He fought the good fight. Pro-choice, pro-equality candidate (and friend of the Blend) Trevor Thomas, a Michigan native who made his stamp on the equality movement in his work at the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers Legal Defense Network was[...]
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(h/t Kevin Gosztola @ Firedog Lake)Anti-Leaks Proposals Protect 'Leak' Powers of CongressBy: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog LakeWednesday August 1, 2012 12:32 pmYesterday, I extensively detailed most of the proposals the Senate intelligence committee has[...]
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Roberto d'AubuissonWhen Mitt Romney decided to take up the offer to launch Bain Capital in 1983, he initially found financing difficult to come by. And so, after some initial misgivings were conveniently overcome, he flew to Miami to meet with some Salvadorans. And he returned with pledges of $9 million, 40 percent of Bain's start-up capital. Thus did the Bain buccaneer lay the foundation for his fortune.
The families of some of those investors had ties to the death squads that plagued El Salvador at that time. Ryan Grim and Cole Stangler at the Huffington Post are the latest reporters to take on the story of those investors, following on the heels of reporting by Joseph Tanfani, Melanie Mason and Matea Gold at the Los Angeles Times in mid-July, by Justin Elliott at Salon in January and by Mitchell Zuckoff and Ben Bradlee Jr. at the Boston Globe in August 1994.
When Romney first sought the presidency in 2007, he was back in Miami, and he took note of those early investors:
"I owe a great deal to Americans of Latin American descent. When I was starting my business, I came to Miami to find partners that would believe in me and that would finance my enterprise. My partners were Ricardo Poma, Miguel Dueñas, Pancho Soler, Frank Kardonski, and Diego Ribadeneira."Romney didn't mention a few other founding Salvadoran investors, including members of the de Sola and Salaverria families. Some had had their plantations there confiscated by the government. All were in self-imposed exile in Miami.
Just rich oligarchs investing in what they hoped would be a good deal? Not exactly. Members of the Poma, Dueñas, de Sola and Salaverria families had ties to the Salvadoran death squads that murdered thousands during the civil war of the 1980s.
Watch-dog groups attribute the vast majority of human rights abuses and violent incidents in that era to the death squads?85 percent of them according to the congressionally mandated Truth Commission of the United States Institute of Peace. The most prominent death-squad leader was Roberto d'Aubuisson, who an insider later said had ordered the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. An outspoken advocate for the poor, the archbishop was gunned down while saying mass in 1980. D'Aubuisson was the founder of ARENA, an ultra-right party tied to the death squads by numerous investigators, including the CIA.
Justin Elliott reported:
There is no evidence that any of Bain Capital?s original investors were involved in these sorts of activities. But the identities of some of the investors remain secret, and there are family names that raise questions.As was the case with Guatemala's murderous leadership at the time, the Reagan administration had strong ties to the right wing in El Salvador and sent billions of dollars to aid the regime. D'Aubisson would endorse Reagan in 1984.
Four members of the de Sola family were among the original Bain investors, or ?limited partners? in the company, the Globe reported. Their relative and ?one-time business partner,? Orlando de Sola, was an important figure in El Salvador. A well-known right-wing coffee grower with an (in his words) ?authoritarian? vision for the country, de Sola spent time living in Miami but was also a founding member of the right-wing Arena party, lead by a U.S.-trained former intelligence officer named Roberto d?Aubuisson.
Much of the territory covered in Grim and Stangler's article has been previously reported all the way back to the Globe's exposé in 1994. No surprise then that the Romney campaign would only respond to the two reporters' inquiries by referring them to a 13-year-old Salt Lake Tribune article:
"Romney confirms Bain had investors in El Salvador. But, as was Bain's policy with any big investor, they had the families checked out as diligently as possible," the Tribune wrote. "They uncovered no unsavory links to drugs or other criminal activity."As Grim and Stangler write: "Nobody with a basic understanding of the region's history could believe that assertion."
They point out:
? In 1984, Robert White, former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, named two Salaverria brothers?Julio and Juan Ricardo?as having directly funded death squads.
? Francisco de Sola and his cousin, Herbert Arturo de Sola, also invested early in Bain. Two other members of family were "limited partners." Team Romney refused to tell the reporters who those two were. They financially backed D'Aubisson's ARENA party.
? Orlando de Sola had never-proved ties to death squads. He denies ties. But even the Romney campaign admits he did.
? Ricardo Poma became one of the three members of the Bain Capital investment committee. The Poma family helped finance ARENA.
? The Regalado-Dueñas family and the Alvarez families were leading supporters of ARENA. "Arturo Dueñas 'regularly supplied' the head of an ARENA-affiliated 'paramilitary unit ... with a variety of official Salvadoran documents," according to the CIA. "Paramilitary unit" being a euphemism for death squad.
Among the Salvadoran oligarchs-in-exile in the 1980s, there was no hesitance in speaking openly about their support of death squads. They saw them as necessary to squash communists and socialists engaged in rebellion against the regime. They may not have said so when they spoke to Mitt Romney about investing in Bain in 1984. But he surely must have known by the time he praised them in 2007.
rem13 has a post on this subject here.
Rush bashes Mitt for coming out of mandate closet with embrace of RomneyCare.[...]
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Conservatives freak as Romney campaign touts Massachusetts health care law Mitt's promised not to implement. [...]
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We wrote yesterday about Fox News' subtly racist attack on Olympian Gabrielle Douglas. Other media decided to go after her mother. And some folks decided to criticize her hair.Well, she spoke out about all of this, as it was clearly getting to her. Not something an Olympian needs before a competition.Click image to see larger version.So what happened next? She...
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The Romney campaign farce continues. It's somewhat doubtful that bringing up the fact that having access to universal health care saves lives, while trying to deny the same system nationwide upon which it is based, is going to win many converts. In fact, all her response is likely to do is annoy other republicans.
A flummoxed Bill Hemmer of Fox News quickly changed the subject, naturally.
A Mitt Romney spokesperson offered an unusual counterattack Tuesday to an ad in which a laid-off steelworker blames the presumptive GOP nominee for his family losing health care: If that family had lived in Massachusetts, it would have been covered by the former governor?s universal health care law.
?To that point, if people had been in Massachusetts, under Governor Romney?s health care plan, they would have had health care,? Andrea Saul, Romney?s campaign press secretary, said during an appearance on Fox News. ?There are a lot of people losing their jobs and losing their health care in President [Barack] Obama?s economy.?
The ad by Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting Obama, features Joe Soptic, a steelworker who was laid off from a plant owned by Romney-founded Bain Capital, discussing his wife?s cancer and eventual death. Soptic said his family lost health insurance after he was laid off.
Erick Erickson offered this up in response:
I know that a lot of you think I’ve been too easy on Skyler White, the deeply morally compromised wife of violent meth kingpin Walter White on Breaking Bad. But her transformation from naive wife to a woman who’s grieving her own sins and confronting her husband even though she’s terrified of him has sparked some fantastic considerations of the character. And I wanted to grapple a bit with this one from Kelli Marshall, which I disagree with, but want to address because I think it raises some problematic ideas about women and violence and abuse in popular culture:
But it?s this second-to-last occurrence that, I think, brings my aversion to Skyler White full circle. Last week?s episode (?Madrigal?) features one of the most disconcerting shots in the entire series (also in the Top Ten Most Disconcerting, the above-mentioned avocado/chicken scene as well as that turtle and poor Victor?s demise-by-box-cutter). In a nightgown, Skyler is in bed. Walt approaches her and begins to derobe, all clothes. He slides in bed, adjusts his penis, closely spoons his wife, and kisses her on the arms. Although she?s clearly uninterested, Skyler does not recoil. WTF? This seeming act of ?pseudo-rape? is indeed, as one blogger puts it, ?one of the most uncomfortable moments of the entire series.? A TV Line writer remarks similarly: ?Aaaand thank you, Breaking Bad, for the fade to black that spares us a full-on, against-Skyler?s-will sex scene [...] though I?m not sure what?s worse ? seeing it or imagining it.?
At this point, it should be clear that I?ve a very low tolerance for representations of rape and/or forced sex (the same goes for portrayals of animal abuse). But what?s more, I?ve little patience for female characters who choose to remain in said abusive relationships without exacting some sort of revenge or authority over their male oppressors (maybe this is coming to a head in Breaking Bad?). Finally, as mentioned above, I take issue with female characters who function as victims ? or prey, as Anna Gunn puts it when describing the set-up for the ?I?m a coward? scene depicted in the animated gif below: ?It ended up as a dance, with Bryan [Cranston] pursuing me all around the room. It was really like I was trapped animal that was Bryan?s prey.? Yeah, I don?t dig this situation.
It’s one thing to not want to consume fiction that involves images of women being the targets of physical and emotional violence, which I completely understand. Everyone has their own limitations?it’s one of the reasons I rarely go to or write about horror movies?and those personal boundaries are worthy of respect. It’s another to say that a female character is not written credibly, that her failure to resist to violence against her, or her resistance to violence visited upon her don’t resonate given what we know of the characters, their material and emotional resources and support systems, and the worlds in which they live. A third to examine the work of creators who appear to enjoy visiting harm, degradation, or embarrassment on their female characters. But I have a hard time disliking Skyler White on the grounds that she should have found a way to leave Walt or stop him from potentially assaulting her already.
Women who are battered, and I’m not even talking about women who are emotionally abused, the most common form of abuse Walt subjects Skyler to, take an average of five to seven attempts to leave the partner who is abusing them. There are all sorts of reasons a woman might not leave, or return, many of which affect Skyler: the safety and continued care of her children, her knowledge that her husband is willing and capable of murdering people who he believe threaten him, even ones who are protected, Walt’s ability to implicate her criminal activity. Skyler’s been in this situation for almost precisely a year, which is not a tremendously long time. Given that timeframe, and the timing of Skyler’s confrontation of Walt, it makes sense to me that she’s potentially working up to a first attempt to leave Walt, not counting his moving out before she was aware of his criminal activity, a hugely exciting, but also hugely frightening prospect.
And beyond that, there’s something disturbing about the idea that Skyler, who certainly deserves blame for her involvement in Walt’s drug-laundering, should be considered at all complicit in her marital rape and abuse. This sort of judgement is unnerving for the same reason the prospect of Lara Croft facing sexual assault was unnerving: it placed responsibility for avoiding rape in a female character’s power, and made that process into a game that didn’t take into account the prospect real sexual assault victims sometimes face of being murdered or further brutalized if they fight back. In a sense, I find the fantasy that it’s easy and realistic to fight back against rapist or domestic or emotional abusers even more damaging than illustrations of what it’s like to be trapped in an abusive relationship. What’s horrifying about Breaking Bad isn’t that Skyler is taking it from Walt, that she’s forming a human barrier between him and her children, but its depictions of how Walt has set up a situation where his wife has to forfeit the credibility that she might have been able to leverage against him in order to protect the most vulnerable members of his family, that he believes his intimidation of her is a sign of his moral superiority.
I’d really like to live in a world where it was easy for women to leave their abusers and to see their rapists convicted. It’s a beautiful, powerful fantasy, one that I definitely enjoy see reflected in utopian and science fiction and fantasy. But it’s not the world we live in. And what I’m hungry for is not fiction and heroines that erase the difficulties of reaching that world, but that illustrate how high those hurdles are, and spur the people who consume that fiction to action and awareness anyway.
When Husbands, the online sitcom about a professional baseball player and a TV star who get married in a drunken weekend in Vegas and decide to stay together in support of marriage equality and because they think they might actually be in love, premiered last year, I wrote that “setting yourself up as a model minority may be an important way to argue for legal rights, real equality means the right to make mistakes and bad decisions?and to work your way out of them.” While that’s true of the show’s main characters Brady (Sean Hemeon) and Cheeks (Brad Bell, also the Husbands co-creator, writer, and executive producer with TV veteran Jane Espenson), when it comes to experimenting to discover the future, it’s also true of Husbands itself, one of the pioneering high-quality ongoing shows to live online rather than on a broadcast network.
What’s exciting about about Husbands, though, is how quickly the show has grown in scope and emotional ambition from its first season to its second, which premieres on August 15. A year’s acquaintance has richened the on-screen chemistry and affection between Hemeon and Bell, and Husbands has grown in confidence both in terms of the ideas it’s exploring and the team behind the show’s sense of the skills they’re developing by working on it. And the show is becoming an important example of how television distributed online fits into a larger pop-culture ecosystem, not simply as an alternative means of distribution for content networks are too timid to make, but as a rich idea lab that could breed a new generation of pop culture tropes and show-runners.
For a sense of that, I have an exclusive first look at the behind-the-scenes material the Husbands crew shot to accompany the second season, which goes inside the table reads and Bell and Espenson’s writing sessions, and also provides some perspective on how large the team involved in the show is:
And it is large: the $60,001 the Husbands team raised through their Kickstarter campaign helped pay the more than 40 people who worked on the second season of the show, let the production move from its cramped initial setting to a rented house that gives the scenes and actors room to breathe, and helped upgrade the cameras from commercial hand-held DSLRs to Steadicam rigs with Scarlet cameras that improved the quality of the images. “It looks like big TV,” Espenson joked when I visited the set in May. “It’s the new big TV,” Bell said, and it’s true. Husbands is an illustration of the narrowing gap between online sitcoms and their broadcast siblings.
The set and the crew aren’t the only way Husbands is bigger in its second season. The show has a large roster of major guest stars, most notably Joss Whedon as Brady’s (Sean Hemon) clueless agent Wes. He’s the kind of man who declares “You know I’d gay-march on hepatatis-infected glass to change things,” even as he tries to get Brady to tone down Cheeks, explaining that “acceptable gays are overweight, over forty, overly professional with their lovers in public,” the show’s painfully accurate swipe at chemistry-free couples like Cam and Mitch on Modern Family. And in a sequence that will make fanboy hearts everywhere go pitter-patter even as it makes a point, Dichen Lachman and Tricia Helfer appear in a brutal parody of straight-guy fantasy about pillow-fighting college girls experimenting with lesbianism.
Husbands‘ emotional palatte is deeper, too, this time around. Cheeks sets off the action in the second season when he snaps a picture of himself and Brady smooching in bed on their three-week anniversary and imprudently Tweets it, prompting frantic calls from Wes about the morality clause in Brady’s contract with the Dodgers, splutteringly angry condemnation from the Billion Moms, and fights between the newlyweds. The show walks a careful line and walks it well: the public reaction to the picture is absolutely wrong, hysterical, and stupid. But it’s deeply insensitive of Cheeks to have Tweeted it without consideration for Brady’s feelings or sense of control over his public image. It’s the kind of argument couples who have just moved in together or just gotten married have about dishes in the sink and joint finances, but played out and amplified by the national media.
The show deftly weaves together those threads with an exploration of a thornier issue that broadcast sitcoms that involve gay couples refuse to explore deeply, in part because it’s a dichotomy that they depend on for humor: the gendered performances of men, be they gay or straight, and the kind of condemnation or approbation they attract. “I’m audi, girlfriend! Pride!” Wes declares when he hangs up with Brady, conflating gayness and femeness, an air of condescension in his aping of the latter. “Be a little less gay,” Brady tells Cheeks, a reminder that discomfort with femenized gender performance is not only a way straight men express homophobia. “Less gay like you? Because you’re less gay. You do get what gay means, right, Brady?” Cheeks asks him bitterly. “The only thing that makes you gay is having an exclusive membership to the same-sex sex club.” It’s an important reminder that there’s something self-deluding and self-denying about the belief that gay people can convert the most stringent, ugly homophobes if only they perform masculinity or femininity well enough.
I liked the first season of Husbands, which effectively functioned as a single episode of a sitcom, and it’s been exciting to watch the show grow, particularly given the traditionally steep learning curve sitcoms need to settle in to character rhythms and identify their particular strengths. But in addition to functioning as a confident sitcom, Husbands is also a valuable illustration of where online television functions in the Hollywood ecosystem: as a way for established writers, directors, and producers to make good content while also developing skills that they have less time to acquire in the traditional broadcast television season.
“I’ve only been directing for two years,” Husbands director and Will & Grace and Desperate Housewives alum Jeff Greenstein told me in May. “I had the experience of doing Husbands, and I did two more Desparate Housewives episodes…I have learned a lot. I was actually just saying to Jane the other day, I feel like I know the questions I ask in a way I didn’t a year ago.” For Espenson and Bell, Husbands has been a chance to build complementary skill sets. ” I’ve grown as a producer, show runner, but I was pretty confident my writing was there. Twenty year writing career. But I’ve never really been comfortable calling myself a producer or a show runner. And now I’m getting closer to that,” Espenson says. “Cheeks sort of had the opposite. Cheeks came in with massive producer and show runner skills…Cheeks knows what he wants but his writing skills have grown. We learned from the opposite sides. Now we’re both solid writers and solid producers, or at least, I’m on my way.”
That ought to be a formula legacy media operations and streaming upstarts like Hulu and Netflix get excited about: a lab for content that moves beyond television conventions that’s also a graduate school turning out the kind of multi-tool players with unique creative visions and the potential to be the next Louis C.K., writing, directing, editing and scoring their own productions, and doing it intelligently on a reasonable budget. Giving a show like Husbands creative freedom doesn’t seem like it would be a particularly onerous part of the bargain, particularly given how much executives like Hulu’s senior vice president for content Andy Forssell emphasize the critical need to give showrunners an opportunity to develop their vision at length. But until then, I’m happy to at least be getting my annual season of Husbands, a sweet and snarky apéritif to cleanse my palate before I tuck into the fall broadcast television season.
President Barack Obama, the honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America, has endorsed an end to the organization’s ban on LGBT scouts and members. A White House spokesman told Metro Weekly today that “the President believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century. He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation.” President Obama joins corporate CEOs who serve on the national board, Eagle Scouts, and even his anti-LGBT opponent Mitt Romney in opposing the group’s policy of discrimination.