Sunday, September 29, 2019

Truest statement of the week

Let’s start with Hunter Biden. In April 2014, he became a director of Burisma, the largest natural-gas producer in Ukraine. He had no prior experience in the gas industry, nor with Ukrainian regulatory affairs, his ostensible purview at Burisma. He did have one priceless qualification: his unique position as the son of the vice president of the United States, newborn Ukraine’s most crucial ally. Weeks before Biden came on, Ukraine’s government had collapsed amid a popular revolution, giving its gas a newly strategic importance as an alternative to Russia’s, housed in a potentially democratic country. Hunter’s father was comfortably into his second term as vice president—and was a prospective future president himself.
There was already a template, in those days, for how insiders in a gas-rich kleptocracy could exploit such a crisis using Western “advisers” to facilitate and legitimize their plunder—and how those Westerners could profit handsomely from it. A dozen-plus years earlier, amid the collapse of the U.S.S.R. of which Ukraine was a part, a clutch of oligarchs rifled the crown jewels of a vast nation. We know some of their names, in some cases because of the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office: Oleg Deripaska, Viktor Vekselberg, Dmitry Rybolovlev, Leonard Blavatnik. That heist also was assisted by U.S. consultants, many of whom had posts at Harvard and at least one of whom was a protégé of future Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
Burisma’s story is of that stripe. The company had been founded by Mykola Zlochevsky, who, as Yanukovych’s minister of ecology and natural resources, had overseen Ukraine’s fossil-fuel deposits. When Hunter Biden joined Burisma’s board, $23 million of Zlochevsky’s riches were being frozen by the British government in a corruption probe. Zlochevsky fled Ukraine. The younger Biden enlisted his law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, to provide what The New Yorker describes as “advice on how to improve the company’s corporate governance.” Eventually, the asset freeze on Zlochevsky was lifted. Deripaska defeated U.S. sanctions with similar help from other high-profile Americans.
Recently, Hunter Biden told The New Yorker that “the decisions that I made were the right decisions for my family and for me” and suggested Trump was merely using him as the “tip of the spear” to undermine Joe Biden politically. There are no indications that Hunter’s activities swayed any decision his father made as vice president. Joe Biden did pressure Ukraine’s fledgling post-Yanukovych president to remove a public prosecutor—as part of concerted U.S. policy. So did every other Western government and dozens of Ukrainian and international pro-democracy activists. The problem was not that the prosecutor was too aggressive with corrupt businessman-politicians like Hunter Biden’s boss; it was that he was too lenient.
[. . .]
When allegations of ethical lapses or wrongdoing surface against people on one side of the aisle, they can always claim that someone on the other side has done far worse. But taken together, all of these examples have contributed to a toxic norm. Joe Biden is the man who, as a senator, walked out of a dinner with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Biden was one of the most vocal champions of anticorruption efforts in the Obama administration. So when this same Biden takes his son with him to China aboard Air Force Two, and within days Hunter joins the board of an investment advisory firm with stakes in China, it does not matter what father and son discussed. Joe Biden has enabled this brand of practice, made it bipartisan orthodoxy. And the ethical standard in these cases—people’s basic understanding of right and wrong—becomes whatever federal law allows. Which is a lot.

-- Sarah Chayes, "Hunter Biden’s Perfectly Legal, Socially Acceptable Corruption" (THE ATLANTIC).

Truest statement of the week II

Black leaders are joined at the hip with the Democratic Party, whose sole mission through the 2020 convention is to stop Bernie Sanders. They know that Sanders speaks to people’s needs and would win the nomination and election absent any interference from donors, the party or its operatives. The WFP is a perfect partner for the fraud because it exists only as a cover for the Democrats.  Who better to give the impression that progressives prefer Warren to Sanders? 
The sad episode won’t be the last of the presidential campaign. So-called
The plight of black voters fits in nicely in pushing the scam. After having reduced their political demands to nothing more than keeping Republicans out of office, they are at the mercy of the Democratic party and its under-handed dealings. The misleaders have nothing to offer the people they claim to represent except lip service and window dressing.

-- Margaret Kimberley, "Freedom Rider: The WFP, Phony Outrage and Black Misleaders" (BLACK AGENDA REPORT).

A note to our readers

Hey --

Early Monday, except on the west coast where we are a few minutes until midnight so it's still Sunday.

Let's thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

Sarah Chayes get a truest.

Margaret Kimberley gets another truest.
War Hawk Joe needs to go.
Ava and C.I. cover THE POLITICIAN.
We offer a healthy recipe.
A major story's brewing in Iraq -- even if US TV can't find it.
I (Jim) explain about the edition two weeks ago.
Ava and C.I. on Demi Moore's new book.
Stevie Nicks' "For What It's Worth."
What we listened to while writing this edition.
DAV press release.
UNAMI press release.
Press release from US House Rep. Susan Davis.
Green Party coverage.
Press release from MS. MAGAZINE.
Green Party coverage.
Green Party coverage.
Mike and the gang wrote this and we thank them for it.


-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.

Editorial: The unethical War Hawk Joe

"Joe Wilson has passed away."  As C.I. observed, "In the world of the officials, the Iraq War created a number of cowards -- a large number of cowards.  Among the few heroes?  Joe Wilson."  Joe stood up against Bully Boy Bush.  He was a real hero.  And many people have noted his passing.  You know who hasn't?

Joe Biden.

War Hawk Joe Biden hasn't said one word.  Not even a Tweet.

Well he wouldn't, would he?

Joe Wilson was right.  A lot of people were right.  Joe Biden was wrong.  A lot of War Hawks and War Whores were wrong.

So Joe Biden ignores the passing of Joe Wilson.  A hero, a US State Department employee, an ambassador.  Joe Biden just pretends that Joe Wilson never existed.

Joe pretends a lot of things don't happen.

  1. Former Vice President Joe Biden's niece, Caroline, avoided jail time Thursday in Manhattan Criminal Court in a sweetheart deal on a felony conviction for a $100,000 credit card scam. Caroline is Joe Biden's brothers daughter. Equal Justice for all says Pelosi....There all crooks!

Caroline's as crooked as Hunter Biden and James Biden.  They think the rules don't have to apply to them, they think that they can get away with anything.

With that sort of attitude, is it any surprise Joe Biden keeps thinking he can get away with lying about Iraq?

It needs to be made clear to him that he can't.  And the Democratic Party needs to stop trying to rehab the images of these War Hawks.


More than any other actress of the last fifty years, Jessica Lange's career is a series of nonverbal, iconic moments.  Even in a film where she is largely wasted, CAPE FEAR, she emerges with a silent moment that haunts you long after the rest of the film has faded.  In CAPE FEAR, it's Jessica seated before her bedroom mirror, smoking a cigarette.


Maybe because she studied mime early in her career, she is able to bring so much more physicality into a performance?  In THE POLITICIAN, she has an iconic moment in front of the juke box as Shirley Bassey's "Where Do I Begin (LOVE STORY)" plays.

The new NETFLIX series from Ryan Murphy desperately needs that moment and every other one that Jessica provides.  The eight episode series is about three episodes too long.

Like us, Ryan's apparently a big fan of Michael Lindsay-Hogg's NASTY HABITS starring Glenda Jackson, Sandy Dennis, Melina Mercouri, Geraldine Page, Anne Meara and Anne Jackson.  That film took Watergate and set it in a convent.  The characters were so strong you wanted to spend more time with them -- more than the film's 94 minute running time.

The problem for Ryan is that his cast just isn't as good as the actresses who made NASTY HABITS work.  The biggest problem is Ben Platt.  He is a nice background player -- as demonstrated in the PITCH PERFECT franchise.  But he really can't carry a film or TV show.  He was actually out of his element and struggling on WILL & GRACE's "Who's Your Daddy" episode where he was a young guy who picked up Will.  It wasn't just that Will began to lecture Platt's uninformed Blake that let the episode go sour, it was also that Platt just wasn't interesting enough for you to care whether Will would stop teaching Blake gay history and take him to bed.

He clearly has some talent.  But he's not a star.  He lacks chemistry, he fails to draw your attention even when he's a tight close up.  Yes, even when not sharing the screen, he can't hold your interest.

He's like so many lackluster young males studios cast in films like HEAVEN HELP US in the 80s.  That doesn't mean there's no hope for him.  Patrick Dempsey was in that film and a lot of other lackluster 80 films.  His entire 80s output was one big question -- specifically, "Who the hell is he screwing to get these parts?"

But, by the 90s, he was actually able to summon charisma that previously didn't exist.  You could see this new quality when he guest starred as Will's closeted lover Matthew on WILL & GRACE.  By the time he showed up for GREY'S ANATOMY, he held your attention.  The same could happen for Ben Platt but he's not there yet.

And it really hurts the series.  It doesn't help that the 26-year-old is playing a teenager.  Or that so many non-teenagers are playing teenagers -- and playing them poorly -- in THE POLITICIAN.  That includes David Corenswet who's not just supposed to be a teenager (he's not) but he's also supposed to be the heart and heat of the series (he's not).  Like Platt, Corenswet needs someone to draw him out.  Casing him opposite Platt is like casting Richard Gere opposite . . . Richard Gere.

A lot of stage actors -- that would include Platt -- show up and fail to deliver.  That would include the 31-year-old Laura Dreyfuss who plays a teenager.  All these actors may inspire on the stage.  But put a camera on them and they add up to nothing -- minutes and minutes of nothing.

In fairness, we should note that even Bette Midler fails.  Nathan Lane in THE BIRDCAGE didn't mince and mug as much as Bette does in her small role here.

This is a soap opera done as high camp so it's hard to go too far over the top but somehow Bette manages to.  She's so far out there, it's as though her scenes were filmed on Neptune.

The show has a nice look, probably the best look of any Ryan Murphy series so far.  But it's got nothing to say.  Setting the first season (NETFLIX plans for there to be more seasons) in high school was a huge mistake because the actors playing teenagers are clearly not teenagers.  They're also clearly not actors for the camera -- again, they may work wonderfully on stage but they underwhelm when a camera can zoom in.

If this was airing on FOX (or even FX), Ryan never would have gotten with this cast.

Or with the writing which keeps trying to churn up drama by featuring more and more talking.  Yes, Ryan, that's what this slow paced show needed -- even more dialogue.

The series comes off like a radio play.  The dialogue never ends and you're left wondering why you're being told things that you, as a viewer, already see.

We've noted Jessica Lange creates a full bodied character.  Does anyone else?

Yes, Judith Light, Dylan McDermott, Martina Navratilova and Joe Morton inhabit characters and bring them to life.  And Gwyneth Paltrow deserves praise for doing a lot with a nothing role.

But the real question -- actually there are two real questions.

First, this is the series that the press was all excited about.  Specifically, it was the series that was going to bring Barbra Streisand to TV.  She was going to play a part.  In the end, she decided not to.  That much is known.  Where it gets confusing is the claim that Barbra was going to play the role Jessica Lange is playing.  Barbra would never have played that role.

A grandmother who is poisoning her daughter so that she can get sympathy and gifts?  A grandmother who previously poisoned and killed her own daughter?  A woman who shoots a young man?

Barbra hasn't tried to stretch acting wise before the camera except for ALL NIGHT LONG.  It's not in her.  She plays a variation of the star persona she has, that's all she ever does.  We could see her being pitched the Judith Light role but there's no way she would have signed on for the role Jessica Lange is playing.

And there's no way any other actress could have delivered what Jessica does in this role.  Not even Barbara Hershey, who has played similar roles and played them very well, could have hit the notes that Jessica does.  Jessica, a strong actress always, has become one of the greats in the last years.  That's probably why she thrives in THE POLITICIAN where so many barely survive.

From The TESR Test Kitchen

E-mails tell us we concentrate too much on sweets.  Really?

We do like our candy.

But this visit to the test kitchen is focusing on a non-sweet issue.

Ever share an apartment with a vegetarian?

Ty and Jim did in college when they roomed with Jess.  And they had to think of something other than cheese pizza to eat all the time.

They came up with Anything Pasta Salad.


The key to Anything Pasta Salad?  You can really add anything.

Don't have shells for the pasta?  Use angel hair pasta.  Or whatever form of pasta.  Cook according to directions.  Then drain and rinse and let cool.  If you're not using shells, we like to cut the pasta.

Add it to a bowl (after cut or not).  Add a small can of sliced black olives.


Add what you want.

Usually, for us, it's an onion, sliced, not chopped.  Some cherry tomatoes,  Three or four celery sticks thinly sliced.  A peeled cucumber chopped up.  Some radishes chopped up.  Maybe some carrots.  Maybe some peas.

Add a dash of celery salt, a dash of garlic powder and as much minced, dried onions as you want.

Add a third of a Newman's Own bottle of salad dressing.  We like Balsamic vinaigrette.


Cover and place in the fridge.

You can then eat it cold.  If you like it hot, warm a bowl in the microwave.

In Iraq

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