Thursday, April 05, 2012

To Kill A Mockingbird: Two Birthdays

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film of To Kill A Mockingbird, President Obama had a screening at the White House.  Attending were Mary Badham, who as a child played Scout in the film, and Gregory Peck's widow. The film will be shown on the USA cable network on Saturday, with an introduction by President Obama.

Today would have been Gregory Peck's 96th birthday.  He was a thoroughly admirable man playing an thoroughly admirable man, which was part of the excitement of seeing this movie when it came out.  He was the adult actor I most admired in my adolescence.  It's not coincidence that he became the link for many of the people connected with this film.  He had a lifelong friendship with Mary Badham and the novel's author Harper Lee. 

I've written in detail on all versions of To Kill A Mockingbird, both on this site and on Stage Matters.  Judging from the hits on both these sites, this story remains alive.  That's a truly wonderful thing about books, plays and films.  No matter how old, they can always become present to new readers and audiences, to new generations, like the school children who also attended the White House screening this afternoon.  

The Daily Tweets

With nonsense that need not be repeated here making all the noise, the real issues with the Supreme Court get an airing from Linda Greenhouse, who I've trusted for years for her reporting and divining of the cases before the Supremes.  The piece is provocatively titled "Embarass the Future."

In Circus News, Little Ricky Sanctimonious is taking a long time coming out of the locker room.  The NY Times reports a confab of conservatives with his campaign, but no outcome (like Ricky or Casino Newt dropping out), but there was an earlier report of several long conversations between the two.

Little Ricky is counting on PA and Texas in May, but Richney has gone ahead of him for the first time in one PA poll, and the politically astute Ed Rendell predicts he'll drop out before the PA primary if he seems likely to lose, because if he wants any future political viability he can't afford to lose his home state, again.

Meanwhile, Joe Klein has a piece on Richie Richney and the "Wounds of Victory."  There are two schools on Richney.  The first says he can still move to the center and remake his image enough to contend in the general, the second says he's stuck with what he's become.  Klein is of the second school: "He seems a figure from the Great Depression, a combination of Daddy Warbucks and Old Man Potter. He celebrates creative destruction at a time when the destruction has been a bit too creative."

Morning Joe is on the record saying that off the record, he hasn't talked to a GOPer pol who believes Richney will win.  The gender gap keeps getting wider, and it may be out of control thanks to GOPers in the states.  Certainly any poll that has President Obama at 50% or above is daunting in itself.  Here's an intriguing analysis, though I don't know how credible it is: even if President Obama's approval rating remains under but near 50%, he's very likely to be reelected.  If it remains where it is now, at 47%, it's an 85% chance.  At 50% it's 99%. 

Personally I'm of the it's still a long time until the election school.  But the enthusiasm of Dems and especially 2008 Obama supporters is firming and growing, while the GOP seems in an angry violent death spiral.  Apart from unforeseen events and strange reactions, that violence is the most dangerous.

Clouds Behind the Moon

So it's very early Thursday morning, still dark here.  Wednesday was rainy, with some sun breaks, then rainy again.  But in the past several hours it's cleared enough to see a few stars among the clouds, and especially a super-bright not quite full Moon.

It was so bright that I went outside to check it out.  Moonlight on the cala lillies.  Towards the western horizon, the very bright disc looking especially three-dimensional as the clouds passed behind it.

Wait a minute--behind it?  Yes.  The pretty substantial looking clouds were moving horizontally behind the moon.  Although it's freezing out there, I took a real good look.  And then came back in to google it.

Turns out it is not an unknown sight.  There are youtube vids and photos, like this one.  Googling was less interesting than ogling, though.  In answer to the question, how can clouds be moving behind the moon, most of the answers were brief and elementary, with the tone of an adult explaining something to an idiot child: the clouds can't be behind the moon because the clouds are only a few miles up and the moon is like a million miles away.  The clouds are on Earth, the Moon is the Moon, see? 

Welll you know I figured that out myself.  What I wondered is what accounts for the optical illusion?  I'll bet that might be interesting.  It was a remarkable sight anyway.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.”

“I am an invisible man. 
No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe: 
Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms. 
I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids
- and I might even be said to possess a mind. 
I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.”

Ralph Ellison

This quote, from Ellison's famous novel The Invisible Man which turns 60 years old this month, I saw quoted twice on Tuesday, and in fact after not reading it at all for decades, I read that final sentence of the quote twice within a couple of minutes.  It was noted by a reader on Andrew Sullivan's blog in response to his description of how the Rabid Right project their fears etc. onto President Obama,  the other is a very interesting piece in the New Yorker about the controversy over how some readers/viewers are reacting to black characters in The Hunger Games.  Some are surprised (and then dismayed) that a couple of characters are black.  It seems race, the present and the apocalypse are very much tied together.  Anyway, it seems the meanginful coincidence itself selected this as the Dreaming Up Daily Quote for today.

The painting is The Solidity of Fog by the Italian Futurist painter Russolo.

Circus News: The Halftime Show

On Tuesday Richie Richney won all the primaries but Little Rickey Sanctimonious declares that as far as the GOPer circus is concerned, it's only "halftime."  There's May and June and summer and the convention.  So he's going to the locker room and work on a game plan to come from behind.  Right.  Far, far right.

If you think Sanctimonious must be living on Mars you're partly right.  He made this analogy from a campaign stop in Mars, PA.

Even with the media ready to move on, and the GOPer establishment desperate to get the campaign attention off the real and present GOPer war on women in the states that is helping to turn women voters away from GOPer candidates in droves, Richney can't really claim the nom, and still seems likely to come up at least a few delegates short by the end of the primaries.

Richney is stuck with the right wingers who brung him so far, and can't yet Etch-a-Sketch his way to a different campaign.  So before he becomes the Etch-a-Sketch candidate he'll probably keep on trying out new lies, and otherwise clowning around.  President Obama isn't waiting however, and his speech Tuesday detailed the real consequences of the latest GOPer budget, and he insisted that while there are problems for the economy, they can be addressed with what used to be the common sense balance of revenues, cuts and prioritizing.  The undercurrent of this speech and his answers to reporters questions afterwards (it was an address to the AP), it seemed to me, was that when it comes to actually addressing the country's problems, in the GOPers he is not dealing with serious people.  Richney is not a serious person. 

What is he is--according to David Javerbaum--is the first quantum politician.   It turns out that quantum physics can do what no political analysis can: it explains the Richney candidacy.  The principles of complementarity( "In much the same way that light is both a particle and a wave, Mitt Romney is both a moderate and a conservative, depending on the situation.."), probability (Mitt Romney’s political viewpoints can be expressed only in terms of likelihood, not certainty.) and the principle of Entanglement: "It doesn’t matter whether it’s a proton, neutron or Mormon: the act of observing cannot be separated from the outcome of the observation. By asking Mitt Romney how he feels about an issue, you unavoidably affect how he feels about it. More precisely, Mitt Romney will feel every possible way about an issue until the moment he is asked about it, at which point the many feelings decohere into the single answer most likely to please the asker."

Well that's the circus news for today, and I'm decohere.

The Big Finish

Congratulations to Brittney Griner and the Baylor Lady Bears for winning the NCAA womens championship and becoming the first collegiate team in history to go 40-0.  Notre Dame played well for much of the game but couldn't hang in against this great team.  What can you say about a team with players named Destiny Williams and Odyssey Sims?  It could even be like a myth.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


The Darkness--specifically a new Dark Ages--got just a little closer Monday, and gee whiz if it wasn't the U.S. Supreme Court that did it.  As reported in detail by Rachel Maddow, a bureaucratic mistake that the state of New Jersey failed to correct led to police pulling over a man, his pregnant wife and child in his BMW, and arresting him.  The police jailed him for six days, and subjected him to two strip searches, even though what he was arrested for was failure to pay a traffic fine (which he had in fact paid, and had a certificate to prove it.)  He is a black man.  Albert Florence (pictured) sued the state over those strip searches, and today in the Supreme Court, he lost.

  As the New York Times put it, in a 5-4 decision the Court ruled "that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband."  This ruling appears to nullify laws in several states banning this practice, as well as international law.

(Update: comment on the decision from Andrew Sullivan.)

So now police and prison guards are given more of a free hand to abuse prisoners whose skin color--or eye color, or anything--they don't like.  What's a citizen to do?  Well, arm yourself.  Carry a couple of guns everywhere and if somebody looks at you funny--and you're in the right state, at least before the Supreme Court spreads the Shoot First laws to everywhere else--you shoot the black/brown/hippie/federal-looking weirdo, but shoot to kill, cause you don't want a witness arguing against your "I felt threatened" defense.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, the rise of a police state and the rise of armed anarchy really do go together, and that's what we're seeing.  A police state that can spy, jail without trial, harrass and torture with the help of the Supreme Court.  A police state that prevents people from voting, or takes away the power of the people they vote for.  A police state that insists on committing acts of coercion and violence against women, their families, their doctors.  At the same time as suspicious citizens are armed to the teeth, and let loose by the police--as long as they are on the same racial and social side.

This is one reading of what's going on: that this rush towards the Dark Ages is in response to massive fears, mostly by a minority of mostly older whites, and that those fears may partly be of various twisted signs of an apocalyptic future, but most directly right now, in reaction to our black President, and all that he symbolizes to them. 

There are ways to parse each of these separate phenomena as a response to this or that--for example by taking Court opinions at face value.  But by coincidence or by something more sweeping, they are adding up to this.

It's going way beyond partisan politics, although the news media is slow to admit it--they've got jobs to protect, and all that fat income from superpacs and campaigns.  After noting how extremist such a step would be, on Monday President Obama talked about the human cost of the Supreme Court possibily overturning the Affordable Care Act:

“[T]his is not an abstract argument,” Obama added. "People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the inaffordability of health care, their inability to get health care because of pre-existing conditions. The law that is already in place gives 5 million young people health care that wouldn’t otherwise have it.

There are tens of thousands of adults with pre-existing conditions who have health care right now because of this law. Parents don’t have to worry about their children not being able to get health care because they can’t be prevented from getting health care as a consequence of a pre-existing condition.
That’s part of this law.

Millions of seniors are paying less for prescription drugs because of this law. Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to their insurance companies and they’re getting preventive care because of this law. That’s just the part that has already been implemented.

That doesn’t speak to the 30 million people who stand to gain coverage once it is fully implemented in 2014. And I think it is important, and I think the American people understand, and I think the justices should understand that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to insure that people with pre-existing conditions can actually get health care. So there is not only an economic element to this but there is a human element to this."

Monday, April 02, 2012

Emerson for the Day

"We must act with so rapid and resistless a purpose in one direction, that our vices will necessarily trail behind.  The nucleus of a comet is almost a star."