Thursday Reads: A Little Hollywood Glamour before the Daily Horrors

This dress presages Madonna's lingerie outfits.

This dress presages Madonna’s lingerie outfits.

Good Morning!!

Last night I watched a little bit of The Girl Who Had Everything, starring Elizabeth Tayor–on TCM of course. I had never seen it before.

The movie was released in 1953 when Liz was only 21. She sure was gorgeous. You have to see some of the outfits she wore in that film, one of which is on the right.

From Wikipedia:

The Girl Who Had Everything (1953) is a feature film directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Armande Deutsch for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film features William Powell in his last MGM feature and one of his last film roles before retirement.

The screenplay was written by Art Cohn, based upon a play by Willard Mack, which in turn was based on the novel A Free Soul by Adela Rogers St. Johns. The play and novel were also inspiration for an earlier film adaptation called A Free Soul (1931).

The plot:

Steve Latimer (William Powell) is a successful defense attorney who has tried to give his daughter Jean (Elizabeth Taylor) everything he can in life. She decides to leave her boyfriend, the amiable Vance Court (Gig Young), for Victor Ramondi (Fernando Lamas), a rakish and dangerous man with underworld connections whom Steve is representing. Steve tries to warn Jean away from Victor, but she accepts his proposal of marriage.

Trailer:

Now for some outfits.

girl who had everything

Liz girl

Liz girl2

I can see why JJ loves to watch TCM. Movie stars just aren’t as glamorous these days as in the 1950s.

In real life, Liz was the woman who had everything. After she died, her huge fashion and jewelry collections were auctioned off by Christie’s. From The Telegraph Nov. 19, 2011:

In my job as a fashion curator for Christie’s I have been lucky enough to see close at hand the private clothes of some of the 20th century’s most famous women.

For more information about the latest trend in fashion dresses, visit https://www.groupon.com/coupons/stores/shein.com

Now here was my latest rabbit-hole: a tiny black door framed in black granite, puncturing the windowless facade of an art-handling warehouse in Long Island, New York. I was Alice again, diving down to explore the possessions of another 20th-century icon: the soon-to-be-dispersed jewels, fashion and memorabilia of the last of the great Hollywood Golden Age superstars, Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor in 1965 wearing the diamond tiara given to her by Mike Todd, her third husband. Photo: Rex

Taylor in 1965 wearing the diamond tiara given to her by Mike Todd, her third husband. Photo: Rex

What met my eyes was rack upon rack of Taylor’s clothes, stretching into the far distance. These racks were packed so tightly that hems, frills, collars and belts stuck out; her collection of clothes in bright orange, sequins, prints, sunflower-yellow, lace and feathers were hung in the order they had been unpacked from her house in Bel Air and her chalet in Gstaad. Handbags – more than 200 – emerged one by one from many crates….

As I went through the racks of clothes it became apparent that here was a vast haute couture and prêt-à-porter wardrobe spanning more than 50 years; Elizabeth must have been one of the greatest couture clients of all time. Once she had bought from the collections, she carefully kept these exquisitely made pieces in superb condition on the top floor of her house in Bel Air.

Here a series of rooms, formerly, I suppose, a guest suite, had become one vast dressing-room carpeted in her favourite lilac. All it lacked was the star on the door. In this eyrie, Taylor kept the clothes she had chosen, worn out in public and laid aside for another day. Her handbags were swathed in tissue paper or in specially made bags and stacked neatly by colour. So were her shoes and the more than 30 pairs of cowboy boots…

More gorgeous photos at the link.

Now back to real life and today’s news {sigh….}

Terrible news out of Austin, TX (Statesman.com):  Two dead after car crashes into SXSW crowd.

A driver attempting to evade a drunk driving stop hurtled past a barricade on Red River Street and plowed through dozens of SXSW revelers, killing two and injuring 23 in a horrific scene early Thursday morning, police said. The street, home to many popular clubs hosting South by Southwest music showcases, had been closed to motorists and was crowded with music fans waiting to get into the Mohawk nightclub.

According to police, the man, driving a small Toyota car, went the wrong way down Ninth Street after evading a stop at a gas station around 12:30 a.m., turned onto Red River and drove for more than two blocks, striking numerous pedestrians before hitting a scooter traveling on 11th Street, killing the man and woman on board. The driver then struck a taxi, injuring two, and crashed into a parked van, Police Chief Art Acevedo said.

The man then attempted to flee on foot before he was stunned with a Taser gun and detained by the police officer who originally tried to pull the man over at a gas station on the frontage road of Interstate 35.

Speaking to reporters on Red River Street, which was still littered with shoes, clothing and other debris from the incident, Acevedo vowed the man would face capital murder charges in the deaths of the two scooter riders and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle.

And in New York’s East Harlem, at least seven people are now confirmed dead after a gas explosion leveled two apartment buildings yesterday. WSJ:

At least seven people were killed and more than 60 were injured in an apparent natural-gas explosion that leveled two residential buildings and severely damaged a third Wednesday morning in Manhattan, officials said.

Police said early Thursday that a seventh person was found dead. This follows an adult male pulled from the rubble just after midnight, a woman found about 2:45 a.m. Thursday, and a man discovered about a half-hour later.

The 9:31 a.m. Wednesday blast rocked the East Harlem neighborhood, shattering windows, throwing neighbors from their beds and sending people fleeing down the block in a cloud of smoke and debris.

The century-old, five-story brick structures housed 15 apartments, a church and a piano store in a neighborhood favored by immigrants. The blast also caused significant damage to a neighboring four-story building. More than 100 residents were staying in a nearby American Red Cross shelter.

Emergency workers were searching for victims in parts of the rubble, but sections remained inaccessible because of a sinkhole created by a water-main break, likely caused by the explosion, city officials said.

The missing Malaysian Airlines jet mystery continues as “conflicting reports” sow confusion. From the LA Times:

BEIJING —  The mystery of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 deepened amid allegations that the airplane flew four hours more than originally thought and might have traveled more than one thousand miles away from where search and rescue teams are looking.

Citing U.S. national security sources, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that government personnel were pursuing the possibility that the plane was commandeered “with the intention of using it later for another purpose.’’ The newspaper also said that data transmitted by an onboard monitoring system toRolls-Royce Plc., the engine manufacturer, suggested that the plane flew for up to five hours in total after its takeoff from Kuala Lumpur at 12:21 a.m. Saturday morning.

Malaysian officials at a press conference Thursday denied the story and said the last engine data was transmitted at 1:07 a.m., about 20 minutes before the aircraft disappeared from civilian radar screens.

Nevertheless, the Malaysians said they had expanded the search and rescue operation into India and the surrounding waters, the Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea and Arabian Sea. If in fact the Boeing 777 flew for five hours from Kuala Lumpur, it could have traveled 2,200 nautical miles, as far as the India-Pakistan border.

According to Reuters, there is “no evidence” that the plane continue flying for hours after it disappeared from radar. There had been reports of debris being sighted by Chinese radar, but that turned out to be false. According to BBC News, the photos of the reported debris had been “released by mistake.” Authorities are now investigating the pilots of the plane as well as all passengers and crew. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, they are “paying ‘special attention’ to [a] Chinese Uighur passenger.

Police investigating the backgrounds of all 239 people aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight are paying “special attention” to a 35 year-old Chinese Uighur man who undertook flight simulation training, according to a report in a leading Malay language newspaper in Kuala Lumpur.

The Uighurs Muslim ethnic minority group from the north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang have been battling for independence since they were brought under Chinese control in 1949, claiming they are oppressed by China’s authoritarian government and face religious restrictions and widespread discrimination.

Earlier this month the Uighurs, who make up 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang, were blamed for a violent attack at a Chinese train station.

At least 100 people have been killed in the past year in violent clashes between Uighurs and Chinese security forces.

A bizarre and humorous read . . .

Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake inexplicably turned himself into a laughingstock yesterday when he left a bizarre threatening voicemail for James Kirchick of The Daily Beast. Kirchick had written an article last week about the on-air resignation of former RT (Russia Today) anchor Liz Wahl, and apparently Gosztola was outraged that anyone would criticized the official Kremlin propaganda network–perhaps because Glenn Greenwald has praised it and Julian Assange has frequently appeared on it. Here’s the latest from Kirchick: Defending Putin’s Propagandists.

Coming soon to a theater near you: A Filipina Drama Queen pairs up with a Subversive Gay Jew to embarrass the Russian government!

No, this isn’t the tagline for the summer’s laugh-a-minute buddy comedy. It’s how some online media outlets are describing last week’s on-air resignation of Liz Wahl, anchor for RT-America, the English-language propaganda channel funded entirely by the Russian government. Wahl cited the network’s blatantly propagandistic coverage of the crisis in Crimea, its “whitewashing Putin,” and her own family history as the descendant of Hungarian refugees fleeing Soviet oppression as reasons for her departing the network.

And now, the network’s defenders are coming out in droves—and not just from the dark, traditionally conspiratorial corners of the Internet.

Read more about it at the link. As for the Gosztola episode:

This afternoon, a gentleman identifying himself as Kevin Gosztola, who writes for the left-wing website FireDogLake, left a message on my cell phone. He claimed to be working on a project for First Look Media — the high-profile investigative journalism start-up that employs, among others, Glenn Greenwald.

The Daily Beast posted the audio of the voicemail, along with a transcript that I can resist posting:

“So you don’t deny that you encouraged Liz Wahl to resign. We are going to be publishing a story at First Look Media and I know that you’re going to be losing control of the narrative that you’ve managed to create around Liz Wahl’s resignation. We have multiple sources.

“It’s fairly obvious that you have orchestrated this as part of some Foreign Policy Initiative [the think tank where I work] agenda. And this is what we’re going to be putting out there. So your fun little charade, public stunt that you’ve been putting on which the media has completely eaten up here in the United States, is hopefully over

“If you have any comment and if you’d like to respond to me and prove that this is not how it is, you let me know. But otherwise we are ready to go. And, you know, you like to ‘fuck with the Russians’ and we’re going to respond to that and let people know where you’re coming from as you have worked with Liz Wahl to expose what you call a propaganda network.”

WTF?! It’s now bad form at FDL to “fuck with the Russians?” First Look’s editor denied that Gosztola works for them:

“Kevin [Gosztola] doesn’t work for First Look Media. He apparently spoke to Glenn [Greenwald] about the possibility of doing a story for [First Look], but Glenn hasn’t given him an assignment or a contract,” Eric Bates, executive editor of First Look Media, told The Daily Beast in an email. “Glenn let Kevin know that he shouldn’t be representing himself as acting on behalf of First Look.”

How embarrassing. This story was the talk of Twitter yesterday, and not just among the Snowden critics.

I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you. What stories have piqued your interest today?


Sunday Reads: Frankenstorm, Hermit Crabs and Classic Hollywood

Good Morning!

For those of you in the Mid-Atlantic  and Northeast, Hurricane Sandy is getting closer. The latest updates from NOAA here and for a few links on the preparations, check these out:

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/storm_graphics/AT18/refresh/AL1812W5_NL_sm2+gif/031332W5_NL_sm.gif

Take Hurricane Sandy seriously, East Coast residents warned

East Coast residents prepared Saturday for the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, which forecasters expect to make landfall as soon as Monday night and then merge with a sprawling winter storm to create weather havoc for tens of millions of people across one-third of the nation.

From Maine to the Carolinas, federal and state officials urged residents and businesses to prepare for the worst — drenching rain, flooding, high winds, highs seas, snow and widespread power outages. Federal officials said the impact would extend into the Ohio Valley.

Even though Sandy was still at least two days away, residents along the northeastern Atlantic Coast, mindful of possible transit shutdowns and bombarded by storm warnings, kicked into preparation mode.

Hurricane Sandy to reach Massachusetts late Sunday night

As Hurricane Sandy loomed closer to the northeast coast Saturday afternoon, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency in preparation for power outages, coastal flooding, and beach erosion that could rock the New England region.

The Bay State will begin feeling the hurricane’s effects Sunday evening, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kim Buttrick, but not its full force until Monday.

Winds will start blowing 35 to 45 miles per hour Monday in Massachusetts, with gusts up to 55 mph in the morning that will accelerate in the afternoon reaching a peak of 65 miles per hour. Higher-than-average winds and precipitation will continue until Tuesday morning, Buttrick said.

Threat of Hurricane Sandy grows as it targets East Coast

Rain accumulations of up to 12 inches and heavy snowfall inland are considered likely in some areas. As it merges with an Arctic jet stream, forecasters said Sandy has all the ingredients to transform into a “super storm” unlike anything seen over the eastern United States in decades.

On its current projected track, Sandy could make U.S. landfall on Monday night or Tuesday morning anywhere between Maryland and southern New England, forecasters said. Some computer models showed a likely landfall between Delaware and the New York/New Jersey area.

For a bit of humor on this Frankenstorm, The 12 Worst Ways New Yorkers Prepared For The Last Hurricane.   (Some may find it offensive, but I always thought the novel Frankenstein was really horrifying.)

Okay, I’ve got a few more links for you this morning. There was so much going on this past week, with the whole “god’s gift” crap coming out of the mouths of the GOP, you may have missed these stories.

This first link is something I hope Dakinikat can comment on:

Transcript of ’44 Bretton Woods Meeting Found at Treasury

A Treasury economist rummaging in the department’s library has stumbled on a historical treasure hiding in plain sight: a transcript of the Bretton Woods conference in 1944 that cast the foundations of the modern international monetary system.

The Bretton Woods Transcripts

The Center for Financial Stability has included links to the transcripts on its web site.

International Monetary Fund, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

John Maynard Keynes addressed the Bretton Woods conference, where the International Monetary Fund was created.

Historians had never known that a transcript existed for the event held in the heat of World War II, when delegates from 44 allied nations fighting Hitler gathered in the mountains of New Hampshire to create the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But there were three copies in archives and libraries around Washington that had never been made public, until now.

“It’s as if someone handed us Madison’s notes on the debate over the Constitution,” said Eric Rauchway, a historian the University of California, Davis.

Wow, that is huge…

This past week, we also saw Iran being hyped up again by the GOP:  GOP Rep Says Strike On Iran’s Nuclear Facilities Would Not Be An Act Of War

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN last night that neither he, nor the Iranians, would consider an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities an act of war.

Rogers said that he believed there are options “short of war” that could prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and, strangely, CNN host Erin Burnett wondered if bombing suspected nuclear weapons facilities would be an option that is “short of war.” While Rogers at first appeared taken aback by Burnett’s odd question, he then went a bit further, saying definitively that such an attack would indeed be “short of war” and the Iranians would see it that way too:

[…]

ROGERS: Well, in very targeted strikes, we use very targeted strikes against al Qaeda. And so if it is a very targeted strike, many would argue that that’s short of war. And if it only seeks to go after their nuclear program, that is — we’re not talking about invasions or naval engagements or troops on the ground, none of that. And this has been used by other — President Clinton used this tactic.

But there’s also other things under that. I’m not saying that’s — that is the right answer. That is an option that I believe is short of war if it is very selective, very targeted, only to the nuclear program. And we do know, those — that the Iranians believe that there is a whole panoply of options — war and then these targeted strikes they don’t see as — wouldn’t see as an act of war.

Rogers made these statements and then I noticed this article a day later…from The Guardian: Britain rejects US request to use UK bases in nuclear standoff with Iran

Diego Garcia

US diplomats are said to have also lobbied for permission to use US bases on British territory such as Diego Garcia. Photograph: AFP

Britain has rebuffed US pleas to use military bases in the UK to support the build-up of forces in the Gulf, citing secret legal advice which states that any pre-emptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law.

The Guardian has been told that US diplomats have also lobbied for the use of British bases in Cyprus, and for permission to fly from US bases on Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, both of which are British territories.

The US approaches are part of contingency planning over the nuclear standoff with Tehran, but British ministers have so far reacted coolly. They have pointed US officials to legal advice drafted by the attorney general’s office which has been circulated to Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.

This makes clear that Iran, which has consistently denied it has plans to develop a nuclear weapon, does not currently represent “a clear and present threat”. Providing assistance to forces that could be involved in a pre-emptive strike would be a clear breach of international law, it states.

“The UK would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a pre-emptive strike on Iran,” said a senior Whitehall source. “It is explicit. The government has been using this to push back against the Americans.”

The US has not officially asked for assistance from Britain, but feelers are being put out there. Which is scary enough…

Report: British attorney general thinks strike on Iran could be illegal

…the apparently staunch U.K. opposition to working with the U.S. on this is striking, particularly after British Prime Minister Tony Blair so closely joined U.S. President George W. Bush in planning and executing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The 2003 Iraq invasion became a source of considerable political backlash in the U.K., including a two-year official investigation that culminated in Blair being summoned to a bruising public inquiry.

Based on this story, it appears that the U.K. wants little or nothing to do with even U.S. planning for a potential strike on Iran, much less the attack itself. “I think the U.S. has been surprised that ministers have been reluctant to provide assurances about this kind of upfront assistance,” an anonymous British source told the Guardian, speculating that this meant Washington might not even inform London of an attack until after it had happened. “In some respects, the U.K. government would prefer it that way.”

I realize one probably does not have anything to do with the other, but it seemed like a strange coincidence. And since I am currently reading 500 Days, these stories made me think of the way the world was manipulated by Bush and Cheney. (Especially Cheney.)

This article from Alternet also talks about manipulation, as far as political ads are concerned. How Corporations Know Who You Will Likely Vote For

Chinese officials have launched a probe after microbloggers said they had uncovered another allegedly corrupt leader who owns millions of dollars worth of property, state press said on Thursday.

If you’re a registered voter and surf the web, one of the sites you visit has almost certainly placed a tiny piece of data on your computer flagging your political preferences. That piece of data, called a cookie, marks you as a Democrat or Republican, when you last voted, and what contributions you’ve made. It also can include factors like your estimated income, what you do for a living, and what you’ve bought at the local mall.

Across the country, companies are using cookies to tailor the political ads you see online. One of the firms is CampaignGrid, which boasted in a recent slideshow, “Internet Users are No Longer Anonymous.” The slideshow includes an image of the famous New Yorker cartoon from 1993: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Next to it, CampaignGrid lists what it can now know about an Internet user: “Lives in Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District, 19002 zip code, Registered primary voting Republican, High net worth household, Age 50-54, Teenagers in the home, Technology professional, Interested in politics, Shopping for a car, Planning a vacation in Puerto Rico.”

Freaky stuff…Oh and by the way, Romney lands key endorsement in crucial swing state – Iowa . Yup, after all that fuss over Obama’s interview being “off the record” and they endorse Romney.

Okay, enough with that…check out these two articles about those golden years of Hollywood. Iconic Scarlett O’Hara dresses restored, displayed

It turns out there will be another day for Scarlett O’Hara’s green curtain dress. Many of them.

The iconic dress and Scarlett’s burgundy ball gown from the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind” have been saved from deterioration by a $30,000 conservation effort by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.

The dresses worn by actress Vivien Leigh are now on display for the first time in nearly 30 years at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum as part of a Hollywood costume exhibit.

Ransom Center officials announced the project in 2010, noting the dresses were in danger of falling apart from age.

And this one, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor’s Romance As Revealed In His Diaries, which has an excerpt of the newly published diary.

Richard Burton Elizabeth Taylor

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor married twice. Their first marriage lasted for ten years (1964-74), and their second marriage happened very suddenly, 16 months after their divorce, during a visit to Botswana in 1975. This excerpt from The Richard Burton Diaries (Yale University Press, $35) reveals what occurred.

From the little they have in the excerpt, Burton’s alcohol use was problematic…to say the least.

Almost done, just a couple more articles…this time on Hermit Crabs. My kids have kept these little crabs before and I have seen them fight to get into another crabs shell. Hermit crabs socialize to evict their neighbors

Social animals usually congregate for protection or mating or to capture bigger prey, but a University of California, Berkeley, biologist has found that the terrestrial hermit crab has a more self-serving social agenda: to kick another crab out of its shell and move into a larger home.

A hermit crab.The terrestrial hermit crab Coenobita compressus lives inside a discarded snail shell and forages for plants and carrion along the Pacific coast from Mexico to Peru. Photos by Mark Laidre, UC Berkeley.

All hermit crabs appropriate abandoned snail shells for their homes, but the dozen or so species of land-based hermit crabs – popular terrarium pets – are the only ones that hollow out and remodel their shells, sometimes doubling the internal volume. This provides more room to grow, more room for eggs – sometimes a thousand more eggs – and a lighter home to lug around as they forage.

But empty snail shells are rare on land, so the best hope of moving to a new home is to kick others out of their remodeled shells, said Mark Laidre, a UC Berkeley Miller Post-Doctoral Fellow who reported this unusual behavior in this month’s issue of the journal Current Biology.

So the crabs dance in a conga line….

“The one that gets yanked out of its shell is often left with the smallest shell, which it can’t really protect itself with,” said Laidre, who is in the Department of Integrative Biology. “Then it’s liable to be eaten by anything. For hermit crabs, it’s really their sociality that drives predation.”

Hermit crab free-for-all.A free-for-all takes place whenever three or more hermit crabs congregate, with all crabs intent on displacing someone else to get a larger shell.

Laidre says the crabs’ unusual behavior is a rare example of how evolving to take advantage of a specialized niche – in this case, land versus ocean – led to an unexpected byproduct: socialization in a typically solitary animal.

You can find a video of crabs fighting here, it is not in the conga line formation…but it is funny to see the crab being pulled out of the shell by another crab. It looks animated.

Let’s end this with a funny video, from the early 90’s, featuring a conga line:

“Heh!” What are you all up to this Sunday, share some links and thoughts below…and those of you in Sandy’s way, take care of yourselves.


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?


Farewell Elizabeth Taylor

“I don’t entirely approve of some of the things I have done, or am, or have been. But I’m me. God knows, I’m me.”

Iconic Actress

Passionate AIDs Activist

Lived life to the fullest

and of  course, Westborough Baptist Hate Club will be there to help send her off.

“No RIP Elizabeth Taylor who spent her life in adultery and enabling proud f-gs. They cuss her in hell today. #Westboro will picket funeral!” tweeted Margie Phelps, daughter of Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps.

Actually, I can see her laughing at that big time with those bright violet eyes sparkling.


Consider this an open thread.