and Depp, whose film “The Tourist” was, he said, “a waste of money, a film with no merit, the kind of thing a dung beetle would roll away on its hind legs if it could. Not even chemotherapy could put this film in remission.”

“Cher’s old and has got no brains,” continued Gervais. “Don’t get me started on Brad Pitt. He is not talented and should be giving blowjobs in a Santa Fe rest stop to crystal meth addled truck drivers.”

“Steve Carell is a horrible blighted egg sack,” said Gervais. “I invented ‘The Office.'”

Sensing that the audience had begun to turn against him but showing no remorse, Gervais turned and bit the hand that fed him, attacking the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

“If you weren’t standing next to celebrities or throwing them dog and pony shows, there would be nothing to get you between your doses of Paxil. I spit on you people.”

Some wondered about the judgment of the Foreign Press Association hiring a well-known obstreperous comedian known for his scathing attacks on art, ethics, politesse and common decency and the concept of God as a real person. They seemed to be surprised that he took very seriously his assignment to dispatch the formality of the stuff shirt event by turning into a mean-spirited prick.

“I would kill every one of you with a ball peen hammer. Robert Downey, Jr.–everybody knows he’s on crack. Charlie Sheen is a well-known frequenter of prostitutes. His new girlfriend is famous for doing anal porno films. No, I have no follow-up punchline. The ignominy and awfulness of it speaks for itself, like this awards show.”

Gervais ended the evening by thanking everyone for being good sports, and by that he meant, “You’ve got hired help to kiss your ass. I’m not going to do it.” He then said he was an atheist and recommended that people see “The Social Network,” which was actually a pretty good film.

“Every once in a while, Hollywood accidentally makes one,” he concluded.

Bruce Willis was philosophical about the night.

“I guess this fooferaw is going to be in the paper tomorrow because you’ve got nothing better to write about like warfare and poverty. Maybe Gervais is right. Maybe journalists are pieces of shit.”

The Golden Globes traditionally has no host. It is also traditionally considered a joke.

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The Republican-controlled House of Representatives, having postponed legislation for a few days to observe a more civil tone after a weekend of violence, has returned to work in a spirit of compromise and unity with the Democrats across the aisle, introducing a new piece of legislation showing the shared convictions of a nation coping with loss.

It is known by its unifying title, the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.”

“Hey, wait a minute …” said Democrats. “That’s not very nice.”

A largely symbolic piece of legislation, since the Democrats still control the Senate, Republicans tweaked it a bit so it read instead, “Shooting Down the Health Care Act Act.” In lieu of that, they suggested the “Cutting Life Support on the Health Care Act Act,” and “Killing Health Care Reform In A Bathtub,” and the “Returning to a Belligerent Posture Following A Weekend of Mock Civility Act.”

“After the tragic events of last weekend, we have hopefully returned to a new era of friendship, noblesse oblige and tact,” said majority leader Eric Cantor as he introduced the “Terminating the Health Care Bill With Extreme Prejudice Act.”

Were those bills to stall, Republicans say they would introduce the “Euthanizing the Health Care Reform Act With An Overdose of Morphine and Digitalis,” and the  “Guns Don’t Kill People, The Health Care Reform Act Kills People Act.” Like the others, these bills aim to remove last year’s main Democrat achievement, a law aimed of insuring 95% of all Americans by offering subsidies to small businesses and increasing the age at which children can no longer remain on their parents’ insurance plants. If that bill fails, Republicans say, they will continue to pursue a spirit of concordance and compromise by floating a bill, again largely symbolic, called the  “I Fuck Your Health Care Bill in the Eye Socket Reconciliation Act,” and if not that, they’ll try the “You Talking To Me? Health Care Reform Assassination Act.”

Other titles for future legislation, should these not pass, are the “Beheading the Democrats’ Stupid Health Care Legislation,” the “Snuffing Out the Health Care Reform with a Pillow Act,” the “Throwing Lit Matches At Democratic Faces Act,” the “Sowing Discord For Cheap Political Points Act” and “The Patriot Act.”

Again, all mostly time-wasting, symbolic titles that won’t go to Senate and really don’t do anything other than promote the new spirit of harmony.

“Americans after this weekend are showing a new unity,” said John Boehner as he introduced the “Screw Unity and Screw U Act.” We cannot let a few deranged individuals upset our Democracy and spread dissension, and that’s why we support this new bill, subtitled ‘The Democratic Criminals Are Assaulting Your Liberties Act.'”

After those bills die predictable deaths, having served absolutely no purpose at all, Republicans say they may simply call it the “Supporting Gabrielle Giffords By Repealing Legislation that Gabrielle Giffords Supported Act.”

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Sarah Palin: “America’s Enduring Strength” from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

Sarah Palin released a video today in which she talked about the shootings in Arizona. She would like to go back and edit some of her language now that she realizes what some phrases actually mean.

“Like millions of Americans, I was learned of the tragic events that unfolded in Arizona on Saturday. I could not understand why a deranged man would try to attack those showing their peaceful right to assemble and to exchange ideas in our vibrant country. But how sadly ironic it was to see later that people were trying to apportion blame to those other than the law breaker. Dare we call this kind of talk a blood libel dirty smear?

Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own and we should not stand still while journalists and pundits manufacture a pogrom backlash against those who debate passionately. Why, the attitude among the media to patriotic right wing talk radio hosts this week was  a Holocaust an outrage. A real genocide. Real dirty pool. As Americans rallied to express their opinions in a beautiful moment of inspiring debate that so defines our country, a mad man let loose with a mindless rampage. But rather than unite together in a time of common humanity, we let the media create a Shoah horrible controversy.

It is important for us to respect our differences with each other and strive for a better country. And for us instead to point fingers at each other is a horrible final solution mistake. Ronald Reagan said that blame for monstrous acts should stop with the monster. I agree with that. Let not the vibrant debate in our country be muffled by those who would seek to tear us apart.We cannot abide by these volkisch partisan sentiments. It will end in a real Dreyfus Affair moral travesty. Or a Farhud war of words.

Sometimes political parties win and sometimes they lose, and we do no favor to the political process by acting like antisemitic silly Nazis schoolchildren prosecuting a kristallnacht pitching hissy fits. The only thing we have to fear is Judeophobia fear itself.

Thank you, and God bless America”

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Newly minted celebrity Ted Williams, the homeless drug addict with the mellifluous radio voice who was found on an off-ramp last week giving highly polished traffic updates, has in just one week left the streets of Ohio to reach the pinnacle of stardom. Entertainment Tonight has even brought him on a tour of Hollywood and given him an audience with Doctor Phil. He’s visited the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s won a Kraft commercial. His story has already taken on the dimensions of an epic with all its attendant plot points of fall from grace and redemption. He also happens to share a name with a famous baseball player, a fact that was unearthed by diligent researchers at CBS.

This leads me to the next question. With his new tight schedule, how are we going to keep Ted Williams awake? I’m just saying, he might really benefit from the use of some killer drugs, perhaps some mini-bennies or white crosses or what have you.

Then we have to ask, what is Ted going to do when this media attention suddenly fades, and the esteem he’s getting artificially from Entertainment Tonight reporters needs instead to be generated from within? My prescription? Drugs! Heroin or cocaine are very different kinds of substances, but both will offer Ted the self-esteem he will most definitely need in spades once the 2000 watt stage lights have turned away and Mary Hart has completely lost interest in his golden voice.

What happens when Doctor Phil has finished Ted’s psychological evaluation and Ted finds he cannot face the pain he’s caused so many? How about a big flagon full of soul killing alcohol? Or china white. Or ‘shrooms? Whippets or liquid paper?

Also, drugs are very good for withdrawal. So I recommend Ted Williams have some on hand when he has euphoric chemical memory that makes him junk sick, especially when the feelings of worthlessness come back midwifed by Doctor Phil.

Williams prayed on the Today show. At some point, when he realizes that this practice is largely unhelpful, it’s very likely he’s going to want to turn to something with a little more bite. Like valium or downers or acid.

I guess the point I’m making is that there are lots of things that would make you feel more suicidal then a life of drugs–and that’s life as an ex-celebrity. Ted Williams has suddenly found himself surrounded by non-friends, and rather than giving him a blast of black tar heroin to the arm, they’ve given him a shot of the more vexing junk called fame. With friends like Doctor Phil, who needs a Doctor Philgood?

I look forward to the next YouTube video in which Ted, live from the I-95 off ramp in Miami, says “Fuck you, America. If you loved me, you’d give me some smack!”

By the way, CBS, the plural of “Williams” is “Williamses.” What are you, on drugs?

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The attempted murder of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the death of six bystanders in yesterday’s mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona have sparked a debate about how toxic our national discourse has become. That discourse barely had time to neutralize before it turned toxic again a few hours later. Before suspect Jared Lee Loughner was even named as the suspect, left wingers took aim at the Tea Party and Sarah Palin for the gun imagery she has brought to bear (and bears) in our national debates, and her targeting of Giffords in particular. This, they say, wasn’t an isolated incident by a crazy person but the spawn of a right-wing firmament that breeds crazy in crazy nurseries.

A couple of years ago, for instance, Fox pundit Bill O’Reilly repeatedly called Kansas abortion provider George Tiller a baby killer and mentioned him some 28 times on his show. Tiller was later murdered by Scott Roeder, shot in the eye while he was inside his church. The right has since Barack Obama’s election become more ominous in its rhetoric, more martial in its imagery and apocalyptic in its pronouncements. A disempowered group of Americans in 2008 turned to millenarian fury (a sign of their fear). Thus Giffords and others had gotten threats for their support of the health care bill. People were showing up at protests during those debates brandishing guns.

And so there was an anticipation building up among liberals that something like this was bound to happen sooner or later, perhaps even a dark wish that it happen to reveal the true animal spirits on the right.

So once there was news of a shooting, it seemed like a good time to immediately assail Palin’s bulls eye imagery, and the crosshairs she trained on Arizona’s Eight District in a 2010 political poster, which Giffords herself called an implied threat. Or for that matter it was worth remembering that Ann Coulter once called Bill Clinton assassination worthy. Or that Glenn Beck has joked about killing opponents and that his whole ideology is based around conspiracy theories that appeal to our country’s many lunatics.

At some point, rhetoric does indeed turn into threat, as I think it did in O’Reilly’s case. The First Amendment doesn’t cover threats. You can’t draw a line through a person’s name and smear it in blood on a poster. But it’s not like the right doesn’t know this. Instead its more clever exponents play with the contradictions. Palin and Glenn Beck do it with an edge of satire that their audience is likely aware of on some level, as obnoxious and destructive as it is to progress, as anathema as it is to people with brains. Yes it’s sad that some dummies do take it seriously (not realizing that Palin is less about policy than media whoredom or not recognizing that Beck is little more than a snake oil salesman/pitch man for gold investments). But the left uses imagery just as often, and with the arrogant vouchsafe that it’s OK for us because we’re right after all. A lot of us called George Bush a war criminal because we thought he had left at least a hundred thousand people dead in Iraq by lying about the reasons for going to war. Are there ramifications of using that language? Could it be used by a crazy person who thinks George Bush is literally a wanted criminal and who might in a deranged state somehow take action on that notion?

This is one reason I can’t blame Palin and Beck for Giffords. And that has made me a very lonely lefty this week.

Call it First Amendment fundamentalism or just sadness about how quickly the situation was exploited. Nobody on the left had the sense to wait a few hours to see who opened fire at that Safeway, and when it turned out to be a moonstruck college dropout/armed forces reject with paranoias about mind control, libs had to spin like mad when they realized they had literally jumped the gun. All of my heroes are now doing the mushy blogs about how toxic our political climate has become and trying with limp avail and flimsy proof to lay it at the feet of Palin.

Yes, Loughner used some right wing symbols about the Constitution being under attack and about the integrity of gold-backed currency. But he was mainly weaving that into a dark, solipsistic ideology all his own, barely recognizable to even NRA members. Who in the hell on the right wing has ever argued about government control of your “grammar structure”?

My heroes Keith Olbermann and Paul Krugman have taken this story with the dutiful drudgery of football players taking their positions at shirts and skins scrimmage. Krugman did not offer his usual elegant hard numbers to back up his weak contention that this was an invariable outcome of right wing hate-mongering–but just swiped at Palin in a pro forma rant,  trying to convince us she’s more to blame than people who used to call George Bush Hitler. Before 5 p.m. yesterday, conservatives already had been roused to defensive anger and were in pretty good stead to bat away the arguments that Jared Loughner’s  insanity in any way resembled their own behavior. The anti-bodies had kicked in, and there would be no reason, if I were a right-winger, to listen to the criticism. The left made a prima facie judgment and showed the right it will blame Sarah Palin for anything, even small pox, car wrecks or dog mange.

That makes her stronger, folks.

I’m a leftist, and do believe the Tea Party has created a toxic environment of anti-government panic and often destroyed sensible discourse with meaningless sloganeering. My late mother once told me that in her job as a tax preparer, she came across people who wanted to cash out of all their stock holdings at unattractive bases, take big tax hits or do other forms of financial violence to themselves just because Fox News has told them America had gone socialist. My mother’s prescription: “Fox News should be banned.” And this was a woman who had voted for Bush.

Just another example that conservative thinking is going to do real harm to many disadvantaged people (a lot of them conservatives) in the long run. They will slash necessary programs, push an anti-government agenda that forces more out-of-pocket expenses on poor people, destroy the middle class, accelerate wealth disparity, put us more in debt to the Chinese and force depressions on us if they have to. But it’s hard to prove or see that kind of insidious violence, and that makes lefties want to pin something more tangible on right wing leaders. How about a murder?

The fact is that there are lots of ways to slice the orange on this story. The most horrible is the one none of us dare bring up: We could point to the tragic irony that Giffords is a gun rights advocate and maybe ask if this is a good time to bring up the issue again in our national discourse. We could have taken aim (note the harmless metaphor) at Sarah Palin’s gun stances rather than Palin herself. Instead, we played into her hands and won her more sympathy.

Or we could have noted the irony that Giffords has not been easy to pigeonhole and she’s a good example of our less doctrinaire politicians. The sad thing is that maybe we need more of her, not one less. Our all-too-necessary political center is being attacked when it ought to be protected.

Instead, we liberals painted ourselves into a corner and made this contradictory statement: “The political atmosphere has become too toxic … and it’s the other side’s bloody fault.”

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Jared Lee Loughner has been identified as the suspect in the shooting of Rep. Gabrille Giffords, and the name has already sent the Web community rushing to MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. Supposedly, his MySpace page is already down, though some people who captured it beforehand say there was a farewell note.

The man in custody is accused of shooting 18 people and killing six, including a child and John M. Roll, a judge for the United States District Court who had received death threats over the years for his decisions on illegal immigrants, which were seen as too lenient.

A YouTube page for Jared Lee Loughner from Tucson links to a creepy world of text-only videos that offers his “final thoughts” and lays out a creepy manifesto of government mind control through currency and grammar. In one Tea Party-worthy outburst, he blasts Americans for not reading the Constitution, but in the next he says the government is trying to control your “grammar structure.” (Note to you, whether you’re a killer or not, the phrase “grammar structure” is a needless variant and “grammar” alone would do.) The guy seems to have found some connection between human syntax and mind control that he wanted to share with the world.

He says one of his favorite activities is “conscience dreaming.” He also blasts people in District 8 (Giffords’ district) for their illiteracy.

I have no way of knowing whether this person is really responsible for multiple murders, but if he is, this is America’s first glimpse of him:

I think it’s important for people to know if this is the person, because if he is and he’s crazy, then the blaming of the Tea Party should cease immediately. There are too many real things to blame them for.

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Giffords Shot

A horrible tragedy in Arizona today. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat in the House of Representatives representing the eighth district, was shot in the head outside a supermarket in Tuscon at close range. Seventeen others were shot as well, six of them killed, including one child. Giffords was originally reported to be dead, but later it was reported she survived, and it appears she will recover.

There is already rampant speculation about who is responsible: perhaps a febrile Tea Party sympathizer (Sarah Palin and others targeted Giffords as a traitor on the health care bill), or a member of a drug cartel (Giffords is outspoken on drug enforcement) or an anti-immigration activist (Giffords was reportedly soft on Arizona’s new racist immigration bill). A lot of liberals are already blaming the overheated and sometimes militaristic rhetoric on the right, including Palin’s, for the shooting. (An immigration judge was shot as well.)

I think this is a big mistake. It’s too early to make pronouncements about who is responsible. And even if it were a Tea Party activist, liberals ought to be more thoughtful in their response. Not all Republicans or even Tea Party activists are responsible for one act of violence, any more than all Muslims were responsible for 9/11. There is no legal basis for saying Palin or Beck (who sometimes had Giffords on his show) ever made actual violent threats or encouraged violence as a means to score political ends.  The rhetoric of right wingers like Beck and Palin is sick, perverted, fetishistic, often full of categorically wrong facts and, if you throw in Rush Limbaugh’s windbaggery as well, even cryptically racist, too, but not criminal.

Giffords is a smart public servant who doesn’t toe any party line really as far as I can tell. She’s for gun rights and for immigration reform. It seems, if anything, she’s dedicated herself to being open minded. So I don’t see her as a right wing bete noire or Democratic mealy mouther either. It would be sad if she left us. And for many reasons, including her all-important life, I’m not in a hurry to make her a left-wing martyr this afternoon.

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Lots O’ Music

Yes folks, ER Salo Deguierre lives!

I don’t know if anybody has noticed, but I’ve uploaded some 13 new tunes to my home page in the last month (all of which are on the right hand side of this page). Some of these are songs I had previously posted elsewhere, including MySpace. But most of it comes straight out of the archives–a mix of old songs and new. There are things I wrote 18 years ago (like the folk song “Hemingway,” one of my first compositions), things I recorded three years ago but never showed anybody (like “New York Christmas, 1945,”) , and a few ditties I rattled off in 2010 (like “Window Train Movie.”) I’ve got a couple of other items in the hopper, but you should probably expect less music from me for a while as I turn my attention to fiction projects that badly need my attention.

If you like any of the stuff here, please comment! I’m very proud of some of these songs, though they may indeed betray the steep learning curve I’ve faced with the recording process. I hope the amateur passion of my kitchen table rock will help you overlook some of my admitted sloppiness.

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If you are interested in either Facebook, Goldman Sachs, the SEC or securities regulation in general, you’ve probably been following this controversy about investment bank Goldman’s deal to secure extra funding for Facebook. A special investment pool for wealthy investors will allow rich investors into the social networking company through backdoor channels that skirt SEC rules so that the company doesn’t have to do an IPO yet. Usually, companies must go public when they have 500 investors. So Goldman set up a special purpose entity in which several investors magically become one. It’s a deal that’s got some people apoplectic, because as always, it will allow the wealthiest Americans to get into a private company early. When Facebook eventually becomes the kind of company that we mere carbon-based life forms can invest in, it could well be a less attractive investment. Why do I say that? Yes, I use Facebook, and love it. Yet, you might be shocked when I tell you–Facebook is actually just an Internet bulletin board. It might still be a dog someday. Small shareholders might be the last ones in and get the least value. The large investors are buying because they know you’ll be there to take it off their hands later. Remember AOL-Time Warner? Almost a hundred billion dollars flushed down the toilet?

While others gripe about the rules of trading, I’d like to step back and ask another timely question: Given the many ways the wealthy rig our system, why is our tax system protecting them? From stock options to special purpose entities to private equity investments to poor corporate governance to outrageous signing bonuses, the rich already have many great advantages to suck value out of our investments. We are to believe as small investors that we are participating in the great wealth-generation of capital, but we do so at a disadvantage to those who get in early and to others who trade at lightning speed. So why are we laboring under the delusion that continuing low marginal tax rates for the wealthy are fair and/or productive?

Many people shrug and say that it’s a necessary evil of capitalism–that the rich need more advantages than the rest of us because they will reinvest and give us jobs. But then you might have also noticed that American companies are posting record profits–and sitting on them without doing much new hiring. The American worker, meanwhile, has seen her wages stagnate while unemployment has remained at 9% to 10%. Corporations are sending their reinvestments overseas.

Most Americans believe that the tax rates on the wealthy should rise. And yet in the last election they elected a Congress that made sure rates wouldn’t.  What gives?

Could it be an abiding belief among many Americans that the wealthy deserve the big money for some reason? They work for it, don’t they? Splenetic Fox commentators insist the richest 1% are actually working 400 times harder than those in the bottom 50%. But let’s keep everything honest here: they aren’t. Corporate governance is a sham. People are vastly over-rewarded in corporate America for things they don’t deserve, including the people who got bonuses in 2009 for destroying our economy. Some companies are responsible in the way they compensate their employees. But we have to trust them to do it.

Yes, capital creates wealth, but only to a point. But somewhere along the way, lower taxes simply prompt the wealthiest not to reinvest but to hoard. These nuances, if not lost on supply siders, are conveniently ignored. And when they address their arguments to lower income people, they try to appeal to what they think is an innate sense of fairness. The rich work hard for that money, don’t they?

Well, yes, if you consider a used car salesman lying to you and selling you a shitty car with a bad engine for three times its book value working hard.

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Welcome Spanish Speakers

I was very amused to see “chicas desnudas” as one of the search terms that directed someone to my blog today. For those of you who are regular readers, you’ll know that I do a parody of the TV Guide listings sometimes. A very old entry lists “chicas desnudas” as one of the highlights of “Real Sexo” on Spanish HBO. A very obscure old blog post, but I’m not picky.

I just want to let everybody know that this is a Spanish friendly site, and I am personally happy to have all immigrants, illegal or otherwise, in our country. To hell with Arizona!

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