Thursday, April 30, 2009

Exclusive Congressional Torture Hearing Video

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Having a Serious Conversation

I wasn't able to watch all of President Obama's town hall meeting in St. Louis today, and what I did see had me alternately shaking my head and wishing that, at least here in the Pacific time zone, it had been late enough to start drinking. One particular portion, though, actually managed to make my blood pressure start to rise...

I'm happy to have a serious conversation about these issues, too, Mr. President. So as you say, let's not play games, and let's stop pretending.

Let's stop pretending that the record deficits in your 10-year budget plan, approved earlier today by Congress, were inherited from George W. Bush. This is your budget, your stimulus, and your spending, Mr. President. A serious conversation would acknowledge this.

Let's stop pretending that asking your cabinet to find $100 million in spending cuts is "tightening our belts." A serious conversation would call this what it really is: A joke. And a bad one at that.

Let's stop pretending that we're going to lower health care costs, thus saving money and Medicare, not to mention reducing the deficits, by spending an additional $646 billion of money we don't have. And that's just for the "down payment." A serious conversation would acknowledge that your health care reform is going to cost us even more in the long run, not less.

Let's stop pretending that we can save Social Security without cutting benefits for future retirees or raising the retirement age, and that all we really need to do is just lift the cap on the amount of income that's subject to the payroll tax. A serious conversation would acknowledge that this won't even cover half of the unfunded Social Security obligations we're facing.

Let's stop touting that $400 tax cut you keep talking about, considering that the members of your own party in Congress just voted to end it after next year. A serious conversation would acknowledge that even the people voting for your budget understand that the numbers just do not add up.

And while we're at it, let's stop pretending that your $400 tax cut is actually a "tax cut." Because a tax cut means taking less of someone's money. It doesn't mean refunding money to people who don't even owe any income tax, which your $400 "tax credit" does. Even if you justify giving out this money by saying that those people still owe payroll tax, this is still a transfer payment, not a cut in their payroll tax, and transfer payments need to be paid for -- either by raising taxes in some other area or by borrowing still more money. Even the Congressional Budget Office scores these credits as "direct spending." A serious conversation would admit this.

Let's also stop justifying your policies by pretending that under the Bush administration, only the wealthy received tax cuts. Millions of people who previously had owed federal income tax each year ended up owing no federal income tax at all after the Bush tax cuts. Middle-income earners paid lower federal taxes under President Bush than they did under President Clinton. I know I did, and I'm far from wealthy. Not to mention that lowering the bottom rate from 15% to 10% is hardly a tax cut for the wealthy. If you want to argue that the wealthy got more than their share, then go ahead and make that case, but frankly, I'm tired of being told by any member of the "reality-based community" that I never received a tax cut under the Bush administration. And a serious conversation wouldn't ask me, "Who are you going to believe? The words on my teleprompter, or your lying checkbook?"

Let's also note the irony of touting a $400 tax credit as a major boost to families and the economy, Mr. President, when during the campaign, your own wife dismissed the $600 stimulus payments with the phrase "What can you do with that?" A serious conversation might include some explanation about how a payment of $200 less suddenly became so much more effective and meaningful.

Mocking those "folks waving tea bags around" might make for a good laugh line, Mr. President. I'll admit that, and also that after the first 100 days of your presidency, I'm rather tired of the dismissive, Jon Stewart-esque smirk you tend to bestow on anyone who disagrees with your policies. But those folks are voters, Mr. President. And not only do they understand everything discussed in this post, they're waiting for some indication that you do as well.

They're also waiting for that serious conversation, Mr. President, just as soon as you decide to get serious.

UPDATE: Welcome to all Instapundit readers! Thanks for the link, Glenn!

UPDATE II: I welcome comments. I really, really do. But please, let's keep them in good taste.

Pop Quiz: Arlen Specter Edition

Which of the following is the true Arlen Specter?

A) The Arlen Specter of March 17, 2009:

B) The Arlen Specter of April 28, 2009:

C) There is no "true" Arlen Specter, just a nakedly ambitious politician who will do and say anything he feels necessary, and with whatever party will have him, for the chance at another six years in the Senate.

(Hint from Glenn Reynolds: "So I heard some guy on the radio saying that the Republicans have changed from the Reagan era — now they’re a bunch of social conservatives. But back during the Reagan era, I remember hearing that the Republicans were . . . a bunch of social conservatives. And back then they were pushing the abortion-banning Human Life Amendment — hard — along with a statutory end-run (the Human Life Bill) that simply declared life began at conception. Also school prayer and all sorts of stuff. I’m not actually hearing much along these lines from today’s Republicans, for whom tepid efforts at limiting late-term abortions are a big deal — but who are nonetheless stone-age troglodytes on social issues because they’ve got the same position as Barack Obama on gay marriage — and I’m wondering where this big shift to the right really is. It’s certainly true, of course, that the GOP wasn’t much good on small government under Bush, though they’re looking better in retrospect as Obama spends and spends. But on social issues I’m not seeing it . . .")

"Missed Congeniality"

More at Diversity Lane...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen and Joe Talk Self-Preservation

"Well, you did it, Arlen. You finally decided to leave the Republican Party and become a Democrat."

"I certainly did."

"And you did it with such flair! Actually admitting in front of all those reporters that you were doing this because you had no chance of getting the Republican nomination for re-election in 2010! Voters eat up self-less acts of political courage like that!"

"So, I really do want to spend my eighties in the Senate, Joe."

"And we're thrilled to have you, Arlen. Just thrilled."

"Now, about that committee chairmanship --"

"And the way you slapped the face of all those other Republicans who stood by you at great political risk to themselves during your last tough primary challenge back in 2004! That was super, Arlen! Just super!"

"I'm a martyr to my principles, Joe."

"And you're hilarious! I can't wait to see you and Franken yukking it up in the cloakroom. Why, with the two of you, we'll finally have that magic, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and can ram through absolutely anything we want with no need to compromise! On anything! Good-bye, checks and balances!"

"Uh, Joe? I did say that I wouldn't be your automatic 60th vote."

"Sure, sure! We'll gladly overlook you being a maverick on some minor issue we don't really care about. That's just senatorial courtesy."

"Of course."

"Of course!"

"So, Joe?"

"What is it, buddy?"

"The President's going to make sure all those Pennsylvania supporters of his guarantee me a win in the Democratic primary now, right?"

"You're a funny guy, Arlen. I'm going to miss that sense of humor."

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Department of Bright Ideas

Someone honestly, truly thought it would be a good idea to approve a "photo opportunity" involving a large airliner, trailed by a fighter jet, flying at low level over a city that still hasn't filled the big hole in the ground left after the last "man-caused disaster" that killed 3,000 people in that same city. And that it would be an even better idea to make sure any local authorities who did know about this flyover in advance wouldn't let residents of that city know anything about it ahead of time.

As Glenn Reynolds says, the country's in the very best of hands.


I have the feeling Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano is going to be saying "Mistakes were made" a lot between now and the day she finally resigns.

UPDATE II: They knew what would happen:

Federal officials knew that sending two fighter jets and Air Force One to buzz ground zero and Lady Liberty might set off nightmarish fears of a 9/11 replay, but they still ordered the photo-op kept secret from the public.

In a memo obtained by CBS 2 HD the Federal Aviation Administration's James Johnston said the agency was aware of "the possibility of public concern regarding DOD (Department of Defense) aircraft flying at low altitudes" in an around New York City. But they demanded total secrecy from the NYPD, the Secret Service, the FBI and even the mayor's office and threatened federal sanctions if the secret got out.

I'd already given up on Obama's promise to post the full text of bills on the White House website for five days before he signed them, so that at least someone would read them. But this?

I'm so glad the "smart" people are finally in charge of the government.

Be Honest, with Nancy Pelosi

"As I've already told you, I had no idea that waterboarding or any other enhanced interrogation technique was ever being used on captured, mass-murdering, terrorist masterminds. I only knew that these techniques could be used. Now be honest... If I had had even an inkling that what could be used was actually being used, don't you think I would have immediately written a strongly worded letter of protest to Vice President Cheney, then tucked it away in a drawer for several years, until the political winds shifted? I mean, seriously, don't you think I would have done a 'Senator Rockefeller,' too?"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Geek's Prayer

I've prayed for a lot of things in my life. Some of those prayers have been answered, and some not.

Right now, I'm praying that this movie is even half as good as this trailer...

I'm praying, and I'm praying hard...

Hide and Seek, with Eric Holder

"It is not the intention of the Obama administration to play hide and seek with any additional memos detailing the actual effectiveness of these interrogation techniques or whether actual lives were actually saved. Use of the phrase 'hide and seek' would imply that if such memos were found, we would voluntarily declassify and release that information as well."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

New Readers!

Traffic here has roughly tripled since Zack Rawsthorne gave In My Copious Free Time that much-appreciated shout out over at Diversity Lane. Thanks again, Zack!

At least for myself, one question that's always in my mind when I discover a blog that's been around for a while is this: How can I tell the good older posts from all the crappy older one? So, as a service to all my new readers, I've decided to post, in no particular order, the "Greatest Hits" of In My Copious Free Time:

1) 24 Shots At Love

Jack Bauer goes undercover on a VH1 celebreality dating show.

2) The Endless Adolescence of Joel Stein

In this case, the title really does say it all.

3) Larry King Live: The Lost Episode

Larry interviews Al-Qaeda Number Two and international terrorist mastermind, Ayman al-Zawahiri. When funnyman and political commentator Bill Maher joins the discussion, all wackiness ensues.

4) The Battle of Long Beach Harbor

Possibly the finest day off work I've had so far this year.

5) The Obligatory Prop 8 Post

How the Courage Campaign nearly lost my vote against Proposition 8.

6) Bonekickers

A brutal snarkfest in "honor" one of the worst television shows ever.

That's right. Ever.

7) This Blog Is Only 43% Manly

My feeble attempt to convince that In My Copious Free Time really is written by a man.

Really. It is.

8) Tale of the Chihuahua

The day I learned, once again, that no good deed goes unpunished.

9) Wallowers in Hyperbole

My very first post. Reading it again today, it now seems kind of quaint, and almost naive.

Talk about the sadness of lost opportunities...

10) What Will Be...

Yes, this blog is a fan of Sir Tom Jones. A big fan.

Deal with it.

Pop Quiz: CYA Edition

Which of the following is engaged in the time-honored tradition of CYA?

A) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:

B) Former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and CIA director Porter Goss:
A disturbing epidemic of amnesia seems to be plaguing my former colleagues on Capitol Hill. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, members of the committees charged with overseeing our nation's intelligence services had no higher priority than stopping al-Qaeda. In the fall of 2002, while I was chairman of the House intelligence committee, senior members of Congress were briefed on the CIA's "High Value Terrorist Program," including the development of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and what those techniques were. This was not a one-time briefing but an ongoing subject with lots of back and forth between those members and the briefers.

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.
(Hint: When the inevitable circus of hearings and trials finally gets underway, let's see which story changes under oath.)

Climate Is An Angry Beast

From the otherwise excellent "Altered State" exhibit on climate change at the California Academy of Sciences:

Sometimes, apparently, science is all about the metaphor...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Credit Card-tastic!

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States...

Thank you all for coming today. As you know, I've just met with the chief executives of the American credit card industry, and we've had a very productive, even eye-opening meeting. As you also know, China and other nations are becoming less willing to fund our deficit spending to bring about economic recovery, provide increased government benefits, and create a green future. So, at this time, I'd like to update you on our progress in these negotiations to secure a new credit card for the United States.

At the start of these negotiations, I requested one of those cool, personalized credit cards. The kind where you can put the picture of a cute little kitten or a hip campaign logo on it. I'm happy to report that these fine representatives of the financial sector agreed that such a credit card was indeed possible, though with additional fees and a higher interest rate.

After filling out and processing our country's application, however, my request for a new United States credit card was rejected. It seems that our nation's debt-to-income ratio is too high. "Gargantuan," one of the people across the table from me called it. As I told him at the time, this kind of rhetoric is not helpful, and he should remember that I recently fired the head of General Motors.

At this point, the chief executives from the credit card industry offered to issue a new card for the United States if our great nation could find a co-signer. Patriots that we are, Michelle and I immediately offered our own signatures. After filling out and processing that application, however, Michelle and I were also rejected. "Dude," I said across the table, "we made $2.7 million last year!"

As it turned out, a credit card account of which I had no prior knowledge had been opened under my name. We traced this account to Hugh Chavez, who apparently used it to buy a book and extend a runway to accommodate some Russian long-range strategic bombers. I immediately phoned President Chavez and told him that identity theft was not helpful. He then explained this must have been a data entry error on the part of the credit card issuer. The chief executives here at the table with me denied this was the case, but as a fellow statesman, I took President Chavez at his word, and laughs were shared all around. In fact, I look forward without preconditions to landing on President Chavez's new runway during my upcoming state visit to Venezuela.

This was when our negotiations took an unexpected turn. Apparently, the application that Michelle and I put in to co-sign for a new credit card for the United States triggered a threshold criterion of which I had no prior knowledge and lowered our own credit scores. This resulted in the APR on all our personal credit cards being raised to 29.8%. Naturally, I told the fine businesspeople across the table from me that this was not helpful. They referred me to several separate credit reporting agencies, who promised to separately mail me several separate forms to fill out and separately return, after which they have assured me they will separately investigate this matter fully. And separately. I thank them for their patriotism and support, and promise again that their bailout money is on the way.

These contacts with the various credit reporting agencies actually turned out to be rather fortuitous. During these conversations, I learned that that United States had been reported to a collection agency for a zombie debt. This explains the many recent harassing phone calls received here at the White House, which until today we had been chalking up to domestic right-wing extremists, though in fairness, a few intelligence analysts did suspect the Crank Yankers, as these callers ended each conversation with the phrase "Bill Clinton in the true Man from Hope!" This also explains why my own credit card was declined while trying to purchase a DVD box set for Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Luckily, Secret Service Agent 27 lent me his Discover Card to complete that purchase, thus avoiding a serious breach of international protocol. Agent 27, if you're listening, just let me say that this time, I really will have the money for you next Tuesday. I promise.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the collection agency...

As it turns out, this debt was handed over to the collection agency by Kim Jong-Il of North Korea and involves an unpaid balance of heavy fuel oil, food aid, and a light-water nuclear reactor. I have no knowledge of the United States ever receiving a collection notice regarding this matter, but the agency swears they sent it. Therefore, I can only assume this notice was in fact received but somehow got mixed with all those unread pieces of legislation sent over from Congress for my signature. My bad.

I immediately initiated a phone call to the Dear Leader. It took some time to get him on the line, and it was while we were all being kept on hold that my top economic adviser Larry Summers fell asleep.

After Kim Jong-Il finally picked up the extension and we got Larry to wake up, I told the Dear Leader that reporting the United States to a collection agency was not helpful. In response, someone in the background with an Iranian accent shouted something that, in the majority opinion of those clustered around the speakerphone, translated as "Bring it on, Big Bad Daddy Satan!" I should note here, however, that I believe the correct translation is actually "Bring it on, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy," an obvious reference to the swing band that helped repopularize that style of music in the late 1990s. North Korea is, after all, several years behind us in terms of all the popular lifestyle trends. Just to cautious, however, I responded that either translation was not helpful.

At this point, the Dear Leader explained that the telephone wires had obviously been crossed with another line somewhere in the Middle East, thus defusing a very tense situation. Unfortunately, this was also the point that Larry Summers, who had fallen back asleep, graced us with one of those explosive, choking snores, which Kim Jong-Il took as an expression of our disbelief in his thoughtful explanation. As a result, the Dear Leader threatened to have the collection agency ding our credit score again for refusal to pay, and I realized it would be both cheaper and less time-intensive to simply pay off this forgotten debt rather than going through the process of again contacting several separate credit reporting agencies, who would promise to separately mail me several separate forms to fill out and separately return, after which they would assure me that they would separately investigate this matter fully. The Dear Leader found my logic compelling and agreed to this compromise of payment in full. I ended the call with my best wishes that his next satellite launch would be a resounding success.

It was at this point that I sadly realized a new, unsecured credit card for the United States was simply not a possibility. I share the frustration of all Americans at this lack of available credit. We, as a nation, are no longer credit-worthy, for which I blame the previous administration and their horrendous fiscal irresponsibility. Fortunately, however, I am pleased to announce that the good executives across this table from me have offered the United States a new, secured credit card.

Unfortunately, the credit limit on this card will be low, and the interest rate will be high. This new card also will not be able to carry a photo of a cute kitten or a hip campaign logo.

Details regarding my upcoming, gargantuan tax increase to cover the check I just deposited into the country's new secured credit card account will be announced shortly...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday Evening Minimalist Wine

No fancy labels. Just booze.

Available at Trader Joe's, of course.

"V"iva, Obama!

For the sci-fi fan of a certain age who worries about doubling the national debt in five years and tripling it in ten, fears the budding criminalization of political and policy differences, and laughs at the idea that promising to cut $100 million in spending after signing a $1 trillion stimulus package that no one read and a $410 billion omnibus spending bill with more than 8,000 earmarks is setting a new tone of fiscal responsibility...

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER FOR THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: This post is satire. This post is aimed at making a political statement while also currying nostalgia for 1980s broadcast network television. This post does not represent the heretofore-lacking specific information that domestic right-wing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence. This post does not represent a threat to the life of President Barack Obama. It is an expression of dissent, protected under the First Amendment, regarding his policies and views about the proper scope and role of the federal government. This post does not represent an attempt to recruit and radicalize returning military veterans with combat skills, or Marc Singer. Any resemblance between the ideas contained in or the intent of this post and the ideas and intent of Timothy McVeigh or the militia movement of the 1990s in the mind of an intelligence analyst should result in an immediate second opinion by a more qualified professional in that field.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Barry and Hugo's Excellent Adventure, Part II

"You really do lead a nation of fools, Barack. Imagine! Believing that a handshake, a smile, and a slap on the back will make the United States of America weaker in the world! Don't they see this only makes weaker those Venezuelans who still believe in democracy and freedom, and who had been hoping for a sign that you would stand with them against my radicalism and growing dictatorship?... Ah! You smile, because you know I am right!"

Pop Quiz: Miss USA Edition

Which of the following two people is a "hater"?

A) Miss USA 2009 contestant and Miss California Carrie Prejean?

B) Celebrity gossip-monger and Miss USA 2009 judge Perez Hilton? (Video corrects itself about eight seconds in.)

(Hint: It's the one who makes me embarrassed, yet again, by my own side on this issue.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Sacrifice on the Altar of Awesome

Even after my triumphant world apology tours, the Russians still won't help us with Iran, the UN is doing even less about North Korea, NATO keeps refusing to send more combat troops to Afghanistan, and Ortega made me sit through that 50-minute speech about the sins of Daddy Yankee. I always thought he was a rapper, but like I said at the summit, I guess I really do have a lot to learn...

Hmmmm, if all that apologizing won't work, maybe I need some sacrificial lambs...


I can't prosecute the CIA agents who actually conducted those aggressive interrogations. I've already said they were acting in good faith under the direction of their superiors, who thought those tactics were legal. I should wait at least a week before I go back on that statement.


I can't prosecute the Bush administration officials who actually authorized those techniques and implemented the policy. As awesome as that would be, the Republican who kicks me out of office in 2012 might turn around and actually prosecute Rahm or Geithner, or Panetta, or even me for some political difference. And that would not be awesome.


I know. I'll go after the people who wrote those legal memos that suggested all this was legal. Sure, they didn't actually do anything or give the actual orders, but their advice was so not awesome. And if you can't prosecute someone in a previous administration simply for giving not awesome legal opinions you happen to disgree with, then what good is having a Justice Department?

It'll be awesome. Just wait and see...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Susan Roesgen: The Lost Episode

KYRA PHILLIPS: Welcome back to CNN. I'm Kyra Phillips, with continuing coverage of the Tax Day Tea Party Protests. Let's go back on the scene with ace CNN reporter Susan Roesgen in Chicago. Susan, are you still with us?

SUSAN ROESGEN: It's hell on earth here, Kyra!

KYRA: Well, our viewers and right-thinking people everywhere appreciate your bravery and spunk, Susan.

SUSAN: Joan Allen is going to play me in the movie version of this day, Kyra!

KYRA: Susan, just in the time it took for our brief commercial break, your report has become infamous. It's been called unfair, untruthful, and a prime example of liberal media bias.

SUSAN: I'm a martyr for the truth, Kyra!

KYRA: And we thank you for it. Susan, I want to review your last report and give you a chance to respond to these many baseless accusations. Let's start at your courageous encounter with that man who claimed President Barack Obama was a fascist.

SUSAN: He had a picture of President Obama dressed up as Adolf Hitler, Kyra!

KYRA: The President of the United States being compared to Hitler? Shocking!

SUSAN: That's right, Kyra! Can you imagine?! This is absolutely unheard of in the annals of political protest, and every reporter has a duty to shine a light on such offensiveness!

KYRA: Weren't there also reports during the last administration of President George W. Bush being likened to Hitler during protests?

SUSAN: You mean President Bushitler?!

KYRA: Exactly.

SUSAN: Unconfirmed reports, Kyra! All of them!

KYRA: An urban legend, you might say.

SUSAN: That's right, Kyra! And those photographs were PhotoShopped!

KYRA: PhotoShop?

SUSAN: Spy software developed under a no-bid contract awarded to Haliburton!

KYRA: You heard it here first, people. Now, let's talk about your heroic encounter with that man who thought he understood what President Abraham Lincoln believed.

SUSAN: A true student of revisionist history, Kyra!

KYRA: My thoughts exactly. But tell us more of your thoughts.

SUSAN: He had his child with him, Kyra! And who brings their child to a protest?! Anti-abortion fanatics who want to blow up women's health clinics, Kyra, that's who!

KYRA: Fascinating reporting, Susan. My initial impression was simply that the child was there to soften the rough edges of his obvious political extremism.

SUSAN: As reporters, we need to dig beneath the surface, Kyra! And did you see that child?! Light hair! Light skin! Straight out of Central Casting for the Aryan Nation!

KYRA: This is mind-boggling, Susan. Are you saying that the Aryan Nation has been organizing and directing these Tax Day Tea Party protests?

SUSAN: And Fox News!

KYRA: Terrifying. Now, Susan, did you call the protesters "wimpy, whiny weasels" who "don't love their country"?

SUSAN: No, Kyra! That was iconic Democratic advisor Paul Begala!

KYRA: Did you say, "Let's be very honest about what this is about: It's not about bashing Democrats, it's not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston Tea Party was about, they don't know their history at all. This was about hating a black man in the White House ... This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of tea-bagging rednecks and there is no way around that"?

SUSAN: No, Kyra! That was progressive political darling Janeane Garofalo!

KYRA: What about "The limbic brain of a right-winger or Republican or conservative or your average white power activist ... is much larger in their head space than in a reasonable person and it's pushing against the frontal lobe so their synapses are misfiring"?

SUSAN: Janeane Garofalo again! Where is that woman's Oscar, Kyra?!

KYRA: I've wondered that myself, Susan. But getting back on topic, how did you describe this protest?

SUSAN: Kyra, I called the protest anti-government, anti-Democrat, andi-CNN, and anti-Obama. That this was, in fact, a party for "Obama bashers"!

KYRA: Right after your interview, though, didn't one protestor point out an actual anti-Republican sign in the crowd?

SUSAN: As I told that racist, synapse-misfiring threat to a decent America, that sign and all the others like it were not in my field of view!

KYRA: Even though it was right behind you, right in the front, at the very start of your interview, Susan?

SUSAN: Do I look like I have eyes in the back of my head, Kyra?! I was watching the camera, not the protest I was reporting on!

KYRA: Excellent point, Susan. So in no way did you mischaracterize this protest by picking out a few fringe views and then applying those to the protestors as a whole?

SUSAN: I'm a martyr for the truth, Kyra! Like Janeane and Paul! Jennifer Aniston is going to play the younger me in all the flashbacks during the movie version of this day!

KYRA: Susan, some have asserted, incredibly enough, that these tea parties are in fact a true grass roots movement of public discontent with the largest fiscal deficits in the history of the world and not some thinly disguised tool of shadowy, behind-the-scenes, far-right fat cats.

SUSAN: Grass roots, Kyra?! Do these people look like the grass roots in your neighborhood?!

KYRA: Well, I --

SUSAN: And didn't you hear what Janeane said?! The president is black!

KYRA: At this point, Susan, I just try to get through the day without bad mouthing my sister-in-law on national television because I walked into the ladies' room without realizing my microphone was still live.

SUSAN: You're a martyr for hygiene, Kyra!

KYRA: Respect from my peers means everything to me, Susan. Any final thoughts on your experience today?

SUSAN: Only that the talented professionals over at MSNBC stole all my adolescent sexual "teabagging" jokes, which were going to make up the bulk of my mockery during this second segment!

KYRA: Once again, that's ace CNN reporter Susan Roesgen, reporting live from the Tax Day Tea Party protest in Chicago. Enjoy your previously planned vacation, Susan.

SUSAN: Get me out of here, Kyra! These average, everyday Americans with minds of their own scare me!

KYRA: They scare all of us here at CNN, Susan. They scare us all.

SUSAN: Save me!!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Barry and Hugo's Excellent Adventure

"Never doubt that you are on the right track, Barry. Here in Venezuela, government intervention in the economy has produced truly wondrous results!"

"Thanks, Hugo. I have a lot to learn and I very much look forward to listening and figuring out how we can work together more effectively."

"Yes, yes, of course. Now, about those Tax Day Tea Parties. Let me tell you how we deal with anti-government protests in my country... Ah! You smile, because you already know the answer!"

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thanks, Zack ... And Light Posting

I want to thank Zack Rawsthorne for his great "shout out" and kind words over at Diversity Lane. He's been turning out some great, sharp work lately. Go check him out sometime, if you haven't already.

Posting has been light over the last few weeks, I know. Between computer problems, client problems, and getting through April 15th, often the last thing I've wanted to do is spend still more time in front of the computer when I could go play ball with the dog. Posting should start picking up again next week, though. (I hope.)

Thanks again, Zack. And if you've found your way here from there, welcome, and take a look around. (January was a very good month, I thought!)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Signs of the Times

The main street of my little town is full of realtors and their offices. They often have information sheets about their available properties filling up one or more sidewalk displays, just like the one shown below.

Just out of curiosity, how many "Bank Owned" stickers can you find?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Short Film Saga, Part V

After the third weekend of filming:

The Bottom Line: We're now $113 under budget and half a day ahead of schedule -- just don't ask me how we managed that with all the stuff that went wrong!

Budget-buster or not, no way am I handling the catering for the fourth weekend. This was just too much on top of everything else I need to do for the shoot, especially when the meat I'd purchased chose not to cooperate. So, I had my "moment of losing it" late Friday afternoon, when I was still struggling with uncooperative meat and realizing that I hadn't even started on everything else I had to do to prepare for the shots we had planned for the next morning. (You want to see a confused face during an apology? Try saying, "I'm sorry. My meat wasn't cooperating, and I didn't mean to take it out on you..." )

Mind you, we kept losing cast and crew during the course of each day because of countless last-minute scheduling problems, so instead of 12 people to feed at the end of each day, we ended up with five. On the plus side, I've got food for the freakin' week now. On the downside, I could have cut my catering work (and stress) in *half* if I'd known.

Bizarrely enough, though, losing crew throughout the day actually turned out to be a good thing, one of those counter-intuitive lessons we never would have thought of on our own. With only three or four people behind the scenes instead of a crew of six or seven (or eight), we each had more work to do but actually ended up keeping a better pace. Whether that was because we just had fewer people to wrangle and make grasp what we wanted (and giving us more time to work with the actors so we needed fewer takes to get it right) or because of the specific people we lost, I'm not quite sure. (I'm leaning toward the specific people we lost -- at least regarding two of them...)

Of course, our lead actor pulled another fast one on Saturday. As soon as we broke for lunch, he announced that he had to drive home to "take care of something" that he wouldn't give us any details about. Swearing that he would be back in an hour, he showed up well over an hour-and-a-half later. Sitting around for an extra 30 minutes waiting for him didn't put any of us in a particularly good mood -- especially when we learned that he'd actually been back for 10 minutes but hadn't told us so that he could "finish a really good sandwich." (On Sunday, he started to joke about needing to leave again, only to have me fix him with an icy stare and tell him, "Give us your keys. We'll send Jeff for whatever you need." I wish we'd had a camera on his face when he realized that I wasn't joking.)

Sunday was the lead actress' turn, when she realized that she'd forgotten the dress she needed for the main scene we were shooting that day and had to drive back to her home in "The Valley" from our apartment here in "The Other Valley" and then back again. (We couldn't use a different dress, unfortunately, because we had to match it with some footage we'd shot the first weekend.) That gave us a late start (*!again!*), which was made worse by the director not having had any sleep and being sick with whatever this bug is that's been going around.

Basically, Sunday was a bad, *bad* start. A late beginning with an already-grumpy director is not a good thing. First, the director of photography took him aside and reamed him out for crossing the line on how he was dealing with us. Twenty minutes later, the director crossed the line with *me* for the first time, and I took him aside and reamed him out. (First time I've ever raised my voice with this man in the two years I've known him -- and another face I wish we'd had a camera on!) He managed to pull it together soon after that -- but not before he had the director of photography and myself literally *slapping* him in the face to wake him up. Took him a long time to convince us that he was serious about it, too. ("I mean it! *Slap* me!"/".....Oka-a-a-a-a-a-a-ay....")

Everything clicked by lunch, somehow, and we ended the weekend with some really spectacular stuff, and under budget, and ahead of schedule. Which means it looks like we can finish up everything else we need to shoot here on next Saturday, then go back to West LA on Sunday for that scene we didn't get on the infamous "Sunday From Hell" -- and still have time and money for the wrap party!

And it'll be nice to have a weekend again where I don't have to get up at 5:30 AM each day...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Over Past Few Days...

Over the past few days, I've dealt with a corrupted operating system, reformatting my hard drive, reinstalling my operating system, downloading and reinstalling several years worth of Windows updates and security patches, and reinstalling all my other software and backed-up data. I'm almost back to where I was on Sunday morning, before everything went cyber-funky on me.

Those words, however, just don't do justice to the emotional intensity of the experience for me. So, here is a stunningly accurate dramatization of my Sunday, my Monday, and most of my Tuesday...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Child's Pay"

Winner of a contest back in 2004:

Winner of a contest here in 2009:

Wait, did I say I'm sorry. thinks "President Obama's budget delivers the change we voted for in November." even ran radio ads asking key Democrats to support it.

Silly me...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Short Film Saga, Part IV

After the second weekend of filming:

The second weekend of filming has come and gone, and we've all been whipped from one extreme to the other. The worst part is that all of the scheduling problems and cancellations are for good and valid reasons, so we can't even really get angry at anyone for this, which just makes things even more frustrating. After we'd rescheduled for the lead actor, we spent Friday afternoon and evening rescheduling our shots (and then again (and then again)) for two of the other actors. That cost us a lot of time that we should have been spending preparing for the shoot itself. (You can't work on prepping the shots when you keep juggling which shots you're going to do, you know?)

It showed Saturday morning, too. We spent far more time getting the lighting set up for the first two scenes than we should have needed. Actually, things just were not clicking that morning all around, when we were shooting the masters for the two comedic sex scenes. Nervous actors and actresses trying to fake orgasmic hilarity with crew crowding the bedroom and either dialog getting blown or my shouting from the monitor in the other room that we had to do it again because the carefully placed sheets had shifted and revealed the sparse clothing they still had on and that should have been out of frame. (Now we know to schedule twice the amount of time for these scenes as we'd originally thought. Some things we just have to learn by screwing them up. )

I wish to God I knew what changed after lunch, though, because once we started shooting the close-ups and the inserts, everything just came together. The scenes were just popping with life, and we were blowing takes because we were all *laughing* too hard rather than trying to fix some problem. This is the universe throwing us a bone, too, I think. Our leads really sell this when we go close on their facial expressions -- and the tighter we can frame those shots, the fewer technical problems we have to deal with!

We still fell way behind schedule, though, and the third scene that we should have started at 1 PM didn't get started until 4:30 or so. But this is where having the much-maligned screenwriter on the set helps, because I was able to drop entirely the fourth scene we'd planned to shoot that day and rewrite the fifth so that we only needed ten more minutes of shooting time at that location. Which meant we actually ended the day on time, with the entire shoot still on schedule, and some truly fantastic footage.

That made me a hero for about six minutes...

With all of us ending Saturday with the feeling that there was no problem we wouldn't overcome, Sunday was a kick in the groin from the great Chicken/Monkey God in the Sky. The caterer bailed on us *again* at the last minute, believe it or not. Valid excuse, again, but it looks like I'm going to take on handling the catering myself from this point onward, just to be safe. (She actually did come through with the meals for the cast and crew on Saturday -- though the huge, fantabulous dinner she was supposed to provide for the dining room scene never materialized, which had us literally *blow-torching* food from the nearest supermarket at the last minute so that it would at least *look* like it had been cooked!)

It just got worse from there. We couldn't start until noon because of the lead actor's scheduling problem. One of our actresses showed up sick to the point of nearly falling over and had to be sent back home, so her scene was lost. We were shooting exteriors, and the sun and all the shadows refused to cooperate. Our script supervisor aka continuity person aka my assistant wasn't there, and the reality of how much I'd been leaning on her so that I could focus on everything else just whacked me brutally in the face. Tempers were rising -- and even I was ready to lose it, for the first time since all this began.

We called the shoot on Sunday after about five hours. Too many things were conspiring against us. If we'd pushed on, we either would have had a repeat of the previous Sunday's blow-up (but this time with *me* blowing up), or we would have gotten half-assed footage we'd all hate the next morning. Even now, I know it was the right decision, but we still have to figure out where we can make up the scene that we missed while staying on budget and still getting the equipment back to the rental company on time.

And I'm still having the time of my life...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Okay, Now I'm Really Steamed...

At first, I thought this might have just been a bad camera angle. Forced perspective can do amazing things in film and photographs, after all.

Then, I saw the video. And I saw that President Obama really was bowing -- and bowing deeply -- to the King of Saudi Arabia.

Will somebody in the Obama administration please tell this man that American presidents do not bow to foreign royalty. And they especially do not bow to the king of one of the most repressive, theocratic nations on this planet.

It's one thing to go on Arab television and call the King of Saudi Arabia a courageous man while listing America's myriad sins in that region. A person can chalk that up to misguided or even naive diplomacy.

It's quite another to bow -- and bow deeply -- to the King of Saudi Arabia, and to do it on film. Aside from the fact that we fought a full-blown, bloody revolution to free ourselves of royalty, this image is powerful symbolism. And not in the way anyone should want. It doesn't show us as a nation no willing to forge partnerships with the rest of the world. It undercuts our credibility as being on the side of reform in the Middle East. If anyone in the Obama administration ever wanted to signal a shift in U.S. foreign policy back to "realism," back to the notion that Middle East dictatorships are fine and dandy, just so long as they preserve "stability" in the region, those people now have their image.

After all, the President of the United States just bowed to the King of the Despotic Old Guard. Not to mention to the King of the Country Exporting Radical Islam Throughout the World.

Remember the fury when President Bush walked hand in hand with the Saudi Crown Prince? How Democrats and Progressive and Human Rights Activists all howled at the symbolism of that image of the United States cozying up to the brutal Saudi regime? They had a point, back then. So I look forward to those same howls of outrage from those same people, now that President Obama is bowing to the King of Saudi Arabia. (I won't hold my breath, of course. Democrats used to complain about budget deficits, too.)

Symbolism matters, especially in pictures. This is going to be one of those iconic photographs that follows a politician throughout his or her career. Like the photo of a younger Donald Rumsfeld shaking the hand of Saddam Hussein undercut any argument the older Rumsfeld made for the Iraq War, and like the photo of Madeleine Albright sharing a champagne toast with North Korea's Kim Jong-il still undercuts the idea of Democrats being "tough" on national security, this image is going to follow President Obama. And it's going to work against him in the future, somehow, and probably at the absolutely worst time imaginable.

"Smart" diplomacy. How wonderful.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Short Film Saga, Part III

Just before the start of our second weekend of filming:

So, this week I managed to get the director and the director of photography to be friends again. And following a few hours of peace after that, our lead actor drops the bombshell that he won't be available until 2 PM this Sunday -- and also the next Sunday -- for an unspecificed "personal commitment." This led to about 30 hours of us desperately trying to reschedule everyone else, trying to decide whether to drop him and recast and then reshoot everything we had done last weekend, and trying not to tear out whatever non-graying hair we still have left.

Turns out he actually has a valid reason, and we'd be real S.O.B.'s to argue with it. The rescheduling is a nightmare, but it looks like we can pull it off.

Now, if I can just get the director to stop falling back into that strange mindset he's developed that speed is more important than the quality of the shots we're getting. It's weird how these things work out. Right up until the first actual day of shooting, I was convinced it was going to be the director and myself reigning in the director of photography, and instead, it's been the director of photography and myself trying to reign in the director!

I'm finding many new gray hairs in my beard, but at least I'm enjoying getting these...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Best Protest Group Name So Far This Year

Mannequins for Climate Justice!