Saturday, November 22, 2014

SATURDAY POLITICS: Huizar-Molina Race For Los Angeles CD14 Heats Up


As you may recall, I live in Los Angeles City Council District 14 which is represented by Jose Huizar. Huizar is running for re-election in the March 3, 2015 primary and in this heavily Democratic region, winning that race basically would insure his position on the council until 2019 at least. I say "at least" because there is a movement to move municipal elections that typically happen in odd-numbered years (i.e. not in presidential or gubernatorial election years) and align them with those larger turnout elections. There are arguments both for and against this idea (for: having city and county races in the same year will mean that they will occur in the same time frame when people are thinking about other political races; against: the big money that dominates state and federal races will be used to swamp local concerns in local races).

However, Huizar is facing a strong challenge from Gloria Molina, the outgoing Los Angeles County Supervisor, who has been a political power center on the East Side of Los Angeles for decades, and at age 66 has decided to challenge an incumbent city councilman to get a job she held more than 30 years ago.

With the primary barely more than four months away, the two candidates are jockeying for endorsements and donations. On Thursday, both candidates (in addition to MadProfesssah) attended the endorsement meeting of the East Area Progressive Democrats in Eagle Rock, seeking that new club's endorsement. They were both greeted politely and asked probing questions by the audience, with Huizar getting a little testy when he admitted that the "municipal election schedule realignment" that he supports would end up in increasing the length of his own term in office. Molina announced her opposition to the plan, showing a keen awareness of her audience, because EAPD has come out strongly against the proposed plan to align the city's elections with the state's. In the end, though, neither candidate received the high threshold required for an official endorsement by the club.

Huizar has built a substantial lead in fundraising. In fact, he is approaching the record amount raised by any City Councilman in the history of Los Angeles, according to Downtown News columnist Jon Regardie:
This puts Huizar on a record-breaking path. I pored through the Ethics Commission’s online fundraising information, which has data on every city council election going back 11 years. In that time, the only person to raise more money during the primary was Antonio Villaraigosa, who scooped up $773,000 in 2003 when he beat incumbent Nick Pacheco. Of course, AnVil used that seat as a springboard to the mayor’s office two years later.  
Huizar is $38,000 short of the record, but still has more than four months until voters head to the polls in March. Curious fact: The next highest tally in a council primary was recorded by now-Mayor Eric Garcetti, who raised $683,000 for a win against Gary Slossberg in 2009. No, I don’t know who Gary Slossberg is either.
It's curious tat the two people to have raised more money than Huizar went on to become Mayor. Is that Huizar's ultimate plan? He is only 46-years-old now and the current Mayor will be termed out in 2021. Some people think the only reason Molina is running for City Council is to make a future bid for Mayor of Los Angeles more palatable. Maybe the people who are giving money to Huizar don't want to see that happen?

Anyway, I'm sure there will be twists and turns in this race as the March 3 date gets closer and closer.

Friday, November 21, 2014

2014 DAVIS CUP: Final Tied 1-1 Wawrinka d. Tsonga, Monfils d. Federer, Doubles Decision Looms


The final tie of the 2014 Davis Cup is even at 1-all after the first day since Gael Monfils dispatched Roger Federer in straight sets, 6-1 6-4 6-3, following Stan Wawrinka's 4-set win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier in the day. Monfils had previously lost to Federer 8 of their 10 meetings but he famously squandered two match points in their 2014 US Open quarterfinal after also dominating the Swiss great from the back of the court for more than two sets. If Monfils had won that match, is it possible he could have won the US Open instead of Marin Cilic?

Monfils' (somewhat)  surprising win does not bode well for Switzerland's chances of wining the Cup, because France is expected to have a decided advantage in the doubles tie ad then would only have to win one match on Sunday to deny Roger Federer his chance to complete his career-long goal of adding his name to the cup.

Unless perhaps Federer and Wawrinka team up to play doubles? Then only one of them would have to win on Sunday in order to claim the cup. Federer's play on Friday hopefully reflected only a lack of practice and not any more lingering effects of the back injury which caused him to withdraw from the final of the 21014 ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday. And asking the 33-year-old great to play three consecutive days (one singles, one doubles and then another singles match) may be a bit too much to ask. Then again this is Davis Cup and it is unlikely that Federer and Wawrinka will have as good a chance to bring historic tennis glory to their country by winning the Davis Cup.

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Chris Hemsworth Named People's "Sexiest Man Alive"


Chris Hemsworth has been named People's Sexiest Man Alive for 2014. The 31-year-old 6-foot-4 hunk from Australia is best known for playing Thor in Marvel studios Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013) and The Avengers (2012). Hemsworth is married and the father of 3.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Now There Are 35! South Carolina Joins Marriage Equality States!


The Supreme Court today denied South Carolina's request for a stay on the implementation of a federal judge's ruling in Condon v. Wilson declaring the Palmetto State's ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.

As Freedom to Marry notes, today's actions means that 35 states in total, including all states in the 4th, 9th and 10th Circuits are currently issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. There are pending hearings in federal court the 5th Circuit (very conservative) and the 6th Circuit recently ruled against marriage equality, with all of the plaintiffs in those four states (Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee) now petitioning the Supreme Court to hear their appeal of that decision. The  Arkansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the appeal of  a state court ruling in favor of marriage equality.

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

FILM REVIEW: Gone Girl


Gone Girl is one of the best films of the year. To date it has grossed nearly $150 million domestically (and even more than that internationally). Critically, the film is hovering very near the 90% level on rottentomatoes.com (88% from critics and 90% from the audience). That it is from David Fincher, one of America's most distinctive directors (Fight Club, The Social Network), is another reason to see it.

Gone Girl is based on the blockbuster best-selling mystery novel published in 2012 written by Gillian Flynn with the same title. "What a dark comedy!" one of my friends exclaimed as the credits rolled and scattered applause was heard around the theater (at the Arclight Cinemas in Pasadena) when we saw the film in on its opening weekend.

Gone Girl is multiple movies rolled into one. It is a dark comedy; it is also a whodunnit, a battle of the sexes, a biting critique of the "if it bleeds, it leads" media culture, a meditation on the nature of the modern American marriage and star-centered vehicle for Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.

Affleck and Pike play Nick and Amy Dunne, a married couple whose version of the American dream has gone bust when both of them get fired from their publishing industry jobs in New York City and end up moving to Nick's hick hometown in Missouri to take care of Nick's ailing mom but end up stuck there permanently.  This upsets his wife, who grew up as the pampered only daughter of two psychiatrists who wrote a series of successful novels about Amazing Amy, the perfect child.

The movie opens on the occasion of Nick and Amy's fifth wedding anniversary, with Amy having apparently disappeared and Nick looking uncomfortable and secretive when questioned by the police about his wife's friends, her activities and their marriage.

When Amy doesn't appear after a few days, the police (and Amy's parents) get more suspicious of Nick's behavior and even the audience, who wants to give Affleck's character the benefit of the doubt starts to turn on him.

The film's effectiveness depends on the numerous twists and turns that Flynn has expertly included in the screenplay she adapted from the excellent source material of her own novel. Fincher's direction is exceptional, because even at well over two hours, the movie is thrillingly paced and very suspenseful.

The only question remaining now is whether (or how) Hollywood's award-industrial complex will be able to embrace and reward Gone Girl despite its genre roots come end-of-year awards.

Title: Gone Girl.
Director: David Fincher.
Running Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.
Release Date: October 3, 2014.
Viewing Date: October 5, 2014.

Writing: A.
Acting: A.
Visuals: B+.
Impact: B+.

Overall Grade: A- (3.66/4.0).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

And Now There Are 34! Montana Joins The Marriage Equality Majority


Wow! Montana today joined the rest of the Ninth U.S. Circuit when a federal judge issued a ruling striking down the Treasure state's ban on same-sex marriage. One key excerpt from the ruling in Rolando v. Fox is:
The Court hereby DECLARES that Montana’s laws that ban same-sex marriage, including Article XIII, section 7 of the Montana Constitution, and Montana Code Annotated section 40-1-103 and section 40-1-401, violate Plaintiffs’ rights to equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court PERMANENTLY ENJOINS the State of Montana and its officers, employees, agents, and political subdivisions from enforcing Article XIII, section 7 of the Montana Constitution, Montana Code Annotated section 40-1-103 and section 40-1-401, and any other laws or regulations, to the extent that they prohibit otherwise qualified same-sex couples from marrying in Montana, and to the extent that they do not recognize same-sex marriages validly contracted outside Montana. This injunction shall take effect immediately.
That makes it pretty clear that same-sex couples can get married in Big Sky Country now! (There is no stay on the order.) The Democratic Governor of Montana Steve Bullock praised the decision while the Republican Attorney General (named defendant) Tim Fox announced that he would appeal the decision (presumably to the Ninth Circuit, which has already ruled that marriage equality is required under federal law, and then to the Supreme Court, which has previously refused to issue stays on the effect of marriage equality rulings from the 9th Circuit.

Another key quote from the ruling is:
Montana’s laws that ban same-sex marriage impose a “disfavored legal status” on same-sex couples. The time has come for Montana to follow all the other states within the Ninth Circuit and recognize that laws that ban same-sex marriage violate the constitutional right of same-sex couples to equal protection of the laws. Today Montana becomes the thirty-fourth state to permit same-sex marriage.
And so it goes...

Hat/tip to Equality Case Files.

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Mississippi Heritage Amendment Proposed To Declare Christianity "Principal Religion"


Whoa! Mississippi may be considering a state constitutional amendment in 2016 that would, among other things, declare "Christianity" the "principal" religion of the state, and insert the words "Holy Bible" into the founding document of the Magnolia State. The Magnolia State Heritage Amendment reads, in part:
The State of Mississippi hereby acknowledges the fact of her identity as a principally Christian and quintessentially Southern state, in terms of the majority of her population, character, culture, history, and heritage, from 1817 to the present; accordingly, the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues; and, accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens. The acknowledgments hereby secured shall not be construed to transgress either the national or the state Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
In case you think  I am making this up, here is the official summary of the amendment from the Mississippi Secretary of State's office:
Initiative #46 would amend the Constitution to restrict or define Mississippi’s heritage in the following areas: religion, official language, state flag, nickname, song, motto and state university mascots. Further, the initiative would prevent the consolidation of Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi University for Women, and Mississippi Valley State University, designate the month of April “Confederate Heritage Month,” and reinstate Mississippi’s Constitutional boundaries.
I guess Mississippi does not have the legal requirement that ballot measures restrict themselves to dealing with one topic! Oh, and it also insists that the state government can not offer government services in any other language than English. Is "y'all" English? I guess well find out if the measure qualifies for the ballot and voters get to see the measure in November 2016.

Monday, November 17, 2014

EYE CANDY: Rafael Leonidas (reprise)




Rafael Leonidas appeared as Eye Candy for the first time here more than four years ago (August 2, 2010). From the pictures, you can clearly see why he is making a repeat showing! These new pictures were brought to my attention by the Gorgeous Sexy Guys blog. Rafael is now 29 years old (according to his Model Mayhem profile), weighs 205 pounds and is 6-foot-1. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

2014 ATP YEC: Djokovic Wins 3rd Consecutive World Tour Finals Title



A sad end to the 2014 ATP World Tour Finals in London. Roger Federer announced that he has withdrawn from the tournament with a back injury and will be unable to take the court to face Novak Djokovic in the last ATP final of the year. Apparently Stan Wawrinka took more out of Federer than we though in their hard-fought match despite losing after blowing 4 match points. Federer made the announcement on court:
"Unfortunately, I'm not match fit to play the match tonight. Clearly I wish it wasn't so. I tried all year to be ready for the [Barclays] ATP World Tour Finals, and I didn't want it to end this way. I tried everything I could last night, also today – painkillers, treatment, rest, so forth, warm-up, until the very end – but I just can't compete at this level with Novak. It would be too risky at my age to do this right now and I hope you understand."
With Federer's default Djokovic wins his 3rd consecutive year-end championship and 4th in his career (2008, 2012, 2013, 2014). It's his 7th title of 2014 and it means that he narrows his head-to-head rivalry with Federer to 18-19. He ends with a 62-8 while Federer ended the year with most match wins on tour (72-11). Federer also becomes the oldest player to end the year ranked #2.

The back injury is especially ominous for Federer because it was a back injury which hampered his play and led to his sub-par performances for most of 2013. Hopefully, this injury is not too major, but the fact that it forced him to withdraw from a match for only the 4th time in more than 1200 professional matches demonstrates how rare an event it is. Federer and Wawrinka are trying to win the Davis Cup for Switzerland in France this weekend so a quick recovery of Federer's back and a mending of fences between the two compatriots after a testy semifinal is imperative.

2014 ATP YEC: Federer-Djokovic XXXVII In Championship Match


Roger Federer saved an astonishing 4 match points in his semifinal match with countryman Stan Wawrinka, winning 3-6 7-5 7-6(6) to reach the ATP World Tour Final championship match where (as I predicted) he will face Novak Djokovic. Djokovic defeated Kei Nishikori in three sets 6-1 3-6 6-0.

Federer leads Djokovic 19-17 in their career head-to-head and has won 3 of their 5 matches played in 2014. However, Djokovic beat Federer in the 2012 ATP World Tour finals in two very close sets. The World #1 ranking for 2014 is not at stake in this match because Djokovic has already sealed the year-end ranking.

MadProfessah's prediction: Djokovic in 3 sets.

Friday, November 14, 2014

2014 ATP YEC: Djokovic Clinches 2014 Year End Ranking; Faces Kei In SF, Federer-Wawrinka


The race for the 2014 Year-End #1 ranking is over. By winning his match relatively easily against Tomas Berdych 6-2 6-2 today and qualifying for the ATP World Tour Year-End Championships semifinals by winning all 3 of his round-robin matches, Novak Djokovic achieved his goal of reaching the #1 spot for the 3rd time in 4 years (2011, 2012 and 2014). World #2 Roger Federer can not overtake Djokovic in the rankings even if he beats him in the year-end championship match. Federer also emerged from his round-robin group undefeated, after demolishing Andy Murray 6-0 6-1. The fact that the race for #1 came down to almost the very end of the season is a testament to Federer's great play all year long, even if he did not win a major. He will end the year at World #2 after ending last year at #6.

The semifinals will be a reprise of the 2014 US Open semifinal with Kei Nishikori versus Djokovic and Swiss countrymen Stan Wawrinka and Federer will face off in the other (a reprise of the 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinals). I would be very surprised if we did not see a reprise of the 2014 Wimbledon final and the 2012 Year-End Championship  match between Federer and Djokovic, both of which were won by the younger player.

This means that the #1 ranking has been held by either Federer (5), Nadal (3) or Djokovic (3) for 11 consecutive years, from 2004 through 2014.

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