The Moderate Voice http://themoderatevoice.com An Internet hub with domestic and international news, analysis, original reporting, and popular features from the left, center, indies, centrists, moderates, and right Tue, 03 Mar 2015 05:47:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You http://themoderatevoice.com/203218/dont-say-i-didnt-warn-you/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203218/dont-say-i-didnt-warn-you/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 04:16:33 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203218 I think it is fair to say that Bibi’s decision to come speak before Congress is the single most disastrous event for the state of pro-Israel sentiment in my lifetime. There’s blame to go around, and one can make the case for (or rather, against) all sorts. Personally, I’m extremely skeptical of Ambassador Ron Dermer’s [...]

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I think it is fair to say that Bibi’s decision to come speak before Congress is the single most disastrous event for the state of pro-Israel sentiment in my lifetime. There’s blame to go around, and one can make the case for (or rather, against) all sorts. Personally, I’m extremely skeptical of Ambassador Ron Dermer’s influence given his background as a GOP political operative, but this ultimately falls on Bibi’s head. Boehner, well, his job is to protect the interests of his caucus and he only cares about Israel insofar as it furthers that end, so I can’t really “blame” him for playing politics.

But that’s neither here nor there. I don’t care who you blame, I don’t care how you sequence the events — the fact of the matter is that this seems to be the straw that broke the camels back for a lot of people, and there is no way that Bibi’s speech could ever be sufficiently useful or influential regarding the Iran threat to justify that break. We should not be in a situation where a majority of Americans don’t want to hear the Prime Minister speak. This is a full-blown catastrophe, and an avoidable one at that.

On that note, this Nathan Guttman article on anxieties at AIPAC is very well-taken. AIPAC, of course, was famously blind-sided by Bibi’s speech decision. It announced its opposition to the address — to no avail — and has been on its heels ever since. It’s easy to see why: AIPAC’s MO from day one has been to cultivate bipartisan support for Israel without favor to either left or right. It takes positions on substantive issues, to be sure, but by far its most important priority is that Israel must not become a partisan issue.

And now? It is facing the teeth of that possibility. Because there is a significant cadre of conservative organizations that want to make it just that. And they are far more threatening to AIPAC’s mission — and the long-term security of Israel — that left-ward critics like J Street ever could be.

A new reality of overt partisanship has now tinged the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The brawl set off by Netanyahu’s speech has also emboldened other Jewish groups to challenge AIPAC’s own longtime status as the strategic center for pro-Israel activism in Washington. As the lobby kicks off its three-day extravaganza in Washington’s Convention Center, it faces the need to now prove to members of Congress and to supporters that AIPAC is still the main voice of pro-Israel activism, despite increasing challenges coming mainly from a growing right-wing flank.

“Enough with this bipartisan nonsense,” Jeff Ballabon, an Orthodox GOP activist told members of Conservative Political Action Committee convened in Washington just days before the pro-Israel lobby’s conference. “The real base of support for Israel,” he argued, will not be found among Democrats and liberals, but rather “here, at CPAC.”

A full-page New York Times ad sponsored by Rabbi Shmuely Boteach demonstrated how fractured the pro-Israel community has become when discussing Netanyahu’s visit.

Boteach, whose 2012 congressional run was heavily supported by right-wing donor Sheldon Adelson, ran an ad accusing national security adviser Susan Rice of having a “blind spot” when it comes to genocide.
[...]
Threats to AIPAC’s hegemony in past years came mainly from the dovish end of the spectrum, particularly with the appearance of the lobby J Street. But now much stronger competition is emerging from hawkish groups, like The World, that are less interested in bipartisanship. An important funder for several of these groups is the Republican mega-donor Adelson — a former AIPAC backer, who angrily stopped giving to the lobby several years ago, when it decided to announce it supported a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

I don’t want to say I told you so, but … I did. Repeatedly. These groups were never invested in the mainstream pro-Israel consensus, and our broad communal organizations should have moved to isolate them from the “pro-Israel” community with just as much vigor as they give to isolating groups like the JVP. It’s not entirely their fault — left groups that are still pro-Israel made a major strategic error of their own in not affirmatively aligning with the center, being too committed to wrongfully portraying AIPAC as a pure tool of conservative interests.

But what’s past is past. And the good news is that AIPAC, and the mainstream Jewish community generally, seems to be waking up as to where the real threat is. The objection to Bibi’s speech is a good first step. The across-the-board condemnation of Boteach’s ad is another good sign. Ditto the ADL speaking out against those who seek to cloak blatant Islamophobia in the guise of supporting Israel. Simply put, a world in which Americans associate “support for Israel” with “being a right-winger” is not a good world for Israel (even putting aside the fact that the manner in which right-wingers “support Israel” is ludicrously counterproductive). And, given the political proclivities of most Jews, it isn’t a good world for Jews who want to retain influence over the state of pro-Israel discourse in America.

Now, I am more closely affiliated with the liberal Zionist groups than I am with AIPAC itself. And my advice to them is the same as my advice three years ago. Seize the center. Work with the more established Jewish and pro-Israel organizations, and leverage their dismay over how partisan right-wing hacks are damaging our crucial relationship. It was never the case that they were in the bag for the most irredentist wing of the Likud Party, and it’s certainly and obviously not the case now. The great advantage the liberal Zionists have in America is that they really do represent the consensus Jewish position (not to mention the morally correct one). What divides them from the established organizations — primarily matters of tone and focus — are far less important than what they share in common. And what Ameinu and J Street share in common with AIPAC and the ADL and the AJC, and with the American people writ large, is that Israel must be preserved as a Jewish, democratic state in the context of two safe, secure, democratic states for two peoples. The right-wing critics do not share that vision, and so they do not belong in the tent.

AIPAC has been rattled by a threat that caught them unawares. Whether they should have seen it coming is now besides the point. It’s time to stop cowering and to start fighting back. And the place to begin are those groups who care more about scoring a transient partisan advantage than they do about making sure that there is an Israel — a Jewish, democratic Israel — 30 years from now.

Cross-posted from The Debate Link

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The Last Man On Earth Is The First Original Network Sitcom In A Long Time http://themoderatevoice.com/203209/the-last-man-on-earth-is-the-first-original-network-sitcom-in-a-long-time/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203209/the-last-man-on-earth-is-the-first-original-network-sitcom-in-a-long-time/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 23:52:21 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203209 The Last Man on Earth is something rare, a single cam sitcom which feels entirely original. Nothing is entirely unique on television. You’re The Worst was in many ways unique, but did so by showing a romantic comedy in a new way. There are plenty of post-apocalyptic television science fiction shows, but none done as [...]

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Last Man On Earth

The Last Man on Earth is something rare, a single cam sitcom which feels entirely original. Nothing is entirely unique on television. You’re The Worst was in many ways unique, but did so by showing a romantic comedy in a new way. There are plenty of post-apocalyptic television science fiction shows, but none done as comedy as Will Forte has. This post has spoilers regarding the events of the first two episodes.

Being a comedy, it can get away with a preposterous set up. In the first episode we learn that a virus has seemingly killed everyone on earth but one man. Three are no rotting bodies, and no signs of civilization collapsing. Forte’s character, Phil Miller (whose name comes from the writer and director pair of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller), went to all fifty states in an RV, searching for other living people, with no difficulty getting gas. He raided the Smithsonian and other museums for decorations for his ultimate home and shouted in every state asking if anyone was around. Of course the show is not entirely implausible. Phil realized that he could have missed some living people in his ride through each state so he spray painted the message “ALIVE IN TUCSON” around the country.

Phil ultimately moved into a neighborhood in Tuscon which is much like my neighborhood (other than for the different climate). After traveling around the country, an area where air conditioning would be preferable, and there is limited precipitation, hardly seems like the best idea. If not staying in his own home for the sake of familiarity, a less affluent house which has practical measures such as an out house would seem preferable to cutting a hole in a diving board to make the world’s biggest toilet. Perhaps he could find the home of a survivalist who had everything he needed. If I didn’t stay in my home, I might also consider a facility such as a hospital. I could tolerate sleeping in an on-call room or former patient room in return for an emergency generator system (assuming I had any idea as to how to run it).

The Last Man on Earth has a simple solution for its implausible situation–keep the viewers laughing continually. Phil does everything you’d expect a single guy with nobody to judge him to do, and more. He started with simple outdoor bowling with pins, progressing to knocking down aquariums full of water and making cars explode. He spent time in a kiddie pool filled with the ingredients for a giant Margarita, even with salt all along the rim.

If it was me, I would stock up on batteries for notebook computers, tablets, and/or smart phones and use them to view DVD’s plus media in digital form. I’m sure that with a bit of searching of abandoned homes, Phil could have found plenty of portable hard drives which were well stocked with porn and other movies. He did use a generator one day to view Castaway, and mocked Tom Hanks for talking to a Wilson volleyball. Months later he had an entire group of imaginary friends and drinking buddies made out of balls.

The first half hour was fine with only Phil. He periodically spoke with God, in addition to all the balls, to make up for the lack of others. While the first episode was quite funny, it was hard to see how they could make an entire television series out of this. Before viewers got bored, Phil got bored with his life. Fortunately, just before killing himself, Phil saw a fire. Not only had someone seen his signs, it was someone who had a bra hanging up to dry. Unfortunately, after a rather funny scene in which they met which included fantasies and wetting of pants, Phil found that it was someone he wouldn’t sleep with if she was the last woman on earth (as she appeared to be).

Carol, played by Kristen Schaal, is the opposite of Phil. While Phil would leave even more destruction beyond him than was necessary to get supplies, Carol followed all the old rules as if there were still others around. She even objected when Phil ran though stop signs.

At least Carol is more practical than Phil. She is not content to live on canned goods and Twinkies, and realized they should come up with a way to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. She also thought the two were meant to repopulate the earth, and eventually Phil became horny enough to go along. This relationship was not consummated by the end of the second episode which aired as Carol insisted upon getting married before having sex.

Schaal had to keep her role secret so that viewers wouldn’t know that a last man on earth didn’t preclude a last woman. In addition, January Jones, Mary Steenburgen, Mel Rodriguez, and Cleopatra Coleman have been cast for undisclosed roles. Forte is vague as to what their roles will be:

“There are twists and turns,” Forte recently told E! News. “Other people show up, and we do have flashbacks and dreams, so we do have some exciting people involved. Kristen Schaal, who’s one of the funniest people around, January Jones, Mary Steenburgen just signed on. I don’t want to give away what roles they play, but it’s an amazing group of people.”

Carol was added to the show before Phil’s solo antics lost their humor, and the banter between the two added a new element to the show. Another woman could shake things up. Carol probably wouldn’t accept having Phil also sleep with someone such as January Jones after they are married. However, if she is serious about repopulating the earth, this would be the obvious thing to do, along as an irresistible act on Phil’s part.

There is no way to know if this show will still be as funny after running for weeks, but at the moment it is one of the funniest and most original comedies on television. It won’t be the only sitcom with a post-apocalypse idea in its premise. I’m now rushing through the third season of House of Cards, which became available on Netflix last Friday, to save time for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which premiers on Netflix this week. It is the latest comedy from Tina Fey, originally planned for NBC before NBC essentially ended its run as the network home for quality programing. The premise is that the Kimmy Schmidt, played by Ellie Kemper, has been held captive by a doomsday cult for fifteen years. She escapes into the world, but instead of the expected post-apocalyptic world she is a person who has become out of place in our world.

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Iran, Kerry and Israel’s existential challenges http://themoderatevoice.com/203207/iran-kerry-and-israels-existential-challenges/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203207/iran-kerry-and-israels-existential-challenges/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 20:21:12 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203207 Israel will have to start thinking differently about its long-term security and existence, extrapolating from current indications about Secretary John Kerry’s nuclear negotiations with Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif this week in Montreux, Switzerland. Mindful of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s address to the joint meeting of Congress tomorrow, Kerry told a press conference in Geneva: “Any [...]

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Israel will have to start thinking differently about its long-term security and existence, extrapolating from current indications about Secretary John Kerry’s nuclear negotiations with Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif this week in Montreux, Switzerland.

Mindful of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s address to the joint meeting of Congress tomorrow, Kerry told a press conference in Geneva:

“Any deal must close every potential pathway that Iran has towards fissile material, whether it’s uranium, plutonium, or a covert path. The fact is only a good, comprehensive deal in the end can actually check off all of those boxes.

“Now, I want to be clear about two things. Right now, no deal exists, no partial deal exists. And unless Iran is able to make the difficult decisions that will be required, there won’t be a deal. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That is the standard by which this negotiation is taking place, and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply misinformed.”

Kerry was very clear and this is not a time to jump to conclusions about the potential deal’s contents and likely impacts.

However, it would be imprudent for anyone in Israel to imagine that its nuclear weapons will be a deterrent to its enemies in the longer term. At this time, Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal and capacities to use those weapons effectively in its neighborhood guarantee its long-term survival and existence.

If for any reason, its enemies were to gang up against Israel and attack it militarily – as they have already – its first option would of course be to defeat them through conventional means as it has in the past.

That defeat may not difficult especially with American military help but it would not guarantee long term peace with all the neighbors — unless the entire regional were reordered and Israel became the hegemonic power imposing order through military might over tens of million Arabs and Persians.

Absent such a new regional order, Israel would have to stand on its own to prevent its Jewish population from being subjugated or “pushed into the sea”, in the event that the alliance with the US frayed because of Washington’s need to keep the peace with Arabs and Iranians.

This is where the nuclear option comes in. If Israel alone has nuclear weapons among both Arabs and Iranians, its deterrence would be effective. If it ever faced defeat for whatever reasons in conventional war, it could threaten nuclear attacks killing hundreds of thousands of it enemies – civilians or not — to obtain peace.

The situation would not be ideal because Israel would not be surrounded by friends but it would at least continue long-term existence as the secure home of the Jewish people.

Whatever the outcomes of current negotiations with Iran, they will never be able to guarantee Israel’s exclusive ownership of a nuclear arsenal in the region because there is no way by which the US can ban Iran completely from possessing the knowledge necessary for building nuclear weapons. At best, the US can buy time for Israel – perhaps 10 or 20 years.

But continuing to punish Iran would require unprecedented determination by all the world’s major countries to cooperate with Washington in causing ever sharper economic pain to the Iranian people for decades with the aim of changing the behavior of Teheran’s rulers mainly to protect Israel. That is a tall order given the challenges emerging already to America’s global influence.

Iran’s ability to possess nuclear weapons will end Israel’s nuclear deterrence definitively. Israel’s vulnerability will worsen if neighboring Arab countries acquire nuclear weapons to deter Iran because they are Sunni Muslim and fear that Persian and Shia Muslim theological state.

Israel’s vulnerability is caused by its lack of friends in the region where it is situated and wants to exist in perpetuity. None of its neighbors fully accepts its existence and no one trusts it as a friend, regardless of the UN resolutions guaranteeing its existence or bolstering the right of its people to live in secure frontiers.

This situation is unfair and reasons for its continuation may include the awful plight of Palestinians. However, even reaching a settlement with Palestinians that meets their highest desires will not be enough to ensure long-term acceptance of the Jewish state in the region.

Nuclear deterrence of enemies may still be necessary and cannot reasonably be given up without many other guarantees for full acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state within an agreed and reformed context of regional peace and security.

Israel’s nuclear arsenal or any number of Netanyahu speeches in Washington, or his invitations to the world’s entire Jewish people to migrate to Israel, cannot change these realities.

Speeches and skillful appeals to the American people can only buy time but not guarantee the perpetual security he seeks for his people — even if he patches up the current rift with the Obama administration and again secures unwavering bipartisan American support, like Israel has long enjoyed.

It is a mistake to blame Kerry and President Barack Obama for trying to talk to Iran in a patient effort to buy Israel more time before someone in the region challenges its nuclear deterrence.

Acquisition of knowledge to make nuclear weapons cannot be bombed or negotiated out of existence, without killing every enemy of Israel possessing traces of that knowledge. Still more severe sanctions or even bombing Iranian nuclear facilities can only postpone efforts of an enemy that will become yet more determined to end Israel’s nuclear deterrence.

The only way of making it unnecessary for enemies to seek the means to counter Israeli nuclear deterrence is to establish coexistence and trust, and if possible friendship, with neighbors.

At some point, Israelis will have to start thinking along those lines because the alternative is perpetual insecurity.

That would be a great use of the time Kerry buys for Israel if he succeeds, which is far from a given at this time. Washington is thinking in terms of sticks and carrots for Iran but Teheran could prefer sticks to carrots it suspects may be poisoned. Kerry deserves more space to exercise his diplomatic skills — for Israel’s sake.

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Homeless Man Fatally Shot on Skid Row by LAPD Officers http://themoderatevoice.com/203206/homeless-man-fatally-shot-on-skid-row-by-lapd-officers/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203206/homeless-man-fatally-shot-on-skid-row-by-lapd-officers/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:42:28 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203206 A homeless man was killed in a police-involved shooting on skid row in Los Angeles yesterday. The name of the man has not been disclosed, pending notification to the next of kin. He was known on the street as “Africa.” He was a suspect in a robbery. The shooting was captured on a graphic video shot by [...]

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From the video as posted on You Tube

From the video as posted on You Tube

A homeless man was killed in a police-involved shooting on skid row in Los Angeles yesterday. The name of the man has not been disclosed, pending notification to the next of kin. He was known on the street as “Africa.” He was a suspect in a robbery.

The shooting was captured on a graphic video shot by a bystander, who posted it on Facebook. It had been viewed more than 6 million times in the first seven hours after it was posted.

A second video shot from a slightly different angle emerged Monday morning, also showing a violent struggle between officers and the man before the shooting.

LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery, noting that there were at least two surveillance cameras mounted on buildings at the scene, said there could be other recordings of the incident. Source: LA Times

This was cross-posted from The Hinterland Gazette.

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Disinformation Ahead of Bibi’s Visit? Seems likely. http://themoderatevoice.com/203201/disinformation-ahead-of-bibis-visit-seems-likely/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203201/disinformation-ahead-of-bibis-visit-seems-likely/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 14:45:01 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203201 This morning, Memeorandum is dominated by a rightie blogswarm, all focused on this Reuters story: Report: Obama Threatened to Shoot Down IAF Iran Strike Mark Langfan / Reuters Kuwaiti paper claims unnamed Israeli minister with good ties with the US administration ‘revealed the attack plan to John Kerry.’  —  The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an has cited [...]

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This morning, Memeorandum is dominated by a rightie blogswarm, all focused on this Reuters story:

Report: Obama Threatened to Shoot Down IAF Iran Strike
Mark Langfan / Reuters

Kuwaiti paper claims unnamed Israeli minister with good ties with the US administration ‘revealed the attack plan to John Kerry.’  —  The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an has cited a Kuwaiti newspaper report Saturday …

A Bethlemen-based “news agency” quotes a Kuwait newspaper? Seriously?

And yet, here it is:

netanyahu blogswarm

And there’s more. Click for original page.

The problem with this story isn’t its credibility. It’s its INcredibility. Listen to the consecutive paragraph leads:

  • According to Al-Jarida*, the Netanyahu government took the decision to strike Iran some time in 2014 soon … [*  "a Kuwaiti newspaper"]
  • The report claimed that an unnamed Israeli minister who has good ties with the US administration revealed …
  • Al-Jarida quoted “well-placed” sources as saying that Netanyahu, along with Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon, and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, had …
  • According to the report, “Netanyahu and his commanders agreed after four nights …
  • The sources added that Gantz and his commanders prepared the requested plan and …

And then THESE non-sequiturs to pad out a laughably-sourced “news” item:

  • Former US diplomat Zbigniew Brzezinski, who enthusiastically campaigned for Obama in 2008, called on him to shoot down Israeli planes …
  • Israel mistakenly attacked the American Liberty ship during the Six-Day War in 1967. And, 
  • Brzezinski was a top candidate to become an official advisor to PresidentObama, but he was downgraded … [because] Brzezinski’s anti-Israel attitude would damage Obama at the polls.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? ALL second-hand anonymous sources? (Remember, this is an Israeli news service quoting a Yemeni newspaper, who I’m TOTALLY SURE vetted their anonymous sources with utmost care. Right. (And I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you, while you’re on the line, here.)

What’s next? Citing an Egyptian newsletter? A Syrian blog post? A Yemeni tweet?

This is SERIOUS stuff and a very serious accusation (that Obama threatened to shoot down Israeli jets attacking Iran) that is ENTIRELY too valuable to the purpose Netanyahu’s scrofulous visit to the treasonous Congress. And, of course NO ONE could possibly consider that a Bethlehem paper you’ve never heard of might be carrying water for Mossad in a disinformation campaign, right?

I mean this is AMATEUR Night in spades. But not to our “Patriotic” righties. Nossirree. They NEVER uncritically publish laughably-sourced stories that fit in to their preconceived ideological bugaboos, right?

A “Bethlehem-based news agency ” that no one has ever heard of quotes an even MORE obscure Kuwaiti paper and that is front page news? Or is it front page MANIPULATION of the news? This is LITERALLY a third-hand story from Reuters. (For shame, Reuters!)

netanyahu shutterstock_27901960

Netanyahu would NEVER attempt media manipulation

And the dream linkage of Zbigniew Brezinsky to “insider” White House strategy because he is “anti-Israel” in a COMPLETE non-sequitur to pad out an absurd news story? Why, any reporter could make that mistake.

I mean, any reporter below the age of eleven and on their first or second story for the school newspaper, having been deemed too incompetent to cover the classic investigatory story of all school newspapers: “What’s your pet peeve?” This disinformation garbage ought NOT to have been published in your local high school newspaper in light of the fantastical sourcing and the outrageous assertions.

So, we have to ask, WHY was it published in the first place, and HOW COME SO MANY FIRST TIER rightie bloggers jumped on it, driving it to the top of the blogworld news?

Disinformation seems the almost inescapable conclusion. Either that or Reuters was having “take your kid to work” day and let the youngsters write and edit today’s news items. This does not pass the smell test on its face, and yet it is “NEWS!” the day before the treasonous invitation of Boehner comes to rotten fruition. Sad to say.

boner's boner

illustration by author ©

Courage.

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Christie lied to us about Planned Parenthood, but not at CPAC (Guest Editorial) http://themoderatevoice.com/203199/christie-lied-to-us-about-planned-parenthood-but-not-at-cpac-guest-editorial/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203199/christie-lied-to-us-about-planned-parenthood-but-not-at-cpac-guest-editorial/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:38:07 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203199 It was interesting to hear Gov. Chris Christie finally admit he was flat-out lying about his reasons for vetoing funding to Planned Parenthood, as many charged at the time. It happened when he was bragging about his pro-life credentials at the annual CPAC conference attended by conservatives, a chance to woo the party’s base. “I’m [...]

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It was interesting to hear Gov. Chris Christie finally admit he was flat-out lying about his reasons for vetoing funding to Planned Parenthood, as many charged at the time. It happened when he was bragging about his pro-life credentials at the annual CPAC conference attended by conservatives, a chance to woo the party’s base. “I’m pro-life,…

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Cartoon: Boris Nemtsov assasinated http://themoderatevoice.com/203196/cartoon-boris-nemtsov-assasinated/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203196/cartoon-boris-nemtsov-assasinated/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 05:44:39 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203196 See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at http://cagle.com. To license this cartoon for your own site, visit http://politicalcartoons.com

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Martin Sutovec, Slovakia

Martin Sutovec, Slovakia

See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at http://cagle.com. To license this cartoon for your own site, visit http://politicalcartoons.com

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The GOP’s loud ‘yes’ to ‘no’ http://themoderatevoice.com/203194/the-gops-loud-yes-to-no/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203194/the-gops-loud-yes-to-no/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 05:29:51 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203194 WASHINGTON — It’s a daunting challenge to spin the word “no” into a hopeful and forward-looking political battle cry. There are, of course, circumstances when negative arguments can work. In obviously terrible times, voters are often content to take a chance on a barely sketched-out alternative. In midterm elections, which are like midsemester report cards, [...]

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WASHINGTON — It’s a daunting challenge to spin the word “no” into a hopeful and forward-looking political battle cry.

There are, of course, circumstances when negative arguments can work. In obviously terrible times, voters are often content to take a chance on a barely sketched-out alternative. In midterm elections, which are like midsemester report cards, voters often protest against what they don’t like. “No” was a successful pitch in three straight midterms going back to 2006. The GOP’s 1946 slogan, “Had Enough? Vote Republican,” was a model of simple and clever effectiveness.

But the evidence of the moment is that “had enough” will not be enough for the GOP in 2016. Of course we cannot know from Hillary Clinton’s current leads of around nine or 10 points over her major Republican competitors that she will ultimately prevail. Still, her advantage owes at least in part to unease about where Republicans would take the country if they won both the presidency and Congress. For now, voters don’t want to go there.

Events of the past week underscore why. The absurdity of going to the wire on funding the Department of Homeland Security tells us that many in the party, particularly right-wingers in the House, do not care about how their inability to govern in an orderly fashion looks to citizens outside the conservative bubble.

For the more radical members of Speaker John Boehner’s caucus, this is all about high principle. Since most of them come from very conservative districts, they will only strengthen their own political situations by continuing to link DHS funding to overturning President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. They have nothing to lose.

But collectively, their party has a lot to lose. To win the presidency and to improve their chances of holding the Senate in 2016, Republicans will have to do far better with Latino voters than Mitt Romney did in 2012. This fight will only make that harder. And middle-of-the-road voters don’t like this sort of brinksmanship, as well they shouldn’t.

The way Republicans are behaving could thus turn one of the party’s assets, the likelihood that they will hold their House majority for some time, into a liability. This argument is advanced forcefully by political scientist Thomas Schaller in his new book, “The Stronghold.”

Schaller describes the potential of a vicious cycle: As the party has become more conservative, it has become more Congress-centered, “anchored to and defined by its congressional wing, and its House caucus in particular.” But a majority of its House members are either extremely conservative or fearful of primaries from the right. This makes the House highly sensitive to right-wing donors, right-wing media and right-wing voters — and far less responsive to those middle-ground citizens who usually decide presidential elections. The danger, says Schaller, is that the GOP’s congressional stronghold could become a “chokehold.”

The doings at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that closed on Saturday only reinforced the point. Republican presidential candidates worry about those very conservative primary voters too, and CPAC was an excellent opportunity for the hopefuls to show how well they can dance to the oppositionist tune, a chorus of “no’s” to Obama, Clinton, liberalism and “big government.”

Jeb Bush, who is actually very conservative, has put up some resistance to the spirit of negativity. “We shouldn’t be the reactionary party to how bad things are,” he told a Club for Growth gathering in Florida on Thursday.

When he appeared at CPAC on Friday, he did declare that “we have to start being for things again,” but only after praising Republicans in Congress for standing up to Obama. He sidestepped when Fox News’ Sean Hannity asked about the House Republicans’ approach to DHS funding though he did speak of his party’s need to win more Latino votes.

Bush would clearly like to take a cue from his brother who, before the 2000 election, occasionally distanced himself from an unpopular right-wing Congress. But Jeb is orchestrating his independence with great caution and some ambivalence. The GOP is well to the right of where it was 15 years ago and also much more insulated. It’s worth remembering that Fox didn’t become the largest cable news network until 2002.

In my experience, the people who see Jeb Bush as the most electable nominee tend to be Democrats, not Republicans. This may prove his general election strategy is working, but it also shows his party may not let him get there because it’s quite happy being “reactionary.”

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne. (c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group

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Netanyahu dominates Israel’s election coverage http://themoderatevoice.com/203191/netanyahu-dominates-israels-election-coverage/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203191/netanyahu-dominates-israels-election-coverage/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 05:22:05 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203191 Netanyahu dominates election coverage By Ira Sharkansky JERUSALEM (SDONA) — For a political scientist committed to the view that democratic politics is the essence of civilization, an election campaign can be a difficult test. The one we are experiencing, like some others I’ve seen, brings out the worst in those aspiring to national leadership. It’s [...]

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Netanyahu dominates election coverage
By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM (SDONA) — For a political scientist committed to the view that democratic politics is the essence of civilization, an election campaign can be a difficult test.

The one we are experiencing, like some others I’ve seen, brings out the worst in those aspiring to national leadership. It’s not like an academic seminar of carefully crafted efforts to reveal new information or insights via research and constructive criticism. Yet it’s also true that not all seminars live up to aspirations.

If there is a discussion of alternative approaches to the nation’s most serious problems, it is difficult to find that in the noise of competing candidates, often appealing to the lowest of feelings and fears in a society that has decent levels of education.

It’s a collective scream of “Me first,” or “Listen to me,” with candidates in media discussions or “debates” talking over one another so that neither can get across the intended message.

Ariyeh Deri is doing what he can to emphasize the issue of ethnicity, i.e., the alleged misery of Sephardim under the self-appointed “elites” of Ashkenazim, along with his claim to being the only party leader genuinely concerned with lower income Israelis.

Several of his opponents are doing what they can to remind us that he is a convicted criminal, who served time in the big house for political corruption, and had to remain outside of politics for a number of years as part of his punishment.

Deri and Eli Yeshi, who split as partners in SHAS, are each claiming that the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef would choose him to continue revered traditions.

Yair Lapid and Moshe Kahlon are competing for the broad middle of the political spectrum by claiming to be more concerned about the needs of the middle class. Affordable housing is Lapid’s major theme. The overall cost of living is Kahlon’s.

Just about everybody is pursuing the theme of “anybody but Bibi,” and hoping that will rebound to more votes for them than for their competitors.

Meanwhile Bibi isn’t doing all that badly. A tough 10 days with two State Comptroller Reports that were interpreted as criticizing his management of the nation’s housing shortage and his or his wife’s management of the Prime Minister’s official and private residences managed to drop Likud into a tie with Zionist Union or a couple of seats below Zionist Union, depending on the polls. However, the coming week, with the widely discussed, condemned, and praised speech to Congress may be his best opportunity of the campaign.

Israel’s most widely circulated newspapers are adding more to the noise than to enlightenment.

Israel Hayom is justifying the label Bibipress, and Yedioth Aharonoth is firming up its standing as anti-Bibi, and anti-Israel Hayom.

The front page of Israel Hayom‘s Friday edition headlined Jeb Bush saying that Netanyahu had the right to speak about a bad agreement; the Legal Adviser to the Government saying that there is no suspicion that the Prime Minister was involved in the problems of the Prime Minister’s residences, and that his investigation into the expenditures would commence after the election; and that an order preventing the leaving of Israel had been issued against the former manager of the Prime Minister’s residence due to his bank debts.

The front page of Yedioth Aharonoth featured a former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, saying “Netanyahu caused the greatest strategic danger in connection with Iran,” questioning what he would accomplish by his speech in Washington, saying that Netanyahu had not accomplished anything in the operation against Gaza, and that the Prime Minister was only interested in being photographed alongside a map. Another headline indicated that the Legal Adviser to the Government would begin an investigation into the management of the Prime Minister’s residences after the election, without the qualification included in Israel Hayom that there was no suspicion about the Prime Minister. Two smaller headlines said that a Likud activist was suspected of false accusations against the former manager of the Prime Minister’s residence, and that there was an unexplained building on the grounds of the Prime Minister’s residence.

While Yedioth’s headline describes an Meir Dagan’s accusation against Netanyahu for the speech against the US-Iran agreement, the article itself indicates that the disagreement between the former Mossad head and Netayahu is one of tactics rather than substance.

“Dagan is not exactly a leftist. All who know his biography testifies to that. On the subject of Iran, he agrees with the concern of Netanyahu that a nuclear Iran is something that Israel cannot live with.”

This pretty well sums up Israeli opinion. It is hard to find an Israeli of note who supports Obama’s posture on Iran. Opposition to the US brokered agreement deals not only with details of Iran’s nuclear program, but the willingness of the White House to overlook Iran’s involvement in terror, its threats against Israel, and its actions seeking to undercut the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen and Gulf Emirates.

The concern of most who criticize Netanyahu is for his challenging directly the iconic head of the United States, for aligning himself with the President’s partisan opponents (Sheldon Adelson, Mitt Romney, Congressional Republicans), for what they call the unproductive bombast and clumsiness of his long opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, and for the risks from all of that to Israel’s dependence on the United States for political assistance, economic help, and supplies of sophisticated military equipment..

Even among Netanyahu’s supporters, it is hard to find anyone who expects a turnaround in American policy toward Iran as a result of Bibi’s speech. Yet there is hope that the Prime Minister will make enough of an impression in Washington to harden those Americans urging a tougher posture with respect to Iran.

Most likely it will be more certain, more quickly how the speech rebounds in Israel. We can expect instant pro- and anti-interpretations. Weekend polls may show what the public thinks. Then we can parse the election results starting on March 18 to see signs of the speech’s impact, being careful to note the problems in separating it from all the other influences on what the voters will have done.
*
Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University. He can be contacted via email at ira.sharkansky@sdjewishworld.com. This article is reprinted from San Diego Jewish World which, along with The Moderate Voice, is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.

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Can Netanyahu Be Trusted? http://themoderatevoice.com/203141/can-netanyahu-trusted/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203141/can-netanyahu-trusted/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 04:07:44 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203141 Josh Marshall spells out why he thinks the answer is no on Talking Points Memo. You probably remember that Netanyahu speech a couple years ago before the United Nations – the one where he used the bomb cartoon to illustrate his points about the Iranian nuclear program. In that speech Netanyahu made a series of [...]

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Josh Marshall spells out why he thinks the answer is no on Talking Points Memo.

You probably remember that Netanyahu speech a couple years ago before the United Nations – the one where he used the bomb cartoon to illustrate his points about the Iranian nuclear program. In that speech Netanyahu made a series of specific claims about the status of the Iranian nuclear program. It turns out several of those claims were specifically contradicted by the current intelligence from the Mossad – Israel’s foreign intelligence agency. We know this because of a major leak of hundreds of documents from South African intelligence. One of those is a report from the South Africans’ Israeli counterparts – detailing their current evaluation of the status of the program. It’s dated only a few weeks after Netanyahu’s speech.

 

It has been an open secret for years that very, very few of Israel’s top military and intelligence leaders see eye to eye with Netanyahu on the Iran question. This isn’t to say that they don’t view it as a major threat; they do. The questions are whether it is an existential threat and the wisdom of an Israeli military strike to thwart or retard the program. (Here’s an article from this weekend on the head of Mossad from 2002 to 2010, Meir Dagan, saying Netanyahu is ‘destroying the Zionist dream’ with his leadership.) But these are questions of judgment and strategy – which are ultimately the province of elected leaders. The points in the UN speech are narrow questions of fact – which Netanyahu appears to have deliberately misstated.

 

Unfortunately for Israel, unfortunately for America, unfortunately for everyone, Netanyahu can’t be trusted – not his judgment or his honesty. And no amount of deterrence will stop the onslaught of weaponized grandiosity he plans to unleash on America this coming week.

Cross-posted from The Sensible Center

http://thesensiblecentercom.blogspot.com/2015/03/can-netanyahu-be-trusted.html

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SciFi Weekend: Leonard Nimoy, Who Lived Long And Prospered 1931-2015; Parks and Recreation Finale; Sleepy Hollow; Agent Carter; How To Get Away With Murder; Broadchurch; Arrow; 12 Monkeys http://themoderatevoice.com/203189/scifi-weekend-leonard-nimoy-who-lived-long-and-prospered-1931-2015-parks-and-recreation-finale-sleepy-hollow-agent-carter-how-to-get-away-with-murder-broadchurch-arrow-12-monkeys/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203189/scifi-weekend-leonard-nimoy-who-lived-long-and-prospered-1931-2015-parks-and-recreation-finale-sleepy-hollow-agent-carter-how-to-get-away-with-murder-broadchurch-arrow-12-monkeys/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 01:42:07 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203189 News of the death of Leonard Nimoy dominated the news and blogosphere since Friday. I had previous posts on Friday and Saturday, including tweets from those who worked with him, those at NASA who were inspired by him, and even from President Obama. Obama also issued this longer statement: Long before being nerdy was cool, [...]

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News of the death of Leonard Nimoy dominated the news and blogosphere since Friday. I had previous posts on Friday and Saturday, including tweets from those who worked with him, those at NASA who were inspired by him, and even from President Obama. Obama also issued this longer statement:

Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.

I loved Spock.

In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for “Live long and prosper.” And after 83 years on this planet – and on his visits to many others – it’s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that. Michelle and I join his family, friends, and countless fans who miss him so dearly today.

As Vulture pointed out, it is fitting that Obama had such a personal statement considering how often there have been comparisons of Obama to Spock.

Parks and Recreation Finale

The week also featured the series finale of Parks and Recreation along with several season finales. The series started with a weak first season. Probably as a combination of this, initially just seeing it as a spin-off of The Office, and not being excited by the premise of a small town in Indiana, it did make it on my DVR every week, but for a while it was often put off until I finished the other Thursday sit-coms. Then at some point I realized that the show which had me laughing the most was usually Parks and Recreation.

Part of the success of Parks and Recreation was the manner in which over the years many cast members were developed, allowing the show to go in many different directions. The heart of the show was the dichotomy between Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), but there was so much more going on. Both Chris Pratt and Aubrey Plaza were excellent supporting characters, and their roles become even more terrific with their romance and eventual marriage. Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe followed a similar trajectory. Adam Scott started as a semi-straight man to Rob Lowe, and then fulfilled a similar role, in a way replacing her best friend Ann Perkins, with Amy Poehler after Lowe and Jones left the show. Cast members including Aziz Ansari, Retta, Jim O’Heir, and others further fleshed out the people Pawnee far more than is seen in a typical sit-com. I think the show which came closest in this regard was not a half hour sit-com but was Northern Exposure.

With this diverse cast there was a wide variety of types of humor, not the repeated jokes which are rapidly recycled for laughs on many other sit-coms. Being a blog about politics and often genre, I would point out that both were included on Parks and Recreation. There was Leslie Knope, who was always optimistic about what government could do, even when facing obstacles, contrasted with the libertarian Ron Swanson, who was in government to try to make sure it didn’t do too much. Genre sometimes did sneak in, such as when Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) once said told Leslie,I went back to season one of Fringe to check for plot holes. As suspected, it’s airtight.

The finale, like the finale of Parenthood, followed the Six Feet Under precedent of showing how the characters wind up. They did an excellent job. Instead of putting this at the end, the fate of each major, and some minor characters, were interspersed into a story in which the former employees of the Parks Department got back together for one last task. Although they thought it would be their last time together, their futures did include getting back together at key moments in their lives.

The Hollywood Reporter interviewed showrunner Mike Schur. He left it to our imaginations as to whether in one future scene we are seeing President Leslie Knope with Secret Service protection.

Sleepy Hollow Season 2 Finale

It is not known yet whether Monday’s episode of Sleepy Hollow will be a season or series finale, but after a weak season the show had an excellent episode which would work well as either. Abby’s trip into the past paralleled the series premiere, but this time Abby was in Ichabod’s role. Rather than having cliff hangers like last season, the episode tied up past plot threads, leaving only a vague mention of future battles should there be a future season. The episode ended with the core characters back together, and despite a weak second season I would be quite willing to give them another chance if the writers have figured out what to do with them for a third season.

Agent Carter Finale

Agent Carter concluded a self-contained story, and due to relatively poor ratings it is questionable if it will return. The season ended with Howard Stark exonerated, his inventions rescued, and the prevention of a disaster. Peggy had a moment of closure regarding the loss of Captain America. If the series returns, Dotty did survive to be a formidable ongoing enemy with her Black Widow training. Being Marvel, of course there was also a final scene, tying this into the rest of the Marvel universe. E! News spoke with the show runners:

E! News: Walk me through the decision to bring Dr. Zola onto the show, because as a fan of the Captain America movies, that was such a fun treat to find out what happened to him in between the first and second movie!
Tara Butters: We really wanted to connect Agent Carter to the greater MCU, and when we pitched the series to Marvel, they had brought up using Fenhoff as a way to connect to the Winter Soldier program. We had this idea of how great it would be to bring Toby Jones on for a scene—
Michele Fazekas: But we never thought that would actually happen. We thought we’d have to figure out a different way to make that happen. But then he was available and he was interested! That was really nice since a lot of different things could have gone wrong but it worked out.

The similarities between Peggy talking to Howard as he flies to his certain death and Peggy talking to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he flew to his death were so striking. Did you shape the finale to mirror that final scene in Captain America: The First Avenger, or did that happen organically?
TB: When we broke out the season, we knew that that’s where we wanted to end, a version of that scene, a version of her talking down Howard. There’s been different iterations of it, though. At one point, it was Jarvis [James D'Arcy] talking him down and then Peggy, and then we flew Jarvis in the plane. But it was really lovely how ABC and Marvel gave us a lot of time to break out the eight episodes, so it felt like we really knew where we were going and it was really nice to see all of it pay off in the final episode.

How To Get Away With Murder Finale

How To Get Away With Murder ended its first season by tying up one murder and ending with another. It did seem anticlimactic to go an entire season to only find that the most likely suspect was guilty, even if he called on someone else to do the actual killing. For a while the format of having a season-long mystery on shows such as Veronica Mars, along with a mystery of the week, seemed like something new and refreshing. Now it has been done so many times that the US shows doing this seem much weaker than shows which don’t try to stretch things out for a whole season, or longer, and deal with a single storyline over a shorter season.

Executive producer Pete Nowalk discussed the season finale with E!

Broadchurch funeral

Several British shows have been successful with the more compact formula of a single story instead of interspersing a crime of the week, with season one of Broadchurch being among the best. The second season just concluded in the U.K. and a third season is planned. While not anywhere as good as the first season, the second season did turn out to be worth watching.

The second season of Broadchurch starts on BBC America on March 4 and there are major spoilers in the rest of this section for those planning to watch. The second season dealt with two story lines. The major story line is that Joe Miller recanted his confession to the killing of Daniel Latimer and the case wentto trial. This is the show which could have been named How To Get Away With Murder, as the person the viewer knows to be guilty was found not guilty in court in the season finale. The show has always concentrated on how the people of Broadchurch reacted to the murder, and for a moment it looked like they were going to respond to the faulty verdict with a lynch mob. Fortunately they did not go that far.

The show has a more powerful lesson about the limitations of the justice system with the erroneous acquittal of Joe Miller. It had me thinking that, if it also extended the story this long, how Gracepoint could have been a more significant show than it was by nearly copying everything from Broadchurch. The high profile cases in which the legal system has failed in handling whites who have killed blacks in this country could have provided a more topical influence, while still retaining aspects of Broadchurch.

The B storyline from Broadchurch involving the killings of two girls years ago was by far the weaker, and was tied up very quickly following the more interesting aspects involving Joe Miller. The season might have been better if it was shorter and this was left out.

Arrow Oliver and Ra’s al Ghul

Arrow was not a finale but, going on hiatus for a month, there was yet another cliff hanger on Nanda Parbat. How does Oliver respond to Ra’s al Ghul’s offer and also save both Diggle and Malcolm Merlyn? Marc Guggenheim answered some fan questions, including questions about Felicity sleeping with Ray Palmer, but no clues as to how the cliff hanger will be resolved.

There are also reports of yet another planned spin-off. It will star Brandon Routh (Ray Palmer/The Atom), Victor Garber (Martin Stein, one-half of Firestorm on “The Flash”), Wentworth Miller (Captain Cold) and Caity Lotz (The first Black Canary). This raises at least two question. If Victor Garber is present, what about Robbie Amell, who plays the other half of Firestorm? As the Black Canary was killed, does this mean that the Canary will return to life, or that she will play a different character?

The other planned show in the same universe, Supergirl, has added a former Superman and Supergirl to the cast, Dean Cain, who played Clark Kent in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and Helen Slater, who stared in the 1984 Supergirl movie. Calista Flockhart has also been added to the cast.

12 Monkeys 2

12 Monkeys had another strong episode in which time travel, along with the relationship between Cole and Cassie, played a big part. There was also a sort of role reversal here like on Sleepy Hollow. With his time jumping, there was a period in which Cassie was ahead of Cole, and realized he could be going to his death but could not warn him. There is no doubt that Cole will return, as was verified by executive producer Natalie Chaidez, but with time travel it is possible that he will not return in the same timeline to the point after this episode concluded for Cassie. He is certainly going to make it back to 1987 at some point. The episode also included an evil version of Edward Snowden, but the CIA was far more evil in unleashing a virus to try to kill him without taking the blame.

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Originally posted at Liberal Values

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Maps to the Stars (Movie Review) http://themoderatevoice.com/203169/maps-to-the-stars-movie-review/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203169/maps-to-the-stars-movie-review/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 00:38:49 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203169 5/5 There is skewering Hollywood and then there is squeezing it by the neck, disemboweling it with a straight razor and gathering ‘round to watch ants engulf the giblets as the host writhes in pain on the Walk of Fame. I’m often quite suspicious of cynicism, but here, screenwriter Bruce Wagner assimilates it so totally [...]

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5/5

There is skewering Hollywood and then there is squeezing it by the neck, disemboweling it with a straight razor and gathering ‘round to watch ants engulf the giblets as the host writhes in pain on the Walk of Fame. I’m often quite suspicious of cynicism, but here, screenwriter Bruce Wagner assimilates it so totally that it rises beyond simplistic pessimism and alchemizes into a toxic, forlorn ecstasy. It left me shaking in my seat with delight.

Maps to the Stars is as good a film as any David Cronenberg has ever made, and yet it is also unlike anything we’ve ever seen from him. Gone is the glacial introspection of Dead Ringers, Spider, and Cosmopolis, replaced here by a joyful indulgence of madness that doesn’t lose a fraction of the intelligence we’ve come to admire in the director. The film finds him taking well-trodden subject matter, the specter of the Hollywood machine, and presenting it as a nasty, bracingly clear peephole into the insecurities and neuroses that the film industry effortlessly facilitates. Where a director like David Lynch would have injected a great deal of romanticism to soften the swallow, Cronenberg ingests the world he paints with the totality of a boa constrictor: bones and all.

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As the film begins, the camera slithers through the aisle of an L.A. bound bus and lands on Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska), a former child star who becomes the connective tissue of the narrative.When she hops off the bus, she immediately befriends Jerome (Robert Pattinson), a limousine driver with ambitions to — stop me if you’ve heard this one — act and write, specifically to star in the script he’s writing. Agatha tells him she’s in town visiting family, but to what end? She is the lost child of the Weiss family, one of Hollywood’s dynasties, composed of nearly every Tinsel Town archetype you can imagine; Stafford (John Cusack), a world-renowned self-help guru who flirts with Chopra-esque mysticism; Benjie (Evan Bird) a teen heartthrob who, beneath the squeaky-clean veneer of calculated fame, is a recovering drug addict who appears to make a passionate hobby out of being aggressively insufferable towards everyone he meets; and Christina (Olivia Williams), the mother who “nurtures” her baby boy into impenetrable misanthropy. They have all excommunicated her from their lives after a disastrous incident many years ago, although I’m careful not to reveal what it is.

Nevertheless, Agatha is led back to them after quickly securing employment as assistant to movie star Havana Segrand. Havana, played brilliantly by Julianne Moore, is as pathetic as washed-up actresses come, and it’s not entirely her fault. She attends regular sessions with Dr. Weiss to come to terms with emotional and physical abuse performed by her now deceased mother, also an actress. Havana’s dream project is to play her mother in a long-gestating remake of one of her classic films, Stolen Waters. It is unclear wether this is an attempt at catharsis or a deeper plunge into the seedy recesses of her psychosis. I’m betting on a bit of both.

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In classic Cronenberg fashion, the repressed troubles of all of these people soon occupy reality. Early in the film, Benjie visits a dying fan in the hospital and, after being fed false information by his agent, mistakenly assumes she has AIDS. Soon, visions of the girl begin to haunt his life, reminding him periodically of his deepest flaws. Is she a ghost, or is Benjie simply crazy, just like his older sister? She too had the visions, but what does that mean, exactly? Is it some variety of family curse, or is it more deeply rooted than that? And how does this relate to Havana? She too begins to receive visits from an otherworldly presence, her mother’s youthful figure appearing every so often to remind her of her failures as an actress and as a person. Is she a ghost too? In the end, I’m not certain it matters.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Bruce Wagner’s script is boiling over with a wealth of rich material to draw from, spreading its thorny tendrils in all directions, and Cronenberg balances it all with the tact and gentle dexterity of a master. He has progressed through low-budget horror to prestige pictures featuring the finest actors in the world. The shackles of the industry have dissolved from his wrists. He has done everything, and he is now capable of anything. Never has a film so full seemed so lean, with all of its multicolored ducks aligned with near-mathematical precision. He, like the great Clint Eastwood, is incapable of human judgement. His characters are hateful, spiteful, and ultimately tragic, and yet his dramatic treatment comes not from a place of hate but of pity. He sees at the center of all of them an immediately recognizable thirst. After all, their attitudes are born out of a dream had by everyone on Earth at least once — to cement one’s place in the stars.

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In the past, the Cronenberg films that alienate audiences the most have always been the ones to immediately strike me. A Dangerous Method was met with yawns and indifference, with some arguing it was the director’s least distinctive effort to date. I found it fascinating throughout. Cosmopolis managed to leave so many people stone cold that it is most notable by its complete non-impact. I thought it was one of the most adventurous pieces of filmmaking I had ever seen.  I can’t say where Maps to the Stars will fall in this schematic, but know this: if nobody else is in love with this movie, I am. Yes, it is acerbic to the nth degree, but I am incapable of dismissing a movie of such craft, truth, and painful sincerity. “Sincerity” may seem an odd word to describe a satire, but as Bruce Wagner stated in an interview, Maps to the Stars is not a satire. It is a descent into a kind of spiritual unrest only Hollywood can produce, a paranoia that you’re being used and forgotten almost as quickly as you’re using and forgetting everybody else. In this industry, there are no saints.

If it makes any statement about Hollywood itself, it is precisely that. Yes, there is a running theme of incest, and that speaks volumes about the nature of industry success, but the film uses this to cut more deeply than that. The characters in this film seem at once precious and instantly disposable to one another. One moment, they nurture each other through their anxieties. The next moment, they toss each other into the proverbial garbage disposal without thinking twice about flicking the “on” switch. There is a fleeting relationship in the film between Agatha and Jerome the Limousine driver. What exactly are they to each other? At first, Jerome seems trepidatious — Agatha is, as he says, “a little crazy” — and yet he continues to lead her on. Why? In one very telling scene, Jerome is hired to give Havana a ride home. She asks him if he dates Agatha simply because it’s good research. Everything, he quips, is research in a way. Indeed.

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Congress and Israel-Iran: Another Veto? http://themoderatevoice.com/203167/congress-and-israel-iran-another-veto/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203167/congress-and-israel-iran-another-veto/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 19:36:19 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203167 Nerves are already frayed, tempers are already flaring, invectives are already flying over the ill-advised, ill-mannered, ill-natured and ill-timed decision by Boehner & Co. to unilaterally invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress next week without the courtesy of even mentioning it to the President. Joe Gandelman addresses some [...]

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Nerves are already frayed, tempers are already flaring, invectives are already flying over the ill-advised, ill-mannered, ill-natured and ill-timed decision by Boehner & Co. to unilaterally invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress next week without the courtesy of even mentioning it to the President.

Joe Gandelman addresses some of the “consequences of Netanyahu’s action and its transparent political meaning and significance for Israel and America’s political process” here.

But it gets more interesting.

Reuters is reporting that, according to the White House, Obama would veto a bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate by four Senators, including two Democrats, that would allow Congress to weigh in on any deal the United States and other negotiating countries reach with Iran on its nuclear capabilities.

Reuters:

“The president has been clear that now is not the time for Congress to pass additional legislation on Iran. If this bill is sent to the president, he will veto it,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council.
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The United States and five other major powers are seeking to negotiate an agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
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The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act would require to submit to Congress the text of any agreement within five days of concluding a final deal with Iran. The bill would also prohibit Obama from suspending or waiving sanctions on Iran passed by Congress for 60 days after a deal.
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Meehan said United States “should give our negotiators the best chance of success, rather than complicating their efforts.”

Reuters correctly points out that “negotiations between the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany, Britain and Iran have reached a crucial stage, with a basic framework agreement due by the end of March,” and concludes with comments by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) alluding to being “disappointed” with the president wanting to speak with a unified voice for our country.

Read more here and stay tuned.

Lead image: www.shutterstock.com

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Cartoon: Boris Nemtsov Killed in Moscow http://themoderatevoice.com/203165/cartoon-boris-nemtsov-killed-in-moscow/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203165/cartoon-boris-nemtsov-killed-in-moscow/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 17:59:48 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203165 See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at http://cagle.com. To license this cartoon for your own site, visit http://politicalcartoons.com

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Sergei Elkin, Rian

Sergei Elkin, Rian

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Netanyahu Speech to Congress Sparks Increasing Warnings http://themoderatevoice.com/203161/netanyahu-speech-to-congress-increasing-warnings/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203161/netanyahu-speech-to-congress-increasing-warnings/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 16:43:05 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203161 Conservative talkers and some in the non-monolithic Jewish community may be applauding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to take up House Speaker John Boehner’s offer to in effect give President Barack Obama and the State Department a fingered half a peace sign and speak to Congress anyway, but the decision is also now bringing [...]

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Conservative talkers and some in the non-monolithic Jewish community may be applauding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to take up House Speaker John Boehner’s offer to in effect give President Barack Obama and the State Department a fingered half a peace sign and speak to Congress anyway, but the decision is also now bringing increased condemnations — and warnings. Those who defend Netanyahu paint him as example of a profile in courage — going ahead with a speech to warn the U.S. Congress to avoid what could be bad deal with Iran that could threaten Israel’s existence.

But there are an increasing number of voices who consider him a politician blantantly trying to boost his election chances, by using President Barack Obama as a foil, willing to become a participant in the unprecedented insertion of a foreign leader directly into America’s 24/7 partisan wars — and taking the step of speaking to the U.S. Congress in a speech by a foreign leader that is also unprecedented because it was not cleared in advance and still is in fact opposed by the White House.

Here are some chunks of two of the most notable recent columns about the consequences of Netanyahu’s action and is transparent political meaning and significance for Israel and America’s political process.

Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in his monthly foreign affairs column for The Washington Post, in a column “At what price Netanyahu?”:

Do we really need the Israeli prime minister to appear before Congress to explain the dangers and pitfalls of certain prospective deals on Iran’s nuclear weapons programs? Would we not know otherwise? Have the U.S. critics of those prospective deals lost their voice? Are they shy about expressing their concerns? Are they inarticulate or incompetent? Do they lack the wherewithal to get their message out?

Not exactly. Every day a new report or analysis warns of the consequences of various concessions that the Obama administration may or may not be making. Some think tanks in Washington devote themselves almost entirely to the subject of Iran’s nuclear program. Congress has held numerous hearings on the subject. Every week, perhaps every day, high-ranking members of the House and Senate, from both parties, lay out the dangers they see. The Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and others publish countless stories on the talks in which experts weigh in to express their doubts. If all the articles, statements and analyses produced in the United States on this subject could be traded for centrifuges, the Iranian nuclear program would be eliminated in a week.

Nor can it be said that we are somehow unaware of Israel’s views on this deal. It is not as if our news media will not report Israeli concerns and complaints. The statements and opinions of the Israeli prime minister, of members of his government and of the military and intelligence services are amply covered in the United States. Israeli officials — including the prime minister — can and do travel to the United States to express their concerns, with or without presidential invitations…..

…..Given all this, can it really be the case that the American people will not know what to think about any prospective Iran deal until one man, and only one man, gets up to speak in one venue, and only one venue, and does so in the first week of March, and only in that week? That is what those who insist it is vital that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak before a joint meeting of Congress next week would have us believe.

He details the arguments of those defending and championing the speech White House and State Department are making and notes there will be a price:

I will leave it to the Israeli government and people to worry about what damage the prime minister’s decision could have on U.S.-Israeli relations going forward, and not just under this administration. Those Americans who care most about that relationship will also have to weigh whether the short-term benefits of having Netanyahu speak will outweigh potential long-term costs. Looking back on it from years hence, will the spectacle of an Israeli prime minister coming to Washington to do battle with an American president wear well or poorly?

For the United States, however, there is no doubt that the precedent being set is a bad one. This is not the first time that a U.S. administration and an Israeli prime minister have been at loggerheads. President George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, reportedly detested then-prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and did their best to help him lose his next election. Baker even had a few choice words for the American Jews who tried to come to the Israeli government’s defense. Did anyone at the time think of inviting Shamir to address Congress? The very idea would have been regarded as laughable. Now, we’re supposed to believe that it’s perfectly reasonable.

Is anyone thinking about the future? From now on, whenever the opposition party happens to control Congress — a common enough occurrence — it may call in a foreign leader to speak to a joint meeting of Congress against a president and his policies. Think of how this might have played out in the past. A Democratic-controlled Congress in the 1980s might, for instance, have called the Nobel Prize-winning Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to denounce President Ronald Reagan’s policies in Central America. A Democratic-controlled Congress in 2003 might have called French President Jacques Chirac to oppose President George W. Bush’s impending war in Iraq.

I’ve made the same point in several forums and have given up leaving comments. Those who defend Netanyahu insist it’s not breaking precedent — since we’re now in the 21st century where people repeat a mantra over and over and feel that the repetition of a political or ideological mantra that may not become accurate makes it a fact. It’s like Lucy in Peanuts insisting to Charlie Brown that snow comes up from the ground. Or, they start talking about Barack Obama on a host of other issues: changing the subject is another tiresome, truly trite device done to death these days.

But Kagan nails it with his final comment:

Those who favor having Netanyahu speak may imagine this is an extraordinary situation requiring extraordinary measures, that one side is so clearly right, the other so clearly wrong. Yet that is often how people feel about the crisis of their time. We can be sure that in the future the urgency will seem just as great. The only difference between then and now is that today, bringing a foreign leader before Congress to challenge a U.S. president’s policies is unprecedented. After next week, it will be just another weapon in our bitter partisan struggle.

And, yes, this will be the new reality: After Netanyhu’s speech, foreign leaders can directly insert themselves into America’s political process and receive the backing of a built in network of one political party and its media infocomplex. Democrats will take note and it’ll be the new normal in this new century and going forward. As far as the speech, it is now such a partisan event that you can skip watching Fox News and just imagine the praise he’s likely to get and you can tell in advance what certain websites will write.

Meanwhile, in Israel, the newspaper Haaretz (I contributed to it’s op-ed page from Madrid when I wrote from Spain the mid to late 1970s) blasted Netanyahu in an editorial titled, “Netanyahu insists on wrecking Israel’s ties with United States” — yet another sign that Mr. Boehner’s invitation of Mr. Netanyahu coming here without first checking with the White House and then defying the executive branch on going ahead with the speech is not universally applauded in Israel. A chunk of that:

For three and a half decades, ever since the peace agreement with Egypt was signed, Israel has enjoyed strategic security as well as diplomatic and economic cooperation with the United States. But this important arrangement, which worked well as long as each side knew its role in the equation, is liable to be gravely impaired by Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions.

It seems the Israeli prime minister, due primarily to electoral considerations, is determined to act like a wrecking ball. On the eve of Israel’s election, Netanyahu is insisting on damaging Israel’s most important relationship. His grip on power is shaky, and he’s acting like someone who has nothing to lose.

Instead of respecting the American president and refraining from intervention in his domestic and foreign policy, Netanyahu is insisting on embarrassing Barack Obama in his home court. He will challenge Obama on Capitol Hill and urge the president’s political opponents to disrupt his diplomacy with Iran, just so that he can portray himself as the “savior of the nation” back home and please his master, American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, an avid supporter of both Netanyahu and the Republicans.

Warnings were sounded from the moment Speaker of the House John Boehner, together with Netanyahu and his ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, concocted this anti-Obama address to a joint session of Congress, and these warnings are coming true every day.

So you can’t dismiss those critical of Netanyahu as merely being liberals, Democrats, secret Democrats who won’t admit it, or anti-Semitic or not concerned about Israel’s future. MORE:

If Netanyahu were a responsible leader, he would never have gone so low as to engage in a frontal confrontation with the U.S. president.

Instead, he would have made sure to forge an alliance of interests with Obama based on mutual understandings. Then, surely, he would have been able to exert significant influence over the negotiations with Iran, whereas his speech isn’t expected to have any influence at all, aside from destroying Israel’s relationship with the United States.

This flawed judgment, which betrays the trust the public reposed in him as a leader and a statesman, bolsters the need to elect a different prime minister. And one of that premier’s first tasks will be to fix what Netanyahu has destroyed.

Read the entire editorial.

In reality, Netanyahu is acting more like someone who is a Republican in the House of Representatives with the Department of Homeland Security funding bill in front of him, rather than the Prime Minister of a country and someone who operates under long-accepted diplomatic norms.

But it now seems like Netanyahu will get what many think he really wants: to use Obama as a device to win re-election. Haaretez’s Anshel Pfeffer calls Obama his “greatest asset.”

Israel relies on its alliance with the U.S. in ways that few other countries do, and the damage he is currently causing will outlive Obama’s last term. But for now Netanyahu is living in the short term.

It’s not just Obama’s singular inability to fight dirty that has enabled Netanyahu to take advantage. While the great majority of Israel’s political and diplomatic establishment is up in arms at his recklessness, the American president has no well of sympathy or respect to draw on to build an effective political counterattack.

As in so many countries, Obama has succeeded in dramatically letting down both sides of Israel’s political divide.

Netanyahu’s rivals, including Labor leader Isaac Herzog, are no fans of what they see as Obama’s foolhardy drive to sign a deal with the Iranians at all cost. And while the Israeli left wing yearns for a diplomatic settlement with the Palestinians, it is aghast at the ineptness of his administration’s efforts to move the peace process forward.

Unlike previous presidents, Obama made scant effort to court Israeli public opinion and is deeply unpopular here. On many levels U.S.-Israel security and diplomatic cooperation during the past six years has never been so close, but this fact has failed to register with the voters.

Likud figures privately are describing the furor surrounding the speech as a win-win situation. Now, no matter how the administration reacts, Netanyahu will score with his base, and all the criticism of his government’s social and financial policies and revelations about his personal affairs are being drowned out by the row with Washington.

At this point, a backlash may even work in Netanyahu’s favor. He has snookered the president into a position that no matter how he responds, he is likely to help Likud gain the right-wing votes it lacks to ensure it is the largest party on March 18.

Obama is currently Netanyahu’s greatest political asset.

And so the political interests of John Boehner, many conservative talkers and conservative writers and Netanyahu now converge.

It’s about whipping up the base.

If Netanyahu loses his PM race, he now has the partisan creds to join CPAC and get a job as a Fox News paid contributor.

Photo: By Benjamin Netanyahu on September 14, 2010.jpg: US State Dept. derivative work: TheCuriousGnome (Benjamin Netanyahu on September 14, 2010.jpg) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Yes Indeed: Venezuela Coup Attempts are Aided by Washington (La Jornada, Mexico) http://themoderatevoice.com/203158/yes-indeed-venezuela-coup-attempts-are-aided-by-washington-la-jornada-mexico/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203158/yes-indeed-venezuela-coup-attempts-are-aided-by-washington-la-jornada-mexico/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 16:30:18 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203158 Since Hugo Chavez was first elected president of Venezuela in 1999, the country’s leaders have charged the United States with overtly and covertly working to undermine its government, which Washington regards as hostile to its interests. Never mind that according to former President Jimmy Carter, Venezuela has ‘the best electoral system in the world.’ For [...]

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Since Hugo Chavez was first elected president of Venezuela in 1999, the country’s leaders have charged the United States with overtly and covertly working to undermine its government, which Washington regards as hostile to its interests. Never mind that according to former President Jimmy Carter, Venezuela has ‘the best electoral system in the world.’ For Mexico’s La Jornada, columnist Angel Guerra Cabrera highlights mounting evidence that claims of active U.S. involvement in opposition efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro are more than the hyperbolic claims of a government under siege.

For La Jornada, Angel Guerra Cabrera begins by outlining the coup that the Venezuela government charges was attempted a few weeks ago, and then describes the form U.S. backing for these efforts take:

In his National Security Strategy released in February, President Obama says: “We stand by the citizens of countries where the full exercise of democracy is at risk, such as Venezuela.” Here is the explanation for the extraordinary increase in coup attempts against Bolivarian Venezuela, since the dawn of the Hugo Chávez presidency one of the most democratic countries in the world.

 

The coup attempts intensified, particularly after the election of President Maduro in April 2013. Washington and the oligarchs decided to pull out all the stops to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution, taking advantage of the very profound physical absence of its historic leader. From that moment on the violence has periodically erupted against the backdrop of a massive global media campaign to discredit the Bolivarian government even bigger than the one carried out between Chávez’ first election campaign (1998) and his death.

 

The Venezuelan opposition detests democracy, but the instructions coming from Washington have lately forced it to shamelessly transition to repeated attempts to topple the Bolivarian government and take advantage of the best electoral system in the world, as defined by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. The opposition governs several states and a number of municipalities, and it has significant, albeit minority representation, in the National Assembly.

 

An important element of the coup actions have been shortages created by big businesses that hoard or smuggle the subsidized basic basket of staple goods to Colombia, which they buy with dollars sold at preferential prices by the Venezuelan government.

 

The United States, with its embassies in Caracas and Bogota, is actively involved with planning these coup actions against Venezuela. Washington utilizes foundations like the National Democratic and National Republican Institutes or solicits collaboration from figures it trusts to conceal the leading role it plays in these efforts, such as former Presidents Álvaro Uribe [Colombia], Sebastián Piñera [Chile], Andrés Pastrana [Colombia] or Felipe Calderón [Mexico].

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR SPANISH, OR READ MORE GLOBAL PERCEPTIONS OF OUR NATION AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of global news and views about the United States.

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Justifiable Fear of a Creeping Police State (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany) http://themoderatevoice.com/203147/the-justified-and-growing-fear-of-a-creeping-police-state-frankfurter-allgemeine-zeitung-germany/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203147/the-justified-and-growing-fear-of-a-creeping-police-state-frankfurter-allgemeine-zeitung-germany/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 16:01:49 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203147 The recently reported theft by American and British intelligence of SIM card codes for potentially billions of smart phones around the world may be a tipping point in thinking about how much crime a democracy is willing to allow its spies to commit. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung columnist Jasper von Altenbockum writes that ‘If even American [...]

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The recently reported theft by American and British intelligence of SIM card codes for potentially billions of smart phones around the world may be a tipping point in thinking about how much crime a democracy is willing to allow its spies to commit. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung columnist Jasper von Altenbockum writes that ‘If even American or British intelligence agencies are so unscrupulous, others will be even more so,’ raising questions about whether and when such activity crosses the ‘police state’ threshold.

For Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jasper von Altenbockum begins by examining why the NSA and its British counterpart GHCQ would execute such a massive theft:

The “Gemalto hack” won’t be the last surprise Edward Snowden’s arsenal has in store for us. Even so, is the theft of SIM card codes a surprise to anyone? The American and British intelligence services that stand accused of this piracy would only have been choosing the easy path: Why go through the trouble of cracking encryption when stealing codes is so much faster and easier? Why bother to seek a warrant when the data can so easily be hacked and hijacked? For anyone surprised by all this, here’s a hint: that’s how intelligence services operate. They are even meant to operate that way. If they weren’t allowed to do so, we wouldn’t need intelligence services.

 

As with all of the Snowden revelations, the extent of this alleged state data theft isn’t quite clear, nor is it clear whether it even took place as claimed by the Web site The Intercept. Bloggers who are not as taken with Snowden as are “true believers” had their doubts when the Gemalto story broke, and now that Gemalto has denied the hack story, they can feel vindicated.

 

But since the intelligence services practiced electronic surveillance and systematically spied on the security firm’s employees in order to access as many records as possible – which Gemalto doesn’t deny – it is only natural to recall the image of the “haystack”: They may only be looking for a pin, but to do so they want the entire haystack, i.e.: everything.

 

This raises the old question of whether security policies based on the philosophy of the haystack undermine what it purports to protect: freedom and justice. It also raises the question of whether there are governments in Washington and London that can and desire to exercise even partial control over all the mischief committed in their names.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR GERMAN, OR READ MORE GLOBAL PERCEPTIONS OF MASS SURVEILLANCE AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of global news and views about the United States.

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Cartoon: Stalin Putin http://themoderatevoice.com/203156/cartoon-stalin-putin/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203156/cartoon-stalin-putin/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 09:09:53 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203156 See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at http://cagle.com. To license this cartoon for your own site, visit http://politicalcartoons.com

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Martin Sutovec, Slovakia

Martin Sutovec, Slovakia


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Olbermann: The Once and Former King http://themoderatevoice.com/203154/203154/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203154/203154/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 09:02:20 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203154 Olbermann: The Once and Former King By Christine Flowers Keith Olbermann should be used to this by now. Two-bit, Class B second tier provocateurs can’t be terribly surprised when they’re disciplined for the umpteenth time. They thrive on reaction, court controversy and have a masterful way of turning justified castigation into unjustified persecution. Among this [...]

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Olbermann: The Once and Former King
By Christine Flowers

Keith Olbermann should be used to this by now. Two-bit, Class B second tier provocateurs can’t be terribly surprised when they’re disciplined for the umpteenth time. They thrive on reaction, court controversy and have a masterful way of turning justified castigation into unjustified persecution. Among this motley crew of the mediocre, Olbermann used to be king.

For a while, though, he’d been relatively silent. Or, rather, he’d been unnoticed. Deposed from his high profile perch by the much more talented Rachel Maddow, his former protege (ouch), the ex-ESPN turned ex-MSNBC turned likely ex-ESPN nonentity was yapping his inanities to a significantly reduced audience.

But even nonentities can sporadically rear up and roar. And that’s what happened this week when Olbermann got into a Twitter battle over Penn State’s magnificent kids, the ones who stage the annual “THON” fundraiser which has raised millions of dollars for cancer research over the past four decades.

A young PSU coed, Lisa Aiella DeLeon, tweeted “We Are!” and provided a link to a campus newspaper article describing THON. Olbermann, who somehow has time in his busy schedule to harass young women, responded “Pitiful.” When the astounded coed tried to school Olbermann in the noble history of the fundraiser, he responded “PSU students are pitiful because they’re PSU students. Period.

“No one has ever accused Keith Olbermann of nuance. His jeremiads against George W. Bush were almost Elmer Gantry-ish in their equal measures of passion and hyperbole. But it’s one thing to attack a president who thrust himself into the public eye and who conducts foreign policy with which you disagree, and another to ridicule a young woman who is proud of a charitable endeavor just because you don’t like her alma mater.

The fact that you’ve made no secret of your abject hatred for PSU (because, you know, it recruits and employs pedophiles and pedophile enablers whose names end in “o”) gives some indication as to why an innocuous tweet praising the school would get your Depends in a twist.

But in a world where even someone as institutional as Dan Rather can be banished for shoddy work and someone as photogenic as Brian Williams can be furloughed for stealing someone else’s valor, Olbermann had to know that his little temper tantrum would elicit a reaction from the corporate bosses.

Frankly, the reaction was mild. A week long suspension from the airwaves and an apology that was as sincere as the confessions from those blindfolded hostages on YouTube videos is not enough to expiate this arrogant blowhard’s sins.

Normally, I think we should all get a thicker skin and stop being so easily offended by caustic comments. It’s gotten to the point that you need have a contract drawn up with contingency clauses before you voice an opinion on anything more controversial than whether Betty or Veronica is Archie’s true soul mate.

But Olbermann is just the most recent in a long line of pundits and public figures who need to have their mouths licensed as lethal weapons and who should bear the consequences of their verbal assaults.

There’s Rudy Giuliani, who rather arrogantly pronounced that President Obama doesn’t “love” this country the way he, apparently, does. I adore Rudy The Mayor and Rudy the U.S. Attorney, but for a man who had his first marriage annulled because the bride was his “first cousin” and then cheated on his second wife with the woman who (pay attention…) became his third wife, he’s not exactly in a position to judge someone else’s version of “love.”

Then we have some clueless Cleveland anchor using the term “jigaboo” to describe Lady Gaga’s performance at the Oscars, causing some to wonder if you can be both racist and an idiot at the same time. I haven’t heard that term in a long while, and I think the airhead who used the term didn’t understand its cultural significance, but if your vocabulary is that limited you really need to join the Carmelites.

And here in Pennsylvania we have a Supreme Court nominee who forwards an email that depicts an imprisoned black man talking to his wife through a glass partition with the caption “Touching and heartwarming, Merry Christmas to All!” The judge first stated that he didn’t remember sending the email, and then, with a straight face, indicated that he didn’t think it was racist. He did, it was and he’s out.

Which brings me back to Olbermann. While I normally think we need to have a greater deal of tolerance for idiots, I think it’s important for society to demand certain standards of decency from those who are given the gift of being heard, whether by sports fans, Ohioans or criminal defendants. This has nothing to do with the First Amendment. This has to do with good taste and better judgment.

So ESPN should just take a page from those wonderful kids at Penn State and do a charitable work: fire Olbermann.

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© 2015 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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Ex-Mossad chief: Netanyahu taking ‘intolerable’ risks with Israeli security http://themoderatevoice.com/203152/ex-mossad-chief-pm-taking-intolerable-risks-with-israeli-security/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203152/ex-mossad-chief-pm-taking-intolerable-risks-with-israeli-security/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 08:54:36 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203152 Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan at a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in 2010. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90) Former Mossad spy agency chief Meir Dagan accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday of having caused Israel “heavy strategic damage on the Iranian issue” by antagonizing US leadership, and said the premier [...]

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Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan at a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in 2010. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90) Former Mossad spy agency chief Meir Dagan accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday of having caused Israel “heavy strategic damage on the Iranian issue” by antagonizing US leadership, and said the premier had…

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Guantanamo: Interview with Nancy Hollander http://themoderatevoice.com/202984/interview-nancy-hollander/ http://themoderatevoice.com/202984/interview-nancy-hollander/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 04:45:46 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=202984 Nancy Hollander is a partner at the law firm of Freedman, Boyd, Hollander, Goldberg, Urias & Ward in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her practice is largely devoted to criminal cases, including those involving national security issues. She has also been counsel in numerous civil cases, forfeitures and administrative hearings, and has argued and won a case [...]

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Nancy Hollander is a partner at the law firm of Freedman, Boyd, Hollander, Goldberg, Urias & Ward in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her practice is largely devoted to criminal cases, including those involving national security issues. She has also been counsel in numerous civil cases, forfeitures and administrative hearings, and has argued and won a case involving religious freedom in the United States Supreme Court. Ms. Hollander also served as a consultant to the defense in a high profile terrorism case in Ireland, has assisted counsel in other international cases and represents two prisoners at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. On February 28, 2015, I had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Hollander by e-mail exchange.

The Talking Dog: Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001?

Nancy Hollander: I was in Albuquerque getting dressed to go to work and watching the news. I saw the first one and the second one. I went to work but we spent the day watching TV and calling everyone we knew in NYC to make sure they were o.k.. I did not appreciate at the time just how much the world had changed.

The Talking Dog: Please identify your Guantanamo clients, by name, nationality and current whereabouts (since, if I understand correctly, both are still detained at GTMO, the particular location there, if you can disclose it), and please tell us something about each of them (family, personality, anything you believe relevant of that nature?). To the extent you can publicly talk about it, can you tell me where their respective habeas litigations now stand procedurally, and since at least one has something to do with the on-again, apparently really, really off-again, military commissions, where those stand with your client(s)? And can you comment on the recent decision to shut down the commissions pending review of the decision to force the tribunal members to remain in Cuba, and if you can comment about any effect on the scheduling of Mr. Nashiri’s commission trial?

Nancy Hollander: I represent two prisoners. Abd Rahim Al-Nashiri and Mohamedou Ould Slahi. I started representing Mohamedou in 2005 and Abd Rahim in 2008.

Mohamedou won his habeas case in 2010 but the government appealed and the court of appeals remanded for a re-do under its newer, looser evidentiary and legal standards. This was part of a concerted effort by the Obama Administration to make it far more difficult for anyone to actually prevail in a habeas case. His case has stalled now for four years with no action from the district court. Mohamedou is a citizen of Mauritania. He won a scholarship to study in Germany as a young man and completed his degree in engineering there in the mid 1990’s. In approximately 1990, he went to Afghanistan to fight against the communist-controlled government. He trained at an AQ camp but when he left, he never had anything else to do with AQ. As you know, the U.S. supported the Afghans at that time with millions of dollars in guns and money. The federal judge who heard his case recognized that this was not the AQ that attacked us in 2001. Unfortunately the Justice Department and its client, the military, have tagged Mohamedou with “joining AQ” and that is where they hang their hat. At one point they accused him of being part of the Millennium Plot and later of recruiting for 9/11 but they did not have evidence for either so all they have is that he is still “part of AQ.” Much of this stems also from his cousin, Abu Hafs Al-Mauritani, who was reportedly a spiritual advisor to OBL. Abu Hafs, however is said (in the 9/11 Report) to have opposed the 9/11 action. It is now known that shortly after that he went to Iran, where he was under a sort of house arrest until 2012, when he was returned to Mauritania. After a short jail stay he was released and is now a free man—after talking to the FBI. How they can let him out and keep Mohamedou in is a mystery.

I have several co-counsel in the case—Theresa Duncan in Albuquerque, who has been with me since the beginning when she was an associate in my firm. She now has her own firm. Hina Shamsi and Jonathan Hafetz joined in 2009 when Jonathan was with the ACLU. He is now a law professor at Seton Hall and Hina is the National Security Director at the ACLU. Both still work on the case. Sometime later, Art Spitzer from the ACLU in D.C. joined us. And Linda Moreno from Tampa also joined in 2009. We all work pro bono and pay our own expenses.

Abd Rahim is charged in the military commission with being the “mastermind” of the USS Cole, etc. from 2002. He is facing the death penalty. The ACLU John Adams Project supports me in this representation. I work primarily as a consultant to the trial team at the commission. I find and prepare experts and do other tasks. I also represent the client in his habeas which is in the midst of appeals. And I represent him in one case before the European Court of Human rights. We just won that case but I cannot say much about it. Yesterday the government rescinded the order to transfer the judges to GTMO so who knows what will happen next. We should find out on Monday. I cannot talk about how or where they live. Suffice to say, they are imprisoned.

Abd Rahim has a team of civilian and military lawyers, led by Rick Kammen.

The Talking Dog: How did you come to represent the Guantanamo clients? Also… how did you come to represent Chelsea Manning? Can you draw parallels to their respective treatment– the draconian terms of incarcerations of all of them seemingly serves little purpose other than to avoid embarrassment to the government of Barack “no drama” Obama, for example… can you comment on the parallels between the matter of “state secrets” in the war on terror and war on whistleblowers, and now, apparently, American life in general?

Nancy Hollander: A lawyer I know in France asked me to represent Mohamedou and the ACLU asked me to represent Abd Rahim. I was part of the first legal team to see both. Chelsea wrote to me and asked me to represent her on appeal. My law partner, Vincent Ward is co-counsel and she also has military detailed counsel who work with us. Our work for Chelsea is supported by the ChelseaManning support group at ChelseaManning.org. and Courage to Resist. The parallel I can draw is that evidence that embarrasses the government should not be classified. But the government has classified everything the prisoners in Guantanamo say and I believe that is to prevent us knowing about their torture. And in Chelsea’s case we know that she provided information about human rights violations the government did not want to share. This is wrong. A government that has secrets like this (as opposed to true sources and methods that can be classified) is not consistent with a free society. We have to know what our government is doing, including what might embarrass it. President Obama should have closed Guantanamo when he said he would. He should have tried those for which his government had probable cause and released the rest. Remember that President Bush released 500 people! President Obama also should have begun investigations into the prosecutions of the torturers. We know who they are. The treaties we have signed require that they be prosecuted if there is probable cause to do so. But the Administration has stepped in to stop even the civil lawsuits on “state secret” grounds over and over. This is reprehensible.

The Talking Dog: Can you tell me the last time you saw your clients, particularly Mr. Slahi, and is there anything you can tell us of your observation of them (healthy, unhealthy, aging, thinning…) and if there isn’t, can you tell us if you are now actively litigating conditions of their confinement in their habeas cases, or elsewhere?

Nancy Hollander: We take turns visiting Mohamedou and try to do so approximately every two months. I saw him in the Fall, Teri, in January and Linda most recently. I will see him again in April. He is certainly healthier now than earlier, both physically and mentally but there is a fragility to him. He was so badly tortured that he will need the support and love of his family to adjust when he gets out—although I believe that ultimately he will be ok. He has great strength. I cannot talk about the conditions of confinement here.

The Talking Dog: Turning to your client Mohamedou Ould Slahi (or “Salahi” in court papers), I understand that his unusual, heavily redacted memoir Guantanamo Diary is now a best-seller at this point… do you have any thoughts on why that is [such as, for example, the intriguing redactions]? Assuming interest in him and his book ends up making him some kind of “Anne Frank of Guantanamo,” do you see this as any kind of turning point in the Guantanamo project, in terms of either public (or more importantly, elite) opinion, and perhaps stepped up general media coverage or interest… or do you think this will soon fall back into a “nothing to see here, move along” situation… like everything else GTMO -related over the last 13 years? Assuming you are at liberty to talk about any of this, I take it that the Diary represents material that, by definition, was presumed classified and had to be reviewed by “the privilege team” and ultimately cycled through the secure facility for lawyers near the Pentagon before any of it could be publicly disclosed… am I correct in my surmise that what ended up being the Diary was material Mr. Slahi handed to you or your co-counsel during legal visits, or did he mail it to you in “legal mail”? Did the government (military, intel services, etc.) review the book prior to publication to make sure nothing “classified” got published?” Or if you prefer, you may just answer “how the heck did you get this released?”

Nancy Hollander: On my first visit to Mohamedou in 2005, he handed me 90 pages that he had written so his lawyers would know something about him and about what had happened to him. During the course of that year he wrote the remaining 466 pages and sent it up in sections. The Privilege Team refused to review it because it was so long. We litigated this for years arguing that going to the “court of public opinion” is part of our litigation strategy and we want the book out. Finally, we gave up and he agreed to waive the attorney-client privilege so the various equity holders could review it. We do not know which intelligence organizations did the review but it came back a couple years later as “Protected.” This meant we could share it within the team but could not show it to anyone else. I went back to the government and told them he did not waive the privilege just so they could see what he wrote. I had various memos to back this up—that he waived to get a cleared copy that he could release to the public. Eventually they reviewed it again and we received the cleared copy. The whole 466 pages are up in a read-only file at www.guantanamodiary.com. We hired Larry Siems to edit into a book. The whole purpose of this book was to bring his story out and to assist in getting him freed. I hope it will do that. Everyone should read it—hard copy or Kindle. And it is now out in several languages. We have contracts already with about 23 countries so within the next few months, it will be out all over the world.

The Talking Dog: Turning to Slahi’s habeas case (or “Salahi’s”), my understanding is that the D.C. Circuit remanded Judge James Robertson’s previous grant of habeas relief to Slahi… I understand that the habeas is still pending before Judge Robertson. The D.C. Cir.’s decision was that Slahi could be properly held notwithstanding that he was not captured on a battlefield anywhere near Afghanistan– but handed himself in to Mauritanian authorities in November 2001, who in turn rendered him to Jordan, and then on to Bagram and GTMO… Among the government’s contentions is that notwithstanding that Slahi’s ties to al Qaeda date from the early 1990′s when it was ostensibly an American ally (if not contractor) in the fight against communists, he left it (and Afghanistan) to live in Germany in 1992, and alleges that he severed his ties to Al Qaeda at that point. According to the government, Salahi nonetheless continued to serve Al Qaeda by acting as a recruiter in Germany, and in that capacity in 1999 helped persuade three of the eventual 9/11 plotters to travel to Afghanistan to receive training, that he assisted an Al Qaeda agent in Germany with the purchase of telecommunications equipment in the 1990s, sent money to an Al Qaeda agent in Mauritania in this period, interacted in Montreal with an Al Qaeda cell later linked to the attempted millennium bomb plot, and upon returning to live in Mauritania explored the possibility of computer-based attacks. The D.C. Circuit noted that between Judge Robertson’s grant of habeas and the reversal/remand, D.C. Circuit case law had changed (or at least “clarified”), loosening up the requirements of what the government had to show on just about everything, right up to the “mosaic” theory so that no credible or reliable or otherwise admissible evidence at all is require to detain as long as there’s a lot of unreliable evidence… Anyway… to the extent you can publicly talk about any of this, and if you like, you can answer by noting what you have asserted in public filings, how much of the government’s allegations are based on the statements of either Slahi himself or other detainees that you have alleged were obtained by torture? By the way– same question kind of flipped… are you aware of public allegations of statements supposedly incriminating other Guantanamo detainees (or anyone else, as he alludes to many such inculpatory statements in his Diary) made by Slahi while under torture? Given the D.C. Circuit’s new and improved GTMO standards of proof and showing required to sustain detention, do you see much opening for Slahi in a “legal” sense, or would you agree with me, that whether or not Mr. Slahi is ever released will, like every other GTMO detainee to date of which I am aware, ultimately be a “political” matter?

Nancy Hollander: I answered much of this above. By the time Mohamedou got to Guantanamo from Jordan and Afghanistan, I believe the government already knew he had nothing to do with the Millennium Plot. They did not just release him because they didn’t want anyone to know where he had been. His family had been told he was in Mauritania the whole time and had been bringing food and clothing to the jail in Mauritania every day he was actually in Jordan. By the time of his hearing in 2010, the government admitted that he probably didn’t even know about 9/11. Judge Robertson found that all they proved was that Ramsi Bin Al-Shibh had been in his home one night in 1999. Mohamedou did make statements against others under his own torture and later admitted that he made them up. He talks about this in the book. We have a petition at the ACLU—aclu.org/freeslahi—asking the department of defense to stop fighting his habeas so he can be released. We also understand that he will receive a PRB hearing and hope that one way or the other he will be released this year. He is innocent.

The Talking Dog: Turning to specific allegations of torture, I’ll summarize by noting that Slahi was one of the few detainees with a “special interrogation plan” so special it required SecDef Rumsfeld’s personal permission, and, aside from physical abuse, involved months on end of sleep deprivation, forced standing, round-the-clock interrogation sessions, threats, bizarre sexual humiliation (readers are invited to read the book for more specifics) … the Diary suggests that the military officer ostensibly responsible for leading the team performing these abusive interrogations (i.e. torture) was one Navy Reserve Lt. Richard Zuley, who we have just learned from a Guardian report, is a retired detective from the Chicago Police Department, where, during his time on the police force, he evidently engaged in similar abusive treatment of criminal suspects, often resulting in false confessions. First question is straightforward– I take it Zuley is named specifically in publicly filed papers in Slahi’s habeas case? Do you know if other detainees have made public allegations concerning treatment by him? My next question is a bit broader (noting that,coincidentally, our mutual friend Candace Gorman hails from and practices in Chicago and coincidentally Barack Obama and I both graduated New York’s Columbia College in 1983 with degrees in political science concentrating in international politics)… is there something about Chicago (where both you and President Obama spent some time as community organizers,and Detective Zuley allegedly abused suspects) that the rest of us should know about?

Nancy Hollander: I cannot comment about Zuley. But I can tell you about the Chicago I knew in the 1960s and 70s— a subject for another day. Suffice to say, nothing would surprise me. I lived in the Foster Ave Police District where a bunch of them went to jail for selling stolen goods out of the basement of the police station. And I watched them shoot a man on the streets of Uptown.

The Talking Dog: How disappointed are you in President Obama concerning the fact that GTMO is still open and the prison there remains alive and well (even as some of its detainees are not, with 122 still there potentially indefinitely), his aggressive stance in appealing habeas cases (such as Slahi’s), and his prosecution of whatever the war on terror is called now as well as his advancement of the total security state?

Nancy Hollander: Completely disappointed. He folded on everything important—health care, immigration, criminal justice. What else is there?

The Talking Dog: I join my readers in thanking Nancy Hollander for that candid and informative interview. I encourage all readers interested in the story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi to check out Guantanamo Diary.

Readers interested in legal issues and related matters associated with the “war on terror” may also find talking dog blog interviews with former Guantanamo military commissions prosecutors Morris Davis and Darrel Vandeveld, with Guantanamo military commissions defense attorney Todd Pierce, with former Guantanamo combatant status review tribunal/”OARDEC” officer Stephen Abraham, with attorneys Jon Eisenberg, David Marshall, Jan Kitchel, Eric Lewis, Cori Crider, Michael Mone, Matt O’Hara, Carlos Warner, Matthew Melewski, Stewart “Buz” Eisenberg, Patricia Bronte, Kristine Huskey, Ellen Lubell, Ramzi Kassem, George Clarke, Buz Eisenberg, Steven Wax, Wells Dixon, Rebecca Dick, Wesley Powell, Martha Rayner, Angela Campbell, Stephen Truitt and Charles Carpenter, Gaillard Hunt, Robert Rachlin, Tina Foster, Brent Mickum, Marc Falkoff H. Candace Gorman, Eric Freedman, Michael Ratner, Thomas Wilner, Jonathan Hafetz, Joshua Denbeaux, Rick Wilson,
Neal Katyal, Joshua Colangelo Bryan, Baher Azmy, and Joshua Dratel (representing Guantanamo detainees and others held in “the war on terror”), with attorneys Donna Newman and Andrew Patel (representing “unlawful combatant” Jose Padilila), with Dr. David Nicholl, who spearheaded an effort among international physicians protesting force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, with physician and bioethicist Dr. Steven Miles on medical complicity in torture, with law professor and former Clinton Administration Ambassador-at-large for war crimes matters David Scheffer, with former Guantanamo detainees Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul , with former Guantanamo Bay Chaplain James Yee, with former Guantanamo Army Arabic linguist Erik Saar, with former Guantanamo sergeant-of-the-guard Joseph Hickman, with former Guantanamo military guard Terry Holdbrooks, Jr., with former military interrogator Matthew Alexander, with law professor and former Army J.A.G. officer Jeffrey Addicott, with law professor and Coast Guard officer Glenn Sulmasy, with author and geographer Trevor Paglen and with author and journalist Stephen Grey on the subject of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, with journalist and author David Rose on Guantanamo, with journalist Michael Otterman on the subject of American torture and related issues, with author and historian Andy Worthington detailing the capture and provenance of all of the Guantanamo detainees, with law professor Peter Honigsberg on various aspects of detention policy in the war on terror, with Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch, with Almerindo Ojeda of the Guantanamo Testimonials Project, with Karen Greenberg, author of The LeastWorst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days, with Charles Gittings of the Project to Enforce the Geneva Conventions, Laurel Fletcher, author of “The Guantanamo Effect” documenting the experience of Guantanamo detainees after their release, and with John Hickman, author of “Selling Guantanamo,” critiquing the official narrative surrounding Guantanamo, to be of interest.

graphic via shutterstock.com

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About #theDress http://themoderatevoice.com/203144/about-thedress/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203144/about-thedress/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 22:43:40 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203144 The science behind #theDress and the insights we might gain from this phenomenon.

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Of course, you’ve heard of #theDress by now.

I initially thought the Tumblr post was trolling. In other words, I thought the controversy was fake. But by late on Thursday night I was convinced it was real, and I shared it on Facebook. Of course, I shared it in an attempt to explain how it could be possible.

Perhaps this all-in-fun story will help us understand that, literally, everyone does not see the world the same way.

I know the dress that is for sale is really blue and black.

But that photo? #goldAndWhite!

The best explanation why this dichotomy is possible, and how our brains run the color show, comes from ASAP Science.

Click here to view the embedded video.

For more about what makes content go viral, see WiredPen.

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Inhabitants Of A Class M Planet Say Goodbye To Leonard Nimoy http://themoderatevoice.com/203142/inhabitants-of-a-class-m-planet-say-goodbye-to-leonard-nimoy/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203142/inhabitants-of-a-class-m-planet-say-goodbye-to-leonard-nimoy/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 19:57:54 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203142 A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP — Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) February 23, 2015 Above is the final tweet posted by Leonard Nimoy, who died yesterday. His twitter feed remains open, retweeting messages of condolence. Among those with tweets in memory of Nimoy were [...]

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Leonard Nimoy Twitter

Above is the final tweet posted by Leonard Nimoy, who died yesterday. His twitter feed remains open, retweeting messages of condolence.

Among those with tweets in memory of Nimoy were Barack Obama, President of the United States and William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise:

George Takai posted this on Facebook:

Today, the world lost a great man, and I lost a great friend. We return you now to the stars, Leonard. You taught us to “Live Long And Prosper,” and you indeed did, friend. I shall miss you in so many, many ways.

From NASA:

Yesterday night I pulled out the Blu Ray remastered discs of Star Trek: The Original Series. The picture quality is amazing, and for a short time Spock lived. There will be additional material on television this weekend in honor of Leonard Nimoy. Syfy will devote five hours of programing to the memory of Leonard Nimoy with his appearance on The Twilight Zone, the two part story which he appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and his last movie role with the original Star Trek cast. (He also had an appearance in the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.) The following will be on Sunday morning:

9:00AM The Twilight Zone/”A Quality of Mercy” 9:30AM Star Trek: The Next Generation/”Unification: Part I” 10:30AM Star Trek: The Next Generation/”Unification: Part 2” 11:30AM Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country

Epix is running two interviews with Leonard Nimoy:

The premium netowrk will run A Conversation with Leonard Nimoy on Friday, Feb. 27 at 11 p.m. (ET), followed on Saturday at 5:40 p.m. and 10 p.m., as well as Sunday, March 1 at 8 p.m. Nimoy looks back at his 50-year involvement with one of the sci-fi genre’s more famous franchises with Star Trek Into Darkness on Saturday at 10:15 p.m. and the following day at 8:15 p.m.

The following video is of Leonard Nimoy at Comic Con 2011:

Cross posted from Liberal Values

Update: More in SciFi Weekend, our weekly review of science fiction and genre. A longer statement from President Obama on Leonard Nimoy and the comparisons between Obama and Spock.

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Buchanan on GOP Hawks http://themoderatevoice.com/203110/buchanan-gop-hawks/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203110/buchanan-gop-hawks/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 15:05:06 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203110 Paleo-conservative Patrick Buchanan offers an insightful (and sobering) take on his party’s foreign policy hawks in The American Conservative. If the sadists of ISIS are seeking—with their mass executions, child rapes, immolations, and beheadings of Christians—to stampede us into a new war in the Middle East, they are succeeding. Repeatedly snapping the blood-red cape of [...]

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Paleo-conservative Patrick Buchanan offers an insightful (and sobering) take on his party’s foreign policy hawks in The American Conservative.

If the sadists of ISIS are seeking—with their mass executions, child rapes, immolations, and beheadings of Christians—to stampede us into a new war in the Middle East, they are succeeding. Repeatedly snapping the blood-red cape of terrorist atrocities in our faces has the Yankee bull snorting, pawing the ground, ready to charge again. “Nearly three-quarters of Republicans now favor sending ground troops into combat against the Islamic State,” says a CBS News poll. The poll was cited in a New York Times story about how the voice of the hawk is ascendant again in the GOP.

 

Either U.S. troops lead, or Mosul remains in ISIS’ hands. Yet taking Mosul is only the beginning. Scores of thousands of troops will be needed to defeat and destroy ISIS in Syria. And eradicating ISIS is but the first of the wars Republicans have in mind. This coming week, at the invitation of Speaker John Boehner, Bibi Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress.

 

His message: Obama and John Kerry are bringing back a rotten deal that will ensure Iran acquires nuclear weapons and becomes an existential threat to Israel. Congress must repudiate Obama’s deal, impose new sanctions on Iran and terminate the appeasement talks. Should Bibi and his Republican allies succeed in closing the ramp to a diplomatic solution, we will be on the road to war. Which is where Bibi wants us.

 

To him, Iran is the Nazi Germany of the 21st century, hell-bent on a new Holocaust. A U.S. war that does to the Ayatollah’s Iran what a U.S. war did to Hitler’s Germany would put Bibi in the history books as the Israeli Churchill.

This last paragraph is key to understanding the right-wing hawks. They tend to mis-define most foreign policy conflicts by characterizing them in Allies vs. Germany, preventing-the-Holocaust terms. This overlooks big differences between ISIS, Iran and Nazi Germany that are vital to an effective strategy against them.

  1. As opposed to a united Nazi Germany, there is a centuries old, tribal blood feud between Shia and Sunni Muslims. The only ones extremists in either group hate more than the US and the West are each other. We must understand and exploit this feud to deal with either at all effectively. Instead, GOP hawks advocate boots on the ground war with all of them simultaneously. As the Bush administration demonstrated with simultaneous failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, this would be ineffective and ruinously expensive.
  2. Dealing with Iran and ISIS need to be separated in an important way. Though it is ruled by theocrats, Iran is a much more modern nation seeking to advance itself through modern means. It can therefore be reasoned and negotiated with using economic incentives. This process will not be without complexity and difficulty but it is far more promising than war.
  3. As noted in a recent article in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood, ISIS is committed to bringing about a seventh century caliphate whose ultimate goal is Armageddon. If properly contained it will likely “be its own undoing.” ISIS has many enemies in the Arab world. Invading their territory likely heals these rifts and plays right into their hands.

Cross-posted from The Sensible Center

http://thesensiblecentercom.blogspot.com/2015/02/buchanan-on-gop-hawks.html

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Head transplants less than three years away, surgeon says http://themoderatevoice.com/203139/head-transplants-less-than-three-years-away-surgeon-says/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203139/head-transplants-less-than-three-years-away-surgeon-says/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 05:26:45 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203139 Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck The first-ever human head transplant operation could take place in less than three years time, according to bold claims made by one prominent Italian surgeon earlier this week. According to CNET, Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group (TANG) in Italy, believes that he had found a [...]

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Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck The first-ever human head transplant operation could take place in less than three years time, according to bold claims made by one prominent Italian surgeon earlier this week. According to CNET, Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group (TANG) in Italy, believes that he had found a way…

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Mike Peters Guest Cartoon: Leonard Nimoy Leaves Us http://themoderatevoice.com/203137/mike-peters-guest-cartoon-leonard-nimoy-leaves-us/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203137/mike-peters-guest-cartoon-leonard-nimoy-leaves-us/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 05:19:39 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203137 Leonard Nimoy Leaves Us by Mike Peters Of Related Interest: –To a Star Trek fan like me, Leonard Nimoy meant everything –Leonard Nimoy’s Passion for Photography –Our favorite Leonard Nimoy video clips –George Takei Devastated Over ‘Extraordinary’ Leonard Nimoy’s Death Mike Peters is recognized as one of our nation’s most prominent cartoon artists for his [...]

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Leonard Nimoy Leaves Us
by Mike Peters

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Of Related Interest:
To a Star Trek fan like me, Leonard Nimoy meant everything
Leonard Nimoy’s Passion for Photography
Our favorite Leonard Nimoy video clips
George Takei Devastated Over ‘Extraordinary’ Leonard Nimoy’s Death

Mike Peters is recognized as one of our nation’s most prominent cartoon artists for his outstanding work as both a political and comic strip cartoonist. His favorite expression “WHAT A HOOT” certainly sums up his outlook on his life and work which are inexorably entwined. Mike’s warm, easygoing and zany demeanor is evidence that his personality matches his creative talents. As so eloquently phrased by a colleague — “Mike is the Peter Pan of the cartooning world; he’s boyishly charming, good with a rapier and doesn’t spend a lot of time on the ground. And he doesn’t seem to want to grow up”.

The Comic Strip Mother Goose & Grimm appears in over 800 newspapers worldwide and consistently places in the top 10 most popular ratings. Licensees distribute Grimmy products all over the world, and the Grimmy TV show continues to air in several countries. Mother Goose & Grimm is included in the Toon Lagoon theme park at Universal Studios that opened in July 1999.

This copyrighted cartoon is licensed to be run on TMV and is from his website. Reproduction elsewhere is strictly prohibited.

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Russian opposition leader and Putin critic Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow http://themoderatevoice.com/203135/russian-opposition-leader-and-putin-critic-nemtsov-shot-dead-in-moscow/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203135/russian-opposition-leader-and-putin-critic-nemtsov-shot-dead-in-moscow/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 05:00:16 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203135 Russian opposition leader Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow. Nemtsov, 55, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, had been due to take part on Sunday in the first big opposition protest in months in the capital. Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed the death, saying it [...]

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Russian opposition leader Nemtsov shot dead in Moscow

Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow. Nemtsov, 55, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, had been due to take part on Sunday in the first big opposition protest in months in the capital. Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed the death, saying it had opened a criminal probe. “According to preliminary information,…

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(Breaking Updates) Republican Groundhog Day, Again and Again and… http://themoderatevoice.com/203132/republican-groundhog-day-again-and-again-and/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203132/republican-groundhog-day-again-and-again-and/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 01:50:39 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203132 Final Update: After hours, a day, a week of shameful posturing and attempting to hold funding for the critical Department of Homeland Security hostage to get their way on immigration, a Republican controlled Congress finally and reluctantly came to its senses — albeit temporarily. The Washington Post: Congress passed a one-week stopgap funding measure late [...]

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Final Update:

After hours, a day, a week of shameful posturing and attempting to hold funding for the critical Department of Homeland Security hostage to get their way on immigration, a Republican controlled Congress finally and reluctantly came to its senses — albeit temporarily.

The Washington Post:

Congress passed a one-week stopgap funding measure late Friday to avert a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security at midnight, sending the bill on to President Obama for his expected signature.
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The last-minute deal came together after a whirlwind day of negotiations in which House Republicans suffered a humiliating defeat when their 20-day funding bill was rejected. The arrangement is expected to prolong talks about longer-term DHS funding until at least early next week.
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After the House bill went down, the Senate sought to pull DHS back from the brink by swiftly passing the one-week bill. The House followed suit shortly thereafter.

Read more here

Update:

The Hill:

The Senate on Friday evening passed a one-week continuing resolution to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded. The measure passed by a voice vote.
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The move came after the Republican leadership in the House had failed in its bid to pass a three-week continuing resolution. The House proposal failed by a vote of 203-224.
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The Senate’s later move, amid a mood of deepening crisis at the Capitol, puts the ball back into the court of the House of Representatives. Absent new legislation, the Department of Homeland Security will shut down at midnight.
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Some Republicans believed that they could roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration reform by threatening a DHS shutdown. Others in the party believed that was a high-risk strategy that could easily become a political defeat for the GOP.

Read more here.

Original Post:

First, some breaking news. ABC has just reported, “Senate Passes Bill to Ensure Full Funding for Homeland Security for 1 Week”

Now back to your Groundhog Day news:

It is only four hours until funding runs out for the Department of Homeland Security, and they — you know who — are at it again.

The headlines say it all:

Homeland Security Department funding fight heads down to the wire after House GOP bid fails

Dysfunctional House Fails to Pass Temporary Homeland Security Funding – See more here.

Congress Fails to Pass Homeland Security Funding Bill; Agency To “Shut Down” At Midnight February 27

The Boston Globe: Bill to fund Homeland Security fails as deadline looms

Congress goes to brink on Homeland Security shutdown debate.

House rejects Homeland Security funding: The Republican-controlled House unexpectedly rejected short-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security on Friday, increasing the prospect of a partial shutdown at midnight.

ABC News: Congress Risks Department of Homeland Security Partial Shutdown Hours Before Funding Expires

House fails to pass funding bill, homeland security faces shutdown

The Wall Street Journal: Homeland Security Funding Bill Fails in House

Even The Times of India: Partial shutdown? US house rejects Homeland Security funding

Stay tuned.

Lead image: www.shutterstock.com

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Let’s Give O’Reilly Some Slack http://themoderatevoice.com/203130/lets-give-orilley-some-slack/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203130/lets-give-orilley-some-slack/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 00:28:19 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203130 I was in the thick of it on las Malvinas; I saw the nuns in El Salvador who were shot in the back of the head; I had to dig myself out of a mountain of bricks and rocks that pummeled on me during the Los Angeles riots; I answered the knock on the door [...]

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I was in the thick of it on las Malvinas; I saw the nuns in El Salvador who were shot in the back of the head; I had to dig myself out of a mountain of bricks and rocks that pummeled on me during the Los Angeles riots; I answered the knock on the door at de Mohrenschildt’s daughter’s house just after de Mohrenschildt blew his brains out; I was at Ford’s Theatre (private box of course) while Booth was killing Lincoln and never did I see hide nor hair of O’Reilly.

In all fairness to Mr. O’Reilly, that does not mean that the great combat correspondent and investigative reporter wasn’t just a few thousand miles nearby. It just means that I didn’t see him because of the fog of war, the heavy gun smoke, the choking rubble dust, the general pandemonium….

Furthermore, because of recent advances in communications, in the internet, in photography and especially in imagination, it often feels just like being there.

So, please, let us give O’Reilly some rope slack.

Fortunately, this story is finally being overtaken by the more important, breaking news of people disagreeing on the colors of a dress.

Lead image: www.shutterstock.com

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Cartoon: Leonard Nimoy http://themoderatevoice.com/203128/cartoon-leonard-nimoy/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203128/cartoon-leonard-nimoy/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 20:35:55 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203128 See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at http://cagle.com. To license this cartoon for your own site, visit http://politicalcartoons.com

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Bob Englehart, The Hartford Courant

Bob Englehart, The Hartford Courant

See great cartoons by all the top political cartoonists at http://cagle.com. To license this cartoon for your own site, visit http://politicalcartoons.com

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Leonard Nimoy, Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ Dies at 83 (ROUNDUP of Reactions and VIDEOS) http://themoderatevoice.com/203125/leonard-nimoy-spock-of-star-trek-dies-at-83/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203125/leonard-nimoy-spock-of-star-trek-dies-at-83/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:27:58 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203125 Leonard Nimoy, the character actor who became an icon due to his role as the always logical first officer on the starship Enterprise on “Star Trek,” has died at age 83. Nimoy was one of those handful of actors who created a role in a film or television show that became embedded in the popular [...]

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Leonard Nimoy, the character actor who became an icon due to his role as the always logical first officer on the starship Enterprise on “Star Trek,” has died at age 83. Nimoy was one of those handful of actors who created a role in a film or television show that became embedded in the popular culture for years after the film or TV show ended. And “Star Trek,” a show produced by Desilu Productions when Lucille Ball was firmly in charge, only ran from 1966-1969 on NBC, hugely popular with science fiction fans, scientists and others but never top-rated. Due to popular demand, the characters came back in series of motion pictures.


The New York Times:

The title of Leonard Nimoy’s autobiography was “I Am Not Spock,” and that so offended some fans that he followed it with a second, “I Am Spock.”

The actor who won a permanent place on the altar of pop culture for his portrayal of Mr. Spock on “Star Trek,” was almost as famous for wanting to be remembered for other things.

And that is, of course, highly illogical.

It’s hard to think of another star who was so closely and affectionately identified with a single role. Even George Reeves, the first television Superman, was also one of the Tarleton twins in “Gone With the Wind.”

It’s even harder to think of a television character that so fully embodied and defined a personality type. Just as Scrooge became synonymous with miser, and Peter Pan became a syndrome, Spock was dispassion personified.

Crime fiction and the movies offered Sherlock Holmes as the ultimate aloof, brainy hero. But until “Star Trek,” television didn’t really have anyone that distinctively — and irresistibly — coldblooded, cerebral and punctilious. (Mr. Peabody of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show came close, but he was a beagle and quite affectionate in his fusty way.)

Bloopers on the set:


Spock dies 1982 in Spock Dies – Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan:

The Washington Post:

Perhaps no actor was tied to Star Trek more than Leonard Nimoy, whose character Spock helped turn the franchise into a cultural touchstone. Though many alums of the show have had second and third public careers since — William Shatner on Boston Legal, George Takei as a gay-rights activist, Wil Wheaton and Patrick Stewart as lovable Internet celebrities — Nimoy is so synonymous with his half-Vulcan alter ego that fans revolted upon seeing the title of his first memoir, “I Am Not Spock,” despite Nimoy’s insistence that behind the name was merely a nuanced explanation of the distinctions between himself and his character.

Nimoy passed away today from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It’s the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, and a sobering reminder that despite the species’ incredible longevity, Nimoy was no Vulcan. That still hasn’t stopped fans from trying to determine where the Boston native ends and the green-blooded extraterrestrial begins. For many, there is no difference.

The irony is that Nimoy’s face might never have become one of the most familiar on television if he’d shown just a little more skepticism of the pointy ears; according to producer Gene Roddenberry’s early vision for Star Trek, Spock’s character was to be completely covered in devilish red makeup.

As Nimoy said a friend told him at the time, the actor could either portray Spock with so much makeup on that if the show failed, his career would be protected — or he could do it with the ears alone and “pray that it worked.” Luckily for the rest of us, Nimoy kept the ears. It was a scary choice, he recalled in an interview with Pharrell Williams.

For better or for worse, Nimoy’s success with Spock tends to overshadow many of his other achievements as a photographer, a director and a musician.

But some of these activities actually tell us a lot about how Nimoy put his own stamp on the Enterprise’s science officer.

Born in 1931 to Orthodox Jewish Ukrainian immigrants, Nimoy began acting at age eight and wound up studying it at Boston College. His parents disliked the profession — in interviews later in life, Nimoy said they believed thespians had a reputation for descending on a town and leeching off its residents before taking off again in search of the next act.

Nimoy never did finish his acting degree at Boston College, but sought out minor roles in various episodes of “Dragnet,” “The Twilight Zone,” and other, less memorable TV shows.

Nimoy got his start on Star Trek at the show’s very beginning, with an appearance on the first pilot, “The Cage.” Only he and one other actor from that episode — Majel Barrett, who would go on to marry Roddenberry and voice the U.S.S. Enterprise’s computer in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” — would be included in the rest of the series.

On The Simpsons:

TIME:

If you cared a fig for space travel, it was easy to not to care when the first episode of Star Trek aired on Sept. 8, 1966. Just four days later, after all, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon would be blasting off on their Gemini XI mission, which would orbit the earth 44 times in just under three days and set a then-unheard of manned-altitude record of 739 nautical miles (1,369 km). There was still one more Gemini flight to go before the NASA could even think of test-flying its Apollo lunar ships—and only a little more than three years left if the U.S. was going to meet President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon before 1970.

Against that, a group of actors on a paste-board set pretending to fly in space was pretty small beer. And as for one with the blunt-cut bangs and pointy rubber ears? Please.

But the space geeks and critics and TV execs—so many of whom sniffed at Star Trek during the brief three years it ran—were too smart and too cute by half. And the loss of Leonard Nimoy—who more than any other character captured the romance, the rocket science and the extraordinary wit of the series—is cause again to consider why the show was what it was.

Star Trek’s production values—with its wobbly doors and painted rocks and its lizard-like antagonist with, as a friend of mine once put it, bicycle reflectors for eyes—were entirely beside the point. It was the largeness of the stories Star Trek sought to tell that mattered, and never mind the idea that fever dreams about dilithium crystals and warp drive seemed all wrong for an era in which metal rockets and flesh-and-blood men were flying, the timing of the series was perfect.

On CNN’s Piers Morgan Feb 2014:

An extensive number of reactions to his death can be seen HERE on the Toronto Star’s blog. And on The Huffington Post.

On Mission Impossible in 1970:

Nimoy sings:

Buzzfeed gives 21 Reasons We Are Forever Thankful For Leonard Nimoy.

s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

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Spock Is Dead http://themoderatevoice.com/203123/spock-is-dead/ http://themoderatevoice.com/203123/spock-is-dead/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:20:24 +0000 http://themoderatevoice.com/?p=203123 Mr. Spock died in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. His death and funeral scenes are in the video above. Leonard Nimoy, after having lived long and prospered, died earlier today. Sadly, there is no Genesis Planet as in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. More at Liberal Values.

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Mr. Spock died in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. His death and funeral scenes are in the video above. Leonard Nimoy, after having lived long and prospered, died earlier today. Sadly, there is no Genesis Planet as in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. More at Liberal Values.

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