Thursday Reads

R.I.P, Liz Taylor

Good Morning!!

I’ve got a potpourri of news items for you this morning. I realize I’ve been focusing too heavily on stories from the Middle East and Africa. I’ve just so gotten fascinated with all the rebellions going on. Anyway, this post will be dedicated to stories about events in the U.S.

Yesterday we lost the last great movie star, Elizabeth Taylor. She had been in the hospital for weeks with congestive heart failure. Today she died, at 79. From The New York Times:

By the time Elizabeth Taylor left this mortal coil at 79, she had cheated death with a long line of infirmities that had repeatedly put her in the hospital — and on front pages across the world — and in 1961 left her with a tracheotomy scar on a neck more accustomed to diamonds. The tracheotomy was the result of a bout with pneumonia that left her gasping for air and it returned her to the big, bountiful, hungry life that was one of her greatest roles. It was a minor incision (later, she had surgery to remove the scar), but it’s easy to think of it as some kind of war wound for a life lived so magnificently.

Unlike Marilyn, Liz survived. And it was that survival as much as the movies and fights with the studios, the melodramas and men (so many melodramas, so many men!) that helped separate Ms. Taylor from many other old-Hollywood stars. She rocketed into the stratosphere in the 1950s, the era of the bombshell and the Bomb, when most of the top female box-office draws were blond, pneumatic and classifiable by type: good-time gals (Betty Grable), professional virgins (Doris Day), ice queens (Grace Kelly). Marilyn Monroe was the sacrificial sex goddess with the invitational mouth. Born six years before Ms. Taylor, she entered the movies a poor little girl ready to give it her all, and did.

Ms. Taylor, by contrast, was sui generis, a child star turned ingénue and jet-setting supernova, famous for her loves (Eddie & Liz, Liz & Dick) and finally for just being Liz. “I don’t remember ever not being famous,” she said. For her, fame was part of the job, neither a blessing (though the jewels were nice) nor a curse. Perhaps that’s why she never looked defeated, unlike those who wilt under the spotlight. In film after film she appears extraordinarily at ease: to the camera born. She’s as natural in “National Velvet,” the 1944 hit that made her a star at 12, as she is two decades later roaring through “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” proving once again that beauty and talent are not mutually exclusive, even in Hollywood.

I’m sure Liz would not be surprised to learn that the Westboro Baptist Church will picket her funeral. She was close friends with many gay men in Hollywood–Rock Hudson, James Dean, Montgomery Clift among them–and she worked tirelessly for AIDS causes. Meanwhile the pastor and members of the Westboro Baptist Church are mean-spirited, soulless haters.

There’s a nice tribute to Taylor at The Independent UK by Julie Burchill: Farewell then, Liz. You knew your beauty was a fuel worth burning

With the death of Elizabeth Taylor, the last of the Hollywood greats is finally gone. True to form – never a lady, barely ever a girl – this tough broad supreme battled on against ill-health for decades after her contemporaries overdosed on barbiturates, booze and self-loathing. And at a time when professional beauties seem terrified to show any sign of ageing lest they be shunted into character cameos in favour of some fresher flesh, Taylor was fascinating for being far less interested in leaving a good-looking corpse than in wringing every drop of the juice from every inch of the ride.

If that sounds a somewhat lewd metaphor, all the better. Married eight times, she was the anti-Marilyn; rather than combine a child’s face with an adult body and be prey to all the weirdos who might be attracted to such a pervy paradox, Taylor was a woman of the world from the get-go. Child stars are notorious for spending a couple of years on the ugly step while the studios wait for them to outgrow adolescent awkwardness, but she went straight from hugging Lassie to snogging Montgomery Clift, it seemed.

To see the teenage Taylor draw Clift towards her in the masterpiece A Place In The Sun (from the book of Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy) with the words “Tell Mama – tell Mama all” is to witness one of the most extraordinary portrayals of lust ever created. And it didn’t stop when the cameras did; years later, according to her housekeeper, Marilyn Monroe would become obsessed with the apparently gay Montgomery Clift and repeatedly complain; “Liz Taylor has the Oscar, she has children, she even has Monty – she has everything!”

From being denounced by the Vatican in the Sixties as “an erotic vagrant” (I think they meant it as an insult, but it sounds gorgeous to me) to being hailed by the director of the UCLA Aids Institute as the “the Joan of Arc of Aids activism”, Taylor lived her life according to her own rules – more Wife of Bath than untouchable ideal of feminine perfection. Looking at the insipid contemporary film-star likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, for whom eating half a cupcake seems a walk on the wild side, this cursing, drinking, swashbuckling goddess is a reminder of when hell-raisers didn’t automatically have to be as mad, bad and sad as Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson.

Here’s a nice video tribute I found on YouTube:

Now for the rest of the news, which as usual isn’t very good. The Republicans are trying to increase poverty by attacking food stamps and worker’s rights at the same time! They want to cut of food stamps for an entire family if one member goes on strike.

…[A] group of House Republicans is launching a new stealth attack against union workers. GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (OH), Tim Scott (SC), Scott Garrett (NJ), Dan Burton (IN), and Louie Gohmert (TX) have introduced H.R. 1135, which states that it is designed to “provide information on total spending on means-tested welfare programs, to provide additional work requirements, and to provide an overall spending limit on means-tested welfare programs.”

Much of the bill is based upon verifying that those who receive food stamps benefits are meeting the federal requirements for doing so. However, one section buried deep within the bill adds a startling new requirement. The bill, if passed, would actually cut off all food stamp benefits to any family where one adult member is engaging in a strike against an employer:

The bill also includes a provision that would exempt households from losing eligibility, “if the household was eligible immediately prior to such strike, however, such family unit shall not receive an increased allotment as the result of a decrease in the income of the striking member or members of the household.”

At FDL, Phoenix Woman dissects the latest media attacks on Social Security.

Ho-hum. Another day, another set of Peterson patsies explaining yet again why Grandma must starve so that their billionaire bosses and their buddies can keep their twenty-odd homes in the Hamptons and Hobe Sound:

Writing today on the op-ed page of The Washington Post, Robert Pozen makes the casethat liberals should support changes to Social Security. Mr. Pozen is a Democrat , though not necessarily a liberal one; he is a financial executive who served on President George W. Bush’s Social Security commission and in Mitt Romney’s administration in Massachusetts. But his argument is worth considering, whether you’re liberal or conservative.

So what’s the argument that the Pozen part of the Leonhardt-Pozen Legion of Doom tag team’s presenting? It’s their old favorite, the “Social Security is less progressive than it seems” bit of twaddle. How old is it? Why, it even comes pre-debunked, that’s how old it is.

To learn more, click on the link above.

I highly recommend reading this piece by Jeff Kaye, who has been researching and writing about torture for years now. He and Jason Leopold have been working together on a series at Truthout.

As part of a new investigative story, Truthout has published documents written by the former psychologist for SERE, and later CIA contract interrogator for the Bush torture program, Bruce Jessen. Before going to work for the CIA with his former SERE partner, psychologist James Mitchell, Jessen authored a 2002 “draft exploitation plan” for military use, based on his experiences as a SERE instructor. The newly-discovered documents, provided to Truthout by former SERE Air Force Captain Michael Kearns, were written back in 1989 when Jessen was transferred from his clinical role elsewhere in SERE to help staff a new survival training course for Special Mission Units undertaking dangerous assignments for Special Operations forces abroad.

Jason Leopold and I co-authored the new story, which includes a video interview with Captain Kearns, who helped hire Jessen back in 1989 for his new SERE role helping put together the class titled SV-91. The documents include notes for a portion of that class, known as “Psychological Aspects of Detention.” The other document is a paper by Jessen, “Psychological Advances in Training to Survive Captivity, Interrogation and Torture,” which was prepared for a symposium at that time: “Advances in Clinical Psychological Support of National Security Affairs, Operational Problems in the Behavioral Sciences Course.”

Jessen’s notes, in particular, demonstrate that this course material, which was “reverse-engineered” to provide a blueprint for the interrogation and detention policies of the Bush administration — some of which remain in use today — emphasized not just the ways to coercively interrogate an individual for intelligence purposes, but to “exploit” the detainee for a number of uses.

From Catherine Rampell at the NYT Economix blog: More Americans Dropping Out of the Labor Force. Apparently the drop in participation is not just due to the economic crisis. According to Rampell, more women are choosing not to work than in the past, and the the pending retirements of baby boomers are big contributors to the phenomenon.

This piece at The Daily Beast is a few days old, but still worth reading: Obama’s War on Schools

Over the past year, I have traveled the nation speaking to nearly 100,000 educators, parents, and school-board members. No matter the city, state, or region, those who know schools best are frightened for the future of public education. They see no one in a position of leadership who understands the damage being done to their schools by federal policies.

They feel keenly betrayed by President Obama. Most voted for him, hoping he would reverse the ruinous No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation of George W. Bush. But Obama has not sought to turn back NCLB. His own approach, called Race to the Top, is even more punitive than NCLB. And though over the past week the president has repeatedly called on Congress to amend the law, his proposed reforms are largely cosmetic and would leave the worst aspects of NCLB intact.

Read it and weep.

From CNN: Suspect in attempted bombing at MLK Day parade pleads not guilty

Kevin Harpham, 36, of Colville, Washington, made the plea during an arraignment hearing in federal court in Spokane. Harpham faces trial on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and for possessing an unregistered explosive device.

Federal authorities arrested Harpham March 9, nearly two months after the January 17 discovery of a backpack containing a bomb along the Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane. The explosive device was found and disabled before the event began.

Officials called it an incident “of domestic terrorism” that could have resulted in “mass casualties,” had the bomb gone off.

I haven’t been following the Barry Bonds trial, but I was really angry when I read this: Witness says he knew of Bonds’ steroid use in 1999

Honestly, baseball should strike Bonds’ hitting records. It’s disgrace that he gets credit for passing Hank Aaron in home runs. Anyone who saw Bonds when he was younger had to know he was using steroids to get so big.

Poor Bart Stupak is afraid because of all the hate he got for voting for Obama’s health care bill.

After suffering through a “living hell” during negotiations on the healthcare law, former Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) finds it hard, a year later, to distance himself from his pivotal role.

“I guess I’m the face of healthcare,” Stupak told The Hill in an interview this week. “It goes with the territory.”

Last March, Stupak became the object of a flood of threats and obscene messages, left at his office and his home, as he helped hammer out a deal between anti-abortion-rights Democrats and the White House that was instrumental in passing healthcare reform through the House by a single-digit-margin.

Cry me a river, Bart.


That’s about all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?

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32 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. Beata says:

    Absolutely gorgeous picture of Elizabeth, BB. There were so many beautiful pictures taken of her but yours was an excellent choice.

    I found myself reading and reflecting on Taylor’s life since her death. I have drawn insight and strength from it. Truly a remarkable woman in all respects.

  2. purplefinn says:

    Excellent round-up, BB. I hope this phrase sticks, well said: “The Republicans are trying to increase poverty by………”

  3. Glenn McGahee says:

    What is happening in this world. The mean spirit of DC and their pettiness. Do they ever consider the poverty in this world. I keep seeing the politicians appearing in foreign countries, traveling the globe, living it up. While at home, most are worried about how to feed their children or pay the rent. I watched this online and wonder if they’ve given any thought to what is to come when the great equalizer hits and they no longer have the luxury of living off the public dole themselves:
    http://o.snagfilms.com/film.swfWatch more free documentaries

  4. Glenn McGahee says:

    Well that didn’t work. Not very tech savvy. Was trying to embed this:

    http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/violent_earth/

    What a movie this is and I am reading about how after the last 2 devastating movements of the ring of fire’s tectonic plates, there’s only one big movement left and thats California!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Wow, that is amazing. Thanks for the link! Unfortunately, it’s hard to embed anything on WordPress but google and youtube videos.

    • paper doll says:

      …there’s only one big movement left and thats California!

      one would figure that, sadly . It’s been everywhere else

  5. mjames says:

    We’re broke, I tell ya’. We’re broke, broke, broke. We have to manage our government like it’s a household. We can’t spend what we don’t have. We need to be verrrrrry careful with how we allot our money. We MUST stay within our budget. Or else the sky will fall.

    So, let’ see. Food and shelter first priorities? No sirree Bob. Health care? Education? Retirement? Fuggetaboutit. Breathable air? Clean water? Edible food? No, no, and no. We have to fight with some folks far, far away. Over what it’s not clear. Something about humanitarian deeds? (Yes, killing people is something of which Jesus would heartily approve.) Or is it oil? Or simple megalomania? And we have to spend ALL our money on that. Oh, and “borrow” money already allotted to retirement, either pensions or Social Security.

    Is the average worker aware of how much is being spent each day on bombs, planes, and oil? I’d say hell yes. And that worker is even angrier than before. Oh, that’s right, the money was already at the Pentagon. So the war is free! Just like Iraq.

    We are out of oil essentially. So let’s use up as much as we can flying our war planes. The hypocrisy and outright lying – and mind-bending stupidity – it burns so bad. Don’t you dare tell me we’re out of money when you’re a goddam profligate. I despise these creeps. All of them.

  6. madaha says:

    One of the things I’m up in arms about today is this:

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51871.html

    It’s like the disgraceful treatment of Diego Rivera by Rockefeller in NYC never happened!

    • madaha says:

      I mean, how can these people be such philistines, and so short-sighted as to not realize that they’d be given credit in the future for valuing art and other’s opinions more than their own petty pissy pet issues?

      grrr

    • Fannie says:

      The governor acts like he owns the damn building, and everything in it! He doesn’t, he’s just a temp guest worker until the next election, the next governor.

      The people need to assemble outside the building and remind him!

  7. paper doll says:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Air traffic safety is under increased scrutiny by federal authorities following an incident in which two passenger jets landed without controller assistance at Reagan National Airport because no one could be reached in the airport tower.

    increased scrutiny? ….that means less bathroom breaks…ANYTHING but hiring more controllers of course. it’s hilarious this happened at the airport named for Reagan of course

  8. TheRock says:

    Nice roundup BB. All the stories coming out of the middle and far east are overwhelming. Great job on parsing through all that this morning!

    There is no one else eligible for the presidency that I personally would find any confidence in except Hillary, and Bill is the only other person that can get us out of this mess. Apparently, I’m not the only one that thinks that.

    http://www.newsmax.com/InsideCover/BillClinton-Pew-ranking-record/2011/03/24/id/390592

    I know she said she isn’t running, but……

    Hillary 2012

  9. paper doll says:

    great round up BB!

    But Obama has not sought to turn back NCLB. His own approach, called Race to the Top, is even more punitive than NCLB.

    Race to the top…I love that . They will have their little jokes.Obama has been a huge backer of the charter school movement, aka ” Mission Enduring F from paying for peons public education while privatizing it” I mean come on. That’s just the sort of Bush policy up right up Obama inc ally. In 2008, so many times the biggest cheer Hilary’s speeches would get was when she said she would end NCLB. They know they are killing schools…that’s the plan.

  10. Minkoff Minx says:

    BB, I am fascinated by the MENA news as well…here are a few updates:
    At least 37 Syrian protesters killed, hospital says | Reuters

    The main hospital in the southern Syrian city of Deraa has received the bodies of at least 37 protesters who were killed in a confrontation with security forces, a hospital official said Thursday.

    Security forces opened fire on hundreds of youths at the northern entrance to Deraa Wednesday afternoon, according to witnesses, in a dramatic escalation of nearly a week of protests in which at least 44 civilians have been killed since Friday.

    If Gaddafi stays, well, he stays | Michael Tomasky | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

    And these on PLUBs obsessions:

    What’s Behind the Surge of Abortion Bills? – Swampland – TIME.com

    Allen West “Offended” by Planned Parenthood in Black Neighborhoods – Broward Palm Beach News – The Juice

  11. dakinikat says:

    BB: thanks for writing up that assault on food stamps and collective bargaining.

    I noticed that there’s been more problems with traffic controllers–one falling asleep on the job at Reagan National–which is a direct result of overwork and over-scheduling. This is what happens when entities do what they will with workers. They become over-worked and underpaid immediately.

  12. paper doll says:

    Because Detroit is the canary in the US urban coal mine…..

    Census reveals staggering decline of Detroit

    http://tinyurl.com/4dh8l3q

    But the destruction of industry and jobs were not the result of the blind workings of the market. Beginning in the 1970s, when Detroit’s population was still 1.5 million(more than double its current level)America’s corporate elite adopted a policy of shutting down industrial production and shifting resources into financial speculation. Detroit’s decline is inversely proportional to the unfathomable personal enrichment of this layer….

  13. gregoryp says:

    This is what I have to say about these topics.

    Stupak isn’t the face of health care reform like he is claiming. No sir. He is the face of intolerance, hatred and the suppression of women.

    People in the USA must want these policies or else they wouldn’t continue to vote for these people again and again. No sane person should ever vote for a Republican based on anything they say or do. And Obama told the teachers union point blank that he was for Charter schools and vouchers and all those right wing things. He wasn’t joking.

    Again, I am going to reiterate this point. If you want to drive on nice roads, over bridges that don’t collapse, have dams that don’t burst, have ambulances that come to your house, have children that can read and write, not have a poor and desperate person rob you for 20 bucks, not die from treatable illnesses or injuries, not have your parents or grandparents work at Wal-Mart until the day they die impoverished, broken and without dignity then go right ahead and continue to vote for people who assault the basic principles of humanity and our society. L

    ike I said earlier, Americans must actually want these things because I have seen no evidence that Republicans and now many Democrats are not interested in having an effective government actually fulfilling what it is designed to do. These people miss the point of government so completely and utterly that you have to wonder what their malfunction is. At some point you just have to concede that whether blinded by ideology or whether or not they have deep seated prejudices their actions and beliefs are just plain evil and we have no room in a civilized society for their kind of thinking.

    • gregoryp says:

      No evidence that Republicans and many Democrats are interested in having and effective government.

    • paper doll says:

      These people miss the point of government so completely and utterly that you have to wonder what their malfunction is

      $$$$$$. Their owners get to have ever bigger tax breaks as they dead beat dad on their fellow citizens and the US becomes mad max thunder dome…fine with them .

      It’s not like this is new….many areas have been left to become the exercise yard of a maximum prison…and for many years. It’s just now it’s spreading far and wide like a cancer and it’s not by accident.

      People don’t think a politician’s words mean THEM. It’s always someone else who will be brought to account! If we would not stand for anyone to be attacked, we ourselves, would be safer.

      Divide and conquer has worked wonderfully well for the elite…but they are hurting so many, so fast, that I believe people are finally getting it…that whatever is said, if you don’t have at least a billion or two , you are in the cross-hairs.

  14. Minkoff Minx says:

    Dak, just saw this in my reader, from MOJO:
    The Gulf Gets Oiled, Again | Mother Jones