"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

© all material on this website is written by Michael McCaffrey and is copyrighted and may not be republished without consent

Profiles in PC Courage: Brave Millennials Attack 'Friends'

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 33 seconds

Hyper-sensitive Millennials watching the 1990’s sitcom Friends on Netflix have been emotionally triggered by what they perceive to be the show’s homophobia and misogyny.

America is under attack. Just read the headlines, we are surrounded by vicious enemies intent on destroying our way of life. There are imaginary missiles being shot at Hawaii. Vladimir Putin is hiding under every American’s bed. And now Friends, that cornerstone of the 1990’s Must See TV craze, has been revealed to be the enemy within working to destroy our politically correct American values.

Friends, which ran from 1994 to 2004, followed the travails of the Friends, Ross and Rachel, Chandler and Monica, Phoebe and Smelly Cat and Joey and every woman in New York, and Americans, me among them, watched it with a religious fervor. Friends was so ubiquitous in the 90’s, you simply couldn’t escape it or it’s relentless ear worm of a theme song “I’ll Be There For You”, even star Jennifer Aniston’s hair cut “The Rachel” became a cultural craze.

So, how can a benign, mass market, corporate network television show like the 90’s beloved NBC sitcom Friends be anything but mild entertainment? Well, little did we know at the time, but Friends had a dirty little secret that, due to some very delicate and sensitive Millennials, has been exposed twenty years later.

The truth of Friends is this, as I and the rest of America were mindlessly enjoying the shenanigans of the Friends as they hung out in their ridiculously oversized New York City apartments and drank coffee at Central Perk, their absurdly welcoming coffee shop, we were actually being conditioned to hate women, homosexuals and fat people. I know it is hard to believe, and I am just as shocked as you are about this whole turn of events, but it is true. I know this because a bunch of Millennials took to Twitter to alert me to the error of my Friends watching ways and the malevolent evil infecting the show.

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This whole situation started because all ten seasons of Friends are now available on Netflix and Millennials have been checking out the show. As they watched, some of the more fragile Millennials got “emotionally triggered” when they noticed something sinister, namely that Friends is homophobic, misogynistic and fat-shames people…well…not all people, mostly just Monica, who, let’s be honest, was shamefully obese as a teenager.

These emotionally-triggered Millennials then took to the internet in a tizzy of Friends-fueled outrage to share their disgust at discovering all of the insensitive jokes about Chandler’s sexuality, Monica’s girth and empty-headed lothario Joey’s lust-fueled womanizing.

When I think of these brave young Millennials forcing themselves to sit through the politically incorrect nightmare of Friends just so they could inform me of its evils, I’m reminded of another generation of self-less young people who, at a similar age as the Millennials are now, 18, 19 and 20 years old, stormed the beaches at Normandy under a torrent of Nazi machine gun fire and were sacrificed by the thousands in order to assist the Allies in getting a foothold in Europe against Hitler’s war machine.

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Those young men who fought World War II have been branded the “Greatest Generation”, but after being “woke” by these anti-Friends Millennials, I have now come to realize that the true “Greatest Generation” of American heroes are actually the Millennial multi-cultural couch warriors braving the savage horror of watching Friends on Netflix. These courageous heroes and heroines have survived a fate much crueler than anything seen on D-Day, they’ve had to survive being exposed to the most brutal weapon of all, indelicate humor!

Friends’ homophobia, in particular, is an atrocity that is utterly shocking to behold in hindsight. I wish there had been some intrepid Millennials around back in the 90’s so they could have notified GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, about the horrific gay bashing comedy of Friends. In case you were unaware, GLAAD is a watchdog against homophobia in the media and they surely would have held a vile show like Friends to account for their anti-gay and hate filled humor. Oh wait…I just looked it up and it seems a non-Millennial did inform GLAAD back in the 90’s about Friends and GLAAD swiftly responded by nominating the show three times (1995,’96,’97) and awarding them once (1995) for their prestigious GLAAD Media Award which is to “recognize and honor various branches of the media for their outstanding representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives.”

I am flabbergasted that GLAAD was so easily duped by Friends!! I hope some Millennials valiantly take to twitter to do battle with GLAAD for their Chamberlain-esque appeasement of Friends back in ’95!

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Having had the scales torn from my eyes regarding Friends, I now look with a jaundiced eye to the other sitcoms of my past. With the true nature of Friends revealed, the whole house of Must See TV cards now crumbles and we are left with some very ugly truths. For example, Seinfeld wasn’t just a witty show about nothing, it was a piece of propaganda meant to uphold the patriarchy and white supremacy. Cheers was not an amusing little romp about a rag-tag group of fun-loving friends in a Boston bar but rather a vehicle to demean the working class as drunk and stupid while fat-shaming Norm in the process. The Cosby Show wasn’t a good-humored program about a kindly upper middle class African-American doctor and his family, but rather was a vehicle meant to uphold a veneer of normalcy that obfuscated the truth about a man and his serial sexually predatory behavior. (OK…that last one actually IS true.)

I was initially skeptical but have now been thoroughly convinced by the emotional Millennial outcry against Friends. I believe with all of my soul that my once best Friends, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross, and even Ross’s funny little monkey Marcel, have most egregiously over-stepped the bounds of decent humane behavior and political correctness with their homophobia, misogyny and fat-shaming.

I, for one, admire our newest “Greatest Generation”, the Millennials, and applaud them as they mount their revisionist history offensive against the scourge of past comedy that in hindsight may be considered slightly questionable and that makes them feel ever-so-mildly uneasy.

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When I think of these brave young men and women and the long fight that lay ahead for them, I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s famous rallying cry for the British as they faced down the Nazis. If Churchhill were alive today I’m sure he would tell Millennials…”We shall go on to the end. We shall fight Everybody Loves Raymond, we shall fight on against Frazier and The Golden Girls, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength against The Simpsons, we shall defend Political Correctness, whatever the cost may be (as long as it is minimal and requires no effort greater than tweeting). We shall fight Who’s the Boss from the 80’s, we shall fight Mary Tyler Moore and M*A*S*H* from the 70’s, and we shall fight The Dick Van Dyke Show from the 60’s and I Love Lucy from the 50’s; we shall never surrender!”

In closing and as thanks for enlightening me to the pernicious villainy of Friends, I want to share with my new Millennial “friends” these sage words of wisdom which struck a chord with me when I was a young man and might do the same for them as they make their way in the world. So Millennials, rouse yourself from your parent’s couch, put down your energy drink, your vape and your iPhone 8 and lose yourself in the insipid, banal brilliance of The Rembrandts “I’ll Be There For You”…and try not to get too offended.

“So no one told you life was going to be this way.

Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.

It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear,

when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year, but…I’ll be there for you (when the rain starts to pour)

I’ll be there for you (like I’ve been there before)

I’ll be there for you (cause you’re there for me too)!”

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2018 AT RT.

©2017

Queen Oprah - Pope of the Cult of Personality

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 66 seconds

A week ago Oprah was the talk of the town out here in Hollywood after she gave a rousing speech at the Golden Globes which many felt was presidential in tone, if not ambition. The media quickly hopped aboard the "Oprah for President" train and rode it for all it was worth. Since the Oprah train is currently refueling in the station while the media and the American public, both of which have the attention span of a brain addled fruit fly, have turned their attention to talk of "shitholes", I though I'd take this opportunity to share my two cents on Oprah's impending ascension to the throne. 

As I said in my Golden Globes article last week, I think Oprah is a very compelling figure. Her life story is almost the quintessential American Dream narrative for the modern day. That said, I think the fact that Oprah is being embraced as a savior for the Democratic party and America is a giant red warning sign of a nation and democracy in a death spiral.

FLIP SIDES OF THE SAME COIN

The main reason liberals and democrats are so enthused about Oprah is only because they believe she can beat Trump. Beating Trump is the be all and end all of Democrats existence at this point and Oprah seems like a magic silver bullet to bring down the Flame-Haired Wolf-Trump. 

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On a strategic level, I think this point of view may very well be correct. Oprah can and I believe would beat Trump if she is nominated. But her victory would signify the end of America as a serious, viable superpower that is the most powerful nation on the planet. The reason being that while Oprah is the polar opposite of Trump in many ways, at the most basic level she is just the flip side of the same celebrity coin that inspires the most base instincts of the American sheeple. Oprah, like Trump, would not be elected due to her ideas but because of her celebrity. Just like Trump, she would also be elected out of a reactionary and emotional impulse (in Trump's case against Obama and the establishment, in Oprah's case against Trumpism) rather than out of a thoughtfully and logically driven response to America's difficulties.

The differences between Oprah and Trump are glaring. The most obvious is that she is a self-made billionaire while Trump, who inherited his father's fortune and business, was born with a silver spoon so far in his mouth it shone out his "shithole". Other differences are that Oprah is an optimistic, inquisitive, African-American woman and Trump is a gloomy, incurious, White man. 

In terms of similarities between Oprah and Trump, they are pretty obvious. Both are celebrities, both built their brand on
lower class" (talk show,reality tv) television, both are very wealthy (although Oprah is actually wealthy, whereas Trump claims to be wealthy) and both are so famous as to be known by only one name. 

THE UNIVERSITY OF THE CULT OF OPRAH

There is another similarity that the media and liberals seem to have overlooked in their comparison between these two personality behemoths, and that is that they are both egotistic, narcissistic, charlatans of the highest order. 

I know that some people will be furious that I have blasphemed Queen Pope Oprah by declaring her to be a fraud, but the evidence is very clear for any who wish to open their eyes to see it. 

Oprah's entire empire was built on monetizing other people's misery and desperation. Her talk show had the veneer of "self-help", but like the vast majority of self-help snake oil salesman, it was little more than a flim-flam operation. Oprah's two biggest apostles, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz make beaucoup money on their snake oil commissions and are unimpeachable proof of Oprah's, and their, fraudulence. 

If you spent anytime consciously watching Oprah's talk show over the years, or her other show on her network OWN, in her "retirement" years, a few things become very clear. The first is that the shows are nothing but bias confirmation for the members of the cult of Oprah. Secondly, and not surprisingly, the shows are never about the guests or any insight they might provide, but rather about Oprah and any insight she may gain, and since she is head of the cult, it is only when she gains insight that the information can then assimilated by the entire congregation. 

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In a way, Oprah's entire self-help Empire is like Trump University on New Age steroids. Oprah's status as a cult leader was constantly reinforced through pseudo-spiritual speak and the giving of ever more elaborate and expensive gifts to her audience (you get a car! you get a car!). Oprah is the High Priestess/Popess of that insipid brand of the New Age called The Secret or in more conventional Christian terms, The Prosperity Gospel. The Secret/Prosperity Gospel is about people getting all the things they desire, a big house, a new car, a sexy spouse, lots of money etc. etc. It is a religion of rewards devoid of sacrifice or humility. What The Secret/Prosperity Gospel, and Oprah, really do though is put a pseudo-Christian spiritual veneer on top of what, at its core, is nothing more than blind and unadulterated greed. 

Trump's entire existence is fueled by the same unadulterated greed that is the lifeblood of Oprah's movement. Oprah's (and Trump's) Church of American Greed adherents make sure to never actually spend time in self-reflection or self-inspection, rather they simply spend their time trying to "manifest" the dreams and riches they instinctively and impulsively desire. A true spiritual approach would be to look deep within to try and discover WHY you are so hungry for these worldly things, and to resolve that part of your psyche and spirit so that you can attain purpose and meaning in your life WITHOUT a mansion, fancy cars or millions. But that sort of genuine spiritual work is anathema to both Oprah and Trump, who at their core only care about the external trappings of life and not internal fulfillment. Trump wears his vapid greed by adorning his life with things that look expensive, like gold, and Oprah does the same thing, except she adorns her life with the fools gold of shallow New Age speak like The Secret or Eckhart Tolle and the pose of enlightenment.

A MILLION LITTLE PIECES

Oprah and Trump both are victims of their own ego, and both make sure to self-aggrandize by placing their name on absolutely everything they touch. Trump does this with his buildings and businesses and Oprah does it her network, shows and businesses. 

An example of Oprah's ego on full display was when author James Frey went on her show to promote A Million Little Pieces, his alleged 2003 memoir of his addiction that Oprah had made a part of her "Oprah's Book Club" (notice the name branding there!!). It later turned out that Frey either made up or embellished a great deal of the book and Oprah had a conniption. Frey actually went on her show in 2006 and she gave him a serious and humiliating dressing down in front of America. The gist of her assault on Frey was this, "how DARE you lie to me!" 

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What was intriguing to me was that in October of 2002 Oprah had another show where she had on guests who vociferously espoused the Bush administrations Iraq war propaganda. Oprah's guests included infamous New York Times reporter Judith Miller, pro-war pundit Kenneth Pollock and Ahmed Chalabi's "right hand man". Oprah lapped up these guests pro-war propaganda and punditry and actually shut down an audience member who asked a question of the veracity of the guests claims (see video below).

What is striking about this is that Oprah never had Judith Miller or Kenneth Pollack or any other pro-Iraq War people on her show after the war went bad and the WMD propaganda crumbled when it met reality. Oprah never got furious with these people and never held them to account. The reason that James Frey felt Oprah's fury and Judith Miller didn't, is because it was personal with Frey because she had attached her name to his book. Oprah wouldn't dare speak truth to power in holding the lying, war-mongering neo-cons who are responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqis accountable, but she would bully some dopey writer who bullshitted her with his book. This pattern of using "tough love" to those below her but kid gloves with those above her, are a trademark of Oprah's television personality. 

Besides ego, the other reason Oprah was so enraged by Frey was because he jeopardized her entire self-help, New Age brand by soiling it with the reality of his exposed lies, and Oprah is in the business of selling fantasy. Frey's lies pulled back the curtain and revealed that there is a formula for extracting money out of the desperate, and it is by telling them what they want to hear and couching it in the spiritual terms that make it seem profound. This spiritualized flim flam formula is Oprah's bread and butter and Frey's being caught lying threatened to shatter the even bigger lie of Oprah's empire into a million little pieces, which is why she lashed out so forcefully against him. 

SPEAK YOUR TRUTH?

The most important thing that Oprah said in her speech at the Golden Globes is something that stood out to me because it revealed her to be nothing more than Trump's liberal shadow. In the speech Oprah praised and encouraged women to "speak their truth." What could possibly be wrong with encouraging people to "speak their truth" you might ask? Well…a lot. You know who drives liberals crazy by speaking their truth…Donald Trump. Trump's truth about the size of his inauguration crowds or his intelligence or numerous other claims, are observably not accurate, but they are Trump's truth. As George Costanza famously said, it is not a lie if you believe it! And so it is with Trump…and also with America. 

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Trump "speaking his truth" infuriates liberals, but liberals, Oprah in particular, are guilty of the same sort of post-modern subjective truth making of their own. For instance, in the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment is solely a function of a woman's subjective experience, not of an objective truth backed up by observable facts. The same is true for the transgender issue. Transgender people have the subjective experience of identifying with a  different gender than their sexual organs would indicate, but the objective, observable reality to the rest of the world is at odds with their subjective experience. The transgender movement is trying to convince or force a transgender individuals subjective experience as being greater than observable objective reality. Both #MeToo and the transgender movement deal with deeply personal, traumatic and serious issues which should not be dismissed or taken lightly, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the glaring similarities between these movements and Trump when it comes to defining and speaking their "truth" and liberal hypocrisy in the face of such subjective - objective contradictions.

Whenever anyone either says they are "speaking their truth" or encourages others to "speak their truth", I cringe. Truth speakers are almost always victims of their own ego and speak "their truth" in order to feed that ungainly and voracious beast. What I want Oprah or any other potential president or any other person to do is this, do not "speak your truth" but "seek THE Truth". Do not encourage others to "speak their truth" but demand that they "seek THE Truth". 

THE Truth shall set you free, whereas your truth will imprison you to your baser instincts of avarice and self-aggrandizing delusions. What America needs is Truth Seekers, not truth speakers. What America needs is not another carnival barker, snake oil salesman or woman who will tell us what we want to hear. What America needs is someone to tell us THE Truth, not to tell us our truth is all that matters. With Oprah, as it is with Trump, we will get a truth speaker, not a Truth Seeker, and their narcissistic truth will not set us free but rather will fool us into languishing away in the prison of our own desires.

©2017

A Week of Holes: A$$holes, Sh*tholes and Rabbit Holes

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 48 seconds

 

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Last week the media, the internet and the #Resistence®, went batshit crazy because President Trump called Haiti a "shithole". Upon hearing the news I turned on MSNBC and was treated to their wall to wall coverage of Shithole-gate which included going so far as to have the word "shithole" uncensored on their scroll and spoken on their airwaves. While I found the entire spectacle adolescently entertaining, it was also informative, although one had to dig deeper than the salty headlines to get to the heart of the matter.

The establishment talking points on Shithole-gate were obvious from the beginning, Trump's uncouth utterance was proof of his unadulterated racism and a clear sign of the end of America if not the world. Cable host after cable host and guest after guest all suffered from the vapors in an epidemic that bordered on a frenzied hysteria.

Upon closer inspection I found the entire episode to be…well…manufactured. Here are some basic truths. First, Trump is a world class asshole, of this there can be no doubt. He was an asshole before he became president, he is an asshole as president and he will no doubt be an asshole after he leaves office. Second, Haiti is a shithole. These two things can both be true at the same time. Acknowledging these facts does not make you a bad person, it makes you an intellectually forthright one. 

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Now, should the President of the United States call any country a "shithole"? No, of course not. But that doesn't mean that there aren't shitholes in the world…and Haiti is certainly one of them. Does Haiti being a shithole mean that Haitians are somehow less than any other group of people? Does this make them intellectually inferior or something? No…it just means that Haiti is a shithole. And look, when it comes to shitholes I know of which I speak...my ancestors came to America from a shithole (Ireland) and I currently reside in a shithole (Los Angeles).

The real question that no one in the media wanted to ask during the Shithole-gate fury was why is Haiti, or "Africa" or El Salvador - the other places Trump called shitholes, a shithole? The answer to that is certainly complicated, but you cannot answer that question without first pointing the finger directly at European and U.S. colonialism and/or slavery over the centuries. Another key part of the answer is also U.S. expansionist empire and militarism, even over the last forty years, most notably during the Reagan and Clinton administrations, being directly responsible for the instability and devastating poverty in Haiti, El Salvador and many parts of Africa today.

The reason no one in the media wants to admit that Haiti/El Salvador/parts of Africa is a shithole, or asked why Haiti/El Salvador/parts of Africa is a shithole is because they only push historical revisionism in regards to American empire. Admitting to historical reality would mess with the current establishment narrative which can be loosely summed up this way…"America was totally perfect and absolutely awesome until Trump became President". President Trump is certainly a boorish beast, but America has behaved like a boorish beast for a long time, well before we had one in the oval office, just ask anyone on the wrong end of America's big stick in the last fifty years, from Salvadorans who lived through Reagan's war in Latin America all the way back to the Vietnamese, Koreans and Filipinos, if you have any doubt about that.

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

Another thing that stood out to me about Shithole-gate is that it made for an extremely convenient distraction while another much more vital story was happening that the establishment would rather we not pay attention to. That story was the renewal of a Patriot Act-era bill that allows the NSA and FBI to do warrantless surveillance on American citizens.

The Surveillance bill is a controversial one, and there were many libertarian-minded Republicans who were against it, most notably Justin Amash from Michigan who attached an amendment to the bill that would force the FBI to get a warrant before searching the NSA collected surveillance. 

Even though he was going against his own party, Amash had gotten the commitment of dozens of Republicans to support his amendment and simply needed the support of a majority of House Democrats in order for it to pass. He got some Democrats to go along with him, but the Democratic party leadership, most notably including Nancy Pelosi (Ca.), Steny Hoyer (Md), Adam Schiff(Ca) and Eric Swalwell(Ca) voted against the Amash amendment and thus it was defeated.

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What is so interesting to me is that Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell are all leading figures in the charge of Russia-gate assault against Trump. Schiff and Swalwell in particular, routinely get in front of any camera they can find and pronounce with a Tourette's Syndrome level of persistence, that Trump is a dangerous, authoritarian, traitorous, treasonous, Hitler-esque, Russian-Manchurian president. These Democrats speak of Trump and Russia-gate as the single greatest threat to American democracy in the history of the republic. And yet…they just voted to give the man they claim to be an authoritarian monster, Trump, vast, unchecked surveillance power over all Americans. Something here does not make sense.

The only logical conclusion that you can draw from Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell, all from safe Democratic districts in California (as an aside - Sen. Dianne Feinstein, former Sen. Barbara Boxer and former Congresswoman Jane Harmen are all from allegedly liberal California and all are/were vociferous defenders of the intelligence community and allowing them unfettered surveillance of all Americans...hmmm...curious...very curious) , voting to give Trump such vast unchecked surveillance powers is that they do not actually believe most of what they say about the man. They cannot possibly believe he is evil, authoritarian, nefarious or a traitor, for if they did they would try and curb his powers instead of expand them. 

With their vote the other day, and with the accompanying silence over it from the media and the #Resistance®, one can only conclude that all of these entities are simply playing roles in a kabuki theatre production titled "Russia-gate". If Trump was "installed" by Putin through Russian hacking to be President of the United States as so many in the #Resistance® seem to claim and so many in the media seem to imply, then it would be inconceivable if not down right insane to grant him expanded surveillance powers over Americans.

#RESISTANCE IS FUTILE...AND FEUDAL

With the Democratic pro-spying vote, and the subsequent media silence over it, the #Resistance®, in all its manifestations, has proven itself to be little more than a pose. For over a year now I've heard liberals and the media shrieking about Trump's attacks on the journalists and the institution of the free press, but this charge rings entirely hollow when the Democrats vote to give Trump unchecked spying powers over all Americans including journalists, and the alarmist media does not sound the alarm bell over Trump's spying power or the Democrats complicity in giving it to him. (Not to mention the #Resistance® and the mainstream media's glee at RT America being forced to register as an agent of a foreign power...but that is a story for another day).

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The media silence on the warrantless surveillance bill is even more hypocritical when seen through the lens of their moral outrage toward Trump's "shithole" comment. The media has uniformly called Trump racist over his "shithole" comment, and they have made a big stink (pun intended) about this racial angle of the story, in particular because it is civil rights leader Martin Luther King's birthday on Monday. To see the consternation on the faces of every blowhard cable news personality over this perceived racial slight is the height of comedy, especially when you consider their silence on unchecked government surveillance. The reason I find it so funny is because MLK was the victim of government surveillance, in fact he was the target of a vicious FBI surveillance campaign, the same kind of surveillance that the Democrats just allowed the incorrigible racist Trump to do, and which the media has been silent over. The acquiescence of the Democrats on warrantless surveillance, and the deafening silence over it from the media and the #Resistance® is proof that the whole Russia-gate and anti-Trump hysteria is manufactured nonsense.

Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell's vote for Trump's warrantless spying of American citizens in particular is actual, tangible proof that Russia-gate is a hoax created out of political opportunism, wrapped in faux-patriotism and for the sole purpose of distracting the masses. Thus far there has been exactly ZERO evidence provided to the public showing Russia "hacked" the election, the DNC or Podesta's emails. None. But with Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell voting to expand Trump's surveillance powers and eliminate even remedial oversight on government spying, there now is evidence that Russia-Gate is utter bullshit because if it were true Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell would NEVER vote to authorize Trump to spy on Americans without any oversight. NEVER.

And in the wake of this betrayal where is the #Resistance®? Where is the pussy hat brigade that defiantly paraded through Washington last January? Where is Rachel Maddow and the media with their vociferous attacks on Trump and the damage he can do? The answer is they are all off having an anti-Trump circle jerk while the Democrats empower Trump to spy on Americans without a warrant.

IT'S A BIG CLUB...AND YOU AIN'T IN IT

As a fun little exercise, watch the media in the coming months and every time Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell go on various networks and decry Trump's awfulness, which will be often as they are thirsty-to-the-extreme, see if any cable news host actually calls them out on their Trump-surveillance hypocrisy. See if Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Anderson Cooper or any of the other empty heads at MSNBC or CNN will ask the glaringly obvious question to Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell, which is why, if Trump is so uniquely threatening to American democracy, did you vote to expand his powers and allow him to spy on American citizens without any oversight?

Maddow, Mathews, Cooper and the rest won't ever do that because, just like Pelosi, Schiff and Swalwell, they are just dealers in the establishment casino and the table is tilted, the game is rigged, the fix is in and the house always wins. To quote the immortal George Carlin (unlike Bill Maher or John Oliver and their ilk, Carlin really did speak truth to power), "it's a big club…and you ain't in it!". (Please watch Carlin in the short clip below. He astutely lays out the reality of America for all to see.)

The big take away from Shithole-gate is this, the manufactured fainting spells of the #Resistance® over Trump saying out loud what the rest of us know to be the truth, that Haiti is a shithole, is meant to distract us from their complicity in the continued assault by the U.S. government and its intelligence community on the civil liberties of all Americans.

In conclusion, Haiti is a shithole. You know what else is a shithole? Nancy Pelosi is a shithole. Adam Schiff is a shithole. Steny Hoyer is a shithole. Eric Swalwell is a shithole. The Democratic party is a shithole. The media is a shithole. The #Resistance® is a shithole. Poseurs, phonies and fakers all. It has now been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the true objective of the #Resistance® and their media cohorts is only to further empower the establishment and to maintain the status quo at all costs. As it is with all bullshit artists, from Donald Trump to the #Resistance®, do not listen to what they say, but watch what they do, and then you will know their true intentions. 

 

©2017

Some Brief Thoughts on the Golden Globes

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 28 seconds

It is difficult to imagine a less relevant awards show than the Golden Globes, which unveiled their 2018 edition last night. The Golden Globes are so ridiculous they make the Emmys look like the Nobel Prize for Physics. 

Golden Globe awards are notorious for being routinely purchased (most infamously - Pia Zadora) and are like Chinese food, twenty minutes after digesting the Golden Globes show, no one actually cares or remembers who won. For years the Golden Globes award show has been little more than "Hollywood's biggest party" and the unwashed rubes who weren't invited get to watch the festivities on their television sets.

Last night's show has garnered a lot of attention because it was all about #MeToo and the accompanying self-aggrandizing emotionalist nonsense that surrounds it (like the shaming of Blanca Blanco for not wearing black, which is a wonderfully totalitarian thing to do!!). I once had a conversation with a friend, a Jungian psychologist, who talked about how with narcissists even their pain must be perceived to be exponentially greater than everyone else's, and so it is with Hollywood and #MeToo.

Contrary to popular opinion, the reason that #MeToo is happening right now is not because sexual abuse and harassment were shockingly revealed to have happened in Hollywood, everyone in Hollywood, myself included, knew to some extent it was happening well before the Weinstein "revelations". No, the real reason #MeToo is happening is because people outside of Hollywood have been made aware of the rampant abuse and harassment that routinely goes on here and Hollywood is embarrassed by that…the women of Hollywood most of all. The jet fuel of #MeToo is not the claimed outrage of Hollywood's women, but the shame felt by women who accepted abuse and harassment as business as usual, or who made deals with the devil in order to advance their career or who failed to stand up for themselves or their compatriots when they had the chance. No doubt I will be publicly slammed for "victim shaming" for stating this obviousness, but trust me when I tell you…this is EXACTLY what is being said behind closed doors and in private conversations here in Hollywood. 

NATALIE PORTMAN

Last night wasn't just all about the women, it was also about diminishing the work of men. Natalie Portman has gotten a ton of praise for her actions last night when she was introducing the Best Director category. As Portman announced the nominees she snidely said "here are the five, all male nominees". After she said it the camera cut to eventual winner Guillermo del Toro with an anguished and hurt look upon his face. Portman's holier than thou, condescending girl-speak was an empty and frankly, incredibly rude and graceless gesture. How would Ms. Portman feel if someone took a shit on an award she was about to win? Probably not so great. 

Think of it this way...How would Ms. Portman react if someone said, "here are the all-Jewish nominees" at some category of the Oscars? She probably wouldn't appreciate it very much considering her pride in her Jewish heritage….and she'd be right. So why is it okay to single out men who have been nominated but not any other group, no matter how disproportionate you perceive their nominations to be? 

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The question that should be posed to Ms. Portman is two-fold…first...what women should have been nominated? I have heard people say Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird. My retort to that is that Lady Bird is an acquired taste, one which I have not acquired, but to claim that Gerwig's direction is noteworthy reveals a truly staggering ignorance of the art of filmmaking. Some have said Dee Rees, the director of Mudbound, should have been nominated. I have not seen Mudbound, which is indicative of the logistical problem with the film and maybe why she was not nominated. Mudbound is a Netflix film and is streaming on the service. Hollywood still has not figured out what to do with Netflix films and whether to take them seriously as cinema or not. Mudbound may very well be great, but so was Beasts of No Nation, a superb Netflix film directed by Cary Fukinaja a few years ago, and he wasn't nominated either. I have heard some people say that Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) or Kathryn Bigelow (Detroit) should have been nominated. Anyone who says this is a thoroughly ignorant and unserious person. Wonder Woman was a decent movie, but it wasn't even the best superhero film this year and it certainly isn't awards worthy. Detroit is, thanks to Bigelow's abysmal and amateurish direction, not only an awful film but one of the worst films I have seen in decades. 

The second part of the question Ms. Portman should answer is this…who among the nominees for Best Director should not have been nominated? Should Del Toro be snubbed in favor of a female director? Martin McDonagh? How about Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott or Steven Spielberg? If Ms. Portman has an opinion…she should "grow a pair of balls" and say who should and should not be nominated instead of acting like a petulant little girl holding her breath and stomping her foot until she gets what she thinks she deserves. 

I'll put my money where my mouth is, or in keeping with the previous metaphor, I'll "whip my gigantic balls out" and tell you who should be nominated….Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread and Matt Reeves for War for the Planet of the Apes. Who shouldn't be nominated…Martin McDonagh and Steven Spielberg. Your move, Ms. Portman.

GARY OLDMAN

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Gary Oldman won Best Actor for his work as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour and gave what I thought to be the best, most composed and intelligent speech of the night. Sadly, I have seen articles pop up today proclaiming Oldman of being "this year's Casey Affleck". If you remember Casey Affleck won the Oscar last year and there was a bit of an uproar because he had been alleged to have harassed two women working on a film with him years before. Affleck and the women settled the lawsuit. 

Oldman was alleged to have struck his wife during a domestic dispute a few years back and people are saying he shouldn't have been awarded because of it. The fact that the incident was investigated and deemed to be either untrue or inaccurate carries no weight with the #MeToo mob who are incapable of grasping nuance in any shape or form. It will be interesting to see if this supposed skeleton in Oldman's closet is used to keep him from winning a much deserved Oscar. 

It would be really amazing if artistic awards could actually just be given on nothing but merit as opposed to having the right victim identity or being given the seal of approval of mindless mobs like #MeToo or #OscarsSoWhite.

OPRAH!!

The biggest news of the night came from Oprah who gave a rousing, campaign-esque speech that has all of Hollywood buzzing with the thought of her running for president in 2020. Oprah is enough like Trump for her electoral victory to be a distinct possibility if not likelihood, and just different enough from Trump to be embraced by all liberals and even independents. 

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Oprah and Trump are both billionaires, both were "tv stars" and both have no experience in politics. Unlike the silver spooned Trump, Oprah is a self made woman who built her considerable empire from less than nothing. Also unlike Trump, Oprah is a likable, intelligent and inquisitive person that is adored by the mainstream media. Oprah's status as a new age female Pope, her enormous entrepreneurial success and her ease and prowess at oratory and television would make her a formidable opponent for anyone, but especially for Trump, and especially after he has had four years to show what a charlatan he truly is. 

All of that said, I think the fact that there are large swaths of America who either love Trump or who would love Oprah to run against him, is a sign that this country is in a deep state of corrosive ignorance, malignant decadence and imperial rot that is indicative of a nation perilously close to collapse, self-immolation or both. 

Oprah certainly has the potential to be a tremendous president, but none of that will matter as her election in the shadow of Trump's presidency would only reveal an empire hurtling towards its own self-destruction. Oprah is amazing, just ask her or her sycophants and they'll tell you she can do anything, but I guarantee what she won't be able to do is to save us from ourselves. 

THE FEVER BREAKING?

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One final pseudo-Golden Globes related note and that is that this morning there was an op-ed in the LA Times from Meghan Daum titled "Had Enough of the Visceral Response to the Trump Era? Try a Little Nuance Instead." Ms. Daum's piece is well worth reading. I probably enjoyed it so much  because I have been writing the same ideas for well over a year, since before Trump even won the election. 

Ms. Daum's piece, in combination with Daphne Merkin's New York Times article the other day, are hopefully indicative of a fever breaking. I was not infected by the emotionalist fever and so was able to keep my head about me while those around me lost theirs. To Ms. Daum and Ms. Merkin I say, welcome to the party…better late than never.

©2017

Echoes of Totalitarianism in #MeToo and Russia-Gate

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THE RISE OF AMERICAN TOTALITARIANISM

 Is America a totalitarian nation, a nation filled with totalitarians, or both?

As I made the rounds at the plethora of holiday parties in liberal Hollywood, the consensus here was that people are angry and frightened over Trump’s election and presidency. In response, they have found two outlets to take their fear and loathing to extremes, the #MeToo movement and the Trump-Russia story.

It is ironic these stories share the spotlight in our current cultural zeitgeist because while Russia-Gate was born out of a paper-thin intelligence report that was almost entirely devoid of relevant facts, the #MeToo movement was born out of overwhelming evidence and testimonials of Harvey Weinstein’s truly despicable and not-so-secret abusive behavior over the last thirty years.

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Another irony is that the Russia story is fueled by those in the media that believe that Russia and the Russian people are all totalitarian Soviets at heart, while some in the #MeToo movement have, at times, behaved like Soviet totalitarians. While the particulars are very different, the totalitarian impulse at the heart of both of these stories is eerily reminiscent of the dark period of McCarthyism and Hollywood’s blacklist.

In the Russia-gate story the totalitarian inclination revealed itself when the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigating allegations of collusion between Trump and Russia declared that the scope of their probe would be so broad as to encompass anyone a subject “knows or has reason to believe is of Russian nationality or descent”.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein also demanded that Facebook hand over all information on “Russia-connected accounts” which she defines as “a person or entity that may be connected in some way to Russia, including by user language setting, user currency and or other payment method.”

This means that the 3 million Americans of Russian-descent are now suspect, and if you fraternize with them you are suspect too. This sort of terrifying xenophobic propaganda, political repression, restriction of speech and mass surveillance would make Stalin proud and is a strong indicator of a totalitarian trend.

The #MeToo awakening has brought much needed attention to the scourge of rape, sexual assault and harassment by people in power, but it too has a shadow that resembles the spirit of totalitarianism.

Dana Goodyear’s article in The New Yorker titled, “Can Hollywood Change Its Ways” highlighted some of the examples of the totalitarianism at the heart of #MeToo. In the piece, she describes accused individuals being disappeared from public memory.

Photographs of the accused have come down from walls, names are being scrubbed from donated buildings, performances have been reshot with replacement actors, online libraries pulled, movies shelved.”

She then quotes a sexual harassment investigator who tells her “An association with the accused is totally toxic now, with this wave upon wave upon wave, and Soviet-style erasure.”

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An example of this Soviet-style erasure is Garrison Keillor. Keillor, the longtime host of NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion, had a co-worker claim that his hand momentarily lingered too long on her bare back during a hug. As a result, NPR not only cut all ties with Keillor and his production company, but the words “Prairie Home Companion” have been excised from NPR and they have vowed never to re-broadcast any of his old episodes. In the tradition of totalitarianism NPR has succeeded in creating a world where not only does Garrison Keillor not exist, but he NEVER existed.

Goodyear also writes in her article of an unnamed male movie industry executive,

Now he worries that having a young female assistant will invite speculation, and speculation begets reporters’ calls. The very idea provokes hysteria. ‘Men (in Hollywood) are living as Jews in Germany,’ he said.”

Obvious hyperbole aside (millions of innocents are not being slaughtered over #MeToo claims), the terror that would generate comparisons to “Soviet-style erasure” and the Nazi’s Final Solution sounds pretty totalitarian to me.

Another example of #MeToo totalitarianism occurred last month when Matt Damon learned the hard way that trying to speak reason and logic in the face of a powerful emotional tsunami like #MeToo is a fools errand.

Damon commented on the #MeToo moment by saying he thinks the alleged perpetrators of misconduct should not be thrown into “one big bucket” because there is a “spectrum of behavior”.

Damon then said, “You know, there’s a difference between…patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right?”. He went on to add, “Both behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”

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#MeToo gatekeepers Alyssa Milano and Minnie Driver quickly chastised Damon for not adhering to the #MeToo movement’s orthodoxy. Across the board the press joined Milano and Driver in shaming Damon for his “mansplaining” and sent a clear message that dissenters from the party line will be publicly punished.

While there has been some great #MeToo reporting from Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker and Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at the New York Times, in regards to Russia-gate the media has not exactly covered itself in glory.

CNN, The Washington Post, MSNBC, ABC and many other news outlets revealed a totalitarian level of disdain for truth and accuracy when they erroneously reported all sorts of bizarre and untrue stories over the last year including Russia hacking the Vermont power grid, Russia hacking 21 states voting systems and Michael Flynn admitting to Trump’s collusion with Russia to name just a few of the many.

Even the esteemed New York Times fell for the Russia-gate hysteria when they published an op-ed from Louise Mensch, a certifiable loon who claims that Trump is already indicted and is being replaced by Senator Orrin Hatch, Bernie Sanders and Sean Hannity are Russian agents and that Steve Bannon is facing the death penalty for treason.

In contrast, quality reporters like Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald from The Intercept and Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone, who maintain a healthy skepticism of the as-yet evidence free Russia-gate claims, are marginalized and exiled from the bright lights of the big-time mainstream news media.

The United States is supposed to be a constitutional democratic republic that is governed by the rule of law. Sadly, #MeToo and the Russia story thus far have proven themselves to be more governed by the angry mob, with the rule of law being replaced with trial by media or in corporate kangaroo courts.

There are terrible people out there who have raped, assaulted and harassed both women and men, of this there is no doubt, but in the great tradition of American constitutional democracy, even heinous individuals, like Harvey Weinstein, Bret Ratner, Kevin Spacey and Russell Simmons, deserve due process, including the right to confront their accusers and to present evidence in their defense.

It is an unhealthy sign for our constitutional democratic republic that of the 110 men who have recently been accused of either rape, assault or harassment, none of them, not a single one, has been able to have a neutral arbiter, like a judge and jury, review the allegations and render judgment. In fact, in only 9 of those cases have police reports even been filed. Furthermore, only 14 of the 110 people accused have admitted guilt and yet 72 have lost their jobs.

In a constitutional democratic republic these people should be able to defend themselves, but in a totalitarian state, with a trial by media and innuendo, there can be no defense. America has devolved to the point where all one has to do is point the finger and scream “J’accuse” and someone’s life and career can be destroyed.

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The same is true of Russian election meddling/collusion. It is certainly possible that Russia “hacked” the U.S. election, but demanding verifiable evidence of this is not a treasonous act, it is a patriotic one. In totalitarian states the assertions of the military and intelligence community are taken on faith, but in an alleged constitutional democratic republic, assertions are not facts and evidence trumps faith.

And if Russian election “hacking” and Trump campaign collusion eventually turn out to be true, it is vital to remember that does not mean that Russians or Americans of Russian descent are somehow inherently untrustworthy or insidious.

 

#MeToo and Russia-gate both fail to live up to the standards of a vibrant constitutional democratic republic when they embrace the path of totalitarianism by conflating accusations with proven fact, embrace emotion over reason, tout guilt by association, encourage disappearing people and erasing history, and silence dissent.

The United States thinks of itself as the shining city on the hill that is a beacon for freedom and democracy, but it is fast becoming a totalitarian nation because it is a nation populated by individual totalitarians that worship power and devalue truth. We Americans have all become little tyrants looking for a balcony, and with the #MeToo and Russia-gate story we have finally found one, where we can vent our fear and loathing but at the expense of our American soul.

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 5, 2018 AT RT.

UPDATE: 

One final irony…on the same day the above article was published at RT.com, Friday, January 5, 2018, the New York Times published an op-ed written by Daphne Merkin titled "Publicly, We Say #MeToo. Privately, We Have Misgivings." I was glad to see Ms. Merkin's smart and insightful piece in the rarified air of the Times op-ed page and highly recommend you read it. The main reason I enjoyed the piece so much probably had to do with the fact that I had, in essence, written the same thing numerous times over the last three months (LINK, LINK, LINK). It is always gratifying to be ahead of the curve…and to even predict the arc and direction of the curve (LINK, LINK). I will no doubt never get the imprimatur of the Times, an invitation to their  penthouse is unobtainable for a lowly Russian-media ghetto dweller like me. So I am left with no other alternative but to accept the fact that my lot in life is to be nothing more than the unacknowledged source material for the Times more interesting writers. There are worse fates.

©2017

Justice League: A Review

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***THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!***

My Rating: 2.65 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT/SKIP IT: See it in the theatre if you are a comic book/superhero film fan, it is worth the effort. If you are lukewarm or ambivalent about comic book/superhero films then feel free to skip it in the theatre and see it on Netflix or cable. 

Justice League, written by Joss Whedon and Chris Terrio and directed by Zack Snyder (with re-shoots directed by Whedon), is the fifth film in the D.C. Extended Universe, is a sequel to Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and is the completion of the origin story of the Justice League, which is a collection of superheroes who join together to fight evil. The film stars Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Mamoa, Ezra Miller and Henry Cavill. 

My experience of Justice League was very similar to my experience of 2016's Batman v. Superman (BvS). I did not see Batman v. Superman until very late in its theatrical run, therefore even though I do not read reviews, I had seen enough headlines to understand that the film was not widely loved…or even mildly liked. With my expectations very low I went and saw Batman v. Superman and much to my shock and amazement I joined the rarest of groups, the handful of people who actually enjoyed Batman v Superman a great deal. It wasn't a perfect movie but it was certainly better than all of the negative buzz that was floating around about it.

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When Justice League came out last month on November 17th, I once again avoided reviews but was still exposed to a deluge of negative buzz surrounding the film before I saw it on December 19. And just like when I saw Batman v. Superman, the theatre for Justice League was deserted except for the three other people.  And…just like with Batman v. Superman, my expectations were in the gutter for Justice League and either in spite of or because of that, the movie was able to greatly exceeded them leaving me most pleasantly surprised. 

Justice League is supposed to be DC's attempt (at Warner Brothers insistence) at "lightening things up" from the dark themes and tone of BvS and being more "audience friendly". While I am not a fan of "lightening things up" in general and was attracted to the darkness of Batman v. Superman, I was not turned off by the more approachable tone of Justice League. Would I have liked a much darker version? Most definitely…but Justice League held onto enough darkness that it maintained a certain superhero gravitas that I found compelling. 

It has been my experience that while the rest of the world adores the Marvel franchise, I am more temperamentally suited for the brooding DC universe. The DC films have on the whole been pretty uneven, with Batman v. Superman, Wonder Woman and Justice League being pretty good and Suicide Squad and Man of Steel being abysmally bad. What I liked about Batman v. Superman and Justice League are that they are both cloaked in a very heavy, existential angst that regular folk may find boring and impenetrable, but which I find very philosophically intriguing and creatively courageous. In contrast, I find the Marvel films to be much too light hearted and frivolous and to be lacking in visual and narrative texture. Marvel films are made for kids while DC films, at least Batman v. Superman and Justice League, are made for tormented kids who've grown old. While Justice League is definitely not a great film, it is probably at best an average cinematic venture, but it is still considerably better than any of the Marvel/Avenger movies. 

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Justice League benefits greatly from Zack Snyder's visual style that gives the film a distinct look and feel that the flat and cinematically dull Marvel films lack entirely. Snyder's Justice League world looks like something out of a Hieronymus Bosch hellscape, which is only heightened by its being populated  by hordes of villains, para-demons, who may very well have flown out of a Bosch painting. Snyder has always thrived when it comes to giving a film a distinguishing and original look, and so it is with Justice League.

On the other hand, Snyder has always struggled with narrative clarity and cohesion and while he doesn't excel at that in Justice League, he doesn't entirely flounder either. Justice League is more coherently structured than Batman v. Superman and flows better, that comes at the expense of dumbing things down and settling for a standard and generic approach over a more complex and challenging one.

I had a chance to see the extended directors cut of Batman v Superman and thought it added a great deal to the film and I hope that Warner Brothers releases an extended Zack Snyder cut of Justice League as well at some point as I think that Snyder can be at his best when he is free of the restraints of running length and focus groups. 

Justice League is greatly enhanced by a top notch cast that all do solid if not spectacular work. I realize I am in the minority here but I think Ben Affleck does a terrific job as Batman. Affleck's caped crusader is a grizzled, aching and aging icon struggling to keep up with his more supernaturally endowed colleagues and keep the undefeated father time at bay. Affleck is not an actor whose work I have been impressed with over his career, but his brooding Batman is second only to Christian Bale, and it isn't a distant second either.

Gal Gadot is simply sublime as Wonder Woman for the second time this year. Gadot is such a charismatic, magnetic and dynamic power it is impossible to keep your eyes off of her when she is on screen. Gadot's commanding screen presence never feels forced or disingenuous, but always feels grounded, earthy and forceful.  

Jason Mamoa and Ezra Miller do solid supporting work as Aquaman and Flash. Their roles are used to good comedic effect in Justice League (they do most of the previously mentioned "lightening up") but they could have been greatly bungled in the hands of lesser actors. Both Mamoa and Miller never push too hard and they make specific choices for their characters while never settling for half measures when bringing them to life. I don't know if Aquaman or the Flash will be able to carry a film on their own, but we shall see soon enough. 

As for my biggest issues with Justice League…the first and most pressing issue was that the CGI seemed to be rather sub par. Steppenwolf was the arch villain in the film and instead of using a human actor, they made him entirely of CGI. The CGI simply did not look real or believable and so it felt like the members of the Justice League were fighting a really evil cartoon character. 

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Another example of bad CGI is such a remarkable tale it demands retelling. The opening scene of the film shows a flashback of Henry Cavill as Superman being interviewed on a video phone by some local kids. Cavill, who is impossibly handsome, looks very...weird in the scene. I couldn't place it at first, but there was something wrong with his face. As I looked closer I could see his mouth was deformed. I started wondering if Henry Cavill in real life had an accident or been sick and was left with some sort of facial paralysis or something. I noticed the same issue at other points in the film featuring Cavill as well and was completely distracted by it every time. When I got home I searched the internet and found out the story behind the bizarre look of Superman. 

The story goes that Cavill was signed on to shoot Mission Impossible 6 (God help us all) once he wrapped shooting Justice League. Justice League director Zack Snyder stepped away from the film in post-production due to the death of his daughter and Joss Whedon stepped in to replace him. The studio wanted Whedon to do a plethora of re-shoots to change the tone of the film which they feared was too dark like Batman v. Superman. Whedon complied and did a great deal of re-shoots to the sum of $25 million. Bringing back Cavill for Superman was tricky though because he was currently shooting MI6 and had grown a mustache for his role and was contractually obligated to not shave it off for the duration of that shoot. So Warner Brothers, the studio of Justice League, which had a budget of $300 million, was at the mercy of Paramount, the home studio of Mission Impossible, in regards to their star Superman. Paramount, not surprisingly since they are not in the business of making life easy for their competition, wouldn't let Cavill get rid of the mustache. So billion dollar company Warner Brothers, who was spending $300 million on Justice League, was not allowed to walk down to CVS and get a Bic razor for 99 cents in order to shave the face of the star of their movie. The movie business is completely and utterly insane. 

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Superman and Steppenwolf's faces aren't the only missteps in Justice League. The enormity of the plot was a bit burdensome as well. All of these superhero movies now revolve around end of the world cataclysms that seem to me to be overkill. Whether it is the Justice League or the Avengers or anyone else, the threat of global annhilation is so overplayed as to be ridiculously redundant. And as much as I think Steppenwolf in theory is an excellent villain (although as stated he didn't look right in the film) and his minions the para-demons are quality Miltonian/Boschean foils, the scenario presented by their assault on Earth felt much too similar to The Avengers plots with Loki or Ultron. In execution I think Justice League pulled that scenario off better than The Avengers, but that doesn't make their lack of originality any less of a creative sin. 

The political subtext of Justice League is pretty interesting. Steppenwolf is a Putin-esque, power hungry warlord who begins his quest for total world domination in what is alleged to be a small Russian town but looks an awful lot like Chernobyl in Ukraine. Justice League accurately captures the divided mess that is our current world as we stagger and stumble from a uni-polar world protected by Superman/U.S. to a multi-polar world reigned over by God knows who, that acts like a bi-polar world. 

The Justice League itself is obviously a metaphor for the United Nations or the defunct League of Nations, in which the good guys protect the globe from the bad guys. Of course, life is never as clearly defined as that, and in our world it is becoming more and more difficult to discover who is good and who is bad. To Justice League's credit, the good guys aren't always so good and they struggle to find their place in the world.

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After seeing Justice League I did something I rarely do, which is go read other reviews of the film. Critics have savaged the film with an unabashed glee and seem to have a pre-disposition against the movie. While it was never stated, I think that predisposition to critical displeasure with Justice League (and Batman V. Superman) may have to do with critics subconsciously comparing the film to the last "Batman" movies which were Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy which are a far, far superior collection of films. Any superhero films compared to the Dark Knight Trilogy will pale in comparison as Nolan has raised the superhero bar beyond anyones reach with those phenomenal films. To be extremely clear, Batman v. Superman and Justice League are not The Dark Knight series, not even remotely close, but that doesn't mean they are completely devoid of any redeeming value.

The mythic and archetypal energies at the core of all of these these superhero stories, be they DC or Marvel, is the same, it is just the window dressing that changes. The core archetypes at the heart of superhero stories are what resonate with our collective psyches. Just as the Greeks told stories of their Gods, we tell stories of our mythic gods…Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Flash. These comic book characters and the Greek gods are the same archetypes but are only wearing different masks. 

In conclusion, I found Justice League to be a pleasant surprise of a movie that wasn't great, but was certainly better than its buzz would indicate. Justice League is a solid companion piece to Batman v Superman and in fact enhances that film a great deal in hindsight. If you love superhero films then I recommend you go see Justice League in the theatre while it is still there. If you are lukewarm or ambivalent about superhero films then you can definitely skip it in the theatre and catch it at your leisure on cable or Netflix. And finally, in this holiday season when we anticipate a bounty of gifts beneath the Christmas tree, let Justice League be a lesson to us all, that low expectations are the golden key to a happy existence. 

©2017

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!****

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. Not worth seeing in the theatre. Don't feed the Disney corporate beast. Save your money and see it for free on Netflix or cable.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is the second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and the 8th film in the Star Wars saga. The film stars Daisy Ridley as Rey with Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher reprising their roles from the original films as Luke and Leia, along with Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro. 

I have a friend who, in order to protect his identity, I will call "Doug". "Doug" is a huge Star Wars nerd, absolutely loves the stuff. "Doug" is a very successful Neil Diamond impersonator and he spends all of his considerable money on every new Star Wars movie and piece of merchandise.

Just the other day I was contemplating going to the movies and was wondering what to go see. On my list of potential films were a plethora of art house type movies and high end dramas. I also knew The Last Jedi was in theaters so in passing I asked Doug if he had seen it and if he liked it. He responded vociferously that I should definitely, without a doubt, go see it. So, against my better judgement, I heeded Doug's advice and switched my plans from the art house to the cineplex and went and saw The Last Jedi

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I should mention at this point that the reason I chose to give my friend…correction…former friend, the name of "Doug" was because I have never known anyone named Doug who wasn't a complete a**hole. It is a fact, backed up by dozens of peer reviewed scientific studies, most notably the Stanford University "Correlations Between Doug and A**hole Syndrome" study of 1992, that anyone who is named Doug is an incorrigible and irredeemable a**hole. If you are named Doug and you are reading this right now thinking, "Hey, my name is Doug and I'm not an a**hole!", well…I have bad news for you…you are an a**hole, you are just such a gigantic a**hole that you are entirely unaware of your a**hole-ness…which ironically enough makes you an even bigger a**hole than I thought your were. 

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. I listened to my now former friend "Doug", I went and did my American duty by paying my Disney tax and saw The Last Jedi. My thoughts on the film can be boiled down to this…the movie is a two and a half hour shitshow. A total mess. I have vowed to punch "Doug" squarely in the ear if I ever see him again in retaliation for his Last Jedi recommendation.

The failure of The Last Jedi is baffling on many levels. I am at an advantage when it comes to seeing Star War's films because I am not a Star Wars fanatic which means I do not take it personally if a Star Wars movie is no good. It also means I am also able to enjoy Star Wars films and appreciate them on a mythic level even when the filmmaking is less than stellar.

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With that said, with The Last Jedi it feels as though the rich and complex myth at the core of the Star Wars saga no longer resonate with the collective consciousness (and unconsciousness) of today. That failure to resonate could simply be a result of poor writing and filmmaking on the part of The Last Jedi's director Rian Johnson, or it could be the inevitable result of a franchise that has gone creatively bankrupt through overuse and saturation due to being on its eighth go around. Regardless of who or what is to blame, it is striking to me that this once intricately layered and spiritually vast mythological universe has now been rendered so emaciated and meager in The Last Jedi.

One of the major issues with The Last Jedi is that it suffers from a really unwieldy script that lacks narrative and thematic focus. Combine that with a cavalcade of poor performances and a plethora of logical inconsistencies and you end up with the literal mess of a movie that is The Last Jedi.

To be fair, there are some bright spots, namely Mark Hamill, who always seemed rather underwhelming as Luke Skywalker in the original films, but in The Last Jedi gives a powerful and fully grounded performance that is noteworthy. The film would have been wise to give us more Luke Skywalker and less of everyone else…most notably Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren and Leia.

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To its credit the film also has some pretty interesting politics running through it. It is undeniably an anti-empire movie and goes to great lengths to show the moral, spiritual and economic corruption at the heart of empire that corrodes the humanity of all who touch it. That said, the film also felt to be very reactionary politically. The use of the term "resistance" throughout the movie certainly seemed to be speaking to our current political climate and anti-Trumpism. Some films thrive because they are ahead of the curve when it comes to the collective unconscious and political sentiments (as the Isaiah/McCaffrey Wave Theory teaches us), but The Last Jedi's politics come across as entirely reactionary, thus making them feel forced, contrived and manipulative which severely cripples the dramatic authenticity of the film. 

To Rian Johnson's credit, there are two cinematic gems in The Last Jedi that were very impressive. One sequence of note occurs in a battle outside a salt mine where Johnson wisely uses the color red and it really makes for some stunning visuals. The other is when two large Destroyer/Cruiser ships collide, which results in the best visual sequence of the film and maybe the entire franchise. 

Besides those two sequences the film looks and feels rather flat. The characters and the dialogue are as thin as gruel and embarrassing at times. There are many cringe-worthy moments in the movie but the lowest of lowlights occurs when an injured character gives a heartfelt speech where she says, "we shouldn't fight what we hate but save what we love", then kisses a guy and collapses to much raucous laughter from the audience in the screening I attended.

The performances of most of the cast are pretty abysmal. Daisy Ridley (Rey) has certainly improved from her uneven performance in The Force Awakens but she is still not a very compelling or magnetic actress. Oscar Isaac is simply dreadful as a hot headed fly boy and I know it is blasphemous to say so, but so is Carrie Fisher as Leia, who is as wooden as can be in her final role. 

Adam Driver's success as an actor is one of the great mysteries of life. His appeal as an actor has always completely eluded me and he kept that streak alive in The Last Jedi as bad guy Kylo Ren. Driver's performance is little more than an imitation of Hayden Christensen's excruciatingly abysmal work as the tormented Annakyn Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith

John Boyega gives a thoroughly lackluster performance as well and feels entirely out of place as the character Fin. I have a friend who is a big shot Hollywood movie director who I call Mr. X. Mr. X said to me, "Fin may be the most worthless character I've ever seen in a movie before".

Mr. X also said to me in relation to The Last Jedi, "I think the art of directing is dying", and "if you can cast anyone in a Hollywood film why cast such horrible actors?" Mr. X ended our conversation by saying "It's like they don't know how to make movies or even tell stories anymore."  As usual, I agreed with the Hollywood big shot Mr. X.

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To be fair, I actually did not hate The Last Jedi, it didn't make me angry or fill me with rage. At the end of the day The Last Jedi actually left me feeling absolutely nothing, which is about as damning a thing as you can say about a movie. At this point it feels like the Star Wars saga has devolved to the point where it is completely devoid of any genuine drama or mythological insight. The Star Wars films now seem to exist for no other reason than to justify their own existence and to fleece the movie going public in order to fill Mickey Mouse's already overstuffed coffers. That is disappointing to me because while George Lucas certainly had his flaws as a director and producer, it never felt like he was milking his precious Star Wars creation in order to become even more filthy rich than he already was. 

Ironically, considering The Last Jedi's politics, the Star Wars Saga is now part of the Disney Empire, which, like all empires, corrodes the humanity of all who touch it. Luke Skywalker, Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Princess Leia and the rest have had the "force" and the archetypal insights that went with it, sucked out of them by the "Doug" of movie studios... Disney, which is a mouse that roars like a giant. As a result, the Star Wars universe will never be the same again. Disney is a like a creative counterfeiting ring that drains the life and meaning out of what was once a very artistically, spiritually and psychologically insightful piece of mythic art for no other reason than to print their own money and expand their decadent and destructive empire even further.

In conclusion, Star Wars: The Last Jedi felt like a two and half hour corporate commercial for itself, and for its inevitable sequel. If you are a huge Star Wars fan you will see the film no matter what, but if you are a casual fan, I would recommend you skip seeing it in the theatre and catch it for free on Netflix or cable. That way you can check out the movie and not have to feed Mickey Mouse's voracious appetite for your money while you do so. To you my dear readers I will finish by saying, May the Force Be With You…but not with you, Doug, you can go straight to hell, or Jestafad, you Ewok and Porg loving son of a gun!! 

©2017

#MeToo Wildfire Rages Out of Control (Updated Version)

 

Estimated Reading Time: 4minutes 54 seconds

As firefighters were struggling to contain the wildfires ravaging Southern California, the firestorm of the #MeToo movement burned out of control across America from Hollywood to Washington, D.C. with no end in sight.

This week wildfires fueled by the hot, dry, and at-times hurricane force Santa Ana winds, raged across numerous locations in Southern California. Ventura County, which is just north of Los Angeles, has been hit particularly hard as over 230,000 acres have been scorched with more than seven hundred homes destroyed thus far. Other serious wildfires also broke out in Bel-Air, Santa Clarita, Santa Barbara, Sylmar, Riverside and San Diego and devastated those areas as well.

There were times this week when portions of the Los Angeles resembled a scene out of Schindler's List with black, acrid smoke filling the air accompanied by white ash gently falling to the ground like snow. Air quality was so poor across the city that most schools and parks were closed for the week.

Synchronistically, just as this devastating wildfire was ravaging Los Angeles, another inferno that got its start in Hollywood was wreaking havoc across the country and in Washington D.C., in particular. The out of control wildfire of which I speak is the #MeToo sexual harassment panic that is torching everyone in its path and leaving in its wake a pile of ash where careers used to be.

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The #MeToo wildfire started back in October with the revelations of film producer Harvey Weinstein's decades long reign of sexual terror upon the movie industry. The explosion of rage at the diabolical behavior of Weinstein was gargantuan and only gained more intensity as a cavalcade of more women came forward. That blaze of anger quickly spread to other egregious sexual offenders in the movie business like director/producer Bret Ratner, director James Toback and actor Kevin Spacey who all felt the ferocious heat of the #MeToo fire. 

The magnitude of the anger directed at Weinstein was so intense that it sustained the #MeToo conflagration as it spread to other tertiary celebrities like actors Jeremy Piven, Dustin Hoffman and Jeffrey Tambor along with comedian Louis CK.

The #MeToo wildfire was not contained to just Hollywood, it spread to newsrooms as well. Today Show host Matt Lauer and CBS This Morning host Charlie Rose were two more well-known logs thrown onto #MeToo fire. They joined MSNBC contributor Mark Haplerin, New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush and NPR Senior VP of News Mike Oreskes, Chief News Editor David Sweeney and most recently New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza and PBS host Tavis Smiley as formerly respected newsman who have had their careers and reputations go up in smoke over sexual harassment allegations.

The #MeToo firestorm also spread to Washington where democratic Congressman from Michigan, John Conyers , Arizona republican, Trent Franks and democrat Senator Al Franken all resigned amidst sexual harassment allegations. Then this week Alabama Senate candidate, Roy Moore, lost his election after allegations surfaced that Moore had a predilection for teenage girls when he was in his thirties.

While many celebrate the success of the #MeToo bonfire at bringing down these high profile men who have used their power to assault or harass their victims, I am less enthused about the direction of the blaze. The problem with the #MeToo campaign is that it is not a controlled burn and is more akin to the wildfire of a sex panic or hysteria.

A “controlled burn” is when, in as controlled a manner as possible, the detritus on the forest floor is burned away in order to avoid a larger, uncontrollable conflagration at a later date. The righteous fury of the #MeToo wildfire means that it not only torches the sick and rotted trees but the healthy ones as well, and has no interest in making any differentiation between the two.

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An example of the uncontrollable nature of the #MeToo fire is that it refuses to make any distinction in severity between rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, groping or lewd and boorish behavior. For example, Al Franken (who as both a politician and a comedian I am not a fan of), is alleged to have "groped" or given unwanted kisses to four women and is lumped into the same category as Harvey Weinstein who is accused of raping and sexually assaulting over 80 women and has paid out millions to settle sexual harassment lawsuits. Another example is Emmy award winning actor Jeffrey Tambor, who denies allegations that he made lewd comments toward two transgender women working with him on his show Transparent, is placed in the same category as Kevin Spacey, who is alleged to have sexually assaulted or harassed dozens of young men, some as young as 14. 

As it is with all panics and hysterias, the #MeToo campaign has officially banished nuance from any discussion and embraced a draconian zero tolerance. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made that perfectly clear this week when in a speech calling for Al Franken to step down said,

"When we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, we are having the wrong conversation. We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay, none of it is acceptable."

The emotionalist raging wildfire of #MeToo also does not allow for any semblance of due process, and the burden of proof falls entirely on the accused and not on the accuser. For instance, Senator Franken, who denies the charges against him, asked for a Senate ethics investigation into the allegations in order to best unearth the truth, but in perfect democratic party circular firing squad, self-immolation style, Franken’s colleagues demanded he step down instead, due process and search for truth be damned.

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Another foundational belief of the #MeToo movement, which just won Time's Person of the Year Award, is to “Believe All Women”, the end result of which is that the word of every women is sanctified and proof is never a necessity. Just like the L.A. wildfires, the #MeToo sexual harassment hysteria is designed to be indifferent to guilt or innocence and is ultimately only meant to perpetuate its own existence and voracious appetite by blindly devouring anything or anyone that opposes it.

By creating this environment where alleged victims are deified and can never dare be doubted, #MeToo has all but guaranteed that allegations of a sexual nature will be weaponized by those who wish to destroy men whom they deem to be their personal, professional or political enemies, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the targeted men. Just this week Senator Chuck Schumer was lucky to avert an attack by weaponized sexual harassment allegations.

Gillibrand’s takedown of Franken is a perfect example of how #MeToo is a political weapon in what is starting to look like a gender war, where men are taken down by women and replaced by women. Like an arsonist torching a bankrupt business for the insurance money, Gillibrand put the fire to her potential democratic presidential hopeful rival Franken, in order to elevate her political profile and thin the field in the hopes of a presidential run in 2020. Her maneuver paid off as she is now hailed as the democrat’s bravest and best hope to topple Trump.

Despicable men in public life are being held to account for their depraved sexual behavior over the years, and that is a long time coming and they certainly deserve it, but in the vengeful, scorched-earth fury of the #MeToo movement, innocent men will have their names besmirched and their careers annihilated as well.

Some people will say, “who cares” if some innocent men are caught up in the #MeToo flames. That is an understandable feeling to have considering the history of men in positions of authority using their power for sexual means, but it is an ultimately self-defeating one.  The reality is that this current sex panic will end, sooner or later. No matter how hot it burns, no wildfire can last forever. And when this current #MeToo wildfire burns itself out and the fever is broken, there will be a terrible backlash against those who cynically misused it for their own purposes.

As intoxicating as it can be to get caught up in the whirlwind of righteous vengeance pulsating at the heart of the #MeToo, the shaming and punishment meted out in cases like Franken, Tambor and Smiley does not seem to fit the alleged crime.

It is deeply disconcerting that supporters of the #MeToo are so blinded by emotional fury that they are incapable of stepping back, letting their white hot emotions subside and allowing the cool waters of justice to flow.

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It would be a much wiser and more rational course of action for #MeToo to follow the wisdom of one of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who echoed Blackstone’s famous formula, when he said, “Better that 100 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

Considering that in the #MeToo panic, rational thought is in short supply and wild-eyed emotion rules the day, it is a near lock that Ben Franklin’s sage advice will be entirely ignored because it is emotionally unsatisfying in favor of torches and pitchforks. In fact, if Ben Franklin were alive today there is little doubt he would be labeled a #MeToo heretic by his enemies, or worse yet, tarred as a sexual predator himself, and tossed by the mob into the flames of the #MeToo bonfire to the raucous chant of “Burn Baby Burn”.

UPDATE: Matt Damon is in trouble today for saying pretty much the same thing I say in this article which caused the outrage machine to go into hyper-drive. Alyssa Milano also had a "fierce" diatribe against Damon as well. Ms. Milano is a survivor of sexual assault, so her emotional reaction to the subject is understandable, but as is always the case when emotions run high, logic is in short supply. The reaction to Damon's comments are proof that #MeToo is a panic, or maybe better described as a hysteria (which comes from the Greek word Hystera meaning "womb"), where not only does emotionalism reign but rational thought is chastised and despised. Panics/hysterias, like the Red Scare or the Salem Witch Trials, never look good in hindsight…at the end of the day, #MeToo will end up being viewed in the same way. 

UPDATE #2: Right on schedule…the #MeToo panic further jumps the shark with an op-ed from Kathy Lally in the Washington Post. In the article Ms. Lally proudly declares #MeToo!! The one problem though is that Ms. Lally was not raped, sexually assaulted or sexually harassed…no...her claim is that she was #MeToo'd by Matt Taibbi because he made her feel bad by making fun of her in his writing her twenty years ago. Seriously. He didn't even make fun of her in person. Good grief. The allure of #MeToo for women desperate to belong and who crave the identity and power of victimhood is apparently overwhelming, Ms. ally being proof of that. Ms. Lally's declaration is frankly offensive and should be taken as an affront to women who have actually been raped and sexually assaulted. Ms. Lally should be ashamed of herself.
 

A version of this article was originally published at RT.com.

©2017

Perversion and the Religion of Self

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 38 seconds

There is something about some of the recent sex harassment/assault cases involving Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Louis CK and James Toback that I have had a hard time understanding. For the life of me I just cannot understand these men who are compelled to expose themselves and masturbate in front of their victims. Look, I'm no prude, truth is I am as much a pervert as the next person, but I am entirely incapable of grasping, no pun intended, the allure of exposing and gratifying myself in front of an unwilling victim. 

Obviously sex assault and harassment has to do more with power than with sex, I get that, but that only seems to be a pretty shallow psychological interpretation of the issue. What interests me is what is occurring on a much deeper psychological level, dare I say a mythical level, for this type of act to become a "thing" and rise to public consciousness. 

I had a conversation on this topic the other day with a friend of mine, a wise man I call The Falconer. In the course of our discussion, The Falconer and I came up with some speculative conclusions on this issue that I thought I'd share. Here they are….

At the most basic level, sex is a primal instinct. Rape or sexual assault is an aggressive and abnormal expression of that primal need. But when a man exposes himself and masturbates in front of an unwilling victim, he is not using that person's body to satiate his sexual needs, something else is going on. 

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As Nietszche tells us, God is dead, and in our current culture that is certainly true at least in terms of the Abrahamic God of the old religions. The old religions are no longer capable of containing the modern man and his pulsating Id, and yet there have, as of yet, been no worthy replacements for those old religions. Mankind is thus in a state of disorientation because we are no longer oriented to the old religions and are yet to be oriented to an adequate new religion that we desperately yearn for to hold all of our expanded selves.

As we wander around trying to reorient ourselves to something expansive enough, we are like hermit crabs searching for a new shell to call home. In the age in which we live, the shell we have stumbled into is the religion of Self. The religion of Self is an inevitable outgrowth of the Reformation and has evolved and morphed over the centuries into a theology where the Self is not only the center of the universe but is the entire universe.

From reality television to Facebook to selfies, it is easy to see how the religion of Self manifests in our current culture. Just like the old religions, our current version of the religion of Self is not strong enough to contain our Id and its accompanying sexual appetites, and therefore conjures up the unique  kind of aberrant sexual behavior seen from the likes of Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK.

In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve were told by God to "cover themselves". When Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK expose themselves they are jettisoning aside the God of the last few thousand years and are arrogantly replacing Him with themselves. 

Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK expose themselves because in their psyches, they are the new god, and the admonition of "cover thyself" applies not to gods but to mortals. Thus the unfortunate women who had to witness the unveiling of the genitals of these men - became tools to sustain their belief in their own superiority and divinity. 

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In many ways, by exposing themselves the way they did, Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK committed an act of near Luciferain defiance in the eyes of God. These men weren't just sinning against those women, but against the God of the last age, thus declaring their place on his vacant throne. These egregious acts of malignant narcissism are a result of the inability for these men to even consider the idea of humbling themselves (or their sexual desires) before the altar of any other god. Like all narcissists, Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK reveal that it isn't an abundance of self-love that generates deviant behavior, it is a paucity of a true Self and love for that genuine Self. 

Of course, all of these psychological machinations occur on the level of the sub-conscious and are fed by the void left by God and the resulting disorientation among the collective unconscious .

In the Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK scenario, they also elevated themselves in to the position of god by not being touched or touching the women involved. A god cannot sully themselves with the flesh of a mortal, and so the women who suffered this abuse were deemed to be so beneath these god-men that they could only be forced to watch their sexual exploits from a distance.

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In the case of Weinstein and Lauer, they exposed themselves in the course of demanding sexual favors from women, and when those women said no, they would masturbate in front of them as a sort of divine punishment. This is also an attempt to elevate themselves to the status of a god. When Weinstein and Lauer exposed their genitals, the women were supposed to kneel before them in awe, as if in prayer, as they serviced their holy erections. These men were demanding the women worship their erections as talismans of their religion of Self. 

If the women failed to accept the request of the god (Weinstein/Lauer), then these men would force them to face the humiliation and denigration of god. As the men masturbated and ejaculated, they were unburdened, and they shifted that burden onto their victims, who Christ-like, had to carry the burden of that cross with them for the rest of their life. The act of ejaculation in these situations was a jettisoning of the shame and sin of these men onto their victims who then had to carry that shame and sin for them. 

One of the most striking things about this situation is the complete lack of shame on the part of these men. In the old religion where God told Adam and Eve to cover themselves, exposing one's genitals would generate great shame on the part of the exposer. In the religion of Self, it is the exposer who feels no shame and the witness who carries all the shame. 

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One more point regarding Harvey Weinstein. I read a piece in the New York Times which reveals that Harvey suffered from erectile dysfunction and needed injections in order to get an erection. This would support the notion that the erection for Weinstein is a talisman of his religion of Self. Weinstein's erections were a miracle of modern medicine and were like the mysterious transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The fact that Weinstein was unable to get an erection without medical aide also speaks to the malformed masculinity that drives a person like that and reflects that at his core, he is a hollowed out and vacant man. 

Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK have all had their religions of Self exposed, no pun intended, for the frauds that they are. The Catholic Church went through the same sort of fundamental crisis with the sex scandals of the last few decades. I say this as a Catholic myself, but the Catholic church was mortally wounded by the child sex scandal, and that scandal was symbolic of the death knell for all the old religions. 

The religion of Self, at least in the case of Weinstein, Toback, Lauer and CK, is going through a similar existential crisis. It took the Catholic Church 2,000 years to implode under the weight of its hypocrisy and degenerate behavior, but it has only taken the religion of Self a few decades. 

The Catholic Church and the Abrahamic religions will continue to exist for the foreseeable future, as will the religion of Self, but none of them are big enough to adequately contain all that is the modern evolving man. For good or for ill, all will be jettisoned to the ash heap of history…it is simply a matter of time, be it decades, centuries or millennia. What replaces them is anyone's guess, but whatever it is, it will only survive if it can hold the entirety of our spiritual, psychological, emotional and sexual drives. 

©2017

He Who Laughs Last - Edward S. Herman Edition

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 04 seconds

On November 20, I wrote an article where I ruminated on the death of academic Edward S. Herman, co-writer of the magnificent book Manufacturing Consent. I noted that it was ironic that the same week Herman died the U.S. forced Russian owned television channel RT America to register as an agent of a foreign government. This week there were some more rather deliciously ironic developments in the story.

The first development was that The New York Times did exactly what Herman had long claimed and proven with his life's work they routinely do…namely they distorted the facts in order to diminish dissent and uphold the establishment line. What makes the Times behavior so noteworthy is that they did those things in their obituary for Edward S. Herman…thus in his death proving his point. 

The Times writer Sam Roberts wrote in the obituary of Herman's seminal work, "Manufacturing Consent was severely criticized as having soft-pedaled evidence of genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda and, during the Bosnia war, Srebrenica."

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The most glaring issue with that sentence is that... it is entirely and completely incorrect. Besides that it is perfectly alright. Here are the facts...Manufacturing Consent was published in 1988, the Rwandan genocide occurred in 1994 and the Srebrenica massacre was in 1995. While it is legitimate to condemn Mr. Herman for failing to be a time-traveller or for failing to vigorously predict future atrocities, it is not fair to blame him for "soft-pedaling evidence" about events that hadn't happened yet. 

In addition, Manufacturing Consent spends a tremendous amount of time discussing Cambodia and its mass killings. The book doesn't soft pedal anything, it simply notes the differing levels of outrage and anger over atrocities committed by the U.S. as opposed to other nations. 

There is nothing so satisfying as being proven right, and I hope Mr. Herman is having a good eternal laugh at the New York Times expense, he deserves it…and so do they.

The other update to the story is that RT America complied with the U.S. Justice Department demand that they register as an agent of a foreign power, and even though they did so they are now summarily kicked out of the capitol and refused journalistic credentials. I know many people hate RT for no other reason than they have been told to, but I think it is a dire sign that America in general, and liberals in particular, are so comfortable playing politics with the First Amendment. 

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RT America may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they do what none of the slavish, corporate-whore establishment media do, and that is vigorously question the American oligarchy. When RT America is banished or exiled from even being allowed to question members of the government, dissent loses and the American oligarchy wins. And in case you haven't noticed…when the establishment wins…we all lose. 

In further laughing last news, it was amusing for me to see New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg write two recent columns about the sex harassment story as it related to Al Franken. Goldberg's multiple takes on Franken story reveal much that is wrong with the America and the media. 

Goldberg's first op-ed, aptly titled, "Franken Should Go", was published on November 17, right after the Al Franken sexual harassment story broke. In it she demanded that Franken resign from the Senate for his sexual sins. Her second Op-ed titled "When Our Allies are Accused of Harassment", was written Novemeber 22 and was the height of unintentional comedy. In it she wrote in response to her initial November 17 op-ed,

"Almost as soon as it was published I started having second thoughts. I spent all weekend feeling guilty that I’d called for the sacrifice of an otherwise decent man to make a political point."

She then wrote,

"Personally, I’m torn by competing impulses. I want to see sexual harassment finally taken seriously but fear participating in a sex panic."

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I assume Ms. Goldberg is read my article titled, "Sex Scandals and the Phases of a Sex Panic" which I published on November 17th and which must have been the impetus for her to re-think her initial position of Franken. I jest of course, but as with Mr. Herman's posthumous satisfaction at being proven right, I took Ms. Goldberg's repositioning to be more proof of my right-ness, but certainly not my righteousness. It did give me great pleasure to see Ms. Goldberg being living proof of the stages of a sex panic which I had written about just a week before.

Ms. Goldberg's second column was also indicative with another problem she and the rest of the media and the nation suffer from…emotionalism. In her second column she wrote of her first op-ed calling for Franken's resignation,

"Yet I am still not sure I made the right call. My thinking last week, when the first accusation emerged, was: cauterize the wound."

I think Ms. Goldberg is deluding herself, she wasn't "thinking" in her first piece, she was feeling. Everyone seems to believe that what they feel matters nowadays. It doesn't. I do not care what Ms. Goldberg feels, I am interested in what she thinks though. 

The disease of emotionalism is a plague upon our nation and has made it nearly impossible to have a discussion with anyone about anything. Emotionalism causes irrationality to reign supreme and you get a country and a world that is deep in the throes of madness. 

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I have written many times before, and will do so again, that Trump is the president we deserve. The media are all shouting from the rooftops that he is mentally unstable…well guess what…his madness is a symptom of our collective psychosis. There have been reports that he may be suffering from dementia…well so is the whole country. Think I'm exaggerating? Go watch Ken Burns' recent documentary The Vietnam War to see how the collective is unable to accurately tell the truth about itself or its history. 

Besides Ms. Goldberg being a reader of this blog, the New York Times has another op-ed writer who must read my work. Ross Douthat wrote a column on November 29, titled "Race and Class and What Happened in 2016". In the column, Mr. Douthat espouses ideas that are extremely similar to an article I wrote over a year ago on this very blog…welcome to the party Ross! In Mr. Douthat's piece he writes,

"But the swing also happened during a campaign in which Trump explicitly and consistently tried to move the Republican Party’s economic agenda toward the center or even toward the left — abjuring entitlement cuts, channeling Bernie Sanders on trade, promising a splurge of infrastructure spending, pledging to replace Obamacare with an even better coverage guarantee and more. This stuff wasn’t a small part of his campaign: Trump literally picked out sites for campaign events based on their post-industrial-wasteland backdrops, talked constantly about the “forgotten man,” railed against Clinton’s Goldman Sachs connections and more."

Thus it’s strange to read Serwer dismissing “the idea that economic suffering could lead people to support either Trump or Sanders, two candidates with little in common” — since if you just listened to their public rhetoric, Trump and Sanders did have a lot in common, with Trump deliberately positioning himself in territory close to Sanders on a range of economic issues. (And foreign policy issues, and attacks on Washington corruption, and more …)"

I wrote about this same exact thing last November and was excoriated by my democratic friends, now former friends, who quickly exiled me and my loved ones from their lives for the sin of not adhering to Clinton Cult orthodoxy. The reason that my former friends were so quick to banish me from their lives was because they were highly emotional after Trump's victory and they reacted accordingly. Like Ms. Goldberg, my friends weren't thinking, they were feeling, which is always a recipe for bad decisions and even worse ideas.

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I think I have discovered two other high profile readers of my work beside Ms. Goldberg and Mr. Douthat. On November 10, on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, two of Bill's guests were Sarah Silverman and Chris Mathews. During the discussion both of them scolded Maher for belittling Trump voters and white working class people. Matthews even went so far as to call Maher's attacks on white working class people "bullshit" (GASP!). Silverman spoke of her new Hulu tv show where she interviews Trump voters and regular Americans and doesn't judge them but takes them seriously and actually really listens to them. It is pretty shocking but just listening to someone is now a revolutionary act in our current political climate. Good for you, Ms. Silverman.

The reason I even cared a little bit what Sarah Silverman and my usual punching-bag Chris Matthews were saying was because they were, almost a year to the day, reiterating what I had written right before and right after the election of 2016. It was somewhat satisfying for me to hear the point of view I implored a year ago, and which cost me so many dear friends, now be acknowledged as correct. 

God (and my readers) knows I am no Edward S. Herman, but I do admit it has been nice to be alive to see at least some of my thoughts and ideas be proven correct. Don't get me wrong, I am not laughing at those who were so quick to dismiss me and eradicate me from their lives. Look, I am just some guy trying, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, to figure things out. I don't think I'm some genius prophet or something like that who knows all the answers. I sure as hell don't. What I am doing though is beseeching people, my former friends among them, to stop being so myopic and emotionalist. We live in dangerous times in an upside-down world, and only those who keep their heads about them will be able to see clearly the road ahead and understand what path needs to be taken. The more emotional we get, the less rational we become, and thinking, not feeling, is the only cure for our current madness. People need to stop being led around by their nose in a self-induced hysteria, start thinking long term and acting strategically. If folks would listen more and get outraged less, then maybe they might end up being the ones who laugh last.

©2017

Darkest Hour: A Review

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****THIS IS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!! THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!!****

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT - in the theatre if you like very conventional movies or SKIP IT - if you are a creature of the art house, and see it on cable or Netflix for free.

Darkest Hour, written by Anthony McCarten and directed by Joe Wright, is the story of Winston Churchill in the very early days of his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II. The film stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, with supporting turns from Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James and Stephen Dillane.

"I MAY BE DRUNK, MISS, BUT IN THE MORNING I WILL BE SOBER AND YOU WILL STILL BE UGLY." - WINSTON CHURCHILL

My late father was quite the well-read history buff and was a great admirer of Winston Churchill. My father also had, frankly, a rather pedestrian taste when it came to films, or as he would call them "flicks". For instance he loved the movie Hanky Panky starring Gene Wilder but loathed Apocalypse Now. Like my father, I too enjoy history (although certainly not the kind of history he would approve of) but unlike my father I am a creature of the art house whose cinematic tastes run to the more high minded or as he would say, I am a "movie snob". I plead guilty as charged. 

In regards to Darkest Hour, the film is a much more serious undertaking than Hanky Panky, but I think my father would have thoroughly enjoyed this movie a tremendous amount because it is a straight forward, standard Hollywood historical drama. I, on the other hand, was, for the most part, terribly underwhelmed by the film for the exact reason conventional film fans will like it. I didn't hate Darkest Hour, but I didn't love it either, which disappointed me no end as I had high expectations. 

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Gary Oldman has long been one of my favorite actors. Oldman is a unique actor because, although he is British, he is a very "American" actor. What I mean by that is that he embodies much of what the "American school" of acting, particularly in the 1970's, cherished, namely a wild, incandescent and powerfully volcanic artistic energy. Unlike Oldman's fellow British actors of his generation like Daniel Day-Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, Colin Firth, Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh, Oldman is not the picture of artistic refinement and reserve, but more a study in the artistically voracious libido and barely contained fury. 

Oldman's earlier iconic work as Sid Vicious, Lee Harvey Oswald, Dracula and Beethoven made him an cult idol among other actors. Actors of my generation were enamored with Oldman's embrace of chaos and robust unpredictability that pulsated with a mesmerizing fearlessness. 

In recent years Oldman has shifted to a more finely crafted and technically precise approach to his work, most notably in Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy. In Darkest Hour, Oldman has the best of both worlds as he is able to combine both his acute attention to detail, his supreme mastery of craft and his combustible artistic energy to create his very own sublime version of Winston Churchill. 

Oldman's Churchill is not the legend we have been force fed ad infinitum, but rather he is an almost Trumpian figure in his insecurity and lack of respectability. Oldman plays Churchill as a mentally frenetic and emotionally frightened mouse running on a wheel chasing something he wouldn't know what to do with if he caught it. Oldman's inquisitive eyes dart around seeking solace amidst the ocean of Churchill's self doubt while they simultaneously convey a deep sensitivity that reveals more about the man than any of his bombastically eloquent words ever could. 

Playing an iconic historical figure is always fraught with artistic danger for the actor. Historical icons are not people they are archetypal gods, and when actors try to portray them they usually play the legend and not the actual humanity behind it. Oldman does not make that error, as his Churchill is only too human with his signature explosive rage occasionally bubbling to a surface that borders on the doddering and frail. 

Oldman's work as Churchill would be guaranteed to win an Oscar in years past, but with a whole new membership in the Academy, predicting Oldman's win is a much dicier proposition. He is certainly worthy of an Oscar for his work in Darkest Hour, that is for sure, but he has been worthy of the award before and has only received one nomination in his entire career (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). 

"IF YOU'RE GOING THROUGH HELL, KEEP GOING." - WINSTON CHURCHILL

Unfortunately, Darkest Hour never lives up to the superior work Gary Oldman does in it. The film is a painfully conventional filmmaking exercise. The movie suffers from serious perspective problems that undermine it as a character study of Churchill and instead turn the movie into a rather poor, paint-by-numbers historical bio-pic. If director Joe Wright had simply given the audience only Churchill's perspective rather than his secretary, his wife and his political opponents perspective, than Oldman's transcendent performance would have been even more phenomenal and created a more intimate and ultimately interesting film about Churchill.

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In a film when you show a historical icon like Churchill through the eyes of the people around him, you are just regurgitating legend, which is never artistically satisfying, whereas when you show the personal, inner life of a historical icon, then you are giving audiences a truly intriguing and unique perspective on humanity behind the legend. Churchill was a brilliant performer, well aware of his image and controlling and massaging it in order to manipulate people. Director Joe Wright makes the mistake of showing us Churchill as performer and does not give us enough glimpses behind the curtain to see the true man. Perspective issues like this are a deadly trap when making a historical bio-pic, and sadly, director Joe Wright fell face first into it.

The perspective issue isn't the only problem with the movie, as the dialogue at times borders on the embarrassing. Besides Oldman, there are some serious acting issues as well. Kristin Scott Thomas is a fine actress but she gives a dreadful broad performance as Churchill's wife Clementine. There are also a coterie of actors in a sequence in a subway that are all simply atrocious they are so bad. 

"NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP." - WINSTON CHURCHILL

On the bright side, one actress who does do solid work in a supporting role is Lily James who plays Churchill's secretary Elizabeth Layton. James is an alumnus of Downton Abbey and proves herself a capable and compelling actress in Darkest Hour

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There are a few sequences in the film involving Ms. James' character that I am interested to see if they garner any attention due to the current climate of sex panic sweeping the globe (RIP: Careers of Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer…just kidding…couldn't have happened to two bigger charlatans). For instance, Churchill often worked from his bed and would have secretaries come into his room and take dictation while he lounged in his sleeping clothes. In the film, Churchill twice has "Charlie Rose" moments of inappropriateness with his secretary who simply giggles the embarrassment away. As I watched these scenes I could not help but wonder if our current Sex Panic Outage Machine will be aimed at Darkest Hour for "trivializing" such recently abhorred behavior. Ironically enough, if Harvey Weinstein had a film in competition with Darkest Hour for an Oscar, you can bet your ass he would surreptitiously weaponize that issue in a campaign against the movie in order to beat it at the Oscar ballot.

As for Darkest Hour's artistic crew, they do create a nice-to-look-at version of 1940's England, as the set and costume design are supremely well done. Oldman's makeup is seamless and really remarkable as well, so much so that except for his expressive eyes, it is tough to tell it is Gary Oldman and not really Winston Churchill.

"YOU HAVE ENEMIES? GOOD. THAT MEANS YOU'VE STOOD UP FOR SOMETHING, SOMETIME IN YOUR LIFE." - WINSTON CHURCHILL

Beyond that, Joe Wright shows he is really not much of a heavyweight director and it is his failings that ultimately doom Darkest Hour to the purgatory of the average. As much as I enjoyed Gary Oldman's performance, as a cinephile I ended up being unimpressed by Darkest Hour. The film also suffers from the fact that the far superior Dunkirk covered some of the same history and material as did Darkest Hour. Which brings me to the McCaffrey/Isaiah Wave Theory. The McCaffrey-Isaiah Wave Theory is a predictive model that in conjunction with other elements, uses commercially and/or critically successful films as sign posts of the collective unconscious and leading indicators of future trends.

The McCaffrey-Isaiah Wave Theory is much too complicated to get into here (at the pace I am currently on, I hope to have my book on the subject finished by my ancestors no later than the spring of 2269) but there are some things to note in regard to Darkest Hour. The most obvious one is this…the Winston Churchill archetype is currently ascendant in our culture. Besides Darkest Hour and Dunkirk, in which Churchill never appears but his spirit and words are ever present, there was Jon Lithgow's Emmy Award winning performance as Churchill on Netflix's very popular show The Crown. Anytime an archetype shows up three times in a calendar year you know it is an energy that refuses to be ignored. 

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The Churchill archetype is a brand that is often misappropriated because it is so Manichean in its clarity. Churchill stood strong against the Nazi's, therefore modern politicians and their supporters think of their enemies as Nazis and themselves as Churchill. For instance, Dubya was held up as a Churchillian figure by sycophants in his party and the media in regards to the invasion of Iraq and his quixotic "War on Terror". No doubt Trump supporters see him as a Churchillian figure standing up to entrenched political interests and the deep state that have suffocated America. 

The danger of the Churchill archetype is that it too easily feeds the impulse to be obstinate, aggressive and intellectually incestuous. There are a lot of Churchills running around right now convinced their enemies are Nazis and that they themselves are on the side of the righteous. Obviously, the obstinacy of Churchill-ism does not thrive in domestic politics, as even Churchill himself struggled mightily when the focus was entirely on domestic affairs.  

That said, Churchill was certainly a unifying figure for the British when, at their "Darkest Hour", they desperately needed one. The ascendance of the Churchill archetype at our current moment is leading to more division and less unification domestically because of a lack of an existential external threat. If an event occurs, a catastrophic terror attack or North Korea military action for instance, then maybe the Churchill archetypal energy will cease to be one that fuels civil strife but rather unites peoples in a battle against forces that threaten them from afar. Regardless of how the Churchill archetypal energy manifests, it is important to be conscious of it because it is a powerful force and one that can be very destructive and sometimes self-destructive.

"WITHOUT TRADITION, ART IS A FLOCK OF SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD. WITHOUT INNOVATION, IT IS A CORPSE." - WINSTON CHURCHILL

As far as the film Darkest Hour goes, Gary Oldman does give a truly magnificent performance that is definitely worth seeing at the very least on Netflix or cable. If your taste in films runs more to the standard and conventional, then I think you will really like this film and recommend you go pay to see it in the theatre. If you are an art house connoisseur and cinephile such as myself, then the conventionalism of this film will frustrate you and you'll be better off waiting to see it for free when and where you can. As to which of those groups you belong, like Churchill, only you can be the final arbiter of that decision.

©2017

Lady Bird: A Review

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****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!! THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!!****

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT IN THEATRE - SEE IT ON NETFLIX OR CABLE

Lady Bird, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, is the story of Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, a high school senior living in Sacramento, who struggles through a tumultuous relationship with her mother. Saoirse Ronan stars as "Lady Bird" and Laurie Metcalf plays her mother Marion. 

Lady Bird is a film of many contradictions. The film seems like it wants to be a quirky, independent, art house movie but in execution it ends up being a rather conventional, paint by numbers, pixie-dream girl coming of age story. 

Another contradiction is that the film boasts a truly superb performance from its luminous lead actress Saoirse Ronan, but because of a tepid script and weak direction, the movie never lives up to the great work Ronan does in it.

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Lady Bird is actress Greta Gerwig's first feature film as a writer/director and her filmmaking inexperience definitely shows in her attempt to make a sort of backhanded homage to her hometown and her mother. The film suffers from a lack of cinematic and dramatic focus and very poor pacing, which made what should have been a very agreeable hour and a half running time seem considerably longer and much less agreeable. 

The movie is also riddled with too many cheap, easy and predictable laughs, so much so that at times it felt more like a network sitcom and less like a character study driven feature film. 

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The heart and soul of Lady Bird is Saoirse Ronan, whose acting is flawless as she is totally absorbed into her role. Ronan perfectly embodies the frustration, isolation, and desperation of being a free spirit trapped in a city, Sacramento, and a family, that are suffocating her. Ronan effortlessly dances from one of her character's multiple incarnations to the next and never stops being completely comfortable with her adolescent discomfort. 

Saoirse Ronan is simply one of the best actresses working in film right now. While Lady Bird is not a great film, Ronan's performance in it certainly is, and it is a testament to her talent and skill that she is able to elevate her performance above such middling material and reach such transcendent acting heights. 

As for the rest of the cast, overall I actually found them lacking. Laurie Metcalf has a meaty role as Lady Bird's abrasive mother but I felt she just missed the mark because her performance lacked enough nuance for my liking. I think the major issue with Metcalf's performance was that her role was not very well written and left her in a bit of a box in terms of her acting choices. 

The other supporting actors are a mixed bag. Tracy Letts gives a solid performance as Lady Bird's down on his luck father. Letts brings a genuine humanity to all of his work and it played well in contrast to Lady Bird's chaotic teenage fervor. 

On the down side, Lucas Hedges gives a pretty stale and wooden performance as Lady Bird's boyfriend. Hedges, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar last year for his work in Manchester by the Sea, never fully commits to his role in Lady Bird and is overmatched and left in the dust by Ronan's searing performance.

To the film's credit, Lady Bird does a good job of revealing the often overlooked difficulty of middle class poverty on America. It also shows teenagers as being much less depraved and much more complicated, at least in Lady Bird's case, in regards to sex and sexuality, which was refreshing and heartening to see. 

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I found Lady Bird to be a rather paper thin character study that gets bogged down by forced quirkiness and derivative and trite humor. With Lady Bird, director Greta Gerwig tried to make a somewhat edgy art house type of movie but instead ended up with a rather predictable and amateur piece of work that is only elevated beyond its banality by the sublime talents of its leading lady, Saoirse Ronan. While Lady Bird is an ultimately unsatisfying cinematic endeavor, Ms. Ronan's masterful work is worth seeing.

In the final analysis, my review of this film is just like the film itself, a glaring and seemingly irreconcilable contradiction. On one hand there is my admiration for Saoirse Ronan's acting work as Lady Bird and on the other is my rather sharp criticism for Ms. Gerwig's writing and directing of the film. In order to resolve this contradiction I will compromise and split the difference by telling you to skip Lady Bird in the theatre because it isn't worth the money or the hassle, but watch it when you can on Netflix or cable, because Saoirse Ronan's performance is something you should see.

©2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!****

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT IN THE THEATRE/SEE IT ON CABLE OR NETFLIX.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, is the story of Mildred Hayes, a mother who clashes with her local police department because of their inability to solve her teenage daughter's murder. The film stars Frances McDormand with supporting turns from Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Peter Dinklage and John Hawkes. 

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri is an mildly entertaining but utter mess of a movie. The film's narrative and dramatic structure are so unsound that the movie is never able to rise above the rather low bar of being moderately amusing and somewhat entertaining. The film tries to be a morality tale about vengeance and forgiveness but there is such a paucity of grounded-ness and genuine human emotion and behavior that whatever deeper and high-minded ambitions the film might have had get lost in the film's unreal absurdity and the entire project ends up being a pedestrian artistic enterprise.

A major issue with the film is that writer/director McDonagh is never able to make the odd and quirky universe he has created even remotely believable. Most of the characters are so incredibly dumb and one-dimensional that they are little more than farce, and even the violence, which is quite realistic, lacks any connection to a real world because it all plays like a revenge fantasy. 

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Frances McDormand is a fine actress, but her performance here feels stuck in one note, which might be attributed to the lackluster screenplay. McDormand has a powerful screen presence and a commanding face but her work in Three Billboards feels entirely repetitious and monotonous. Watching McDormand's Mildred angrily stomp through scene after scene reminded me of the female Native American character in the movie Dances With Wolves who was named Stands With Fist, Mildred should be named Eats, Sleeps and Walks With Fist. Throughout the film,  McDormand is in a perpetual state of focused agitation with the lone exception being a brief but genuinely moving scene between she and Woody Harrelson that shows a much too quick flash of Mildred being a real human being. 

The supporting cast of Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Peter Dinklage all do solid work. Harrelson's Sheriff Willoughby is the most believable character in the whole film. Harrelson imbues Willoughby with an earthy weariness that gives the movie its few believable moments. 

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Sam Rockwell gives an interesting performance as dim-witted and morally ambivalent Officer Jason Dixon. My one issue with the Dixon character is that it is a very poorly written and stereotypical part. Rockwell makes the most of what he is given though and is the only actor able to give a full arc to his character.

Besides the believability issue, another problem with the movie is that it jumps around in perspective and thus waters down the potential for an emotional attachment to Mildred. By giving the audience multiple perspectives of the story, the film ends up diluting any sort of connection we might have to any one singular character. As a result we are left on the outside not only of the world McDonagh has created but also of Mildred's incessant pain, and we can only then judge the film in terms of believability and not emotional connection. 

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My final issue with Three Billboards is that it is trying to be a dark, Coen-esque comedy, but the story at its center, the rape and murder of a teenage girl, is simply a poor subject to build a comedy around. In the balance between a drama that is funny and a comedy that has drama, Three Billboards ends up falling slightly more into the comedy with drama category, and that is greatly to its detriment. Except in the most skilled and brilliant of artistic hands, it is cinematic suicide to create a movie around the rape and murder of a young girl which includes realistic scenes of violence, and try to play things for laughs. Martin McDonagh is a talented guy…but he isn't nearly that talented. In fact, McDonagh's writing and directing seemed pretty lost in the woods on Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri. 

In conclusion, I have to say that I did not hate Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, I was mildly amused by the stellar cast. That said, I found the film to be troublesome because it was poorly written and structured and failed in its attempt to find meaningful substance or higher purpose in its dark subject matter. At the end of the day, if you want to watch some good actors in a very average and ultimately forgettable film on cable television, then Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri is for you. I think the real moral of Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri is that failing to make a great film but succeeding at being moderately entertaining is not a sin, but making a dramedy that centers on the rape and murder of a young woman, might be. 

©2017

The Death of Edward S. Herman and the Death Knell for Liberalism in America

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 18 seconds

Last week Edward S. Herman, professor emeritus at the Wharton School of Business and teacher at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, died at the age of 92. In addition to his stellar academic career, Herman is best known for co-writing with Noam Chomsky the seminal book in the field of media analysis and criticism, Manufacturing Consent.

Manufacturing Consent is a staggeringly brilliant book. It is such a paradigm defining and altering work that I believe it, along with the Adam Curtis documentary Century of the Self, should be mandatory reading and viewing for every citizen, voter and consumer of media in the United States. It is impossible to watch the news, read the newspaper or follow political debate the same way after digesting Herman and Chomsky's theories on the media and their propaganda model in Manufacturing Consent and Curtis' revelatory documentary on psychology, public relations and control of mass democracy.

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A great example of the immense importance of learning and understanding Herman and Chomsky's propaganda model was on display recently with the slavish reception by the establishment media of Ken Burns' newest documentary, The Vietnam War. Burns uses a great deal of energy and time (the film runs nearly 18 hours) to make a film that, consciously or unconsciously, goes full bore in proving the existence Herman and Chomsky's propaganda model. Burns' documentary is an homage to the limits of establishment thinking and debate, not a true and honest critical assessment of the war or of America. If you haven't seen Burns' film, read Manufacturing Consent before you do, and if you have seen it, read Manufacturing Consent and watch the film over again. 

I found it striking that the same week that an original thinker and true resister to power, Edward S. Herman, died, America and what currently passes for American liberalism did something to signify its own philosophical, intellectual and ethical debasement and death. On Monday of last week the Justice Department forced the news channel RT America, to register as an agent of a foreign power in order to avoid legal penalties for their employees. (Full disclosure, I am a current contributor to RT.com. I have been informed that I am not effected by RT America being forced to register as a foreign agent because RT and RT America are two different entities. If any readers have legal insight into my situation please feel free to share it with me as I obviously want to stay in full compliance with American law.)

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What was so dismaying about the RT America situation was not the Justice Department going after them, it was the absolute glee that democrats, establishment liberals and #theresistance showed upon learning the news. The intellectual corruption of democrats and establishment liberals knows no bounds, and this was proven by their embrace of the targeting of RT America and their joy at the silencing of an anti-establishment dissenting voice.

The reason that there was such vicious glee emanating from liberals in regards to RT America being targeted and sanctioned, is because liberals have been conditioned to believe that Russia in general, and RT America in particular, is the sole reason for Trump being president. The mainstream media, in fulfilling their position as the propaganda arm for the elites and the military-intelligence industrial complex, has continuously beat the anti-Russia and anti-RT drum.

Liberals are so blinded by their rage at Trump that they are signing on to the criminalization of their own political beliefs. Have liberals read the DNI report about "Russian Interference" in the 2016 election? Every single person I have spoken to about this subject has said that they haven't read the report. And for some, maybe they feel that reading in black and white the reality of the situation, which is contrary to what they imagine it to be, might make their fantasies of nefarious Russians co-opting America's sacred elections disintegrate and leave them with no one to blame but themselves. And not only have these folks never read the DNI report, they have never watched the channel RT America, but in their ignorance are so thoroughly convinced of RT's villainy that they not only cheer its destruction, some also actually express a hope for my personal imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay. 

I have written about this willful blindness and intellectual and philosophical suicide of liberals before, and Edward S. Herman wrote about it in the last article he ever published. If liberals read the DNI report they will quickly learn that the intelligence community has zero evidence that Russia interfered in the election. None. They also would learn that the intelligence community are criminalizing the exact things in which liberals claim to believe and hold dear. 

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For instance, the DNI report spends the majority of its time claiming that the cable news channel RT America was a key piece of the Russian election interfering campaign. The smoking gun evidence the DNI report gives for RT guilt? The fact that RT America hosted third party debates, extensively covered the negative environmental impact of fracking, highlighted the Occupy Wall Street movement, claimed that Wall Street is ruled by greed and that America has a police brutality problem. Are there any liberals reading this who don't wholeheartedly agree with RT's position on those issues? I sincerely doubt it. And yet, liberals have unquestioningly swallowed all the anti-RT and anti-Russia stories the media keeps feeding them. 

The other problem with blaming RT for Trump's victory is that it is completely absurd on its face because RT barely registers in terms of viewers here in America. Cable news channels like Fox News have around 2.2 million viewers in prime time alone, whereas RT doesn't even come close to having 30,000 viewers for an entire day. RT is also not carried by many cable providers in America, thus reducing their reach even more. The claim that RT is some evil Putin-controlled leviathan vomiting its propaganda across the whole of America is ludicrous. 

The fact that liberals were so quick to embrace the demonization of RT is a bad sign for the future of liberalism and America. We need more dissent in America, not less, and if we simply allow America's corporate media to be the gatekeepers for Truth, we will only get the sanitized version that those in power wants us to hear. 

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I just finished reading James W. Douglass remarkable book, JFK and the Unspeakable. In Douglass' book he shows how JFK was surrounded by enemies in his own government and administration because he refused to buy into the virulent anti-Soviet/communist propaganda of the time. JFK had to try and restrain anti-communist madmen like General Curtis LeMay and General Lyman Lemnitzer who were itching for a nuclear first strike against the Soviets. It is remarkable that 54 years later it is the alleged liberals here in America who, just like Lemnitzer and LeMay, are so blindly and rabidly anti-Russian they will gladly cut off their political nose to spite their face. 

A brief look at history, and a reading of Manufacturing Consent, tells us that we must be ever vigilant against the propaganda we are fed by our elite corporate overlords. The establishment media has always been in lock step with every bit of nonsense the elites try and sell us. Look no further than the Iraq war or the financial collapse of 2008 for an example of the corruption of our mainstream press. 

I understand on an emotional level why liberals are so happy to scapegoat RT for Trump and the state of our nation. But to do so is hopelessly adolescent, foolish and is a shot cut to thinking. Trump is an atrocious human being, but all that is wrong with America didn't begin with Trump. Look at Yemen, where the Saudi's are perpetrating a genocide, including famine, upon the Yemeni population. The U.S. backed Saudi war on Yemen didn't start with Trump, it started under Obama. Notice also that if you want to see coverage of the war in Yemen you will need to watch more RT and less American media because the U.S. press is barely covering that abomination, and when it does cover it, it does so without mentioning America's involvement in it at all. For proof of this read this Washington Post article on Yemen which remarkably never mentions U.S. responsibility for the conflict and also read this Alex Emmons piece at The Intercept which skewers a recent 60 Minutes segment which conveniently neglected to reveal U.S. involvement as well. 

Liberals blaming Russia and RT for Trump's victory are alleviating themselves from the desperate need to look in the mirror and learn from their failings. Pointing the finger at Russia for unsubstantiated claims of election interference and supporting punitive actions against RT America will, in the long run, end up being a self-destructive act for liberals that criminalizes liberal beliefs and limits dissent and oppositional voices. Of course, I am well aware that my pleas for rationalism will be lost amongst the whirlwinds of emotionalism that have accompanied our current hurricane of anti-Russian hysteria. 

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To be clear, I loathe Trump with the fury of a thousand suns and I think he is as crooked as a dog's hind leg. If Mueller digs into his business dealings such as those uncovered by Adam Davidson of The New Yorker with his tremendous investigative journalism, then Mueller will have Trump dead to rights. The same may also be true of Obstruction of Justice charges against Trump for his handling of Comey and the Russian investigation. That said, I just don't think the actual charge of Russian election interference at the core of this whole thing is a viable one. I will gladly change my opinion if and when the intelligence community ever releases any actual, tangible evidence of Russian hacking. As of right now, there is just as much a chance that the DNC's and Clinton campaign's emails were leaked as opposed to hacked. Why doesn't the intelligence community show proof of the claim that Russia hacked the emails? And why in the world do people trust the intelligence agencies after all of the lying and shenanigans they have pulled over the years?

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At this moment, and this could change with more evidence, it strikes me that the claims of Russian election interference are just like the claims of the intel community in the case for the Iraq war, and just like the Gulf of Tonkin incident that made the case for the war in Vietnam…in other words, there is no "there" there. All of the evidence of Trump administration figures meeting with supposed "Kremlin-connected" Russians (according to the establishment media every Russian is a "Kremlin-connected" one) mean nothing without proof of the hacking of the DNC/Clinton emails which is the center of the election interference case. Until that is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, the rest is all nonsense. 

In conclusion, I think a collective madness has descended upon the United States in general and democrats/liberals in particular. Liberals lionizing the intelligence community have very short memories and are incredibly naive…do they really think the intelligence agencies don't lie to them? The reality is that the intelligence agencies CONTINUOUSLY LIE… the sooner you figure that out the better off you will be. RT America's tag line is "Question More", and regardless of what you feel about RT, that is sage advice that we should all take to heart, especially regarding stories that we so desperately want to be true. 

In honor of the great Edward S. Herman, I wholly encourage everyone to go read or re-read Manufacturing Consent. Once you do you will have the ability to read between the lines of the carefully crafted propaganda we are continually fed by the establishment media and discern something closer to the actual Truth of our nation and our world. It is only with the tools taught to us by Herman and Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent that we are able to break free from our media-induced myopia and wake up from our ignorant slumber to see the glaring Truth that has been hiding in plain sight all along, right in front of our nose. 

©2017

I encourage you to please go read Matt Taibbi's excellent article on Herman's work and death and also read Edward S. Herman's entire final piece at Monthly Review as it is a great primer for Manufacturing Consent. Here is a very long, but worthwhile, excerpt from the article which is extremely useful in understanding our current media climate in relation all things Russia. 

FAKE NEWS ON RUSSIA AND OTHER OFFICIAL ENEMIES by Edward S. Herman Aug. 2017

The demonization of Putin escalated with the Ukraine crisis of 2014 and subsequent Kiev warfare in Eastern Ukraine, Russian support of the East Ukraine resistance, and the Crimean referendum and absorption of Crimea by Russia. This was all declared “aggression” by the United States and its allies and clients, and sanctions were imposed on Russia, and a major U.S.-NATO military buildup was initiated on Russia’s borders. Tensions mounted further with the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over southeastern Ukraine—promptly, but almost surely falsely, blamed on the “pro-Russian” rebels and Russia itself.15

Anti-Russian hostilities were further inflamed by the country’s escalated intervention in Syria from 2015 on, in support of Bashar al-Assad and against rebel forces that had come to be dominated by ISIS and al-Nusra, an offshoot of al-Qaeda. The United States and its NATO and Middle East allies had been committing aggression against Syria, in de facto alliance with al-Nusra and other extremist Islamic factions, for several years. Russian intervention turned the tide, frustrating the U.S. and Saudi goal of regime change against Assad, and weakening tacit U.S. allies.

The Times has covered these developments with unstinting apologetics—for the February 2014 coup in Kiev—which it has never labeled as such, for the U.S. role in the overthrow of the elected government of Victor Yanukovych, and with anger and horror at the Crimea referendum and Russian absorption, which it never allows might be a defensive response to the Kiev coup. Its calls for punishment for the casualty-free Russian “aggression” in Crimea is in marked contrast to its apologetics for the million-plus casualties caused by U.S. aggression “of choice” (not defensive) in Iraq from March 2003 on. The paper’s editors and columnists condemn Putin’s disregard for international law, while exempting their own country from criticism for its repeated violations of that same law.16

In the Times‘s reporting and opinion columns Russia is regularly assailed as expansionist and threatening its neighbors, but virtually no mention is made of NATO’s expansion up to the Russian borders and first-strike-threat placement of anti-missile weapons in Eastern Europe—the latter earlier claimed to be in response to a missile threat from Iran! Analyses by political scientist John Mearsheimer and Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen that noted this NATO advance were excluded from the opinion pages of the Times.17 In contrast, a member of the Russian band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, was given op-ed space to denounce Putin and Russia, and the punk rock group was granted a meeting with the Times editorial board.18Between January 1 and March 31, 2014, the paper ran twenty-three articles featuring Pussy Riot and its alleged significance as a symbol of Russian limits on free speech. Pussy Riot had disrupted a church service in Moscow and only stopped after police intervened, at the request of church authorities. A two-year prison sentence followed. Meanwhile, in February 2014, eighty-four-year-old nun Sister Megan Rice was sentenced to four years in prison for having entered a U.S. nuclear weapons site in July 2012 and carried out a symbolic protest. The Timesgave this news a tiny mention in its National Briefing section, under the title “Tennessee Nun is Sentenced for Peace Protest.” No op-ed columns or meeting with the Times board for Rice. There are worthy and unworthy protesters, just as there are victims.

In Syria, with Russian help, Assad’s army and allied militias were able to dislodge the rebels from Aleppo, to the dismay of Washington and the mainstream media. It has been enlightening to see the alarm expressed over civilian casualties in Aleppo, with accompanying photographs of forsaken children and stories of civilian suffering and deprivation. The Times‘s focus on those civilians and children and its indignation at Putin-Assad inhumanity stands in sharp contrast with their virtual silence on massive civilian casualties in Fallujah in 2004 and beyond, and more recently in rebel-held areas of Syria, and in the Iraqi city of Mosul, under U.S. and allied attack.19 The differential treatment of worthy and unworthy victims has been in full force in coverage of Syria.

A further phase of intensifying Russophobia may be dated from the October 2016 presidential debates, in which Hillary Clinton declared that Donald Trump would be a Putin “puppet” as president, a theme her campaign began to stress. This emphasis only increased after the election, with the help of the media and intelligence services, as the Clinton camp sought to explain their electoral loss, maintain party control, and possibly even have the election results overturned in the courts or electoral college by attributing Trump’s victory to Russian interference.

A major impetus for the Putin connection came with the January 2017 release of a report by the Office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Background of Assessing Russian Activities and Intention in Recent US Elections. More than half of this short document is devoted to the Russian-sponsored RT news network, which the report treats as an illegitimate propaganda source. The organization is allegedly part of Russia’s “influence campaign…[that] aspired to help President-elect Trump’s chances of victory when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to the President-elect.” No semblance of proof is offered that there was any planned “campaign,” rather than an ongoing expression of opinion and news judgments. The same standards used to identify a Russian “influence campaign” could be applied with equal force to U.S. media and Radio Free Europe’s treatment of any Russian election—and of course, the U.S. intervention in the 1996 Russian election was overt, direct, and went far beyond any covert “influence campaign.”

Regarding more direct Russian intervention in the U.S. election, the DNI authors concede the absence of “full supporting evidence,” but in fact provide no supporting evidence at all—only speculative assertions, assumptions, and guesses. “We assess that…Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2015,” they write, designed to defeat Mrs. Clinton, and “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process,” but provide no proof of any such order. The report also contains no evidence that Russia hacked the communications of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or the emails of Clinton and former Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, or that it gave hacked information to WikiLeaks. Julian Assange and former British diplomat Craig Murray have repeatedly claimed that these sources were leaked by local insiders, not hacked from outside. Veteran intelligence experts William Binney and Ray McGovern likewise contend that the WikiLeaks evidence was leaked, not hacked.20 It is also notable that of the three intelligence agencies who signed the DNI document, the National Security Agency—the agency most likely to have proof of Russian hacking and its transmission to WikiLeaks, as well as of any “orders” from Putin—only expressed “moderate confidence” in its findings.

But as with the Reds ruling Guatemala, the Soviets outpacing U.S. missile capabilities, or the KGB plotting to assassinate the pope, the Times has taken the Russian hacking story as established fact, despite the absence of hard evidence. Times reporter David Sanger refers to the report’s “damning and surprisingly detailed account of Russia’s efforts to undermine the American electoral system,” only to then acknowledge that the published report “contains no information about how the agencies had …come to their conclusions.”21 The report itself includes the astonishing statement that “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” Furthermore, if the report was based on “intercepts of conversations” as well as on hacked computer data, as Sanger and the DNI claim, why has the DNI failed to quote a single conversation showing Putin’s alleged orders and plans?

The Times has never cited or given op-ed space to William Binney, Ray McGovern, or Craig Murray, leading dissident authorities on hacking technology, methodology, and the specifics of the DNC hacks. But room was found for Louise Mensch’s op-ed “What to Ask about Russian Hacking.” Mensch is a notorious conspiracy theorist with no relevant technical background, described by writers Nathan Robinson and Alex Nichols as best-known for “spending most of her time on Twitter issuing frenzied denunciations of imagined armies of online ‘Putinbots,'” making her “one of the least credible people on the internet.”22 But she is published in theTimes because, in contrast with the informed and credible Binney and Murray, she follows the party line, taking Russian hacking of the DNC as a premise.

The CIA’s brazen intervention in the electoral process in 2016 and 2017 broke new ground in the agency’s politicization. Former CIA head Michael Morell announced in an August 2016 op-ed in the Times: “I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton,” and former CIA boss Michael Hayden published an op-ed in the Washington Post just days before the election, entitled “Former CIA Chief: Trump is Russia’s Useful Fool.” Morell had yet another op-ed in theTimes on January 6, now openly assailing the new president. These attacks were unrelievedly insulting to Trump and laudatory to Clinton, even portraying Trump as a traitor; they also made clear that Clinton’s more pugnacious stance toward Syria and Russia was preferable by far to Trump’s leanings toward negotiation and cooperation with Russia.

This was also true of the scandal surrounding former Trump Defense Intelligence nominee Michael Flynn’s telephone call with the Russian ambassador, which may have included a discussion of the incoming administration’s policy actions. The political possibilities of this interaction were quickly grasped by outgoing Obama officials, security personnel, and the mainstream media, with the FBI interrogating Flynn and with widespread expressions of horror at Flynn’s action, which could have allegedly exposed him to Russian blackmail. But such pre-inauguration meetings with Russian diplomats have been a “common practice” according to Jack Matlock, the U.S. ambassador to Russia under Reagan and Bush, and Matlock had personally arranged such a meeting for Jimmy Carter.23 Obama’s own ambassador to the country, Michael McFaul, admitted visiting Moscow for talks with officials in 2008, even before the election. Daniel Lazare has made a good case not only that the illegality and blackmail threat are implausible, but that the FBI’s interrogation of Flynn reeks of entrapment. “Yet anti-Trump liberals are trying to convince the public that it’s all ‘worse than Watergate.'”24

The political point of the DNI report thus seems to have been, at minimum, to tie the Trump administration’s hands in its dealings with Russia. Some analysts outside the mainstream have argued that we may have been witnessing an incipient spy or palace coup that fell short, but still had the desired effect of weakening the new administration.25 The Times has not offered a word of criticism of this politicization and intervention in the election process by intelligence agencies, and in fact the editors have been working with them and the Democratic Party as a loose-knit team in a distinctly un- and anti-democratic program designed to undermine or reverse the results of the 2016 election, on the pretext of alleged foreign electoral interference.

The Times and the mainstream media in general have also barely mentioned the awkward fact that the allegedly hacked disclosures of the DNC and Clinton and Podesta emails disclosed uncontested facts about real electoral manipulations on behalf of the Clinton campaign, facts that the public had a right to know and that might well have affected the election results. The focus on the evidence-free claims of a Russian hacking intrusion have helped divert attention from the real electoral abuses disclosed by the WikiLeaks material. Here again, official and mainstream media fake news helped bury real news.

Another arrow in the Russophobia quiver was a private intelligence “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent working for Orbis Business Intelligence, a private firm hired by the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump. Steele’s first report, delivered in June 2016, made numerous serious accusations against Trump, most notably that Trump had been caught in a sexual escapade in Moscow, that his political advance had been supported by the Kremlin for at least five years, under Putin’s direction, in order to sow discord within the U.S. political establishment and disrupt the Western alliance. This document was based on alleged conversations by Steele with distant (Russian) officials: that is, strictly on hearsay evidence, whose assertions, where verifiable, are sometimes erroneous.26 But it said just what the Democrats, the mainstream media, and the CIA wanted to hear, and intelligence officials accordingly declared the author “credible,” and the media lapped it up. The Times hedged somewhat on its own cooperation in this tawdry campaign by calling the report “unverified,” but nevertheless reported its claims.27

The Steele dossier also became a central part of the investigation and hearings on “Russia-gate” held by the House Intelligence Committee starting in March 2017, led by Democratic Representative Adam Schiff. While basing his opening statement on the hearsay-laden dossier, Schiff expressed no interest in establishing who funded the Steele effort, the identity and exact status of the Russian officials quoted, or how much they were paid. Apparently talking to Russians with a design of influencing an American presidential election is perfectly acceptable if the candidate supported by this intrusion is anti-Russian!

The Times has played a major role in this latest wave of Russophobia, reminiscent of its 1917–20 performance in which, as Lippmann and Merz noted in 1920, “boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled” characterized the news-making process. While quoting the CIA’s admission that it had no hard evidence, relying instead on “circumstantial evidence” and “capabilities,” the Times was happy to describe these capabilities at great length and to imply that they proved something.28 Editorials and news articles have worked uniformly on the false supposition that Russian hacking was proved, and that the Russians had given these data to WikiLeaks, also unproven and strenuously denied by Assange and Murray.

The Times has run neck-and-neck with the Washington Post in stirring up fears of the Russian information war and illicit involvement with Trump. The Times now easily conflates fake news with any criticism of established institutions, as in Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy’s “Europe Combats a New Foe of Political Stability: Fake News,” February 20, 2017.29 But what is more extraordinary is the uniformity with which the paper’s regular columnists accept as a given the CIA’s assessment of the Russian hacking and transmission to WikiLeaks, the possibility or likelihood that Trump is a Putin puppet, and the urgent need of a congressional and “non-partisan” investigation of these claims. This swallowing of a new war-party line has extended widely in the liberal media. Both the Times and Washington Post have lent tacit support to the idea that this “fake news” threat needs to be curbed, possibly by some form of voluntary media-organized censorship or government intervention that would at least expose the fakery.

The most remarkable media episode in this anti-influence-campaign was the Post‘s piece by Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” which featured a report by a group of anonymous “experts” entity called PropOrNot that claimed to have identified two hundred websites that, wittingly or not, were “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” While smearing these websites, many of them independent news outlets whose only shared trait was their critical stance toward U.S. foreign policy, the “experts” refused to identify themselves, allegedly out of fear of being “targeted by legions of skilled hackers.” As journalist Matt Taibbi wrote, “You want to blacklist hundreds of people, but you won’t put your name to your claims? Take a hike.”30 But the Post welcomed and promoted this McCarthyite effort, which might well be a product of Pentagon or CIA information warfare. (And these entities are themselves well-funded and heavily into the propaganda business.)

On December 23, 2016, President Obama signed the Portman-Murphy Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, which will supposedly allow the United States to more effectively combat foreign (namely Russian and Chinese) propaganda and disinformation. It will encourage more government counter-propaganda efforts, and provide funding to non-government entities to help in this enterprise. It is clearly a follow-on to the claims of Russian hacking and propaganda, and shares the spirit of the listing of two hundred tools of Moscow featured in the Washington Post. (Perhaps PropOrNot will qualify for a subsidy and be able to enlarge its list.) Liberals have been quiet on this new threat to freedom of speech, undoubtedly influenced by their fears of Russian-based fake news and propaganda. But they may yet take notice, even if belatedly, when Trump or one of his successors puts it to work on their own notions of fake news and propaganda.

The success of the war party’s campaign to contain or reverse any tendency to ease tensions with Russia was made dramatically clear in the Trump administration’s speedy bombing response to the April 4, 2017, Syrian chemical weapons deaths. The Times and other mainstream media editors and journalists greeted this aggressive move with almost uniform enthusiasm, and once again did not require evidence of Assad’s guilt beyond their government’s claims.31 The action was damaging to Assad and Russia, but served the rebels well.

But the mainstream media never ask cui bono? in cases like this. In 2013, a similar charge against Assad, which brought the United States to the brink of a full-scale bombing war in Syria, turned out to be a false flag operation, and some authorities believe the current case is equally problematic.32 Nevertheless, Trump moved quickly (and illegally), dealing a blow to any further rapprochement between the United States and Russia. The CIA, the Pentagon, leading Democrats, and the rest of the war party had won an important skirmish in the struggle over permanent war.

 

Sex Scandals and the Phases of a Panic

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 42 seconds

As the public parade of perverts has grown longer and longer in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein sex abuse/harassment scandal, I thought I would take this opportunity to share my thoughts on this constantly evolving story. 

Our current sexual harassment scandal is more akin to a panic or hysteria than it is to a scandal. I don't say that to diminish its importance, validity or veracity of the men and women who claim to have been harassed or abused, I only say it in order to convey the collective psychology behind the surge to prominence of sexual harassment claims and what archetypal forces are currently in action in the culture.

Panics are born out fear and cause irrationality, but it is important to note that does not necessarily mean the original inciting incident for the panic is untrue or is irrational. The current Sex Harassment Panic was born out of actual predatory behavior by men in power and the intensity of the Panic was fueled by years of suppression of all the anger and rage that simmered just below the surface from the victims (particularly women) until it came to a boil and in a bellow, first with the election of Donald Trump, and second with the breaking of the Weinstein story.  

PHASE ONE

When panics hit they take on a life of their own and are impossible to control but that doesn't mean they are impossible to predict. All panics and hysterias, like the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690's or the Red Scare of the early 1900's or the 1940's and 50's,  go through certain distinguishing phases that are easily identifiable. Phase One of the "Hollywood Sex Scandal", for instance, has now come to an end and we are heading into Phase Two. Phase One's distinguishing characteristic is the most obvious…that all of the men named as harassers or abusers were well-known as being complete assholes regardless of their sexual antics and were already universally loathed. 

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Harvey Weinstein, Bret Ratner, James Toback and Kevin Spacey are a murderers row of douchebags. Prior to the revelations of their sexual misconduct, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone who would admit to actually liking them as human beings. 

Harvey Weinstein was well-known for being a disgusting, loudmouthed bully who butchered movies and careers and was quick to cry anti-Semitism whenever anyone stood up to him.

Bret Ratner was recognized as being an entitled and abrasive prick who was a hellacious hack of a director who thought he was a tough guy.

James Toback was such a repugnant and repulsive pig of a person that he was totally despised by everyone who ever had the unpleasant misfortune of meeting him and this is before any of the weird sex stuff came out. 

And finally, all of the unfortunate souls who have ever met or worked with Kevin Spacey knew him to be a narcissistic, vicious and self-absorbed jerk and manipulator.

When the stories broke of these men's predatory sexual behavior they very quickly found themselves on an island because no one genuinely liked them. Sure, people would say nice things about them in an effort to get in their good graces when they were powerful, but when these scumbags were exposed everyone wisely jumped ship. 

PHASE TWO

We are currently in Phase Two of the Hollywood Sex Scandal, which will not be quite as morally satisfying as Phase One but will definitely be more intriguing. The distinguishing characteristic of Phase Two is when people that are not universally loathed and recognized as assholes are targeted for being sexual harassers or abusers. In other words, Phase One targets Bad Guys and Phase Two targets those thought to be Good Guys. 

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Phase Two of the Hollywood Sex Scandal kicked off with the accusations against Louis CK. Prior to the NY Times story exposing CK for his harassment, I had never heard anybody say a bad word about Louis CK publicly or privately. Everyone talked about his being such a great guy and being so supportive of comedians in general and female comedians in particular. There were certainly rumors out there about Louie but, at least in my experience, they never seemed to tarnish people's opinion of him. 

Sarah Silverman just did a monologue on her show where she asked the question, "can you love someone who did bad things?" Silverman's dilemma is that she is friends with CK but is also supportive of "victims". In Phase Two, many will be placed in the same conundrum as Silverman, having to choose between a personal friend and a "victim" who is a stranger. Ultimately, Silverman decided to side with the "victims" instead of her friend of 25 years, Louie CK. This choice is entirely predictable in Phase Two of a Panic…in Phase Four…these types of decisions will go another direction, but that won't come along for a while.  

Another "good guy" who got targeted in Phase Two was George Takei. Takei tried to deflect from the accusation against him by using a tactic that we will see increasingly as the Sex Panic goes through its life cycle, namely he tried to embrace his own victim status by deflecting attention and blame. Takei tried to somehow blame Russia for stirring up the allegations against him. It is a convoluted attempt to deflect, but I am sure it helped him with those pre-disposed to see him as a member of a victim class due to his homosexuality.

In Phase One Kevin Spacey tried a similar maneuver by trying to attach himself to a victim group by finally coming out of the closet and declaring he was gay in response to charges of predatory behavior. The gay community rightly excoriated Spacey for the self serving and blatant attempt to cover himself in the cloak of gay victimhood and they quickly pushed back against him leaving him high and dry.

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The Sexual Harassment Panic, as panics are want to do, quickly spread from Hollywood to Washington when Roy Moore, the republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, was accused by a group of women who claim he harassed/assaulted them forty years ago when they were teens and he was in his thirties. Moore is a glaring example of Phase One of a Panic. Besides his core, lunatic fringe supporters, Moore is deeply loathed by most people. People hated Moore for his faux-Christian grandstanding, his homophobia and his xenophobia well before anyone came forward claiming he chased fourteen year old girls through the mall as a grown man. 

The Phases in a panic can move really fast, and this one is no exception. I started writing this piece early this week and before I ever finished it the Washington Sex Panic hit Phase Two when "good guy" Al Franken, the democratic senator from Minnesota, got called out by a former model and radio host LeAnn Tweeden, for harassing and accosting her while the two were on a USO tour in 2006. Franken is well-liked by liberals and the charges against him put them into quite a bind considering all of the moral posturing we've seen from them regarding Roy Moore's situation. 

Phase Two is also where zero tolerance and maximum punishment becomes the norm and nuance gets thrown out the window. The ability to distinguish between the severity of accusations will be lost in Phase Two under a tidal wave of emotionalism that will lump all sexual infractions in together.

PHASE THREE

There are already inklings of what we can expect to see in Phase Three of the Sex Scandal Panic taking shape across our entire culture. Phase Three's distinguishing characteristics are that the definition of harassment will become so overly broad as to be absurd and false claims will be weaponized by people to get at their enemies. 

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A great example of the widening of the definition of harassment came from Oscar winning actress Brie Larson who last month tweeted about the nightmare she suffered through when a TSA agent had the temerity to ask for her phone number. The horror…the horror. Larson, whose fifteen minutes of fame cannot end soon enough, has a desperate need to be taken seriously, but her trying to embrace victimhood when a guy simply asks for her phone number is a warning sign of very bad things to come in our culture. Diminishing the definition of sexual harassment in the end will only diminish the believability of those who truly suffered under attacks of predatory sexual harassers and abusers. 

Another sign post of things to come was when Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Jody Warner, who got into trouble for being videotaped drunkenly accosting an Uber driver, claimed in her defense that after years of working on sex crimes cases she attacked the driver because she was frightened that the driver was going to sexually assault or rape her. Thankfully the D.A. didn't fall for her cock and bull story and Ms. Warner lost her job. But expect more and more of that sort of thing where people will automatically claim they were harassed, assaulted or afraid of being harassed or assaulted in order to cover their own bad behavior. This is human nature, if people can lie or hedge the truth in order to avoid uncomfortable consequences they will, and this is what is coming next in the Sex Panic we are currently living through. 

Another bit of human nature, the need to be loved, accepted and part of a group, is behind why more people will embellish or make up claims of harassment/abuse. Claiming you were sexually harassed is now a way for people to receive unconditional love and gain an identity. The lure of adopting a "victim" identity is strong to some because to an individual psyche it can feel very clarifying to embrace what appears to be an empowered archetype even though it may be factually inaccurate.

The biggest problem in regards to this is that the overwhelming majority of voices in our culture are currently saying that "I believe victims each and every time" or "we have to believe every woman". This is terribly problematic because the #MeToo campaign is a powerful and enticing one, and people will want to be a part of it even if they've never truly experienced harassment or assault. 

The possibility for people to have their word be considered sacrosanct, and to be unquestioningly welcomed into a group(#MeToo), given an identity (victim) and be showered with unconditional love, sympathy and acceptance is a surefire way to encourage people to make things up and is a recipe for disaster if you are trying to protect the innocent and discover any semblance of the Truth. 

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Phase Three of the Sex Panic will pile up more and more claims that are less and less credible but which will not be questioned because "victims are always to be believed" and even questioning them is a sign that you too may be a predator. Like the Salem Witch Trials, sexual harassers will be assumed to be guilty and in order to prove their innocence will be metaphorically thrown into the river. If they sink they were innocent, if they float they are guilty. Like John Proctor, innocent people will be publicly attacked and lose their names and livelihoods and there will be no getting them back.

Phase Three is also where the initial seeds are planted in terms of belief turning into disbelief. Conspiratorial thinking in regards to charges against powerful figures will not be accepted just yet in Phase Three but will slowly gain much more ground and will eventually blossom in Phase Four. Phase Three is the zenith of fever induced hysteria but there will be a small but growing pushback just beneath the surface of things.

PHASE FOUR

Phase Four is the final phase of the Panic where cultural weariness sets in and someone is accused who is just beyond reproach and their accuser is less than credible and greatly disliked, a 180 degree flip from Phase One. At this point, due to the cumulative collective fatigue and the specifics of the case, the tide will turn and the fever will break. The best example of this occurred in the Red Scare of McCarthyism in the 1950's when Jopeph N. Welch stood up to Joe McCarthy by saying " At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" From that point on the the Red Scare was exposed for the emotionalist panic that it was. 

In Phase Four of our current Great Sex Panic there will be some credible claims that will be overlooked because of a backlash against "victims" due to too many flimsy cases having gone forward in the Phase Three. There will even be some retribution against people making claims due to the backlash effect. This will certainly not be fair, but neither will some, if not most, of the charges brought in Phase Three against alleged harassers.

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But Phase Four is a ways off, and there are going to be a lot of heads on pikes in the mean time. Even history is not safe during this panic, as poor old Slick Willie himself, Bill Clinton is now being looked at differently by his once staunch liberal defenders. Do not be surprised if Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas are among those who face a comeuppance for their past behavior.

 

Living through a panic can be both exhilarating and exhausting. The hysteria-induced purges that lay ahead will be very unpleasant, and no one knows who will be next, but rest assured, in due time this too shall pass. Many people have suffered at the hands of sexual harassers and abusers and many others will suffer under the hammer of the current Sex Panic. When Panic sets in, reason goes out the window, which is why, in order to survive we should all listen to Rudyard Kipling.

"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs...yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, and - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!"

Kipling is talking about being a real man, not the twisted, malformed and hideous version of psuedo-men like Weinstein, Ratner, Spacey and Toback who are the reason we are in this panic to begin with.  

©2017

While We Were Sleeping...The Dogs of War Awoke

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Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes 49 seconds

"THE WHOLE CELEBRITY CULTURE THING - I'M FASCINATED BY, AND REPELLED BY, AND YET I END UP KNOWING ABOUT IT." - ANDERSON COOPER

America is a celebrity addicted culture. Proof of this is that our current president's only qualification for that job was the fact that he was a second-rate reality-television star. America is also a sex-obsessed culture. Proof of this is…well…everywhere. From the booming porn business, to the porno-fication of popular culture in the form of the Kardashian's and their reality tv empire built on the back (pardon the pun) of Kim Kardashian's sex tape, to the tarted up harlots hosting cable news shows, America is like an adolescent boy who is defenseless against the constant chaotic assaults upon his focus by his own relentless hormones and erotic thoughts. 

And so it has been for the last month or so with the public disclosure of film producer Harvey Weinstein's repulsive history of sexually assaulting and harassing women. The Weinstein story opened a Pandora's Box of similar tales of repugnant behavior by a coterie of male swine. Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner, James Toback and Louis CK are just a few of the heavy hitters who have been outed for their sexual crimes and bad behavior.

These stories of sexual harassment, assault and rape have sucked all the oxygen out of the room which holds the attention of our collective consciousness. How could they not? These stories give us the salaciously sexualized celebrity gossip that we as a culture so desperately crave.

We have gorged ourselves upon the tawdry details of the famous women Weinstein, Toback and Ratner attacked, and the juicy and entirely predictable revelation of Kevin Spacey's homosexuality and yearnings for underaged boys. But rest assured, this feast is a six course meal and we haven't even finished the soup yet.

"IF THERE'S GRASS ON THE FIELDPLAY BALL!!" - ALABAMA'S NEXT SENATOR ROY MOORE

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The next celebrity-sex serving is Roy Moore, a local Alabama politician who made himself a nationwide political celebrity with his infamous Ten Commandment's battles and his anti-gay marriage stances who is now running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Moore is one of those faux-pious, holier-than-thou charlatans like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Baker and Ted Haggard that America churns out with predictable regularity. The 70 year-old Moore is now the center of our celebrity-sex addiction because it is alleged that he, depending on what political party you belong to, either "molested"(D) or "messed around with"(R), a fourteen year old girl when he was a thirty something year-old Assistant District Attorney. It would seem Mr. Moore's libido credo when it comes to the age of consent is that famous motto they say down there in 'Bama…"Roll Tide".

Not to get all biblical or anything in defense of Mr. Moore, but let he among you who have not sinned cast the first stone. We all must admit that at one time or another, just like Roy Moore, we have all tried to fuck a fourteen year old…of course the big difference between us and Roy Moore is that we were fourteen when were trying…and in my case failing...to do so.

Not surprisingly, the Moore story has eclipsed all other news since it broke last week because it deals with the two things we can't turn away from...sex and celebrity. If Moore had been accused of a bad real estate deal or something, it would be covered but certainly not with the cable news fervor and intensity it now garners. For instance, back in the 90's, the Clinton's "bad real estate deal", the Whitewater scandal, was a minor blip on the radar screen until Ms. Lewinsky's Slick Willie stained dress and the Disappearing Cigar Trick was uncovered. 

SEX SELLS

This revelation is not earth shattering…sex or celebrity sells…and "news" is a business so they always push the sex angle. Of course if the story isn't just about sex or about celebrity, but rather about celebrity-sex…then the mainstream media go into a feeding frenzy mode and the collective consciousness goes right with them into either hysteria, panic, or both. 

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Like heroin, our culture's celebrity-sex addiction has an increasing threshold for intoxication. With Trump as president, we have a 24-hour reality show where we constantly follow his every tweet of buffoonery or act of bellicosity in order to get our satisfactory fix of Two-Minutes Hate outrage. Adding the current celebrity sex scandals of Weinstein, Ratner, Spacey and now Moore to the traveling shit show that is the Trump presidency, has sent us into a collective stupor so disorienting that we may all wake up in a few months and wonder what the hell has happened while we've been blissfully in the arms of Morpheus. Like a bad sequel to The Hangover, we will all suddenly awake from our indulgent slumber and have to piece together our reality from the random clues left scattered behind us. 

As we enter the current stage of our celebrity-sex hysteria where we are completely oblivious to anything else, our myopia may put us in great peril. What else might be happening in our world that are we missing while we are distracted by every breathless revelation of aberrant celebrity sexual behavior?

"CRY HAVOC!, AND LET SLIP THE DOGS OF WAR" - MARC ANTONY, SHAKESPEARE'S JULIUS CAESAR

The thing that is currently receiving the barest minimum of news coverage, which in the long term may be the most consequential events of this time is the situation in Saudi Arabia. If you haven't been following this story, and why should you be since the media isn't following it very closely, it is a fascinating and disconcerting one. 

SAUDI ARABIA

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What is basically happening is that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)- the son of King Salman, just purged the royal family of anyone who opposed the Prince's newfound power and eventual ascension to the throne. MBS claims that this purge, which has resulted in the jailing of many Saudi royals and billionaires, including Bandar bin Sultan aka "Bandar Bush" who ran Saudi intelligence and whose connections to 9-11 are undeniable, is a result of cleaning up corruption in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is the equivalent of handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.

LEBANON

Besides the royal family purge, the next big thing to happen was that last week Lebanon's Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, was for all intents and purposes held hostage in Saudi Arabia, and forced to make a cryptic and bizarre statement where he resigned his position as Lebanese Prime Minister because of his opposition to Hezbollah, the Iranian backed Shiite Muslim group who are in a power sharing, coalition government in Lebanon with Prime Minister Hariri and the Christian president Michel Aoun. 

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It seems that Saudi Arabia, under the control of MBS, forced Hariri to resign and are now holding him as a sort of hostage in order to create political havoc in Lebanon. This provocative act is feared to be a catalyst for yet another war in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia wants war in Lebanon as a way to confront their eternal and existential enemy Iran. This is not a wise maneuver as Iran and its allies Hezbollah have proven themselves in Syria and Lebanon of being very capable of defeating Saudi Arabia and its allies on both the military and political battlefield. 

One of Saudi Arabia's allies in this grand chess move against Iran is Israel. Israel seems to think that they can push back against Iranian influence in both Syria and Lebanon in order to decrease Iran's alleged regional ambitions. Apparently Israel has forgotten how poorly they fared the last time they squared off against Hezbollah in Lebanon…in case you forgot too…Israel suffered a stunning and brutal defeat

YEMEN

Adding to this cornucopia of crazy is the fact that Saudi Arabia is currently, with vociferous U.S. support, at war in Yemen against the Shia-led Houthi rebels. The Houthi rebels allegedly fired a missile at Riyadh last week and…shock of shocks…both the Saudi's and the U.S. are declaring the missile to be Iranian. As always, take whatever the Saudi's and U.S. intelligence agencies say with a large grain of salt and a double dose of skepticism. Yemen has been under a blockade and is effectively quarantined, it is unlikely if not impossible for Iran to have gotten a missile into Yemen, nevermind the tortured logic that would compel them to do such a thing. Skepticism and cynicism are the wise position to take in regards to the claim that Iran was behind the missile attack on Riyadh. 

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The Yemen story in and of itself is one of the most underreported stories in America. Five million Yemenis are on the verge of famine, 18.8 million need humanitarian aid and over 540,000 people are suffering from Cholera. The reason the civil war in Yemen is under reported here in America is because we are on the ones responsible for all of the damage. Another reason for scant American coverage of the Yemen war could also be because, just like we worked with ISIS in Syria, we are actually fighting alongside of Al Qaeda and that might not sell well in the heartland.  

QATAR

As if all of that wasn't bad enough, Saudi Arabia is also blockading fellow Gulf nation Qatar which had the temerity to try and normalize their relations with Iran. The Sunni Muslims states Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain have all aligned against Qatar, which is ruled by Sunni Muslims but has a sizable Shiite population. The Saudi decision to cut ties with Qatar is just another move on the chessboard by Saudi Arabia against the rising power of Iran. 

IRAN

And finally, the Trump administration is making noises about Iran violating the nuclear agreement they signed with the Obama administration that everyone besides Trump knows they are adhering to. 

Foolishly the U.S. has long made the choice of allying with the paper tiger of a despotic Saudi Arabia, when our more natural allies should be Iran. Iran in particular, and Shiite muslims in general, have not attacked the U.S. or Europe with terrorism. The same cannot be said of Saudi Arabia and Sunni Muslims. While our historical relationship with Iran was soiled by our overthrow of their government and imposing the brutal Shah upon them in the 1950's, and their eventual retaliation by taking American hostages in the 1970's, Iran is a wiser ally for us because they are much more stable, much more rational, are much better equipped to govern and have a much more educated and potentially Americanized population. Iran's recent military and political success in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon is a testament to their governing ability and to Saudi Arabia's ineptitude and is proof that we have backed the wrong horse in this Middle Eastern power struggle.

Iran's alliance with Russia and China has also put the U.S. on the defensive and Americans are too blind with propaganda induced hatred toward Iran to see that our best way forward in the Middle East is with Iran. If we fail to see that and quickly, the U.S. will be incredibly vulnerable financially and politically to Russian, Chinese and Iranian maneuvers in the Middle East. 

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The Saudi Royal Family is only able to maintain its power because they are propped up by U.S. military might. The House of Saud is a house of cards and when it falls, which it inevitably will, the chaos released will be catastrophic in the region, and maybe the world, and could precede a total collapse of the U.S.-led, western centric uni-polar world order we have grown so accustomed to. 

ISRAEL

Israel too has unwisely chosen to ally with Saudi Arabia and other brutal dictatorships in the region like Egypt. Israel can certainly take care of itself, but if the Israelis think they can possibly "win" a war in Lebanon or Syria, they are terribly mistaken. Israel is desperate to maintain the current world order because they sit in an advantageous position as a nation that leads the U.S. around by the nose (if you want to talk election meddling by a foreign power, forget Russia, look at Israel's grip upon American politics). If the House of Saud collapses, and the U.S. is reduced into an equal role with Russia and China in a multi-polar world order, then Israel will be left in a precarious position indeed. 

RUSSIA

Russia has masterfully played their hand in the Middle East by stepping in and winning the war for their ally Assad in Syria, thereby blocking Saudi Arabia's and the U.S.'s move to replace Assad and securing Russia's dominance is supplying gas to Europe by snuffing out any attempts at building pipelines from the Middle East through Syria to Europe.

Russia's cordial relations with Iran also mean that they are poised to win big if Saudi Arabia's strategic gamble against Iran fails. As an oil based economy, Russia will benefit from the price spikes brought on by any reduction in oil from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East caused by a wider war in the region or a collapse of the Saudi royal family.

So what does all this mean? It means that a seismic shift is starting to happen in the Middle East and it is on the verge of volcanically erupting. Regardless of how Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Arabia's power play in the region resolves itself in the long run, in the short term, the people of Yemen, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria and even Saudi Arabia suffer and will continue to do so. And even though Americans are largely unaware of this suffering, that doesn't mean we aren't responsible for the brutal horrors taking place in Yemen. We will no doubt pay a price for our ignorance of and complicity in the barbarity perpetrated by Saudi Arabia across the Middle East these last few years in Yemen and Syria. While we may be blissfully unaware of our complicity, the Syrians and Yemenis are not.

I assume you are bored to tears with all of this rambling geo-political war-talk nonsense…I don't blame you…I'm bored too. The topic just isn't…sexy enough to hold my attention. Speaking of sex…when do you think Steven Spielberg will be outed as a pedophile? Soon I hope!! I can't wait for that story to break!!

©2017

Novitiate: A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!****

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT IN THEATRE - SEE IT ON NETFLIX OR CABLE.

Novitiate, written and directed by Margaret Betts, is the story of a young woman, Cathleen Harris, who enters a convent during the tumultuous Vatican II transitional period of the mid-1960's at the age of 17 in the hopes of becoming a Catholic nun. The film stars Margaret Qualley as Cathleen, with Melissa Leo and Julianne Nicholson in supporting roles. 

Being the good Irish Catholic boy that I am, I am always intrigued by films that deal with religion in general and Catholicism and/or the Catholic Church in particular. I find that religion is an often overlooked, undervalued or completely misunderstood thematic device that is rarely explored seriously or effectively by filmmakers (or other artists for that matter). There are exceptions of course, for instance Martin Scorsese's Silence(2016) was flawed but spiritually serious. Another great example is Xavier Beauvois' 2010 film Of Gods and Men which is a moving and staggeringly insightful look at Trappist Monks caught in the turmoil of the Algerian civil war. Another one of my all-time favorites is the 1986 Roland Jaffe film The Mission. These three films are just a few of the examples that prove that there is nothing quite so satisfying, both dramatically and spiritually, as when an artist is able to delve into religion without falling into the traps of either uber-piety or Manichean simplicity. 

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I knew next to nothing about Novitiate when I went to see it, except for the fact that it was about Catholic nuns. As the film started I wasn't sure what to expect but found myself pleasantly surprised that the film dealt with Catholicism in a theologically serious way right from the start. Near the beginning of the film the lead character, Cathleen Harris, who is a young woman entering a convent, talks about the fact that nowadays (the mid-1960's) people just want "easy love". She then enters the convent in order to avoid the trappings of "easy love" in the outer world for the difficult, disciplined and sacrificial love of a marriage to Christ. This theological perspective of the film intrigued me no end because that sort of rigorous approach to religion (and life) is an endangered species in our culture even among the most "devout" practitioners of the faith. We currently live in a culture of "easy love" in relation to everything we touch, be it politics, relationships, business or religion. 

Cathleen Harris' declaration that she wanted "love AND sacrifice" made me root for the Novitiate from that point forward because I believed the film to be at the very least, grounded with a spiritual and religious integrity. As theologically tantalizing as Novitiate is, and the film's much too abbreviated exploration of the consequences of Vatican II in particular is fascinating, sadly the movie ended up being a frustrating and ultimately unsatisfying experience both cinematically and spiritually.

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Besides what I would describe as the noble failure at the theological heart of the film, there is a very bright spot on display in the movie and that is the film's lead actress Margaret Qualley. Qualley gives an intricate, delicate and dynamic performance that is grounded in a fervent spiritual realism. Qualley's Cathleen has a focused devotion that is palpable and her desperation to connect with God and overcome her earthly human failings is visceral. I have never seen Margaret Qualley before but she is a striking screen presence. Her charisma, magnetism and beauty are undeniable, but I was most impressed by her skill, commitment and mastery of craft. Qualley is a very impressive actress and the sky undoubtedly is the limit for her acting future. 

Novitiate also boasts two supporting performances from Melissa Leo and Julianne Nicholson, who are two actresses for whom I have great admiration. Nicholson in particular is an under appreciated actress who I feel deserves much greater recognition for the quality work she routinely delivers. Sadly though, in Novitiate both women give very flat, one-dimensional and shallow performances. 

Nicholson plays Cathleen's mother, Nora, and her performance rings hollow and trite, which was deeply disappointing. It seems that Nicholson gets lost in her character's pronounced southern accent and can't get beyond that bell and whistle to find grounding in the genuine humanity of her character. 

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Melissa Leo plays Reverend Mother Marie St. Clair, the head of the convent. I found Leo's performance to be exceedingly derivative and painfully forced and false. Leo is an actress with a powerful screen presence but she makes the error of portraying Mother Marie as a vindictive and vengeful woman rather than a rabidly devout and ferocious protector of the faith. It is a pretty common occurrence for actors, particularly those who have no religious faith, to fail to emotionally or intellectually understand characters who deeply believe in God. When this failure to understand belief occurs, the faith of the character gets reduced to a means to an earthly end where complexity and nuance are not only unable to flourish, but survive. I do not know this for sure, but I think this might be the reason behind Ms. Leo's superficial performance as Mother Marie.

Both Leo and Nicholson felt like they were play acting in their roles as opposed to Qualley who seemed to be entirely immersed in hers. Part of the issue with the supporting roles is that they are terribly underwritten. I also thought that both Nicholson and Leo never connected with the rhythm and pace of the film or with the scope and scale of the other performances, and that failing falls directly upon the filmmaker, Margaret Betts. 

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As theologically and spiritually promising as the first two thirds of Novitiate were, the final third devolves into the artistically and cinematically banal by embracing a made-for-tv-movie, paint by numbers, Hollywood cliched view of the struggle of faith. It felt as if Betts had hit a dead end in her artistic exploration of Catholicism so she just took a cheap and easy way out of the dilemma at the heart of faith. 

 

In the final analysis, Novitiate is unable to rise up to its grand narrative ambitions and in the end its spiritual eyes are bigger than its artistic stomach. The main reason for Novitiate's artistic failure is because writer/director Margaret Betts simply lacks the skill and confidence to fully till the rich soil upon which she trod. While Novitiate's failure is a noble one, it is also a deeply disappointing one as cinema is in desperate need of religious films that effectively and coherently convey the deep and faithful struggle to square both love and sacrifice in a world that truly understands and appreciates neither.

Despite the film's flaws I do recommend people watch this film, just not in the theatre, not only to enjoy Margaret Qualley's sublime performance but also for some of the better scenes of spiritual and religious struggle that can trigger a deeper meditation and contemplation on one's own faith. At the end of the day, I think if you wait and see Novitiate on Netflix or cable, it will be worthwhile, but the film is simply too cinematically flawed to make it worth the time and money it takes to go see it in a theatre. 

 

©2017

 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer: A Review

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****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!****

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 17 seconds

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation : SEE IT. See it in the theatre but be forewarnedTHIS IS AN ART HOSUE FILM THROUGH AND THROUGHif your tastes run toward the more conventional, skip this movie because you will hate it. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer, written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, is the story of Dr. Steven Murphy and his family as they grapple with a strange young man who has come into their life. The film stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman along with Barry Keoghan, Raffy Cassidy and Sunny Suljic in supporting roles. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is Yorgos Lanthimos follow up to his extraordinary film The Lobster, which was a brilliantly absurdist and dark comedy from 2016. Unlike The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, although it has funny moments, cannot in anyway be described as a comedy, it is more a stylized mythological and psychological horror/drama. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is, like The Lobster, unquestionably an art house film and to those more inclined toward standard Hollywood fare it will seem impossibly avant-garde. I absolutely loved The Lobster (it garnered 6 nominations and one win at the most prestigious Mickey©® Awards in 2016 and ended up #4 on my top ten list for the year), but I know other people who hated it with a passion. I find Lanthimos' writing and directing style to be very original and tremendously effective, while others I know found it contrived and idiotic. 

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The narrative of the film is very loosely based on a modern day re-telling of the Greek myth of Iphigenia, in order to not give anything away I won't go into detail about the myth of Iphigenia, and if you plan on seeing the film I recommend you skip reading up on it as well until after seeing the movie. The film also contains biblical references and metaphors ranging from the Garden of Eden to Cain and Abel to Abraham to the plagues of Egypt all the way up to the crucifixion. The film is also riddled with intriguingly meaningful symbols including watches (time and things going clockwise or counter-clockwise), pristine hands, dog walking and watering plants and even the Bill Murray movie Groundhog's Day. The film and its symbolism tell both a personal and collective story of karmic justice that contains a very subtle political and cultural  message if you care to look for it (for instance, look at the film's poster at the very top of this posting…the curtained window of the room looks an awful lot like the World Trade Center…I have a definite opinion on the subject, but I will let the viewer determine what that may mean for themselves).

Yorgos Lanthimos has a distinct style to his direction of actors where he has them speak in an awkward, stilted and lifeless monotone. This acting style can be off-putting to some people, but Lanthimos deftly uses this approach as a commentary on the modern world and also uses it to encourage the audience to suspend their disbelief and embrace Lanthimos' created universe that is at once both very believable and entirely impossible. 

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Colin Farrell has found a career renaissance working with Lanthimos (he won the incredibly prestigious Best Actor Mickey®© Award last year for The Lobster)and part of the reason for this is that he has mastered Lanthimos' unorthodox, uncommon, and almost inhuman, acting style. Farrell is an actor who was born blessed with a raging furnace of frenetic energy that emanates from his every pore on-screen. Most actors would kill to have what comes naturally to Colin Farrell. But what makes Farrell so good in Lanthimos' films is that he is forced to contain that signature frenetic energy to such a degree that it could dance on the head of a pin. This energetic concentration and containment allows Farrell to never have to contemplate whether he is being charming, good-looking, charismatic or funny, instead it allows him to just mechanically say the words he is supposed to say and mechanically move where he is supposed to move. Some actors, Colin Farrell included, find the blessing of their charisma and magnetism to be an artistic curse and so when those chains are removed, as they are in Lanthimos' unique acting style, the actor is then free to simply BE…and when Colin Farrell is simply "being", he is truly remarkable. 

What makes Farrell's performance in The Killing of a Sacred Deer so effective, is that his Dr. Murphy is dead-eyed and monotone going through the motions of his life…until he isn't. There are rare moments when the fire in Farrell's eyes returns and he is so filled with a palpable life energy that he literally shakes. The unleashing of Colin Farrell's natural power in those few moments are what make his performance, and Lanthimos' direction, so sublime. 

Much to my pleasant surprise, Nicole Kidman takes to Lanthimos' style with ease as well. The reason I was surprised by Ms. Kidman's adaptability to Lanthimos' style is that, similar to Colin Farrell and his natural frenetic energy, Nicole Kidman naturally emanates with a fragile, yet palpable humanity. In The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Kidman is able to contain her powerful but delicate humanity and embrace the stylized lifelessness of Lanthimos' approach. Kidman's performance is striking for its precision and meticulousness. Again, just like Farrell, there are specific moments when her humanity explodes through her lifeless veneer, and those moments are extremely dramatically satisfying and speak volumes to Kidman's skill and mastery of craft as an actress.

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The supporting cast is stellar as well with Barry Keoghan in particular giving a stand out performance. Keoghan is creepy and compelling as a mysterious young man who starts at the periphery of the story but soon becomes its center. Keoghan's performance is seductive, menacing, magnetic and unnerving. The first time I saw Keoghan was this past summer in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, and after seeing his attention to detail and specificity in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, I look forward to seeing what lies ahead for him in his career. 

Raffey Cassidy and Sunny Siljic also do outstanding work in supporting roles as the Murphy children. Cassidy, in particular, does a solid job of creating a specific and multi-dimensional character where other actresses would have embraced the generic.

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer, just like The Lobster, is not a film for everyone. I am someone who reeks of the art house, so it was right up my alley. Others with less adventuresome and more conventional cinematic tastes will probably dislike it a great deal. I believe that Lanthimos is a a true auteur  creating original and important films that are cinematically, if not revolutionary, then at least evolutionary. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is an admittedly weird, but fascinating and ultimately satisfying film that I wholly recommend to those daring enough and willing to make the leap into the deep, dark waters of the art house. If you love cinema, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is for you, and it is well worth spending the time and money to go see it in the theatre. 

©2017

 

New York Times Strikes Out Again on Afghanistan

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****This article is written by two regular readers of this blog, Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, who are both respected journalists and authors. It was originally published on November 6, 2017 at Truthdig.com. It is re-published here with their permission and at their request.****

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 08 seconds

In the final days of the Soviet Union, an old witticism about truth (pravda) went something like this: In the United States, they tell you everything, but you know nothing. In the USSR, they tell you nothing, but you know everything.

Who would ever be nostalgic for the old Soviet Union, where truth was what the official government mouthpiece told you it was and everything else was a lie meant to undermine the state? Whoever that might be, he or she would feel at home in the now totally neocon-ized U.S., where the old mainstream media marches in lockstep with a dysfunctional federal bureaucracy to aggressively limit freedom of speech and label anything that contradicts its ideological view of reality as enemy propaganda.

From 1918 until its demise in 1991, Pravda was the official newspaper of the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. But most Americans would be surprised to learn that The New York Times has been operating for decades as the U.S. government’s Pravda without anyone being the wiser.

Now the truth-war rages between such old mainstream media outlets as The New York Times and any news operation or website that challenges its version of the truth.

We were drawn into this battle by a recent New York Times obituary for our dearest Afghan friend, Sima Wali, who fled the violent Marxist coup in 1978 that kicked off the U.S.-backed rise of Islamic extremism and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Considering that the Times maintains that the alternative media is filled with false news and Russian propaganda, we were shocked to find many claims in Sima’s obituary that contained American Cold War propaganda about Afghanistan that has long since been debunked. One particularly outrageous example was the claim that in 1978, “gender apartheid” was “imposed by the Communists and then by the Taliban.”

Apparently, The New York Times believes it can turn day to night by blaming communists for introducing gender apartheid, a term adapted (from the South African apartheid regime) in 1996 to draw the public’s attention to the cruelty and human rights abuses imposed by the Taliban on the women of Afghanistan. The communists did not impose it after their takeover in 1978. In fact, the opposite was true. As Sima stated in the introduction to our book, “Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story,” “The draconian Taliban rule stripped women of their basic human rights. Their edicts against women in Afghanistan led to an introduction of a new form of violence termed ‘gender apartheid.’ ” In reality, a major cause for the growth of the resistance to the communists in the more tradition-bound countryside was the forced education of women and girls and the forced removal of the veil. Nor is it understood in the West that many Afghan rulers in the past attempted these reforms with some level of success.

As David B. Edwards writes in his book, “Before Taliban,” there is a direct line between these and other reforms to the reforms mandated by King Amanullah after 1919. He writes, “The transformations that he [Amanullah] sought to bring about before his overthrow in 1929 were in many respects forerunners of those of the Marxists and were particularly revealing of the problems they later encountered.”

An accurate picture of what was done by the communists during their rule in the early 1980s can be read in Jonathan Steele’s 2003 Guardian article, titled “Red Kabul revisited,” in which he compares the U.S. occupation of Kabul in 2003 with Soviet-occupied Kabul of the 1980s:

In 1981, Kabul’s two campuses thronged with women students, as well as men. Most went around without even a headscarf. Hundreds went off to Soviet universities to study engineering, agronomy and medicine. The banqueting hall of the Kabul hotel pulsated most nights to the excitement of wedding parties. The markets thrived. Caravans of painted lorries rolled up from Pakistan, bringing Japanese TV sets, video recorders, cameras and music centres. The Russians did nothing to stop this vibrant private enterprise.

Prior to 9/11, Laili Helms, a spokeswoman for and defender of the Taliban and niece to former CIA Director Richard Helms, went so far as to suggest that educating women was a communist plot, claiming that any Afghan woman who could read had to be a communist, because only the communists had educated women. After the American invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, Wali was outraged by this Taliban mentality, which she saw creeping into the American-installed Afghan leadership with the blessing of the American government. In an address to the Global Citizens Circle in Boston in 2003, she stated her objections: “[A]s an Afghan and an American, I will testify to you that the argument against women’s rights is neither Afghan nor Islamic!”

Thirty-four years ago in May, I stood before the irate Afghan press officer for the communist government in Kabul as he threw a copy of The New York Times onto his desk. “Have you read this?” he demanded, pointing to an article by Leslie Gelb, titled “U.S. Said to Increase Arms Aid For Afghan Rebels.” What Gelb, the former Jimmy Carter administration’s assistant secretary of state, had disclosed had angered the Foreign Ministry’s press secretary, Roshan Rowan, and he was holding me, an American, responsible. “Why are you doing this to us?” he shouted. “What is it we have done to you, to deserve this invasion?”

I didn’t need to rely on The New York Times to tell me what was going on in Afghanistan. As the first American journalist to risk the wrath of the Ronald Reagan administration, with its newly installed neoconservative foreign policy, by bringing a news crew to Kabul in 1981, I was one of only a handful of Americans who knew the score. The United States was backing Muslim guerrillas who were burning down schools specifically for girls and killing local officials, whether they were communist or not. The Gelb article made clear that in collaboration with the Saudis, Egyptians, Chinese, Iranians and Pakistanis, the “bleeders” inside the Reagan administration were upping the ante in order to “draw more and more Soviet troops into Afghanistan,” while at the same time claiming to pursue “a negotiated settlement to the war.” It was not obvious from the Gelb article how the United States could be escalating a conflict while negotiating a settlement at the same time in Afghanistan in 1983. Also missing from the article was any indication that the administration’s policy was a fundamental contradiction.

In the spring of 1983, we had invited Roger Fisher, director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, to return with us to Kabul to unwrap the riddle of why the United Nations negotiations were getting nowhere. Contracted to ABC’s “Nightline,” Fisher met with the Kremlin’s chief Afghan specialist, who had flown down from Moscow and told him point blank, “We want to get out. Give us six months to save face, and we’ll leave the Afghans to solve their own problems.” Upon his return, Fisher expected his discovery would be greeted with relief. Instead he found that “negotiated settlement” was only a fig leaf for escalating the war. The mainstream media were just beginning to ramp up a propaganda campaign, which would become known as Charlie Wilson’s War, to drive support for keeping the Soviets pinned down in their own Vietnam while bleeding Wali’s Afghanistan to death.

The American people expect the full story from their “free press,” and the Constitution demands that the press serve the people and not the bureaucracy. The New York Times needs to get its mission straight, lest it sacrifice its credibility to the very thing it claims to stand against. Left-wing Afghan communists cannot be magically transformed into right-wing Pakistani Taliban. The United States is not the Soviet Union, and The New York Times should stop behaving as if it is Pravda.

Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of “Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story,” “Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of the American Empire” and “The Voice.” Visit their websites at invisiblehistory and grailwerk.

©2017

 

JFK and the Media: The House Always Wins

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Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes 11 seconds

It is always both enlightening and disheartening to get a glimpse into the corrupt and vacuous abyss that is our national news media. Last week the JFK file release was a wonderful opportunity to study just how truly mendacious and manipulative our media has become. 

I usually do not watch much cable news because I feel that every second I do watch, a small part of my soul, and a large part of my brain, dies a painful death. But since I wrote about the topic last week, and also out of a sense of duty to you, my dear readers, I made a foolhardy attempt to try and follow the coverage of the release of the JFK files by switching back and forth between CNN and MSNBC. 

On CNN on Thursday, I caught an interview of an "expert" on all things JFK assassination related. The expert was Gerald Posner, a "journalist" who in 1993 wrote what the establishment media praised as the "definitive" and "authoritative" book on the JFK assassination titled Case Closed. Posner's book was little more than a sycophantic defense of the Warren Report which caused the media to immediately embrace it as the final word on the assassination for that lone reason.

 

The media's love for Posner and Case Closed started back in 1993, and was less a result of his journalistic and literary talent, which is infinitesimal, but rather was born out of their colossal hatred of Oliver Stone and his 1991 film JFK, which was to JFK conspiracy theories what the Warren Report was to coincidence theory. The media love for Posner was exactly inversely proportional in size and scope to their hate for Oliver Stone, who was loathed with the fury of a thousand suns by the corporate media.

True to form for Posner, who clearly suffers from Stage 4 Norman Rockwell Syndrome, the canned answers he gave on CNN declared that the only reason the CIA had withheld any information from the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee on Assassinations and the public over the last 54 years was because there might be information in the files that would embarrass the Agency. Apparently, according to Posner, the CIA is REALLY, REALLY afraid of embarrassment. 

In Noam Chomsky's masterwork Manufacturing Consent, he uses a very simple formal when it comes to judging the actions and believability of the American media and government, that formula is this…would we believe it if the Soviets (or any other enemy) and their media did or said the same thing? I find that Chomsky's formula is a surefire way to break through the intellectual rigor mortis and cognitive dissonance that accompanies so much of our political discourse, and so it is with the JFK assassination.

So in applying Chomsky's formula to Posner's contention that the CIA has lied and manipulated every investigation into the killing of Kennedy due to a fear of embarrassment…what would a rational person's conclusion be? Obviously, if the KGB withheld information for 54 years and lied to the public regarding an assassination of someone like Khrushchev in 1963, we would rightly think that it wasn't out of fear of embarrassment but rather because they were covering up their guilt or complicity in the murder. 

Besides Posner's answers in his interview, there was something else that made his appearance on CNN very curious, namely, the fact that it happened in the first place. Why was Gerald Posner on CNN talking about the JFK files when CNN and the other media outlets kept talking about how it was "conspiracy theorists" who were the ones so excited about the document dump? Why have a true-blue establishmentarian supporter of the Warren commission on and not a "conspiracy theorist"? It wasn't only CNN that kept talking ABOUT conspiracy theorists but not TO them…MSNBC did the same thing. Neither channel, at least when I watched them, not only never had a single person on who was even remotely skeptical of the lone gunman theory but never had anyone on who didn't have complete and utter contempt for conspiracy theorists. Not one. What is remarkable about that is that both CNN and MSNBC kept citing the fact that opinion polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans (61%) believe a conspiracy took place. 

To add to the oddity of Posner's CNN appearance was that just an hour later I got to see his painfully taut, surgically contorted, age-defying to the point of mummification, face on MSNBC too. Posner appeared on MSNBC's Meet The Press Daily and gave the same exact talking points to host Chuck Todd that he gave to the CNN host, even reiterating the whole CIA "embarrassment" reason for not releasing documents. Was there no one else that Chuck Todd could get? Did CNN or MSNBC even ask a writer of a JFK conspiracy book to come on? There are plenty of them, were NONE of them available? 

 

 

Of all of the curious things about having Posner on both CNN and MSNBC to talk about the JFK files, the most curious thing is that he is a less-than credible and respectable journalistic entity to begin with. Posner has been repeatedly proven to have plagiarized in his work, so much so that he lost his job at the Daily Beast because of a plagiarism scandal. It was later revealed that Posner also was guilty of plagiarism in his books Miami Babylon, Secrets of the Kingdom and Why America Slept.

One of the best things about the Posner plagiarism scandal is that in order to sue his accuser the Miami New Times, he hired attorney Mark Lane, the godfather of JFK conspiracy theories and author of seminal works on the subject Rush to Judgement and Plausible Denial, who back in 1964 was actually hired to represent Lee Harvey Oswald in front of the Warren Commission by Oswald's mother Marguerite after his death (not surprisingly, the Commission declined). 

My favorite thing about Posner's plagiarism scandal is not that Mark Lane defended him, but that Posner, the mainstream media's favorite anti-conspiracy theorist, claimed that the plagiarism scandal was actually the result of a media conspiracy against him. What a delicious piece of irony pie that juicy little tidbit is. 

In a blog post last week (and another a few years ago) I assailed Chris Matthews of MSNBC for his "spittle-flecked" defense of the lone gun man theory. Even though it has only been a few days since I wrote that, Mr. Matthews has since presented even more reason to rake him over the coals for his slavish worship of officialdom and his deceptive framing of stories.

By happenstance, last Thursday I had just watched a segment from Chris Matthews show Hardball from back in 2013 on Youtube. The clip was of Matthews hosting a discussion between he and David Talbot, founder of Salon.com and author of the book Brothers, which is about Jack and Bobby Kennedy in which Talbot claims that Bobby Kennedy did not believe the Warren Report, and Vincent Bugliosi, former prosecutor and author of the most recent (2007) "authoritative" book proving Oswald acted alone titled Reclaiming History (why they didn't go with the title Case Closed II: Electric Bugaloo will forever remain a mystery). Bugliosi's predictable embrace of the Warren Report is not to be confused with the old (1993) "authoritative" book saying exactly the same thing, Mr. Posner's Case Closed. One wonders if these books are so definitive and authoritative, why do they have to keep writing a new version saying the same thing every decade? 

In the segment Matthews buddied up to Bugliosi and the two of them went after Talbot. Unlike Matthews, Talbot is a respected journalist, in fact he was once Chris Mathews' editor many moons ago, so it was interesting to see the contempt with which Matthews held him. The most striking part of the segment was when both Bugliosi and Matthews challenged Talbot by asking him if Bobby Kennedy was lying when he publicly stated that he endorsed the Warren Report. This is a predictable and hackneyed argument, not surprising coming from two repugnant fools and liars like Matthews and Bugliosi, that embraces an intentional obtuseness that makes debate impossible. 

Coincidentally enough, when I turned off the 2013 Hardball discussion I turned on the live show and low and behold the topic was the JFK file release again. What was so synchronistically striking was that it almost seemed as if Chris Matthews had just watched the same old clip of his show on Youtube that I did and wanted to prove a point, for he opened the segment by playing old footage of Bobby Kennedy publicly stating that he believed in the Warren Report. Matthews then turned to his guests, NBC News Justice correspondent Pete Williams, NBC News National Security reporter Julia Ainsley and distinguished presidential historian Evan Thomas, author of the book, Robert Kennedy: His Life, all of whom adamantly stated that Oswald acted alone and that there was no conspiracy. 

 

Besides the constant reinforcing of the official narrative that Oswald acted alone and that conspiracy theories are "nutty" and the only reason people believe them is out of psychological weakness, one interesting thing did happen on the show. When Matthews turned to Evan Thomas, esteemed author of the "definitive" biography of Bobby Kennedy, and asked him, almost rhetorically, if Bobby Kennedy believed in the Warren Report, Matthews did not get the answer he expected. Thomas actually replied to Matthews that Bobby Kennedy, in fact, did not believe the Warren Report. Sadly, the camera was not on Chris Matthews at this point because I would have loved to see the look on his dopey face when Evan Thomas basically said that David Talbot was right and Chris Matthews, who just wrote a book about Bobby Kennedy that comes out this week, was dead wrong.

Thomas, of course, made haste in reassuring his host that he, Evan Thomas, is a citizen of the Kingdom of Serious People because he believes in the lone gunman theory and Oswald's guilt, unlike Bobby Kennedy who according to Thomas' own reporting apparently would not be allowed into the same Kingdom due to his doubt in the official story. Regardless of Thomas' faith in Oswald's guilt, the damage to Chris Matthews thesis about Bobby Kennedy's belief in the Warren Report was already done. Matthews, as is his penchant when proven wrong, quickly changed the subject and the segment soon ended. No doubt Mr. Matthews will conveniently forget Evan Thomas' opinion because it doesn't fit into the very limited preconceived establishmentarian cosmology from which he operates. I wonder…will Chris Matthews now have David Talbot back on Hardball to apologize to him for his 2013 attack? I have a funny feeling that Mr. Talbot shouldn't hold his breath waiting for that invitation.

In conclusion, let's apply the Chomsky formula to all of the media coverage surrounding the release of the JFK files. First off, if the Russian media were to exclusively have hosts and guests, some of whom are discredited journalists guilty of plagiarism, on their networks that only supported the official story of a lone gunman and belittled and condemn anyone who dared to question the establishment narrative as "nutty" or psychologically unstable, we would rightly believe that was patently absurd and blatant propaganda.

Secondly, if Russian media were to have every host and guest on their networks repeatedly state that the only reason the KGB has lied and withheld information from the public and investigative committees over the last 54 years was because of the KGB's fear of embarrassment, we would rightly call that even more patently absurd and blatant propaganda.

The only logical conclusion we would draw of the Russian media behavior in these instances was that they are thoroughly corrupt and are mere propaganda wings for a nefarious Military-Intelligence cabal headed by the KGB. This is what any rational human being would deduce from these obvious facts. It wouldn't be a conspiracy theory if the Russians did it, it would be a conspiracy fact. So why are we so incapable of seeing the same Truth about our own country and its media that hides in plain sight right in front of our nose? 

The JFK story will soon fade away but our mendacious media will not. The establishment press, both print and television, are diabolically venal, unethical and unscrupulous. They are not in the business of telling you the Truth, they are in the business of protecting and lying for the ruling elite. The mainstream media's only real function, not just with the JFK story but with all stories, is to distract the masses by controlling narrative and limiting debate. Once you realize that the media are just Public Relations for the Military-Intelligence Industrial complex, Wall Street and the ruling elites then you come to understand the Truth that underlies the whole country. That Truth is this…that America is a casino, and the House always wins…and guess what…you ain't the house.

©2017