Monica Lewinsky Details #TheClintonAffair In New Documentary

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky
A photograph showing former White House intern Monica Lewinsky meeting President Bill Clinton at a White House function submitted as evidence in documents by the Starr investigation and released by the House Judicary committee September 21, 1998.

In a three-night A&E documentary series that details the events leading up to Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment, Monica Lewinsky is finally telling her side of the story. She had previously spoken with Barbara Walters, but she was far too young for pointed reflection. With fresh eyes and a firm memory, she walks us through the suicide-inducing horrors that included the threat of prison.

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DSALA Presents TwentyWonder — GET YOUR TICKETS!



The Doll Factory in Echo Park honors the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (“DSALA”) with  “TwentyWonder: A Carnival of the Mind.”  The must-see event features an eclectic array of live entertainment, including performance artists, musicians, and awe-inspiring attractions. Since 2010, TwentyWonder has raised an astounding $400,000 to support local individuals living with Down Syndrome, helping to launch basketball camps, reading programs, and educational seminars. For tickets to the June 28th event, visit the TwentyWonder website. Doors open at 6:00!

President Clinton Kills It at the Democratic National Convention — WATCH

After a powerful warm-up act from Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (who may or may not owe American Indian delegates some answers about her prior claims of Native ancestry) and a brief introduction from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Bill Clinton took the stage. He was looking particularly lean and mean — that is, in his exceedingly kind and charming way — as he addressed the packed house at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.

“We are here, to nominate a president, and I’ve got one in mind,” said Clinton. He went on to explain that, for our President, he wants “to nominate a man who’s cool on the outside, but who burns for America on the inside.” Shortly thereafter, he nominated President Barack Obama to be the standard bearer of the Democratic Party.

After a lengthy round of exuberant applause, Bill wasted no time picking apart and deftly challenging the “alternative universe” spun by Republicans at their National Convention last week. It was incredible. He astutely, and diplomatically, shifted his focus at various points from Republicans in general to the far-right folks who are controlling that Party. He called them out for lacking facts. He called them out for being too hateful. And then he eschewed trickle-down economics.

As expected, he also articulately broke down the extent of Obama’s accomplishments and explained why he should have four more years. He acknowledged that we still have many problems with the economy, but explained that President Obama stopped the slide into recession and put the country on the long road to recovery. He emphasized that Obama “started with a much weaker economy than I did,” explaining that no one could have repaired all the damage that he found when he came into office in just four years.

President Clinton then hammered on the jobs issue with numbers, analogies to his own presidency, and hope. One of his major themes was “broadly shared prosperity.” He advised, if you renew the President’s contract, you will feel it.

Clinton pushed back against the Republican right’s unrealistic anthem that every single person made it all on their own — by the bootstraps and with no help from anyone. He said that “we are all in this together” is a far better philosophy than “you are on your own.” Brilliantly simple, and very true!

After 48 and a half minutes, Bill wrapped it up by encouraging people to go out and vote, and to vote for President Obama.

Then Obama walked to meet Clinton; he gave him a very real handshake and an authentic hug. Those two dudes look great together. This was an amazing night.

Today was the second to last day of the Democratic National Convention. Tomorrow night is Obama!

Highlights of the Republican National Convention . . . So Far

After a few hiccups due to Hurricane Isaac, the Republican National Convention has been moving forward in Tampa, also known as the strip-club capital of the United States. Unsurprisingly, Mitt Romney was officially nominated as the Republican presidential candidate, and the GOP lined up a number of Republican heavy-hitters to get the Party riled up for the next few months.

Chris Christie

Tuesday night, NJ governor Chris Christie was the keynote speaker. Unsurprisingly, the bellowing self-promoter talked about himself for 16 minutes before even mentioning Romney’s name. He said a few interesting things about how its better to be respected than loved, the nation must embrace the power of sacrifice, and Republicans have the right idea because they are not afraid to say no when no is the right answer. He decried a lack of leadership in the White House, advocating for politicians who lead rather than politicians who pander. Click here to read the full text of Christie’s speech.

Ann Romney

Ann Romney — who has previously never appeared before a crowd that size — made a strong pitch to women voters, with whom the Romney/Ryan ticket is not all that popular. She tried to show the “softer side” of Mitt; she used the word “love” 14 times, talked about their high-school romance, and shared the struggles the couple has overcome.

Mrs. Romney proclaimed there theirs was a real marriage, not a fairy tale marriage. As part of this speech she mentioned her multiple sclerosis, stating that the fairy tales she read did not have a chapter called MS (thank goodness that is true). Considering Mitt’s heel-turn on the issue of stem cell research, this was an especially curious public conversation. In fact, Ann once publicly expressed hope that embryonic stem cell research would hold a cure for her MS, but Mitt has become fervently opposed to embryo cloning and other techniques that allow such research to progress.

Mrs. Romney closed her speech by driving home the belief that, “you can trust Mitt.” In trying to help people understand the caring, personal side of her husband, she did not offer many specific examples or anecdotes, but instead explained that Mitt “doesn’t like to talk about how he has helped others because he sees it as a privilege, not a political talking point.” She went on, “And we’re no different than the millions of Americans who quietly help their neighbors, their churches and their communities. They don’t do it so that others will think more of them. They do it because there is no greater joy.”

Ron Paul

The Convention barred half of Maine’s delegates for Ron Paul with an unusual set of challenges and, on Tuesday, those Paul delegates tried to reverse the decision on the convention floor. But they failed in spite of fierce support from some of the other delegates. Before Paul’s Maine supporters left, they loudly chanted, “We were robbed!”

Todd Akin Scandal: Do Republicans Understand Science?

When I first heard about Todd Akin’s now super-infamous, and perhaps career-ending comment about how “legitimate” rape victims won’t get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” I thought, “Maybe Republicans and science just don’t mix.” After turning down my partisanship a few notches, I was still shocked by how Akin’s extreme, pro-life comments seemed to fly in the face of rudimentary biology . . . you know, the centerpiece of the life sciences.

At a fundraiser in NYC on Wednesday night, President Obama remarked, “The interesting thing here is that this is an individual who sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology but somehow missed science class.”

Vexingly, a few other Republican lawmakers have made the claim that the female body somehow protects against pregnancy during a sexual assault. For example, in 1988 Pennsylvania Rep. Stephen Freind once claimed that women who are raped “secrete a certain secretion which has the tendency to kill sperm,” and in 1995 North Carolina Rep. Henry Aldridge said, “The facts show that people who are raped – truly raped – the juices don’t flow.” Truly raped, he said. Yikes!

According to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among adult women an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape every year. Moreover, a 2003 study published in the journal Human Nature found that the rate at which women get pregnant after a rape or sexual assault is more than twice that of a single act of consensual sex. Dr. Lauren Streicher, an assistant professor at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, was not surprised by that data. And in response to Akin’s statement, Streicher said, “You let me know if you find the doctor that knows how a uterus knows which sperm to ward off.”

However, Akin may be a quick learner, after all. He has since released an ad admitting, “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy.” How revelatory.

But now other Republican candidates (even Romney/Ryan) not only have to distance themselves from Akin’s comment (the National Republican Senatorial Committee publicly withdrew its support of Todd (to the tune of about $5 million), but the whole party now faces heightened scrutiny.

Although Akin may have simply misspoke, both his error and his actual views (unlike Romney, he does not believe that rape victims should be permitted to have abortions) have raised serious concerns that some members of the GOP have antiquated, insensitive, and even offensive views of women — the so-called Republican “War on Women.”

All this, and only a about a week left until the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla….

Should Gary Johnson Be the Next President? — A Cool Presidential Candidate

People should really pay more attention to Gary Johnson. He may have a few crazy ideas and a slightly questionable haircut, but so do a shocking number of the cable TV pundits. And that doesn’t stop many folks from listening to them, ad nauseam.

In spite of his remarkably unremarkable name, Gary Johnson is lined up to be one of the coolest third-party candidates to get on the ballot in all 50 states. He is the Libertarian presidential candidate (yes, this year) and, right off the bat, there are a few things you might want to know about him:

(1) He has reached the highest peak on four of the seven continents (including Everest),

(2) He predicts marijuana will be legalized by 2016,

(3) He used medicinal marijuana as recently as 2008 as he was recovering from a near fatal paragliding crash, and

(4) He may struggle with politicking at the national level because he is cripplingly honest, I mean no-spin honest.

Oh, and he also wants to abolish the IRS, so that’s pretty crazy.

Johnson was the Republican Governor of New Mexico (a blue state) from 1995-2003, where he made a name for himself vetoing 750 bills (more than the other 49 governors combined) and leaving the state with a $1 billion budget surplus.

Last year, although he barely showed up on the public radar, Johnson was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Much to his chagrin, he was shut out of most of those debates. But he made good use of his few short minutes; at the Florida debate in September he delivered what many touted as the best line of the evening: “My next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel ready jobs than this administration.” It wasn’t exactly the message he wanted to get out, but he was happy that it brought as much media attention as it did.

After Johnson withdrew from the race for the Republican nomination (he did not gain much momentum there), he quite handily won the Libertarian nomination on May 5, 2012. One of his lofty goals at the moment is to work his way into the upcoming presidential debates with Mitt and President Obama. If he pulls it off, he hopes to exploit flaws in their platforms: “Look, if I’m in the debate against Romney and Obama, they’re going to change their tune,” he said. ” They’re going to have to.”

Short-lived Republican presidential candidate and former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer has called for Johnson to be included. But Johnson’s chances of getting into the debates is slim to non-existent. The Commission on Presidential Debates won’t consider him unless he has an average of 15 percent in the polls. But Johnson has had trouble just getting on the polls, and when he manages to do so he usually only gets a few points (in one March poll he achieved 7%). His supporters have levied their polling angst against CNN because it has not included him in its polls since last September; earlier this month, 100 protesters stood outside CNN headquarters in Atlanta demanding that the network “Include Gary!”

Those protesters are just one indicator that Johnson will likely do a lot of work and cover a lot of ground in the next few months. Some libertarians and trend-watchers are likely anxious to see how the saga of Ron Paul unfolds at the Republican National Convention at the end of August, as Paul supporters could shift over to support Johnson. Johnson actually includes Ron Paul on his list of endorsements. That list also includes Penn (of Penn & Teller), former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, Barry Goldwater, Jr., and Willy Nelson.

WHO’s fooling WHO? Have Presidential Attack Ads Gone Too Far?

Many, if not all, of this summer’s presidential campaign ads are vehemently negative, highly critical, and somewhat sensationalistic. But are they misleading? And do viewers believe what they hear?

Interestingly enough, one of the blondes at Fox News (also known as Megyn Kelly) — a network often chided for its questionable fact-checking – recently accused both Obama and Romney of telling tales in their attack ads, screaming, “When [Obama and Romney] go to the ad campaigns, they’re completely negative! And and they lie! They lie!… Does truth matter?!”

One example of the ad-mud-slinging included Romney’s heavy-handed editing to make it look as if Obama insulted business owners by telling them they did not build their businesses on their own. Romney ‘s “you didn’t build that”attack is especially misleading, even in the midst of a markedly negative campaign. The Romney folks basically took an Obama speech in which he explained that infrastructure such as roads and bridges are necessary to build businesses, and cut out the part about the roads so that Obama’s message was changed to, “you didn’t build that business yourself.” Romney then put a salty business owner in one of his ads, who asked Obama why he was demonizing small business owners like himself.

In a Friday interview with WCTV-TV in Tallahassee, Obama explained: “What I said was together we build roads and we build bridges.” He added, “That’s the point I’ve made millions of times, and by the way, that’s a point Mr. Romney has made as well, so this is just a bogus issue.”

Taking quick action, the Obama camp cleverly shot back with an internet ad of their own: “Mitt will say anything.” The ad shows clips of his speech where he made the purported diss against business owners, refutes Romney’s mischaracterization, and then shows clips of a Romney speech containing a familiar refrain: you can’t really build businesses without roads and bridges (click here to view the ad).

The other, more widely known campaign ad controversy, is Obama’s attack on Romney’s reign at Bain Capital from 1992-2002. In spite of documentary evidence to the contrary, Romney maintains that Obama is all wrong about his status at Bain during the years in question, when the company conspicuously closed down U.S. businesses (e.g. GST Steel in Kansas City) in favor of jobs oversees. Romney has long claimed that he departed Bain in 1999, and therefore has nothing to do with Bain’s questionable behavior. He wants an apology from Obama. But Obama won’t apologize. The President maintains that Romney was at Bain from 1999 to 2002, relying in part on SEC filings for those years, which list Romney as sole shareholder, director, chief executive officer, and president (there is also a state disclosure firm showing that he earned $100,000 as a Bain executive during 2001 and 2002, in addition to his investment earnings).

Despite the controversy over this style of ads, sometimes it’s necessary. It’s time to ferret out some answers about the amorphous Mormon, his Bain exploits, his riches, and how much he pays in taxes. As long as Obama doesn’t frankenbite Romney’s speeches, I’d say it’s fine.

Alec Baldwin v. Paparazzi — How to Stop the Vultures

Last week, Alec Baldwin had a fight with a New York Daily News photographer who tried to take pictures of him and his fiancé leaving the NYC marriage license office (their nuptials are scheduled for June 30). According to Baldwin, the photographer, Marcus Santos, was aggressively shooting them. According to Santos, Baldwin flew into a rage, menaced a second News photographer, and then punched Santos in the chin. Although Baldwin denies throwing any punches, an NYPD investigation is ongoing.

Things continued to heat up for Baldwin on Wednesday, when he purportedly rode his bike over the foot of an “Inside Edition” reporter waiting outside his home to inquire about the prior incident. Baldwin’s response on Twitter? “I think it was that person who placed their foot under the wheel of my bike.”

The boldness and hilarity of Baldwin’s responses to these “journalistic” intrusions aside, paparazzi run-ins like these have prompted one of my smartest friends (A.K.A “The Dishmaster“) to ask one of her many great questions: “Why don’t we have effective and constitutionally-sound laws that protect celebrities from overly aggressive, privacy-invading paparazzi?”

Although the Constitution affords privacy rights which may be protected by laws prohibiting trespass, stalking, intrusion, and certain audio/video surveillance, the First Amendment also – at least arguably – protects certain rights to snap photos of celebs in public and publish them.

Not surprisingly, of the states in the US, California was the one to spearhead the creation of an anti-paparazzi law – California Civil Code Section 1708.8. The law was passed in 1998 in response to Princess Diana’s death. It created a civil damages cause of action for three tactics commonly used by paparazzi to get celebrity photos and footage. That statute has three components: (1) a “physical invasion of privacy law” creating damages for entering another person’s property to record an image, video or sound; (2) a “technological trespass” law, which makes photographers liable if they use an enhancing device to record from afar, such as a telephoto lens or parabolic microphones; and (3) the statute makes actionable any assault “committed with the intent to capture” images, video or sound. Although some have questioned the Constitutionality of the law on First Amendment grounds, no one has yet mounted a successful challenge.

The law was strengthened in January, 2010, when California made it a crime to snap and sell unauthorized photos of celebrities in “personal or familial activity” (violators face fines up to $50,000). Furthermore, media outlets using material obtained from these invasive tactics became liable for special damages, punitive damages, and a civil fine anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000.

And to address paparazzi car-chase scenarios, California also passed an additional law in late 2010, which doles out harsher penalties for paparazzi found in violation of traffic laws or interfering with the operation of a celebrity’s vehicle while in the midst of a photo pursuit (violators may receive a fine of up to $5,000 or a year in prison).

One group claiming credit for the strengthening of the anti-paparazzi law in 2010 is The PAPARAZZI Reform Initiative, which was founded in February 2009. The Initiative strives to highlight egregious paparazzi incidents, track anti-paparazzi laws, and advocate for reform.

Although federal legislation has been proposed, it’s proved fruitless. In 1998, for example, four bills were given to Congress pertaining to federal anti-paparazzi legislation, but they went nowhere. And unfortunately for Alec Baldwin, New York has yet to follow California’s lead, and Baldwin is therefore left with no specific protections, but based on these recent run-ins he certainly seems capable of fending for himself. In the alternative, maybe he should give Bloomberg a call…

Bloomberg Might Ban Soda — Will it Help Obesity?

I’ll have a double whopper with fries and two itty-bitty root beers please.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large sodas and sugary drinks was submitted to the board of health on Tuesday. If passed, the ban will take effect in 2013 and be the first of its kind in the country. (Under Bloomberg, NYC has also outlawed trans fats in restaurants and forced chain restaurants to include calorie counts on their menus.)

The proposed drink ban prohibits serving soda or other “sugary” drinks in containers larger than 16 oz – the size of an American pint glass — in NYC’s restaurants, food trucks, stadiums, and movies theaters. The ban would not apply to diet sodas, nor would it extend to drinks sold in grocery or convenience stores that don’t primarily sell carry-out food. Businesses violating the proposed ban would face fines of $200 per failed inspection.

Health advocates and city officials applaud the measure, saying that it will save both lives and money. A spokeswoman for the mayor declared that “sugary beverages are a key driver of the obesity crisis that is killing 5,800 New Yorkers and costing the city $4 billion annually.”

Soft drink companies and restaurants and are less enthused, however. Coca-Cola executives have said that Bloomberg’s ban unfairly singles out and demonizes its industry, and that it is overly simplistic. The complex issue of obesity, says Coke, requires a more sophisticated approach, one which addresses everything from diet and portion sizes to promoting exercise among children to increased parks and recreation spaces. Based on some NYC polls, a slim majority sides with Coke — 54% think that the “super-size drink ban” is a bad idea — while 42% favor it. Many folks on the street, frequently interviewed by local news stations, feel that the ban unduly infringes on their power to choose. “This is America,” they say, “and if you want a 20-oz Mountain Dew, or even a 32-oz Sprite, that’s your prerogative!

In spite of the opposition, however, at least one NYC political commentator says that the ban is a done deal. The measure will not be put to a public vote, or even a city council vote. The NYC board of health, made up of Bloomberg appointees, has the authority to pass the ban after a three-month public comment period.

I find Coke’s cries that Bloomberg is unfairly picking on “the industry” to be unavailing; companies like Coke and PepsiCo generally sell more than soda, and even a substantial portion of their sodas are diet. Under the proposed ban, restaurants and other effected vendors are free to sell all soda in 16oz containers, and there is no ban on giant diet sodas, so I would still be able to have a 32 oz. Pepsi Max with my New York pizza so long as the proprietor carries that particular product.

Maybe this ban on sugary pop will encourage Coke and other companies to produce better diet soda options, and distribute them more widely. That would be great! There needs to be greater efforts in providing me with a palatable diet ginger ale or, dare I say it, grape soda.

Sources say that Coke is actually set to start testing mid-calorie, or light, versions of Fanta and Sprite in select cities in coming weeks. I am intrigued by the advent of light sodas. Pepsi Next, for example, has some sugar (actually, high fructose corn syrup) mixed with some artificial sweetener (you know, diet) making it only 40 calories per serving (see also Dr. Pepper Ten). I find that this combination sharply reduces the “diet” flavor that many folks detest.

But I am left wondering if the Bloomberg ban will apply to these “light” sodas. They are part diet, after all.

Secret Service Respond to Prostitution Scandal — Lackluster at Best

It has been almost a month since Secret Service members allegedly brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to President Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas.

So far the ever-widening scandal has implicated a dozen Secret Service employees; eight have left the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct, and one is being stripped of his security clearance. Moreover, at least eleven military service members are under scrutiny because of the incident, including 6 Army Special Forces soldiers, or Green Berets. Separate investigations by the Secret Service, the Department of Defense, and the House Homeland Security Committee are currently ongoing.

As the scandal began to unfold, many folks – including former Secret Service director Ralph Basham (who ran the outfit for 31 years) and President Obama’s campaign adviser David Axelrod – took the position that although the allegations were quite disturbing, this was an isolated incident in the organization’s history, an aberration

In an interview about a week after the incident, Basham said, “Certainly, this incident is an extremely embarrassing incident, but it is an incident. And I believe if you look back at the history of the Secret Service, you’ve got to recognize that this is not characteristic of the organization.” He maintained that “This is not the character of the men and women who serve every day in the Secret Service.”

When I first heard the story, I rooted for the Secret Service. I wanted to believe that it was indeed an aberration – an isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished history of exemplary service.

But now the Secret Service has confirmed an additional investigation into allegations that some of its members hired prostitutes in El Salvador, before a visit last year by President Obama, which gives more credence to Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s remarks blaming the incident on the agency’s lack of ethics.

In response to these embarrassing soirees, the agency has imposed a set of “strict” new rules. One of these new Secret Service rules of conduct informs members that “foreign nationals, excluding hotel staff and official counterparts, are prohibited in your hotel room.” Another reads, “Alcohol may only be consumed in moderate amounts while off-duty on a TDY (temporary duty) assignment, and alcohol use is prohibited within 10 hours of reporting for duty.” Another rule mandates that agents must obey U.S. laws even while abroad.

May I take a moment to ask the obvious question — How were these rules not in place before?!

Did I mention that the new rules also ban visits to “non-reputable establishments.” I assume this means strip clubs, but that term likely encompasses TGIFridays and Applebee’s as well.