When He's Right, He's Right

Sully takes out a two-by-four and whacks Obama straight between the eyes on his HRC speech tonight:

But the sad truth is: he is refusing to take any responsibility for his clear refusal to fulfill clear campaign pledges on the core matter of civil rights and has given no substantive, verifiable pledges or deadlines by which he can be held accountable. What that means, I'm afraid, is that this speech was highfalutin bullshit. There were no meaningful commitments within a time certain, not even a commitment to fulfilling them in his first term; just meaningless, feel-good commitments that we have no way of holding him to. Once the dust settles, ask yourself. What did he promise to achieve in the next year? Or two years? Or four years? The answer is: nothing.

And you know what? Sully's right to do so.

Obama made campaign promises, and has done basically nothing to meet them. This has clearly been a political decision, and Obama likely figures he has enough fights on his hands without opening up another front to get DADT or DOMA scrapped. But it means that if the GLBT community wants to see movement on those issues, they're going to have to do something to force the president's hand.

Which of course brings me back to my own personal issue, the lack of any attempt to undo the horrific damage done by Cheney et al when they turned the US into a torture state. I can't help but see the parallels between that and this. It's really starting to seem that someone, somewhere, is going to have to force the government's hand to get them to mount a real investigation and real prosecutions.

The question is who, and when, and what it will take. And whether I personally have the courage to participate in that effort.

Note To Budding Art Critics

If you don't know jack shit and about art and art history, maybe you shouldn't engage in art criticism beyond saying "I likes it" or "I don't likes it".

Testing Stereotypes

Following up on the report that women have been disproportionately targeted by the US military's DADT policy, I have a question:

Is this happening because really butch lesbians are more likely to sign up for military service than effeminate gay men? Is there something in the culture of the military that makes it more likely for women to be outed than men?

Or are the numbers simply too small to draw any statistical conclusions?

I'm a Great Big Shining Star

I knew a quote from my review was on the back of the Ichi the Killer DVD case, but I just noticed today that there's a quote from my review of Kitano's Dolls on the back of its DVD case too.

Of course neither of the pull quotes are attributed to 'Anton Sirius', just to Ain't It Cool News... ah well.

Explanation Please

Why aren't people going to jail for this?

In many ways, what private equity firms did at Simmons, and scores of other companies like it, mimicked the subprime mortgage boom. Fueled by easy money, not only from banks but also endowments and pension funds, buyout kings like THL upended the old order on Wall Street. It was, they said, the Golden Age of private equity — nothing less than a new era of capitalism.

These private investors were able to buy companies like Simmons with borrowed money and put down relatively little of their own cash. Then, not long after, they often borrowed even more money, using the company’s assets as collateral — just like home buyers who took out home equity loans on top of their first mortgages. For the financiers, the rewards were enormous.

Twice after buying Simmons, THL borrowed more. It used $375 million of that money to pay itself a dividend, thus recouping all of the cash it put down, and then some.

A result: THL was guaranteed a profit regardless of how Simmons performed. It did not matter that the company was left owing far more than it was worth, just as many people profited from the mortgage business while many homeowners found themselves underwater.

You know how Iran keeps simmering, and how Ahmadi and Khameini are essentially living on borrowed time? That eventually things will erupt and a new social/political order will be born out of the chaos, just as it was in 1979?

The mullahs on Wall Street are going to be looking east towards Tehran with envy when that pot finally boils over.

JC doesn't have it quite right
. They aren't thieves, they are parasites. Leeches. And they are begging for a match.

Sully Catches Teh Stoopid

You know the spiel: the Olympic push was a huge mistake, presidency in jeopardy, misplaced priorities blah blah blah.

Did Prime Minister Hatoyama look like the "mayor of Tokyo" for lobbying on behalf of their bid? Does Sully think Obama is the only elected leader with things on his plate, that Lula and Zapatero had nothing better to do with their time than head to Denmark?

The "dreadful judgment" Sully speaks of is on the part of anyone who thinks this is a big deal. It's not like Obama left disarmament talks with Iran to go to Copenhagen.

Get a grip. Sheesh.

Doing Their Jobs For Once

I have little respect for CNN these days, but the Clinton/Gates round table interview running right now with Amandpour moderating has been damn good. Very little beltway McChrystal gossipy bullshit, and some good, tough questions on foreign policy.

More of this please, and less of Sanchez's "Look at me being hip and lazy!" hour-long Twitter ads.

Ahmadinejad Is a Rank Amateur

Former UN deputy special representative to Afghanistan Peter Galbraith goes into excruciating detail about Karzai's blatant election fraud:

In July, I learned that at least 1,500 polling centers (out of 7,000) were to be located in places so insecure that no one from the IEC, the Afghan National Army or the Afghan National Police had ever visited them. Clearly, these polling centers would not open on Election Day. At a minimum, their existence on the books would create large-scale confusion, but I was more concerned about the risk of fraud.

Local commission staff members were hardly experienced election professionals; in many instances they were simply agents of the local power brokers, usually aligned with Karzai. If no independent observers or candidate representatives, let alone voters, could even visit the listed location of a polling center, these IEC staffers could easily stuff ballot boxes without ever taking them to the assigned location. Or they could simply report results without any votes being in the ballot boxes.

Along with ambassadors from the United States and key allies, I met with the Afghan ministers of defense and the interior as well as the commission's chief election officer. We urged them either to produce a credible plan to secure these polling centers (which the head of the Afghan army had told me was impossible) or to close them down. Not surprisingly, the ministers -- who served a president benefiting from the fraud -- complained that I had even raised the matter. [Diplomat Kai] Eide ordered me not to discuss the ghost polling centers any further. On Election Day, these sites produced hundreds of thousands of phony Karzai votes.

The main differences between the Afghan election fraud and the Iranian election fraud is that the Afghan fraud was far more blatant, and the Iranian people decided to do something about their rights being perverted.

Navigating the HMS Public Option

Boo pats himself on the back a little for correctly predicting the Dems' congressional strategy for getting health care reform with a public option passed into law:

This is exactly the tack I expected. The public option was negotiable until the exact moment that Finance completed its mark-up. Then it was not negotiable. That was the strategy, my friends.

Now, this isn't the end of the story, by any means. There is difference between a public option and a robust public option. A robust public option will have its reimbursement rates tied to Medicare's reimbursement rates. That's what we want. That's what the Progressive Caucus in the House is insisting be in the bill. A worrying sign is that as Reid tacks to the left, Pelosi may be tacking to the right. The middle may be reached by settling on a non-robust public option.

We shall see. But, based on Reid's abrupt turnabout, I feel confident that I had gamed out this strategy correctly. The Senate looks like it will have some form of public option in the base bill, even after signaling for months that that was something they were willing to trade away.

I'd love to see a robust public option pass the House and then prevail in the Conference Committee. That is still a rough road, and Pelosi is flirting with compromise at precisely the wrong time. But the plan appears to be going according to plan, just as I envisioned it. If the House Progressives really hold firm, this bill may not pass through the Senate after the Conference Report. If that happens, we could still go to budget reconciliation, but the blame for that would be placed on progressives, making it a politically treacherous path. This thing isn't won, but it is on track.

It's a little over a year until the 2010 midterms. While the demographic trends in midterms favor the Pubs (skewing towards older, pale-skinned voters) and the economic climate is still mixed, a win for the Dems on health care reform should help cushion whatever blow their lead in the House might receive based on the other two factors. And while they've done a fair job minimizing the overt craziness lately, don't underestimate the Pubs' ability to alienate vast swaths of the American electorate.

* - I was going to title this post 'Navigating the USS Public Option', but HMS seemed more appropriate, all things considered.

Nuit Blanche 2010

Did a bit of a wander last night for Nuit Blanche. Didn't see anything mind-blowing, but I didn't see much that was terrible either. The pieces continue to be more about spectacle than actual art though.

With that in mind, I've already got ideas for two works next year:

- some sort of 'reverse karaoke' installation where the song chooses the singer instead of the other way around. Have a full karaoke set-up (preferably indoors) with a selection of popular songs in different genres (recent fluff, jazz standards etc.) Have the songs play in a random order, with some sort of clever signage encouraging anyone who knows the song to jump up and grab the mic. In artspeak, the installation would explore the relationships between performer, audience and authority, while also commenting on the enduring nature of what was intended to be a ephemeral product of consumer culture.

- an installation that treats native Torontonians like foreigners. Have a large group of people stand on a street corner (preferably in a high foot traffic area in the downtown core), all of whom have been instructed to speak in a made-up language (you'd need to get a lot of experienced improv performers for this.) Have them attempt to interact with any English speakers who walk into their midst as though they expected the English speaker to understand what they are saying, and to get agitated when the English speakers don't. In artspeak, the piece would interrogate the role of language in defining personal and tribal identity.