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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Pass the Hat for Your Honor's Court 

Glen at A Brooklyn Bridge wrote yesterday about the latest concept in right-wing constitutional evisceration: court destruction.

While the recent ‘Three Days of the Condor’ tactics of some social right wingers enraged moderate Americans, the new chic in tearing down the courts seems to be starving the beast. Less rhetoric, more effect. Glen points out that for these folks, there’s no tactic too dangerous to the Constitution to employ, if it serves the short-term goal.

Jeff Gannon's CV and Paid Punditry 

Susan Gardner, known on Daily Kos as SusanG, has been working on a brief personal history of Jeff Gannon/James Guckert. The effort, which may seem a bit over the top in the kicking a dead dog department, is worth a look for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, this guy put himself into the mix in a very public way, offering fictionally-based attacks on political figures from the confines of the White House press room itself. It’s somewhat sad to see anyone run headlong into a buzzsaw, as Gannon/Guckert has, but apparently he’s still enjoying the ride through the aftermath.

Secondly, and more importantly, SusanG’s efforts hopefully will offer some insight into the machine the right has built over the years to spin the news at any cost to the truth. Seeing Gannon/Guckert rise almost overnight from work at an auto body repair shop in Pennsylvania (and moonlighting as a male escort) to toiling within a year in the White House raises eyebrows. Spinning softball questions to the President of the United States whenever the mainstream press is too tough on him makes any fair observer want to know how this guy gets the world’s longest WH day pass in post 9-11 America.

Hopefully, SusanG’s efforts will unearth more about the financial support system that feeds the right’s spin machine and into who decided to authorize crossing the line in the White House press room from just bringing in conservative spinners to actually creating them.

Gardner puts it best herself:

“We are a country that's been stretched to the breaking point with lies. With omission of facts. With government-funded fake news reports. With paid pundits. With people who are not who or what they say they are. With motives that are rarely straightforward and with end runs around legal processes, whether they be Florida judicial decisions or the Geneva Conventions.

James Dale Guckert is part of something much bigger than perhaps even he imagined. Getting to the bottom of who he really is, how he got preferential treatment and why in particular he was chosen is vital, we believe, to begin the shearing of the wool that's been pulled over the eyes of our democracy.”

Skylight 

A local production of David Hare’s “Skylight,” a 1995 political/relationship drama that I stumbled upon here at Escape Theatre in Singapore’s Arts at the Old Parliament, was an unexpected pleasure. Director David Waite assembled a strong cast, including journeyman actor Lim Kay Tong and returning local actress Janice Koh, recently back from Boston.

The play is performed in an intimate setting, with the audience surrounding a small and cold East London flat for an overnight journey with Kyra, Tom’s former mistress, who lives there after leaving him. The play tanked in New York some years ago, in a Broadway proscenium stage production that distanced the audience from the setting. Here in Escape’s little home, the relationships are directly in the audience’s faces and hard to distance or dismiss, despite Hare’s occasionally overly articulated monologues and the actors’ sometime slightly uncertain delivery or memory. Koh’s naturally performed underplay of wrenching emotion is especially effective in this production.

The former affair between Koh’s Kyra and Tong’s Tom is dissected and remembered in a ripping postmortem that unearths psychological truths about the characters lives. The story’s presentation also supports a socialist critique of the ownership mentality brought to personal relationships by Tom and illuminates the personal cost of his proprietary approach to his family, his mistress, and himself.

Kyra, with Tom’s son, Edward, played by Daniel Hutchinson, together attempt to balance Tom’s hard-edged dominance with touching bookend scenes that illuminate their need to grow a nascent garden of personal warmth amidst the loss that surrounds them, each mourning their own separate versions of family past.

In a country where one of the questions brought forth in the after-play forum was about whether the ‘vulgarity’ in the script was hard to pass by the censors, this material is a jewel to behold and apparently more of a difficult product to produce than in it’s native London. For an American living in a country where increasingly, monetary value is the measure of all things, it is an oasis.

Election Reform: Still in Park 

This just in from the Washington Post:

“The first chairman of the federal voting agency created after the 2000 election dispute is resigning, saying the government has not shown enough of a commitment to reform.

DeForest Soaries, a Baptist minister, said Friday that his resignation from the commission created by Congress would take effect next week.”

…need we say more?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Casinos for Singapore 

Here in Singapore this week working— and the big news is that gambling, yes gambling, is coming to River City. In the strict and no-nonsense world of Lee Inc., as this rigid but industrious city-state is known, there’s not a lot of painting outside the lines. However, the cabbies are abuzz with the news that not one, but two casinos will soon be built here, in the hopes that the government can attract a more vibrant and creative, not to mention lucrative, future. It’s a major turnabout for a government run by the offspring of it’s founder, Lee Kuan Yew, who just recently stated that Singapore would not make such a move.

An informal poll of locals indicates that most people are hopeful, but cautious about whether casinos will help an economy recently challenged by the high cost of doing business in Singapore, compared with other South and east Asian neighbor countries. Singapore’s traditional advantage of being a stable, if strictly run, nation/city is being eroded by expensive housing and the fact that everything is imported to Singapore except the services that sustain local business life.

Whether the move will have the desired effect and attract creative thinking, along with tourism dollars, rupees, yuan, and yen, remains to be seen. Singapore knows that it needs to make dynamic moves to sustain it’s business position in the emerging landscape of dynamic Asian economies, especially under China’s long shadow. Today’s International Herald Tribune features a piece by Andy Mukherjee, comparing Singapore’s challenge with Bangalore and it’s very distinctly different path to becoming a powerhouse, the Silicon Valley of South Asia. It’s worth a look. Certainly in the US, the promise of casino wealth has often eluded all but the casino owners. Hopefully for Singapore, the model will not repeat the experience of areas like Atlantic City, where gambling money stopped flowing just outside the doors of the casinos.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Add MTBE to Your Energy Bill, and Stir... 

Another chunk of pork for polluters in HR 6 (Energy Legislation) is the MTBE bailout. MTBE is a potential carcinogen and has contaminated groundwater systems in at least 29 states. HR 6 includes a provision designed to get MTBE polluters off the hook for it’s cleanup, shifting responsibility to state and local taxpayers instead. More energy for polluters’ shareholders, less energy and clean water for you and your kids.

Democrats in the Senate are framing this as an unfunded mandate imposed on states and local government, something Republicans are supposed to oppose— when it doesn't hurt corporate interests.

Energy Bill Ozone Alert 

One of the less wonderful and less well-known details of proposed energy legislation in Congress now is the gutting of ozone level targets in many cities. The Dallas Morning News points to how the air in North Texas will get more deadly if this rider passes without a fight.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Popapalooza 

Bill in Portland Maine has the best take I’ve seen nyet (do I mean yet?) on the elevation of ‘The Enforcer’ to Pope. I can’t decide whether to laugh it off or object. As a lapsed Catholic, I’m conflicted…besides, I was betting on Duke to go all the way in this Final Four.

UPDATE: alright, enough dark humor. Here's why he's a disgusting choice to lead the Catholic Church- or any church. See Billmon or ABC for way too much more. This guy is personally responsible for helping to sweep the pedophilia epidemic in the American Church under the rug again in 1997. More years went by when victims couldn't get help and children went unprotected. 'Nuff for you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Intellectual Energy Shortage 

Let’s face it… the US has lost it’s place in the energy discussion globally and the Congress is now in the process of enshrining this intellectual demotion in legislation by ignoring the elephant in the kitchen (no pun intended). It’s clear that the future belongs to energy-efficient economies that keep their businesses and populations running at full speed without draining the world’s tank of oil and gas resources. The world's reserves are beginning to empty at a predictable, yet alarming rate, given the want of solutions to the energy deficit. Do our Republican policymakers think that controlling the politics and territory of oil-rich nations makes the US immune to the larger forces of history?

Even most honest brokers among conservatives think the current short sighted energy legislation will do nothing to help the US solve our dependence on outmoded technology and repressive governments. While Washington fiddles, there are lots of good ideas out there that need to be explored and promoted now.

The great stone sculptures on Easter Island pay tribute not just to an elevated culture, but also to it’s demise. The late citizens of that island society hacked down their natural resources in order to build the extravagant stone tributes to the Gods, realizing only too late that their trees and food were all that stood between them and extinction. Will our culture be any more forward-looking? What will we leave behind— lots of metal automobile fossils?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Oww! 

My arm still hurts...and I'm still chortling about Mark Shields description of Senator Frist as "decent, but weak" for speaking at the 'Democrats are atheists because they want to filibuster 10 court nominees' tent revival. (Thanks, Pudentilla)

Crazy people really should sit quietly until the urge to hit or speak passes. Yeah, you Mr. Assailant.

Taking a Beating Out in the Big Diamond-But Unblocked Now 

My apologies in advance…I’m listening to a broadcast on writer’s block on NPR as I write this and because of it, I’m determined to post this piece, no matter how bad it may be. I seem to be unable to produce much lately that seems worth posting, even when non-blog life allows, but perhaps the filter of self criticism is part of the problem, so please suffer with me, reader, while I let this piece pass through.
***

I was assaulted yesterday in a taxicab by a man who thought he’d waited longer than I for a cab in Manhattan. Apparently, my perceived slight was going to make him late for work; therefore, he was entitled to satisfaction. He came down the street as I entered the cab, and then banged his fist on the hood (now angering the cabbie). Instead of ignoring him, I made the mistake of trying to explain through the window that I’d been down the block, walking, as I also waited forever. At this, he whipped the back door open and unleashed a verbal torrent, first of swearing, mixed with assaulting my sexual orientation (I assume, a complement to my attire), then my racial identity (I’ll give him this one, but it was too easy), and finally, my parentage and what he took to be a preference for my mother (really he was guessing now). Then he slammed the door to the cab, as hard as he could, testing Detroit’s hinge handiwork.

Well, that was when I made my biggest mistake, thinking it was my turn (and assuming he was nasty, but sane). I smiled and made a gesture familiar to all New Yorkers from inside the taxi. In a second, the door was open and he was back inside now, pummeling me (really mostly my right arm) with both fists. He’d lost it completely for the moment, but couldn’t really get enough room in the back of the cab to wind up well, so I was able to absorb most of the attack with my arm as a shield. After awhile, he screamed that if I gave him the finger again, he’d f*ck me up, and maybe felt he’d administered enough of a lesson for the moment (or that he'd gone crazy enough).

Then he got stuck. Y’know those little clothes hanger handles above the rear windows of most passenger cars? Yeah, they’re little, but they hold a hanger pretty well. Collars too, as it turns out…so now my assailant was unable to bring his head out of the cab for a while. His expression was suddenly different, because the dynamic of the assault had shifted, and I think he knew he was vulnerable to a counterattack, hanging, as he was, from the clothes hook by his really nice leather jacket.

Luckily for him, I’m a physical coward. The thought had occurred to me that this assault was pretty bad and getting worse, so I resisted the temptation to laugh at him. When he finally freed himself, the cabby, who had gotten out of the vehicle when my assailant (I like calling him that) first hit the hood of the car, had spotted another cab and encouraged the man to stop the insanity (“What you crazy? Look, there’s a taxi for you!”)

And then, as quickly as the paroxysm began, it ended. Two New Yorkers (one sore still), heading uptown, in two cabs. Another day in the Big Apple.

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