May 11, 2012


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The director who gave us an alcoholic clown, a woman who sodomized a dog and a Dad exploiting his son’s death can’t go any darker, can he?

Bobcat Goldthwait begins his newest coal black comedy “God Bless America” with a middle-aged man blasting a crying baby to smithereens.
And Goldthwait is just getting started.

“God Bless America” is the writer/director’s attempt to process and critique a culture where sleaze sells, reality shows dominate the water cooler and those nasty, violent Tea Partiers are hijacking the national discourse. His film depicts a Tea Partier physically assaulting a man with Parkinson’s Disease. Of course no Occupy Wall Street violence is shown, even though the film briefly mentions a group with a similar m.o.
“America” connects some deserving dots with our increasingly coarse and crass culture, but Goldthwait's rage would be better served on a stand-up stage, not a big screen.
That he sees fit to include conservatives talk show hosts (xenophobes who spread fear) in his sights as well as the peaceful Tea Party, shows the director’s aim is both to the far left and woefully inaccurate. His slams against Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly are particularly disturbing, and the words he puts in the O'Reilly character’s mouth show Goldthwait either never watched Mr. No Spin himself or simply regurgitated out-of-context snippets from those merchants of misinformation over at Media Matters.
And if Goldthwait’s film had literally targeted Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann as it does O’Reilly, the howls of protest would last for weeks.
The bigger issue with “America” is that Goldthwait loses inspiration mid-film, leaving us with distasteful lead characters and speech upon speech that doesn’t feel connected to character or conflict.
“Mad Men’s” Joel Murray stars as Frank, a middle-aged pencil pusher who loses his job but gains an inoperable brain tumor in the film’s opening moments. His daughter hates him, his ex-wife pities him, and there’s nothing to live for except channel surfing onto shows like “Bowling Beat Down Raw” and farting ringtone ads.
“This is the ‘oh, no you didn’t say that’ generation,” he tells a colleague, one of a few sparkling lines wasted in the narrative melee.
So Frank puts a gun in his mouth to end it all, but before he checks out he has a burst of inspiration. Why not take out a few cultural offenders before the tumor takes its toll?
Have gun, will travel, and Frank is hitting the road to clean up society one bratty reality starlet at a time.
Along the way he meets a kindred spirit in spunky Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr), a teenager just as fed up with pop culture rot as he is.
Together, they take down movie theater texters, conservative pundits, raunchy sports radio hosts and even the Westboro Baptist Church, a target so pillow soft it should be considered off-limits by self-respecting satirists.
Goldthwait surely has a point about the coarse nature of popular culture, but he doesn’t have a movie to support his thesis. It’s woefully obvious that Frank and Roxy are Goldthwait, and he puts rants in their mouths that repeatedly stop the film cold.
It’s hard to imagine any teen talking like Roxy, especially when she’s trashing former President George W. Bush, one of many dated references weighing down the story.
“… like some court appointed hillbilly president started taking orders from Jesus or the Easter Bunny or some other make ‘em up play friend of his,” she yells at one point.
You’re failing as a story teller when all the audience can hear is the screenwriter’s voice, not the characters'.
Lynne Barr is a kick at times, a plucky screen presence who brings panache to the proceedings. But her character makes less sense the more the movie drags on. And boy, does it drag. Between the too obvious song selections and the monotony of seeing rude people being killed in cold blood, it’s a new endurance sport to make it to the finale, a poorly executed slam against a certain Karaoke-style singing show.
A better satirist might drill down to explore the reasons why we embrace junk food culture. And a more enlightened filmmaker might realize conservatives want to clean up the culture and would gladly partner with someone who felt equally repelled by dreck such as TLC's “Toddlers and Tiaras.”
Goldthwait doesn’t have time to give the other side a moment’s thought. He’d rather demonize than consider their complaints.
“God Bless America” casually hits a few left of center targets, like Woody Allen and “Glee,” but these are glancing blows compared to the serious hate funneled toward the Right.
The film’s ideological balance would matter far less if it weren’t an undignified mess of a movie.

Shrinking US workforce masks an otherwise sky-high jobless rate

  • Fewer People Seek Unemployment Benefits.jpg
    April 1: An unemployed man looks at job listings in Menlo Park, Calif. (AP)
The Labor Department every month publishes the nation's unemployment rate, which is now hovering at roughly 8 percent after peaking at more than 10 percent in 2009. 
But is that decline a result of thousands of Americans going back to work -- or thousands throwing in the towel on the job hunt?
The answer lies in the numbers. 
If the percentage of adult Americans in the labor force -- that being the total number of people who are employed or looking for work -- were the same as it was during the end of the Bush administration, the April jobless rate would be at 11.1 percent. 
That's 3 percentage points higher than the 8.1 percent reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this month. 
The agency’s official monthly unemployment number is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed into the number of working-age Americans who either have a job or are looking for one. 
However, a statistic known as the "labor force participation rate" is key. That's the percentage of the adult population that is employed or looking for work -- in other words, the labor force. The lower the number, the worse the employment situation. 
And it's a figure that's been trending steadily downward over the past decade. The lower number reflects a startling reality -- a smaller share of the working-age population is looking for work. 
It was 67.3 percent when George W. Bush took office in 2001, and down to 65.5 percent when President Obama took office in 2009.
The rate was all the way down to 58.4 percent in April 2011 and, after increasing slightly, returned last month again to 58.4 percent, according to the federal government. 
When potential workers give up that job hunt, the official unemployment number tends to improve. This helps explain how the economy added just 115,00 jobs from March to April while the unemployment rate went from 8.2 percent to 8.1 percent. Yet over the same period, 342,000 job seekers stopped looking for work.
Throw that scenario back to early 2009, and we'd be talking about an 11.1 percent jobless rate. Reach all the way back to the employment picture for when Bush took office, and the rate would be more like 13.1 percent. 
"We need to look beyond the official number," Aparna Mathur, an economist with the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, said Thursday.
Experts point out Americans leaving the job market is at least a decade-long trend that did not start with President Obama, and attribute the situation largely to baby boomers retiring early.
Mathur said that is only part of the picture.
"It's not purely a trending down of the people in the higher age groups," she said. Mathur said both extremes of the workforce -- older workers and college graduates -- tend to exit the market during tough economic times. Those close to retirement give up after months, even years of  no success. And college graduates, without the responsibility of supporting a family, can make choices like graduate school.
Republicans have hammered the trend of people quitting the job hunt, as they push back on claims that the economy is brightening. 
“The reason you’re seeing the unemployment rate go down is because you have more people dropping out of the workforce than you have getting jobs,” GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Friday on Fox News, after the April numbers were released. “It’s a terrible and disappointing report this morning.”
Romney said Americans are concerned because the economic recovery appears to be slowing down, not accelerating.
“This is not progress,” he said.

Black voters in NC supported Amendment One by 2-1 margin


If the President expects to get a boost at the ballot box over his flip-flop on same-sex marriage, the composition of North Carolina’s vote on Tuesday might indicate a big problem in his strategy.  Obama came out publicly against Amendment One, which shifted the state’s ban on same-sex marriage from statute to constitutional amendment, and opponents railed against the loss as a victory for bigotry.  However, that message might not sell well in the Tarheel State or in other swing states when black voters supported the constitutional ban by a 2-1 margin:
African-Americans voted 2-1 in favor of the North Carolina amendment banning gay marriage Tuesday, but the White House is betting that black voters there and beyond will stick with the president, despite broad resistance to legalization.
While there’s faith that African-Americans will turn out strong at the polls to protect Obama’s legacy, pollsters point out that while opposition to same-sex marriages has fallen in the black community, it’s still just a point shy of 50 percent — enough to affect black turnout, at least theoretically, in an election where every vote will matter.
Obama’s statement rocked the political world. But it also underscored a widely-held belief that African-American voters are closer to Republicans than Democrats when it comes to gay marriage.
That’s a big problem for Obama in North Carolina, because as Politico’s Joseph Williams points out, African-American turnout was key in winning the state for Obama in 2008.  Obama only won by 14,000 votes in that race, and so even a small level of dropoff in voter turnout in this demographic would be deadly to Team Obama’s hopes to retain North Carolina.
However, that’s really a minor problem for Obama.  No one thinks that black voters are going to shift support to Romney over gay marriage, or at all for any reason.  Turnout and enthusiasm could be issues, but gay marriage is the least of the drivers on that score.  On Tuesday, 199,000 Democrats chose no option in the presidential preference poll rather than vote for Obama’s nomination, slightly more than one in every five Democrats who voted.  That’s 14 times the margin by which Obama won in 2008, and that’s not because of same-sex marriage, which is dead last on voter priorities.
The real problem with this data will be the derailing of the “bigotry” claim against those who oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage.  If progressives think they will win elections by calling two-thirds of black voters in North Carolina bigots, they’re in for a rude awakening in November.  If they push that message in other swing states, then Obama will be working on his presidential library next January.
Update: On Twitter, Dean’s Logic reminds me that the final number of votes for “no preference” in NC’s Democratic presidential primary was over 199,000, not 140,000.  I’ve corrected it above.

By Roger Stone

Once Gay Americans are through celebrating President Barack Obama's "personal" support of Gay marriage equality, they will learn that Obama's "evolution" changes nothing. Obama's new position is a bullshit cop-out.

This comes on the heels of an cynical Obama campaign pirouette where Team Obama trotted out first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton then Vice President "Crazy" Joe Biden to say they support gay marriage and imply that the President would too--after the election.

Now, incredibly, Obama says Gay marriage is a state issue. That's what they used to say about abortion and before that, slavery. Now Obama tells us that gay couples should be able to marry but he doesn't believe they have a right to do so. Obama would leave the question to the states--in other words -the status quo. This is like saying that public schools ought to be integrated but if the people of Mississippi disagree, well he says, "let the states decide"

If Obama believes that marriage quality is a constitutionally guaranteed civil right, as former Governor Gary Johnson does, than it can't be abridged by the states. Forty-four states currently ban gay marriage. Under Obama millions of Americans in most states will continue be denied the right to marry the person of their choice.

The courts will soon address the issue of whether the equal protection clause of the constitution guarantees gays the same access to marriage rights as heterosexual men and women as everyone else as Governor Johnson does-- including California's Proposition 8 case.

There is also a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars gay men and woman from receiving federal marriage benefits and allows states to refuse to recognize valid gay marriages performed in other states. Judge Andrew Napolitano called this 'settled law" because the Federal Courts have upheld the validity of interracial marriages when some states sought to ban them on FOX. He's right. Obama new position on Gay marriage undercuts the pro-marriage arguments in those cases.
,Team Obama knows that African Americans overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage equality and fear that a more sweeping forthright stand by the President might put Ohio Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia out of reach. Obama could take a lesson in leadership from Governor Andrew Cuomo who brought Republicans and Democrats together to make same-sex marriage legal in New York State. Instead Obama tries to have it both ways.

Barack Obama is playing a cruel and cynical game with peoples lives and happiness. He did nothing to establish that gay marriage is a right yesterday.