Ron Paul had a good day yesterday:
Ron Paul's chances of winning the White House may be minimal, but his supporters dominated the Republican caucuses in St. Louis and Jackson County on Saturday.
Paul's backers won all 36 delegates here while taking about two-thirds of delegates in Jackson County.
The purpose of today's non-binding caucuses was to choose representatives to a round of Congressional district meetings in April and June that will repeat the process to send 52 delegates from Missouri to the August convention in Tampa, Fla.
Most of Missouri's 142 caucus gatherings were held March 17, but St. Louis and Jackson County, which includes Kansas City, were given special permission to hold them this weekend, so as not to interfere with last week's St. Patrick's Day's events. Official results will not be known until next month.
Unlike the last young adult sensation, Twilight, The Hunger Games is actually easy to understand for those who missed the initial hype. The novel, by Suzanne Collins, takes place in a future, post-apocalyptic North America, where war and ecological disaster have left the population under the control of a totalitarian government. To maintain order, the leaders of Panem?from the Latin panem et circenses, or bread and circuses?have instituted an annual contest, where 24 young people ("tributes") are chosen from each of the twelve districts, and forced to fight to the death in a contest that is some combination of Lord of the Flies, The Most Dangerous Game, and the cult Japanese film Battle Royale.
The genius of the book was that it combined a familiar plot device?kids sent in a strange place and left to fend for themselves through any means necessary?with a scathing critique of reality show culture, an examination of class, and the question of personal versus political obligations. Characters in the novel, both those forced to fight and those forced to participate more generally, show or express disdain for the spectacle, and the government that sponsors it. And while Collins doesn't spend much time on the geopolitics of Panem, she does use her character to explore the experience of a world where the extremely privileged?the 1 percent, as it were?exploit the rest for profit and frivolity. When you get past its trappings, The Hunger Games is a story of inequality and injustice.
The same doesn't go for the movie adaptation. Where it succeeds is as a straightforward adaptation of the novel and its major events. Director Gary Ross, whose prior work includes Seabiscuit, does a great job of adapting the scenery of the book to screen. The Appalachia-inspired District 12 is appropriately soot-stained and stark, while the two other areas of action?the Capitol and the arena itself?are as you would imagine them: a shimmering city of decadence, and a quiet, beautiful forest, steeped with menace.
Ross also depicts the major scenes and set pieces of the novel with flare. The "Reaping," where a representative of the central government (an almost unrecognizable Elizabeth Banks) chooses the boy and girl to serve as tribute in a televised death match, is appropriately somber. And the long waiting period in the Capitol, as tributes prepare for the games, is filled with the worry and anxiety that comes with knowing that the only certainty is death. As for the Games themselves?which come at the midpoint of the film?they are suspenseful, and at times, genuinely scary. The only problem I have is with the editing?Ross uses a documentary-style shaky cam, and it's distracting; it makes it difficult for viewers to follow action scenes, and get a sense of the scenery.
The standout of the film, as you've probably heard by now, is Jennifer Lawrence, who plays the heroine Katniss Everdeen with a stoic resolve reminiscent of her performance in 2010's Winter's Bone. Josh Hutcherson does a great job as Peeta Mellark, the sorrowful male counterpart to Lawrence's Everdeen, and Stanley Tucci was perfectly cast as Caesar Flickerman, host of The Hunger Games. Also worth mentioning is Woody Harrelson, who plays Haymitch Abernathy, a former winner of the Games and mentor to Katniss and Peeta, and Donald Sutherland, who plays the dictator President Snow with quiet menace (he has the final scene of the film, and it's great).
But, for as much as The Hunger Games succeeds as an adaptation of various scenes, it mostly fails as a take on the themes of the novel. The book, after all, is built around the ritual murder of children. Depicting this isn't easy; too much and you risk exploitation, too little and you leave the audience without the necessary horror. Unfortunately, Ross leans toward omission?with a few notable exceptions, the killing happens off screen. As a result, the Games don't seem so bad, even if we are watching an exercise in brutal violence. Characters also come in for major revision. Suzanne Collins depicts Haymitch as an almost broken man who sees the system for its full horror. In the movie, he's little more than a humorous drunk, and while that's also present in the novel, it co-exists with a pathos that we don't see and Ross doesn't try to portray.
Likewise, as Roger Ebert noted in his review, Ross shies away from the politics of The Hunger Games. The Katniss Everdeen of the book? acutely aware of her own poverty?is disgusted with the wealth and privilege of the Capitol, and from that stems part of her defiance. Indeed, it's impossible to understand the circumstances of characters like Rue and Thresh?tributes from the agricultural District 11?without a nod to the class dynamics of the world in which they exist.
It should be said that the politics involved aren't necessarily left-wing; with its rural/urban divide, and its open contempt for city dwellers (as represented by the Capitol), you could say that the books have a touch of conservative populism. The important thing, however, is that science fiction is the perfect place for these conversations?last year's In Time was an interesting, if heavy-handed, take on mobility inequality?and it's a shame Ross moved away from that direction.
If you're trying to make a decision about whether to see it, well, the film is good, and worth watching. But it's marred by Ross' reluctance to bring the themes and politics of the novel into his adaptation. Given the extent to which both grow in subsequent installments, it will be interesting to see how Ross proceeds with his sequels (which are almost certain to happen). My sense is that, in the end, we'll be disappointed.
So, how about this weather? There are so many complex factors in weather, and in climate, that you can’t predict a scorching July will follow cherry blossoms in March. That goes double for Rhode Island, where it can snow in May.
Friday, I walked to Kennedy Plaza to catch the #42 bus. They say you have to watch out when you’re downtown, and they’re right. At Burnside Park I was confronted by a Unitarian who gave me a pledge card. With my sore back I’m not up for running, so I just told her that I hope to make good on last year’s pledge by the end of this fiscal year. I’m streetwise like that.
I just watched HBO’s ‘Game Change’. In 2008 I saw Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech in real time, it’s fascinating to see it as drama. I feel a kinship with Sarah Palin. Really.
Like when the wonks are in a huddle and someone mentions that Sarah Palin speaks in tongues. That’s fact, she does. I know why. I’ve been there and done that. At Apponaug Pentecostal Church in the 70′s, everyone who was anyone spoke in tongues. Though actually I had learned tonguesspeak from the Catholic Charismatics– long story.
I know that Sarah Palin has a large and powerful base. In my prior job I worked with an office manager who looked at me innocently and said, “I really like Sarah Palin, don’t you?” I would not hurt this woman’s feelings for the world, she was the nicest person. I wondered what she was hearing that made her feel Sarah Palin would stick up for her. Sarah Palin is not stupid– in fact she is brilliant at connecting with the pain of some Americans who feel ignored and disparaged, and making them believe that she is on their side– without actually committing to take any material action on their behalf.
In the film, a woman holding a Down Syndrome child looks worshipfully at Palin, saying that finally someone speaks for her. This is a part of America that cannot be dismissed, and to make snap judgements or condescend is not only wrong, it’s stupid.
Parents and families of special-needs children are fortunate if, like the Palin family, they are wealthy. Most are not. Where it really matters is not at the political rally, but in the allocation of resources. Tax cuts for the rich at the expense of families who depend on such services as RIDE and SNAP are dry, depressing, uninspiring realities. Jesus said that when you give, don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing. The Republican Party seems to have applied this to taking– talking about the children while cutting aid to the families who care for them.
Special-needs children, gods willing, grow up. Their needs change, sometimes increase. Parents grow old, money runs out. We can take care of our own, if ‘we’ includes all of us. We can provide not only material care, but inclusion.
I once worked in a building that was considered rather tough. At one time the VNA would not go into it without an escort. More than one mother with a special-needs child lived there, including the aging mother of a woman I’ll call ‘Tonie’.
Tonie was sweet-natured, energetic, outgoing and childlike. She hugged everyone. Her mental handicap was not apparent unless you talked with her. Wariness did not seem to be part of her nature. She was slim, boyish and nice looking. Her mother protected her always, until she had a heart attack.
While her mother was in the hospital, Tonie had to spend a long weekend on her own. We all worried. Did she know how to cook without setting her apartment on fire? Would she know to stay away from some of the known predatory people, inside and outside her building?
Tonie had more strength, I think, than we gave her credit for. She did okay, and I see her from time to time. She was not the only vulnerable person in that building who seemed to be protected by an unspoken code of honor. There were some tiny elderly ladies and gentlemen who lived there as long as age allowed. There were people whose illness caused them to be unpleasant and provocative, who were understood as impaired and left alone.
This rambling post is just to mention something that is obvious but often overlooked. Margaret Thatcher supposedly said that there’s no such thing as society– only individuals. We do not, however, live entirely in a world of strife and competition. We want someone to speak for special-needs children. Less often does anyone speak for their needs when they become adults.
We can take care of our own– all Americans. We are a great and wealthy nation. Special-needs children, like all children, are a lifetime commitment and beyond. They grow up, parents age, families reach the limit of their resources. That’s where community, and government aided by good laws, share the responsibility.
We are now at a point where we will decide whether the life-saving resource of medical care will be a public good, or a private privilege.
The future of Mary Beck, Trig Palin, Bella Santorum and all the children of ordinary citizens will be profoundly affected by what we decide.
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This Friday evening, CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke to the attorney for George Zimmerman, Craig Sonner, about the Trayvon Martin shooting, and I think this interview just raised more questions than it answered. We found out that Zimmerman's attorney is claiming his client is supposedly in the United States, but he couldn't say where, or that he'd met with him face to face.
He claimed Zimmerman suffered a broken nose during the incident and that he was acting in self defense. This reminds me of the arguments being made by Larry Pratt on Cenk Uygur's show the other night, which is that basically if Martin was getting the better of Zimmerman after Zimmerman was stalking him in a scuffle, it was all right for Zimmerman to then shoot him because he's now the one defending himself.
Sonner also used the "I have some black friends" defense as proof somehow that George Zimmerman is not a racist and claimed the crime was not racially motivated.
Here's more from MSNBC on potential charges against Zimmerman ? Trayvon Martin family attorney confident state charges coming in shooting death:
An attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin said Saturday he expects that state charges will be filed against the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot dead the unarmed black teenager.
Attorney Daryl Parks, in an interview by Skype with the board of the National Association of Black Journalists, said the family and its attorneys met Thursday with officials from the U.S. Justice Department.
?I think the focus is not a federal arrest over a state arrest,? Parks said told the journalists. ?We want an arrest, period. And I think that the state aspect of that is the one that's most feasible, that's most attainable in this matter.?
Asked his sense that state officials will press charges, he said, ?Oh, they will.?
More there so read the rest, but it appears they're worried the bar may be too high to prove a hate crime at the federal level but seem fairly sure the state is going to prosecute instead.
Transcript of the CNN interview below the fold.
h/t Raw Story
COOPER: Mr. Sonner. First of all, how is your client, George Zimmerman, doing?
CRAIG SONNER, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S LAWYER: Well, I think he's doing all right considering - I mean, considered all the stress that resulted all the things that transpired in the last few weeks.
COOPER: Where is George Zimmerman now?
SONNER: I don't know. My conversations have been on the telephone. I don't know his exact location. I believe he is in the area.
COOPER: You believe he's still in the United States?
COOPER: There had been some indication that maybe he was in Peru or a report he's in Peru. That's not true?
SONNER: No, that's not true. COOPER: What has he told you about the night he shot Trayvon Martin.
SONNER: That -- I believe he made -- he should have made a statement to the police at that time, I think he did. I don't know for a fact because I have not seen the police report on this case. I have not discussed the evening of what occurred at that time. I think that will come out through the investigation process.
COOPER: You haven't discussed the details of that night with him?
SONNER: Even if I had, that would be attorney-client privilege and I wouldn't be able to disclose that tonight. But at this point there is an investigation going on. And I advised him to cooperate with that investigation. And as far as what did or didn't happen that night, I think there have been interviews with different witnesses and so on to suffice the answer to that question for you.
COOPER: 911 tapes have been released. Do you know -- has your client heard the 911 tapes?
SONNER: Other than what's being played on television?
COOPER: Or has he heard what is being played on television?
SONNER: I don't know. I don't believe he heard what is being heard on television nor have I.
COOPER: OK. You have not heard them.
COOPER: There are some people who believe that your client may have uttered a racial slur. Some heard the 911 tapes. They believe they may have heard that muttered under his breath. Has he made any indication to you about whether or not he did utter a racial slur?
SONNER: I don't believe he did utter a racial slur. I asked if he uses racial slurs. And he has denied that. And as well as -- he's been involved in a mentorship program which I think the funny was that he actually mentored two African-American -- he was a mentor to African-American boy age of 14 and his wife was a mentor to the 13- year-old girl from, you know, via their parents.
And in this -- I talked with the mother of the two children. And she indicated -- I asked her, you know, did he make comments to you that indicated he was a racist? And she said, no. And she is African-American. And for the things he's done, you know, as far as taking the children to the mall, you know, he took them to the mall, took them to the science center. Did the kind of outings to help, you know, to help the children have time out to be a friend to them. I don't believe that's the indication of a person that is a racist to do that.
COOPER: Has he given you any indication why he found Trayvon Martin suspicious?
COOPER: Because on the 911 tapes, he says these a-holes, they always get away. He also seemed to indicate he believed that perhaps Trayvon Martin was high or on drugs.
SONNER: I don't know. What is your question on that?
COOPER: Again, I mean, he seemed to indicate on those 911 tapes that he found Trayvon Martin suspicious based on something he saw. I'm wondering if he gave you any indication or if you have any sense of why he may have found Trayvon Martin suspicious.
SONNER: No. Again, I haven't listened to that 911 tape. And I haven't discussed that with him either.
COOPER: You said your client had injuries. There had been reports that he had a bloody nose and there was perhaps blood on the back of his head, grass stains on his back. What can you say what injuries if any he had?
SONNER: I believe that -- his nose was broken. He sustained injury to his nose. And on the back of his head, he sustained a cut that was serious enough that probably should have had stitches. There was a delay him getting to the emergency room so they -- by the time they got there, got to the doctor, there was an option not to stitch it up because it already started healing is my understanding.
COOPER: So reports indicated that the police didn't give him a drug test or didn't test for alcohol in your client. To your knowledge, was your client drinking or using drugs the night he shot Trayvon Martin?
SONNER: To my knowledge, he was not. I don't know whether -- what the results of any police report were. I haven't seen them. I don't know that they've been released.
COOPER: Did he indicate to you at all about how his nose got broken or his nose got hurt or the back of his head got cut?
SONNER: Well, it was an injury done by Trayvon Martin.
COOPER: Do you know if it was during a tussle? Does he describe at all how that injury occurred?
SONNER: I have not discussed with him the incident of that night other than the injury he sustained were from Trayvon Martin. I assume he hit him in the face and caused him to fall back and hit his head. I don't know how all the -- how it all came down. That is not something I discussed. I would not. That would be at this point attorney-client privilege and I wouldn't disclose that now if I did know it which I don't.
COOPER: Sure. I understand. Is there anything else you want people to know?
SONNER: Just to -- let's look at the facts of what happened and I'm not -- I really think there are other issues and it's not an issue of racist -- racism. And I don't believe that George Zimmerman is a racist, or that this was motivated by a dislike for African Americans.
COOPER: What do you think are some of the issue is this case?
SONNER: Well, the ultimate issue is that there was some kind of scuffle took place and there was a gun that was discharged and now there is a young man dead. So the issue is whether it was -- whether it will be -- the ultimate issue is was it self-defense in his case? And that's what all the evidence will hopefully lead us -- lead a jury to discover or, you know, is going to a grand jury was what actually - what can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt occurred that evening.
COOPER: And your client tonight is standing by saying this was absolutely self-defense?
COOPER: Craig Sonner. I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.
SONNER: All right. Thank you. Bye-bye.
COOPER: I also asked the attorney if his client George Zimmerman has a message for the Martin family and he says no, not at this time.
Will the Supreme Court send us back in time?Starting Monday, March 26, the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PDF), or ACA. Here is a handy description from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services of what the law is intended to do.
The cases that the Supreme Court granted cert (PDF) for were: National Federation of Independent Business, et al., v. Sebelius; U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, et al., v. Florida, et al. and Florida, et al., v. HHS.
The Supreme Court will hear 5 1/2 hours of argument. On Monday, the Court will hear one hour of argument on whether challenges to the individual insurance mandate are barred by the federal Anti-Injunction Act. On Tuesday, the Court will hear two hours of argument on the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate. And on Wednesday morning, the Court will hear 90 minutes of argument on the severability issue?whether the ACA should survive if the Court were to strike down the individual mandate. That afternoon, the Court will hear one hour of argument on the constitutionality of ACA's expansion of the federal Medicaid program.
The Court granted cert to hear the following questions:(1) Whether the suit brought by respondents to challenge the minimum coverage provision is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. 7421(A). (Presented in Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida, Docket No. 11-398.)
(2) Whether Congress had the power under Article I of the Constitution to enact the minimum coverage provision, the individual mandate. (Presented in various cases.)
(3) "Does Congress exceed its enumerated powers and violate basic principles of federalism when it coerces States into accepting onerous conditions that it could not impose directly by threatening to withhold all federal funding under the single largest grant-in-aid program, or does the limitation on Congress?s spending power that this Court recognized in South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987), no longer apply?" (This question comes from the cert petition (PDF) filed by the challenging states in Florida, et al v. HHS. (To say it is an argumentative presentation is to understate the case.)
(4) Whether the ACA must be invalidated in its entirety because it is nonseverable from the individual mandate if it exceeds Congress' limited and enumerated powers under the Constitution.
Over the next four days, Daily Kos will be presenting previews and postmortems of the oral arguments each day. Today's post provides some general thoughts on how the Court might act in this case, through my personal prism as a viewer of the Court through the perspective of a Legal Realist. Each day of oral argument, we will present a detailed legal (much less of a Legal Realist approach) treatment of the issues to be argued in that day's oral argument. After argument, we will present a postmortem of the oral argument.
(Continued below the fold)
Larry Pratt, the executive director of Second Amendment group Gun Owners of America, offered a rare defense of the man who killed Trayvon Martin, saying George Zimmerman was acting in self defense when he shot the Florida teen. As the facts of the case have emerged, everyone from President Obama to RIck Santorum and Rep. Allen West (R-FL) have condemned the killing.
But appearing on Current TV’s “The Young Turks” with Cenk Uygur Friday, Pratt said Zimmerman and the police acted properly. ?Martin passed from becoming a victim to becoming an aggressor” during an alleged altercation, he said. Pratt’s said his view of the facts are based on a single eye witness interviewed by an Orlando news station. ?[Martin] should have run away,? Pratt explained, saying Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws are irrelevant, because “we’re talking about fighting off an assailant.”
?Once Martin had neutralized the threat, that?s when he should have taken off to get out of there. He doubled down, and he started to really beat the tar out of the guy,? Pratt said. Martin “gave up his rights,” Pratt added.
Gun Owners of America is a major firearms group several clicks to the right of the NRA, but nonetheless attracts significant support from mainstream conservatives.
Workers caring for our greying population are intimately woven into our family lives, but are alienated from essential labor protections--though that could change soon. As we've reported previously, a longstanding loophole in the Fair Labor Standards[...]
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It's been a rough week here at La Maison chez nous, and my view into next week isn't more promising.
So how about some fun. I wanted to put up a song by a terrific French singer-writer named Cali, but his best so far is "Elle m'a dit" ? ("She told me she didn't love me between the cheese course and dessert") ? and that just seemed, well, off ... less fun than it could be.
So here's a song by Emily Loizeau called "Je suis jalouse" ? I am jealous ? with a terrific live action?animation combo vid that just a delight. And Loizeau proves to be quite the actress.
The story in simple: the main girl and guy, the ones in the carousel, have a problem. The guy turns out to be attracted to another women (in the video, she's the girl who shows up with the super-carousel that looks like a rocket ship).
So the first girl (Emily) fixes the problem. Enjoy the music, enjoy the video, enjoy the fun animation.
The YouTube version with the English subtitles seems to be missing, but if you care, the gist of the first verse is this:
I cried for two hoursBut you don't even need that much. She's upset and at least in the video, she takes care of business.
Onto your tin cookie-box
The one that contained your letters
And the photos from New Hampshire
Your famous love trip with
Adele of Bayeux
I think her name is stupid
Sounds like a brand of sweaters
She wants to meet us
Have us over for lunch
She tells me she's going to adore me,
She insisted as much.
Oh yes, I'm jealous...
I paid a posthumous visit this week to the world I once lived in?-a Manhattan gathering of privileged people giving money and time to a cause of caring and concern.
Nothing has changed. The well-to-do and a few celebrities mingle at a reception and then sit in an auditorium to applaud expressions of social and political decency. The faces are new, but they belong to people trying to reach out past the solitude of their own skins, just as my generation had.
In very old age, all this brings sadness at how hard it still is to make human connection, even after science and technology have transcended the physical isolation of a century ago when loving thy neighbor may have been difficult because choices were so limited.
Now we are all neighbors, but is there more hatred than love? In the turbulent 1960s, the psychoanalyst-philosopher Erich Fromm was preoccupied with that he called "The Myth of Care." Amid social upheaval and rage about Vietnam, the author of "The Art of Loving" and "The Sane Society" kept searching newspapers and TV screens for images of people reaching out, helping and comforting one another.
He found them but, if he were still alive, what would he see today? Bitter discord over the apparently senseless killing of a young boy on his way home. Hate and fear-mongering in the presidential primaries. Road rage over high gas prices.
The social and political landscape is looking more and more like the last scene of "The Bridge on the River Kwai," a dazed doctor amid carnage mumbling "Madness, madness."
Yet there is a new hint of hope from brain science: ?If you?re in a healthy relationship, holding your partner?s hand is enough to subdue your blood pressure, ease your response to stress, improve your health and soften physical pain. We alter one another?s physiology and neural functions.?
Small rituals of caring and random acts of kindness to strangers may mount up to enough human love to save us all.
In a time when Dick Cheney has a new heart, can?t we all change our own enough to make a difference?
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If you haven’t already been over to the Climate Desk, check it out. They’ve accumulated some great reporting on climate issues and produced some very slick films on science and clean energy.
The latest film put together by Climate Desk producer James West cuts through the knee jerk political reactions to the President’s support of algae biofuels and asks: “will it ever be the fuel of the future?” In truth, there’s a lot of debate over what impact it will have.
Algae-based biofuels have come down dramatically in cost over the decades, from hundreds of dollars per gallon to between $8 and $30 a gallon. However, companies reaching commercial scale still haven’t inched over the last few yards to achieve cost parity with petroleum-based fuels. Experts don’t expect the resource to play a major role in our fuel mix for another 5-10 years.
But there’s a lot of fascinating research happening the field today, and companies are closer than ever to cracking the code. Even though algae fuels won’t have an immediate impact, this film illustrates why mocking the President for supporting innovative alternatives to petroleum is just silly.