Mary Astor – The Great Lie

capture-20150815-184410I’ve really been looking forward to this weekend’s anti-damsel blogathon. Work and life have a way of annihilating priorities, but this has already been a lot of fun and my goal is to show the magnificence of one of my favorite actresses, Mary Astor.

Many would argue she’s best known for The Maltese Falcon or maybe even the 1949 version of Little Women, and I agree, but don’t box her into one role; she deserves better and the many films she made, including silent films in the 1920s, make it clear she wasn’t only a pretty face; this lady mesmerizes on screen.

It’s difficult to put into words the magic that we feel when we witness a talented actor pull from the core of his or her soul and bring to life a complex living and breathing character, full of love and hate and redemption and forgiveness. It always goes so much further than a simple, “best acting ever” declaration. It’s about the tension that’s built when you know it has very little to do with a director’s insistence on proper timing. It’s about the delivery and inflection in a voice that speaks with a powerful line and you know it has little to do with the writers. It’s about the confidence you feel in a character’s purpose and you know it has little to do with the ability of talented co-stars to play off of one another. Without that power of that one soul, the rest serves no purpose. The writing, directing and team collaboration; they’re crucial, of course, but useless if the parts that define it are weak. There’s a reason some talent lives forever while second-best is pushed to the wayside and while we remember favorite films and the way they made us feel, you can be sure that would not exist were it not for the committed talent willing to bleed, cry and demand perfection to make that film worthy of a place in history.

And that is exactly the way every Mary Astor film moves me. It’s also the very reason I’ve chosen The Great Lie for this blogathon.

I mentioned yesterday that it’s difficult, for me personally, to imagine Astor as anything but Edith Cortright in her role in Dodsworth. Her character was just so calming and it’s one of my favorite films, too. She stood by as the man she loved beat his head against the wall trying to make a marriage work that had long since been dead. And she was there to pick up the pieces when he’d finally figured it out. I bring that up because there’s an irony to that plotline in The Great Lie, which was released five short years later. Gone was the compassionate, loving and patient “other woman”, Edith. Now, fans were able to witness Sandra Kovak and her very different efforts of wooing the man she loved away from his wife. Distinctly different, despite the love triangle in both films, and flawlessly delivered.

A quick note about The Great Lie. It starred two powerhouses who had already made several films together, George Brent and Bette Davis. I can only imagine what likely went through anyone’s mind who had the opportunity to perform next to these two giants, yet Astor was a rockstar in her own right. In fact, it was Davis who decided what role Astor would play: the role of Maggie, who was a bit more down to earth, realistic and, for lack of a better word, “domesticated” or the role of Sandra, the globetrotting, elegant, sophisticated, independent and spoiled pianist. While many believed Davis would have chosen the more aggressive role while leaving a slightly passive role to Astor, she instead chose the more appealing Maggie. Maybe it was because of Brent, but I don’t suppose we’ll ever know for sure. Wondering how many films Brent and Davis shared? Try eleven in just ten years – with The Great Lie being the tenth film. These two spent more time with one another during that decade than they did anyone else.

Ah, but Astor scored an Oscar in that role.

One last disclosure: SPOILERS follow. But don’t get caught up in the ending; trust me, the magic is found in the story as a whole. Besides, it’s easy enough to figure out how the film ends. What I’m trying to show is the way the viewer gets there.

Our film opens with Pete (Brent) waking up to the reality that he’s just married the wrong woman. He immediately leaves his still-sleeping and hung over bride at home and flies to Maggie’s (Davis) home, who’s already been engaged to Pete at least twice. He finds a grieving Maggie being protected by a determined and loyal housekeeper, Violet (oh my God…two words: Hattie McDaniel. Brilliant in her role, as always) ready to hurt him for the pain he’s caused her Miss Maggie. As Pete flies back to his bride (he’s a pilot and prefers a quick plane trip over a car ride), he learns that Sandra (Astor) is still married to her first husband. She’d married Pete believing her divorce was final. This, of course, gives Pete his out – which he promptly takes.

Later, as Pete is sent to pilot an exercise overseas, Sandra discovers she’s pregnant and wastes no time in sharing her news with Maggie, who is now finally married to Pete. She made it clear that she would use the baby to lure Pete back into her arms.

Soon, word comes that Pete’s plane is nowhere to be found and he’s declared dead. Maggie, grieving terribly, contacts Sandra and offers to raise the baby since it no longer serves Sandra’s purposes. Since Sandra travels the world as a renowned pianist, she agrees to hand over the baby to Maggie, who will raise the baby as hers and Pete’s.

The two disappear to a cabin in the final months of Sandra’s pregnancy so to avoid the media. She gives Maggie hell, but finally, the baby is born and the two women part ways, each believing they will never again see one another. The baby, who Maggie calls Young Pete is around three months old when she gets a phone call that Pete was found alive and was on his way home.

This means, of course, that Sandra begins lurking around again, showing up unannounced at their home with the intention of telling Pete everything in an effort to break up his marriage. Maggie, always the sensible one, instead beats Sandra to the punch and tells Pete everything. She wanted it all out in the open and let the cards fall where they may. Pete didn’t react the way Sandra hoped and the final few lines of the film, spoken between Sandra, Maggie and with Pete standing there:

Sandra:  “Maggie, I won’t be staying for lunch.”

Maggie: “But what about Young Pete?”

Sandra: “I’m leaving it with his mother.”

There’s no “damsel in distress” in her game. Sandra makes no apologies for her decisions. She never intended to give up her career and she never promised Pete that she would. She didn’t apologize for not wanting the baby, and in fact, she made it clear that the baby was just means to an end. At one point, Maggie says to her, “You never called, you never wrote – you never even knew what I named him!” Sandra never blinks and in fact, dismisses it almost as though Maggie was rattling off the week’s high and low temperatures two miles south of Tibet.

When you think about it, how many women would actually walk up to an ex’s new wife, never skip a beat, and say, “You should know, I plan to take him back.” For that matter, how many wives would take that without a street brawl? Sandra never loses her cool. Even her temper tantrums at the cabin before having the baby were merely efforts of frustrating Maggie. Maggie wouldn’t allow her to have more than a few cigarettes, no steak and definitely no more than “one pickle and a thin slice of onion” for her sandwich during the pregnancy. Sandra resented that.

Here’s what it comes down to: a pregnant woman, who as it turns out, was never married to her ex, allows the new wife to take custody of her baby at birth, no questions asked, accepts a considerable amount of money that she does not need, and then goes on her next world tour. The baby would have served one purpose, and since everyone believed the baby’s father was dead, the little one meant nothing to her past that. Then, upon learning the father is still alive, she finds her way back to him, accepts the hospitality offered, and still makes it clear to the new wife that she doesn’t intend to live without the man they both love. When it’s clear she’s lost the battle, she simply closes the chapter with a simple, “I’m leaving the baby with its mother.”

How much more anti-damsel can you get? And in our Sandra’s case, how much more Oscar worthy can you get?

I searched high and low for a clip that included one of the scenes I outlined above, but the clips are getting harder to come by. Below is the trailer to the movie, but it’s heavy on Brent and Davis; still, a few of her best lines are delivered in the trailer, so invest two minutes and see for yourself and be sure to notice her refined voice – beautiful, I tell you! Right below that is TCM’s Robert Osborne’s introduction to the network’s monthly Star of the Month series. It too has a few soundbites and clips. It’s good for your soul!

Be sure to check out both blogathon hosts’ sites, too. Jo rocks it out on her The Last Drive In and I’m beginning to appreciate silent films, thanks to Fritzi over at Movies Silently.

Conglomerates, MLPs, Chevron – Reality Check

oildownRemember back in the 70s and early 80s, everything was all about the conglomerates? Companies gobbled up smaller companies, with everyone – except those in the larger companies who knew better – believing all was safe and good in Corporate America. Only problem was, the smaller companies were not only gobbled, but spit out, part by part until there was nothing left but a sad memory, a warm beer and some country music song to send it out. Eventually, this seemingly “strengthening” effort of the larger companies became their downfall. By picking and choosing through the process of piecing different parts, these conglomerates themselves became weakened and were quickly deemed relics of days gone by. This corporate strategy was all fine and good for a little while, but it simply wasn’t financially feasible. It was a failure, but it took more than a decade for it to come full circle. Sometimes, bigger is not better.

Now, though, we have the master limited partnerships. These trusts are designed with more than a few benefits in mind, most importantly, their tax advantages. Few things in the American economy are taxed just once. Take estate planning, for instance, people with considerable wealth set up trusts for their assets so that those who receive their inheritances don’t have to worry about estate taxes eating up what their loved ones worked their lives to provide. MLPs work in a similar way. They’re designed to bypass some of the taxes, at least temporarily. It gets complicated because of the absence of the familiar 1099s in lieu of the sometimes complicated S K-1 forms.

At any rate, MLPs are found in the energy sector – oil companies, upstream, midstream and downstream companies, etc. and are traded on the securities markets. They contain several different entities from seemingly unlikely acquisitions, such as retail stores. They’re supposed to be the cure-all, except oil and gas is struggling…as in struuuugggggling.

The big players, of course – Chevron, Exxon and the like are holding on by a thread. The question is: why? These companies have been through it all. Nothing’s working. Their earnings – are they even still an option at this point? Cash flow? That’s a joke. And despite talk of the future, with big promises, it’s simply too far out. Not only that, but the money to secure this future is borrowed. Just like the conglomerates of yesteryear, these companies are just too bulky, are laying off left and right and frankly, are threatening the entire sector. The reality is this sector is fragile. There are too many things unfolding that ensure it doesn’t regain quickly and depending on the damage Obama can do in his final days in office, it could be permanent. The one thing anyone who relies on this industry wants to see is the big daddies sitting pretty. They’re not.

Without going too much into the outside factors, including Iran, Russia and China and other dynamics – most of which I’ve written about extensively in the past, it’s time to shoot the ailing dog. The days of $100 per barrel are gone. Even with a comeback, those who are underestimating Obama’s goals are fools. There’s a reason he’s been quiet the past few weeks and if you’re wondering what he’s been up to, look no further than here and here – you probably haven’t seen either of these stories in the 5 o’clock news, what with the Trump/Kelly war and of course, the U.S./Cuba new best friend status. Don’t underestimate him; the fact that the Iran sanctions are now moot is proof that he does hold power, God help us all. I’ve said for more than a year that shale’s too expensive and with the state of the entire sector, those who insist on pushing it might as well line their horizontal drills with their dollars.

While we’ve yet to see the “too big to fail” banks really pay their dues for the havoc they wreaked in 2008 and earlier, the energy sector, even with the protective mama bear MLPs, won’t enjoy the same fate, but will likely go down in a flaming ball of good intentions, just as the conglomerates did years ago. There is no Reagan or Bush White House. And, if you’re keeping up: Rick Perry, despite Kelcy Warren’s millions, is sinking fast.

The Great Lie

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any time, you know how much I love classic films. I love the women and men and their roles in the 30s and 40s, and into the 50s, too. Men were men and women were women…for better or worse. That’s not to say that human nature has changed that much; it was just…different.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who’d rather line up a few of those great films for the weekend instead of seeing the latest million dollar blockbuster. They’re overrated, bloated and really, how many times can you kill the same enemy, with the same tired lines and with the same “I-thought-the-woman-of-my-dreams-died-and-here-it-is-the-last-thirty-seconds-of-the-movie-and-I’ve-killed-the-enemy-and- woman-of-my-dreams-is-still-alive” plotline? Don’t the actors get tired of it? Eh, it is what it is, I reckon.

Enter the latest blogathon, hosted by The Last Drive In and Movies Silently. This time, we’re shooting for the anti-damsel. What is the anti-damsel? Well, I’ll leave it to the rockstar hosts to explain it:

“She’s been the central figure in danger, the iconic woman in peril … the one who is not in control, trapped by a the narrow gaze of objectification… instead of inherently capable of the same self sufficiency, violence, aggression, strength or self preservation as men….”

The first thing that comes to mind is any of the many Bette Davis roles, right? This time, I’m going to do it a little different. The film I’ve chosen indeed has Bette Davis, but she’s actually the “good girl”, or rather, the “better” girl. No, for this blogathon, I’m choosing a more unlikely choicemaryastor: Mary Astor in her Oscar winning role in 1941’s The Great Lie. She’s everything this challenge calls for, but you’ll have to check back this weekend to see how she fills that role.

I know, I know…any previous writing about Mary Astor, at least from me, has been mostly her role in Dodsworth, as the patient, sweet, loving and forgiving “other woman” in Walter Huston’s life. Don’t mistake the “other woman” role as something bad. Against Ruth Chatterly, Astor is nothing short of a saint and very much the one you hope “wins” Huston’s heart. It is poles apart from the role she plays in the love triangle in The Great Lie. And that’s saying something, considering Bette Davis is her competition!

Check back over the weekend as I explore Mary Astor’s “married but not married” Sandra Kovak, who, by the way actually plays – and flawlessly, I might add – Tchaikovsky’s Concerto 1.

 

Did Obama Admin Just Sell Out the Military?

No one doubts the seriousness of the Iran nuclear deal; the problem is, few believe the U.S. has found a way to lead the rest of the world in accomplishing it. No one, with the exception of Secretary of the State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the rest of the Obama Administration, believes the solution presented is the solution that prevails.

Last week, we saw an interesting – and uncomfortable – debate unfold when Kerry, Ernest Moniz, the energy secretary, and Jack Lew, the treasury secretary appeared before the Senate. If you didn’t see it, you should – it’s fascinating to watch these folks go nine rounds, all the while knowing it serves no purpose in the long run. We heard Kerry’s vehement disgust over the 47 senators who wrote to Iran’s leaders before the nuclear deal was signed. He insisted that act could have jeopardized world security (and in all fairness, that stunt by the Republicans, whose pockets are lined by the big oil companies, was done for very selfish reasons. Read about it here.) We also heard Senator Bob Corker (R TN), Senator Jim Risch (R ID) use words like “bamboozled” and “fleeced”: as in “You were bamboozled with this deal and now you’ve fleeced the American people”. Oh, and a delightful scolding from Barbara Boxer towards both Corker and Risch for using the words “bamboozled” and “fleeced”.

But let’s not forget this little well-hidden nugget:

Kerry claimed the U.S. has “the capacity’ to ‘knock out ISIL’ on its own, but we’re not going to get suckered into that.”

Yes. He really said that. And then skipped to the next topic.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Ash Carter was sent to the Middle East to soothe those frantic fears many of our allies (and even our enemies) have these days. Here’s what’s so disturbing, though: the way the media reported these visits and the quotes it used vary significantly. They’re subtle, but take a look –

Carter is trying to respond to regional concerns about Iran by proposing intensified military cooperation with its longtime allies. With the Saudis, there will be talk of training special forces, cyber security, anti-missile defence and other issues. July 23, 2015 (Read the article here)

and

In an effort to calm these worries, Carter proposes to intensify military cooperation with Washington’s traditional allies in the Middle East. July 22, 2015 (Read the article here)

and

Carter told reporters en route to Tel Aviv.But the point of the nuclear deal is to get the result of no Iranian nuclear weapon without carrying out a military strike.” July 19, 2015 (Read the article here)

The first quote comes from a Pakistani media site, Dunya. The second is Al Arabiya, a Middle Eastern media site. The third quote is from The Washington Post.

It’s amazing how small tweaks in a sentence can change the meaning in its entirety. Any other time, it would matter none and would seem petty, but Google the first two quotes. Not a single American media site comes up; no CNN, MSNBC, USAToday, Fox News. Not one.  The third quote, when Googled, returns The Washington Post and a number of other American based media. Depending on who Carter is speaking with, the U.S. is either wheeling and dealing with propositions to increase our military and other efforts as sort of a reminder to Iran or the U.S. is moving mountains to ensure no military action.

Kerry was quick to remind his adversaries on Capitol Hill that everyone supported this deal. Ash Carter spent the week reassuring the media of the same thing. Only problem is, he was the only one commenting after these meetings.

capture-20150726-114854

VOA

nytimes

NY Times

capture-20150727-061006

Times of Israel

capture-20150727-061216

If there is any question at all about the possibility of sincerity from Iran, this should clear it all up:

capture-20150727-072647

 

Finally, this is off topic, but I come across it while I was researching this post. It’s going to be a huge problem as things begin heating up with the Cuba brouhaha. With embargoes lifted, there’s a new focus and those in the oil industry are definitely paying attention. Back in the 60s, part of the embargo with Cuba included sanctions for any country that sold to Cuba anything made with more than 10% of American supplies/materials. Now, though, allbets are off. Cuba is gearing up to begin drilling in the Gulf of Mexico in what many are saying includes a wealth of oil. Actually, there are four areas that Cuba is focusing on. America could, for all intents and purposes, furnish the wells that will drill the oil. In case you’ve not been following the massacre in the energy sector, oil closed below $48 a barrel on Friday.  Another country entering into the oil market? Not good.

Last year, the Obama Administration insisted that wouldn’t be a possibility, at least not in the short term. Now, though, Cuba is planning on being up and running by the end of 2015 or the first of 2016. If the U.S. bails and refuses to play a role, Cuba could create a massive environmental mess right off the coast of Florida. That was always the fear anyway when it bought materials and supplies from other countries. The U.S. has, by far, some of the safest extraction methods (though far from perfect) in the world. This is not, and never has been, a real priority for Cuba.

Here We Go – #JadeHelm Insanity

For months, we’ve been hearing about the world coming to an end, courtesy of our very own military. Jade Helm training exercises have begun in several states, including Texas and yes, even right here in Mississippi. There have been more than a few times – no, actually, there have been 9,129 times – I’ve rolled my eyes at some of the ridiculous theories behind this “ultra secret” effort – despite the many public hearings the collective military has offered. And let’s not forget the pictures and videos these goobers are using as their proof. People act as though these are all signs of war – by our own country against our own country! Now, though, things have reached an entirely new level.

My fellow Americans – we’ve nothing to worry about. No, really…the Counter Jade Helm Company has arrived. This group of folks is taking a stand, or rather, a place. They’re taking a place right behind all of the various tankers and other vehicles. They’re following them. My God. They are actually following them. They say they’re simply being vigilant. Great.

Here’s why this bothers me to my core:

Every time one of these crackpots opens his mouth, he’s basically disrespecting the best military in the world. That could include one of his own family members. Every single time he tweets that he’s in “hot pursuit”, he’s saying, “I don’t trust our military”. It’s a kick in the teeth for every man and woman who ever stepped up to the plate to do what most of us could never succeed in accomplishing. It’s a kick in the teeth to my best friend, who by the way, is also moving his wife and son back to Mississippi, even as he’s preparing for these exercises. He’s not worried about his fellow troops. It’s called common sense.

Worse (and this is what’s really infuriating) it’s a kick in the teeth to my dad, who fought in Vietnam and then returned home, fell in love with and married a woman who happened to have a bit of baggage. I am that baggage.

And for all of those who say it’s all on Obama and he’s the one directing these “exercises”, let me tell you a quick story:

My dad and I have this ongoing joke between us. I walk into their house and all bets are off – we instantly turn into these crazy people talking politics. I tease him about our current president and how I know he’s really a Democrat. That usually turns the attention to my mom and I say, “Bet you didn’t know you married a Democrat.” And without fail…EVERY SINGLE TIME….Daddy says, “I got something for Barack and Michelle” (that’s what he calls them) and he reaches into his pocket. On cue and like clockwork, Mom follows suit and reaches into her purse. I swear, I fall for it every time. I know exactly what’s about to happen, but yet, I’m waiting. Both of them pull their hands out and with their middle fingers, and only their middle fingers, showing. Better than a George Burns and Gracie Allen skit, those two. They just laugh and laugh and if you’re in the same room, you laugh and laugh too.

Even Einstein sees the humor.

Even Einstein seems the humor.

My point is: don’t underestimate any member of our military. I have great confidence that it would take far more than the word from a president even our military does not trust to cause our brothers, best friends, fathers, sisters and mothers to turn against their own. No one – and I mean no one – could possibly love this country more than those who are willing to die for it.

So do us all a favor – direct your attention to those things that really do matter and that truly are a threat to this country. I promise you – if all hell breaks loose in this country during these Jade Helm exercises, my happy ass is running towards them, not away from them. They’re the ones who are going to protect us – even the jackasses who are trying to catch them doing something wrong.

Greece: Superpowers (and Others) Observing from a Distance

As the Greek “no-win game plan” plays out on the world stage, many are wondering why both the United States and Russia are, for the most part, watching quietly from the sidelines. The argument could be made (and has) that Greece is miniscule in both size and its ability to wreak havoc on a global level. That’s terribly shortsighted and frankly, when has the U.S. ever stood by and simply watched from a distance? For that matter, when has Russia?

With so many events playing out simultaneously, attention gets focused and refocused. It’s easy to feel as though nothing is ever resolved as we constantly turn our attention to the latest breaking news.

The question is: who will really benefit, no matter the outcome? Who knows – but there are a few facts that could be playing a big role in how these decisions are made.

Russia

We know that Russia is looking for better solutions now that the U.S. has tried to sanction it off the map. You’d think Putin would be working magic to take advantage of the weakness Greece now is showing – and you’d be right.

capture-20150712-174851

Greece and Russia have teamed up for the latest pipeline project going through Turkey. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why Greece didn’t simply bail on the negotiations and leave the Eurozone for Russia’s open arms. Putin’s already said he’s willing to write a check, and let’s face it, Greece gets no respect from its European partners. Proof of that is found in the almost-sad way it’s being treated in these negotiations.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ is now facing a reality that includes his own people feeling as though he sold them out. Even his wife threatened to leave him if he caved. Less than one week later – he caved.

Why would he risk losing everything for a deal that serves no good purpose for his country? The truth is, Germany, France and the others have a lot at stake, too, yet they’re playing hardball on a deal that is pretty much a list of “granted wishes” by Greece. So why is Tsipras being treated like a red-headed stepchild when he’s caved to all of their demands? Maybe this will help:

Greece has the power to veto any Russian sanctions the EU wishes to dole out.

Maybe Tsipras loses more than his country’s faith and his marriage if he doesn’t try to remain where he is, even if it does mean a worse deal in the short term.

Germany

Angela Merkel has her hands full. She and her country’s leaders want Greece ejected. But why? They say Greece is lazy and untrustworthy, but is that really enough for Germany to take such a tough stance?  Russia and Germany have always had a love/hate relationship. Just last month, Germany accused Russia of stockpiling nukes near Russia’s borders. The fact that any one partner can veto anything the EU proposes is probably a bit uncomfortable for Germany, especially considering this slow dance with Russia and knowing Greece and Russia are partners in oil.

Former (as of last week) Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, wrote on Friday:

Based on months of negotiation, my conviction is that the German finance minister wants Greece to be pushed out of the single currency to put the fear of God into the French and have them accept his model of a disciplinarian eurozone.

It’s walking a fine line laid out by Putin, but it also knows that a partner with the power to veto sanctions against Russia is not something any of the countries wish to tackle.

Makes sense. France has the same veto power as Greece. And speaking of France:

France

This is a country with leaders who’ve been busy. President Hollande took the position of bucking Germany and Angela Merkel in order to take Greece’s side. French leaders have spent a significant amount of time in the past 24 hours “oohing and ahhhing” over the latest proposal set forth by Tsipras and encouraging other countries – and most certainly Germany – to follow. France as a cheerleader – who’d have thought?

Adding to this: France is pressuring the United States to close a deal with Iran. French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said just today, “Now that everything is on the table, the moment has come to decide.”

I don’t reckon that serenade with James Taylor earlier this year had the effect Kerry was hoping for.

Maybe France is still angry at the U.S. for forcing it to cancel its contract with Russia regarding its Mistral program this past November. It was a big contract for France, but it did not bode well with us and a few other countries.

Russia, surprisingly enough, negotiated with the country and ended up with a deal that simply allowed for a refund to Russia. That’s generous, considering the massive contractual dynamics that France annihilated and the realization that Russia could have made things extraordinarily hard for France. But maybe there were a few promises made that could place Russia in a strategic position in the very near future, especially if Grexit comes full circle.

Iran

Iran doesn’t have a dog in the hunt with Greece/Europe battle, but it does play a role in the very near future, especially if Greece leaves EU.

Iran is vehement in its efforts of convincing those involved in the nuclear talks to lift the UN arms embargo and end the long-standing ban against the missile program. In fact, those are likely the two biggest challenges at this point. Naturally, Russia is in agreement with Iran, which further complicates matters, especially considering the two countries have enjoyed a mutually beneficial nuke program for many years. And let’s not forget, Obama is fine and dandy with Russia holding Iran’s nuke materials as part of the deal. That’s like handing me a freezer full of shrimp and telling me not to cook it. That shrimp is going to get cooked!

But there’s another reason Russia and Iran are acting more like BFFs. In BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), U.S. sanctions play no role at all. This could mean that Iran, if the new agreement falls through (or even if they don’t), can still bypass any sanctions and keep its product in the market. Iran has already stated on more than a few occasions over the past few years that it wants to join BRICS. While Greece couldn’t become a full member at this time, it can benefit from the many advantages BRICS provides.

“Iran supports the BRICS group and is prepared for membership and presence in BRICS’ fund.”

– Iran’s Deputy Economy Minister Behrouz Alishiri

And then there’s this little gem from two years ago: BRICS leaders released a statement after one of its summits:

“We are concerned about threats of military action as well as unilateral sanctions, and hope that all outstanding issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme will be resolved through discussions and diplomatic means. We believe there is no alternative to a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, and recognize Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations.”

Russia has at least 33 nuclear reactors and India has nearly as many while Brazil and South Africa have two or three nuclear reactors each.

Yet, Iran is the country that leaders say is the threat on the nuclear front. And God forbid Greece embarrass the EU and make a beeline for the other side that includes nuke supporters.

Finland

Finland is another country that stated it would not vote in favor of Greece’s stay in the EU. This is a small country and while it is part of the EU, really, what could taking a stand against Greece cost the country? Why remain stone silent and at the 11th hour, find your voice? Maybe Russia knows the answer.

For 40 years, the Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe has hosted a meeting with leaders from many countries, including Russia. This year, however, Russia was uninvited. Russia counted on Finland to take its side by not supporting a travel ban that prevented many of Russia’s delegates to attend. Finland chose not to.

Russia’s response? Nikolai Kovalev made it clear the damage to the relations between Finland and Russia was permanent.

Susanna Turunen, YLE editor, was a bit more definitive in her statements:

“Russia sees the situation differently and is now considering counter measures that could involve further trade sanctions specifically targeting Finland…failure is the inevitable outcome of denying entry of the Russian delegation.”

Unfortunately, Finland is the one country that is 100 percent dependent on Russia for its energy.

Maybe Finland is hedging its bets if Greece is ejected. It could be the one country Russia relies on to veto sanctions in the EU. France certainly can’t do it without massive repercussions.

By the way, the countries in the EU have their energy needs met by Russia. In fact, more than half of its energy comes from Russia. It’s like a game of chess for Putin.

Russian expert and economist Edward Lucas sums it up:

If you rely on Russia for your oil reserves, or for a big proportion of your sales, you turn yourself willy-nilly into a hostage. The demands may not be conspicuous. They may not come immediately. But just as water flows downhill, so the power of the Kremlin finds the weakest spot and exploits it.

United States
So now we know why Russia is, for the most part, taken a passive position. But what about the U.S? What is Obama doing?

Well, he’s freeing federal prisoners right after an NAACP luncheon focused on the disproportionate number of men and women of color who are incarcerated.

Oh, and he’s also “integrating races into wealthy communities”. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.

He’s creating new national monuments.

Basically, it looks as though “the leader of the free world is indulging in a week of summer vacation” but wrapping it up delightfully as a strategic move in case a deal is struck with Iran.

6 Things that Prove “All Hell’s Done Broke Loose”

In one of the most powerful scenes in American film history, Spencer Tracy’s character’s Matt Drayton unleashed one of those rare and poignant and perfect speeches that forever change the way you see things in the real world. If you’ve never seen “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, you should. Trust me – it’s so much more than a film about race relations. Not only that, but it was Spencer Tracy’s last film.  His epic speech to his family and the family of his daughter’s fiancé begins with a quote from his housekeeper, Tillie (played beautifully by Isabel Sanford), when asked how the day was. She said, “All hell’s done broke loose.”

And has it! Today’s been one of those days when you ask yourself if you’re not in some vintage episode of Twilight Zone. Here are six examples that prove that sentiment. More importantly, they’re proof that we should pay attention to what’s next.

Greece’s Irrelevancy

Oh, that silly Obama. This afternoon, the White House said the Greek debt crisis is “no major or direct threat to the economy because exposure to Greece’s economy is small”. He makes me laugh and here’s why:

The Dow closed 350 points down today (albeit it’s probably just a fluke out of panic).

If Greece exits the Eurozone, there’s a very real possibility that it will take other countries with it.

It could also affect our job market because of our relationships with other countries. We have healthy exporting agreements in place and if those are threatened, it could start a domino effect beginning with job losses.

Puerto Rico

I admit, I’ve always been a bit confused about what Puerto Rico is to the United States. Is it or isn’t it a part of our country? It’s a Commonwealth and the U.S. Congress is its government. Those who call Puerto Rico home are our fellow Americans; in fact, the count is close to 5 million Americans. And the country’s broke…as in “Greece broke”.

Remember back in March when Vice President Biden launched a campaign to help Central America to the tune of $1 billion? (You can read my post here)? He said, “The president and I are determined to address conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and help these countries on their path to economic prosperity.”

Generous, right? Obviously, if the U.S. is willing to help those countries, then surely we’d help our own fellow Americans. You’d be wrong.

Today, Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary, told the media that no one in the government is planning on bailing out Puerto Rico.

capture-20150630-112750

An hour later, we hear that the White House is continuing to insist that Puerto Rico’s government must “resolve its own issues”. Well, that solves everything, right? Except for the fact that they forgot who its government is. It’s us. We’re its government.

Belarus Who?

While all eyes are focused on Greece, there’s a small country that’s managed to stay under the radar for quite some time. This past December, Belarus went into full panic mode, even if much of the world was clueless. When the Russian ruble began spiraling down, it brought with it the Belarussian ruble. The country’s government made across capture-20150630-120559the board changes that included blocking online retailers, news sites, banks and any other website, in or out of the country, that could be a threat to the government. It was known as December Insanity.

Fast forward to today.

Both Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Belarus State Security Chairman Valery Vakulchik, reiterated to its citizens that there are no threats or concerns to worry about, just as they invited the KGB for a sit down.  Instead, the invitation was extended “not only because the political situation is complicated or because we are on the eve of a presidential election campaign,” but because of the “activity of our non-friends on western borders has increased too much”. And who’s on the western borders? “The presence of NATO armed forces on the western borders keeps growing while the crime rate on the southern borders is rising.”

Like Greece, it warned its people against panic, which was met with a run on banks in order to secure their savings.

Why is this important? Try this:

Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister, Sergei Storchak, announced his country is considering giving Belarus a loan to refinance its foreign debt. Yes, Russia. The same Russia that’s offering to bail out Greece and the same Russia that just partnered with Greece for that new Turkey pipeline. And by the way – they don’t need Europe or the US. They have their own banks. Remember when everyone said last year that BRICS wouldn’t be a competitor for our systems? They said BRICS needed “smaller” countries that wouldn’t betray the big daddies in the world? Greece is rather small. Just small enough, I’d say. And with the dollar rising, again, the potential for job losses in the U.S. along with the fact that Obama’s hell bent on distancing us from our allies, maybe BRICS is something we should pay attention to. What’s next? Puerto Rico?

ISIS

Did you know 10 Americans have been arrested for involvement with ISIS this month? All ten arrests happened right here in the U.S. That’s like…one American every three days in the month of June who were arrested on American soil for terroristic reasons.

Overtime Pay

So O & Co. is expected to announce sometime on Tuesday that he’s going to make overtime available for millions of Americans. That’s interesting because we already have laws that govern overtime pay for Americans. Could this have something to do with the number of illegal immigrants in this country? We’ll see. If that’s true, here’s a suggestion to Puerto Rico: jump from the Caribbean to Mexico. Go north and sooner or later, you’ll hit a border. Just tell the guys that you’re coming into this country with no documentation. They’ll hook you up (because they have to) and send you right where you need to go.

Donald Trump

We’ve complained forever about politicians who will walk two miles to tell a lie but won’t take two steps for the truth. Who would’ve thought Donald Trump would deliver that truth? You have to admit there’s something behind the ego, which is a surprise to most everyone. Considering I’m always bitching about lying politicians, I am totally loving this “in your face” approach.

“If NBC is so weak and so foolish to not understand the serious illegal immigration problem in the United States, coupled with the horrendous and unfair trade deals we are making with Mexico, then their contract violating closure of Miss Universe/Miss USA will be determined in court. They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won’t stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be.”

So, there it is. Six stand alone events – any number of them can coincide with the other and change everything. Imagine Donald Trump being elected because of his inability to bite his tongue when it comes to Obama announcing new rules on overtime. Imagine that – American business owners being told what to do. Last time I saw that, it was on an episode of Law & Order; except it was the mob forcing a small business owner to bend to his will.

I looked high and low for a clip of Tillie’s famous “All hell’s done broke loose” line. Couldn’t find it – but here’s the beautiful scene with Sidney Poitier and his father, played by Roy Glenn. Do yourself a favor: see the film!