Announcing the Great Villain Blogathon 2015!

Donna:

So excited about this! Even better, I chose Addie Ross – the faceless husband stealer in A Letter to Three Wives.

Originally posted on Speakeasy:

Banner

The first Great Villain Blogathon in 2014 was such a fun and huge event that, in the tradition of the greatest movie villains, we threatened promised to return and wreak havoc again with another event celebrating cinema’s biggest cretins.

Banner

We cordially invite you to participate in the Great Villain Blogathon 2015. Pick a movie villain to write about and join us in this dissection of the dastardly and depraved, this survey of the stinking and spiteful, this audit of hateful and heinous characters.

Your hosts are Ruth of Silver Screenings, Karen of Shadows & Satin and Kristina of Speakeasy, and The Great Villain Blogathon happens APRIL 13 – 17, 2015.

 Banner

You may write on any Big Bad from any era, country and genre, whether they were dictators, outlaws, criminals, politicians, mistresses, monsters, slashers, gangsters, mama’s boys, hammy and backstabbing actresses, artificial intelligence, aliens, wicked stepmothers, or any…

View original 399 more words

Taking on The Slap

Apparently, I was one of the few who actually saw NBC’s premiere of The Slap. It’s not exactly hitting any kind of numbers that would warrant a trending position on Twitter and if you Google it, everyone’s talking about its low ratings. That’s surprising, but then again, some of the best shows on TV these days don’t take off with much of a bang. ABC’s Nashville didn’t inspire any Twitter hashtags and FX’s Sons of Anarchy was close to being axed after its first season. We all know how criminal it would have been to pull that from the FX lineup.

Here’s the thing, though. With The Slap, if it does pick up viewers, that means it will soon be quite controversial for its content and the morals of child discipline and too, let’s face it, the region of the country we live in will likely play a role in that as well. That, to me, is the most fascinating aspect of it.

Another problem could be that it’s being presented as a mini-series. Today’s audiences are all about longevity. That’s part of the reason network television isn’t faring well. We’re forced to wait months for three or four episodes, only to realize we’re nearing a “seasonal” finale, in which we’re forced to wait another several months. It’s growing old, Network Decision Makers….it’s growing old! To make matters worse, viewers get invested, only to learn – with no warning – that it’s been pulled. Two examples: Longmire and Dallas.

anigifAnd by the way, why didn’t NBC take advantage of its two mega stars? I had no idea Uma Thurman and Thandie Newton would be gracing our television screens until it premiered last night. I don’t know that it would have made much of a difference, though. Everything about the way The Slap premiere was marketed is just…strange.

It’s worth noting this is an award-winning series in Australia that premiered in 2011. It’s also based on Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap: A Novel. Like most things, the read is far more interesting than the vision we’re presented via network television.

Here’s how it’s been marketed:

A once happy family suddenly begins to fall apart following a seemingly minor incident in which a man slaps another couple’s misbehaving child.

Little in that description makes sense once you see the pilot. Very little.

Hector (Peter Saarsgard)

There are no happy families in this show. The show opens with bad news with the lead (Hector) learning he didn’t get a promotion, but a “Latino woman” did (this is bound to come full circle later), it transitions to his drive home where he’s thinking about a young girl in a less than moral manner and by the time he reaches his home, makes his entrance, complete with fighting kids and a wife who’s ill after going twelve rounds with her mother in law, the best he can do is wish for drugs. Fortunately, his wife’s a doctor (played by Newton) and she actually sends him to her clinic and tells him where to find her stash. It’s then we learn that the young girl he’s fantasizing about actually works at the clinic with his wife.

This family (which is really several families) is falling apart long before the bratty kid enters the picture.

Let’s look at the “seemingly” minor incident. I will say this – clocking the kid across the face with that much rage? Dead wrong. The kid is a major pain in the ass and frankly, he has his pansy parents to thank for the very difficult life he’s about to live, both as a kid and as an adult.

Hugo (Dylan Schombing)

Hugo is the kid who’s a terror (versus the whole “misbehaving child” description NBC planted). Schombing is 7, and the character is probably 6 or 7. (By the way, this cutie pie has acting in his genes – his father is Jason Schombing of Watchmen, Timecop and Fantastic Four.) His mother is still nursing him and is proud for anyone to see it. And no, it doesn’t bother me that mothers nurse their babies, but let’s face it, “babies” is the operative word here. A 6 or 7 year old kid? There’s all kinds of psychological trauma going on by then and it’s rooted in the mother, Rosie (Melissa George). Hugo’s father is as big a pansy as any who have graced the small screen. He believes a bit of sweet talk in a non-aggressive manner is the way to go. Whatever.

After being “asked” by his father to stop swinging the bat at a couple of his cousins in the back yard, his uncle took matters into his own hands when he realized Hugo was getting closer to his cousin with each swing.

Harry (Zack Quinto)

As the adults are sitting around the table on the deck, Harry realizes the soft requests from Hugo’s father aren’t working. He immediately jumps the deck railing and takes the bat away from him and scolds him, only to have Hugo kick him. Enter the slap.

Let’s be clear – the actors are nailing their characters, and the sets are beautiful. The promo photographs reveal a lot about the characters and their sensibilities – not sure why people overlook these important elements. With Newton and Saarsgard, the chrome floor lamp against the classic leather chair shows tradition and contemporary mindsets are at odds. Quinto’s promos show durable and masculine wood elements, complete with a wooden ashtray at his feet, representing the classic “man’s man”; and the patriarch of the family, played by Brian Cox shows him sitting at a kitchen table, complete with flowers, a Crucifix and a small Jesus statue. Vintage furniture fills the space and it’s all indicative of an overwhelming matriarch’s aggressive approach to her family. It’s really fascinating from a psychological perspective.

But really, there are so many things wrong in this family. We learn that Hector is an atheist who’s pining away for the underage assistant in his wife’s office (she actually asks for permission to have a beer, in which she’s told “you’re not old enough”). We have a mother who makes Marie Barone look like a docile wall flower and with the scandal (that never should have been a scandal) brewing, who knows what we’ll discover next? That is, provided decision makers don’t pull the plug.

Real Love Story? Not Until You Know Newman and Woodward

I just finished reading Paul Newman: A Life. It’s not new, of course, but what a fascinating life he lived and what he left was really his and Joanne Woodward’s love story. That’s what I want to focus on; but you should know, if you don’t already, that over the course of this man’s 83 years, he won many awards, including a Tony Award, BAFTA, Academy Award (The Color of Money, 1986), Golden Globe Awards, Cannes Film Festival Award, Emmy Award, SAG Award and more. He was deeply devoted to his charitable causes and of course, Joanne Woodward and his children. Fortunately for us, many of the photos of the couple are available, so I’m really excited to be able to include a few of what I feel are intimate photos of a couple who are the epitome true love.

It’s also worth noting that A Life, his 50th wedding anniversary with Woodward as well as his death all came full circle the same year, months apart, in 2008.

Newman and Woodward stand as a formidable pair that beat the odds, especially for Hollywood. They were strong as individuals, stronger together and most certainly committed to putting each other first and as the photos show, they also found their happiness in one another. While the book was fascinating, it’s clear Newman wanted to talk about his wife – and he did in this final artistic work.

What emerged was a degree of adoration, loyalty and simple but pure love that should serve as a hallmark for any marriage.

He spoke of his misery in his first marriage (his three oldest children were born in this union), his sorrow for hurting his first wife but also with no apologies for the way he felt about Woodward.

The Long Hot Summer had always been my favorite film that starred the couple. Set in Mississippi, (Thank you, Faulkner), it was released in 1958. It was their first film together (though that had spent a significantly smaller amount of time on Broadway when both had roles in Picnic) and really, the first opportunity they had to get to know each other.

This is important for another reason, too. Just as 2008 brought many changes, so did 1958.  The film had wrapped, Newman ended his marriage of nearly 10 years to be with Woodward – and not only was Newman’s divorce finalized, he also managed to marry Woodward before the year was up. The scandal, surprisingly, wasn’t as earth-shattering as you might expect.

Soon, they starred in another film, John O’Hara’s From the Terrace. Instantly and forever, this became the one movie that will always be at the very top of my favorite’s list.

Ironically, it’s a tale about Alfred Eaton (Newman) trying to do the right thing, even as his wife, Mary played by Woodward, had ulterior and materialistic motives. Mary liked the idea of being married to Alfred, but she had no desire to be his wife in a truer sense. She was in the marriage because of his success – the name he’d built for himself and the money that came with it. Of course, he meets and falls in love with another woman, but don’t feel bad for the missus – Mary’s been cheating on her husband almost from the beginning. An added bonus is Myrna Loy in the first few minutes of the movie in the role of Alfred’s mother.

Trust me on this: if you haven’t seen the film, take three minutes and check out the trailer below. You’ll find yourself on Amazon (where it’s available) and Netflix (where it’s sometimes available), ready to dive into this classic. It offers scandal, adultery, selfishness, heroic efforts (Newman saves a drowning boy) and what ethics and honesty in the legal profession look like (yes, seriously). Also, too, pay attention to Woodward’s southern drawl, which she had been told to lose. It’s delivered via a perfect velvety pitch, as though she had all the time in the world to speak her peace. Believe me, I can remember trying my best to master that pitch and tone. And no one can; it’s one of those things that just comes natural. The southern twang? Yeah, that comes easy – I’m southern. But Woodward? It’s on a level all its own.

Seriously, even if you’re not a fan of the classics, you owe it to yourself to hear how a true southern accent (she was born in Thomasville, GA) travels across the silver screen. It’s magical, I tell you.

 

Each year, Turner Classic Movies hosts a month-long Oscar-winning film fest. All of the movies shown won at least one Academy award, whether it was for best film, best actress, best supporting actress or any other distinction. One of those award winning actresses is Joanne Woodward. Her role in The Three Faces of Eve was sublime and in 1957, she was rewarded for that performance.

Many – if not most – believe this is the best Joanne Woodward film ever; however, the movies that included her and real-life husband Paul Newman are the ones closest to my heart. I’ve never been able to figure out if it’s just the romantic in me or if there was some indescribable chemistry between them that you’d have to be blind to miss.

Eh, maybe it’s a little of both.

Be sure to check out Paul Newman: A Life. It really is a fascinating story.

capture-20150126-114243

capture-20150126-114708

 

 

capture-20150126-113919

capture-20150126-114745

 

capture-20150126-114052

 

capture-20150126-113832

capture-20150126-114916

capture-20150126-114132

capture-20150126-114213

 

Regency Energy Under Investigation, USW Strikes

Reuters

Reuters

Even though the United Steelworkers union has only been in negotiations for a little more than a week, it decided to begin a work stoppage after there was no agreement on a new labor contract. This union represents 200 oil refineries, chemical plants, pipelines and terminals. It says it rejected at least four offers from Royal Dutch Shell (think Exxon, Chevron, etc.). This is the first strike it’s called in more than three decades and if you’re wondering how big this could get in an already battered sector, David Lennox explains it this way, ““If the strike escalates, that would be detrimental to the oil price. It will put high U.S. production out on the market and there is nowhere for it to go.”

Meanwhile, that tiny glimmer of hope on Friday with WTI’s 8-plus percent jump seems quite dim now; today it fell by $1.49 a barrel on New York’s ME. Already, refineries are announcing they’re shutting down their process units and more refineries are saying they’re prepared to join the strike. All are rethinking contingency plans.

Regency Investigation

The last thing you want is to have your conglomerate in the crosshairs of a group of law firms as you’re going about the business of closing a multi-billion dollar deal. If you’re Regency Energy Partners, you’re likely getting the sense that it’s about to get deep.

With so many buy outs and mergers these days in energy and oil, it came as no surprise when Energy Transfer Partners LP announced it had agreed to buy Regency for $11 billion excluding its debt. Insiders are saying that were the total debt included, the price would have been more than $18 billion (and there are some saying the debt is indeed part of the deal). Of course, there are excruciatingly complicated tax exemptions, including one that allows handsome payouts to shareholders. Both are master limited partnerships (MLPs). The politics of money, right? Or is it the money in politics?

The investigation focuses on any ulterior motives and whether Regency Energy’s Board of Directors is acting in the shareholders’ best interests. Were other alternatives considered? Is the board poised to completely and accurately review the process as a whole? These are just a few of the questions, but the real focus is whether or not Regency’s board is fulfilling its fiduciary duties, including maximizing the company’s value and disclosing all material benefits and costs (which obviously is disconcerting).

Here’s what the deal looks like:

Regency shareholders will receive $0.4066 shares of ETP and $0.32 cash for each share of Regency Energy owned, total consideration of approximately $26.89 per share.  There is a growing number of analysts and other interested parties who believe the true inherent value of the stock could be as high as $34.00 per share.

In recent weeks, S&P issued a junk rating for Regency. Regency’s value has dropped 18% over the past few months, but closed a bit higher last week when the merger was announced.

It’s important to note that these types of investigations aren’t too uncommon. What makes this one different has to do with the current events in the oil sector. From bomb threats last week to massive job cuts to the spread between Brent and WTI – there are a lot of wheels in motion. And, of course, this is a massive buyout. It’s only been in the past several months that the FTC wrapped up another investigation it had been conducting against Regency.

And let’s not forget the settlement in the Freeport-McMoRan Inc. derivative lawsuit (when shareholders sue officials on behalf of a company) this past week. It’s going to pay $137.5 million to put an end to claims that the company’s directors and executives had conflicts of interest during the buyout of two different oil and gas companies in 2013. Their lawyers say the individual defendants denied wrongdoing and there was no breach of duties to shareholders. But there are now new worries.

A recent column from Jacob Maslow explains those new worries:

The downward pressure on materials companies should make economic planners and industry observers as well as investors worried. It means the contagion of oil is spreading to other industries. We’re not just talking about declining stock prices here. This is going to be a Main Street issue besides a Wall Street one. How? Jobs…These industries might face waves of layoffs that might send shockwaves to the rest of the economy.

So what does all of this look like on the other side? See, again, in the energy and oil arena, the odds of you hitting Biloxi beach and gambling your life savings in a casino for that one big win are probably greater than figuring out the next play in this sector. The strike, though, is not good on any level and only adds to an already overwhelming crisis.

Stories You Might’ve Missed, Courtesy of #DeflateGate

This whole Deflate Gate silliness has fascinated us this week – even I’m getting a kick out of it, mostly because the tweets just write themselves. It’s almost too easy, yes? Ah, but while we were trumping one another with our cracks about Tom Brady and footballs and broken rules, real life was marching on, even if things are happening we’ve not yet been made aware of. As we get ready to kick the weekend into high gear, here are a few of the really important stories that are breaking and that serve as, first, proof that mainstream media is picking and choosing what it collectively feels it needs to report , and more importantly, these stories have long reaching repercussions for all of us – even Tom Brady.

Sheldon Silver Arrested

Ever heard of Sheldon Silver? If you rely on Fox, CNN, ABC and CBS, you may not have. Silver is the longtime Speaker of the New York State Assembly. The 70 year old was arrested this week on a multitude of charges and guess who the federal prosecutor is? That’s right – none other than Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District. The one man who serves as a threat to Jamie Dimon and other big bankers. The one who the press simultaneously loves and hates. The one who’s a glorious smartass, makes no apologies and just fearless enough to call it as he sees it. He is the one federal prosecutor who could care less which political party is affected by his aggressive legal tactics because they know that he knows where the proverbial bodies are hidden. Worse, they know he’s on a mission to uncover them all. They’re just hoping to be out of the line of fire, politically speaking, when he begins his search in their respective back yards.

So what’s going on with Silver? He was arrested on Thursday and is being accused of federal corruption, mail fraud, wire fraud and extortion. The fact that he kept his position during five gubernatorial administrations speaks volumes about how big this case can potentially grow.

Bharara’s complaint details accusations of Silver “using the power and influence of his official position to obtain for himself millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income.” It also says probable cause exists that support Silver receiving millions of dollars masked as attorney referral fees, though Silver did no work for the money.

Federal prosecutors seized approximately $3.8 million from Silver on Thursday.

As you can see, mainstream media is not pursuing this. In the top search engine results, there is no Fox News or CNN or MSNBC. It’s too politically dangerous for any of the bigger outlets, despite the long reaching implications of how it will play out.

capture-20150123-125726

Is This Why Obama is Bowing to Iran?

The big brouhaha this week, in terms of how the Obama Administration has embarrassed us yet again, is the rudeness the president displayed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As everyone knows, Speaker John Boehner extended an invitation to PM Netanyahu earlier this week to speak before Congress. The top of the agenda is the current Iran soon-to-be-huge crisis. O & Co., including Senator Diane Feinstein, immediately began crying “foul”.

Then we learn that just this week, the Obama administration wrote a check for $490 million in cash assets to Iran, bringing the total to $11.9 billion paid to the Islamic Republic by June. This comes from the State Department. This payment marks the third in a series of checks we’ve written JUST IN ONE MONTH.

Iran is the benefactor of $4.9 billion of what the State Department says are “unfrozen cash assets”, otherwise known as your tax dollars, through 10 separate payments. The rest of this total will be paid out by June, as mentioned.

And why are we shelling out massive amounts of money to Iran? Take a look:

Iran received $4.2 billion in under a 2013 interim agreement with the U.S. and then given another $2.8 billion by the Obama administration last year in a bid to keep Iran committed to nuclear talks. By the way, Iran’s not wavered, yet the money is still coming.

There are absolutely no strings attached, which is unfortunate considering the Pentagon estimates Iran has spent between $100 and $200 million EVERY year funding Hezbollah.

If you’re wondering, Iran has not slowed down its efforts of creating plutonium track, which provides it with a “second path” to a nuclear bomb. Further, Iran President Hassan Rouhani announced three days before this latest payment that his country has begun constructing two new light water nuclear reactors. The U.S. State Department says, “No problem. That’s not a deal breaker”.

In this instance, Fox News did report on this story, but no CNBC, CBS, or the others:

capture-20150123-130846

But you know there’s more to it. The U.S. pressured Russia to not provide assistance to Iran, only to turn around and pay out these millions of dollars to, of course, help Iran. So what does Russia do? We’re about to see firsthand, but it’s announcing it will, after all, fulfill the delivery of S-300 air defense missile systems that the U.S. convinced it not to do.

Sort of puts the Netanyahu visit into a different perspective, yes? If I were anyone in the Obama Administration, I wouldn’t want to face him either.

Huge Sell Off of Shale Assets

Oil Tycoon Harold Hamm just sold a whopping $3 billion in his shale assets. He’s going through an ugly divorce, but let’s face it, he knows when he’s whooped. Oil continues its free fall and the news that Kinder Morgan announced it would be buying shale assets from Hiland Partners (owned by Hamm), for many, it was just proof of what so many have suspected all along: shale is too expensive and not likely going to be the cure-all for the OPEC-U.S. standoff.

So why would Kinder take such a risk? Maybe to pay its dividends for the next few years? Maybe it opens the door for more viable areas such as North Dakota? Hiland only employees 430 people, and even though it says it will retain “almost all” of those employees, that’s one breaking news story it can avoid, unlike some of the other news this week of companies laying off thousands in the oil sector.

Meanwhile, when news broke, Kinder stock rose by 17 cents, but fell by $1 in later trading.

Before you kick off your weekend, there’s one more recently-lit fire that needs to be on everyone’s radar. Andrew Lack, who was just named head honcho over the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, announced it was placing RT, once known as Russia Today, on a “challenge list”, right along with ISIS and Boko Haram. Yes, seriously. The U.S. just did that. In an interview with…wait for it…mainstream media, specifically The New York Times, Lack explained it this way:

“We are facing a number of challenges from entities like Russia Today which is out there pushing a point of view, the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram,” he said. “But I firmly believe that this agency has a role to play in facing those challenges.”

RT Editor in Chief Margarita Simonyan is demanding to know why this media outlet is in the same category as global terrorists:

“We are extremely outraged that the new head of the BBG mentions RT in the same breath as world’s number one terrorist army. We see this as an international scandal and demand an explanation.”

 

Here’s an idea. Check out RT’s track record, including its massive list of awards – AMERICAN awards it boasts. Even the State Department is scratching its head over the “equation of RT with ISIS”.

Nothing surprises me anymore.

Russia Holds the Cards

From time to time, I write about things that garner a few emails and comments that are anything but supportive. Sometimes, it’s because I’m being horrible and unfair to Gwyneth Paltrow or Jamie Dimon or the Obama Administration; other times, it’s that I’m too conservative/liberal/biased/optimistic, etc. on the important things in life. And that’s OK – actually, it’s what lets me know I need to double down. That’s what’s been happening over the past several weeks. In December, I wrote, “I’ve said for weeks that Russia is the big winner in this latest oil scramble…” Soon after, I was told that I was wrong and that I was overestimating Russia’s role, even though I knew there was something to it, and even if I couldn’t quite quantify it yet. That was in December and sure enough, things began unwinding, not so much on the Russian front, but here in the U.S.

Stay with me – I’m linking it all together.

In November, when Halliburton announced it would buy Baker Hughes for $35 billion, that should have been the first clue. When things like that happen, especially in such a short time frame (it’s said the two were in talks for less than a month), you know to expect job cuts. Shareholders fared well, but it wasn’t until last week that we heard anything else about it in terms of specifics – and even then, it’s not as specific as most would like:

Houston-based Halliburton Co. has cut an undisclosed number of jobs in Houston due to current business conditions. (Read it here).

But things became clearer during this morning’s Halliburton earnings conference call when it announced it would be laying off more than 7,000 people.

After I’d published Friday’s post, several more companies announced layoffs, including Apache and Swift, both oil and gas asset companies, OFS Energy, BP, Enbridge Energy Partners, and Civeo Corp. (a lodging and workforce accommodations company for the oil and gas industry). These “widespread energy layoffs” are expected to continue and trickle down to other subsectors:

In a Rigzone survey taken from Dec. 15 to Jan. 2, 48 percent of U.S. energy hiring managers said they have already experienced a loss of budgeted positions due to market volatility, up from 18 percent who said this six months ago.

Attorney Lydia Protopapas, with Winston & Strawn LLP, a Texas bankruptcy firm, said the signs of an increase in bankruptcy filings are in place, courtesy of the fall in oil prices.

New fears are that a lot of companies are going to have to come clean on just how much oil they do have in reserve. Some say these companies have been sugarcoating the truth. We’ll soon see.

But here’s the reason for today’s post:

This past Friday, another Houston-based oil company announced it was cutting 9,000 jobs. While it felt like there was a “Paul Harvey” (as my mom would say) to it somewhere else, I couldn’t find “the rest of the story”. Until this morning:

Oilfield services company Schlumberger buys 46% of Russian Eurasia Drilling Company

(On a personal note, I reckon I wasn’t as wrong as some said).

Now it’s beginning to make sense. Schlumberger’s biggest competitor is Halliburton. In fact, when Halliburton merged with Baker Hughes in November, it cited its competition in what seemed like a taunt:

Halliburton will buy Baker Hughes for about $35 billion in cash and stock, creating an oilfield services to take on market leader Schlumberger.

First, oil was already down more than 45 percent when this happened in November. Job cuts were bound to happen, right? And they did, as we’re seeing now.

So why would Schlumberger make these choices, especially considering it pulled out of Russia last year, citing U.S. sanctions? Well, the sanctions might have hurt smaller companies and countries, but hey, this is the U.S. We make multi-billion dollar mergers in our sleep, right?

Sure enough, the job cuts, mergers and nearly every other decision being made (not only with Schlumberger) has the same common goal in mind: to get in on the huge Russian oil brouhaha.

The Putin Diplomacy

There’s another little gem in all of this. The sanctions, the insults, the silliness, the insanity of the Obama Administration at times: Putin never flinched. Not once. Now, he’s known for his stoic personality, but there have been some eyebrow-raising antics going on recently. He didn’t even weigh in on the absence of the U.S. during the massive and really, awe-inspiring show of global force in Paris after the terror attacks earlier this month. He was simply there, showing his country’s support and declining any opportunities to talk smack.

In fact, how many of us here in the U.S. have dogged Secretary of State John Kerry for that ridiculous and embarrassing spectacle he made last week with his efforts of serenading France (See? I just did it again.)? Putin, though? Not one word. And why would he? He knew things that were going on in the U.S. that makes you wonder if our own president was even aware was happening.

There is one more overwhelming, though not often reported reality that could play a role moving forward, especially considering what’s going on with these oil and energy companies:

BlackEnergy

Late last year, we heard from just a few mainstream media sources regarding a Russian government Trojan horse. The malware, according to DHS, has been planted, though not activated. Russia has already used this specific malware when it attacked NATO networks in early 2014. The infected systems here? DHS says it’s the “complex industrial operations like oil and gas pipelines, power transmission grids, water distribution and filtration systems, wind turbines and even some nuclear plants.”

So what, if anything, can BlackEnergy do? Get ready – it can do anything it wants. From destroying the systems from the inside out, causing damage to the physical pipes and computers – not to mention the potential for harming employees who are working the computers, pipes and valve systems; it can paralyze our mobile systems and can result in self destruction to power grids, generators and nuclear reactors.

If the U.S. has the capability of stopping this, it’s not saying. Our biggest employers in the energy sector are cutting jobs in America so they can go to Russia.

Any wagers on how much of tonight’s State of the Union will be spent on these job losses and the crash and burn that could become the oil and energy sector in the U.S? Nah…we already know O & Co. will be discussing raising minimum wage and giving free community college education.

The Day the World Noticed

I can’t remember a more bizarre day than what we saw today. It’s, well, it’s just hard to even find a word that comes close to describing it. But let’s see if we can’t get it hammered out.

Before I even get into all of the strange and baffling nonsense, there is no way I’m letting the John Kerry circus freakshow slide. It would be criminal to not bring it full circle, even if it is likely the most embarrassing and jaw dropping decision ever made in politics and at the expense of our nation. Yeah, it’s that hokey. As bad as I hate flying, I’d have paid big money to have witnessed this first hand.

John Kerry showed up in France with none other than James Taylor. And then Taylor serenaded the entire nation with Kerry, in true roadie form, watching and wanting so bad to sing with him (you could just tell). Oh, and that woman? Talk about a completely awkward position of having to hold the mic as Taylor crooned “You’ve Got a Friend”. Never, ever, ever should a Democrat be allowed again to make fun of President Bush’s loose take on the English language.

This happened overnight, so it’s not exactly breaking news anymore; I won’t dwell on it. I will say, however, his quote made in Bulgaria that he intends “to share a big hug with Paris and express the affection of the American people for France and for our friends there who have been through a terrible time,” is already going in my Top 10 end of the year list.

And now, I’ll allow the video and the Twitterverse to wrap this up:

Here’s the video – fair warning: prepare yourself for 3 minutes and 39 seconds of sheer horrific deliciousness.


I’m telling y’all – this has Jen Psaki all over it.

Here are a few of the groovy tweets that have entertained me all day (and there are so many):

So, while that’s ridiculous and silly, there were other closer-to-reality-though-still-hokey events unfolding.

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron shared a press conference today that began, typically, with a classic Obama pre-emptive strike or maybe he was establishing that whole bromance thingey:

DAVID RECENTLY NOTED HOW COMFORTABLE THE TWO OF US ARE WORKING TOGETHER. THIS SENT SOME COMMENTATORS INTO A TIZZY. SOME EXPLORED THE LINGUISTIC ORIGINS OF THE WORD. SOME ANALYZED HOW THIS HAS EVOLVED OVER TIME. SOME SEEMED CONFUSED AND ASKED WHAT DOES OBAMA MEAN? LET ME PUT THE SPECULATION TO REST. DAVID IS A GREAT FRIEND…WE SEE THE WORLD THE SAME WAY. WE USED OUR WORKING DINNER LAST NIGHT TO DISCUSS HOW WE CAN HELP CREATE MORE JOBS FOR OUR PEOPLE.

And then, about thirty minutes in, he said:

ON THE ECONOMY, I WOULD NOTE THAT GREAT BRITAIN AND THE UNITED STATES ARE TWO ECONOMIES THAT ARE STANDING OUT AT A TIME WHEN A LOT OF OTHER COUNTRIES ARE HAVING PROBLEMS. WE MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT.

OK, well, let’s see. Here’s the thing – there is so much wrong that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of jobs, the economy and everything else that supports this nation. So, with that in mind, I thought a bit of perspective might be good.

Ma, What’s for Supper?

More than 50 years ago, President Johnson earmarked $20 trillion to fight poverty in this nation. Under the Obama Administration, records are being broken and not in a good way. President Johnson would be disappointed:

47 million Americans receive food stamps. This is 13 million more than when he took office.

More than 50 million Americans are living below the poverty line.

His administration loves to tell the tale of how it pulled 12.6 million out of poverty since 2009. What it doesn’t tell is that another 13.5 fell into poverty.

One of the biggest indicators of whether a child will live in poverty is a matter of whether that child is born to single mothers. A whopping 42 percent of all babies born today are born in one-parent households.

Today, the New York Times reports:

Study Finds Widespread Poverty Among U.S. Public School Children

The Real Fear

And now, let’s get to the heart of the matter because trust me – this is the dirty little secret many are still trying to keep hidden away.

As we know, oil is taking a beating, what with OPEC calling the shots, Russia keeping its hand close and all of the repercussions that are now being felt, I’m surprised it took a few weeks for the tension to build.

United Arab Emirates Oil Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui gave comments at an energy conference in Abu Dhabi and said, “The strategy will not change,” noting also that he expected no sudden rebound and he believes these prices will actually stabilize for the next few years.

Energy shares are way down – last week, they lost 8 percent. The big players in the sector are all being downgraded, as oil continues its downward tumble. Take a look at the logistics –

Goldman Sachs nearly halved its three month forecast for Brent crude, from $80 to now $42 per barrel with assurances that prices would continue to stay low.

Also this week, Goldman Sachs made significant reductions in its targets for energy stocks.

Oceaneering International lowered its target price by $10 to $64, indicative of a massive 28 percent decline.

If that weren’t bad enough, RIG has lost nearly 67 percent of its value and is barely hanging on to its $16.10 share price.

Goodrich Petroleum CorpNASDAQ and Zacks have said it may be a stock worth dropping and noted, “The stock also has seen some pretty dismal trading lately, as the share price has dropped 23.9% in the past month.”

Regency Energy Partners was downgraded by analysts at Morgan Stanley. It’s now rated as “underweight”. That was announced today, right before a report was sent to investors and clients outlining the less than rosy news.

Morgan Stanley’s not the only one, though. Credit Suisse downgraded Regency from “outperform” to “neutral” and The Street downgraded from “buy” to “hold”. This all happened in the past few days.

Transocean Ltd. – Every analyst – 16 in total – have issued nothing better than a “hold’

So how does all of this look from a jobs perspective?

On Thursday, oilfield dominator Schlumberger announced it was letting go of a whopping 9,000 employees.

Dallas Federal Reserve reports it expects at least 128,000 lost jobs –in Texas alone – by mid-2015 “if West Texas Intermediate crude oil remains around $55.00 a barrel”. (Stocks closed today with WTI crude at $46.25 a barrel).

Also this week, U.S. Steel Corp, which makes the pipes and various tubes for the sector, and specifically for oilfield drilling, is laying off 142 people in Houston.

JPMorgan Chase’s U.S. economist says a recession in Texas is a strong possibility. Alberta, Canada is already preparing for a recession.

Fitch Ratings said this week that low oil prices could affect “economic and revenue trends for certain cities, counties and school districts” in states that rely heavily on the sector.

Meanwhile, this also means that every other sector will feel the burn. Fitch explained that other “economically sensitive revenue at hotels, restaurants, retailers and construction will suffer”. Banks are bracing for debt defaults and investments are being cancelled already.

At least two contract drillers, Helmerich & Payne and Energy Services Corp. admit that clients are paying early termination fees to rescind contracts. Caterpillar is already warning of a lower forecast for 2015.

Bringing it Around

While the country braces for the bottom to fall out, unsure of whether it will or won’t and how it might or might not affect their families, Obama said not once, but at least twice today during the presser that the economy’s strong and that the U.S. and UK are rocking the good news wagon (you can read the entire transcript here). Clearly, that’s not true. And I’ve not even touched the whole free tuition, free widespread Wi-Fi and the increase in minimum wage and how he intends on paying for it. I’m sure, though, he’ll outline it all in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

So, what now? Well, it’d be great if we could ask the president, but he’s hosting an exclusive party tonight with the cast of the film Selma, as well as the rapper Common and John Legend who were nominated for song of the year that links 1965 and 2014 using references to police brutality. This party is, I suppose, a consolation prize for not being nominated, even though the song and film were, well, both nominated for Oscars.

Now, before you get upset about taxpayer dollars being used to soothe bruised egos with a shindig at the White House, even as poverty ticks up and fears about the job market grow each minute, just remember, it’s not going to be anything near the $4 million we paid for the 17 day vacay to Hawaii last month. Or, at least, we hope it won’t.