Sunday Open Thread

I've got a few more episodes of Downton Abbey to catch up on before tonight's finale. Have any of you been watching it? You can watch the entire season 2 without commercials on PBS here, and Season 1 is streaming on Netflix.

Michelle Obama and the First Daughters are in Aspen for a ski vacation.

For those of you following other things today, here's an open thread, all topics welcome.

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    Will Durst (5.00 / 0) (#1)
    by Edger on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 03:09:03 PM EST
    with a wit like sand in your shorts is out with his 2012 Political Animal Awards over at SFGate today.

    Poor republicans will be left cryin' in their beers, while most democrats will be ROFLTA'sO. ;-)

    While it is difficult to compete with (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by KeysDan on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 05:26:33 PM EST
    the most Christian competition, the magic underwear of Mormons or the cilice (hairshirts) of Opus Dei Catholics, we probably should, from time to time, take a break and think about our war in Afghanistan.  The article published by Armed Forces Journal by Lt.Colonel Daniel Davis, that strongly suggests that our military leaders are lying about progress has received scant attention.

    Colonel Davis, for example, disputes the testimony of General Petraeus that progress is significant but fragile.  Davis' 86 page report released to members of Congress was daring given his active status.  He has risked much, and, of course, for his trouble, he is getting some  trouble what with an investigation by the Pentagon as to whether Davis improperly released classified information to members of Congress.  

    In today's NYT, it is also reported that we are getting our Taliban mixed up, the real ones and the fake ones.  Imposters are finding fertile ground for the "reintegration program" in which former Taliban are offered access to jobs programs. A man posing as an Afghan senator, for example, was given a VIP tour of sensitive military facilities, but he was such a poor fake that he did not even give the name of a real senator.  

    A good inside story on our war in Afghanistan is "The Operators", by Michael Hastings. Hastings' earlier Rolling Stone story resulted in the unceremonious departure of General McChrystal.  It was my weekend read, and I recommend it to all.

    Military Leaders lying? no news to anyone who (none / 0) (#24)
    by Mr Natural on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 09:39:55 PM EST
    spent their childhood listening to the nightly Vietnam progress reports and body counts.

    From everything I've seen, we are leaving (none / 0) (#34)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 03:52:40 AM EST
    Because we are preparing to take our leave of Afghanistan they don't even know where to send us or when.  I think the American people need to know the truth, but the Obama administration is simply trying to have something to fight Fox News with because another truth is trickling out.  That truth is we are leaving Afghanistan and Fox News and Republicans are going to accuse Obama of abandoning the Afghan people.  It looks to me like we will leaving swiftly too after the Presidential election is over.

    Obama made that a certainty as well and took away the Pentagon's ability to fight with him when he made the recent decision of no new future deployments to war zones that exceed six months.  This President has already decided we are leaving Afghanistan, he just can't tell you that to your face yet.  His military brass has been giving him cover, so he can leave more easily.

    Should the American people be lied to? No, but just as it is easier to start a war if you lie to them it is also easier to end a war if you lie to them these days when so few people have skin in the game.  Particularly since we now do have Fox News to contend with.

    I think Danny Davis did a brave thing.   But he gave wingnuts fuel to fight Obama in ending another war before we have won it (whatever winning looks like).  And his military career is certainly over.

    Maybe if they bust Danny Davis as a whistleblower it will be the attacking of the whistleblower that will finally break this administration's back on making life utter hell for whistleblowers.

    I wouldn't waste 2 cents on Hastings' book though.  Okay, maybe if it was at a garage sale for 2 cents I would splurge.  I'll gladly read Feingold's new book.


    Went to the movies (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by scribe on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 06:02:50 PM EST
    saw "The Artist".

    If you haven't seen it, go.  Now.

    Agreed. For a silent movie, (none / 0) (#13)
    by KeysDan on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 06:16:09 PM EST
    it says a lot.  Od-times and new times.  Now, which Hollywood house did you like best, George's 1920's style or Peppy's 1930's?

    Yes, it was so good. (none / 0) (#39)
    by ruffian on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 10:28:41 AM EST
    And even the experience of seeing a silent film is so interesting. Hard to describe, but I loved how it felt just listening to the music and watching the picture, without the usual barrage of voices and sound effects. Really transporting.

    Sunday Funnies (5.00 / 4) (#21)
    by Edger on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 08:49:42 PM EST
    Five surgeons are discussing who were the best patients to operate on.

    The first surgeon says, 'I like to see Accountants on my operating table because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered.'

    The second responds, 'Yeah, but you should try Electricians! Everything inside them is colour-coded.'

    The third surgeon says, 'No, I really think Librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order.'

    The fourth surgeon chimes in, 'You know I like Construction Workers. Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over at the end, and when the job takes longer than you said it would.'

    But the fifth surgeon shut them all up when he observed, 'You're all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There's no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine, and there are only two moving parts - the mouth and the arsehole - and they are interchangeable'

    Nibble, nibble like a mouse (none / 0) (#2)
    by kmblue on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 03:28:14 PM EST
     Stay out of Virginia if you need an abortion.
    They force--yes force--you to undergo women to undergo a transvaginal procedure.

    The fight to take away our rights continues.

    This law has passed the legislature (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Peter G on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 04:18:13 PM EST
    but has not been signed by the governor, I think.  Not that there's that much chance of a veto, but still, it's not law yet.  As I see it, it's transparently unconstitutional under Roe v Wade (it imposes an "undue burden" on the woman, and has no justification based on protection of her health).  Thus, it was probably never intended to be enforced but only to trigger yet another "test case" challenge to Roe.  It will therefore likely be enjoined by the federal court in Virginia as soon as it's enacted, if the governor signs it, and then, like many other such laws, will be invalidated by lower federal courts and the appeal turned away by the Supremes.  Just predicting based on similar grandstand moves by state legislatures in recent years.  Yes, this one is even more offensive and outrageous than most, and will provide grist for Virginia Democrats' mills, but I don't think will ever be enforced against any doctor or any pregnant woman.

    Downton Abbey (none / 0) (#4)
    by Gerald USN Ret on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 03:54:47 PM EST
    I followed the first season last year from the UK with great interest.  Some of the characters were riveting even if some of the story lines were a little suspect as to being realistic.

    So when the second season became available I had great expectations that only lasted about 4 episodes.  The story line really tailed down. The characters weren't able to save it. I haven't bothered to delve into whether it was the director or a writing change that caused the decline.  I just moved on disappointed.  

    I am watching it.... (none / 0) (#8)
    by robert72 on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 05:01:00 PM EST
    I loved the first season - just excellent. I have been watching the second season, but it isn't nearly as good - there seem to be sections that are there for no good reason (Patrick's supposed return, for example, and some of the episodes were so depressing. Yes, I know, wars are depressing - but it wasn't fun to watch. I am looking forward to tonight's final show of the season - it is supposed to be the best of the year....

    About that Patrick episode. (none / 0) (#10)
    by caseyOR on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 05:46:45 PM EST
    Given that Patrick was around for only one episode, I;m thinking maybe that was just to set the stage for his return in a future season to challenge Matthew's claim. Or maybe to throw another spanner into Mary and Sir Richard's relationship.

    Of course, I could be all wrong, and the Patrick thing could well have been a throw-away event tossed in to keep us off-balance. Or it could be bad writing.

    Still, I await Shirley MacLaine's arrival next season as Cora's mother. Maggie Smith needs a worthy sparring partner.


    Speaking of great British actresses. (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by caseyOR on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 05:50:02 PM EST
    I learned today that the fabulous Judi Dench has advanced macular degeneration and is no longer able to read scripts. MD is a terrible affliction. My mother has it, and its affect on her quality of life has been just sad.

    Apparently, Judi is getting by with family and friends reading her parts aloud to her as she memorizes her lines. I hope she is able to keep acting for many years to come.


    I think it was to set the stage (none / 0) (#15)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 06:45:40 PM EST
    for something to come, maybe with Edith. Perhaps Edith will start digging. She's quite the trouble-maker and my least favorite character in the family. If Mary and Matthew do get together next season, I won't be surprised to see Edith track "Patrick" down and help him reclaim being heir, both to both displace Matthew and screw Mary out of her money.

    The story arcs I thought were needlessly added and lacked credibility were (1) that of the father and the maid -- There was nothing special about her and it seemed so out of character for him, he has barely noticed the female help and (2) that Ms. Hughes would go out of her way to help Ethel. That whole deal with the baby's grandparents was really unnecessary -- unless they come back again next year to try and steal the baby.

    Still, those are minor quibbles compared to the show as a whole and the other story plots.


    My friend and I, watching Lord Grantham's awkard (none / 0) (#17)
    by jawbone on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 07:38:49 PM EST
    and seemingly his irrational sexual advance on the maid Jane, led us to say almost simultaneously: They've jumped the shark.

    For me, the fact the Lady Cora was busy with other activities and couldn't be a every luncheon with her husband was hardly a reason for his attempt to wander. Meh.


    I agree. That weird thing with Lord (none / 0) (#19)
    by caseyOR on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 08:09:34 PM EST
    Grantham and Jane was jarringly out of place. It made no sense at all. There has never been any indication before this that Lord Grantham was anything but completely strait-laced and totally committed to his marriage.

    And, yes, I know everyone is a bit discombobulated by the societal changes brought about by the war, but, really, a fling with a maid? A maid who is a war widow with a young child? Too out of character for Grantham.


    good point, I thought (none / 0) (#35)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 04:19:52 AM EST
    the same thing as I was watching it.

    Those scenes only made sense after..... (none / 0) (#31)
    by robert72 on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 01:15:07 AM EST
    When Lord Grantham took Mary's Pamook story well in the last episode - that's when I thought 'Ah ha!' That's why the maid bit was put in..... so he could understood things like this happening and was able to forgive her.

    You missed a lot of fun, but (none / 0) (#16)
    by Towanda on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 07:13:51 PM EST
    then, I knew it was a soap going into this season, from the reviews.  So I just sat back and enjoyed the melodrama -- and awaited this finale tonight, as Brit reviewers said it returned to season 1 standards.  

    So you might want to give it a try again tonight, before the long wait for season 3.  


    Me too. Once I relaxed and enjoyed this season (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by ruffian on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 10:33:40 AM EST
    as a melodrama, I loved it. Not quite on par quality-wise as Season 1, but still very entertaining. Maggie Smith had some great lines last night, especially when dancing with Thomas the footman.

    Is there a person here who could compare and (none / 0) (#36)
    by oculus on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 05:51:17 AM EST
    and contrast "Downton Abbey" and "Upstairs Downstairs"?  Thank you

    The NEXT Best Thing in The World for Big Oil (none / 0) (#6)
    by Edger on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 04:20:39 PM EST
    In 2006 Greg Palast wrote in The Best Thing in The World for Big Oil...

    The answer was that Saddam was jerking the oil market up and down. One week, without notice, the man in the moustache suddenly announces he's going to "support the Palestinian intifada" and cuts off all oil shipments. The result: Worldwide oil prices jump up. The next week, Saddam forgets about the Palestinians and pumps to the maximum allowed under the Oil-for-Food Program. The result: Oil prices suddenly dive-bomb. Up, down, up, down. Saddam was out of control.

    "Control is what it's all about," one oilman told me. "It's not about getting the oil, it's about controlling oil's price."

    Two days ago Pepe Escobar wrote at Asia Times in US want SWIFT war on Iran...

    The US is now forcing the EU to cut off Iran from Brussels-based SWIFT - the independent telecom mechanism/clearinghouse used by every bank in the world to exchange financial data (its official name is Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications). Iran's Central Bank itself may become a victim.

    In a nutshell, SWIFT is the wheel that moves global financial transactions and trade. So if this is not an extended, remixed declaration of hardcore economic war against one country - nothing else is.
    If the Washington/Tel Aviv-promoted hysteria is already at fever pitch, wait for March 20, when the Iranian oil bourse will start trading oil in other currencies apart from the US dollar, heralding the arrival of a new oil marker to be denominated in euro, yen, yuan, rupee or a basket of currencies.

    That would suit Asian clients - from BRICS members India and China to US allies Japan and South Korea, not to mention NATO member Turkey. But that would also suit European clients, to pay for oil in their own currency. Tehran - as well as many key players in the developing world - does want to sink the petrodollar. That may be the straw to break the American camel's back.

    This morning RT informs us that Iran cuts off oil supplies to Britain, France

    The move was confirmed by the country's Oil Ministry, with the spokesman saying that Iran will be "selling its oil to new customers".

    The decision is not expected to have a big impact, as France only bought three percent of its oil − 58,000 barrels a day − from the Islamic republic last year, and Britain buys less than 1 per cent.

    But it was seen as a warning shot to other EU nations that are bigger consumers of Iranian oil, including Italy, Spain and Greece. The latter would be the most affected, should Iran go ahead with the cuts, as crisis-hit Greece gets more that 30 percent of its oil needs from the Islamic Republic.

    As a whole, the bloc currently buys about 18% of Iran's oil exports. Iran is the world's 4th largest oil supplier, with China, India and Japan its largest buyers.
    News of Iran cutting supplies to 6 EU member states caused a lot of concern in Europe - and in world's markets, with the price of Brent oil jumping above $120 a barrel.

    "Have any of you been watching it?" (none / 0) (#7)
    by desertswine on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 04:34:00 PM EST
    I've been watching it and it hooked me.  I'm not sure why cause I can't even understand all of the dialogue because of the accents. But anyway, I've been really enjoying it.

    Loving Downton Abbey (none / 0) (#14)
    by Towanda on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 06:43:05 PM EST
    because we use -- as we do with all BBC shows -- captioning!  See if your tv has it.

    But we don't need to understand a word to enjoy the big hats and other fashions, do we?  Or the Dowager Countess' grimaces, but you don't want to miss even a word of Dame Maggie's great lines.

    And next season is going to be amazing, as Dame Maggie will meet her American counterpart, Lady Cora's mother, to be played by . . . Shirley MacLaine.  Oh, I can hardly wait for this matchup.


    Captioning... (none / 0) (#20)
    by desertswine on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 08:24:26 PM EST
    That's a good idea, I'll see if I have it.  God I love the cars.

    The accents (none / 0) (#25)
    by shoephone on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 09:44:30 PM EST
    For my money, the oddest accent in the whole show is Cora's. I can't imagine how that is supposed to sound anything like a Minnesota accent. I realize that regional accents have changed over the last 100 years, but hers makes no sense to me at all.

    And I must be in the minority here on the addition of Shirley MacLaine next season. If anything indicates the show jumping the shark, that's it!

    The first season was so good. This season seems to be trying to find its center. Only about an hour til tee-off time, and I do expect tonight's finale to bring things back up to par.

    The actor playing Sir Richard has cornered the market on menace. He played an equally as scary and vicious character in the final season of MI-5!


    Movin' Forward (none / 0) (#18)
    by Edger on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 07:55:35 PM EST
    The United States marks the 50th anniversary Monday of the first flight of an American into orbit. But the historic landmark is bittersweet: the first nation to land people on the Moon now depends on Russia for its manned space flights.

    The US space program (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by brodie on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 08:59:16 PM EST
    of the Sixties remains probably the most exciting positive achievement by man of my lifetime.  But after a couple of successful missions to the Moon, people stopped caring and politicians started becoming penny counting accountants and suddenly it was all over.

    A real shame the way it all ended but what a thrilling time it was achieving Kennedy's goal.  And yes, I remember watching Glenn's famous launch -- among a few other early ones -- as our 2d grade teacher brought in a tv to the classroom for the special occasion.  Quite a dramatic, historic moment and I was completely caught up in the space program from there on.


    I looked at it the same way (5.00 / 0) (#23)
    by Edger on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 09:08:05 PM EST
    as a kid in the sixties. And when a year before the first moon landing in 69 the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey came out in 68 I figured it was about the far future - like maybe 10 or 20 years down the road.

    Ah, 2001 -- (none / 0) (#26)
    by brodie on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 10:01:31 PM EST
    when that came out in 1968 people didn't think it laughably absurd that we would be exploring the solar system with astronauts by the turn of the millenium.  By 1969 we were expected to have landed a man on Mars certainly by the mid-80s.  

    But all that ambitious dreaming got tossed aside supposedly so we could take care of all the Earth-bound problems.  That one didn't work out so well.

    Btw I'm celebrating the Glenn anniversary today by watching my second favorite space movie, Capricorn One, a quirky conspiracy thriller with an all-star cast of actors from the 1970s.  Two hours of solid entertainment marred only by the occasional screen presence of a certain big name athlete the studio insisted the director hire to play one of the astronauts.  Despite that, this one is a must see.                


    I've seen that. (none / 0) (#27)
    by Edger on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 10:09:39 PM EST
    Great movie! The dreams of youth were that we have a lot of potential, but I guess somewhere along the line humanity decided - or someone decided for humanity - that we have more profitable things to spend our energy on... :-/

    I agree with everything (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by sj on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 03:13:25 AM EST
    except that people stopped caring.  The shuttles were built and that was very exciting.  A little too "exciting" one day.  The Challenger explosion was a very sobering event.  But then the entire space program got put into a holding pattern.  True, people stopped paying attention, but that was because there was no new vision.  

    Agree about the lack (5.00 / 2) (#42)
    by brodie on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 11:42:20 AM EST
    of bold vision, particularly after JFK was removed from the scene.  No major pol and not enough major public figures after him seemed very interested in manned space exploration.  The budget balancers in Congress won out.  And it didn't help that Kennedy's two successors in the WH were both very anti-Kennedy types who weren't inclined to promote a program so closely associated with him.  The NASA funding cutbacks for instance actually began under Lyndon then Apollo was drastically reduced in scope by Nixon.

    And after having gone to the Moon, it wasn't surprising that the public would be unenthusiastic about a shuttle program that never left Earth orbit.  No one noticed it after the first launch, unless a disaster had occurred, and little attention was paid to whatever scientific research they were doing up there.

    We might see a return to the Moon by humans in our lifetimes, but it will probably be by the Chinese.


    I agree. Before I moved to KZ, (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by observed on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 09:48:23 AM EST
    July 1969 was the most exciting month of my life (not joking about that, btw--but that excitement is only personal).
    cell phones and the internet just dont' cut it.
    People of my generation who were scientifically inclined thought there were be people living in space stations and on the moon by 2000.
    Steve Jobs and Bill Gates?
    Frucking disappointments in comparison

    I remember (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by Edger on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 09:54:35 AM EST
    in a conversation about the future with a friend one day about 1969 remarking that I had calculated that at the turn of the century I would be really old - 47 YEARS old - but that I wasn't too concerned because it would take me about a thousand years to get there and by then there would be medical treatments that would make me still 18...

    Prof. Feingold grades the President (none / 0) (#28)
    by Towanda on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 10:35:28 PM EST
    and many others who over-reacted in D.C. to 9/11 in his new book, out this week.  But overall, and for finally getting it -- getting out of at least one war, with to go -- it sounds like he would give Obama a B.

    (The title is a meh.  It reminds me of a Cold War book.  And it makes me think of that running joke re the "3 a.m. call" in the 2008 campaign.)

    Channeling the books of both JFK (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by caseyOR on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 10:59:44 PM EST
    and Churchill.

    In 1938 Churchill's book, While England Slept, was published. Two years later Jack Kennedy's Harvard senior thesis was published with the title  Why England Slept.

    Both books concern themselves with England's actions between the two world wars in terms of its decision not to rebuild its military after WW I, and policies that some view as dangerously accommodating to Hitler.

    Certainly Feingold knew of these two books when he wrote and chose a title for his book.


    Thank you! Those are the titles (none / 0) (#30)
    by Towanda on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 11:12:41 PM EST
    that were nagging at me from my memory bank, of course.  (The brain is wearied tonight after two hours of English nobility awakening to a few realities after the first world war.)  

    Yes, I'm sure that Feingold had those in mind -- and well may say so in his frontmatter.


    I went from the Season 3 finale of Breaking Bad (none / 0) (#41)
    by ruffian on Mon Feb 20, 2012 at 10:41:31 AM EST
    right into Downton Abbey. Talk about jarring!

    I thought the Downton Finale was really good - a couple of tear jerking moments, some laughs, some silly melodrama. Am I the only one who thinks Anna killed Bates' wife?  I really wanted Mary to come to America next season, but am happy to hear her grandmother will be paying a visit to Downton! I think the real clash there will be with Matthew's mother, not with the Dowager Duchess!

    And Breaking Bad...what can I say? I will start the most recent season immediately after work...can't wait.