Tonight's Occupy Supply Skill Share will feature a discussion on Finance in the Occupy Movement with FDL's Edwin M. Walker. Ed will go over some of the best practices from different Occupy Finance Working Groups and some simple ideas your Occupation can[...]
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I’m literally hopping up and down with excitement to talk to y’all about The Avengers?I’ll have a review on Friday that can act as an open thread for discussion over the weekend and spoilerific post about the movie on Monday. But to pass the hours until the movie hits theaters, and to continue our conversation from yesterday about The Avengers and The Dark Knight it’s worth checking out Adam Rogers’ long piece on Joss Whedon and the process of making The Avengers, perhaps the first time Whedon’s been able and allowed to relax into a well-oiled machine that had no interest in letting him hoist himself on his own petard. He also has an overarching theory of why Marvel movies are working, while DC Comics movies, with the exception of Batman, have had such trouble:
Not incidentally, these were all characters from comics published by Marvel. The characters from competing comics company DC?Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Superfriends?were lying fallow, even though the corporation that owns DC also owns Warner Bros. Pictures. Marvel, on the other hand, was doing so well with its A-list characters that in 2005 the company took the bold step of financing its own theatrical releases. It would translate its characters its own way.
Spider-Man had been indentured to Sony, and the X-Men and Fantastic Four were already at Fox, but the remaining roster of potential movie heroes was still plenty deep. First up: Iron Man, an alcoholic gazillionaire playboy who builds his own rocket-powered exoskeleton. Then there?s the Hulk, a brilliant scientist who turns into a massively strong, uncontrollable green monster. Oh, and Captain America?a supersoldier from World War II brought into the present?and Thor, a hammer-wielding Norse god with superpowers and family drama that makes the real housewives of Atlanta look like the Osmonds. Unlike the gleaming, godlike DC heroes, Marvel characters are more likely to regard their powers as a curse than a blessing; great power has a pesky tendency to come with great responsibility. And that makes for pretty good movie plots.
I think there’s something to that. But of course, Marvel movies do have gods in the form of Asgardians, and some of the pleasure of watching Thor and Loki duke it comes from seeing gods behaving badly, of seeing these brawls play out on the largest possible scale. I wonder if the secret overall is that, on-screen at least, the Marvel heroes have tended to be funnier and more self-deprecating than the DC heroes, which is not precisely the same thing as angsty. There’s something inherently ridiculous about a god in a pet store, or a rich kid reacting in amazement and pleasure to his new toys, to the fact that he can fly. Acknowledging that absurdity is a useful nod to people who aren’t lifelong geeks, but are letting themselves be talked into drinking the Kool-Aid. And the transmutation of anxiety and darkness into comedic gold is basically Joss Whedon’s sweet spot.
Batman’s owned the flip side of that joyful ridiculousness, a sense of deviance: Gotham residents may not be right about the precise ways in which Bruce Wayne’s head isn’t right, but they’re not wrong that there’s something wrong with him. That comfort with painting the hero as a bit too dedicated, acknowledging our unease, may be why it’s worked better than say, Green Lantern or Green Hornet. One way or the other, the movies seem to require a deep tonal commitment to work.
As part of an effort to reduce health spending by $115 billion, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted last week to cut $400 million from a program designed to make it easier for children in lower-income families to gain insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and offer bonuses to states that see increases. According to Politico, 23 states have received bonus money for enrolling more children, with 16 of those boosting enrollment by more than 10 percent. While the proposal’s immediate future is dim, opponents say there is a chance it could resurface later on:
Although the Senate is unlikely to pick up this measure, [Executive Director of Families USA Ron] Pollack said he?s concerned it could reappear when Congress returns after the elections with a full plate of legislation in need of offsets.
?When you start with the House-passed budget and efforts like this, while it?s clear that they?re not going to become law, it?s just part of an opening bell about how the Republicans in the House want to handle a larger effort that will take place some time after the elections,? he said.
The lead sponsor of this bill, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), claimed weakening the eligibility requirements to boost coverage encouraged more people to try and game the system. But as Politico noted, the study he cited to back up his claim did not include any data specific to the bonus program Republicans are seeking to cut.
Here is what CHIP actually has done: It has helped cut the national rate of uninsured children to the lowest recorded level ever, keeping millions from losing all health coverage, and pushing long-term health costs lower. The program Republicans want to cut, meanwhile, paid out close to $300 million in bonuses last year alone and has already encouraged states to streamline their enrollment processes, eliminating bureaucratic waste.
Internet freedom, online privacy and copyright reform came up as a politically contentious issue in the U.S. following Rep. Lamar S. Smith’s (R-TX) introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the grassroots campaign charging that the bill would lead to internet censorship. But while the SOPA controvery has, for the time being, been put to rest in the U.S., a similar movement in Germany has given new electoral weight to the Pirate Party, a niche political party.
The Pirate Party, which supports a platform of copyright reform and online privacy, picked up an electoral victory of four seats in the Saarland regional parliament in elections held at the end of March. The victory gives them twice as many seats as the once strong Green Party. The ultra pro-business Free Democrats won no seats.
Steve Ketteman, a former columnist for the newspaper Berliner Zeitung and the author of ?One Day at Fenway,” opines in The New York Times:
This month they face their biggest challenge, with elections in two more states, including North Rhine-Westphalia, the country?s most populous. Should the results match recent poll numbers ? as high as 13 percent, making the Pirates Germany?s third-most-popular party ? they will serve notice that a new electoral force has arrived and offer a compelling political lesson for parties on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Pirate Party’s niche platform of stronger protection for file sharing, opposing censorship, and even supporting voting rights for teenagers has struck a chord for German voters. But while the party appears to have embraced a niche set of policy positions, the movement’s focus on the Internet as a medium for political organization and change has resonated with young Germans. Kellerman observes:
[T]heir real goal, and the root of their success, is more meta: using the Internet to create a new structure of politics that can solve the problem of how to energize citizens ? not only for the excitement of a campaign but also the often dreary realities of actual governance.
Indeed, while a two party dominated system makes it unlikely for a similar start-up party to make such a splash in the U.S., the online activist-based pushback on SOPA and the growing power of the Internet as a political medium and a political issue area proves that the Internet-based influence is an emerging political force in legislative and electoral politics around the world.
The bracket thus far is here. Today's winner will face off in the second round against Santorum's gag reflex whenever he hears about JFK.
1. RICK PERRY SPEECHIFIES WHILE DRUNK. OR HIGH.
2. ANN ROMNEY HAS LOTS OF CADILLACS
This feels good, being back in Michigan. You know, the trees are the right height. The streets are just right. I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pick-up truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.So relatable! I mean, who doesn't have multiple luxury SUVs in their stable? I bet you $10,000 that most people do! Well, the ones who are real Americans, anyway.
Attempting to stem the damage of yet another unforced error, the Romney campaign said it was only natural for Ann to have all those cars because the Romneys have all those houses all over the country! That response probably came from the same genius that gave us "Etch a Sketch", because when only 29 percent of Americans think Romney "understands the needs of people like you" (per Pew Research), and when the emerging media narrative suggests that you're too rich to relate to the common folk, the last thing you want to do is rub your wealth under their nose.
In 2008, Convicted terrorist Jose Padilla sued former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo for writing controversial Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos justifying the use of torture. The suit said Yoo’s memos, which were signed by OLC head Jay Bybee, provided the legal justifications for what the suit said was Padilla?s unconstitutional confinement and ?gross physical and psychological abuse.?
Today, the 9th Circuit Court, of which Jay Bybee is a member, ruled that Yoo is protected from the lawsuit, claiming that the law defining torture and the treatment of enemy combatants was unsettled when Yoo wrote the memos:
We therefore hold that Yoo must be granted qualified immunity, and accordingly reverse the decision of the district court.
As we explain below, we reach this conclusion for two reasons. First, although during Yoo?s tenure at OLC the constitutional rights of convicted prisoners and persons subject to ordinary criminal process were, in many respects, clearly established, it was not ?beyond debate? at that time that Padilla ? who was not a convicted prisoner or criminal defendant, but a suspected terrorist designated an enemy combatant and confined to military detention by order of the President ? was entitled to the same constitutional protections as an ordinary convicted prisoner or accused criminal. Id. Second, although it has been clearly established for decades that torture of an American citizen violates the Constitution, and we assume without deciding that Padilla?s alleged treatment rose to the level of torture, that such treatment was torture was not clearly established in 2001-03.
Running down the list of torture memos Bybee signed, Marcy Wheeler writes of the 9th Circuit’s decision, “Oh good. We don?t have to question the competence of anyone on the 9th Circuit now, given that the 9th Circuit has judged that it was not beyond debate that Inquisition torture methods were torture when now-9th Circuit judges were signing off on claims they weren?t.”
Erstwhile presidential candidate Newt Gingrich officially suspended his campaign today after announcing he would do so last week, and among the handful of people he thanked by name were Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The couple were far the largest donors to the super PAC supporting Gingrich’s presidential bid, and their $25 million donations nearly single-handedly kept the Gingrich campaign alive in its last days.
GINGRICH: And of course, while they weren’t directly associated with the campaign, it would be impossible for me to be here and thank everybody without mentioning Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who single-handedly came pretty close to matching Romney’s super PAC.
Gingrich’s praise of the Adelsons, and admission of their importance in his campaign, underscores how super PACs have fundamentally changed the political landscape, allowing a single household to spend unlimited amounts of money to nearly “single-handedly” fund candidates.
But his comments may also raise some eyebrows, as super PACs are legally not allowed to coordinate with campaigns and should exist entirely independently of the campaign. Gingrich notes the casino mogul and his wife “weren’t directly associated with the campaign,” but his public gratitude underscore the porous rules governing campaign finance in the post-Citizens United era.
Gingrich did not endorse Romney during his speech, but is expected to sometime in the near future, as the presumed GOP nominee has vowed to help Gingrich retire his campaign debt.
What a surprise. File this one under the Department of Duh, because anyone who's been following the history of Taser use (524 Taser-related deaths so far) has figured out there can't be that much smoke without some fire.
The study, which analyzed detailed records from the cases of eight people who went into cardiac arrest after receiving shocks from a Taser X26 fired at a distance, is likely to add to the debate about the safety of the weapons. Seven of the people in the study died; one survived.
Advocacy groups like Amnesty International have argued that Tasers, the most widely used of a class of weapons known as electrical control devices, are potentially lethal and that stricter rules should govern their use.But proponents maintain that the devices ? which are used by more than 16,700 law enforcement agencies in 107 countries, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser ? pose less risk to civilians than firearms and are safer for police officers than physically tackling a suspect.
The results of studies of the devices? safety in humans have been mixed.
Medical experts said on Monday that the new report, published online on Monday in the journal Circulation, makes clear that electrical shocks from Tasers, which shoot barbs into the clothes and skin, can in some cases set off irregular heart rhythms, leading to cardiac arrest.
?This is no longer arguable,? said Dr. Byron Lee, a cardiologist and director of the electrophysiology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. ?This is a scientific fact. The national debate should now center on whether the risk of sudden death with Tasers is low enough to warrant widespread use by law enforcement.?
The author of the study, Dr. Douglas P. Zipes, a cardiologist and professor emeritus at Indiana University, has served as a witness for plaintiffs in lawsuits against Taser ? a fact that Mr. Tuttle said tainted the findings. ?Clearly, Dr. Zipes has a strong financial bias based on his career as an expert witness,? Mr. Tuttle said in an e-mail, adding that a 2011 ificant risk of cardiac arrest ?when deployed reasonably.?
However, Dr. Robert J. Myerburg, a professor of medicine in cardiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that Dr. Zipes?s role in litigation also gave him extensive access to data from medical records, police records and autopsy reports. The study, he said, had persuaded him that in at least some of the eight cases, the Taser shock was responsible for the cardiac arrests.
There are a lot of problems with Tasers that Taser International would rather we didn't talk about. One of them is that the voltage can go a lot higher than the manufacturer says it can. Then there's that interesting habit the company has of suing medical examiners who list Tasers as the cause of death?or otherwise persuading them.
They don't spend much money on lobbying, so I guess the legal threats do the trick.
There are a few players who can for a few years change the face of football. Junior Seau was one of those players. For several years, when he was in San Diego (don't pay attention to his career when he went to New England), he was a beast. Junior Seau could take over a game.
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The Romney campaign has tried their darndest to divert the media and wipe their hands clean of Richard Grenell after the national security spokesperson abruptly resigned his post yesterday afternoon. When the news leaked to The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, it was immediately framed in terms of Grenell's status as an openly gay man in a party that advocates against LGBT civil rights. However Rubin didn't mince words in explaining Grenell's departure. "The ongoing pressure from social conservatives over his appointment and the reluctance of the Romney campaign to send Grenell out as a spokesman while controversy swirled left Grenell essentially with no job," she wrote.
The last thing Romney wants is a string of stories accusing the presumptive Republican nominee of being a homophobe. Romney's campaign manager Matt Rhodes issued a release claiming that they were "disappointed" by Grenell's decision, and they contacted publications such as Politico to change the narrative, claiming that a string of senior campaign officials had called Grenell to discourage him from quitting. Their counterargument seems absurd at face value. If the Romney team truly had no concern with his sexual orientation they would have issued public releases disowning the attacks from Bryan Fischer and other evangelical conservatives. It's hard to imagine any political operative resigning a plum position if the possible future president was willing to offer public support. Instead, they took the fearful tact, terrified of offending the social conservatives who have yet to fully accept Romney as the party's new leader. As Dave Weigel said, "You certainly can't look at this and think, 'There's a campaign that's confident of holding on to evangelical voters.'"
Like most current Republicans, Romney is no strong ally for LGBT rights. But he's smart enough to recognize the trends in wider culture, and made every effort during the primary to avoid the label of bigot. "I don't discriminate," Romney said in response to a debate question on how he has supported gay rights. "In the appointments made when I was governor of Massachusetts a member of my cabinet was gay. I appointed people to the bench regardless of their sexual orientation. Made it very clear that in my view we should not discriminate in hiring policies, in legal policies." Romney reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage by tried to carve out a middle ground. "If people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays," he continued, "or will in any way try and suggest that people who have different sexual orientations don't have full rights in this country, they won't find that in me."
Don't let the Romney campaign's protestations distract from the truth: they sided with the homophobic views of the far right over a forceful defense of Grenell. Apparently employment in a Republican presidential campaign isn't included in those "full rights."