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The other day, I was perusing our Netflix watchlist for movies to stream as well as the Recently Watched list and then all the Because You Watched This, You Might Like This suggestions, and I turned to Mr. Loosinhouse and said, "Damn! We watch a lot of crime, murder and suspense stuff! Why do you suppose that is?"

We ended up having a fairly interesting discussion about what was the actual attraction about this kind of content and why was it so prevalent as a topic in books and movies since primordial times.  What is the lure? Is it a need for catharsis in order to sublimate our own dark individual urges? Is it a need for re-assurance of a moral order to the universe since most fictional murderers are found out and punished for their misdeeds, if not by man, then by some mysterious universal force of retribution that makes sure they come to no good end?

Mr. Loosinhouse opined that much of his own enjoyment of the genre stemmed from the puzzle aspects that is a standard structure - a number of traditional murder mysteries are laid out from the aspect that a murder has occurred and the perpetrator is unknown. Then ensues an intellectual exercise pursued by either an official policeman or a detective or some observant and intuitive amateur or some combination of all of the above, who must then examine the crime scene and the victim's life, and reach some thesis as to why they were murdered and who among the suspects would have the best motive, opportunity and ability to carry out the heinous deed.

The open challenge to the reader is to be a bystander following the narrative and to see if they arrive at the same conclusion as the detectives, hopefully before the entire scheme is laid clear in the "This is how this happened" speech given at the denouement among the assembled suspects, culminating as the snarling and hostile revealed killer is dragged out of the library shouting "Yes! I did it! And I'm glad do you hear, glad! She was a monster - I did the village a service!" or something like that.

In one of those beautiful co-incidences in life, the day after my husband and I were having this discussion, an amusingly wrapped book appeared in my mailbox (it was my birthday) from an old friend with a note saying "Saw this and thought of you - seemed right up your alley." Unwrapped was revealed a book addressing the EXACT topic about the lure of murder that my husband and I had been discussing.

The book was A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley which examines this very topic, albeit limited to the British variant of the fever. The link above is to a review of the book by the Telegraph which is much better and more comprehensive than I could ever put together, give it a look. I am still in the early chapters, but it is all I could have hoped for so far.

From the review:

This is not a handbook for murderers, but a study of the license to thrill. As its subtitle suggests, it tells “the story of a national obsession”: how, over the past two centuries, the British have reacted to the changing circumstances of murder and developed it into a form of entertainment.
My googling for a review revealed the happy news that the BBC did a limited series about the book which unfortunately is not available at this time, but lo and behold I did find that it is about to appear on PBS ( although at some very odd times) in the immediate future.
 WGBH -A Very Birtish Murder

This morning where I am sitting it is drizzling, cold and grey - perfect weather for contemplating more about the "curious obsession" that grips so many of us - the need to not just WHO murdered Col. Mustard but where and why and with what weapon.

Books In My Life is a diary published most Friday mornings about books that have had a particular resonance in ones life for some personal reason. If you would like to write a diary in this series please contact Phoebe Loosinhouse by Kosmail to schedule a date
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Now this story from Huffington Post and reporters Zack Carter, Amanda Terkel and Ryan Grim is fascinating on several levels, the most major one of which is how the reporters have extrapolated Hillary's current stance from her previously published words in her autobiography Hard Choices that warned against the Investor State Dispute System in the pact and then infer that she must  be against the TPP  today for the same reasons.

Here's the story to read for yourself - please read and then let's discuss.

Hillary Clinton Opposes Major Obama Trade Policy

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I always think it's nice for a candidate to have an actual platform, don't you? One of the items I personally have struggled with over the past few months has been the fact that the entire Democratic Party appears to have embraced Hillary Clinton as the standard bearer without requiring some sort of advance notice as to how she will fall when it comes to the issues of our times. HRC herself has been notably closemouthed about specific policy stances to date.

We don't know for instance, at this point, if she is for or against the TPP. If she supports it, she will align herself with the President and Republicans; if she speaks against it, she will align herself with Elizabeth Warren and others from the populist side of the Democratic bench who see it as a Pandora's box of corporate giveaways at the expense of labor and the environment, with the added feature of lifting global businesses profit-making beyond the reach of national regulation, oversight and judicial systems as a result of the Investor State Dispute System.  It's a big deal to me, and how a candidate stands on this issue will matter a great deal in whether I can see myself supporting them or not.

I am happy to report that Hillary has begun to be more forthcoming with her views and has lately decided to clue in Iowans and the rest of us as to what we can expect from her candidacy as a result of an editorial she wrote that was published Sunday in the Des Moines Register: Clinton: Iowans have great ideas for a better future

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I am liking this. Bill de Blasio rallied a group of a dozen Progressive leaders which included Sherrod Brown, Dannel Malloy, Van Jones, Katrina vanden Huevel and Toni Morrison, in order to start composing an agenda which they hope to promote nationally at every level of politics.

De Blasio said that next month, the group would release a list defining its program in the mold of then-Rep. Newt Gingrich's 1994 "Contract with America" -- the campaign platform credited with helping Republicans retake both houses of Congress that year -- except this one will promote left-of-center policies.

"All of this is focused on the notion that we are not having the discussion of income inequality in this country, and we are not having that discussion at our peril," de Blasio said after emerging from the private session with his wife, Chirlane McCray, and members of the group to address reporters.

Bill de Blasio, progressives map plans to push progressive agenda nationwide

Hip hip hooray! What do you hope makes it into this "contract"?
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I think I have mentioned before that I have a predilection towards mostly British novels of the nineteenth century up through WWI with some spillover to pre WWII.

I guess I was imprinted as a child with a love of the more intricate, descriptive and leisurely writing style of those times; I don't mind a detour by the narrator or an ironic aside commentary, or multiple subplots, or characters who are overtly villainous or virtuous, or over reliance on coincidental twists of fate or doppelganger physical similarities in some characters.

I also am fascinated by the role of women in novels of these times. Women are completely dominated by the demands of society to become wives and mothers. If they fail in this most basic of tasks, they are then relegated to lives of attempting to be socially useful and committing themselves to "good works" in their social enclaves or to becoming unpaid domestics or companions in the households of siblings or parents or even worse, being forced to going out "in service" as governesses or paid companions outside the family circle or attempting to earn their livings in the few occupations that were open to them such as seamstress or music teacher. After marinating in Victoriana even for a little while, there can thankfully be no doubt that yes, we have come a long way baby.

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Wed Apr 01, 2015 at 06:19 AM PDT

A Fool's Paradise

by Phoebe Loosinhouse

That is where all the Democrats who think HRC's email issue will just quietly slip away live.

Hillary's email problems are NOT about using a private email and server which has been discussed ad nauseum. The issue is how she (and the State Department) chose to respond to FOIA requests and Congressional subpoenas knowing that all of her work related emails or work product existed within this framework that she created and whether she complied with legal requests for data in good faith or whether she consciously concealed and obstructed access to information that she preferred, for whatever reason, not to reveal. And in making an already horrific situation worse, did she then, while under subpoena, choose to attempt to permanently destroy the records themselves?

That's the only issue that counts. And that's the political porridge that is quietly simmering away on a back burner that can be turned up to high and can boil over at any time of the Republican's choosing.

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This morning finds a hopeful (for me) pronouncement from Robert Borosage in the current issue of The Nation : The Populist Moment Has Finally Arrived Subtitle: Occupy Wall Street put inequality at the center of our politics. Only an independent movement will keep it there.. Okay, please go read the article and come back to discuss.

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I can't disagree with one thing in Kuttner's view of exactly how the deck is stacked against the vast majority of Americans, now known popularly as the 99%, courtesy of Occupy.

Here's the link please read (short, simple, concise read) and then come back for discussion.

I'll do some summarizing below, but please,please do not take that as a substitute for reading his article, also worth sharing and distributing as you see fit.
 

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Nothing better on a Sunday morning as you await the zombie parade to begin on the weekly You-Say-Your-Talking-Points-And-Then-I'll-Say-Mine shows that pass for political discourse on the Tee-Vee than this -  stumbling across someone else writing exactly what you would like to say if you had the skills and time that they display. I was giddy with disbelief as this amazing headline scrolled by in my news search:

GOP's New Moral Monstrosity: Trickle Down Lies Enrich The 1%, As Wing Nuts Assert Control

Like the headline? How about the tagline under it?

Republican extremists have outlined two demented budgets loaded with phony numbers. Why won't Democrats fight back?

These refreshingly non-circumspect tell-it-like-it-is headers come courtesy of Bill Curry and Salon. They alone are worthy of sending over a boatload of cronuts and lattes to the Salon offices in gratitude but the article that follows is worth a boatload more.

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I'll just start with the obvious - I am one of those people who if confronted with the 3 books on a desert island question would without a moment's hesitation name my Collected Works of Jane Austen and Collected Works of Shakespeare as two of the three. I go back and forth about the third book I would take. I wonder if it shouldn't be some sort of encyclopedia about engineering or mechanics or some such thing, since as has been pointed out to me by a few well-meaning friends and loved ones, if the advancement of civilization had depended on a species filled with Phoebe Loosinhouses, we would only now be tumbling onto how a wheel might make things nicer. I expect we would have discovered papyrus and ink and the need for stories around the campfire, though.

This diary will not be a Jane Austen diary. This diary is about what does one do when you've read every Austen multiple times and simply have to give it a rest? Yet, you've grown addicted to the beautifully wrought sentences filled with subtle humor and the books filled with supporting characters just as finely drawn and well thought out as the major players. In my experience, the more one searches for Austen substitutes, the greater appreciation one develops for Austen herself.

See what's happening? I clearly don't want to write about Jane Austen, and yet here she is again and again, intruding herself into this diary, which is designed to be the first in a series about novels and writers that people who love Jane Austen might consider as filling the breech when they find themselves staring pensively out the window on a rainy day with nothing conveniently Austenish at hand.

The major focus of the "Empty Austen Cupboard" diaries will be to spotlight lesser known 19th century writers  who also took as their topics the mores of society, the roles of women, courtship and marriage rituals, the divide between the classes, and any other part of the oeuvre of Austen subject matter. For the purpose of this series, I'm just going to assume that most Austen fans have already moved along and consumed all the Bontes and Gaskells.

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One entrenched argument about campaign and election strategy is that any election victory is predicated on a candidates carefully charting a course through the mushy middle that appeals to "moderate Independent voters" who hold the keys to the kingdom in their indecisive, uncommitted, iffy hands.

This truism is the underlying foundation to the entire focus on moderation, centrism, New Democrats, DLC, Third Way and other similar group thinks that have permeated Democratic policies since the Jimmy Carter Era through until today. Centrism, at its core, can be reduced to the quest of a candidate to obtain the vote of the elusive, uncommitted, moderate, Independent voter, even if it comes at the expense of alienating their own base.

I personally have always thought that this portrait of a large tribe of nomadic voters roaming the countryside in search of half a loaf was an urban myth, and finally, I have tumbled upon someone with expertise in this area, who confirms that suspicion -

Gentle Readers, I offer up for discussion this article by Amy Walter in the January 15th edition of The Cook Political Report:The Myth Of The Independent Voter

As Walters points out, the crux of the matter is that a very large percentage of those who define themselves as "Independents", 42% of Americans(!) are largely made up of disaffected members of both parties who when pressed, will admit that they "lean" towards either party. When taken together as likely voters for each party, the total of Republicans plus Republican leaning voters is 41% and the similarly arrived at total for Dems is 47%. Walters makes the point that this is why a Republican can carry the Independent vote and yet still lose an election

In reality, the truly Independent Independents who are not prone to vote with a partiality towards either Party are a minority of 10% of the Independent population. If a Party or a politician is tempted to build their entire campaign around this 4.2% of the public (10% of 42%) this decision comes with the built-in hazard of alienating their core constituents plus the percentage of voters who already have a predilection of voting for them anyway.

Now here is the most important central fact in Walter's piece (I added the bolding)

More important, however, is the misconception that these voters are embracing an "independent " status because they want their party to pursue a more moderate agenda,  or to  move to the middle instead of catering to the extreme.  In fact, there is evidence that they are abandoning their party labels for the exact opposite reason: they see the party as moving too far from its core values.

A recent paper for the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy by Kimberley Norman and Zachary Zundel, found that "the majority of Independent voters have political opinions that align with one of the two major parties at least as well as party members."  In fact, they write, "independents who "leaned" toward one party or the other actually had stronger alignment than those who identified as "not very strong" in the same party. Additionally, their results were far more similar with those who identified themselves as being "strong" in their party."

In other words, those who call themselves "independent" may actually be closer to the views of the core GOP or core Democratic policy positions than even those who identify themselves as a party member.

To extrapolate, any Democratic candidate who wanted to maintain the core constituency and appeal to the Independent voters they were most likely to sway, would tailor their campaign to be more identifiably partisan and appealing to so-called core values, not less so.

Hello? Hello out there? Calling all Democratic politicians! Would you like to actually use that victory speech you practiced?

Will you please for God's sakes stop talking and promoting (if you have) Simpson Bowles Austerity "entitlement reform" and the "hard choices" that will have to be made? Will you stop pushing secretive trade agreements that can't be allowed to see the light of day down our throats? Will you stop promoting nibble around the edges incremental and centrist reforms that won't ultimately slow down a single American from swirling the economic drain as so many of us are now doing? Will you be bold enough to become an identifiable, unapologetic Democrat  expounding Democratic ideals of working for and promoting those policies favorable to the 99% over the 1%? Who knows? You just might start winning again.
 

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Fri Mar 13, 2015 at 06:10 AM PDT

Movie Night For Democrats

by Phoebe Loosinhouse

I suggest the head Democrat strategists and spokesmodels as well as all of our candidates do a search on Amazon or Netflix or cable or whatever device they use to watch old movies on and try to line up a viewing of Albert Brook's "Lost In America" because it might be very pertinent to the content of future campaign speeches and talking points.

In the movie a couple named David and Linda Howard decide to throw off the corporate shackles they have toiled unhappily under for years. They liquidate their assets and sell their house and with these savings, which they lovingly refer to as the "nestegg", they decide to lead a nomadic and fancy free life touring the country in their Winnebago. Unfortunately, very early into the adventure Linda wanders into a Casino in Las Vegas and becomes mesmerized and reckless once exposed to the roulette wheel and manages to gamble away the life savings, the 'nest egg'.

Courtesy of Turner Classic Movies comes this snippet of how David reacts to Linda's shocking loss of all their money

DAVID: "Maybe I just didn't explain the nest egg well enough. It's a very sacred thing, the nest egg. And if you had understood the nest egg principle, as we will now call it in the first of many lectures that you will have to get because if we are ever to acquire another nest egg, we both have to understand what it means. ..."

LINDA: "I understand the nest egg."

DAVID: "Please do me a favor. Don't use that word, it's off limits to you. Only those in this house who understand it might use it. And don't use any part of it either. Don't use nest, don't use egg."

Future Democratic speechwriters and candidates might want to bear "the nest-egg principle" in mind when start talking about their policies and values, because the Democrats have also recently tossed out a few sacred nest eggs.

Democrats may no longer refer to the previous sacred tenets of "transparency" and "accountability". We may not demand those traits from either ourselves or others. Those terms no longer exist in our lexicon. As a party we need to collectively excise them and strike them out from any speech or talking point or appearance where they might appear out of habit and tradition, because they will only incite snickers of derision and accusations of hypocrisy.  And FOIA requests are just stupid pieces of paper that we can all ignore freely in the future right? Right?

Good, glad we're all in agreement.

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