Friday, November 20, 2009

Obama Abroad: Success or Foreign Relations Challenge?

President Barack Obama has been abroad on a foreign relations blitz for the better part of a two-week period. There has been intense coverage and criticism of everything from the substance of his comments to the depth of his bow before a foreign sovereign. What is your take on all the hullabaloo? Hype? BS? Is there any substance to any of the rantings to date?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Is high-speed rail ever going to get off the ground?

What is your opinion on this topic? I recently attended the annual convention of the American Public Transit Association in Orlando, Florida. I was surprised at just how many communities have ambitious plans to build their own high-speed rail networks, from the Chicago - St. Louis to the Orlando - Tampa corridors. But will they ever be built?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rosa Clemente on the Van Jones resignation

Rosa Clemente, former Green Party Vice Presidential candidate, raises some important points in her recent article on the resignation of Van Jones from the Obama administration and what it means for the vitality of political life in the U.S.

While I was a supporter and canvasser for the Obama/Biden campaign, my ongoing support for Democratic candidates has been largely fueled by a feeling that a third party candidate was an impossible dream. Maybe I'll start steering my campaign contributions to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, an elected official much more in keeping with my political philosophy than most of the DNC.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Threats against President Obama on the rise

This is troubling.

Please check out of politics and alternative culture podcast, The Blindspot

I've found a great little podcast that focuses on alternative music, culture and politics, called The Blindspot. Some 'casts feature shows with talk about specific topics, other shows feature a random mix of tracks picked by the show's hosts. I hope you guys enjoy it!

It can be found HERE

Monday, May 4, 2009

A New Post from my friend Krystof Jurczynski

Monday, January 05, 2009

Category: Art and Photography

"The water is warm." My colleague looked at me with disbelief and concern when I responded to the simple question, "What is your impression of Art Basel?" Really, at the beginning of December the Atlantic Ocean in Miami is like a soup. If we stay with culinary analogy, the largest art festival in the world was again like a gumbo. Hundreds of ingredients fighting for domination or attention in the end created a mushy gray-brown mixture. After going to countless pavilions, tents, galleries, overpasses and warehouses not one piece stunned, impressed or even touched me. The desperate search for individuality reminded me of high school students. All of them struggle to assert their uniqueness with clothing, haircuts or posture, but, when you look at them from a distance, they all seem the same. I have heard it said that "art represents the social, intellectual and economical status of society." However if this is true, then maybe this is the problem. Perhaps art should not attempt to hold a dialog with a culture of such obvious and shallow observations. Maybe it should denounce desperate attempts to achieve fifteen minutes of fame. Possibly it should embrace technique and craftsmanship as the essential part of the creative process. Essentially, Art should embrace real social issues and a sense of life and love which always have and always will be an inexhaustible source of reflection.

How has this happened? It occurred as we lost sight of the principle that art should be a vanguard of philosophical and social transformation, when we started to believe that the depiction of popular culture is the answer to the demand for intellectual exultation and finally, when we granted the status of artist to anyone who labeled himself as creative person.
A renowned economist and writer has described the United States economic system and stock market as a house of cards. It was developed to satisfy greed as a highly sophisticated mathematical system, in which even those at the top neither had expertise nor understood its complexity. As in the case of the banking system in a post war environment, art was created mostly as a response to itself. Visual movements, one after another, created retorts to each other's theses, strictly absorbed by style and pseudo sophistication. Art thereby not only alienated itself from the public but also slowly distanced itself from technical mastery. At the same time, artists claimed to be pulling away from object creation. This however was just an illusion. Events, happenings and installations documented as photographs or films, by definition turn out to be objects. Perhaps it is just me, but when I observe performances, I have an overwhelming feeling of embarrassment bordering on humiliation. Bad acting insufficient even in middle school theater, combined with remorseful music attempts to achieve an interdisciplinary connection. In practice this proves the point that we don't have multidisciplinary masters. My contemporaries presume that they multitask, but perhaps they just lack the ability to concentrate.

I am returning to kitchen! Can a chef think food? Can we taste his intellectualism? I know the counter argument. Sure – he can give direction to his assistant. However, he will forget how the parsnip smells, he will fail to understand that just an extra pinch of cumin will make a dish unique and he will be clueless how to de-bone a duck. Perhaps, his restaurant will be successful or even trendy, and maybe, just maybe one day Oprah will grant him the honor of presenting his signature "duck with parsnip" dish on her television show. Finally he will have a chance to present the depth of his knowledge and his philosophy of cooking, share his controversial character and ensure millions of people that "because it is easy" anyone can cook. Well, I still prefer my Grandma's duck. She would spend a good hour choosing the best bird in the market, and then slowly proceed with taking feathers off, cutting, basting and slow roasting. The smell and the intangible warmth could be sensed from our neighbor's house. Maybe because of her understanding, she created this meal to express appreciation and love.

In the late nineteen-fifties and sixties, tenured positions in art colleges were awarded to young, then-progressive artists. Most of them had a distinct dislike of "academia art" and the classical method of art education. I recognize the foundation of that point of view. There is nothing worse than a badly sculpted, painted or drawn realistic portrait. The empty, uninspired and dead depiction of a thinking, emotionally active human being is a crime. At the same time two badly constructed pieces of wood, hastily painted with primary colors and juxtaposed with two pages of artistic philosophy, drive me to suicidal thoughts. Have we forgotten that essential to any form of expression is knowledge, thought and passion? Although it can be aggressive, or even extravagant, innovation does not have to be ostentatious. Yes, it will require new forms but can also fall between one and two, the space of infinity.

After the sixties we witnessed a widening of the schism in the balanced approach to art education. An individual may graduate with a Master of Fine Arts, having taken only three credits of foundation drawing, three credits of foundation painting and without classes in live drawing or sculpture. Curriculum will assure the student that composition is not really necessary, color theory is an unpleasant prospect and anatomy is just a sound (could it be forbidden?). This creates a troubling situation when young artists know how to talk in general about art but sadly are unable to articulate on the subject due to limited visual vocabulary. This problem echoes the current tendencies of our society. We talk incessantly, even when we should not, for example, when driving a car. My aversion to this tendency validates Yul Brynner in the "King and I" saying: "man should be silent when has nothing to say"

We live in a very exciting time. In the proverbs of some cultures this is a dreadful wish, though I don't think we have choice. To summarize will take too long, however it is worth it to mention a new president, a collapsing of world economy, a few conflicts (in my younger days I believe we called them wars) and the complete disintegration of human interaction. Certainly artists misunderstand political correctness and are frightened to assault issues of race and social order. Nevertheless, I am dismayed that at this bustling point in history only a few artists feel compelled to comment, analyze or criticize any of these events. And even if they do, their creations are predictable, simplistic and trivial compared to Doctor Phil's remarks about penguin sexuality. Please understand. I am far from appointing an artist the function of "social worker" or "political activist." Fortunately the time of "social-art" is past (except maybe deep Siberia.) I find it hard to believe that most artists, alienated from important events, discover meaning in the scrutiny of a composition of two intersecting triangles. It may be that an artist could create a philosophy around that desideratum. However the lack of comprehension by the viewer calls into question the motivation in generating art.

I believe we create art because it is difficult. I trust that the beginning of any form of artistic expression is an internal struggle between knowledge, feelings and beliefs. And I hope that the lifetime of any creative person is a journey towards a complete realization of who he is and where he is going; starkly real, free of self-pity, and undistorted by a mirror of empty wishes. Only then can art have the ability to influence and make a permanent impact on the viewer.

While analyzing the history of visual art, it is undeniable that a large percentage was influenced by human emotion. Surely love was a dominating force, and not only during the time of Lord Byron and Pushkin. Although the Romantic Movement is largely disregarded by contemporary society as a cheap sentiment, it actually magnified ideas of pure love and uncompromised honor. Personally I don't see anything wrong in this attitude; moreover, I strongly believe romantic philosophy should be taught as an obligatory subject in schools of law and economics. Perhaps this is just foolish; can sensitivity be learned? Inside, we all yearn for emotional bliss, when love is immune to the egotism, wholly altruistic. Even if passion fades away or remains unattainable, this torment was used countless times as inspiration for creative expression in music, poetry and the visual arts. What is then happening with new art? Are we immune to human feelings? In some aspects, unfortunately yes. In a culture of instant coffee, fast food, superficial interactions and instantaneous sex, we have forgotten ecstasy and despair. Particularly, at this time, artists and intellectuals should have the will and honesty to address these issues not leaving them exclusively to commoners of reality.

"The water is cold," noticed one of the older residents on North Beach. I managed a smile, trying to avoid conversation. The gentleman was persistent. "Have you seen Art Basel? This was trash. I prefer 'Impressionism'." To nod or not to nod; this was my question. I chose a grin and I shielded myself away from explanations. I peremptorily judged his lack of preparation, education and taste. I am not sure I was correct in arbitrating his statement. It only occurred to me much later that art is a discipline in which people do not shy away from profound statements based on shallow information and half truths. But after all, this behavior is integrated into most aspects of our lives; art mirrors the social order. We have stopped asking questions – all answers are given. Just turn on the TV or search the Internet.

7:19 AM 0 Comments(Add Comment) |0 KudosTran

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Dispatch on avoiding the Swine Flu from my friend Oli

Boletín de información para la prevención

Este es un boletin que se envio este dia a todo el personal de la empresa para la que laboro pero quiero compartirlo con todos ustedes mis amigos es importante estar informados.

Se sugiere a todo el personal de la Empresa especialmente a los Departamentos de Seguridad y Bodegas, las empresas internas y Cuadrilla de descarga tomar todas las medidas de precaución durante el tiempo que dure la emergencia por el brote en México de la Gripe Porcina.

Debe considerarse extremar medidas para todos los transportes y embarques de mercancías procedentes de México.


La gripe porcina o influenza porcina es una enfermedad infecciosa causada por un virus perteneciente a la familia orthomyxoviridae y que afecta fundamentalmente a poblaciones porcinas. Estas cepas virales son conocidas como virus de la influenza porcina o SIV, por las siglas en inglés de Swine Influenza Viruses, aunque esta distinción no está basada en filogenia. Las cepas de SIV detectadas hasta la fecha han sido clasificadas como parte del género Influenzavirus C o alguno de los subtipos del género Influenzavirus A.


Los animales pasan por un cuadro respiratorio caracterizado por tos y frecuencia respiratoria elevada, estornudos, temperatura basal elevada, descargas nasales, letargia, dificultades respiratorias (frecuencia de respiración elevada además de respiración bucal) y apetito reducido.

La excreción nasal del virus puede aparecer aproximadamente a las 24 horas de la infección. Las tasas de morbilidad son altas y pueden llegar al 100 por ciento, aunque la mortalidad es bastante baja y la mayoría de cerdos se recuperan tras unos 5 o 7 días tras la aparición de los síntomas.

La transmisión de la enfermedad se realiza por contacto a través de secreciones que contengan el virus (a través de la tos o el estornudo, así como por las descargas nasales).

La gripe porcina infecta a muchas personas cada año, y se encuentra típicamente en aquellos que han estado en contacto con cerdos de forma ocupacional, aunque también puede producirse transmisión persona-a-persona.

Los síntomas en seres humanos incluyen: fiebre, desorientación, rigidez en las articulaciones, vómitos y pérdida de la conciencia y muchas veces puede terminar en la muerte.

Departamento de Seguridad Industrial

Guatemala. Abril 27 de 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

El Truco del Manco

Una pelicula bien chula. Para ver una entrevista sobre ella pulse AQUI

Cualquier persona quien sabe donde se puede encontrar esta peli en un formato adecuado para los DVD en EEUU, por favor, que me avise. Gracias!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Musical Recommendations:

Ingravitto - Macaco
Dani and the crew of Macaco have made a career of skillfully crafting grooves that mix equal parts flamenco, reggae & dub, pop and hip-hop into a potent brew. Personal favorites:
Mama Tierra - a great song raising environmental awareness of the lasting damage being done to the planet. Available on iTunes.

Young Folks (single) - Peter Bjorn & John
This song, with its light, breezy melody and 60s-reminiscent pop sound, while not brand spanking new (I think it came out in the middle of 2007), certainly captured my attention. Plus, the video is kinda nice, in a creepy way. It has an eerie-looking, pastel hand drawn look about it with an animation style that looks like a comic strip or moving paper dolls.

Sadat X - Black October
Great album. Judging from the lyrics, Sadat sounds like he's on his way to do a short bid. Insightful lyrics speak to the things he'll miss while inside as well as the situation that led him to this end. Support one of the great 'lunchbox emcees' in the business.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wal-Mart vice president to speak at College of Law Earth Day Celebration

Wal-Mart vice president to speak at College of Law Earth Day Celebration

WHAT: To celebrate successes and address challenges in protecting the Earth’s environment, Florida International University’s College of Law will host its 4th annual Earth Day Celebration. The theme of the event will be “Overcoming Challenges to Sustainability in a Global Society.” Topics will include how law relates to issues of environmental protection and quality, and how FIU is addressing sustainability issues. A question and answer period will follow the discussion.

WHO: Phyllis P. Harris, vice president of environmental compliance at Wal-Mart Stores will be the distinguished keynote speaker. Harris is responsible for developing corporate environmental compliance programs for 4,200 Wal-Mart stores across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Previously, she served as the deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) at the United States Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 22 at 1 p.m.

WHERE: Rafael Diaz-Balart Hall Auditorium 1000, FIU College of Law, 11200 SW

8th Street, Miami, FL 33199. The event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be provided.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Carlton Waterhouse, associate professor of law, at 305-348-7263 or

Monday, April 20, 2009

A nice article by Andrew Manis

This was in the Macon Telegraph.

By Dr. Manis
When Are WE Going to Get Over It?

For much of the last forty years, ever since America "fixed" its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, "When are African Americans finally going to get over it?

Now I want to ask: "When are we White Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?

Recent reports that "Election Spurs Hundreds' of Race Threats, Crimes" should frighten and infuriate every one of us. Having grown up in "Bombingham," Alabama in the 1960s, I remember overhearing an avalanche of comments about what many white classmates and their parents wanted to do to John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Eventually, as you may recall, in all three cases, someone decided to do more than "talk the talk."

Since our recent presidential election, to our eternal shame we are once again hearing the same reprehensible talk I remember from my boyhood.

We white people have controlled political life in the disunited colonies and United States for some 400 years on this continent. Conservative whites have been in power 28 of the last 40 years. Even during the eight Clinton years, conservatives in Congress blocked most of his agenda and pulled him to the right. Yet never in that period did I read any headlines suggesting that anyone was calling for the assassinations of presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, or either of the Bushes. Criticize them, yes. Call for their impeachment, perhaps.

But there were no bounties on their heads. And even when someone did try to kill Ronald Reagan, the perpetrator was non-political mental case who wanted merely to impress Jody Foster.
But elect a liberal who happens to be Black and we're back in the sixties again. At this point in our history, we should be proud that we've proven what conservatives are always saying -that in America anything is possible, EVEN electing a black man as president. But instead we now hear that schoolchildren from Maine to California are talking about wanting to "assassinate Obama."

Fighting the urge to throw up, I can only ask, "How long?" How long before we white people realize we can't make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us? How long until we white people can -once and for all- get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color? How long until we white people get over the demonic conviction that white skin makes us superior? How long before we white people get over our bitter resentments about being demoted to the status of equality with non-whites?

How long before we get over our expectations that we should be at the head of the line merely because of our white skin? How long until we white people end our silence and call out our peers when they share the latest racist jokes in the privacy of our white-only conversations?

I believe in free speech, but how long until we white people start making racist loudmouths as socially uncomfortable as we do flag burners? How long until we white people will stop insisting that blacks exercise personal responsibility, build strong families, educate themselves enough to edit the Harvard Law Review, and work hard enough to become President of the United States, only to threaten to assassinate them when they do?

How long before we starting "living out the true meaning" of our creeds, both civil and religious, that all men and women are created equal and that "red and yellow, black and white" all are precious in God's sight?

Until this past November 4, I didn't believe this country would ever elect an African American to the presidency. I still don't believe I'll live long enough to see us white people get over our racism problem.

But here's my three-point plan:

First, everyday that Barack Obama lives in the White House that Black Slaves Built I'm going to pray that God (and the Secret Service) will protect him and his family from us white people.

Second, I'm going to report to the FBI any white person I overhear saying, in seriousness or in jest, anything of a threatening nature about President Obama.

Third, I'm going to pray to live long enough to see America surprise the world once again, when white people can "in spirit and in truth" sing of our damnable color prejudice, "We HAVE overcome."

Andrew Manis is author of Macon Black and White and serves on the steering committee of Macon's Center for Racial understanding.
It takes a Village to protect our President!!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Forbes magazine breaks the shocking news: the US is NOT a meritocracy!

Oh Heavens, where will it all end?

Billionaire Clusters
by Duncan Greenberg
Wednesday, April 1, 2009provided byForbes

Want to become a billionaire? Up your chances by dropping out of college, working at Goldman Sachs or joining Skull & Bones.

Are billionaires born or made? What are the common attributes among the uber-wealthy? Are there any true secrets of the self-made?

We get these questions a lot, and decided it was time to go beyond the broad answers of smarts, ambition and luck by sorting through our database of wealthy individuals in search of bona fide trends. We analyzed everything from the billionaires' parents' professions to where they went to school, their track records in the early stages of their careers and other experiences that may have put them on the path to extreme wealth.

Our admittedly unscientific study of the 657 self-made billionaires we counted in February for our list of the World's Billionaires yielded some interesting results.

First, a significant percentage of billionaires had parents with a high aptitude for math. The ability to crunch numbers is crucial to becoming a billionaire, and mathematical prowess is hereditary. Some of the most common professions among the parents of American billionaires (for whom we could find the information) were engineer, accountant and small-business owner.

Consistent with the rest of the population, more American billionaires were born in the fall than in any other season. However, relatively few billionaires were born in December, traditionally the month with the eighth highest birth rate. This anomaly holds true among billionaires in the U.S. and abroad.

More than 20% of the 292 of the self-made American billionaires on the most recent list of the World's Billionaires have either never started or never completed college. This is especially true of those destined for careers as technology entrepreneurs: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, and Theodore Waitt.

Billionaires who derive their fortunes from finance make up one of the most highly educated sub-groups: More than 55% of them have graduate degrees. Nearly 90% of those with M.B.A.s obtained their master's degree from one of three Ivy League schools: Harvard, Columbia or U. Penn's Wharton School of Business.

Goldman Sachs has attracted a large share of hungry minds that went on to garner 10-figure fortunes. At least 11 current and recent billionaire financiers worked at Goldman early in their careers, including Edward Lampert, Daniel Och, Tom Steyer and Richard Perry.

Several billionaires suffered a bitter professional setback early in their careers that heightened their fear of failure. Pharmaceutical tycoon R.J. Kirk's first venture was a flop--an experience he regrets but appreciates. "Failure early on is a necessary condition for success, though not a sufficient one," he told Forbes in 2007.

According to a statement read by Phil Falcone during a congressional hearing in November, his botched buyout of a company in Newark in the early 1990s taught him "several valuable lessons that have had a profound impact upon my success as a hedge fund manager."

Several current and former billionaires rounded out their Yale careers as members of Skull and Bones, the secret society portrayed with enigmatic relish by Hollywood in movies like The Skulls and W. Among those who were inducted: investor Edward Lampert, Blackstone co-founder Steven Schwarzman, and FedEx founder Frederick Smith.

Parents Had Math-Related Careers

The ability to crunch numbers is normally a key to becoming a billionaire. Often, mathematical prowess is hereditary. Some of the most common professions among the parents of American billionaires for whom we could find that information were engineer, accountant and small-business owner.

September Birthdays

Of the 380 self-made American tycoons who have appeared on the Forbes list of the World's Billionaires in the past three years, 42 were born in September--more than in any other month. Maybe that's because September is the month the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans is published.

Tech Titans Who Dropped Out of College

Forget everything your guidance counselor told you: You don't have to go to college to be successful. More than 20% of the self-made American moguls on the most recent list of the World's Billionaires never finished college. Many of them made their fortunes in tech. Among them: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, (Oracle) and Theodore Waitt (Gateway).

Skull and Bones

Several current and former billionaires rounded out their Yale careers as members of Skull and Bones, the secret society portrayed with enigmatic relish by Hollywood in movies like The Skulls and W. Among those who were inducted: investor Edward Lampert, Blackstone co-founder Steven Schwarzman and FedEx founder Frederick Smith.

Goldman Sachs

A stint at investment bank Goldman Sachs is a prime credential for becoming a finance billionaire. Of the 68 self-made American billionaires that derive their fortunes from finance, at least eight cut their teeth in Goldman's investment banking, trading, or asset management divisions. The company's crown jewel: its "risk arbitrage" unit, which launched the careers of billionaires Edward Lampert and Daniel Och, as well as former billionaires Tom Steyer and Richard Perry.

Click here for the full list of billionaire clusters.
Copyrighted, All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Suena La Poncena!

Estos salseros son, sin duda ninguna, los mas cheveres aun tocando hoy en dia. La Poncena si trae ese sabor!

They are, without a doubt, the coldest salseros walking around today. La Sonora Poncena bring that heat!

See for yourself HERE.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

President Obama's speech: Hit, or Evasive Miss?

I welcome readers comments on this topic. What is your take on his speech and press performance?

I'm finally starting to rent DVDs from Redbox

I just rented Transporter 3 while home for 2 weeks on business. I loved the movie, but I have to say, this reviewer's comments echoed mine almost to the letter:

Transporter 3

Transporter3_2284 Much as I do with Dwayne Johnson, I have a deal with Jason Statham -- not with Dwayne Johnson or Jason Statham as people, but rather with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham as brands: If you are in a movie, I say as part of this deal, I will give it a chance. And, much like Johnson, Statham usually lives up to his end of the deal, with the kind of reliability that simply makes it all the more painful when he does not. Case in point? Transporter 3.

Bringing back Statham's Frank Martin from the earlier Transporter films, you do not expect Transporter 3 to have a complex plot any more than you expect a tin roof barbecue shack to have an amusing wine list; in both cases, dig in and enjoy. Frank is a freelance courier and tough guy who drives for a living, getting tricky cargo from point 'a' to point 'b' with a maximum of speed and a minimum of questions. The earlier Transporter films have seen Frank hired and then betrayed, so it's nice that Transporter 3 figuratively cuts to the chase by betraying Frank from the jump so it can literally cut to the chase.

Frank's knocked out, waking up to find a new piece of ominous-looking techno-jewelry on his wrist and a new employer, Mr. Johnson (Robert Kenpper, who has a great capacity for playing the cold corporate soullessness of the modern villain). Frank is told he has to drive a young lady, Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) and two bags across Europe, stat. And if he gets too far from the car? The bracelet on his wrist blows up.

Task, timeline, terrible consequences at stake: Transporter 3 has everything an action pitch needs in our modern era, and it's hard to not be enthused when Frank, separated from the car, chases after it on foot and then on a hijacked bicycle while Iggy and the Stooge's "Now I Wanna Be Your Dog" plays at top volume on the soundtrack.

The problem is that it is nearly impossible to be enthused when Rudakova is on-screen or opens her mouth or delivering her dialogue in an achingly flat monotone. The dialogue she's given is idiotic, to be certain -- much is made of why Frank doesn't seem to find her sexy, until she realizes the reason for Frank's disinterest: "You're the gay!" Later, when death seems certain, Valentina does the reasonable thing, pops a tablet of Ecstasy and purrs about how she "wants to make the sex one more time. ..."

Director Oliver Megaton (who has an awesome name, I have to point out) knows how to get stunts and fights and chases, but he doesn't know how to get Rudakov to deliver a line in anything but a bored, bleak drone. I know that action films are, by and large, not progressive; I know that being young and slender is, in our modern era, enough to get an actress hired. (If you added Rudkova's weight and age, I'd be amazed if you got into triple-digits.) But I also know that Transporter 3 would, in fact, be better if its female lead were better; at the very least, I might not have broken into inappropriate hysterical laughter every time Rudakov pouted and purred her way on-screen.

The DVD is depressingly no-frills -- no commentary, no behind-the-scenes look at the stunt magic, just the movie and the trailer and that's it. I don't know that there'll be a Transporter 4, but if there is, I hope that the people behind it learn from Transporter 3 and either have a real actress play opposite Statham or, better yet, remove the obligatory cliché of having a love interest altogether; when Statham's exploring the relationship between his foot and the gas -- or his fist and some bad guy's face -- that's all the relationship material the Transporter series needs.

Posted by James Rocchi on March 11, 2009 at 09:30 AM in DVD Reviews, From the Critic | Permalink

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thanks to Eye on Miami for correctly identifying the quote of the day

Quote of the Day ... by gimleteye (of Eye on Miami)

From the Financial Times, "Could it be? A few chinks of light over the past week have many claiming to see the light at the end of the tunnel. ... Equity markets have rallied. Investors, however, are confusing an opening in the dark with a handful of glow worms."

Entry for March 18, 2009 - Governor Quinn Presents his budget

Today during his postponed State of the State address, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn prepared voters for what he thought was some inevitable tax hike pain in exchange for promised increases in services and long-delayed state pension contributions. Read more HERE.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

John Legend wades into the fray

If this is indeed a true statement from John Legend, then I'm an even bigger fan now!


Open Letter to the New York Post

Dear Editor:

I'm trying to understand what possible motivation you may have had for publishing that vile cartoon depicting the shooting of the chimpanzee that went crazy. I guess you thought it would be funny to suggest that whomever was responsible for writing the Economic Recovery legislation must have the intelligence and judgment of a deranged, violent chimpanzee, and should be shot to protect the larger community. Really? Did it occur to you that this suggestion would imply a connection between President Barack Obama and the deranged chimpanzee? Did it occur to you that our President has been receiving death threats since early in his candidacy? Did it occur to you that blacks have historically been compared to various apes as a way of racist insult and mockery? Did you intend to invoke these painful themes when you printed the cartoon?

If that's not what you intended, then it was stupid and willfully ignorant of you not to connect these easily connectable dots. If it is what you intended, then you obviously wanted to be grossly provocative, racist and offensive to the sensibilities of most reasonable Americans. Either way, you should not have printed this cartoon, and the fact that you did is truly reprehensible.. I can't imagine what possible justification you have for this. I've read your lame statement in response to the outrage you provoked. Shame on you for dodging the real issue and then using the letter as an opportunity to attack Rev. Sharpton. This is not about Rev. Sharpton.. It's about the cartoon being blatantly racist and offensive.

I believe in freedom of speech, and you have every right to print what you want. But freedom of speech still comes with responsibilities and consequences. You are responsible for printing this cartoon, and I hope you experience some real consequences for it. I'm personally boycotting your paper and won't do any interviews with any of your reporters, and I encourage all of my colleagues in the entertainment business to do so as well. I implore your advertisers to seriously reconsider their business relationships with you as well.

You should print an apology in your paper acknowledging that this cartoon was ignorant, offensive and racist and should not have been printed.

I'm well aware of our country's history of racism and violence, but I truly believe we are better than this filth. As we attempt to rise above our difficult past and look toward a better future, we don't need the New York Post to resurrect the images of Jim Crow to deride the new administration and put black folks in our place. Please feel free to criticize and honestly evaluate our new President, but do so without the incendiary images and rhetoric.

John Legend

Sunday, February 22, 2009

States on the Brink by David Ignatius of the Washington Post

States on The Brink
By David Ignatius
Updated: 02/19/2009

Media coverage of the $787 billion stimulus package signed Tuesday by President Obama has had an air of unreality -- as if people were reporting on a baseball game or a tennis match. Is Obama up or down today? Did the Republicans gain or lose momentum? Meanwhile, as Washington obsesses over the political box score, the economy has been going down the toilet.

You get a better sense of what the crisis feels like -- and the real impact of the stimulus package -- when you leave the miasma of federal spending and examine state and local governments. Here, the impact of the downturn is severe and immediate: States are required to balance their budgets, so they don't have the Washington option of printing money. They have to raise taxes or cut spending -- both of which could make the downturn even worse.

Some numbers suggest the dimensions of the crisis. As states are preparing their fiscal 2010 budgets, they are looking at a revenue shortfall of $84.3 billion, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The largest gaps forecast for 2010 are in states hit hardest by the real estate crash: Nevada (with a budget shortfall of 37.6 percent), Arizona (28.2 percent), New York (24.3 percent) and California (22.3 percent).

Facing these deficits, most states have said they will cut services and payrolls. At least 40 states are planning such cuts, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The proposed cuts are scary: At least 28 states are contemplating reductions in public health programs; at least 22 are targeting services for the elderly or disabled.

Are these cuts for real? My old mentor Charles Peters, the former editor of Washington Monthly, liked to invoke the "Firemen First" principle. He argued that at budget time, governments always warned of the direst consequences -- they were going to lay off the firefighters or throw Granny out of the nursing home. And there's probably a bit of that hype now.

But people who follow state and local government insist that the squeeze is serious. Kerry Korpi, director of research for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, says she kept a log of proposed or actual layoffs and furloughs around the country and stopped counting when she got to 350,000 -- there were simply too many to follow.

California is where the fiscal meltdown is most dramatic. The Legislature has been deadlocked for four months over how to eliminate a $42 billion budget deficit. As the politicians have bickered, the state has moved toward insolvency. It has stopped paying tax refunds, and next month it may have to pay some of its bills with IOUs.

"We are dealing with a catastrophe of unbelievable proportions," state Sen. Alan Lowenthal said. This week the state began notifying 20,000 employees that they will be reassigned or lose their jobs and announced that it would halt $3.8 billion in public works projects.

Unable to borrow easily in the bond markets, California is considering a bizarre plan to sell investors securitized shares of future lottery revenue. That's taking the casino economy to its ultimate extreme. Other states and localities are coming up with their own wacky funding ideas. Chicago has sold the rights to collect money from its parking meters, for example.

Against this backdrop of real-world financial crisis out in the states, let's return to Washington and the debate over the stimulus package. The best thing that can be said for the new law -- and it's quite a lot, actually -- is that it will help state and local governments avert financial disaster. Michael Bird, the chief lobbyist for the state legislatures, says his members got most of what they wanted in the package. There is a $54 billion "state stabilization fund" to help cover the projected $84.3 billion in deficits, and several hundred billion dollars more in indirect help. Is that overdoing it? I hope so.

The stimulus plan even has a provision to help the market for municipal bonds, by easing tax rules for banks that buy them. That could induce $65 billion in new bond offerings, according to estimates by Municipal Market Advisors quoted by Bloomberg News. For states facing a desperate cash squeeze, that's welcome news indeed.

Did President Obama have a good day Tuesday when he signed the stimulus bill? You bet he did. But the point that weirdly seems to get relatively little attention is that it was a good day for millions of Americans who are getting hammered by the recession.

The writer is co-host of PostGlobal, an online discussion of international issues. His e-mail address is

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Warm Afterglow

As we bask in the afterglow of the morning after, I thought another look at this post from last fall's Huffington Post would be interesting. Let's hope that all these hopes are borne out.

October 9, 2008 

Great presidents are made great by horrible circumstances combined with character, temperament and intelligence. Like firemen, cops, doctors or soldiers, presidents need a crisis to shine. 

Obama is one of the most intelligent presidential aspirants to ever step forward in American history. The likes of his intellectual capabilities have not been surpassed in public life since the Founding Fathers put pen to paper. His personal character is also solid gold. Take heart, America: we have the leader for our times. 
I say this as a white, former life-long Republican. I say this as the proud father of a Marine. I say this as just another American watching his pension evaporate along with the stock market! I speak as someone who knows it's time to forget party loyalty, ideology and pride and put the country first. I say this as someone happy to be called a fool for going out on a limb and declaring that, 1) Obama will win, and 2) he is going to be amongst the greatest of American presidents. 

Obama is our last best chance. He's worth laying it all on the line for. 

This is a man who in the age of greed took the high road of community service. This is the good father and husband. This is the humble servant. This is the patient teacher. This is the scholar statesman. This is the man of deep Christian faith. 

Good stories about Obama abound; from his personal relationship with his Secret Service agents (he invites them into his home to watch sports, and shoots hoops with them) to the story about how, more than twenty years ago, while standing in the check-in line at an airport, Obama paid a $100 baggage surcharge for a stranger who was broke and stuck. (Obama was virtually penniless himself in those days.) Years later after he became a senator, that stranger recognized Obama's picture and wrote to him to thank him. She received a kindly note back from the senator. (The story only surfaced because the person, who lives in Norway, told a local newspaper after Obama ran for the presidency. The paper published a photograph of this lady proudly displaying Senator Obama's letter.) 

Where many leaders are two-faced; publicly kindly but privately feared and/or hated by people closest to them, Obama is consistent  in the way he treats people, consistently kind and personally humble. He lives by the code that those who lead must serve. He believes that. He lives it. He lived it long before he was in the public eye. 

Obama puts service ahead of ideology. He also knows that to win politically you need to be tough. He can be. He has been. This is a man who does what works, rather than scoring ideological points. In other words he is the quintessential non-ideological pragmatic American. He will (thank God!) disappoint ideologues and purists of the left and the right. 

Obama has a reservoir of personal physical courage that is unmatched in presidential history. Why unmatched? Because as the first black contender for the presidency who will win, Obama, and all the rest of us, know that he is in great physical danger from the seemingly unlimited reserve of unhinged racial hatred, and just plain unhinged ignorant hatred, that swirls in the bowels of our wounded and sinful country. By stepping forward to lead, Obama has literally put his life on the line for all of us in a way no white candidate ever has had to do. (And we all know how dangerous the presidency has been even for white presidents.) 

Nice stories or even unparalleled courage isn't the only point. The greater point about Obama is that in the midst of our worldwide financial meltdown, an expanding (and losing) war in Afghanistan, trying to extricate our country from a wrong and stupidly mistaken ruinously expensive war in Iraq, our mounting and crushing national debt, awaiting the next (and inevitable) al Qaeda attack on our homeland, watching our schools decline to Third World levels of incompetence, facing a general loss of confidence in the government that has been exacerbated by the Republicans doing all they can to undermine our government's capabilities and programs... President Obama will take on the leadership of our country at a make or break time of historic proportions. He faces not one but dozens of crises, each big enough to define any presidency in better times. 

As luck, fate or divine grace would have it (depending on one's personal theology) Obama is blessedly, dare I say uniquely, well-suited to our dire circumstances. Obama is a person with hands-on community service experience, deep connections to top economic advisers from the renowned University of Chicago where he taught law, and a middle-class background that gives him an abiding knowledgeable empathy with the rest of us. As the son of a single mother, who has worked his way up with merit and brains, recipient of top-notch academic scholarships, the peer-selected editor of the Harvard Law Review and, in three giant political steps to state office, national office and now the presidency, Obama clearly has the wit and drive to lead. 

Obama is the sober voice of reason at a time of unreason. He is the fellow keeping his head while all around him are panicking. He is the healing presence at a time of national division and strife. He is also new enough to the political process so that he doesn't suffer from the terminally jaded cynicism, the seen-it-all-before syndrome afflicting most politicians in Washington. In that regard we Americans lucked out. It's as if having despaired of our political process we picked a name from the phone book to lead us and that person turned out to be the very man we needed. 
Obama brings a healing and uplifting spiritual quality to our politics at the very time when our worst enemy is fear. For eight years we've been ruled by a stunted fear-filled mediocrity of a little liar who has expanded his power on the basis of creating fear in others. Fearless Obama is the cure. He speaks a litany of hope rather than a litany of terror. 

As we have watched Obama respond in a quiet reasoned manner to crisis after crisis, in both the way he has responded after being attacked and lied about in the 2008 campaign season, to his reasoned response to our multiplying national crises, what we see is the spirit of a trusted family doctor with a great bedside manner. Obama is perfectly suited to hold our hand and lead us through some very tough times. The word panic is not in the Obama dictionary. 

America is fighting its "Armageddon" in one fearful heart at a time. A brilliant leader with the mild manner of an old-time matter-of-fact country doctor soothing a frightened child is just what we need. The fact that our "doctor" is a black man leading a hitherto white-ruled nation out of the mess of its own making is all the sweeter and raises the Obama story to that of moral allegory. 
Obama brings a moral clarity to his leadership reserved for those who have had to work for everything they've gotten and had to do twice as well as the person standing next to them because of the color of their skin. His experience of succeeding in spite of his color, social background and prejudice could have been embittering or one that fostered a spiritual rebirth of forgiveness and enlightenment. Obama radiates the calm inner peace of the spirit of forgiveness. 

Speaking as a believing Christian I see the hand of a merciful God in Obama's candidacy. The biblical metaphors abound. The stone the builder rejected is become the cornerstone... the last shall be first... he that would gain his life must first lose it... the meek shall inherit the earth... 

For my secular friends I'll allow that we may have just been extraordinarily lucky! Either way America wins. 

Only a brilliant man, with the spirit of a preacher and the humble heart of a kindly family doctor can lead us now. We are afraid, out of ideas, and worst of all out of hope. Obama is the cure. And we Americans have it in us to rise to the occasion. We will. We're about to enter one of the most frightening periods of American history. Our country has rarely faced more uncertainty. This is the time for greatness. We have a great leader. We must be a great people backing him, fighting for him, sacrificing for a cause greater than ourselves. 

A hundred years from now Obama's portrait will be placed next to that of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Long before that we'll be telling our children and grandchildren that we stepped out in faith and voted for a young black man who stood up and led our country back from the brink of an abyss. We'll tell them about the power of love, faith and hope. We'll tell them about the power of creativity combined with humility and intellectual brilliance. We'll tell them that President Obama gave us the gift of regaining our faith in our country. We'll tell them that we all stood up and pitched in and won the day. We'll tell them that President Obama restored our standing in the world. We'll tell them that by the time he left office our schools were on the mend, our economy booming, that we'd become a nation filled with green energy alternatives and were leading the world away from dependence on carbon-based destruction. We'll tell them that because of President Obama's example and leadership the integrity of the family was restored, divorce rates went down, more fathers took responsibility for their children, and abortion rates fell dramatically as women, families and children were cared for through compassionate social programs that worked. We'll tell them about how the gap closed between the middle class and the super rich, how we won health care for all, how crime rates fell, how bad wars were brought to an honorable conclusion. We'll tell them that when we were attacked again by al Qaeda, how reason prevailed and the response was smart, tough, measured and effective, and our civil rights were protected even in times of crisis... 

We'll tell them that we were part of the inexplicably blessed miracle that happened to our country those many years ago in 2008 when a young black man was sent by God, fate or luck to save our country. We'll tell them that it's good to live in America where anything is possible. Yes we will. 

Frank Schaeffer is the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back. Now in paperback.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Illinois Properties with Foreclosure Activity up 55% in '08

Ill. properties with foreclosure activity up 55% in '08

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(AP) — The number of properties that faced foreclosure proceedings rose almost 55 percent in Illinois last year compared with 2007, a dismal result but better than the 81 percent increase for the country overall.

More than 2.3 million properties faced foreclosure proceedings last year, according to RealtyTrac, a foreclosure listing firm based in Irvine, Calif., which compiled the figures.

The worst is yet to come as consumers grapple with layoffs, shrinking investment portfolios and falling home prices.

In Illinois, 99,488 properties had at least one foreclosure-related filing last year, up almost 55 percent from 2007. RealtyTrac said 1.9 percent of the state’s housing units had a foreclosure filing in 2007, the ninth-highest rate in the country.

In the Chicago market, 77,226 properties, or 2.5 percent of the housing units, faced a foreclosure filing last year, up 53.4 percent from 2007, RealtyTrac said.

The Lake/Kenosha market saw 6,323 properties, or 2.5 percent, get at least one notice last year, an increase of 70.1 percent compared with 2007.

Nationwide, more than 860,000 properties were actually repossessed by lenders, more than double the 2007 level, according to RealtyTrac.

Moody's, a research firm, predicts the number of homes lost to foreclosure is likely to rise by another 18 percent this year before tapering off slightly through 2011.

Still, foreclosures — which keep breaking records going back 30 years, according to the Mortgage Bankers Assn. — are likely to remain well above normal levels for years to come, and that will continue to keep home prices from rebounding.

"Hitting bottom is a lot different than coming off the bottom," said Christopher Thornberg, a principal with Beacon Economics in Los Angeles.

The RealtyTrac report comes as Democrats, including President-elect Barack Obama, develop plans to use up to $100 billion of the remaining $350 billion in financial bailout money in an attempt to prevent the foreclosure crisis from getting even worse.

The four states with the highest foreclosure rates last year were Nevada, Florida, Arizona and California.

More than 1.1 million properties in those four states received a foreclosure notice, almost half the national total. And more than one in five of those households were in California, which is coping with massive job losses in the housing and mortgage industries as well as a rapid decline in home prices.

Among metro areas, Stockton, Calif., was first, with 9.5 percent of all housing units receiving a foreclosure filing last year. It was followed by Las Vegas, Riverside and Bakersfield, Calif., and Phoenix.

In December, more than 303,000 properties nationwide received at least one foreclosure notice, up more than 40 percent from a year earlier and up 17 percent from November, according to RealtyTrac.

Nearly 79,000 properties were repossessed by lenders in December, a 61 percent increase over a year ago.

New state laws, particularly in California, Massachusetts and Maryland, that required giving homeowners advance notice of foreclosure proceedings, reduced filings in several states. But the effect of those laws has worn off, and lenders appear to be going ahead with foreclosure, rather than trying to modify loans.

"If all you're doing is basically giving a stay of execution, then the inevitable will follow," said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac's vice-president for marketing.

Foreclosures would have been about 10 percent higher in California last year, Sharga said, if it were not for a law requiring lenders to give borrowers a 30-day warning before starting the foreclosure process.

Meanwhile, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said Wednesday he expects the economy to slowly start recovering in the second half of 2009 and inflation to remain below 2 percent over the next year.

In a speech at the University of Delaware, Charles Plosser also said the unemployment rate probably won't drop anytime soon, but that he doesn't expect it to rise to double digits, as it did during the recession of the early 1980s.

"I expect the housing sector will finally hit bottom in 2009 and the financial markets will gradually return to some semblance of normalcy," said Plosser, adding that the current recession could be one of the longest in the post-World War II era.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Senate Democrats clear Burris as Obama's successor

Senate Democrats clear Burris as Obama's successor

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer Liz Sidoti, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 15 mins ago

WASHINGTON – Eager to put the scandal-tainted standoff behind them, Senate Democrats accepted Roland Burris as President-elect Barack Obama's Senate successor on Monday and said they expect to swear in the new Illinois senator this week. "He is now the senator-designate from Illinois and, as such, will be accorded all the rights and privileges of a senator-elect," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said in a joint statement.

At a news conference in Chicago, Burris called himself honored and humbled to be the state's next junior senator. "I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve," he said and added: "I recognize that my appointment triggered a challenging time for many."

Monday's development prevented the impasse that has plagued Democrats from dragging on into Obama's inauguration festivities that begin this weekend, and it capped a grudging, gradual retreat by the Senate's top Democrats.

Initially they had tried to dissuade Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who faces a state Senate impeachment trial, from making an appointment and suggested that his pick would not be seated. Last week, Burris' credentials were rejected by Senate Democrats in a circus-like atmosphere that tarnished the opening day festivities of the new Congress.

But Reid and Durbin said they now anticipate that Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, will be seated this week, barring objections from Republicans.

They made the announcement after Burris' lawyers delivered to the Capitol documents certifying his appointment to Obama's seat, and the secretary of the Senate determined that the paperwork met Senate requirements.

While a victory for Burris, the move is a major reversal for Senate Democrats.

They initially indicated they would refuse to seat Burris and objected to the appointment by Blagojevich, who is accused by federal investigators of seeking to trade the Senate seat for personal favors.

Senators feared that any appointee would be tainted.

Even though Burris does not stand accused of wrongdoing, Senate Democrats rejected Burris last week only to quickly backpedal after Obama himself privately weighed in and senators fretted that the situation was diverting their focus at a critical time.

Indeed, much to the chagrin of Democrats who expanded their House and Senate majorities in the November elections and won the White House, the standoff stretched into the new Congress' second week in session and has served as a distraction for Democrats trying to tackle an ambitious agenda.

It includes weighty tasks like holding confirmation hearings for Obama's new Cabinet while negotiating both the second installment of last fall's $700 billion financial bailout package and the president-elect's mammoth new spending plan aimed at jolting the economy.

Senate Democratic angst over seating Burris softened last week as the Burris appointment took on the feeling of a political sideshow.

Under pressure from Obama and rank-and-file Democrats to resolve the dispute, Reid said a "number of efforts" would be undertaken, including sending the matter to the Senate Rules Committee. He also said that "without any question" the entire Senate would vote on whether or not to seat Burris after Senate lawyers reviewed necessary documents and Burris' testimony in the Illinois House that he had promised Blagojevich nothing in exchange for the seat.

But Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Monday that Reid doesn't intend to have the Rules Committee review Burris' appointment, and that the Senate will vote on the appointment by unanimous consent unless there is an objection that would trigger a roll call vote.

From Illinois to Washington, Republicans assailed Senate Democrats for how they handled the issue.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who is leading the Senate GOP's election efforts, accused them of "arrogant mismanagement" and said: "This entire situation has been a national embarrassment that could have been avoided." He pledged to make winning the Illinois Senate seat a top priority for Republicans in 2010.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna added: "Democrats chose to trust a madman over the people of Illinois" by seating Burris instead of blocking Blagojevich's appointment and holding a special election.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled last week that under state law, Burris' appointment paperwork was valid and that it was up to the Senate to decide whether to seat him. But Reid and other Democrats had contended that it violated Senate rules unless the appointment was signed by both the governor and the Illinois secretary of state.

After lawyers for Burris and the Senate met for under an hour in the Capitol to review the documents, Reid and Durbin issued the statement that they were satisfied both with the documents and with Burris' testimony before the impeachment panel that he did nothing wrong.


Associated Press writer Deanna Bellandi in Chicago contributed to this report.