"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

The #MeToo Wildfire Rages Out of Control

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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 four 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 as formerly respected newsman who have had their careers and reputations go up in smoke over sexual harassment allegations.

The #MeToo firestorm has also spread to Washington where the harassment accusations continued to pile up. Long time democratic Congressman from Michigan, John Conyers, resigned after his history of sexual misconduct was revealed, and his republican counterpart from Arizona, Trent Franks, also resigned amidst sexual harassment allegations.

The biggest news out of Washington though was democratic Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, announcing he planned to resign after his democratic colleagues in the Senate called for him to step down due to charges he groped multiple women.

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 a controlled manner, 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 I am not a fan of, either as a politician or a comedian), who 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, who 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 where the accused get to face their accusers. 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 is to “Believe All Women”, the end result of which is that proof is never a necessity when allegations are made. This means that 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 sexual assault or harassment victims need zero proof and can never dare be doubted, the #MeToo sex panic 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.

Yes, many 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 and careers annihilated as well.

I know 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.

As intoxicating as it can be to get caught up in the whirlwind of righteous vengeance pulsating at the heart of the #MeToo movement, which has brought a deserving and temporarily satisfying justice to men like Weinstein, Ratner, Lauer and Spacey, in the more murky and less egregious cases of men like Franken and Tambor for instance, the shaming and punishment meted out does not seem to fit the alleged crime.

It is deeply disconcerting that supporters of the #MeToo campaign 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 example 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 would 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, 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”.

 

©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

JFK and the Conspiracy Conundrum

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Estimated Reading Time : 9 minutes 11 seconds

TO BELIEVE OR NOT TO BELIEVE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

This past weekend the news broke that President Trump, in accordance with a law passed in 1992 (thank you Oliver Stone!), was going to allow the National Archives to finally release the remaining files on the JFK assassination that have been kept secret for the last 54 years. In Trump's tweeted statement he did leave himself room to change his mind, but as of right now, the document release is set to happen on October 26.

As everyone knows, the mainstream media is consistently awful, but nothing gets their goat quite like the topic of the JFK assassination. After reading of Trump's announcement, I turned on cable news to get their reaction…and it was just as you would expect. There was a lot of eye-rolling and sneering at conspiracy theories and theorists, which is always funny considering the media hates conspiracy theories except when they don't…like with the Russia investigation. 

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

MSNBC was particularly abysmal, like when "reporter" John Harwood went to great lengths to let his viewers know that HE believes the Warren Report is the final and faithful word on the assassination…good to know, John, thanks for sharing. I found the vitriol and venom directed toward people who believe Oswald did not act alone to be very strange since various hosts throughout the day also kept repeating the fact that polls show over 60% of Americans believe Oswald did not act alone. Way to alienate your audience guys.

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As I switched back and forth from MSNBC to CNN (I am incapable of watching Fox at this point in my life…sorry Rupert) some recurring themes presented themselves. Namely that the Warren Report was the "official" word on the JFK assassination, and of course, that Lee Harvey Oswald killed the president by himself. These two statements were repeated early and often and never once went challenged, which I found...curious. 

The cable news coverage was most curious because everyone kept banging home the talking point about the Warren Report and the "official determination" that Oswald acted alone. If a viewer did not know any better they would come away from watching cable news coverage of this story thinking that the final "official government determination" in the assassination of JFK was that Oswald acted alone. Technically, this is factually incorrect. 

John Harwood and the rest of the empty heads on MSNBC and CNN are being at least disingenuous if not downright deceptive when they claim that the government determined Oswald acted alone…either that or they are historically illiterate. 

HSCA IS MIA ON MSNBC AND CNN

Here is a fact…the United States Government, in the form of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, made the determination in 1978 that President Kennedy "was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy". The HSCA report is most certainly controversial and its conclusions and the science behind them are contentious, but equally if not more contentious is the science behind the conclusions of the Warren Report. 

In addition, the HSCA report determined that the FBI and CIA weren't just deficient in their duties in regards to the assassination, but were also deficient to the point of malevolence in regard to their interactions with the Warren Commission. Unlike the scientific conclusions of the HSCA report, the conclusion regarding Intelligence agency subterfuge is not in contention. In other words, the CIA and FBI lied, withheld crucial information and undermined the Warren Commission investigation at every turn, which is as good a reason as any to deem the Warren Report to be at a minimum insufficient, and at a maximum, manufactured propaganda. 

Regardless of your thoughts on the Warren Report and the HSCA, what I found so curious about the cable news coverage of the new JFK story was that the HSCA was never mentioned at all. Not once. This seemed to me to be more than a mere oversight, it seemed to be an intentional obfuscation of the facts and of history. 

DEMOCRACY DIES IN DARKNESS…SO LET'S KEEP THE LIGHTS OFF

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Upon reading the Washington Post and New York Times on the subject of the JFK document dump I found two other things to be very curious. Both newspapers basically wrote the same exact story, even including similar quotes from authors Philip Shenon and Larry Sabato, Jr. and a link to a Politico article they had co-written on the subject published last Friday. Shenon and Sabato's article declared that releasing the documents would be a "fiasco" and would only “help fuel a new generation of conspiracy theories,”. I found it particularly ironic that Shenon and Sabato's obvious disdain for transparency was printed under the Washington Post's new moniker,  "Democracy Dies in Darkness", which loomed like an Orwellian doublespeak blimp over the article that quotes these men so extensively. 

Both the Times and Post also included in their reports near identical quotes from Shenon about what these secret JFK files may reveal. 

The New York Times wrote -

They (Shenon and Sabato) wrote that the documents relate to what they call a “mysterious chapter in the history of the assassination — a six-day trip that J.F.K. assassin Lee Harvey Oswald paid to Mexico City several weeks before the president’s murder, in which Oswald met with Cuban and Soviet spies and came under intensive surveillance by the C.I.A.’s Mexico City station. Previously released F.B.I. documents suggest that Oswald spoke openly in Mexico about his intention to kill Kennedy.”

The Washington Post wrote -

“I’ve always considered the Mexico City trip the hidden chapter of the assassination. A lot of histories gloss right past this period,” said Philip Shenon, a former New York Times reporter and the author of a book on the Warren Commission, the congressional body that investigated Kennedy’s killing. “Oswald was meeting with Soviet spies and Cuban spies, and the CIA and FBI had him under aggressive surveillance. Didn’t the FBI and CIA have plenty of evidence that he was a threat before the assassination? If they had acted on that evidence, maybe it wouldn’t have taken place. These agencies could be afraid that if the documents all get released, their incompetence and bungling could be exposed. They knew about the danger of Oswald, but didn’t alert Washington.”

I found those quotes, and the fact that the Washington Post and New York Times highlighted them in their articles to be…curious….just like the cable news coverage. Why did I find them so curious? 

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

The Post and the Times have for decades been used as mouth pieces for the intelligence community. They aren't so much news organizations as they are useful organizations for those in power to control narrative. In other words they are propaganda tools. You think I am paranoid? Well, just go look at the coverage during the lead up to the Iraq War, or the Bush torture…oops, I mean "enhanced interrogation" and surveillance programs. Or better yet, go read up on Operation Mockingbird. Mockingbird was a CIA operation that operated internationally and domestically (which is illegal in and of itself as the CIA is prohibited from operating on U.S. soil) which planted reporters, writers and editors in all of the major news organizations in America and the across the Globe from the 1950's to at least the 1970's. 

Think there isn't some form of an Operation Mockingbird operating in the media right now? Recent history reveals to us the Bush administration program involving the Pentagon/Military contractors and their use of paid analysts on cable news in order to "control narrative".

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And then there is the story of former Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune reporter and current NBC News National Security reporter Ken Dilanian, who got exposed for literally sending his articles to the CIA so that they could sign off on them before he submitted them. Dilanian is still paraded out on NBC as a serious journalist even after his CIA lapdog status was revealed. If you think these are isolated incidents, you are either willfully blind of hopelessly naive, these types of stories are just the tip of the iceberg. 

This is why when I read the almost identical stories in the Post and Times regarding the JFK document release and heard the uniform embrace of historical illiteracy and sneering at "conspiracy theories" on cable news, my bullshit detector went off.  

NEXT STOP - SPECULATION STATION

This is just speculation but considering the context of the pre-release media coverage, this is what I think the "narrative" will be once the release of the new JFK assassination documents occurs.

First off, there is always a chance that there is nothing of interest in these documents, meaning that there are no bombshells or any information that reflects poorly on the intelligence services. I sincerely doubt there is a paper trail to the grassy knoll so to speak, and if one does exist, the intelligence agencies are not in the business of incriminating themselves so they would have removed or destroyed those documents a long time ago. 

That said, if there is new information that is damning to America's national security apparatus  or other powerful figures, then I think that there are three tactics the establishment press will use to manage the story. Here they are in order of seriousness and likelihood, from least to most.

1. The new documents and any damning or alarming information contained within them will simply be ignored by the mainstream media. Establishment news outlets will say that there is nothing of relevance in the documents and will let the story drift off to the nether reaches of the internet that they condescendingly call the "fever swamps". "Serious people" will understand that to engage in talking about the documents or any damning information they may bring to light is a one-way ticket out of the Kingdom of Serious People. 

This approach is pretty standard, in fact, we have an example of it just recently with the release of information that shows that the United States played a pivotal role in the genocide in Indonesia 53 years ago. 

The New York Times covered the newly released documents but deep into the paper and with a very innocuous and misleading headline, "U.S. Stood by as Indonesia Killed a Half-Million People, Papers Show". In the heart of the article this sentenced appears,  "In 2015, Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico reintroduced a resolution in the Senate calling for Indonesia to face up to its traumatic history. He also held the United States to account for its “military and financial support” there, which included providing lists of possible leftist sympathizers to the Indonesian government and, as one cable released Tuesday showed, pushing to bury foreign news coverage of the killings." Providing kill lists and managing a news blackout are not "standing by", that is considered active participation by most folks, just not by the people at the New York Times.

The U.S.- backed Indonesian genocide story has been successfully swept under the rug for over a half century and counting, you still won't hear it spoken of on cable news, that is for damn sure. But killing a half-million Indonesians 53 years ago does not equal the killing of one president 54 years ago in the eyes of the American people, so this head in the sand strategy might be ineffective in regards to the JFK file release. As stated earlier, over 60% of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, so the whistling past the graveyard, nothing to see here approach seems to have already failed and trying it one more time might be a useless endeavor.

2. Anyone who claims to find something important that challenges the "establishment narrative" of Oswald being the lone shooter or who contends there is a connection between Oswald and the CIA, will be mercilessly ridiculed. Any unflattering information that hints at conspiracy will be intentionally ignored and any people who claim a conspiracy will be crucified, demeaned and belittled as tinfoil hat wearing loons.

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"Conspiracy theorist" will be thrown around as a slur and the new damning revelations in the documents will be twisted beyond recognition until they are no longer deemed a threat to the establishment narrative. In this case the game plan will be to obfuscate, obfuscate, obfuscate. 

 

Again, this tactic has been used over and over again but as poll numbers indicate, Americans are seemingly becoming less and less enchanted with this approach. That said, the "fake news" taking point has certainly thrown the media-truth paradigm into chaos, so who knows if this tactic would be as successful this time around as it was years ago. 

3. If the documents reveal any truly damning information that could be seen as an indictment of the intelligence/national security community, such as a clear connection between Oswald and the CIA, like proof that he was on their payroll, then the national security establishment and their toadies in the media will quickly pivot and make the rather lame case that Oswald "went rogue" or they will bring out the big guns and blame Russia and Castro/Cuba for the assassination. Both are possible, but considering recent context, I think the latter is much more likely.

This would be the most interesting turn of events and frankly the most alarming. The Washington Post and New York Times quotes I mentioned above (and the Chris Matthews monologue I cite below), hint at this game plan and plant the seeds for it to come to fruition.

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!

The intelligence community and their puppets in the establishment media will use any damning new information, if it exists, and contort it to their advantage. This sort of narrative jiu jitsu is the type of propaganda at which the national security state excels. As previously mentioned, over 60% of Americans believe in a conspiracy, so instead of fighting that fact the propagandists will finally embrace it. Admitting a conspiracy in the assassination, but only one that involves Russia/Cuba, is a devious masterstroke for the intelligence community trying to avoid exposure for their misdeeds. It will also psychologically buttress the argument for Russian manipulation of the 2016 election by making clear that conspiracies can occur and that Russians are the ones behind them.

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So, if Oswald is shown to have been connected to the CIA, the agency will simply claim that "yes, he was an intelligence asset and we sent him into Russia as a phony defector, but while in Russia he was "turned" by the KGB and unbeknownst to us, he returned to the U.S. playing both sides of the fence". The CIA will claim that the Soviets used their KGB double agent Oswald to assassinate President Kennedy. 

A story has circulated for years that during Oswald's alleged trip to Mexico City a few weeks before the assassination, that he met with the head of the KGB assassinations operations in the western hemisphere Valeriy Kostikov. He also allegedly went to the Cuban embassy and supposedly spoke openly about killing Kennedy. Famed "former" CIA agent Robert Baer extensively propagated these stories on his short lived 2017 History Channel program JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald

Considering the current pandemic of Russophobia among the mainstream media and the U.S. populace, I have no doubt that the national security community and the press will run with any cock and bull story blaming the Soviets/Russians for JFK's death. The framing of the narrative will be that "Russia killed our President in 1963, and killed our Democracy in 2016!"

STRAIGHT SHOOTERS AND SAINTS

The stage for this nefarious duplicity has been set over the last year as the media have lavished the highest and most sanctimonious praise on the Intelligence community over the rather dubious Russian election interference story.

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For instance, MSNBC dolt Joy Reid recently described former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former Director of the CIA John Brennan as "the straightest of straight shooters"  when they came out and said Russia "hacked" our election. Ms. Reid must have a very different definition of "straight shooter" than I do, because James Clapper committed perjury when he lied to congress about NSA surveillance, and John Brennan oversaw the CIA as it spied on congress, which is not only a crime but an egregious act of treason. 

Ms. Reid's comrades over at MSNBC, like known liar Brian Williams, echo the same sentiment as they speak in the most hushed and reverent tones about "the brave men and women of our intelligence services". Yeah, the brave men and women who are responsible for the recent coups and the murders of innocents in Ukraine, Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Yemen just to name a few.

This current deification of intelligence agencies will continue in the aftermath of the JFK document release because the intel agencies and their puppets in the media, will make this claim...that the only reason that the CIA undermined and lied to the Warren commission and the HSCA about their connection to Oswald is because they knew the Russians/Castro killed Kennedy, but they did not want to start World War III.

In other words, they will claim that they lied to us for our own good, to protect us. The narrative will be that this is the type of sacrifice that good, noble people, like those in the intelligence community, routinely make in order to save the world from armageddon. Not only will they beat the rap for the Kennedy killing by blaming the Russians/Castro, but they will explain away the cover-up following the crime and will be made out to be heroes. Pure genius.

THE JOYS OF SCAPEGOATING AND LIVING IN DENIAL

It will all be nonsense, as Russia and Castro were not involved in the assassination at all, and in fact not only gained nothing from it but lost a president who was fast becoming a partner for peace. As it often is when dealing with the government and intelligence agencies, the real casualty in all of this, besides JFK and our democracy, will be the Truth.

Sadly, the American people, with a big assist from our repugnant media, will buy this story, hook, line and sinker because it tells us what we want to hear, namely that a conspiracy took place, which supports the view of a majority of Americans, AND that it was outside forces, those dastardly Russians/Cubans who did this horrible act to us, and not us. Thus we never have to do any introspective self-examination at all which is a psychological win-win for Americans.

As a result of our reflexive scapegoating of the "other" (Russia/Cuba) and our shirking of self-refelction upon, and responsibility for, our own actions, we will get another cold war, bordering on a hot one with Russia. This will please the Military Industrial Complex no end...and we may even finally get our revenge on Cuba for daring to free itself from our imperial clutches, in the form of a coup or maybe even worse. No doubt we will eventually be treated to staged and choreographed scenes of Castro's statue being torn down by "freedom loving" Cubans. 

THE CONSPIRACY CONUNDRUM - THANK YOU FOR PROVING MY THESIS, MR. MATTHEWS

On Monday, after I had written the majority of this piece. I had to step away for a bit to see a client and then after the client left I turned on the television for just two minutes and I caught Chris Matthews' final segment of his show which was titled "Let Me Finish". In the segment Matthews talked about the pending JFK document release and I fully expected his usual spittle flecked, vacuous ranting against JFK conspiracies. Matthews said he was hoping that the soon to be released JFK files had information in them about Oswald and whether he acted alone or "had help". He also wanted to know what went on during Oswald's trip to Mexico City to meet with Russians ands Cubans and whether the CIA and FBI dropped the ball in watching him. Matthews' monologue was littered with half-truths, innuendos, outright factual inaccuracies and lies. 

Matthews concluded the segment and the show by saying he wants to definitively know if Oswald worked alone "OR IF HE HAD HELP FROM THE HAVANA OR MOSCOW". Upon hearing that statement, any trepidation I may have had about writing this piece quickly evaporated as Chris Matthews had proved my point for me.

Matthews made it clear that there are only two options regarding the Kennedy assassination…a lone nut or a Russian/Cuban conspiracy. This is the only thing Mathews and his ilk are now able to conceive, that Oswald either did this on his own or he was aided and abetted by the Soviets and Cubans, who Matthews hints in his monologue may have been accessories after the fact. Matthews inability to even contemplate that the CIA , FBI and National Security apparatus could be guilty of anything but "dropping the ball" regarding the assassination says all you need to know about him and his intellectual impotence. The thought of the CIA, FBI, the Pentagon or some rogue element of any or all of those groups being nefarious actors in the JFK assassination is entirely inconceivable to Matthews.

What is very intriguing about Matthews' hedging towards a Russian/Cuban conspiracy is that in 2013 he was adamantly opposed to ANY conspiracy related to the assassination. In an interview with Vincent Bugliosi, who had just published a mammoth book on the JFK assassination titled, "Reclaiming History", which went to great lengths to dispel any conspiracy in the murder of JFK, Matthews said he "agreed 100%" with Bugliosi's claim that Oswald acted entirely alone and that is was impossible for a conspiracy to have taken place. 

The Matthews - Bugliosi love-fest just four years ago made it abundantly clear that Chris Matthews would absolutely not even contemplate any inkling of a conspiracy. Now, in 2017, on the eve of the release of previously secret documents regarding the assassination, he changes his opinion and seems to be suffering from a conspiracy conundrum. 

 Matthews' conspiracy conundrum is very curious behavior indeed, and it is made even more curious by the fact that he fails to acknowledge his previously vociferous anti-conspriacy stance. I wonder what changed in the last four years regarding the case that Matthews is now not poo-pooing all conspiracies, but rather hinting that it was a Russian/Cuban conspiracy? 

NORMAN ROCKWELL SYNDROME AND WHO STOLE THE CHICKEN?

There is a scene in Schindler's List where the Nazi Amon Goth, masterfully played by Ralph Fiennes, lines up a group of Jewish prisoners and demands to know which one of them stole a chicken. When no one answers, the he shoot a man with his rifle and then a guard shoots the man again in the head. As the man lay dead in front of his fellow prisoners, his dark blood pooling everywhere, a young boy, shaking with fright, steps forward weeping. Goth asks the boy if he took the chicken, the boy shakes his head no. Goth surmises the boy knows who took the chicken and asks him who it was. The boy sobs that he does know who did it…and then emphatically points to the dead man laying on the ground and shouts…"HIM!"

It is a great scene and if something untoward pops up in regards to the release of JFK files, the establishment will be the scared little boy, and the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro will be the dead man laying on the ground taking all the blame. The Soviet Union and Castro are no more, and therefore are unable to defend themselves, which means they are the perfect foil and diversionary target for the intelligence community to lay the blame. 

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe the CIA and the national security establishment will acknowledge the role it played in the assassination and America will have a glorious come to Jesus moment and realize what actually happened 54 years ago and how it still affects us today. The gaping wound at the heart of America is the Kennedy assassination and the rot in our national soul springs from that event and the lies that surround it. Maybe if we just got a little bit of the Truth, we could start to heal that wound and maybe try to save ourselves. If not, if the lies continue, then rest assured that the wound to our national soul is surely as fatal as President Kennedy's head wound. It is only a matter of time before we bleed out and fade into eternal darkness.

It is anathema to Chris Matthews and the rest of his media cohorts to ever consider anything but the most benevolent intentions emanating from the establishment to which they are so beholden. These media establishmentarians like Matthews or even famed documentarian Ken Burns, whose recent Vietnam documentary opens with the delusional lines, "the war was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings", suffer from what I call Norman Rockwell Syndrome. For those with Norman Rockwell Syndrome, America is always and every time the good guys who only act out of benevolence and and never act out of malice.

It is human nature to want to embrace denial and avoid introspective self-reflection and clearly seeing the worst part of oneself (or one's country) at all costs and to project those shadow feelings onto the "other". When Matthews and his fellow Norman Rockwell Syndrome sufferers in the media shun self-reflection and go blind to national misdeeds and atrocities, like the JFK assassination or Vietnam, they are just displaying the usual symptoms of the syndrome, which are identical to the symptoms associated with the terminal disease of empire.

The disease of empire is corrosive on the spirit and soul of our nation and is a pestilence upon our democracy. On November 22, 1963 everything changed. It wasn't just the President of the United States, the myth of Camelot and the dream of America that died that day in Dallas, it was the Truth. 

Watch the two Chris Matthews' segments and you will get a taste of what is to come from the rest of the media in the awake of the release of the JFK files. Any thinking person with eyes to see and the courage to look will quickly recognize that, once again, the fix is in and we are never going to learn who stole that damn chicken because Truth doesn't stand a chance when lies rule the roost. 

©2017

Blade Runner 2049 : A Review

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

Estimated Reading Time: 6:10:21

My Rating: 3.25 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. A good but not great film worth seeing in the theatre for the beautiful cinematography alone.

Blade Runner 2049, written by Hampton Fancher and directed by Denis Villeneuve, is the sequel to Ridley Scott's iconic 1982 film Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford. Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling as K, with Ford reprising his role as Sam Deckard along with supporting turns from Robin Wright, Jared Leto and Ana de Armas.

I was very excited to see Blade Runner 2049 because I am such a tremendous fan of Ridley Scott's original Blade Runner. That film, which is required viewing in order to fully understand and appreciate Blade Runner 2049, was a thoroughly unique, neo-noir, apocalyptic take on the science fiction genre which explored what it means to be human, a god and everything in between. Blade Runner 2049 is a good, but not great, sequel to the Blade Runner. 

What makes Blade Runner 2049 worth seeing, and worth the effort of seeing in the theatre in particular, is that it is one of the most cinematically gorgeous films you will ever witness. Ryan Gosling gets top billing for the movie, but cinematographer Roger Deakins is undoubtedly the star of this film. Deakins and director Denis Villeneuve worked together on Sicario in 2015 to spectacular effect, which earned Deakins the much coveted Mickey ©® Award for Best Cinematography. 

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Each of Deakins' shots in Blade Runner 2049 are like masterpieces depicted on a futuristic canvas. Deakins paints with a lush and vibrant palette that is striking to behold and alone is well worth the price of admission. His deft use of shadow and moving light is exquisite and effectively reveals the deeper sub-text of the narrative. Deakins is one of the preeminent cinematographers of his day and Blade Runner 2049 will no doubt garner him another much deserved Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography. This expected nomination will be his fourteenth nomination and thus far, as incredible as it is to believe, he has never won the award. 

Director Denis Villeneuve does admirable work on Blade Runner 2049 but he ultimately comes up short in making the most of the complex philosophy, theology and psychology that made the original film so fascinating. The running time of the film is two hours and 45 minutes, which makes it a long movie. I am one of those weird people who actually really likes long movies, but with such a long running time you would expect Villeneuve to thoroughly flesh out all of the intricacies involved in the story, instead he squanders much of his time and in the second half of the film the story loses momentum. The Blade Runner mythology is so vast and so philosophically rich that Villeneuve's cinematic meandering feels like a sin when he loses narrative specificity and falls onto the easy path of generic storytelling. 

For a film that has so much time to use it frustrates by failing to give adequate purpose and meaning to the character's on-screen actions. The story begins to fall apart in the second half of the film because things become much too neat and simple to be intriguing or believable. This is a shame and this fundamental filmmaking error can only be blamed on Villeneuve. 

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To Villeneuve's credit, he does undergird the film with subtle and effective nods to Apocalypse Now (in particular in the Wallace scenes with their stark shadow and light contrast) and even A Clockwork Orange (with Las Vegas looking like a colossally overgrown Korova Milk Bar). This is the second big blockbuster sequel to pay homage to Apocalypse Now this year, with War for the Planet of the Apes being the first. This, along with the contrasting red/blue color scheme, certainly gets my attention in regards to the McCaffrey Wave Theory, but that is a discussion for another day.

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As for the acting, Ryan Gosling does solid if unspectacular work as K. He is the driving force for the entire film and certainly has the charisma to pull it off. I have always found Gosling to be an interesting actor and he doesn't disappoint in Blade Runner 2049. What may be most appealing about Gosling in the film is his underlying and undying sense of his humanity which is palpable and serves him and the story very well. 

The supporting cast is much less impressive. Regardless of his history of box office returns, Harrison Ford has always been a rather wooden, second rate actor and he proves that once again as the older version of Rick Deckard. Ford seems so detached from his surroundings it feels like he is in a constant state of having just been woken up. 

The more surprising of bad performances in the film belongs to an actress that I absolutely think is fantastic, and that is Robin Wright. I have been a fan of Ms, Wright's work for decades, but in Blade Runner 2049 she turns in a really awful piece of work. It seems to me that Ms. Wright is stuck in the rhythm, voice and posture of her House of Cards character Claire Underwood and it terribly underserves her as Lt. Joshi. This is a common problem for actors who have success in a television show where they must play the same character for months on end, year after year. That said, I was shocked to see it happen to an actress as talented and skilled as Robin Wright, but happen it did. Her character in Blade Runner 2049 is actually very pivotal to the story, so when she fails to deliver a quality performance, the film really suffers for it.

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Jared Leto, as always, does very good but strange work as the bizarre and god-like Niander Wallace. Leto is nothing if not committed to his roles, and that approach serves him well as the blind creator Wallace. Much like Woody Harrelson in War for the Planet of the Apes, there is a whiff of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now in Leto's creation, but it is entirely appropriate and always compelling.

I wish Blade Runner 2049 had been better as I ended up being mildly disappointed with it, which may have more to do with my high expectations after a 35 year wait rather than the film's failings. Blade Runner 2049 really is a decent film, but it could have and should have been much better than it was. There is true cinematic greatness lurking beneath the surface of Blade Runner 2049, but director Villeneuve fails to adequately conjure it to the surface and instead delivers a film that passes for good enough but not great. That said, I do recommend you watch the original film first and then go see Blade Runner 2049 in the theatre, if only to meditate on what it means to be human and to marinate in the spectacular genius of the visual masterpiece delivered by cinematographer Roger Deakins.

©2017

 

 

The Weinstein Fallout

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 48 seconds

The Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment/abuse scandal has only grown larger everyday since the New York Times published an article on October 5th, revealing at least 8 settled lawsuits brought against the movie mogul for his predatory behavior over the years. Since then, more women have come forward with horrifying Harvey stories, more public condemnations of Weinstein have occurred and more recriminations are most certainly on the way such as the hashtag movements #metoo and symbolic stances like the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), better known as the Academy Awards/Oscar people, kicking Weinstein out. 

Even when I wrote about the Weinstein scandal last week, it garnered a tremendous response, some of which was very interesting and insightful, some of it amusing and some of it disturbing. I did receive a great deal of supportive emails and comments, and for that I am grateful, but not surprisingly I have also gotten some less than encouraging ones as well. 

Some commenters thought I was too limited in my attacks on the guilty in regards to the Weinstein case. This is a legitimate criticism and one I hope to remedy. The main reason i skipped the following entities was due to strict length limitations.

LISA BLOOM

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Lisa Bloom is a "celebrity attorney" who has made a name for herself representing women who have been harassed or abused by powerful men. Some of her clients include Janice Dickinson in the Bill Cosby sex assault case and three women who sued Bill O'Reilly for sexual harassment. She is the daughter of attorney Gloria Allred, who blazed the same trail that her daughter followed in defending women against powerful men. It is nearly impossible to turn on a television and not see Ms. Bloom or Ms. Allred at least once a week sitting next to some woman claiming to have been abused by a famous man. The only thing Ms. Bloom and Ms. Allred like more than attention, is more attention. 

The shocking thing regarding the Weinstein scandal was that Lisa Bloom, who has built her brand on shamelessly getting in front of any camera she could find to defend women, sold herself out in order to defend Harvey Weinstein. It is stunning that she would so quickly discard her (and her mother's) life's work in order to kiss the ring of King Harvey, but that is what she did. A closer inspection of the situation reveals that Ms. Bloom had a book adaptation deal with Weinstein's company. Lisa Bloom is a perfect example of how men like Harvey Weinstein prosper because both men and women toss their ethics and morality out the window when fame and riches are dangled in front of their eyes.

CYRUS VANCE JR.

Speaking of shady lawyers, it was nice to see Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. involved in the Weinstein case. Vance Jr. was recently in the headlines for having scuttled an investigation into Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump for criminal fraud. Shortly after he called his dogs off of the Trump siblings, Vance received a large campaign contribution from Trump's lawyer. Shock of shocks, it turns out Vance also decided not to pursue misdemeanor sex crime charges against Harvey Weinstein when the police brought him a witness and an audiotape containing Weinstein's surreptitiously recorded confession. This will shock you, but after Vance decided not to prosecute Weinstein, he got a large campaign contribution from Weinstein's lawyers. Vance is running unopposed for re-election this November, I hope his campaign slogan is "Cyrus Vance Jr., Corruption You Can Rely On!!"

POLANSKI AND WEINSTEIN - A CASE STUDY

I received some comments recently on a subject that a few different people asked me about which was why Harvey Weinstein was out of the Academy (MPAAS) but Roman Polanski is still in, and they asked, "what is the difference?" Brave Sir John Oliver also brought this topic up on his HBO show Last Week Tonight this past Sunday, so obviously this train of thought is gaining traction out in the world and deserves to be explored.

The answer is that there are many differences between Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein and their sexual scandals. One big difference between the two men is that Roman Polanski is an artist, and Weinstein is the antithesis of an artist, he is a business man. Polanski is considered a true visionary filmmaker and a few years before his rape charge he had made one of the greatest films of the era, Chinatown. This difference might explain why other artists are so much more willing to give Polanski a break regarding his crime and not Weinstein.

Another thing to remember, and this may be the most important thing of all, is it was 1977 when Roman Polanski committed "unlawful sexual intercourse" on a 13 year old girl, that is forty years ago. Polanski also admitted to his guilt and was punished for his crime, having spent time in jail as part of a plea agreement, but the judge went back on the agreement and wanted to put Polanski in prison for more time which is why he fled to France never to return. This is a rather large difference between Polanski and Weinstein.

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Also, context matters, and the context surrounding Polanski's sexual misconduct were that he had suffered a horrific, brutal and public tragedy just 8 years before when his wife, the actress Sharon Tate, was brutally murdered by the Manson gang and his unborn child was carved out of her womb. This doesn't negate the severity of the crime Polanski committed, but it does provide a contextual understanding for the twisting of his soul which could produce such abhorrent behavior. 

Weinstein, of course, is the polar opposite of Polanski in that he never created anything except profits. Weinstein is notorious for butting heads with directors, demanding cuts to their films, so much so that he earned the nickname Harvey Scissorhands. He even had the temerity to demand Martin Scorsese, yes, Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, cut nearly an hour off of both Gangs of New York and Silence, which mortally wounded both movies. Being delusional enough to think you know more than Martin Scorsese about making movies says all you need to know about Harvey Weinstein and also why artists deplore him.

So, to sum up, Polanski's case was forty years ago, he admitted wrong doing, was punished for it and is a highly regarded artist which are all in great contrast to Harvey Weinstein's situation. Oh…and Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, now wants the case against him dropped, which is definitely not the case with Harvey Weinstein.

NUANCE NEED NOT APPLY

Another reader, a middle-aged woman who used to work in the entertainment business, wrote, "Weinstein, Casey Affleck, Polanski, Woody Allen…they should all be banned…I believe women always and every time!"

This sort of sentiment, which is entirely lacking of any nuance, is epidemic in our culture and sadly, is little more than a short cut to thinking. Here is the reality…women lie. You know how I know that?…because human beings lie, and women are human beings, therefore women lie. Not all women lie but not all sexual assault, harassment or rape charges are true. Some claims are true and some of them aren't.  Any sort of blanket statement that demonizes any group of people, even the most evil group of all...men, is absurd and unserious. Every sexual harassment, assault and rape case should be evaluated on its merits, not on the assumption that women never lie. For instance, the UVA rape case was a lie, as was Tawana Brawley's claim…this doesn't mean all claims are false, just that all charges must be investigated and backed up by facts and evidence. 

As for the particular charges this rather emotionalist commenter makes, the closer one looks at some of them, the less clear they become. Casey Affleck's case is a very convoluted one, with both sides disagreeing on the basic facts and the accusers choosing to still work with Affleck after the alleged events happened and then later agreeing to settle the case. This does not mean Affleck didn't sexually harass these two women, it just means that this case isn't as cut and dried as the pussy hat wearing brigade would claim it to be. 

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As for Woody Allen, his accuser wasn't a woman, she was a little 7 year-old girl. Personally, I think he is a twisted individual and a pedophile, but that is just my opinion. I have never understood Allen's success, I think he and his films, including Annie Hall, are dreadful, but actors, and famous actresses in particular, continue to work with him and defend him. Allen imperviousness to scandal baffles me, and I can't help but discount anyone who is attacking Harvey Weinstein but ignoring Woody Allen. But that is just me and the truth is if we are to "ban" people only on unproven allegations from one or two people, that means we are going to disregard logic, critical thinking and the courts and just allow for the emotionalist mob to rule. That is not something I want to happen, as I believe that it is more important for the innocent to be free than for the guilty to be punished. 

Say what you will about Polanski, Casey Affleck and Woody Allen, but the bottom line is this regarding dialogue in the age of Trump and in the aftermath of the Weinstein story…nuance need not apply. 

WHITE KNIGHTS DECLARE "HOW DARE YOU!!"

Another topic I got a lot of emails and comments on was of the "how dare you" variety. "How dare you attack the victims" was a common refrain and it was usually coming from virtue signaling men. Apparently people didn't like it that I had the temerity to expect the most powerful, connected and successful of Weinstein's victims to actually take a public stand against him back in the day and in so doing put an end to his reign of sexual terror. 

This sort of pseudo-feminist/protectionist approach infuriates me because it is so counter-productive to changing the demented paradigm that leads to sexual harassment in the first place. When the parameters of debate surrounding the Weinstein case are clearly defined that anyone who doesn't treat all of the victims with kid gloves is a beast beyond the pale, then we have calcified the structures that limit women and keep them powerless.

A friend recently sent me an article that describes how when people try to "humanize" Muslims in an effort to counter Islamophobia, they are actually reinforcing the dehumanization of Muslims. The basic premise is that Muslims are humans, so to try and "humanize" them actually and unintentionally dehumanizes them. I think a similar thing occurs in regards to women when men try and protect women they actually, on a fundamental and foundational level, make them more vulnerable.

For instance, when football player Ray Rice was videotaped knocking his fiancé out, everyone went crazy, and rightfully so. But…when Rice's then fiancé and now wife, Janay, came forward and said she had some responsibility for the physicality of the fight they engaged in and that she forgave Rice and wanted to marry him, people ignored her or worse scolded her for not being of right mind. By ignoring and scolding her they took away her agency and made the case that she, and all women, are emotionally, mentally and physically too weak to make their own decisions.

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This dynamic where women must receive special treatment and protections because they are mentally and emotionally too fragile and therefore inferior, leads to women seeing themselves as weak and defenseless. In this dynamic men are the strong ones who must protect women, and thus women willingly give their agency over to them. The more unsavory and predatory men will pick up on this weakness, and like any predator, exploit it to their advantage. Until women are given total agency and control over their lives, including the ability to make mistakes and take responsibility for them, then this cycle will continue. And the more "feminists" of both sexes try to lower expectations for women's behavior in an attempt to protect women from their own errors, the less agency they will have and the more disempowered they will become, generation after generation. 

I believe that women should be treated equally as men, that means being held to the same standard across the board. What happens in cases like the Weinstein scandal is that the foundational belief that women are fragile and delicate and therefore weak and defenseless gets fortified. When women are taught that they are weak and defenseless, they learn that they are "less than", and turn to men to protect them, which automatically makes men the superior entity in the power dynamic. Predators like Weinstein believe women are delicate and fragile, which is why he relishes abusing them, but the basic, foundational belief Weinstein holds regarding women, is the same foundational belief that the White Knights who came out decrying anyone who made the case that the more famous victims should have come forward sooner. These White Knights think they need to protect women, and in believing this they perpetuate the belief that women are less than men. In other words, White Knights are part of the problem, not part of the solution. 

Why I wrote that I felt it was imperative for Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd to have come forward when they were harassed is because they had a support system and were not powerless in the industry due to their famous families. I would not hold Weinstein's other victims to that same standard because they did not have the same support system and power. 

I think that Gwyneth Paltrow is someone who needs to be held to account for her lack of action in the face of Weinstein's harassment. Ms. Paltrow claims Weinstein harassed and tried to assault her in a hotel when she was in her early twenties. She then told her boyfriend at the time, Brad Pitt, who then threatened Weinstein. Well, Ms. Paltrow had more than Brad Pitt in her corner. She grew up in the industry, her mother is the famous, well-liked and respected actress, Blythe Danner. Her father was a well liked and respected producer, Bruce Paltrow. Her Godfather and de facto uncle is Steven Spielberg…and Spielberg may be THE most powerful person in the industry and he was partners with the two other most powerful people in the business, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. If she had gone to her father, mother and Spielberg, they could have snuffed Harvey Weinstein out like a bug beneath their shoe. But she didn't, in fact, she continued to not only work with Weinstein by becoming the first lady of Miramax, but she ardently defended him in interviews. It is obvious that Gwyneth Paltrow's ambition was more important than any feminist values she may have held, and so she sold out other, less powerfully equipped and connected women, to be victims of Weinstein while she reaped the rewards. That may sound harsh, but it is the truth. The fact that stating that truth is considered anathema is proof that the power dynamics where women are on the weak side opposite men will continue to prevail in Hollywood and America.

WEAKNESS IS STRENGTH - THE FALSE IDOL OF VICTIMHOOD

The same is true for women like Lena Dunham who are out there asking what "men are going to do" about sexual harassment. Stop asking for men to do anything, you do not need men to protect you, do it yourself. This sort of approach by allegedly feminist women is unconsciously self-defeating and fueled by emotion.

Another form of self-defeating activity is the #metoo. This hashtag, where women simply say that yes, they have been harassed, is just another form of embracing victimhood. Embracing victimhood is a dangerous game because it can solidify feelings of inadequacy and weakness. With so many women embracing victimhood, which is quite en vogue among all sexes in our culture right now, they are fortifying the structures that keep victimizing them. 

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Actress and director Sarah Polley wrote a piece in the New York Times this past weekend which is endemic of this type of thinking. Ms. Polley lays claim to being a victim, and that Hollywood is male dominated and being a women is isolating and scary, but she refuses to name any names of the men who harassed her. That is a serious problem because Ms. Polley, and the #metoo people are embracing victimhood without going through the next, and most vital step in psychological and cultural evolution, getting your power back by confronting your assailant. 

As long as Ms. Polley and #metoo and the rest just embrace their victimhood and do not name names, then the power dynamic will not change and the cycle of abuse will continue for generations. 

Look, these women did not ask to be harassed or abused and they didn't deserve it, but the reality is they have been and they must accept that it is a test. To pass the test they must confront the dragon that they fear will devour them and slay it. It is not enough to say you are a victim, or to say dragons exist, you must pull your sword, confront the beast, and kill it. Anything less and the dragon will have won, and will make others their victims.

NAMING NAMES - NUMBER ONE ON THE ENEMIES LIST

Which brings me to my final point. A few commenters took me to task for saying I knew what Weinstein was up to, but didn't do anything about it. This is true, I did nothing. I had no first hand experience or proof of Harvey Weinstein's misdeeds and I am not exactly a person anyone has ever listened to, and no one gives a crap about, but still, my inactivity on the subject is shameful. 

With that in mind, I will share with you the name of someone who is still working in the industry who I know for a fact sexually harassed and sexually assaulted someone on a film set. I heard this story directly from the person involved right after it happened, and know that there were dozens of witnesses who did and said nothing during and after the incident because Schiff was one of the bigger names on the small project. The person who sexually harassed and assaulted a female crew member was none other than actor Richard Schiff. Yes, Richard Schiff, everybody's favorite limp-dick, mealy-mouthed douchebag from The West Wing and now The Good Doctor.

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I am willing to bet that Mr. Schiff has assaulted other women, but I can only prove he did it to one. Will Hollywood hold Mr. Schiff to account for what he did? I doubt it because it is too busy scapegoating (in the classical sense) Harvey Weinstein for all if its ills. But I can promise you this, if I ever meet Richard Schiff, I will hold him to account. See, I am a big and very, very scary guy, and if I were in a room with Mr. Schiff he would get to feel what it is like to be on the short end of the power dynamic in a hurry. Schiff would quickly find out that when you are the weaker one it is no fun because you have to rely on the kindness of the more powerful and that is rarely guaranteed. As an example of this look no further than Mr. Schiff who, just like Harvey Weinstein, did not behave with kindness when he was powerful on a movie set and instead assaulted the woman with whom he was working.

Now, I doubt anything will come of this Richard Schiff revelation, but maybe I will catch a break and he will sue me. I hope he does because discovery would be an absolute treat. Who knows, if it comes to a court case maybe that ferocious defender of feminism, Lisa Bloom, will defend me. Fingers crossed!!

©2017

Harvey Weinstein is America

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 39 seconds

Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal isn’t only an indictment of his twisted soul but of America’s as well.

The story of Harvey Weinstein, the uber-powerful film producer, co-founder of Miramax Films and major donor to Democratic politicians, who got fired from his job as co-Chairman of The Weinstein Company after the New York Times ran an article exposing his serial sexual harassment of female employees, is such a perfect storm of corruption, depravity and hypocrisy that it exquisitely encapsulates the moral decay of America.

The Times piece revealed that Weinstein has settled at least eight different sexual harassment lawsuits over the years. The Times article was just the tip of a really grotesque iceberg though, for in its wake a plethora of other claims have surfaced.

In a New Yorker article, written, ironically enough, by Ronan Farrow, son of accused pedophile Woody Allen, even more claims emerged of Weinstein’s predatory behavior. One of the many lowlights from that article include Italian actress/filmmaker Asia Argento and two other women claiming that Weinstein raped them.

The most famous women among the sea of those claiming harassment at the hands of the movie mogul are Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and Rosanna Arquette.

The odiousness of this Weinstein scandal is overwhelming, and nearly public person is going through the Kabuki theatre of denouncing Harvey and his lecherousness but this strikes me as disingenuous at best. All the movie stars, media members and politicians strongly reprimanding Weinstein now, displayed nothing but egregious cowardice during Harvey Weinstein’s grotesque reign of wanton terror.

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Many Hollywood heavyweights like Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lawrence, are feigning ignorance of Weinstein’s disgusting depravity, but the revelation of Weinstein’s repulsive misdeeds cannot possibly come as a surprise. Harvey, the rotund and repugnant Hollywood kingmaker, is notorious in the film industry for his petulant and imperious approach, which includes physically abusing underlings and being a lascivious beast to women. Tales of Weinstein’s bad behavior are so legion that even a complete nobody like me has heard them ad infinitum.

So how did Harvey get away with being such a gigantic creep for so long? The main reason is that he possessed the most rare talent that all of Hollywood covets, the ability to garner Oscar votes for his films. Weinstein produced films have been nominated for Best Picture 26 times in the last 28 years and have been nominated for over 300 Academy Awards overall. In other words, Harvey could make people rich and famous beyond their wildest dreams, which is why so many in Hollywood checked their humanity and ethics at the door and looked the other way when he was being such a troglodyte. To quote Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

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Blind ambition isn’t the only reason Hollywood looked the other way regarding Weinstein, political expediency played a part as well. Weinstein has been a long time supporter of Democratic candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in particular, and has donated a lot of money to their campaigns.  

A perfect example of someone making a devil’s bargain with Weinstein for political reasons is Lena Dunham. Dunham, a vociferous and vocal Clinton supporter and devout feminist, admitted that she knew of Weinstein’s predatory reputation in regards to women, but still shook his hand and performed at a fundraiser he held for Clinton’s campaign. Dunham said she betrayed her feminist values because “she so desperately wanted to support Clinton.” 

Hollywood liberals were quick to denounce Evangelical Christians for supporting Trump despite his moral turpitude and misogyny, calling them hypocrites. I agree that Evangelicals are hypocrites for supporting Trump, but so are Hollywood liberals for enabling Weinstein. Both sides, Trump supporters and Hollywood liberals, need to get off their high horse and read Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Speaking of enabling, the Weinstein scandal brought to my mind a line from a U2 song, “if you need someone to blame, throw a rock in the air, you’ll hit someone guilty.”  When I throw my rock it often lands on the media, and so it is with this case.

Ronan Farrow published his Weinstein story in the New Yorker magazine, but only because his employer NBC news refused to go with the story. NBC is in business with Weinstein on various film and television projects, and no doubt did not want to ruffle the feathers of such a powerful and litigious man like Harvey Weinstein, so they passed on it, which means this story says just as much about them as it does about Weinstein.

Even the New York Times, which broke the Weinstein story, came out smelling less like a rose and more like a manure pile after it became known that the newspaper spiked a similar story regarding Weinstein in 2004 after being pressured by the producer and his lawyers to do so.

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The New York Times dropping the ball on an important story in the early 2000’s should come as no surprise to anyone who followed the lead up to the Iraq war or Bush surveillance, but what was shocking was who helped to scuttle the 2004 Weinstein article. Matt Damon, yes, Matt Damon, Mr. Good Will Hunting and thought-to-be good guy, called the Times reporter to defend and vouch for Weinstein in an effort to stop the story. So did everyone’s favorite Gladiator Russell Crowe. I wonder how Damon and Crowe sleep at night knowing they were complicit in thirteen more years of Weinstein’s abusing women?

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It is uncomfortable to acknowledge, but another group of people who could have stopped Harvey Weinstein but did not were the more famous of his victims, like Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd. These women did not ask to be placed in this terrible position, but they could have stopped him cold if they came forward years ago. The reason I cite them and not the other victims is because they were uniquely positioned to be able to defend themselves and to take on Harvey Weinstein, where the other victims were not. What I mean by that is that Paltrow, Jolie, Sorvino and Judd all come from entertainment families that are well-known and liked in the industry. They were not powerless because they have strong allies and deep connections in the business. These women, sans Judd, also won Oscars, giving them even more credibility and visibility to make their claims. I do not “blame” these women for being harassed or assaulted by Weinstein, I only wish they overcame their ambition and saved others from that awful fate.

 The cavalcade of condemnation for Harvey Weinstein will continue unabated for the days and weeks to come, and deservedly so, but to see him only as a target of derision diminishes his impact as a cautionary tale. Harvey Weinstein is simply a symptom of the wider disease which I call “reality show America”, which sees human beings as disposable and transactional objects whose value is measured in terms of their usefulness for entertainment or pleasure.

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The true power of the Weinstein story is not about his personal failings, but that it is symbolic of the fact that “reality-show America”, which thrives across the political and cultural spectrum, is a collection of self-serving, amoral, hypocrites who are quick to attack the failings of their enemy but slow to embrace self-reflection.

Will the denizens of “reality-show America” in Hollywood, Washington and the news media ask themselves how they have contributed to the culture that bred a man like Harvey Weinstein? I sincerely doubt it since deflection, emotional myopia and historical amnesia are as American as apple pie.

The Weinstein scandal is an opportunity, not only to see Weinstein for who he really is but also to see America for what we have become…an ethically bankrupt and indecent collection of moral cowards allergic to self-reflection and truth.

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This “reality show America”, currently starring the Trumps and Kardashians (with special guest appearance by the Clintons!) and produced by Harvey Weinstein, shows that America has devolved to the point of shameless obscenity, and regardless of how self-righteous we as liberals, conservatives, Democrats or Republicans may feel, we no longer possess any moral authority because, just like Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood, Washington and Wall Street, we are incapable of being honest with ourselves.

It is difficult to admit, but if we mustered the courage to see ourselves as we truly are, we would recognize that Harvey Weinstein is America, and America is Harvey Weinstein. Both are bloated, entitled, corrupt, bombastic, blindly ambitious bullies, full of fear and loathing, that use their outsized power to exploit the defenseless in order to indulge their darker impulses and insatiable desires. The sooner we recognize that, the faster we can try to change it.

This article was originally published on Thursday, October 12, 2017 at RT.

©2017

The Emmys Get "Spicey"!!

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 37 seconds

Sean Spicer made a surprise appearance at the Emmys on Sunday night and it drove Hollywood and the establishment absolutely crazy.

On Sunday night, Stephen Colbert, host of CBS' Late Night with Stephen Colbert, hosted television’s Emmy awards, and brought along his trademark biting political comedy. For the most part, things went as expected on the show as diversity was cheered, Trump was jeered and self-congratulation dominated the evening.

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The biggest star of the night though, in absentia, was President Trump. Colbert set his sights on Trump and skewered him mercilessly throughout his monologue. Trump’s presence loomed large over the proceedings, even among the award winners, as Saturday Night Live won an award due to its comedic coverage of the 2016 election with Alec Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy garnering awards for their iconic comedic portrayals on SNL of Donald Trump and Sean Spicer, respectively.

Speaking of which, the one big surprise of the evening that has gotten tongues wagging here in Hollywood, was not a wardrobe malfunction, a big upset winner or a La La Land - Moonlight Oscar level controversy, no, the big news of the Emmy awards was the appearance of …Mr. Sean "Spicey" Spicer.

Spicer, the much-mocked former spokesperson for the Trump White House, came on stage and had a little fun at his own expense when he said, "This will be the largest audience to witness the Emmys, period – both in person, and around the world”.  

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Spicer was playing off of his famously incorrigible, bordering on incontinent, defense of Trump’s inauguration crowd size, which occurred in the first week of his job as White House Spokesmen, and set an adversarial tone between he and the press, not to mention observable reality. Spicer's display of good humor at his own expense at the Emmys was moderately well received in the room and according to reports he was quite popular at the after parties.

Not everyone in Hollywood, or elsewhere, was so enamored with the Emmys “normalization” of Spicer. Zach Braff, former star of the television show Scrubs, summed up the opinion of many when he tweeted, "I’m not ready to laugh “with” Sean Spicer. I think he is an evil, opportunistic liar, that hurt our country". Many others on twitter followed suit. 

Jon Favreau, former speechwriter for Barack Obama, tweeted, "Harvard fellowships, Emmy appearances, huge speaking fees: there’s just gonna be no penalty for working in Trump’s white house ".

I dislike Spicer and am repulsed by Trump, but I found Favreau’s anger to be grating, considering the man he worked for, President Obama, committed a plethora of immoral acts while in office and no one ever dare speak of them, never mind hold any of his underlings like Favreau accountable for them.

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For instance, after Obama ordered a drone strike that successfully assassinated Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, a 16 year-old American boy living in Yemen, Obama’s spokesmen and Favreau’s colleague, Robert Gibbs, said that the child “should have a far more responsible father” if he didn’t want to be murdered in cold blood. What Gibbs said about the Al-Awlaki boy is decidedly much worse than anything Spicer ever said about crowd sizes or anything else, and Gibbs has faced no social penalty for that or for his boss’s unethical and potentially criminal acts while in office, and neither has indignant tweeter Jon Favreau.

And even though the mainstream media and many liberals like to brush aside these uncomfortable facts, let us not forget that besides murdering an American child overseas, and many foreign-born ones too, Obama also savaged the first amendment and freedom of the press here at home by attacking whistleblowers under the archaic espionage act, something he did more times, 8, than all of our other presidents combined. He also sold out the country, the working class in particular, when he ignored the rule of law by failing to prosecute the crooks and liars on Wall Street who, through egregious fraud, drove the economy off a cliff in 2008. Despite all of these atrocious acts, Obama and his underlings have no fear of being shunned by  “serious” people in elite circles.

And do not forget that Obama also made the cowardly decision to “look forward” and not prosecute Bush administration officials for their war crimes. Which brings us to Jeb Bush’s former spokesman Tim Miller, who proved it wasn’t just the mainstream left that were angered by Spicer’s Emmy appearance, but the establishment right as well, when he tweeted, “I know people who were offered opportunities to lie for Donald Trump and quietly declined. Harvard and The Emmys calling wrong folks”.

Anyone even remotely connected to the Bush family calling out Sean Spicer, or anyone else, for shamelessly lying is the height of hypocrisy. President Bush, unquestioningly supported by his low energy brother Jeb, lied America into a war in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in Mesopotamia.

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Besides the war crime of preemptive invasion in Iraq, President Bush also undermined America’s legal and moral authority by presiding over a brutal torture and rendition program that violated international law and the Geneva Conventions. 

This is the same president Bush who also instituted an intrusive and unconstitutional domestic surveillance program in order to spy on the American people, and then had his surrogates lie about it to the American people.

Bush administration spokesmen, Ari Fleischer, along with Bush speechwriter David Frum, communications director Nicole Wallace and neo-con war cheerleaders Bill Kristol and Max Boot, among others, propagated the lies about WMD that convinced America to go to war in Iraq, and also dissembled the truth about domestic spying and torture and yet they now face no social stigma for their sins, but rather are celebrated by the establishment press.

In fact, if you turn on any cable news program you will be sure to see plenty of former Bush administration talking heads not just being “normalized”, but held in the highest regard for their knowledge and insight, instead of being berated for their moral depravity and ethical degeneracy. Fleischer is a regular contributor on CNN, and Frum, Kristol and Boot are all held in the highest esteem at the allegedly liberal MSNBC because they routinely assail Trump. Nicole Wallace is so adored by MSNBC, she got her own show on the network.

These miscreants should be shunned, badgered or chastised at every turn for being accomplices to the Bush regime’s crimes, but instead they benefit from the disease that is epidemic in America, political myopia and historical amnesia.

In the age of Trump, it is establishment liberals who suffer the most severe cases of this malady of myopia and amnesia, and there are no greater examples of this than the odious political comedian Bill Maher, and MSNBC host Joy Reid.

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Maher, an avowed liberal, has been waxing nostalgic for a return to the glory of the Bush years ever since Trump came to office. Apparently Maher abhors Trump’s assault on presidential “norms” so much that he prefers the good old days when the presidency wasn’t sullied by Trump’s uncouth behavior, but only by Bush’s preemptive war, torture and surveillance and Obama’s kill list, war on whistleblowers and his ignoring of Wall Street and Executive branch criminality.

Joy Reid, a devout Clinton supporting liberal, recently was quoted as saying that she has more in common with neo-cons like Frum, Boot and Kristol than she does with those on the far left. When you embrace the muscular American empire of Bush neo-conservatism and the globalist economics of Clinton neo-liberalism like Reid has, you’ve really mastered the art of bad ideas. But at least Reid is not alone with her vacuous ideology, as nearly everyone else in the mainstream media, Bill Maher included, parrot the same nonsense that she does. 

What I dislike even more than Spicer and Trump, is the holier-than-thou hypocrisy of those on both the left and the right in the political and media establishment who willfully ignore the moral and ethical depravity that infected the White House long before Trump ever did.

If the institutions of “decent society” can be so craven as to exalt the deplorable scoundrels who were accomplices to the crimes of Bush and Obama, then maybe those White House veterans, like Favreau, Wallace and Frum, who benefit from that amoral worship of power should, at a minimum, keep their mouths shut and be grateful they aren’t in prison or at the end of a rope.

But former and present Trump administration staff like Spicer, Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon shouldn’t fret about their post-White House careers. If they really want to guarantee themselves a high-paying, cushy job in cable news, all they need to do is convince Trump to tweet less and kill more. You see, in the eyes of the “serious people” in “polite society”, tweeting is horrifically un-presidential, but killing, torturing and spying in the name of American Empire? That’s how you get the keys to the establishment kingdom.

This article was previously published on Wednesday, September 20, at RT.

©2017

 

 

Mother! : 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. Even the most edgy of art house inhabitants will find this film tough to swallow.

Most people don't know this about me, but due to a serious health condition (just like Christian Slater in Untamed Heart, I have a baboon's heart), I am one of those weird people who does not drink caffeine at all, no coffee, no tea, no Coca-Cola, and I almost never drink non-caffienated soda either. This is a shocking revelation, but I promise you it is true. Of the rare times I do indulge in a non-caffienated soda, it is always in the form of root beer and always when I go to the movies. One of the very few pleasures I have in my miserable life is to sit in the dark, watching a movie, drinking a gloriously oversized root beer and eating popcorn. Hell, sometimes I go to the movies just for the a taste of that bubbly brown nectar of the gods that we mortals know as the beer of root.

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When I trekked to the theatre to see Mother!, my usual pre-root beer sense of anticipation was heightened because the film is directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Darren Aronofsky. An Aronofsky film and an ice cold root beer…what could possibly go wrong? Well, two things happened that would portend that Mother! would not be the stellar movie going experience for which I was hoping. The first was that when I bought my ticket I saw that the price had gone up nearly four dollars from what I usually pay. In Los Angeles, movie tickets aren't cheap to begin with, and then to realize that even though I went to the first showing of the day, because that day was not a Monday or Tuesday, I would no longer get the matinee price. So, after being forced to take out a second mortgage in order to cover the costs, I reluctantly shelled out my $16.50 for my movie ticket and then bought my overpriced root beer and popcorn. At this point I was now deeply in debt and the movie hadn't even started yet. I then entered the darkened theatre and began my movie going ritual of shutting off my phone and my mind, and settling in for a film I was excited to see. 

Then, just as the lights dimmed and the opening credits rolled, I took the inaugural sip of my root beer and….God help me…it was FLAT. Now there may be nothing worse in the entire universe than flat root beer…not famine, not pestilence, not war. Nothing!

Now, my conundrum was this, do I get up and make the mile and half death march to the concession stand to make my displeasure known, which will no doubt be followed by a lackadaisical response to my complaint by the ill tempered staff, which will then trigger a disinterested plea on a walkie-talkie to the theatre bureaucracy to change out the floppy bag from which my gallon of flat root beer was birthed. I surmised that breaking through the malaise of employee indifference to solve my flat root beer problem could take at least 15 minutes, and by that time, the entire opening of the movie would be long gone, and God knows they sure as hell weren't going to rewind the reel and let me start my cinema experience over front the beginning. 

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My other option was to, Christ-like, be a root beer martyr and just sit there and suffer the brutal indignity of taking tiny sips of the flaccid, syrupy concoction I was served. Being the good Irish-Catholic boy that I am, I made the difficult decision to endure my tonic torture and root beer brutality, and I stayed to watch the film with my gargantuan, de-bubbled companion. I should have known, all the signs were there, but my flat vat of root beer was a very bad omen indeed for Mother!, which turned out to be just as unpleasant to ingest as my 40 oz cup of flat, teeth dissolving and gut-rotting root beer. 

The basics of Mother! are this, it is written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, and the story is a sort of supernatural, psychological thriller-dramedy about a couple living in an isolated farmhouse. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence with Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michele Pfeiffer in supporting roles.

I am a great admirer of director Darren Aronofsky, I believe him to be a true visionary and auteur, and one of the great filmmakers of his generation, second only to Paul Thomas Anderson. Aronofsky's breakthrough film, Requiem for a Dream, is a masterpiece, and his movies The Wrestler and Black Swan are truly outstanding pieces of work . Even The Fountain, one of his least critically successful films, is a fascinating and mesmerizing movie that I genuinely adore.

Aronofsky's last film though, was the utterly abysmal Noah, which was so atrocious as to be staggering. As I said though, I am ever the optimist, so I had very high hopes that with Mother!, Aronofsky would shake off the big budget blues that plagued Noah and return to his signature intimate character study approach to filmmaking that he does so well. Sadly, with Mother!, it seems Aronofsky is still grappling with the same thematic and cinematic demons which devoured him on Noah.

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Mother! is a difficult film to categorize, some call it a psychological thriller, others a supernatural comedy and some still a religious horror film. I think it is mostly none of the above. If I am putting Mother! in its best light, I would say it is an ambitious, experimental, art house, horror-esque film. It is at times, very remotely reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby and maybe even The Shining, but then again it is absolutely nothing like those film at all. There really is no straight up comparison between Mother! and any other film I can think of, which I suppose can be taken as a compliment towards the movie. 

The trouble with Mother!, is that the first two thirds of the film are so suffocatingly monotonous, repetitious and dull that they swallow up any redeeming qualities the film may conjure in its final act. The final third of the film definitely intrigued me the most as it is Aronofsky at his most experimental and interesting. That said, even though the last act is unique, incredibly ambitious and its apocalyptic vision is certainly relevant in regards to what is resonating in our cultural consciousness at the moment, that doesn't mean it is good. While I admire Aronofsky for his bold approach in that final act, I also recognize that he failed at what he was trying to accomplish. I believe that third act is a noble failure, but it is a failure nonetheless. Unfortunately, the first two thirds of the film are so stultifying as to be cinematically fatal. I understand that the first two acts are supposed to be a sort of slow burn that builds to the chaotic, frenetic and Boschian final act, but because the first two acts are so tedious the film never generates enough interest or artistic momentum to make the final act worthwhile or artistically satisfying. 

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The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, who is as captivating and compelling an actress as we have working today, but even with her charisma and luminesce beauty, she is unable to save the banal script from itself. As I watched Mother! I marveled at how it is impossible to imagine any other current actress being able to undertake the mammoth role and responsibility Jennifer Lawrence does in this movie. She is on screen the entire film and is in close up relentlessly, and while the camera dances dizzily around her head she never fails to be magnetic. While Mother! is not a good film, and reflects poorly on its director, it is still a monument to the colossal talent and skill of its leading lady, Jennifer Lawrence.

Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michele Pfeiffer all struggle with underwritten and rather incongruous roles that are little more than an annoyance to behold. These characters are so irrational, illogical and unbelievable that it is impossible for the viewer to be anything but repulsed by their presence and annoyed they must be endured. All three characters feel like they have wandered in from a very poorly written off-off-off Broadway play.

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In terms of theme, Mother! is a film that uses a plethora of religious allegories and metaphors to tell a greater story than just that of a young couple living in a remodeled farmhouse. While the film is set entirely in a rather claustrophobic old house, to call the movie biblical in its ambition, if not its scale, would be entirely accurate. Aronofsky uses this house to play out the struggle of God from Genesis in the Old Testament to Christ's birth and crucifixion in the New Testament and even all the way up to our modern times and beyond. The most intriguing aspect of the film is the thematic exploration of the divine Feminine and its relationship to the divine Masculine. The Anima - Animus relationship is one well worthy of cinematic investigating, and watching the Patriarchal God usurp the Goddess is fascinating in theory, but not in execution. I was deeply enthralled by all of the philosophy, theology and themes on display in the film, but viscerally repelled by the lackluster consummation of those topics. 

Despite the intriguing third act and Jennifer Lawrence's noteworthy performance, I simply cannot, in good conscience, recommend Mother! to anyone. Watching the film felt more like an exercise in cinematic endurance or surviving creative torture than entertainment or artistic experience. I would maybe…just maybe...tell my more adventurous cinephile friends, and those who are ardent fans of Darren Aronofsky, to roll the dice and go see the film just to see if they agree with my assessment of it. But for regular folks, and even those who enjoy the art house, I say skip Mother! in the theatre and everywhere else. 

In conclusion, Mother! is similar to root beer, that delightful beverage that is infused with bubbles and a delicious pile of sugar as large as Scarface's desktop cocaine stash. Like root beer, Mother! has all the right ingredients, a uniquely gifted, visionary director in Darren Aronofsky, and a talented and alluring lead actress in Jennifer Lawrence, but just like my lifeless and insipid root beer at the theatre, Mother! never properly mixes its many desirable ingredients or infuses them with carbonated energy, and thus leaves viewers with a bitter and sour taste in their mouth once they've taken an unfortunate taste. Yuck.

©2017

 

The Media Hates Conspiracy Theories…Except When They Don't

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Estimated Reading Time : 6 minutes 38 seconds

KOOKS OF THE TINFOIL HAT BRIGADE

This week marks the 16th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. Whenever the topic of 9-11 comes up in the establishment press, it is wrapped in the warm cloak of officialdom and protected by vociferous assaults upon "conspiracy theories" and their unhinged purveyors. What is odd is that even during the anniversary week of the attacks, actual 9-11 conspiracy theories rarely rear their head anymore, only the denunciations of them from authority figures in the media who over time have become all the more fervent and ferocious in their attacks upon them. At this point, the sight of the anti-9-11 conspiracy crusaders pontificating in the media is akin to watching a straw man tilting at windmills.

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The anti-conspiracy forces in the press don't just deride 9-11 conspiracies but all "conspiracy theories", reshaping the term into an epithet meant to belittle and mock anyone who dare believe in such nonsense as a "conspiracy". Without fail, every year, the establishment news puts out an article that "scientifically" proves that anyone who believes in a conspiracy is a loser and kook who eats his own boogers and maybe other people's boogers too. Google "why do people believe in conspiracies" and you can see the same article repackaged year after year in different media outlets. NPR, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, Scientific American, CNN, Business Insider, Research Digest and the Washington Post all have articles reinforcing the belief that anyone who believes in a "conspiracy theory" does so because they are uneducated, lack control in their lives, are emotionally and psychologically unstable and are also inherently more violent and dangerous. 

This belittling approach to conspiracy theories by the establishment press has been very effective, for anyone who wants to be allowed entry into the Kingdom of Those Who are Taken Seriously, knows not to "peddle in conspiracy theory". A friend of mine, a man in his seventies, is so indoctrinated by this thinking that whenever any sort of "conspiracy" is even remotely alluded to he simply says "now you're talking conspiracy theory" and abruptly ends the conversation. He is not alone, as I have had more conversations than I care to recall with people of all ages where people simply refuse to consider something because they label it a "conspiracy".

"SERIOUS PEOPLE" VS. CONSPIRACY THEORY AND MAGICAL THINKING

Kurt Andersen followed the pattern of these dismissive and presumptuous articles when he wrote a magnificently awful, bias confirming, self-aggrandizing piece titled, "How America Went haywire", in last month's The Atlantic magazine where he bemoaned America's descent into non-rationality and conspiracy theory. The piece is taken from Andersen's book on the same subject and if you don't want to read it I'll give you a quick summary, Andersen majestically gets on his pristine high horse and doesn't just tell kids of this generation, but kids of ALL generations, to get off his impeccably groomed, rational and science based, lawn. Andersen's thesis is basically that he and anyone enlightened enough to agree with him, like his establishment liberal friends in the media, are the smart, rational and noble ones who are caretakers of all knowledge, and aren't fooled by idiocies like conspiracy theories or, God-forbid...religion. 

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Adam H. Johnson, did a thorough and wonderful job of eviscerating Andersen's lazy, lackluster and thoughtless piece, and I encourage you to go read his article before, or instead of, reading Andersen's insipid Atlantic piece. As I read Andersen's article I was struck by many things, and then when I read Johnson's takedown of the piece I recognized that he and I both had nearly identical thoughts about Andersen's screed. The first thought I had was…why did Andersen start his timeline for when things really went off the rails in terms of conspiracy theory and magical thinking, after the Iraq invasion without ever mentioning that debacle? This struck me as odd because the Iraq war was a gigantic moment when a conspiracy theory and magical thinking came together and were peddled to the American public as fact by those in authority in the government and the press. It seems to me that the Iraq war was a key moment in destroying the credibility of the news media and authority in the eyes of Americans, which made the public more likely to disbelieve "official stories" and start to believe "alternative stories". But then Adam Johnson enlightened me as to why Andersen skipped the Iraq war altogether in his jeremiad…Andersen's editor at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, was a key player in the spreading of those false conspiracy theories regarding Iraq and 9-11, and is a neo-con who pushed hard the magical thinking of American empire in the middle east. In other words, Andersen sold out to his paymaster in order to get his piece published in The Atlantic, which will now act as a commercial for his new book. Needless to say, Andersen's credibility and intellectual integrity are entirely scuttled by his decision to ignore some of the more glaring examples of conspiracy theories and magical thinking in recent times.

It isn't just the graveyard of the Iraq war that Andersen whistles past, what about the other real conspiracies that happened in the same time frame that effected us all, like when Goldman Sachs and the other too big to fail banks conspired to defraud their customers and the country, along with mortgage lenders, ratings agencies and the regulators? And while we are on the topic, what about the magical thinking of trickle-down economics? Or the fed re-infalting bubble after bubble? Or neo-conservatism as an ideology? Apparently, according to the King of Rationality, Kurt Andersen, neo-conservatives are not like those foolish rubes who worship an invisible man in the sky. No, neo-cons, just like Kurt Andersen, worship the right God…namely, the dollar and American Empire, neither of which are targets of Andersen's lazy, shallow, pompous and self-serving diatribe. 

THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED

"Serious person" Kurt Andersen reminds me of another self-serving, self-styled rationalist of his same, decrepit generation, Little Bill Maher, who just like Andersen, despises religion and worships "science". The trouble is that Andersen and Maher's faith in science is fundamentally flawed. An example of this occurred a few months ago when Maher was arguing with a guest on his show about the Scooby-Doo/Russian story, and his guest said that there is no evidence to support the conspiracy claims, and Maher vociferously retorted, "The science is settled!! All 17 intelligence agencies say so!!". Little Bill, as always, was talking out of his ass, as "all 17 intelligence agencies" did not sign off on Russian interference, four of them did, and they only claimed that they were "asserting" this to be true, but did not provide one iota of evidence.

Maher's phrase, "the science is settled", stood out to me. Science is rarely, if ever, "settled". The fact that it was lost on Maher that science is always evolving is ironic, considering his admiration for Darwin. What Little Bill and his equally arrogant comrade Kurt Andersen also mis-understand about "science" is that just because something cannot be replicated in a laboratory doesn't mean it is impossible or isn't true, only that it has never been replicated in a lab. Science is, at its heart, fueled by the humbling acknowledgement that we as a species have very little understanding about ourselves, our world and our universe. Maher and Andersen's presumptuous vision of science is one of a near omnipotent force that has figured out just about 99.9% of everything that is knowable in the universe. The reality is that mankind knows next to nothing about itself, its world and this universe, but the adherents of scientism, like Maher and Andersen, are too enamored with their delusions of superiority to ever fully contemplate or grasp that inconvenient truth. 

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In terms of conspiracy theory, Little Bill is no better than the rest of the establishment media. On a show this past spring, Maher was talking with former CIA operative, Malcolm Nance, about the Scooby-Doo/Russia story, and Little Bill proclaimed that the intelligence community had Kennedy killed because he had a "pussy problem", meaning that Kennedy was vulnerable to blackmail because he was such a philanderer. This statement was remarkable for a few reasons, the first of which is that it went completely unchallenged by the former CIA agent, Nance, with whom Maher was talking, which would indicate that he too agrees with Maher's assessment of Kennedy's assassination, which is an extraordinary revelation. The second interesting thing about it is that Maher, ever the rationalist, is a strident opponent of 9-11 conspiracies because of his hatred of Islam, so his aligning himself with not only the Russian conspiracy, but a JFK one as well, was noteworthy in that it was a glaring intellectual inconsistency. 

Of course, what was really happening was that Little Bill was willing to set aside his usual adherence and allegiance to "facts and science"  in order to confirm his bias against Trump and the Russians, and in a round about way, be in support of the intelligence agencies. Maher wasn't saying that the intel community assassinating Kennedy was a bad thing, he sounded all for it, and in so doing he came across like he was encouraging them to do the same thing to Trump.

Little Bill's exercise in confirmation bias is, just like Maher himself, entirely unremarkable, as it is standard operating procedure in the institutional press and media. Just watch the intellectual contradictions fly on cable news or in the newspapers without any mention of the obvious moral, ethical, political and mental gymnastics required to ignore the glaring hypocrisies hiding in plain sight. 

CONSPIRACIES DON'T EXISTEXCEPT WHEN THEY DO

What I find interesting about this approach on all things conspiracy, is that it is entirely emotionally driven and so transparently vacuous as to be absurd. The reality is that a "conspiracy theory" should not automatically be dismissed simply because it claims a conspiracy occurred. The truth is, conspiracies happen all the time. I am not saying Bigfoot shot Kennedy or that Hillary Clinton is a Lizard Person (…although..I believe that he probably did and she more than likely is…), but conspiracies do not just live in the realm of fantasy, but flourish right here in reality. For instance, people are routinely charged with and convicted of "conspiracy" to commit one criminal act or another all the time here in America. So when people automatically and instinctively label anything a conspiracy false, simply because it is a conspiracy, they are not only taking a shortcut to thinking, they are denying things that are observably true. 

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9-11 conspiracy theories, in particular, seem to really rile the mainstream media and those in authority a tremendous amount. Any 9-11 theory that deviates from the "official story" as compiled by the 9-11 Commission, is deemed a threat to the establishment order and treated as such with attacks and ridicule in the form of the demeaning slur of "conspiracy theory". The problem with this approach, for anyone who cares about language or…God-fobrid, Truth, is that the "official story" of 9-11 is actually...a "conspiracy theory". According to the 9-11 Commission, Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts in Al Qaeda, CONSPIRED together in a cave in Afghanistan, to have 20 hijackers fly planes into various U.S. landmarks, killing thousands of Americans. When two or more people conspire to commit an act, that is a conspiracy, and in the case of 9-11, if you subscribe to the official story, then you are subscribing to a conspiracy theory, but you will never hear the media call the official 9-11 story a conspiracy or conspiracy theory.

The truth is most people just use the term "conspiracy theory" as a way to bludgeon a disquieting set of facts or ideas that are contrary to their ideology or worldview. There is a very clear example of this dominating the headlines and talk shows on cable news this very day…the Russian Election Meddling Story. Most people I know unquestioningly believe this story, that the Russian government colluded with the Trump campaign and interfered with the U.S. election, to be absolutely, 100% true, and it may very well be true, but people are believing it without ever even reading the Intelligence report that is the foundation from which all of the stories about the subject are based.

If the Russians did collude with Trump and interfere in the election, than that is most definitely a...conspiracy, but interestingly enough, the news media are very careful to not ever call the Russia story a "conspiracy". The establishment has so systematically and thoroughly degraded the word conspiracy that they cannot even use it when they are alleging an honest to goodness conspiracy in which they themselves actually believe. 

RACHEL MADDOW LOVES SCOOBY-DOO

A friend of mine, the incorrigible Johnny Steamroller, calls the Russian "meddling story" "The Scooby-Doo Story", because "meddling" is an amorphous, weasel-word term that lacks much needed specificity, and that in the old Scooby-Doo cartoon tv show, Scooby and his gang would always solve some crime and the perp would tell the cops he "would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids!!" The Scooby Doo/Russian meddling story is interesting in terms of conspiracy theory because it is an "official" conspiracy theory and not an "alternative" conspiracy theory. That is the key to understanding the establishment media and their loathing or loving of a conspiracy theory. As gatekeepers for officialdom, the mainstream news will not counter any official conspiracy theory, but will eviscerate any alternative conspiracy theory. 

As a result of the distinction between official and alternative conspiracies, we get Rachel Maddow whole-heartedly embracing the Russian election conspiracy theory to the point that she makes Glenn Beck look like Walter Cronkite and Sean Hannity look like Edward R. Murrow. Maddow sees Russians behind every single thing that happens and furiously reports it as though she's found the Lindberg baby in the arms of Jimmy Hoffa. This should not be surprising though, as when it comes to the "officially" sanctioned Russian conspiracy theory, anything goes. Even the most stodgy of old school media entities have embraced the most batshit conspiracy peddlers in regards to the Russian story, one need look no further than the New York Times op-ed page where the certifiably insane Louise Mensch was allowed to write a pieceas proof of that.

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Maddow may end up being totally right about Russia, and everything she is reporting true, but there has not been any solid, tangible evidence put forward to date to corroborate the claims of Russian interference she embraces. None. There was an Intelligence Report, that I wholeheartedly encourage people to go read (that Ms. Maddow tells her viewers to only read from select sections and not get bogged down in the details) that makes assertions that the Russian government tried to influence the 2016 election, but even that official report is completely devoid of evidence. That doesn't mean the story isn't true, it just means there is no evidence the story is true.

But that said, if you believe, as Rachel Maddow does, that the Russian government "meddled" in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign, then you believe in a conspiracy theory, that as of right now, has as much solid proof behind it as 9-11 being an "inside job" or the CIA assassinating Kennedy. Again, that doesn't mean those things didn't happen, it just means those things haven't been proven to have happened. 

EMOTION AS A WEAPON

Contrast Maddow's approach to the Russia conspiracy, an officially sanctioned conspiracy, to her approach to the Seth Rich murder - alternative conspiracy theory. Rich, a DNC staffer, was shot and killed at the height of the election season last year. The case is unsolved and what happened and who did it are unknown. Regardless of the void of information regarding the Rich case, Maddow, and the rest of her cohorts at MSNBC, are so opposed to any notion of a conspiracy in the Rich story that they are physically repulsed by it. The thread running through all of the anti-Seth Rich conspiracy reporting in the establishment press is that anyone who dare consider a conspiracy in the case is being cruel and vicious to the Rich family. These types of pleas to emotion by the media are giant red flags in terms of their credibility. Why should the media care if the family's feelings are hurt by people investigating the very mysterious death of Seth Rich, a case where no one knows what actually happened and who was behind his murder? And why is considering a conspiracy something that should never be contemplated ever again just because the family finds it offensive?

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The same appeal to emotion occurred in regards to 9-11, when Maddow, in particular, and the establishment media in general, consistently claimed that anyone talking of conspiracies were being disrespectful to the memories of the fallen and their families. Even in the case of the JFK assassination, considerations for the Kennedy family were said to be of paramount importance to those in power and so if anyone asked why so many standard operating procedures were ignored, the establishment used the delicate feelings of the Kennedy family as an excuse for deviations from standard, or to hide documents or even destroy them (the autopsy notes etc.). 

The truth is that people may say they don't believe in conspiracy theories in general, but they will believe in a conspiracy theory as long as it acts as a piece of confirmation bias for their belief system or helps to alleviate their cognitive dissonance. If a conspiracy is useful to them, they will give it more credence than if it challenges their ideology. For example, the Scooby-Doo/Russia story is a conspiracy theory that confirms the bias of a lot of people on the left and in the establishment in regards to Trump's election victory, and may also help to reduce their raging cognitive dissonance. Being able to blame Russia for Hillary's defeat isn't just a salve for Mrs. Clinton, her adamant supporters or the media, all of whom have a great deal of humiliating egg on their faces, but it also allows all of these folks to avoid doing the thing we as human beings least like to do…namely, admitting we were wrong or that we made a grievous mistake. 

The Russia interfering in the election causing Trump to win narrative means that America isn't a nation that has lost its mind, Hillary wasn't as atrocious as she always has been and democrats weren't idiotic to have nominated her, and Clinton supporters and the media's instincts weren't as spectacularly wrong as they obviously were. Russia is a very convenient scapegoat for those looking to blame everyone but themselves for the election disaster that brought us President Trump. 

THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, METHINKS

As I previously said, the Russian election conspiracy may very well be proven true. There is a long history of foreign governments meddling in other countries elections, the problem is that the country doing the meddling is usually the U.S. This is an inconvenient fact for those in the establishment, and is usually ignored or glossed over as "whatboutism" or "moral equivalence", two terms in vogue at the moment used to shut down debate. 

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That said, there have been previous cases of election meddling in the U.S., but these examples are also uncomfortable to the institutional press because they undermine the narrative of the establishment and American democracy as being above reproach. One noteworthy example was when Nixon sabotaged LBJ's Vietnam peace talks in 1968, in order to keep the war going and increase his chances of winning the presidency. What is interesting about this bit of election meddling is that the establishment media is only talking about it now in order to equate Trump with Nixon. 

Another example of U.S. election meddling is one that the mainstream press will deride as a "conspiracy theory", but which is in reality a conspiracy fact, and that is Reagan's treasonous deal with Iran to keep the U.S. hostages imprisoned until after Reagan won the 1980 election. Go read Robert Parry's outstanding work on this topic as it will surely help you to see Reagan's America, and the media's adulation of him, in a new light. It will also help to give context to this past year's election and the possibility of Russian interference.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, Official media go to great lengths to belittle conspiracy theories because they are seen as a threat to them and the established order they are committed to defending. The gatekeepers in the media are little more than stenographers to those in power, so when citizen journalists start stepping on their toes with questions those in authority would prefer not to hear, then the media kick it into high gear asserting their control over debate.

Just because something is a conspiracy, does not make it false, nor does it make it true. Each case should be studied and judged on the merits of the actual evidence. When judging the probability or possibility of a conspiracy, it is vital that we acknowledge our own personal predisposition's and biases and take them into account just as we take the veracity and amount of evidence into account. Know this, conspiracies happen, and the truth is that the most reliable theory of history is conspiracy theory, not the coincidence theory that the establishment hoists upon the public. 

The best bet regarding the current conspiracy du jour that the media won't call a conspiracy, the Scooby-Doo/Russian election story, is for the buyer to beware, not because the Russians are saints and Trump is a beyond reproach, but because the establishment and their shills in the media has been proven to lie over and over and over again…trusting them is a sucker's bet.

Regardless of whether a conspiracy has the imprimatur of officialdom or originates from an alternative source, it is imperative for us to demand clear-cut evidence and proof for or against whatever assertions are being made when people are trying to convince us of anything, especially when we are predisposed to believe what they are selling. Now…in that spirit, please go read the entire intelligence report on Russian election interference, especially the sources and methods section…you may find it very enlightening.

©2017