"Everything is as it should be."

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Propaganda and the Delusion of Wokeness

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Estimated Reading Time: 6-2, 6-2

On the weekend of July 13th, as Serena Williams was being trounced in the Wimbledon Ladies Final by Simona Halep, a story about a YouGov poll that asked participants “Do you think if you were playing your best tennis, you could win a point off Serena Williams?”, was making the rounds. The poll was of 1742 adults in the U.K., and besides the poorly worded Serena question, asked some equally deep and thoughtful questions like, “do you think you look better naked or with clothes on?”. The inane poll was obviously meant to stir up trouble and publicity, which it promptly did because 7% of respondents had the temerity to say that they could score on Serena.

The big news from the poll, or at least the part that was most widely reported, was that 12% of men answered “yes" to the question. The internet and media went ballistic over the misogyny and delusion of 1 in 8 men thinking they could score on Serena, “the greatest female tennis player of all-time”. There was no mention of the delusional status of the 3% of women who responded “yes”…maybe they got a GrrlPower exemption from harsh judgement.

In the aftermath of the poll people went on twitter to claim that these guys were deluded and that they would shit themselves if they played Serena. Some men on twitter went the extra virtue signaling mile and declared that Serena would literally kill them with a tennis ball if they played her or they might be able to score on Serena only because she was laughing so hard them. As Dan Rather would say…”courage!"

When I googled “Serena YouGov poll” the top story that came up was from Stylist Magazine and the headline read, “Serena Williams: A message for the ‘deluded’ men who believe they could beat her at tennis”. Other headlines from outlets like Metro UK and The Cut declared “Men ridiculed after one in eight say they can beat Serena Williams” and “Poll Shows One in 8 Men Think They Can Beat Serena Williams”. What struck me about those headlines was that…not surprisingly…they were a total fabrication. The poll question never asked if people thought they could beat Serena, only “score a point against her while playing their best tennis", and those are two vastly different things.

In the Stylist piece, which was obviously written by someone who knows absolutely nothing about sports in general, or tennis in particular, states that Serena Williams is “one of the greatest athletes of all-time”. of course, what that statement should say is that Serena is “one of the greatest FEMALE athletes of all-time”, which is not a distinction without a difference.

Let’s be clear, not one of the people polled, unless they are one of the top 10,000 male tennis players in the world, or one of the top 100 women’s tennis players in the world, are going to beat Serena Williams at tennis. No way, no how. Serena is, unquestionably, one of the very best female tennis players to ever play the game and she is not going to lose one set, nevermind two, to someone who isn’t a professional level, quality player.

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But once again the question in question, is not about beating Serena, it is about scoring a point on her when you play your best. If the match were played under the rules of women’s tennis, that would mean the winner would have to win two out of three sets. In reality that would mean just two sets of six games, because it is highly improbable that anyone off the street is stealing a game from Serena. Twelve games would encompass 48 points in total if Serena won all the points, which is what the geniuses at Style Magazine and on twitter were claiming. Twenty-four of those points would be on Serena’s serve…which would be very, very difficult for an amateur to handle.

That said, it is also possible, not likely, but possible, that Serena double-faults, which would be a point won by the amateur and thus a “yes” answer to the poll question. This is a vital point to make, that tennis is not just about you hitting a better shot than the other person, it is about the other person not making an error. So what the Style Magazine and twitter fools think is that Serena would be completely flawless in playing these polled amateurs…which is unlikely regardless of her opposition’s unworthiness.

If Serena just hit one ball too hard or didn’t bend her knees enough or slightly miss-hit a ball, then the amateur gets a point and the poll answer is “yes”. Watch tennis players warm up and you see even when their opponent is trying to give them balls to hit they will occasionally hit one into the net or long or wide. This is the nature of sport, humans are not robots, and even the greatest at certain sports are not perfect all the time.

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Think of it this way, if I were in a shooting contest with Michael Jordan, best out of 48, Jordan would win that competition, but odds are he might miss at least one shot…which in terms of the poll means I would answer “yes” when relating it to Serena Williams. The same is true if I played one on one against LeBron James. He would destroy me, but if he took a pull-up jumper, or went up for a lay-up…it is not inconceivable he could miss…it would have nothing to do with me and my stellar defense (which really is stellar!), it would have to do with the imperfection of humans and the nature of sport. I would never beat Michael Jordan or LeBron James in a shooting contest or in one-on-one, but that doesn’t mean they would never miss, in fact, the odds that they would miss 1 shot out of 48 is pretty good.

It needs to be said that playing tennis against Serena would be infinitely easier than playing one-on-one against LeBron because his size, strength and speed advantage would be highlighted due to the fact that he would be physically imposing his will on me due to proximity, in basketball you are right next to each other, as opposed to tennis where your opponent is across the net and that distance can reduce the direct physical advantage.

Another thing about the twitter and media reaction to the poll is that everyone assumes that every person answering is a fat-slob, couch potato. While there are plenty of fat-slobs and couch potatoes in the U.K., I think it is safe to say that there are, at a bare minimum, 12% of men in the U.K. who have a life committed to fitness and health. I would say that 12% of U.K. men work out with a modicum of intensity on a regular basis. In fact, a Kantar UK study from 2018 claims that 17% of Britons are members of health clubs and 13% say they exercise regularly.

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The numbers of the Serena poll aren’t clear, but let’s assume that half of the 1742 respondents are male, which gives us 871 men. Of those 871, a total of 104 answered yes to the question. Is it insane to think that 104 men out of 871 are fit and highly active and athletic and maybe even compete in sports on a regular basis? I saw a survey that said that there are nearly 840,000 people in the UK that play tennis at least twice a month. Another study says that 500,000 Brits play tennis twice a week. That seems like a lot of tennis players. Is it so absurd to think that these athletic and fit people, playing their very best tennis, could score a single point on Serena when scoring a point also includes her making an error of some sort? The answer is…OF COURSE NOT!

This poll and this story are absolutely idiotic…so why am I writing about it? I am writing about it because it is emblematic not of the “delusion” of the men responding yes to the question, but rather of woke propaganda meant to reinforce the delusional ideology and insipid woke cosmology that fuels the media and twitter mobs. Those doing their two minute hate routine over “delusional men”, make Serena Williams out to be some demi-god or superhero simply because she is a women and black, and they reflexively believe that anything or anyone that dare question her superiority is acting out of misogyny and racism.

The Stylist Magazine piece is a perfect example of propaganda as it distorts the reality of the poll by conflating scoring a point against Serena with beating her, and then says the men who think they can beat her are delusional but ignore the women who say could beat her.

Further proof of Stylist’s propaganda is when they state that “The fact that a significant number of men believe they could win a point against a female tennis legend speaks volumes about the patriarchy”. Is 12% a significant number? If 12% of the population supported Donald Trump would Stylist think that was a “significant” number of supporters?

Stylist continues by declaring “these guys have a delusional confidence that’s ignorant to a women’s talent, achievements and lifelong passion.” Or maybe, like I stated above, these men simply did the math and figured out it is not impossible to score a point on Serena if they are playing their best tennis. My favorite part of that Stylist sentence is “lifelong passions”…if I have a lifelong passion for classical music does that make me Yo-Yo Ma? What does “lifelong passions” have to do with anything?

In making the case of why Serena is so unbeatable, Stylist highlights not only her career accomplishments, which are extraordinarily impressive, but also that she is “an advocate of women’s rights, an influencer of fashion and an important voice in challenging stereotypes around women at work and sport”. What difference does that make? Does that mean that these “delusional men” couldn’t score a point in tennis against Gloria Steinem and Donatella Versace?

In our current cultural and political climate this type of propaganda, that distorts reality and conflates facts, is par for the course. This story is an example of what people do when they want to make a political point and then twist the facts to fit their ideology. The establishment media’s coverage of all things Russia is another glaring example of this tainted “journalistic” approach. Remember the “Russian Microwave Weapon Attack” story? Or the Russians hacking power grids story? Or the whole Russigate hoax fiasco?

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The media distort facts just enough to appease the insatiable anger and outrage of those who already agree with them in order to feed the base the red meat they crave. In this case the media conflate scoring a point against Serena with beating her in order to reinforce the notion that men are “deluded” and irrationally confident which angers yet delights pussy hat wearing women and woke posing men who want to signal their virtue. The media does this same thing in regards to Russia, Iran and Syria all in an attempt to give the people what they want as opposed to tell them the truth. This level of deception and distortion is Trumpian in its insidiousness, and it exposes the complete lack of a rational and intellectual foundation to the majority of opinion and thought in this country. The foundation of most opinion in this country is emotion…not logic or reason…and the media stoke this empty headed emotionalism for their own means.

The woke and their acolytes in the mainstream media are, like the Trump cult, immune to logic and reason, and they live in a perpetual delusion and dark fantasy. These people have such a contorted and distorted perception of reality they are incapable of seeing that they are a vital part of the intractable evil they claim they want to destroy. They think men, white men in particular, are malevolent misogynists and destructively delusional…yet many, if not most, claiming this are mothers, daughters, sisters or wives to white men. The funniest part is that a great deal of the woke are white or male or both. The same men who self-flagellated themselves on twitter claiming they’d poop their pants if they played Serena, are no doubt the same mealy-mouthed twats who loudly proclaim that white people are the root of all evil even though they are white. Most of these allegedly woke self-loathing white people will vociferously proclaim their devout belief in diversity but then make sure their kids don’t go to the more “diverse” and more dangerous schools in their city, but rather send them to pricey private school or move to more upscale and whiter neighborhoods in order to avoid the diversity they supposedly so adore.

I have more bad news for hypocritical woke white people…when you condemn white men, you condemn your father, brother, sons and husbands. Since the woke, just like Trump, paint with the broad brush of stereotypes, the “good” white men don’t get a “good white guy” pass. When the shit hits the fan and people are judged by the paradigm the woke have embraced, namely judging people by the color of their skin and not the content of their character, they are going to find out that being an “ally" is a one-way street….and it leads right to the gallows. The reality is that these woke phonies already know this…which is why they send their kids to predominantly white schools in order to avoid the racial animus of minorities.

In conclusion, this poll and the stories about this poll are so ridiculous as to be absurd, and yet, here I am writing about it. The poll, the stories about the poll and my article about the stories about the poll are all prime evidence of how totally insane our world has become and how fucked we are as a society…and make no mistake…we are totally insane and totally fucked.

©2019

Midsommar: A Review

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

My Rating: 2.75 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT/SEE IT. A flawed, but creepy and symbolically rich horror movie that is both deeply unsettling and mythologically satisfying. If you love horror movies then go see it in the theatre, but for everyone else watch it on Netflix or cable.

Midsommar, written and directed by Ari Aster, is the story of Dani, a young women in emotional turmoil who accompanies her lukewarm boyfriend on a trip to Harga, an isolated rural commune in Finland, for a once in every 90 years religious festival. The film stars Florence Pugh as Dani, with supporting turns from Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper and Will Poulter.

Midsommar describes itself as a “folk horror film”, which is an intriguing twist on the horror formula. In general I am not a fan of horror movies, the ones I do enjoy, like The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, are more great movies of horror than they are great horror movies. Those movies deal with the occult and spiritual horror as opposed to just slasher or monster type movies, and that is probably why I appreciate them so much.

Midsommar is director Ari Aster’s second feature film, his first was last year’s Hereditary, another ambitious horror film. I liked Hereditary and even though it was flawed I thought Aster showed a great deal of potential as a filmmaker as he coaxed some terrific performances out of his leads Toni Collette and Alex Wolff and put together some really gripping sequences. Hereditary was also chock full of really rich symbolism and sub-text…so much so that I wrote an entire piece about it.

Hereditary’s biggest flaw was that Aster’s creative eyes were bigger than his directorial stomach…which is my way of saying that Aster is a better writer than a director as he was unable to entirely capture the entirety of his unique vision on film.

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Midsommar is a worthy follow up to Hereditary, and is very similar in many ways as the film boasts a stellar female performance at its center and has a wildly creepy and unsettling story at its center. Midsommar is also bursting with insightful symbolism and sub-text that make it a very layered film. Hereditary and Midsommar are also twins in that they explore a dark occult underbelly to the rather benign settings of suburbia and a seemingly gentle Finnish commune respectively.

Sadly though, the similarities don’t end there as Midsommar also suffers from the same ailment that hampered Hereditary, namely that the narrative was too dramatically unwieldy for the director Aster to tame fully.

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The very best thing about the film is the performance of Florence Pugh, who won a Breakout Performance of the Year Mickey Award in 2016 for the independent drama Lady MacBeth, and lives up to that promise in Midsommar. Pugh is so spot on in her characterization that it is at times uncomfortable to watch. Pugh’s Dani is deeply and specifically wounded and reeks of desperation, so much so that she relentlessly needs to accommodate others to an embarrassing degree. The camera adores Pugh as she is blessed with an exquisitely perfect face that is both stunningly gorgeous and approachable. Pugh’s magnetism and girl-next-door beauty are used to great affect as it makes Dani’s insecurity and low self-esteem a conflicting yet captivating mess.

Dani’s at best indifferent boyfriend, Christian, is played by Jack Reynor, who sort of looks like a slightly less douchebaggy version of Seth Rogan. Reynor’s Christian is a pitch perfect asshole, and he wisely never goes over the top with his asshole-ishness, but it is certainly a palpable presence. Reynor as an actor is a bit overwhelmed by Pugh though, as he currently seems to lack the charisma and skill to go toe to toe with his very formidable leading lady. That said, to Reynor’s great credit he proves is certainly game for anything and shows he has enough balls (literally and figuratively) to try and tackle a role that ends up being just a bit out of his reach.

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Midsommar’s cinematographer, Pawel Pogorzelski, does fantastic work as he captures the pseudo-David Lynchian creepiness beneath the quaint facade of the commune. Pogorzelski uses the midnight sun of Finland effectively to create a disorienting visual experience that is subtly alarming. There are psychedelic sequences where Pogorzelski shows his talent in not overwhelming the viewer with obviousness but rather makes the delirious experience so seamless as to be unnerving. There are also some deliciously well-done shots using the reflections from a mirror or a television set that I thought were glorious. Pogorzelski worked on Hereditary as well and his style and skill definitely elevate both films.

The thing I liked the most about Midsommar was the symbolism and sub-text. This film, just like Hereditary, is bursting at the seams with political and social commentary that is hiding in plain sight. The commune at the center of the story is an alluring combination of old world folk religion, New Age spirituality, modern day social progressivism and extreme environmentalism. It is easy to imagine that the divergent anti-Trump resistance could come together to form the alleged utopia that is Harga.

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The character arc of Dani is that of the modern women who has put her needs second to those around her and has made herself small so that others feel big. As Dani goes through the odyssey of the commune she is forced to choose between the way things are now with her as a pliant caretaker to others, or the way things could be with a women in charge. In this way the film is, much like Hereditary, a commentary on the Trump presidency and the fall of Hillary and the rise of neo-feminism. While those things are potentially over-analyzed subjects in our current political and cultural climate, Aster does a magnificent job of deftly addressing these issues in an unconventional way and subtly layering the film’s inventive perspective throughout the film.

To be clear, I truly did enjoy Midsommar, just as I did Hereditary, but as with Hereditary, Midsommar does go a bit off the rails about two thirds of the way through and the film loses dramatic momentum. I think Aster’s biggest issue, in both films, is that the major beats of the story are not well placed in the narrative arc, and so the film feels a bit off in the final act.

In conclusion, while I think Ari Aster has slightly missed the mark with both Hereditary and Midsommar, I am very glad for his ambition and that he is out there making movies. I think he is a very original voice and his expansive ideas on horror and the nature of evil are remarkably insightful about the world in which we currently reside. I hope Aster keeps exploring the depths of that unique darkness that he shared with viewers in both Hereditary and Midsommar.

While Midsommar is not worth shelling out big bucks to see in a theatre, I do think it is worth seeing on Netflix or cable for “free” for Pugh’s performance alone. The movie is also genuinely creepy and not of the instantly forgettable horror movie formula that has grown so tiresome. Midsommar is definitely a flawed film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile or that the message it sends isn’t right on the money. If, at some point, you have a chance to check it out I think you should…it will unsettle you…and we all need to be unsettled every now and again.

©2019

Women's Soccer, Pay Equality and Pandering

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 06 seconds

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team have been making headlines in recent weeks not only for their soccer dominance and winning the World Cup, but also for their call for “equal pay”. You see, the U.S. Women’s team is allegedly paid less than the much less successful U.S. Men’s team and are currently in a legal battle with the U.S. Soccer Federation over wage equality.

The U.S. Women’s on-field success has been translated into righteousness by the media in the wage equality discussion. The media, ESPN in particular, have uncritically accepted the premise that the Women’s team deserves to be paid the same as the men’s team. On every single ESPN “debate” show, such as Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn, all of the media talking heads supported the women’s demand for equal pay, which did not make for much debate but did allow for a great deal of virtue signaling.

An example of the establishment media’s perspective on this issue was on full display in two Boston Globe op-eds printed this week. In one, written by Shirley Leung with a headline imploring US Soccer to “Get on the right side of history!”, she states, “Of course the women should be paid as much as the men. If anything they should get MORE.”

In another Boston Globe article, this one by Tara Sullivan titled After Winning the World Cup, How Can the US Women Be Denied Their Well-Deserved Due?, Sullivan writes, “That they emerged as victorious on the pitch while simultaneously carrying a torch for pay equity IN THE BOARDROOM only underscores what tough competitors they are…” (emphasis mine).

Both Leung and Sullivan and the cavalcade of sportswriters on ESPN’s debate shows, were not partaking in a serious journalistic examination of the issue of pay equality for women’s soccer players, rather they were simply doing what most public people do in our woke culture…pandering.

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In our current age of political correctness no one on TV or writing in a major newspaper is going to declare that the US Women’s soccer team does not deserve equal pay. Nor will they argue that the Women’s team is actually getting paid equally because members of the women’s team get a guaranteed salary whereas the men’s team has a play to pay agreement. ESPN has become an HR department propaganda channel and pander parade with all of their painfully obvious woke posing and preening. Every single one of the guests on that network know that if they even hint at being against some woke initiative, they will lose their place at the network.

Now it is certainly possible to argue for equal pay without pandering, but what the ESPN people and the vast majority of mainstream writers did was not make a logical case for equal pay, but rather an emotional one. In Sullivan’s Globe piece she quotes Amory McAndrew, a lawyer who specializes in employment law at a “women-owned law firm” that specializes in employment law, who states “How could anyone now argue the US women’s soccer team is not performing equal work?” I know McAndrew seems like a stellar impartial voice (eye roll), but is it really inconceivable to think that the US women’s team is not doing equal work with the men’s team?

Let us first acknowledge that there are jobs where there is rightful pay inequality based on gender. Modeling is a perfect example of this as on average rank and file female models make 148% more money per year than male models. At the top end of the modeling business the contrast is even more striking as the highest paid female model, Gisele Bundchen made $47 million in 2014 while the top male model, Sean O’Pry made around $1.5 million. The reason that female models make so much more than men is because the majority of fashion advertising is geared towards women, thus female models have more value. That doesn’t mean male models have no value, just less value than female models.

In terms of the women’s soccer team issue what is really at stake is the value of female soccer players versus male soccer players. Supporters of the women’s team claim that the female players are of equal value to the male players.

In Leung’s article she claims the women deserve equal pay (in other words have equal value) because they “win more championships, sell more jerseys, and generate more revenue than the men’s squad.” This is a very deceptive argument as yes, they have won more championships, but winning in a World Cup in women’s soccer is considerably easier since the competition only began in 1991 and other nations do not have the female sport infrastructure that the U.S. does. In terms of jersey sales and revenue, it is true that the women’s team has brought in one million more dollars in revenue over the last three years…but only over the last three years, and that was when they were playing in a World Cup and the men were not.

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I would argue that comparing the pay for women’s and men’s soccer teams is like comparing male and female models, as they are very different and appeal to very different sized audiences. For example, the prize money in the Women’s World Cup of 2019 was $30 million with $4 million going to the winning team, whereas in the Men’s World Cup of 2018 the prize money was $400 million total with $38 million going to the winning team. This may seem like an obvious case of gender bias until you look at the bigger picture, which is that the revenue from the 2019 Women’s World Cup was $130 million and the revenue from the Men’s 2018 World Cup was $6 BILLION. Men’s soccer is without question the big money maker across the globe and to deny this is to deny reality. Another example to hit this point home is that over the course of the entire 2019 Women’s World Cup tournament, 1 billion viewers tuned in…whereas in the 2018 Men’s World Cup, 1 billion viewers tuned in JUST FOR THE FINAL GAME.

Sports is, in general, something marketed toward men, while fashion is something marketed toward women, and this is why female athletes make less than men and females models make more than male models. To be clear, this is not to say that women’s sports in general, or women’s soccer, in particular, have no value, only that they have less value than men’s sports.

Besides the insipid pandering, what really bothers me about the US Women’s soccer team and their cry for equal pay is that it undermines the argument for equal pay for women with “regular” jobs. To be clear, I believe that people doing the same jobs should be paid equally regardless of gender. Anyone who thinks that women should be paid less for doing the exact same work as men is obviously a hopeless neanderthal and troglodyte. That said, while the U.S. Women’s soccer team is certainly generating a great amount of attention for the wage equality cause, I think they are ultimately the worst case to represent the issue. The problem I have with the women’s soccer team and equal pay is that unlike the women working “regular” jobs in offices, like an accountant, lawyer, writer etc., who are being paid less even though they are just as intellectually able as their male counterparts doing the same work, women’s soccer players are not the equals of their male counterparts. Yes, I know that is a shocking thing to say, especially in our current media environment and woke culture, but it is true and it is a sign of our cultural and intellectual decay that speaking this truth is considered an irredeemable sin.

As Shirley Leung writes in the Boston Globe, “When women are paid less than men for doing what appear to be similar jobs, why do employers insist on changing the playing field instead of leveling it", the statement “appear to be similar jobs” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. Leung is, just like Sullivan and the rest of the media, conflating playing soccer with pursuits based on intellect…such as accounting, or legal work or any other office jobs. This is a fatal error by equal pay advocates, because when you conflate equality in the boardroom with equality on a soccer field, you are taking on two undefeated and undefeatable opponents…biology and reality. In a boardroom setting there is no scientific or biological reason for men to be superior to women…none. On a soccer field, there are dozens of reasons that women are inferior to men.

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Leung states in her piece that the US women’s struggle for equal pay reminds her of the case of Elizabeth Rowe, a principal flutist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra who sued the company in order to get paid as much as the principal oboist who was a man. The problem with this comparison is that, unlike the women and men’s soccer teams, the flutist and oboist play at the same time on the same stage…in other words they are equals. Another problem is that unlike in athletics, in music there is no scientific basis for male superiority compared to females. Leung even states that orchestras do blind auditions in order to halt any unconscious bias on the part of the auditors who are left only to judge on the music created not on the gender of the creator. This is a wonderful idea…but how does Ms. Leung think it would go if soccer could be judged the same way? I’ll tell her how it would go…not well for the women.

On the most basic level the painful reality is that men are vastly superior to women in sport. This is an obvious truth but apparently it needs repeating because no one seems to want to admit this uncomfortable fact in regards to the US women’s soccer team. How much more superior are men than women is sport? Well…according to a study, in terms of speed and endurance, the best male athletes are in general 10% better than female athletes. The study is pretty interesting as it shows over history how in track and field running events men’s records consistently go towards the mean for being 10% faster than women’s records.

To show the stark contrast between men and women in regards to speed, this past year a high school runner from Texas set the high school record in the 100m at 9.98 seconds. This 18 year old boy ran the 100 meters a full half second faster than the women’s world record of 10.49 which was set in 1988 by Florence Griffith-Joyner.

Speed is not the only place where men dominate women, as studies have shown that on average men have 40% more upper body strength and 33% more lower body strength. Men are also, on average, much bigger in terms of weight and height than women, but studies show that height and weight difference only account for half of the strength difference. Male strength can be attributed to a larger cross section in individual muscle-fibers. Men’s grip strength is so overwhelmingly superior to women’s that in one study 90% of the women scored lower than 95% of the men.

I recently saw a story that claimed that the US women’s soccer team lost to an FC Dallas Under 15 boys academy team 5-2 in 2017. Many have discounted this story and claim that the women weren’t trying in the game which was a scrimmage. While the story of a “loss” may be a bit dubious, that doesn’t change the fact that it is certainly possible for that to have happened when you consider the biological differences between men and women…see the Texas high school kid who crushed the women’s world record 100m time by half a second.

If the World Cup winning US women’s soccer team played any of the top 50 ranked boys high school or club teams in America they would lose handily. The same is true of the US Women’s Olympic basketball team which is an absolute juggernaut filled with the very best female players in the world. If they played any of the top 100 high school boys basketball teams in America they would lose (especially if they had to play with a boy’s basketball and not the girl’s ball which is smaller).

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A few years ago Rhonda Rousey was all the rage as she dominated women’s mixed martial arts. Rousey was submitting her opponents in record time in match after match and the media quickly grabbed hold of the story and made claims that she could beat men. Even male fighters got into the pandering game and claimed they wouldn’t want to fight Rousey…she even appeared on an episode of Entoruage to beat up one of the douchebags on that awful show. But I knew this was all nonsense, I guarantee that if Rousey fought any of the top 1,000 male MMA fighters of her same weight she would not survive a single round. The reason is that even at the same weight, men would generate considerably more power with their punches due to bone density and muscle mass. Women who try and physically match up with men are in for a rude awakening…real life is not a Hollywood movie where Brie Larson kicks ass…real life hurts when someone 40% stronger than you, with astronomically greater grip strength, grabs you and punches you in the face. Of course, Rousey proved herself to be a paper tiger when she got her head kicked in by Holly Holm and was never the same, only fighting once more a year later and getting ko’d 48 seconds into the first round by Amanda Nunes.

A few years ago John McEnroe made the mistake of stating the obvious when he said that if Serena Williams played on the men’s tour she would be ranked around 700 or so. People freaked out and got really mad at McEnroe for his claim, but that is usually what happens when bubbles are burst by reality. In 1998 both Venus and Serena Williams took on the 203rd ranked player in the world, German Karsten Braasch, in an exhibition after they challenged him. Braasch drank beer and smoked cigarettes during the change overs and was described as “no longer looking the part of an athlete”, but that didn’t stop him from beating first Serena 6-1 and then Venus 6-2. Serena went on to win the U.S. Open the next year and Venus won Wimbledon and the US Open the year after that. If you take men’s speed, endurance and strength advantages into account, it would seem likely that Serena Williams, maybe the greatest female tennis player of all-time, would not win a single set from any of the top 300 players on tour and would not win a single match against the top 1000 men in the world.

What does male physical dominance, Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey have to do with pay equality? The same thing Women’s soccer has to do with pay equality…absolutely nothing. Men have no intellectual advantages over women, and so women deserve to be paid equally for equal work based on intellect. The US women’s soccer team are not equals to their male counterparts though…they are vastly inferior and that is why they make for terrible avatars in this pay equality debate.

If women athletes want to paid the same as male athletes, let them compete against the men. Of course, they won’t do that because they are smart enough to know they would get obliterated in every sport where speed, power and strength are vital for success. This fact is made clear in the cases of male to female transgender athletes competing in women’s or girl’s sports, where they dominate, much to the chagrin of the female athletes and their families.

The bottom line is this, that the women’s soccer team isn’t nearly as good as the men’s soccer team, nor is women’s soccer anywhere near as popular as men’s soccer, even in the U.S. where MLS ratings and attendance are gargantuan compared to the ratings/attendance for NWSL (the women’s pro league). To deny these things is to deny observable and biological reality, and denying reality never lasts long or ends well.

in conclusion, women undoubtedly deserve equal pay for equal work, but the women’s soccer team is not equal to the men’s soccer team, not even close. To say other wise is to either live in delusion and fantasy or to participate in the most insidious of woke pandering, neither of which is a healthy or productive choice. If women want pay equality they should highlight the jobs where their gender differences do not put them at a decided disadvantage against men. Women should be paid equally in the board room where they are equals, but not on the athletic field, where they are not now, and never will be, equals.

©2019

Movie Subscription Services and Box Office Booms and Busts

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 02 seconds


There has been a lot of consternation out here in La La Land about the state of the movie industry in 2019. I thought I would take this opportunity to address the situation in an attempt to either allay concerns or ring the alarm bell.

The biggest reason that the money-hungry corporate overlords of Hollywood are so concerned is that the box office is down 10% from last year. There have been a lot of think pieces that speculate as to why the industry is supposedly in a gully. The most common refrain in these articles from the entertainment media is that the box office dip is due to plague of low quality, unoriginal movies and “franchise fatigue”.

These theories, on their surface, appear to be somewhat accurate, as the vast majority of movies are pretty awful and you seemingly can’t walk ten feet in Hollywood without tripping over yet another franchise film or reboot. While those two things are true, they don’t necessarily explain why the box office is down 10% this year in particular as last year Hollywood churned out a plethora of terrible movies and a cornucopia of franchise films.

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Last year and this year at the movie theatre are strikingly similar in a myriad of ways…2018 had some massive blockbusters in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, while 2019 boasts box office smashes Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. In addition, 2018 had an animated hit with Incredibles 2 and 2019 has Toy Story 4, 2018 had big box office results from secondary superhero movies, like Aquaman and Deadpool 2, while 2019 has Shazam and the soon to be released Spider Man: Far From Home. Even the sort of middle brow dramas are similar, with both years showcasing bio-pics of 1970’s rock icons, Queen in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) and Elton John in Rocketman (2019), as are the horror/thriller films, where 2018 had A Quiet Place and 2019 has Us.

The sad reality is that, just from a quality perspective, movies from last year are just as bad as last year. The year before last, 2017, had a cavalcade of great movies, like Dunkirk, Phantom Thread and even quality big budget films like War for the Planet of the Apes. But last year and this year have both been pretty terrible for cinema. The lack of quality is certainly a big reason why the movie industry is in a creative “gully” so to speak, but it doesn’t explain why there is such a precipitous drop off in box office from last year to this.

“Franchise fatigue” is certainly something that exists…hell, I suffer from it…but that doesn’t mean it adequately explains the drop off in box office. If you look at the box office numbers, it would seem to indicate that the opposite is true. Both Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame did record breaking business this year and they are franchise films…and Black Panther and Infinity War did great last year as well. In my opinion there are most definitely storm clouds on the horizon for Marvel/Disney, but it ain’t raining yet and the sun shone upon Mickey Mouse and his Marvel compatriots brightly the last two years.

So if the studio executives and the entertainment media are wrong with their theories about the box office decline in 2019…then what is really going on with the movie industry and why? The problem with these Hollywood elites is that they don’t spend time on the ground in the battle for box office dollars. As someone who spends his time either on the ground or under it, I have some insights as to what is causing the trouble with 2019’s box office deflation.

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To start, I contend that while the box office is down this year, it is a result of a few factors, one of the most glaring is that the box office from last year was artificially inflated, thus skewing the intensity of this year’s decline. Yes, there is a decline this year compared to last, but last year was not as financially robust as it appeared to be, in fact it was a bit of a bubble.

I also contend that there is a direct correlation between last year’s box office spike and this year’s box office deflation and the rise (2018) and fall (2019) of movie subscription services like MoviePass and Sinemia. In January of 2018 there were approximately 3 million subscribers to either MoviePass, Sinemia or both. Those subscription services charged a flat fee to customers, in MoviePass’s case $9.99 for unlimited films a month, and in Sinemia’s case $14.99 for 3 films a month, and then would pay full price to theaters/studios when their customers bought tickets. The business model was obviously flawed, but the psychology of it is similar to a gym membership, as these companies were hoping people would sign up but not actually use the service. That approach failed as both services went under in various forms this year because they went deeply into debt paying the movie studios full price for the tickets their members bought.

I had both a MoviePass and Sinemia membership in 2018 and used them constantly. For me, paying $25 total per month for both services meant that if I went to just two films a month I was actually saving money, as tickets in Los Angeles can run as high $16 per movie. Considering I suffer from a medical condition called Cousin Michael-itis where I have abnormally short arms and extraordinarily deep pockets, it should be no surprise that I took advantage of these services.

In 2018 I averaged between four and five movies a month, which was a significant spike in my movie going from the previous year when I had no subscription service memberships. Through these subscription services the price of a movie ticket for me essentially dropped to around $5 per film, which made going to the movies a much more palatable option.

For me, MoviePass and Sinemia allowed me to go see movies I would never have gone to see if I had to pay full price. For example, one of my favorite films from last year was A Quiet Place, which is a horror/thriller movie, a genre I usually entirely ignore. I took a chance on A Quiet Place because I wasn’t paying $16 to see it…so why not? I ended up loving the movie and saw it TWICE using MoviePass and Sinemia, and I got other people to go see it too through passionate word of mouth and my glowing review. Hereditary was another horror film I would normally never see but took a chance on in 2018 because of MoviePass.

It wasn’t just horror movies either, by my count there are in total 26 movies in 2018, from big budget blockbusters to indy art house films, that I went to see in theatres which I never would have seen if it weren’t for MoviePass and Sinemia. Movies such as American Animals, Jurassic World, Ready Player One, Red Sparrow, First Reformed, Hearts Beat Loud, Leave No Trace, Mission Impossible, Eighth Grade, The Wife, We the Animals, A Star is Born and on and on and on.

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Now if all 3 million of these movie service’s former subscribers were like me then that means that 2018’s box office was inflated by at least 3 million full priced tickets sold on 25 films over the course of the year. (Considering the plethora of movies made last year and the subscription service's main customers being similar to me, big movie fans, it seems plausible that those extra tickets purchased could be spread over a large swath of different types of movies.) With the elimination of those extra 3 million tickets paid for by the subscription services, that would mean about a $1.125 billion difference in domestic box office gross from 2018 to 2019, and that doesn’t include peripheral gains from word of mouth marketing by subscription members (nor does it include the concessions bought by these customers at the theater which greatly enhanced theater owner profits).

The domestic box office from last year was $11.6 billion and is projected to drop 10% this year. 10% of 11.6 billion is….1.16 billion. If MoviePass and Sinemia subscribers used the service like I did in 2018, seeing an additional 25 movies that they otherwise would not have seen, that would account for an additional $1.125 billion in gross at the box office (3 million extra tickets bought for 25 films at $15 per ticket). Granted, this theory is based upon my anecdotal use of subscription services and projecting that use onto other members, but since MoviePass and Sinemia have not released the data on their users usage rates, all I can do is speculate. That said, my thesis does seem to line up pretty well with the known box office data.

The elimination of these subscription services and the billion dollars they injected into the movie industry which resulted in them basically subsidizing movie studios, seems to me to be an obvious reason for the drop in box office, yet the studios and the entertainment press, like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter (or the New York Times for that matter), never mention it as a factor, nevermind the main factor...why is that? The reason for Hollywood’s and the media’s ignorance on this issue is that while both studio executives and entertainment media consume a great deal of movies, hence their explanation being “franchise fatigue or low quality…they don’t have to pay to consume them, so ticket prices are overlooked.

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Studio execs and entertainment media either get screeners (free dvd’s from studios) or they go to free screenings. Paying to see a movie is something they rarely if ever do, and considering how much money they make, they do not ever have to consider the cost of tickets into the equation of whether they’ll see a film. If, God forbid, these people ever had to pay for a movie ticket, the difference between $5 and $15 is negligible to them in the big picture, whereas for me, and most “regular” working people, that $10 is a big deal, especially over the course of a month/year if you see multiple films. The Hollywood and media elite are immune to issues like ticket prices, but here on the ground in the battle for customers, it is a major issue. This is why studios and entertainment media are totally ignorant to the impact of MoviePass and SInemia crumbling…they suffer from what I call “Cinema Privilege”. I define Cinema Privilege as being immune to cost when it comes to consuming movies.

When I had MoviePass and Sinemia I had Cinema Privilege too…but now that I don’t have them and I have to pay full price to see a movie it greatly alters my viewing habits and the frequency of my trips to the theatre. I do not make studio executive or even Hollywood Reporter money, I run my own business and margins are thin so I do not have the cash to spend to pay full price to roll the dice on a movie that may or may not be any good (especially if odds are it isn’t very good). I think I am not alone…and thus the current cratering of box office income, and conversely, the inflating of box office last year when there were 3 million extra consumers with Cinema Privilege.

There are three movies that are often brought up when referring to the box office drought of 2019 and they are Long Shot starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogan, Late Night starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson and Booksmart, a coming of age story directed by actress Olivia Wilde. These films are held up as examples of film’s that dramatically under-performed at the box office regardless of their glowing reviews. I have not seen any of these movies as they don’t greatly interest me, but I guarantee you that I would have seen them all if I had MoviePass and Sinemia. My interest in these films is best described as mild, which is not powerful enough to get me to pay $16 to see them, but it is strong enough to get me to pay $4 or $5 to see them.

There are other reasons for the overall decline in movie going, which include but are not limited to, a dramatic diminishing of the theatre-going experience due to the epidemic of narcissism and rudeness in our culture (in 2019 alone I have had to ask people to put away their cell phones during movies four times…they have all complied…but I shouldn’t have to ask them!), as well as the increase of the home viewing experience through studios like Netflix and Amazon as well as the improvement of tv technology. But both of these reasons are more compelling in explaining the bigger picture trend of movie theatre going decline rather than just the box office drop from last year to this.

In conclusion, I think that the collapse of movie subscription services is the main reason why the box office is down 10% in 2019. I also believe that this story is under-reported because the Hollywood studios and the entertainment media are so detached from “regular” people’s movie going experience and how the exorbitant price of tickets is turning away business. If Hollywood doesn’t wake up, this disconnect between Tinseltown and their regular customers is going to lead to a very nasty reckoning that will leave the movie industry a shadow of its former self, sort of like what happened to the music industry. Hollywood is going to learn that sooner or later, when you take your customers for granted, the bill always comes due…and MoviePass and Sinemia are no longer around to subsidize their shitty product.

©2019

Meathead Beats the Dead Horse of Collusion

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 27 seconds

Hollywood is churning out all-star videos in order to try and convince Americans that Trump is guilty of “collusion”.

For the last three months there has been a bombshell story hiding in plain sight about an obscure government document that has been criminally under-reported by the establishment press. Thankfully Hollywood is here to save the day and shed some much needed light on this ever-elusive information.

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The document I am referring to, of course, is The Mueller Report, which according to Academy Award nominated filmmaker and Hillary Clinton fanatic Rob Reiner, is an absolute mystery to ordinary (non-famous) Americans. In a patriotic act the equivalent of storming the beach on D-Day, Reiner has done a truly courageous and heroic thing to bring attention to this long ignored story…he made a five-minute video with his Hollywood friends.

On Thursday, June 20th, a group named Now This put out the video directed by Reiner, that features celebrities such as Robert DeNiro, Laurence Fishburne and even former president-on-tv Martin Sheen, highlighting what they believe to be the criminality of Trump exposed in the report.

Reiner has been in the vanguard of Hollywood’s pro-Hillary contingent and is a vociferous proponent of Trump and Russia’s collusion in the 2016 election. In 2017, he teamed with Bush administration war criminal David Frum to start a group called Committee to Investigate Russia. This group also put out a video, one that starred former president-in-the-movies, Morgan Freeman, and it boldly declared that “We Are At War” with Russia.

With that statement in mind it should come as no surprise that Rob Reiner came to fame in the 1970’s playing a character named Meathead on All in the Family. It is nice to know he is still living up to the moniker. Reiner is Hollywood royalty, being the son of comedy legend Carl Reiner, then a tv star in the aforementioned Meathead years, and then becoming one of Hollywood’s most successful filmmakers, having directed hits like This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men.

In his most recent work, the Now This - Mueller Report video, Reiner tries to use his moviemaking prowess to make the argument that Trump is guilty of “collusion” but that no one realizes this because they haven’t actually read the Mueller Report. The video starts off on very shaky logical ground when just 44 seconds in Rosie Perez emphatically declares, “virtually no one has read” the report. It pains me to point out to Meathead and Ms. Perez, which could be the title of a future buddy cop movie, that the Mueller Report has been published by three different publishing companies, and all three of those versions currently sit on the New York Times best seller list at #1,#5 and #12. 

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Reiner’s claim also ignores the fact that the press has reported on “virtually” nothing but Mueller’s investigation for the last two and a half years. Considering the plethora of Mueller stories to the point of saturation in the media, the putting out of this video by Reiner is an act of animal cruelty worse than anything seen at Santa Anita racetrack because at least at the track they properly dispose of their dead horses instead of continuing to beat them.

In an amusing bit of irony, Reiner and his Hollywood cohorts who claim no one has read the report, prove themselves to either have not read it or not understood it when they repeatedly claim that Trump is proven guilt of “collusion” within its pages. The numerous references to “collusion” made me think of Reiner’s classic comedy The Princess Bride and the character Inigo Montoya who says in the film, “you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

“Collusion” is a nebulous word in the context of the Trump/Russia story and people who use it only do so to disinform and distract. As the Mueller Report states it did not use “collusion” in their assessment of potential criminality because “collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States code”.

Reiner and company intentionally say “collusion” instead of the more specific colloquial term ‘coordinated’, or the detailed legal term ‘conspiracy’, in order to mislead viewers about the contents of the Mueller Report. This obfuscation is proven by the report when it clearly states, “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian Government in its election interference activities”.

In Reiner’s video Cliff Notes version of the report he also holds up Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates meeting up with a “Russian agent” in a cigar bar in New York City in order to give him polling information as a sort of smoking gun. The video fails to mention the “Russian agent’s” name, which is Konstantin Kilimnik, maybe because he is also Ukrainian and clearly isn’t a “Russian Agent” because he was actually a “sensitive” intelligence asset for the U.S. State Department who would report to them on Ukrainian and Russian matters.

This insinuation of criminality is as equally obtuse as, and reminiscent of, the dim-witted band members from Reiner’s iconic rock and roll mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap, recalling the numerous deaths of their drummers through the years, such as the one who “died in a bizarre gardening accident” that authorities felt was “best left unsolved”, or the drummer who died when he “choked on vomit” but they didn’t know whose vomit it was because “you can’t really dust for vomit”.

The video also declares that Trump officials met with 200 Russian “operatives” and that this again is proof of “collusion”. In Reiner’s Cold War addled mind, every Russian is an “operative” or agent or asset, such as lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who is described in the video as a “Putin-connected Russian lawyer”, no doubt her “Putin-connection” comes from simply being Russian. 

The sort of Russophobic prejudice displayed by Reiner was best articulated by former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, when in 2017 he said, “…Russians, who typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.”

It is obvious that the gullible Reiner has fallen prey to the insidiously deceptive media narrative of Russiagate which is the equivalent of his film The Princess Bride, where liberals are Princess Buttercup and Robert Mueller is the hero Westley, who will save them from the evil Prince Humperdinck, who is Trump.

This current insipid Reiner video is a symptom of the delusional orgy of ecstatic Trump and Russia hating in which Democrats have indulged in recent years. Like in When Harry Met Sally when an older woman (played by Rob Reiner’s actual mother, Estelle) in a diner, who witnesses Sally demonstrate to Harry how she fakes an orgasm, masterfully deadpans the line “I’ll have what she’s having”, liberals watch Rachel Maddow’s orgasmic Russiagate coverage and declare, “I’ll have what she’s having”. The Democrat hysteria over Trump and Russia results in a dangerously distorted perception of reality, a perfect example is the perilous Reiner statement “We are at War” with Russia.

The reality is that because of the intensity of Reiner’s slavish, sycophantic worship of Hillary Clinton, no matter how many political videos he makes, he will convince no one of anything except the fact that he is a rabid political dog chasing his own tail who is close to collapsing onto the floor in a dizzied state of exhaustion and madness. That is the truth, and to quote Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men, Rob Reiner simply “can’t handle the truth!”

 A version of this article was originally published on June 27, 2019 at RT.com.

©2019

False Flags and Memory Holes

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 27 seconds

On Thursday June 13th, 2019, there was an “attack” on two commercial tankers in the Gulf of Oman. This “attack” is the second on ships in the last two months, as four commercial ships were similarly targeted off of the Gulf of Oman on May 12th of this year. The U.S. claims that the “attacks” were perpetrated by Iranian forces, and say they have the evidence to “prove” it, resulting in tensions in the region ratcheting up considerably with rumors swirling of a U.S. strike against Iran in retaliation.

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Of course, just because the U.S. claims it was Iran who committed these acts, doesn’t mean it actually was Iran. The evidence put forward, including a grainy video, thus far has been laughable at best and contradicted by eye witnesses such as the crew of one of the tankers. Pictures released by the U.S. alleging to show damage from Limpit mines have holes visible on the ships well above the water line, which indicates something besides a mine created them. Another oddity about the entire episode is that none of the ships that were attacked were American, but that hasn’t stopped the U.S. from blustering on about holding Iran accountable.

A false flag is defined as “a covert operation designed to deceive; the deception creates the appearance of a particular party, group, or nation being responsible for some activity, disguising the actual source of responsibility.” If one is even remotely historically literate and has a functioning mind complete with a critical thinking reflex, these recent attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman seem to clearly be false flag attacks.

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False flags have played a pivotal role in instigating many U.S. military actions over the years. Remember the Maine! That was the rallying cry of the media to drum up the Spanish-American War back in 1898 when the U.S.S. Maine sank in Havana harbor. The truth was that the Maine sank due to an accidental explosion, but the Hearst media empire turned it into a terrorist attack and thus pushed America into war.

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As the Pentagon papers showed, The Gulf of Tonkin incident was a charade, a notorious false flag operation used to justify the U.S. fully committing to war in Vietnam. The Gulf of Tonkin was the inciting incident which directly led to the deaths of millions of people in the region, including over 58,000 U.S. servicemembers.

In Syria in 2012, rebel forces used a false flag kidnapping of NBC News reporter Richard Engel to drum up American media anger against Assad and support for the rebels. Later in the conflict these same forces used false flag chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians, aided in part by the duplicitous White Helmets, in order to goad the U.S. to commit more military forces to the war and later to launch missiles into the country.

Prefabricated lies have always been an essential tool to deceive the American populace into supporting a war. Consider the case of Iraq, where the U.S. not only concocted lies about babies dragged from incubators to start the 1991 Gulf War, but also the WMD lie just over a decade later to start the calamitous Iraq war in 2003.

All of these past false flags and manufactured lies have been disappeared, lost down our cultural memory hole, because they are evidence of a very inconvenient truth, but a truth none the less…and that truth is that not only are we often not the good guys, but most of the time we are actually the bad guys.

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In the case of the attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman, you might ask who would do such a thing? Well the answer is…the usual suspects. First on the suspect list is Israel and their American neo-con contingent that acts as a duplicitous fifth column in the U.S.. Israel, once again, wants the U.S. to fight its wars for it and so yearns for America to start military action with their regional nemesis Iran. A good indicator of this being the case is that the Israel-firsters in the media have jumped on these stories to pontificate in support of attacks on Iran. Bret Stephens of the New York Times is a perfect example of one of these types who is incapable of any complex thought or even contemplating other culprits besides Iran.

Stephens gives the deception game away in his op-ed titled, “The Pirates of Tehran”. Stephens opens the piece describing how in 1988 the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts hit an Iranian mine while sailing in the Persian Gulf. Stephens then proudly proclaims that ten days later the “U.S. Navy destroyed half of the Iranian fleet in a matter of hours. Iran did not molest the Navy or international shipping for many years thereafter.”

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The revealing thing about Stephens jaunt down memory lane regarding America’s glorious smack down of Iran is that he completely ignores the most important part of the story. That part is that just a few months after the sinking of half of the Iranian fleet, the U.S.S. Vincennes shot down Iranian Air flight 655 in Iranian air space with a surface-to-air missile, killing 290 civilians, including 66 children. The U.S. never apologized for the incident and in fact gave medals to the crew of the Vincennes for their work. The senseless slaughter of innocent men, women and children is sort of a consequential detail to skip over when imploring the U.S. military to once again aggressively act against Iran.

Stephens second deceptive tell is a doozy, as he makes the case for Iranian guilt in regards to the most recent Gulf of Oman attacks. Stephens writes, “it would require a large dose of self-deception (or conspiracy theorizing) to pretend that Iran isn’t the likely culprit”.

Stephens reveals himself to be well-acquainted with self-deception when he writes about the authenticity of claims that Iran is responsible for the attacks, “Trump might be a liar, but the U.S. military isn’t.” Someone should buy Bret Stephens a pair of testicles and a history book, hopefully one with a robust section on the Gulf of Tonkin and the Pentagon Papers.

The thing that really stood out to me in Stephens’ piece though was the charge of “conspiracy theorizing”. See, according to Bret Stephens if you don’t accept the tenuous “official story” that Iran did it, then you are the most ludicrous thing a person can be…a conspiracy theorist! Of course Bret Stephens believes in conspiracy theories too, he is a Russian collusion Truther and accepts the official 9-11 story as fact, both of which are, in fact, theories of conspiracy, but for establishmentarians like Stephens, only other people are capable of being “conspiracy theorists”.

Is it an outlandish conspiracy theory notion that Israel would be behind false flag attacks? Not exactly. A conspiracy fact is that from 1979 to 1983 Israeli intelligence agencies carried out a massive false flag car bombing campaign in Lebanon that killed hundreds in order to sow chaos and to “push the PLO to use terrorism to provide Israel with the justification for an invasion of Lebanon”? Of course this may be an inconvenient truth for the anti-conspiracy theory crowd, but it is the truth.

The one good thing about the recent spate of accusations in the media against Iran regarding these ship attacks is that most people aren’t buying it. Yes, Bret Stephens and the Israel shills in the media are pushing Iranian guilt on the public, but the public is reticent to buy into it. Go read the comments accompanying Stephens New York Times piece to see the overwhelming skepticism on display.

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Who knows how long the dam of skepticism will hold though as the anti-Iranian media pressure is relentless. A perfect example of which is how the media frames Iran’s decision to increase its uranium stockpile. The mainstream media declares that Iran by doing this Iran is breaking the Nuclear Deal…which is absurd as the U.S. BROKE THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL ALREADY BY WITHDRAWING FROM IT! There is no nuclear deal with Iran…it is null and void once the U.S. broke the agreement. But that didn’t stop the New York Times from stating in its headline, “Trump Adds Troops After Iran Says It Will Breach Nuclear Deal”. CNN’s deceptive headline reads, “Iran says it will break uranium stockpile under nuclear deal in 10 days”. To listen to the U.S. press, Iran is supposed to abide by an agreement from which the benevolent Americans “withdrew”. (notice how American’s “withdraw” from an agreement but nefarious Iranians “breach” a non-agreement…ridiculous.)

Reading the establishment press coverage on Iran is like seeing Chomsky’s thesis from Manufacturing Consent come to life before your eyes. I wholly encourage every single person on the planet to go read that book in order to see through the tsunami of horseshit that the establishment media constantly throws at us.

Israel is not the only suspect on the list….there is also Saudi Arabia. The Saudi’s are a loathsome lot and they would do anything to get the U.S. to take out their arch-rival the Iranians. The neo-cons, always a beacon of morality and ethics, are not only shills for Israel but for the tyrannical despots in the House of Saud too. Trump is enamored with both the Israelis and the Saudis, flattery and money will apparently get you everywhere when it comes to the Orange King of Queens.

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The third suspect is the military industrial complex and its intelligence agency wing in the CIA, DIA and NSA. As Smedley Butler warned us, War is a Racket, and the U.S. profits mightily from that racket. By engaging in covert false flag attacks the U.S., or elements of the U.S. government and business community, can get a war with Iran that will make them trillions.

And the final suspect is an “all of the above” combination of the first three. It is very possible that the Israeli, Saudi and U.S. intelligence agencies are working together on these false flags and in stirring up trouble in the region. Considering the strangle hold the Israelis and Saudis have on our government and politics, and the vile miscreants populating our intel agencies, this scenario may be the most likely.

The bottom line in regards to Iran is this…we have no business going to war with Iran. War is a beast that once awakened, is uncontrollable. While the U.S. may think this will be a cakewalk comprised sinking of Iranian ships or missile strikes, things rarely, if ever, go as planned. In 1988, it was 290 Iranian civilians who paid the ultimate price for American aggression, maybe this time it will be American service members who needlessly die.

Iran is no Iraq, and the Iranian government won’t fall by U.S. military action…especially without invasion. And if invasion is on the table, that is absolutely insane because both Russia and China will gladly rush to covertly supply Iran’s military and irregular forces to turn the country into a quicksand which will become the American Empire’s, and maybe even America’s grave.

Hopefully tensions with diminish in the region and this fever breaks. I certainly hope that blowhards like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton and the Israel puppets in the media are overruled by the American people who are weary or war and leery of lies.

But with that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if we are on the precipice of the war with Iran of which the neo-cons, Israel and Saudi Arabia have long dreamt. If that dream becomes reality, it will be a nightmare for us all.

©2019

The Emotionalist Buffoonery of Charles Blow

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 22 seconds

This past Friday night, New York Times columnist Charles Blow was a guest on Bill Maher’s insipid HBO show Real Time, where Blow made a strong case for his emotionalist buffoonery. Blow then followed that up on Monday morning when he solidified those findings with an op-ed in The New York Times.

The most glaring example of Mr. Blow’s aforementioned emotionalist buffonery occurred on Real Time during a discussion on abortion and the Hyde amendment, a 1976 law which prohibits government funds from being used on abortion. It was at this point that Mr. Blow indignantly got up on his high horse, which is no doubt named Mr. Tibbs, and proclaimed that the Hyde amendment was meant to specifically target black women.

Blow said, “they knew this was about poor women…particularly on Medicaid, and that most of those women are not white women. That this is black women who are poor. And that they were cutting off access for those women because those were the ones that they could cut it off for.”

Blow’s thesis can basically be boiled down to this…that an evil “they”, which he would no doubt label white supremacists or racists, including members of the Democratic party by the way, came together in 1976 to specifically target black women and collectively punish them by not funding their abortions through the Hyde amendment.

Even a cursory examination of Mr. Blow’s premise exposes the absurd illogic of it all, and anyone with half a brain in their head can easily discern that Blow has less than half of one in his. Blow reveals himself with this thesis to be either a liar, a moron, or both.

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Let’s dissect Mr. Blow’s premise on the most basic level. If someone is a racist or a white supremacist, why would they want to limit abortions for black women which would result in more black children being born and not less? Wouldn’t the white supremacist be afraid that the more black children there are…the more whites will have to give their hard-earned money to “welfare queens” to feed and cloth these black children? Doesn’t the racist also believe that these black children will grow to become criminally inclined black adults who will either masterfully leach off of the welfare system or rape white women and rob and steal from white men? So wouldn’t a white supremacist or racist want there to be MORE abortions of black children in order to, in their mind, “cull the savage herd”, so to speak? Obviously Mr. Blow’s thinking is at odds with itself as it believes that Hyde amendment supporters hate black people so much that they want more of them.

Another major problem with Blow’s thesis is that it distorts facts in order to make its point. Blow’s claim that “this was about poor women, particularly on Medicaid, and that most of those women are not white women” is a painful contortion of statistical reality, if not an outright lie. According to a Kaiser Family study, of all non-elderly Medicaid recipients - these are the ones who would potentially be getting abortions, whites make up 43% and blacks 18%.

It is true that a greater percentage of the black population is on non-elderly Medicaid than the white population, as blacks make up 12% of the general population and 18 % of the non-elderly Medicaid recipients, while whites make up 70% of the general population and are 43% of non-elderly Medicaid users, but in terms of raw numbers, whites are by far the highest group of recipients as nearly 24 million whites receive non-elderly Medicaid, which is double the amount of blacks that do, which is 11.5 million. If the Hyde amendment is a racist weapon to hurt black women, it might be a boomerang because it hurts considerably more white women than its alleged intended target.

Another striking thing is that the foundation of Blow’s argument about the Hyde amendment is based on the idea that blacks receive far more Medicaid benefits than whites do. This assumption by Blow is contrary to the facts and is pretty blatantly “racist”, or at least Blow would think it was if a white person espoused it.

Of course, Maher’s audience, filled with sycophants and fools, cheered Blow from his opening statement solely because he used the magic word “equality”. Any lies or distortions of statistical reality that he made after that are irrelevant to these dullards and dopes who immediately shut off their critical thinking ability and mindlessly cheer every time they hear the words “equality”, “diversity” or “inclusion”.

As for Blow’s piece in the NY Times, “‘Help Us!’ The Panic at D.C. Pride”, it is a powerful display of charlatantry and psychosis in action. In the article, Blow describes how as he was getting dressed in his hotel room in Washington D.C. this past weekend, he heard a commotion in the hallway and then four young white women were banging on his door for help. The women were running away from the Gay Pride parade where a panic had ensued when there were thought to be gunshots.

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In one of the unintentionally funnier moments in the article, Blow describes the situation thus, “they were panicked, so I figured that the best thing I could do for them was to be a calming presence.” The idea of Charles Blow, a professional hysteric, being a “calming presence” at any point in time shows you how self-deluded he really is. On top of that, can you imagine being the poor soul, running for your life and looking for someone to defend you and frantically knocking on random doors and then one opens and for a split second you think you are saved and then you realize it is Charles Blow looking back at you? How deflating must that be to think Charles Blow, the man whose panties are in a perpetual bunch, is supposed to protect and defend you from some impending danger?

The sit-com level ridiculousness of Blow helping four frightened lesbians aside, what is really striking about the article is that it is at once about a panic, yet is also an an exercise in creating and sustaining a panic.

What is most unintentionally illuminating about Blow’s article is the panic it describes is based upon a non-event, as there were no threats or guns pulled or shots fired at the Pride parade in Washington, D.C. that day. This panic was ignited by our cultural mania over “mass shootings”. Blow is blind to that irony as he writes, “Those women in my room had every right to fear for their lives. It was perfectly understandable that they could believe that a mass shooter could be anywhere…”. Blow is endorsing the notion here that the boogie man of a mass shooter could literally “be anywhere”. Under these Orwellian and broad parameters that means that there is literally nowhere where you are safe from an evil mass shooter. In theory that is true, I suppose, but it is also true of other media “boogie men” through the years, like Muslim terrorists or black gang members or Latino illegal immigrants.

The reality is that the media plants lots of fears in America’s cultural consciousness, but that doesn’t mean that they are rational. Throughout American history there have been similar panics to the current “mass shooting” panic that Charles Blow endorses. In the 1950’s there were panics over switchblades. In the 1970’s panics over crimes and drugs began and continue to this day. In the 1980’s there were panics over videogames, dungeons and dragons and AIDS, and the list goes on and on and on. Hell, the summer before 9-11 the media was in a full blown panic over shark attacks.

The panic at the Pride parade came about as a result of media conditioning people to be constantly afraid, and Mr. Blow does the same thing with his article on the subject. As Blow writes in his column, “Mass shooters have become our domestic terrorists, and the possibility of their presence and threat of their carnage is now an ambient dread in the American psyche.”

This type of conditioning is standard procedure for tyrants of every stripe, an example of which was the Bush administration’s heightening of the “ambient dread in the American psyche” over Muslims terrorists in the years after 9-11. The government and the media preyed upon people’s fear and used that fear-based compliance to eviscerate civil liberties and catastrophically invade Iraq.

Of course Muslim terrorists do exist, but fear of them is inversely proportional to the threat they represent, as over their lifetime Americans are more likely to die from from their tv falling on them than in at the hands of a foreign terrorist.

The “ambient dread” of being killed in a mass shooting is equally irrational as the lifetime odds of being killed in a mass shooting are about equal to the chance of dying by legal execution in America.

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The truth is that the media and government stoke fears in order to frighten people and trigger them to act out of emotion and not reason. A perfect example of this are the four young women in Blow’s story who, even after knowing that there was no threat, still demanded that Blow escort them out of his hotel (This begs the question, what type of weak-kneed feminists are these lesbians that they need a man to defend them, and then even need him to hold their hand once the threat is gone?). When people are scared and emotional, they are easily controlled and manipulated because they are looking for someone to protect them. In the wake of 9-11 the American people acted no different than those four women in Blow’s hotel room when they embraced the Patriot Act and then the Iraq war.

The lesson that Charles Blow learns from the hysterical panic at the Pride parade is the exact opposite of what it should be. Even after time passed and the heat of the moment cooled, instead of acknowledging the over-reaction and trying to get his readers to stay calm and think logically, Blow doubled down on the mania with his article by insisting that the irrational hysteria on display at the Pride parade is deserving of dissemination and amplification.

For Charles Blow and his ilk, subjective feelings trump objective reality and emotion is more important than reason. Blow feels like the Hyde amendment is written by racists to punish black women, and won’t let facts or logic dissuade him from that subjective feeling which is very distorted from objective reality. These four women from the Pride parade were panicked and in an emotional state but Mr. Blow doesn’t try and “be a calming presence” by recognizing objective reality of the fact that there was no shooter, and there is a very slim statistical possibility of dying at the hands of a mass shooter, but instead embraces emotionalism, irrational fear and hysteria by cultivating the hysteria and stoking the flames of fear.

The conclusion I draw from Charles Blow’s work is that he is impossibly enthralled with his identity as a victim and that distorts his grasp and perception of reality. Blow is the proverbial black hammer who sees the whole world as a racist white nail. Blow’s addiction to his victim identity blinds him to the obvious gaping holes in his logic regarding racists and the Hyde amendment and the statistical reality of the impact of that amendment on white people. It also forces him to impulsively embrace an invigorating but deceptive emotionalism which leads him to be a compulsive hysteric forever on the search for his next high of indignation and outrage. This is evidenced in his writing, as his formula for his columns is one part righteous rage, one part victim hood mantra, combined with a total lack of nuance, introspection or commitment to Truth. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The bottom line is this, Charles Blow is a raging mediocrity as a writer and an insipidly and insidiously vapid and grotesque thinker, yet because he wears the mask of the noble and defiant victim he is a “useful idiot” to those in power and is thus given a prime spot in the esteemed New York Times. And from this lofty cultural perch he does what he was hired to do…dissemble, distort, distract and disinform his readers all in service to his own narcissistic psychological desires and the status quo, which keeps him thoroughly enslaved in a perpetual cycle of victim hood.

To be fair to Charles Blow though, he and his lack of testicular fortitude and intellectual integrity are just symptoms of the disease that is currently ravaging our culture and eating away at it from the inside out. This disease of narcissism, emotionalism and the exultation of victim hood, is like syphilis, if left untreated, it leads to insanity and then death. As evidenced by Charles Blow’s recent ramblings, we are obviously well into the insanity stage.

©2019

Final Thoughts on the Game of Thrones Finale - Alternative Ending Included

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 02 seconds

Game of Thrones has come and gone and after eight seasons of turmoil has exited with a whimper and not a bang. The final episode, in keeping with the final two seasons, was underwhelming at best. The narrative felt rushed and the drama forced, and so, a show that was a powder keg of possibilities ended with a fizzle.

The finale was lackluster and the last season lacking, and I think it is important to understand why that is and how it happened. The biggest issue, and this seems to be a consensus, is that the last two seasons were rushed, with the narrative being sped up and therefore the drama not earned. It is counter intuitive, but oddly enough the dramatic momentum of the show slowed precipitously when the pace of the narrative increased over the last two seasons. Without the requisite time and space to let the characters and story marinate, simmer and then stew over a warm but not hot flame, the drama was both under done and over done at the same time. This left the story tough on the outside, which made it difficult to chew on, and cold on the inside, which made it hard to swallow, and left an unpleasant taste in your mouth and a queasy feeling in your belly when it was over.

In the recipe for drama, time is a key ingredient and it seemed to be the most lacking in the last few seasons of Game of Thrones. For example, much more time was needed for Dany to be turned into as mad a Queen as she needed to be for the resolution of the story to make dramatic sense.

By increasing the pace of the drama over the last two seasons, and this half season most especially, the show lost its focus and became more about hitting plot points necessary to end it, than in having characters make believable choices in the circumstances they found themselves. When logistics of the production are the main driving point for the arc of the narrative, then the story will crumble under the weight of its dramatic falsity.

Of course, lots of people have lots of opinions about the show and its finale. People like to bitch about things…myself included. But it is important not to let the less than stellar finale and final season undermine the enormity of what the makers of Game of Thrones achieved with this show. As I have written before, we will not see anything like this again…and so while it is fun to nit pick the negatives of the final season, we must also tip our cap to those that got so many people invested in the show in the first place.

With that said…here are my thoughts on what should have happened. Of course, the question arises, who the hell am I and why should anyone give a rat’s ass what I think should have happened to end Game of Thrones? The answer to that is that I am most definitely a nobody and will remain one until the day I die…but…I do spend my time and make my living as an acting coach scouring scripts in a desperate search for drama. I read a ton of scripts and I work with lots of actors trying to dredge up the worthwhile drama in them. My alternative take on the Game of Thrones finale is an exercise based entirely on storytelling where drama takes precedence. Maybe my ending makes no sense in terms of the books (which I have not read), or the budget (which I am not paying for), or the fan base (of which I am not a member)….but it does make dramatic sense…and for me that is all that matters.

So…here it is…my broad brush ending to Game of Thrones.

ALTERNATE ENDING

Main Themes: Duty and Honor

The sacking of King’s Landing should’ve been the first big battle of the last season….with the Battle of King’s Landing and the Battle of Winterfell exchanging places in the story order. In a six episode season (which should’ve been 12 episodes) the Battle of King’s Landing should happen in episode three at the latest, two if possible, and the Battle of Winterfell against the Night King should have happened in the penultimate episode (#5). In a 12 episode final season, which i would prefer, I would have the Battle of King’s Landing at Episode 8 and the Battle of Winterfell at episode 11.

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The Battle/sacking of King’s Landing would play out the same way in my version as the show’s actual version, with Dany going all Dresden/Hiroshima on the general population. My one tweak would be that Cersei and Jaime die in each others arms but by dragon fire when Dany sees them trying to escape the Red Keep. Dany and Cersei would look into each others eyes and then Jaime and Cersei would have their conversations “this is all that matters”, and then Dany would torch them. This sequence gives Dany agency in Cersei’s death and also makes Cersei’s death a punishment for all of her evil.

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The burning of King’s Landing sets Dany up as a morally questionable character due to her torching of innocents. It also means that every character becomes morally compromised by the atrocity because they still need Dany on their side in the fight against the Night King. The Night King is the greatest existential threat to all of mankind, and so it means that everyone…even the mad Queen who kills innocent people, must be kept on board. Every character, from Jon to Tyrion to Arya to Sansa and on and on must bend the knee to one evil, Dany, in order to defeat another greater evil, the Night King.

The Battle of Winterfell then proceeds after the armies march north to Winterfell to meet the Army of the Dead. On this march there are lots of conversations about Dany and what are we going to do? She is mad? etc., etc.

The Battle of Winterfell is shot more clearly and with more coherence and clarity in my version. While I didn’t really dig Arya killing the Night King or the way she did it in the original…I will acquiesce and keep that sequence the same. But in my Battle of Winterfell many more characters are lost. Brienne, Tormund, Greyworm as well as the ones killed in the original all die.

After the end of the Battle of Winterfell and the Night King’s death, Dany embraces an exhausted Jon and they weep and cheer their victory together. Dany then tells Jon that since the threat of the Night King is over, “their child can be born into a world of peace.” Uh-oh…Dany is pregnant…and Jon is the father…the stakes just got even higher in Westeros.

In my alternative finale…Jon is, as always, ready to serve his queen…but Tyrion, Sansa, and Arya all implore him that something must be done about the Mad Queen who is talking and acting like a tyrant.

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Jon then has a similar conversation with Dany that he had in the actual finale, and they go back and forth about what is good and right…and Dany asks Jon to join her in making this new world. Jon kills her. Dany being pregnant with Jon’s child as well as being his Queen and love…makes the stakes much higher, the gravity of his decisions much heavier and much more fraught than in the original finale. By killing Dany, Jon is actually sacrificing not just his love and self-conceived notion of his honor and belief system…but his lineage, his child, his everything that he yearned for throughout the story. Jon commits this heinous (in his eyes) act because it is the “right” thing to do for the people, the kingdom and the Starks…and these added narrative obstacles make the weight of that decision much much greater than was in the original finale.

The Lords of the Seven kingdoms then declare Jon, who is the rightful heir, to be king of Westeros. Jon declines and instead exiles himself to the North, to wander among the Wildlings far north of the wall…and to never marry or have children or take lands. His punishment is self-imposed….this gives Jon agency and makes his exile a heroic act and thus he begins his arc of redemption. Jon starts as a bastard longing for acceptance and he ends as a self-imposed exile…forgoing all he yearns for in order to do the right thing.

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The council, after much debate and hemming and hawing, all, out of various Machiavellian maneuvers…choose Gendry Baratheon to be king. Gendry is chosen by some because they think he is an peasant who can be easily manipulated to thwart Stark power. But those anti-Stark machination are upended when Arya Stark, who has discovered she is pregnant with Gendry’s baby and thus cannot explore what lies in the West, accepts Gendry’s proposal. Arya thus becomes the Queen of Westeros, and due to Gendry’s rather uneducated background, Arya is now the real ruler of the Seven Kingdoms and eventual mother to a King as well.

Arya marrying Gendry and becoming Queen of Westeros fulfills her character’s arc too as she has thrown off the childish urges for adventure and revenge and instead grows up to accept “DUTY” above all else. Just as her mother and father before her sacrificed for her, Arya now sacrifices her dream of personal freedom for her child and for her family and kingdom. Arya starts as a tomboy repulsed by the trappings of power…and ends as a Queen, ruling over the Seven Kingdoms.

Sansa, assuming she is backed by her sister, then declares that the North will not kneel…and must be independent. Other kingdoms tart contemplating the same thing. Gendry and Arya, with an assist from Bran, decide that in order to quell the “independence” talk, Sansa must consummate her marriage to Tyrion and bear an heir if the North is to be granted autonomy. Both Sansa and Tyrion are horrified and vehemently against the idea.

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This is the highest of drama considering Sansa’s history and also considering that it is her sister and brother who are asking this of her. After much hemming and hawing…Sansa does what both Jon and Arya do…she chooses duty…and she accepts her fate and the conditions under which she will become Queen of the North. Sansa chooses to put duty to her people and family above all else and agrees to the pairing. (A shot, through a doorway - like the iconic ending of Godfather I with Michael in a room and Kay watching through a door- of Sansa standing in a bedroom alone. Tyrion enters, they exchange a glance, he kisses her hand, then Sansa walks over and slowly closes the door on the camera, implying they are about to have sex, would be terrific.)

In order to soften the blow upon Sansa…Tyrion is named the Hand and will live in Kings Landing after Sansa is impregnated, leaving Sansa to rule the North on her own. Arya tells Tyrion that she will watch him with a keen eye and have his head if he so much as thinks of betraying her or Gendry. Tyrion looks over and sees Bran, who nods. Tyrion understands that Bran knows everything and that he must be unquestionably loyal to Arya and Gendry.

Bran is now the Three Eyed Raven…and serves as a sort Grand Maester who is part historian, part prophet, part wizard. Bran works closely with Samwell and they become the keepers of history and knowledge. Bran also searches far and wide with his powers to find Drogon and maybe even bring him under the Stark wing with his warging powers.

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The show could end with the same Stark montage as the original finale…except this time with Arya sitting on her throne next to Gendry…ruling the kingdom through her husband, with Sansa sitting alone on her throne in Winterfell with her hand on her belly contemplating her soon to be born child, and with Jon riding alone in the cold and snow of the North, feeling the bitter wind of his exile.

So…that is what I think should’ve happened. If the show had gone one more full season they may have been able to pull it off…but alas…we will never know. I guess I better get started writing my fantasy novel masterpiece because that is the only way these ideas will see the light. And thus concludes my speculative Game of Thrones pseudo-fan fiction!

©2019

Brief Thoughts Before the End of Game of Thrones

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 14 seconds

When Game of Thrones first appeared on HBO I admit I was skeptical. In general I don’t watch much television except for whatever sporting event that isn’t golf I happen to stumble upon, but I do usually make an exception for HBO.

I prefer to watch HBO because their shows are not suffocated within what I call the “Network Box”. The Network Box is why most network tv shows suck…they are stuck in a box of creative limitations in terms of what they can say and show, and monetary limitations in terms of how much money they must generate in order for the network to stick with them.

On network shows the language is censored, the violence muted and the nudity non-existent. Because of this it all feels so…manufactured and phony. And because the network’s demand so much ad revenue for each show, niche programs stand little chance of surviving their early years when they are building an audience and creative momentum. So why watch network TV when it is all garbage and anything worthwhile will be cancelled before there is any resolution to the story. And so…I generally give HBO shows a chance because they have more likelihood of being good and of not being cancelled if they aren’t blockbusters right away.

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That said, I watched Game of Thrones originally more out of an obligation than out of interest for that first season. Then something completely miraculous happened…at the end of season one Ned Stark got his head chopped off. Stark, who was played by Sean Bean, the biggest star on the show, was the central character for season one, and when he found himself kneeling with the executioners axe poised over his neck, I watched with a bemused detachment.

As that scene unfolded I kept trying to figure out how Ned would be saved…who would swing in, or ride by, and in typical Hollywood fashion, somehow save the star. But then they actually cut Ned’s head off and I literally jumped up from my seat. I was startled, unnerved, exhilarated, agitated, excited and shocked. I was pacing my empty living room yelling aloud, “HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT!!”It was at that moment that Game of Thrones made its bones! Ned’s head was gone and it was on!

I never became a Game of Thrones superfan. I never read the books or delved into the maze of online fan sites and theories and such. I did watch every episode though, but if I am being honest, I rarely knew what the hell was happening or who half the people were, but that didn’t matter. The show as beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, well-written and was never miserly with violence or nudity. As I was fond of saying to friends about Game of Thrones, “come for the blood and guts, stay for the boobs and bush”…and that is exactly what I did.

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One of the great not-so-secrets of Game of Thrones’ success was that it would take the most mundane scenes, filled with nothing but expository writing on the political machinations or history of Westeros, and turn it into interesting eye candy by setting the non-action in a brothel or bedroom with beautiful women, and occasionally men, cavorting in the background in all of their Medieval naked glory. Game of Thrones seemed to understand the most basic laws of human nature…which are, in no particular order…people like to look at beautiful people, people like to look at beautiful people naked, and people like to look at two or more beautiful people naked and simulating sex.

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Besides the naked bodies and the consequence filled violence, the highlight of the show for me were the dragons. When Dany’s three fire-breathing, winged progeny grew up and took to the world, they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen on television. When the dragons were unleashed in battle, whether it be to save Dany from an assassination attempt, or to nearly kill Jaime, or to save Jon from the wights…they were glorious. When the undead ice dragon obliterated The Wall, it was simply stunning to behold. And when Dany went full Dresden and unchained Drogon to shock and awe in the battle of Kings Landing last week, it was absolutely spectacular. Remarkably well shot, with seamless special effects, the aerial destruction of Kings Landing was one of the greatest visual sequence ever seen on television.

In addition, when Drogon’s head came out of the darkness on the beach in last week’s episode to incinerate Varys…that was a truly delicious shot. It was also an example of creation through limitation…as the darkness wasn’t just visually striking…it saved money, as they only had to do a limited amount of CGI for the dragon head and not the whole body.

Which brings us to the budget issue. Game of Thrones has an enormous budget, the equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it isn’t unlimited. As I wrote earlier in regards to the Battle of Winterfell, that episode’s dark and muddy visuals which so many, myself included, found annoying, could very well be a result of penny-pinching and cutting corners in order to save money for the Battle of Kings Landing. Sure enough, last week’s Battle of Kings Landing was everything that this season’s earlier Battle of Winterfell was not. It was crystal clear, visually coherent and cinematically gorgeous.

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Another complaint many have had, myself included, regarding the final two half seasons is that the narrative has seemed decidedly rushed, and thus less cohesive and coherent, especially in contrast with the pace of the earlier seasons. In my opinion, the story would have been better served had they done two full seasons instead of two half seasons, but again, the budget is probably the reason that didn’t happen.

If the producers had done two full seasons then the cast may have been up for significant pay raises and would have had a tremendous amount of leverage with which to get those pay raises. By doing two half seasons, the showrunners are only paying the cast for one full season, thus keeping them on their original “rookie” contracts and avoiding shelling out a big pay day.

The budget issue is a complex one and there are no doubt mitigating and complicating factors all the way around, including but not limited to people not wanting to be stuck working on this project any longer. Yes, Game of Thrones is undoubtedly the greatest thing most of these folks, be they actors, crew or producers, will ever be associated with, but working in TV is a grind, and working on a show in far off locales even more so. As successful as the Game of Thrones has been, I’m sure nearly everyone working on it is relieved it is over.

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This is just my opinion…and I am not the one writing the checks…but I would have preferred not only two full seasons but also a flipping of the Battle of Winterfell and the Battle of Kings Landing. To me, I think it makes more narrative and creative sense, at least in hindsight, to have the beautiful Battle of Kings Landing first, and then the Battle of Winterfell in the penultimate episode. Of course, I would also want to spend more money and have the Battle of Winterfell shot entirely differently and even have a different ending, as the one they went with was way to Hollywood for my tastes and out of character for the show.

Also, I would still have Jaime and Cersei die at the Battle of Kings Landing in each other’s arms, which was very poetic, but just not by being buried under rumble, which was not visually satisfying. I would have had them try to escape, then see Dany on Drogon, and Dany see them, and she and Cersei make eye contact, then Cersei and Jaime have their final goodbye conversation and hug and then…DRACARYS…and the Lannister twin’s charred remains would be frozen in an eternal embrace. But again…this is just my opinion and I am sure others have differing ones that are just as valid.

As for what will happen in the finale…I have absolutely no idea mostly because I am still not even sure what the hell has already happened. As I wrote before, the bottom line is this, we should enjoy Game of Thrones and the Game of Thrones phenomenon while is lasts because we will see nothing like it ever again. Sure, people will try to copy its success, but cultural forces will limit what other series can do in Game of Thrones‘ wake, and will no doubt make little more than cheap, watered-down, politically correct and tokenly diverse imitations on the original rather than improvements.

You only get one shot at ending something as epic as Game of Thrones. As of right now, the show’s creators, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, have definitely faltered coming down the abbreviated stretch. That said, it is not impossible, but certainly not likely, that Weiss and Benioff could right the ship in the show’s final eighty minutes. Whether they stick the Game of Thrones landing or not, Weiss and Benioff should be lauded for having gone as far as they have with this show and having been as successful as they have been with it. Game of Thrones is a monumental television achievement and regardless of whether it ends as well as it began, we should be grateful of that fact and shouldn’t lose sight of it.

©2019

Undead Army of the Woke Will Make Sure Game of Thrones is the Last Show of Its Kind

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 04 seconds

****WARNING: This article contains some information about Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame that might be considered minor spoilers if you haven’t watched the series or seen the movie yet. You’ve been warned.****

The surge of political correctness in recent years all but assures that in the future, edgy shows like Game of Thrones will be strangled in their creative cradle.

In 2011, Game of Thrones premiered on HBO as an exceedingly well-acted and beautifully photographed fantasy-drama of swords and sex, chock full of palace intrigue, familial rivalry and violent conquest. The show flouted Hollywood storytelling conventions and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Sadly, we will never be able to enjoy anything like Game of Thrones ever again.

The reason that we’ll never see anything like Game of Thrones again is because in the eight years since the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novels first hit the small screen, much has changed, and not just in the mythical land of Westeros. In the real world, and the unreal one of social media, political correctness has taken the throne and vanquished all contenders, leaving the bloody head of rational thought on the end of a spike as a warning to anyone who dare speak up against the zeitgeist of neo-feminism, inclusivity and a coddling sensitivity.

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In the past few years, movements like #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo have dramatically changed the landscape of Hollywood by weaponizing diversity and victimhood and using them to bludgeon opponents and silence dissent. The “woke”, whom Merriam-Websters defines as those being “aware of and actively attentive to…issues of racial and social justice”, have taken over the entertainment industry. Just like the Night King’s Army of the Dead broke through The Northern Wall to attempt to destroy all of humanity in Westeros, the Army of the Woke now march on our popular culture intent on obliterating all worthwhile entertainment.

A wonderful example of the vacuity of wokeness came in the form of a Game of Thrones outrage tweet from actress and high-priestess of political correctness, Jessica Chastain, where she slammed the show for the character Sansa’s claim that having survived a plethora of traumas, including rape, transformed her into a strong woman.

Chastain tweeted,

“Rape is not a tool to make a character stronger. A woman doesn’t need to be victimized in order to become a butterfly. The #littlebird was always a Phoenix. Her prevailing strength is solely because of her. And her alone.”

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Chastain’s tweet is not only an advertisement for her intellectual dwarfism, not to be confused with the intellect of a dwarf, which Tyrion proves can be formidable, but also an actual advertisement. “Phoenix” is a reference to Chastain’s new X-Men movie, Dark Phoenix, which also happens to star Sophie Turner who plays Sansa on Game of Thrones. It appears Jessica Chastain’s superpowers include self-promotion and shamelessness.

Like Chastain, the pc brigade turns everything, including popular entertainment, into a referendum on social justice issues and their own self-worth. The woke spend their time not enjoying arts and entertainment but rather policing them in search of offense or wrong-think in the hopes that they will get the joyous opportunity to vent their self-righteous rage.

Evidence of this is found in articles from major publications with headlines such as, “Game of Thrones Treatment of Women Will Tarnish Its Legacy”, “On Game of Thrones Daenerys Targaryen faces a sexist double bind – like so many women leaders”, “Game of Thrones Keeps Killing Off Entire Immigrant Populations, And It’s a Problem”, “’There are no black people on Game of Thrones’: why is fantasy TV so white?”, “Racist or just bad writing? What Game of Thrones latest shocking death says about the show”, “Game of Thrones: too much racism and sexism – so I stopped watching”, and finally “My Feminist Opinions Ruined Game of Thrones for My Boyfriend”. These stories are emblematic of the fact that the woke are social media Savanarolas perpetually in search of works of art or entertainment to throw onto their bonfire of the vanities. These people don’t just want their politically correct opinions to “ruin Game of Thrones for their boyfriend”, but to ruin all of popular culture for everybody.

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The feminist criticisms of Game of Thrones are particularly vapid because they are so demonstrably wrong, as women are the most pivotal and powerful characters on the show. The most formidable and effective rulers on Game of Thrones have been Queen Cersei and her nemesis Daenerys, Mother of Dragons. Arya Stark has gone from a little girl to the deadliest warrior in all of Westeros, who became a legend when she killed the Night King. Ser Brienne of Tarth, the first women to ever become a knight, is the most noble and honorable knight in all the Seven Kingdoms. And last but not least is Sansa Stark, who has suffered brutally but whose resilience has allowed her to become the ruler of the North and, who knows, maybe even sit on the Iron Throne when all is said and done.

All of these women have faced great difficulties and horrendous challenges, but they have prevailed not only in spite of them but because of them. In Game of Thrones as in life, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, but the woke warriors either lack the interest or ability to interpret the show in any other way than to see women and minorities as victims.

If you want to see the future of popular entertainment in the wake of Game of Thrones, look no further than the corporate behemoth Disney and their Marvel and Star Wars franchises. The first phase of the twenty-two film Marvel Cinematic Universe just concluded with Avengers: Endgame, and the woke contingent’s victory is obvious with Captain America now a black man and Iron Man replaced as the center of the story by an all-powerful female character, Captain Marvel.

The Star Wars films too have devolved into a politically correct mess where diversity and inclusivity trump narrative cohesion and dramatic coherence. And if you publicly voice displeasure about the direction of Marvel or Star Wars…you are labeled a misogynist and racist troll.

Game of Thrones warned us for years that “Winter is Coming”…well, winter is now here, and hordes of woke zombies have descended upon us to suffocate all but the most sterile of entertainment. Just like Varys and The Unsullied were castrated on Game of Thrones, so our popular entertainment is being neutered, except this time with the dull blade of politically correct utopianism.

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A version of this article was originally published on May 17, 2019 at RT.com.

©2019

United Sheep of America: Assange, Fascism and Liberal Hypocrisy

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Estimated reading Time: 3 minutes 48 seconds

LIBERALS BETRAYING ASSANGE EMPOWER FASCISM

 Establishment liberal’s loathing of Julian Assange has emboldened fascists across the globe.

Fascism, which the Oxford dictionary defines as “extreme authoritarian, oppressive, or intolerant views or practices”, is a relentless force that, whether it be out in the world or in our own hearts, is always on the march. The world is, as they say, full of little men (and women) in search of a balcony, and we are all iron-fisted, tiny tyrants-in-waiting.

Proof of that was easily observable this past Thursday, April 11th, 2019, which is a date that will live in infamy, as it is the one where any pretense of liberal resistance to fascism finally crumbled and chose to live on its knees rather than die on its feet.

On that date, the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by British police after the U.S. unsealed an indictment for “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” against him in the Eastern District of Virginia and sent an extradition request to the British government.

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The vindictive actions of the authoritarian U.S., British and Ecuadorian governments are not what will taint this date in history though, as their behavior is entirely predictable in terms of its immoral and despotic nature, instead what will echo throughout history regarding Assange’s arrest will be the gleeful reaction by my fellow liberals to the thuggish behavior from their government.

The liberal cries of delight at the sight of Assange being manhandled by British police are a turning point in the war for America’s soul, just as symbolically significant and crucial as Winston Smith’s spirit being broken when he finally relented and declared that “2 + 2 = 5” in Orwell’s 1984.

The acquiescence of many liberals to the establishment narrative regarding Assange, that he is a rogue, narcissistic hacker, rapist and cyber-terrorist, is the death knell for any serious intellectual or political resistance to the powerful and brutish beast of American fascism, corporatism, oligarchy, plutocracy, aristocracy and the totalitarianism of the military and intelligence industrial complex.

You would think that the mainstream media, usually so adversarial toward Trump, would furiously condemn him for arresting Assange, but that is not the case. The majority of the corporate media are in lockstep agreement with Trump regarding the Assange indictment.

The New York Times stated, “The administration has begun well by charging Mr. Assange with an indisputable crime”.

The Grey Lady aided and abetted the Bush administration’s Iraq War lies as well as their surveillance and torture programs, so their support of Trump’s assault on the First Amendment via Assange is in keeping with their boot-licking character.

The Washington Post claimed, “Julian Assange is not a free-press hero. And he is long overdue for personal accountability.”

The Washington Post’s current position on Assange’s is curious since the underlying evidence in the case has not changed since Bradley Manning was court-martialed for espionage in 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in prison. In 2013, The Post reported the Obama administration considered indicting Assange for the Manning leak, but decided against it because,

“If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who publish classified material, including the Washington Post…”

As former Bush Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith opined in 2011 in The Post, “A conviction would also cause collateral damage to American media freedoms. It is difficult to distinguish Assange or Wikileaks from The Washington Post.”

It seems that time has not healed the corporate media’s old Assange wound but rather has made it fester, so much so that they would prefer to cut off their nose to spite their face.

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The media and liberal reaction to Assange arrest proves that American fascism’s ruthless march to total victory won’t just be televised, it will be greeted with approval by those who claim to be fearless and tenacious opponents of it.

The liberals who responded to Assange’s arrest with the most craven and ignorant cheers are the same ones who decry Trump at every turn, frantically raising the alarm over press freedoms when he attacks the media and labels journalists the “enemy of the people”. These supposedly devout anti-fascists and anti-Trumpists love to compare Trump to Hitler and vociferously decry his assault on the press, yet they shriek with joy when their nemesis arrests Julian Assange, an actual, and extremely effective, journalist.

To further highlight the hypocrisy, the fact that with the Manning leak, Assange and Wikileaks exposed a cavalcade of war crimes committed by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, which included the murder to two Reuter’s journalists, apparently holds no water with these charlatans, as it is never mentioned when they boldly assert that Assange “is not a journalist”.

Assange and Wikileaks have routinely pulled back the veil of respectability and revealed the duplicity and depravity of the American government, and yet, the damning truth is that the criminals they exposed walk free and Assange and Manning sit rotting in jail. Liberals who disgustingly celebrate this fact are entirely devoid of any moral authority whatsoever.

These liberal resistance ne’er-do-wells are so intellectually, politically, philosophically, spiritually, morally and ethically emaciated that their only animating principle is an outrage fueled emotionalism born of tribalism that blinds them to the fact that with their subservience regarding Assange’s (and Manning’s) persecution, they have handed Trump and their other enemies a powerful weapon which will certainly be used against them.

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Anti-Trump resistance poseurs like to talk about “Russia-gate” and Trumpists being Putin’s “useful idiots”, well, there may be no more useful an idiot than the one who doesn’t sell you the rope with which you intend to hang them, but just gives it to you as a gift, like establishment liberals just did by supporting Trump’s prosecution of Assange.

These supposed stalwarts of liberal values in the anti-Trump resistance have repeatedly revealed their true nature by slavishly sanctifying and deifying insidious intelligence community criminals like John Brennan, James Clapper, Michael Hayden and Robert Mueller. Now, with Assange’s arrest, they once again align with the evil establishment against those who would expose the mendacity, criminality and corruption of those in power.

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I would say that Assange’s arrest and the liberal reaction to it is a case of American fascism crossing the Rubicon, but the truth is the Rubicon is so far in the rear view mirror the next river crossed will be the Congo. We are now deep into the heart of darkness and Assange’s incarceration (and the liberal joy over it) is akin to the extinguishing of our last light source as the long, cold night of tyranny descends.

It is clear to see that these Assange-loathing liberals and resistance dilettantes are just as totalitarian and fascist as Trump. The cold, hard reality is that you cannot both cheer Assange’s arrest and also believe in transparency and accountability and you also cannot both advocate for Assange’s prosecution and also for a free press. Silencing Assange is the silencing of any true resistance, but obviously these self-anointed and self-reverential liberal “resistors” are not really interested in actually resisting authoritarianism, only in posing and preening.

Liberals who believe and propagate the establishment’s narrative about Assange are nothing but shills, dupes and dopes complicit in empowering fascism. Those that cheer Assange’s detainment are enemies of freedom and liberty and they will get the fascist, tyrannical, authoritarian government they have earned. And when that totalitarian beast comes for them like it did for Julian Assange, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

©2019

Russiagate: Puzzlements and Lost Causes

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Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes 11 seconds

On Sunday, March 24, 2019, Attorney General William Barr released a brief summary of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s findings regarding the Russiagate matter. According to Barr’s summary, while Mueller makes no determination regarding obstruction of justice, the special prosecutor does declare that there was no collusion or conspiracy between Trump, his campaign, and the Russian government during the 2016 election.

This finding came as a great shock to the mainstream media and many Democrats who had been touting Russiagate as a weapon to bring down Trump’s presidency. It would seem, at least according to Barr’s summary, that these folks were wrong.

The reality appears to be that Russiagate was a ruse, a hoax perpetuated by the establishment media over the last two and half years and swallowed whole by the vast majority of liberals. This Russiagate fraud came about through the perfect combination of mendacity and greed on the part of the media and Democratic elites and confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, denial and delusion on the part of the #Resistance, liberals and anti-Trumpists.

Not everyone was wrong about Russiagate though, as people like Glenn Greenwald, Aaron Mate, Michael Tracey, Matt Taibbi, Caitlyn Johnstone, Jimmy Dore and others maintained a healthy and accurate skepticism regarding the Russiagate claims being made by the establishment press and Democrats. You know who else didn’t buy into the Russiagate hype? Me.

My first comments on the Russiagate story came in December of 2016 after Donald Trump’s upset win in the presidential election, when I wrote an article about how Democrats, liberals and progressives should proceed in the age of Trump. This article, the contents of which led to me being ex-communicated from the Church of the Woke and expelled from the Society of the Right Thinking, was titled “A Practical Handbook to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Trump”. Here is an excerpt from that piece.

The final point I will make to you is this...I know this story circulating lately about Russia interfering with the election in Trump's favor is tantalizing, but please do not embrace it. I am telling you, the more you want a story to be true the more skeptical you should be of it. This "Russia hacked our election" story…is fools gold. These stories being breathlessly reported by the establishment media are all based on unnamed official sources. Please just wait until there is actual, tangible evidence put forth, and even then be very, very skeptical. This whole Russia hacking episode reeks of the wishful thinking that was going around (especially in establishment media circles) in the build up to the Iraq war. There was no evidence then either, but people wanted those stories to be true so they gave them the benefit of the doubt. This Russia story is even less credible at the moment and even more dangerous…Do not fall for this Russia story trap. Don't do it, one way or another you will live to regret it. I promise you that.

That was published in December of 2016. For nearly two and a half years now I have consistently preached skepticism regarding the Russiagate story, and for nearly two and a half years I and other Russiagate skeptics like Greenwald, Mate, Taibbi et al, have been persistently attacked for that position and have had such slurs as Putin shill, traitor and the worst of all…Trump supporter, thrown at us.

Yul Brenner sums up my feelings toward Russiagate best with a song…and yes…I am aware that Yul Brenner was Russian.

It would seem, at least on the surface, that in regards to Russiagate I was right and my numerous detractors were wrong. Of course the possibility certainly exists that Barr’s summary is directly at odds with Mueller’s findings, and I have no doubt that Mueller’s report contains much more damage to Trump than Barr lets on. But with that said, it seems highly unlikely that Mueller would quietly sit by and let Barr distort his work without speaking up*. Proof of this is that this past January Mueller broke his silence to shoot down a Buzzfeed story claiming that Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, so he is obviously comfortable pushing back against falsehoods being disseminated in the public sphere. (*Please see Addendum at the bottom of this article)

Even though Mueller has found “no collusion or conspiracy” regarding Russiagate, it is also worth noting that from day one I have never trusted Robert Mueller and have repeatedly warned Democrats about embracing him (it should also be noted that I don’t trust Barr either, as both Barr and Mueller are creatures of the deep state who are right at home in the swamp) . I have often reminded liberals of Mueller’s long list of “problematic” behavior, such as his pushing the Iraq/WMD lie, his abuse of civil liberties and rounding up of Muslims after 9-11 and his botching of the post 9-11 Anthrax investigation. But instead of being wary of Mueller, the #Resistance deified and sainted him, putting him on a pedestal like some golden calf they could worship. St. Mueller was, to mix various horror story metaphors, the noble Van Helsing who had the silver bullet that would bring down the Trumpenstein monster. The #Resistance believed in him faithfully and fully…and since he hasn’t given them Trump’s head on a platter as they expected, they are left with egg on their faces.

Obviously, I was not shocked by Mueller’s alleged findings as I have been saying all along that it was clear there has not been any evidence brought forth that would substantiate the “collusion” claim. Sure there have been a lot of news stories and pundits claiming to know for a fact that Trump did “collude” with Russia, but there was never any solid evidence to back up this speculation. I was certainly always open to the possibility of collusion and open to any evidence brought forth, but none ever was.

CONSPIRACY THEORY

One big indicator that the media was more interested in conjuring Russian boogey men in order to knee-cap Trump and less interested in the Truth, was the language they used regarding Russiagate. The term “collusion” is a non-legal word that was continuously bandied about but is so amorphous that it could mean just about anything. The proper term for what was alleged in Russiagate is Conspiracy. Conspiracy is not only an accurate descriptive term but also a clearly defined legal term.

When the media refused to call Russiagate a conspiracy, it was a strong hint that there wasn’t much evidence underlying their conjecture. The reason for this is that you can twist “facts” to fit a nebulous charge like “collusion”, but it is much harder to do the same thing to a specific legal charge like conspiracy.

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The other, and maybe more telling, reason that the word conspiracy was never used is that the media has spent the last sixty years or so denigrating the term and turning it into a cudgel to be used against enemies of the establishment. From the JFK assassination to 9-11 and beyond, anyone who deviates from the establishment narrative is labelled a “conspiracy theorist” in order to destroy their credibility without ever engaging their actual arguments. The problem for the media now though, is that Russiagate was an alleged conspiracy, and media speculation on Russiagate is the definition of a CONSPIRACY THEORY…because it theorizes a conspiracy.

As I wrote in September of 2017 in an article titled “The Media Hates Conspiracy Theories…Except When They Don’t”,

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. 

The failure of the corporate media to call Russigate what it is/was…a conspiracy theory…was a giant red flag that the story was at best being manipulated and at worst manufactured. The semantics used by the corporate media around certain stories, like Russiagate, is extremely enlightening as the choice of words they use, and don’t use, reveals a great deal about motive and intent. For instance, since Attorney General William Barr’s letter regarding the Mueller report came out declaring “no collusion”, the establishment press has referred to Barr as Trump’s “hand-picked” Attorney General. This indicates an intent to deceive the viewer/reader as anyone who has a rudimentary understanding of civics knows that ALL ATTORNEY GENERALS ARE HAND-PICKED…that is how you get the job. By adding the qualifier that Barr is “hand-picked” you can quickly deduce that the person saying that phrase is not an honest broker and is twisting facts to fit an agenda.

In terms of the “conspiracy theory” idea, another blurb from my September 2017 article,

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.

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.

What is ironic is that the same media that refused to describe Russiagate as a conspiracy theory, were quick to equate it with two events that attract quite a bit of conspiracy theories. Many in the establishment pundit class described the alleged Russian election interference as the modern day equivalent of “Pearl Harbor” or “9-11” and as an “act of war”. Of course, thousands of Americans died heinous deaths at Pearl Harbor and on 9-11, so the analogy was always painfully hyperbolic as well as very extremely dangerous since if it were an “act of war” that would mean we would be obligated TO GO TO WAR WITH RUSSIA. Once again, these sorts of semantic flourishes such as relating Russiagate to 9-11 or Pearl Harbor and calling the alleged interference an act of war, reveal a stark dishonesty and lack of credibility.

Regarding Russiagate and 9-11 comparisons, it is interesting that in terms of evidence, there is considerably more evidence in the public domain that 9-11 was an “inside job”, which is another amorphous term like “collusion”, than there is that Trump conspired with Russia or even that Russia ever hacked the DNC or interfered in the election at all.

Even though that is the case, the media would never in a million years allow people to come on cable networks and espouse the belief that 9-11 was an “inside job”, and they sure as hell would never make that the official position of their networks and dedicate years of coverage to it like they did with the conspiracy theory of Russiagate. The New York Times would never grant a “conspiracy theorist” like Alex Jones the prestigious position of space on their op-ed page to speculate on Bush being involved with the 9-11 hijackers through his family’s connection with the House of Saud…but they did basically the same thing when they let certifiable conspiracy loon and fantasist Louise Mensch write an op-ed about Russiagate.

RUSSOPHOBIA, MICROWAVE WEAPONS AND CRICKETS

The truth is that the establishment media loathes all “conspiracy theories” except for the ones they love. And when they love a conspiracy theory they don’t call it a conspiracy theory…they simply call it news. Russiagate is obviously one example of that, but there are a plethora of other Russia related stories that fit the bill as well.

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Remember the story that broke this past September where both the New York Times and NBC News breathlessly reported that the reason that a group of U.S. “diplomats” in Cuba had fallen ill was because the Russians had attacked them with a mysterious microwave weapon? I wrote an article for CounterPunch in September titled “A Curious Case of Mystery Attacks, Microwaves and Media Manipulation”, shredding those “microwave attack” stories as being obvious nonsense and anti-Russian propaganda.

After meticulously dismantling the outrageous claims made in these news reports about a “Russian mystery microwave attack”, I ended my piece with this,

These incidents may very well be proven to be attacks, and Russia may ultimately be responsible for them, but we should wait for actual evidence and not accept whispered innuendo wrapped in a slavish deference to intelligence agency authority as proof…

Similar to the delirious fever for war in the lead up to Iraq, the media are currently suffering from a virulent hysteria, this time of the anti-Russian variety. Now more than ever it is imperative to maintain a healthy and vigilant skepticism whenever Russia is blamed for misdeeds but there is a dearth or absence of concrete evidence. If we succumb to the corporate media’s Siren’s call of compulsive Russia blaming, our new Cold war may just turn very hot, and that will be a catastrophe for all of us.

Months later it was reported that scientists studying the incidents and illnesses that sparked the
”microwave weapon” speculation, now conclude that they are not the result of a “microwave attack”, but rather a reaction to the noise made by a particular type of cricket during mating season.

The “collusion” claims made by the media seemed to me to be very similar to the “microwave weapon attack” story in that they fell flat on their face upon closer inspection. There is a long list of similarly dubious anti-Russian stories in recent years and they all crumble upon even the most rudimentary examination. There was “Russia hacked the Vermont electrical grid”, “Russia hacked C-Span”, “DNC emails were altered”, “Russian spy-harlot used sex to infiltrate America”, “Russia could turn off the heat in the U.S.”, “Michael Cohen went to Prague”, “Manafort visited Assange” and on and on and on. These stories all garnered lots of attention and lots of headlines and then a few days or weeks later had to be retracted or amended because they were at best misleading and at worst outright fabrications.

ASSESSING THE ASSESSMENT

Just like these other fabulist anti-Russia stories, Russiagate was bound to collapse because it was built on an unstable foundation that was devoid of facts and evidence and rife with innuendo and assumption. The founding document of Russiagate is the aptly titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections”. This assessment, which was published on January 6, 2016, was such a flimsy, tenuous and superficial document that it was utterly startling, and frankly alarming, to witness it being taken so seriously.

The document contains not a single shred of hard evidence of Russian interference in the election, and only uses outdated and specious claims against the Russian news channel RT as proof of Russia’s nefarious actions and intents during the 2016 election. For example, here is a quote from an article I wrote in January of 2017 titled “Through the Looking Glass” where I describe the case made in the assessment for Russia’s guilt regarding election interference. (FULL DISCLOSURE - While I was not a contributing writer for RT at the time I wrote “Through the Looking Glass”, I am now.)

Another section…will come as quite a shock to liberals and Democrats…in the lead up to the 2012, again, to be clear, this is not the 2016 election but the 2012 election, RT aired a documentary on Occupy Wall Street that the report described like this…"RT framed the movement (Occupy Wall Street) as a fight against the ruling class and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations". Is there any rational and uncompromised human being on the planet who would describe the US political system any other way?

…other parts…of the report say that RT "alleges widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality and drone use" in America. Another part says that RT is attacking the US by criticizing "alleged Wall street greed." Let that one sink in for a minute. I hope liberals and Democrats are starting to understand how this report, and the intelligence community that prepared it, are not your friends, not by a long shot. Neither are they friends of Truth. 

Every single liberal I spoke with about the assessment agreed with it fully…but not surprisingly none of them had ever laid eyes on it. I encouraged everyone to read it but most never did. I would ask these liberals if they were against fracking and police brutality and supportive of Occupy Wall Street and to a person they all said they were…and when I informed them that the assessment asserted that RT covering those subjects was evidence of a nefarious Russian plot to undermine American democracy, they were left befuddled. To me it was obvious that the intelligence community was using anti-Trump hatred and fervor among the #Resistance as a way to surreptitiously criminalize left wing political beliefs through this assessment. Of course people thought I was crazy and ignored my warnings and instead put their faith in the intel community and eventually in St. Mueller.

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Without fail, the media and Democrat talking point regarding the assessment was that it was “all 17 intelligence agencies” that declared that Russia interfered in the election. This establishment media talking point of “all 17 intelligence agencies” quickly became the chorus of the hit song “Intel Assessment”, the first single off of the album Russiagate, and was meant to stifle dissent, debate or questioning of the assessment and its findings. Everybody sang this tune…from establishment court jesters on Late Night TV to the journalists at tony institutions like the New York Times to the blathering buffoons of cable news and cocktail party goers who wanted to sound informed. Of course, the problem was that the talking point was patently false. It wasn’t “all 17 intel agencies”, it was parts of four intel agencies…the Office of the Director of National Intelligence with specifically selected analysts from the NSA, CIA and FBI. This is just one of many false narratives that were implanted into the public consciousness by the media and that became ingrained in individual’s minds and solidified as “fact”.

CONFIRMATION BIAS

Speaking of people’s minds, this might be a good time to examine why it was that so many people, in the media and out, fell for the Russiagate hoax hook, line and sinker. I believe that the main reason for this is our old nemesis confirmation bias.

The reason the #Resistance embraced the assessment (even when they never read it) is because the assessment told them what they wanted to hear, and since the assessment made them feel better they didn’t want to dig deeper into it out of the fear they may find out it wasn’t the truth. This is how confirmation bias works.

The intel assessment in particular, and Russiagate in general, confirmed all of the biases of the #Resistance and the establishment. It allowed these folks to believe that Trump didn’t legitimately win, Hillary didn’t lose and more importantly, that they weren’t so spectacularly wrong.

Russiagate had a convenient scapegoat for all that ailed the #Resistance and the establishment…namely Russia. Russia had put Trump in office and Russia had denied Hillary her rightful place on the throne, because of this belief any and all stories and speculation about Russia (and Trump) were immediately assumed to be true. All Russia related claims weren’t taken as truth because after a reasoned weighing of the evidence conclusions were drawn, but rather because those claims on their face simply made people feel better.

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Declaring that Russia hacked the election, the DNC, C-Span, Vermont, American diplomat’s brains and all the rest, made people feel good…or at least gave them a brief reprieve from their Trump induced anxiety, fury or depression from which they suffered. That is what confirmation bias does, it excludes negative information that challenges your bias and heightens positive information that confirms it in order to buttress your belief system.

Confirmation bias is radioactive to the critical thinking function. This is why it is so dangerous for the #Resistance. Immediately after Trump’s victory there was a tsunami of “unfriending” in liberal circles where anyone who disagreed with Clinton supporters was exiled, I know this because it happened to me and some of my compatriots. Instead of self-examination in the wake of Hillary’s loss, Clinton supporters doubled down on their confirmation bias and tightened the lock on their echo chamber…which is part of the reason why they lost in the first place. It was in this echo chamber that Russiagate was born and prospered, like a fungus thriving in the darkness of intentional ignorance.

It is in these hermetically sealed echo chambers where “conspiracy theories” and “conspiracy thinking” flourish because ideas are never challenged and sharpened but rather are coddled and grow flaccid. The echo chamber insidiously replaces critical thinking with a proud and defiant emotionalism.

The lesson of all this is quite clear…allegedly ”serious” people love to denigrate conspiracy theories…except when those conspiracy theories confirm their biases. If a conspiracy theory tells people what they want to hear then it will gain traction in whatever community needs for it to be believed regardless of how tenuous the supporting evidence for it may be. In the case of the Russiagate conspiracy theory, it told millions of Democrats and establishmentarians exactly what they wanted to hear….that Trump was the lowest of the low, a traitor who only won by cheating…which made them feel good and allowed them to ignore their responsibility in his victory.

MEDIA MALPRACTICE

Media con artists and grifters, like the vacuous and repugnant frauds Luke Harding, Malcolm Nance, Jonathon Chait and David Corn or the coterie of professional liars from the intelligence community like John Brennan, James Clapper and Jeremy Bash or the journalistic poseurs at CNN or MSNBC, like the ridiculous Rachel Maddow. Nicolle Wallace, Chris Hayes and Chris Matthews, and at The New York Times and the Washington Post, pushed a plethora of Russiagate bullshit stories and narratives for all they were worth and made millions and billions by doing nothing more than making anti-Trumpists feel good by confirming their biases.

Harding, Nance and Corn all wrote books about the Russiagate story that alleged to show the “truth” but were little more than shallow and shameless attempts to pad their bank account at the expense of their #Resistance marks. The Mueller report has decimated the credibility of these men and their books, but that has only forced them to double down on their extravagant claims. And of course, no one in the media is being held accountable for their journalistic malpractice and malfeasance.

Speaking of malfeasance, former head of the CIA John Brennan was lionized by the corporate press as a paragon of truth and honor when he declared Trump a traitor. When Trump revoked Brennan’s security clearance last year, the media reacted as if Trump had sodomized Brennan on national television and excoriated the president for being so petty to a “true American hero”.

As I wrote in regards to the media and the #Resistance (in this case at a taping of Bill Maher’s HBO show) fawning over Brennan in an article last August titled “In a Fit of Anti-Trump Pique, Liberals Shamelessly Embrace Deep State Criminals”,

The nadir for the #Resistance occurred shortly thereafter as Brennan rumbled on stage and was greeted by the eruption of a raucous standing ovation by the liberal audience, with Little Bill calling it a "well-deserved standing ovation". Only in the bizarre universe where a silver-spooned, multi-bankrupted, reality television star is president does a former CIA director who has committed crimes and war crimes such as implementing and covering up Bush's rendition and torture regime, spying on the U.S. Senate and masterminding Obama's deadly drone program, get a delirious ovation from those on the left.

Brennan was deeply involved in Russiagate, as he was Director of the CIA when the alleged election meddling occurred. Brennan then used his “intel insider status” to get a job at MSNBC as a talking head and then spent his time on air making outrageous claims about Trump and the devious Russians. Now that Mueller has cleared Trump of collusion, Brennan says he must’ve gotten “bad information”…or as I have been warning for years now, maybe he is just a bad guy who is prone to lying…his history seems to back my assertion. Of course, liberals ignored my warnings on Brennan (and Mueller) because what Brennan told them confirmed their bias and made them feel better.

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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was the ringmaster of the cable news circus that was Russiagate. Maddow peddled any and all Russophobic conspiracy theory she could get her hands on and her audience ate it up. Maddow’s ratings shot to the penthouse as her integrity went to the bottom of the septic tank. Maddow exploited her audience’s desire for denial by going full Glenn Beck…and you never want to go full Glenn Beck. It is obvious that Maddow made the business decision to tell people what they wanted to hear (confirm their bias) as opposed to the journalistic decision to tell people the Truth.

What is so repugnant to me is that Maddow, Nance, Corn, Harding, Brennan and the rest of the corporate media lap dogs all preyed upon the grief of hurt Democrats in the wake of Trump’s election and sold them a bill of goods regarding Russiagate. MSNBC, CNN, NY Times, Washington Post and the rest of the corporate media exploited vulnerable people who were in pain for their own aggrandizement and monetary gain. These media con-artists did what all con-artists do, they told their marks exactly what they wanted to hear in order to bilk them and enrich themselves.

RUSSIAGATE AUTOPSY - HOW AND WHY

The foundation from which this perfect storm of fraud called Russiagate took root, grew and raged among the elite as well as the rank and file Democrats and liberals was the deep, profound and disorienting grief that staunch supporters of Hillary Clinton fell into after Trump’s 2016 election victory.

Some liberals (women in particular), with a large assist from the media, projected a great deal of cultural, political, psychological and personal meaning onto Hillary Clinton and her 2016 candidacy, understandably so considering she was the first woman to be a presidential candidate from a major party. These supporters projected themselves onto Hillary and she became an avatar and an archetypal symbol for their hopes, dreams, struggles and lives.

These projections fostered a deeply personal and powerful emotional attachment to Hillary among some voters (most particularly, but not exclusively, female Democrats). The problem with this type of projection and archetypal emotional connection is that it often breeds an emotionalism that leads to a crippling of the critical thinking function…and so it was with these particular type of Clinton supporters. The simple idea that Hillary could lose to, in their eyes, such a repugnant, sexist pig as Trump, was entirely inconceivable to these type of Hillary supporters (in the media and the public) because their projections and emotional attachment, and its accompanying emotionalism, caused a myopia and historical amnesia that led them to be blinded to reality on the ground.

TRAUMA

Due to this emotionally induced blindness, when Clinton lost the electoral college to Trump it wasn’t just a defeat or disappointment or shock to these Clinton projectors/supporters…it was a trauma….and I do not use that term lightly. Trauma is derived from the Greek word trauma, which means “ a wound, a hurt; a defeat”, and Clinton projectors/supporters suffered a trauma in every sense of the word as they were “wounded”, “hurt” and “defeated”.

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In psychological terms, Hillary’s defeat to Trump felt like an actual physical or sexual assault upon these Clinton projectors/supporters. I know that sounds crazy, but it is true, and proof of it is that Clinton projectors/supporters have been suffering from post traumatic stress for the past two and a half years.

If you look at the symptoms of PTSD they read like a perfect descriptor of Clinton projectors/supporters behavior since Trump defeated Hillary.

1. IRRITABLE OR AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR - Since Trump’s victory and Hillary’s defeat, Clinton projector/supporters have ranted and raved incessantly, called all Trump voters racist and misogynyst, advocated the punching of alt-right members and cheered when it happened, and also shouted at and banned right wing public figures from restaurants and certain spaces. Russiagate was also a form of this symptom of PTSD as evidenced by the wildly aggressive charges and conspiracies being bandied about by supposedly serious journalists.

2. RECKLESS AND SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR - This is Russiagate in a nutshell. Instead of being rational and logical, Clinton projectors/supporters in the media and the general public threw ever more wild accusations at Trump thinking that Mueller would be the tool by which to remove him from office. The story was a nothing burger from day one…a total farce…but Clinton projectors/supporters were blind to it…and now they have handed Trump a powerful weapon for his reelection. Russiagate is a wonderful example of reckless and self-destructive behavior and cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face.

3. HYPERVIGILANCE - This again took the form of Russiagate, as the media and Clinton true believers saw Russian boogey men and women around every corner. Rachel Maddow and her fans are the poster children for this form of nonsensical and hysterical hypervigilance.

4. EXAGGERATED STARTLE RESPONSE - Again…this is Russiagate in a nutshell as it is an entirely exaggerated startle response. See Rachel Maddow and her co-”conspirators” in the establishment press who are so quick to turn everything Trump does into a Russian conspiracy and the apocalypse. Clinton supporters also pretend like everything was fine before Trump and have an exaggerated startle response when he acts just like every other asshole president we’ve had.

ON DEATH AND DYING

Besides suffering from Trump related PTSD, Clinton projectors/supporters are also suffering from grief. All losses are accompanied by grief of one form or another, and political losses are no different. When reality does not conform to your dreams, then there is a grieving that occurs…but in the case of Hillary projectors/supporters, that grief was much, much more intense than usual. A female candidate didn’t just lose, which would be bad enough as it would signal or reinforce feelings of personal unworthiness among Hillary’s projectors/supporters, but she lost to a man deemed to be not just a misogynist but an abhorrent sexual predator and racist monster. Hillary’s loss seen through this lens, which is the lens that the Hillary projectors/supporters used, was a catastrophic political, moral and ethical defeat, a personal repudiation and a trauma.

In the wake of Hillary’s loss, these projectors/supporters dove into the deep end of the grief pool with the added complication of the burden of PTSD, and the result was that they frothed and flailed and raged about desperately looking for something for which to grasp. The Clinton campaign and the media tossed them a lifebuoy with “Russiagate” written on the side of it and these projector/supporters grabbed on to it with a maniacal fervor.

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According to the Kubler-Ross model, there are five stages of grief that in chronological order are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages of grief never quite go in as linear a fashion as one might expect. Grief is usually a one step forward, two steps back type of process where the stage you are in can change from moment to moment and day to day, sometimes moving forward, sometimes moving back.

In the case of Clinton projectors/supporters, Russiagate short-circuited the grief cycle and created a grief vortex where they repeatedly vacillate between denial and anger. Russiagate allowed these wounded, confused, traumatized and grieving Clinton projectors/supporters to cling to the hope that none of it had happened, that none of it was real and that they had been “right” all along. The problem is that reality and time inevitably transform an open system of hope into the closed system of denial. Some of these Clinton projectors/supporters became such dead-enders that they still defiantly declare that Hillary should be sworn in because she is the rightfully and duly elected president…which is a very clear indication of denial winning the day.

HELLO, COG DIS MY OLD FRIEND

The bottom line was this, that Clinton projectors/supporters were in such pain in the wake of Trump’s victory that they would do anything to alleviate that pain. One way to alleviate that pain was through confirmation bias, another was through outright denial, and yet another was through our old friend cognitive dissonance.

As I wrote in my article “Truth, Justice and the Curious Case of Chris Kyle” back in 2014,

Cognitive Dissonance is "psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously". People will contort in all sorts of ways to avoid seeing the uncomfortable truth that is right in front of their eyes and facing that conflict.

In the case of Chris Kyle, his supporters vociferously attacked me for pointing out the incongruity of his tall tales regarding his shooting of two carjackers, his “discovery” of WMD’s in Iraq and a plethora of other lies. These Kyle supporters were struggling with the discomfort of reading information that was at odds with their previously held belief. In order to alleviate that discomfort, they ignored the new information and attacked the source of it…me.

In the case of the 2016 election, Clinton supporters suffered from a similar malady where they simply could not accept that Hillary lost the election, and maybe even more importantly, that Trump actually won it. They were so emotionally attached to Clinton and their dream of a female President that the new information, Trump’s win, caused tremendous psychological discomfort…and in order to alleviate that discomfort they simply denied the new information with the delusion of Russiagate.

Clinton projectors/supporters simply cannot accept the reality of Trump as president and Hillary as defeated because it is so damaging to their identity and their cosmology. So instead they suspend their disbelief by short circuiting their critical thinking, and embrace the delusion of Russiagate.

When news stories appeared that alleged to show Trump’s guilt regarding collusion, liberals would celebrate like it was Christmas morning and pass the stories around like gifts. Days, or even hours later, when those stories were shot down, liberals simply ignored the new information, preferring to live in the delusion upholding grandeur of the original story.

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The most glaring example of this is the infamous Steele Dossier, which alleged all sorts of suspicious activity on the part of Trump…the most embarrassing being the supposed “pee tape”. The Steele Dossier has been thoroughly debunked, so much so that even establishment shills like Michael Isikoff, who wrote an entire book with David Corn based upon the presumption that the Steele Dossier was accurate, have now declared it to be totally false. But liberals still cling to the Steele Dossier as if it is the gospel truth, and most believe that Trump is “compromised” (and in attempts to sound sophisticated use terms like “Kompromat”) by the Russians who have “pee tape” or something much worse on him.

The Steele Dossier claimed that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen went to Prague to collude with Russians and the media and liberals clung to this story as damning evidence of collusion. But when Cohen flipped on Trump he testified under oath before Congress he swore he had never been to Prague. Instead of accepting and integrating this new information, liberals and the corporate media instead posited that Cohen was telling the truth in his testimony about everything except the Prague stuff…this is what cognitive dissonance looks like in action.

More from my Chris Kyle article,

What usually occurs when people are presented with new information that clashes with their strongly held belief, is that they "seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists."

Russiagate was the magic bullet for Clinton projectors/supporters and the #Resistance because it allowed them to alleviate their cognitive dissonance through confirmation bias, which allowed them to live in a state of denial and delusion.

Russiagate may have felt like a lifesaver at the time for these traumatized and hurting Clinton projectors/supporters, but as I pointed out right after the election, it was not a life jacket but an albatross. Denial is normal and natural when grieving, but if you stay in it too long you never evolve and heal from the wound. In the case of Russiagate, the #Resistance and the Clinton projectors/supporters, denial became an addiction that needed to be fed to be maintained in order to keep the pain of reality at bay. This addiction, like all addictions when they are so acute, was accompanied by hysteria, mania and delusion.

NEO-CONNING

The biggest winners in the Russiagate fiasco are not the Trumps, but the neo-cons, who have long wished for a revived war with Russia, be it cold or hot, and now they have not only their conservative cohorts on board but a plethora of supposed liberals who have been duped by Russiagate.

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In a fevered attempt to take down Trump through Russiagate, the #Resistance made the calamitous mistake when they whole-heartedly embraced and rehabilitated the neo-cons from the Bush administration who lied us into Iraq and who were aided and abetted in that crime by the same corporate media that has been pushing Russiagate. The Decider himself, George W. Bush, has even been rehabilitated and transformed from being a war criminal and worst president ever to being hailed as a man of great principle and deep character all because he gave a candy to Michelle Obama at a funeral.

Other neo-cons, such as the reprehensible Bill Kristol and David Frum, are now held in the highest esteem by those who should know better just because they oppose Trump on stylistic grounds. Besides reviving the neo-cons and exorcising their Iraq ghosts, the #Resistance also warmly embraced the neo-liberals and their economics which gave us the 2008 housing collapse and the big bailouts among other notable disasters. Russiagate makes for strange bedfellows…but the #Resistance is going to find out that when you sleep with war criminals and banking fraud pigs, you wake up with blood on your hands and smelling like shit.

CONSEQUENCES

The long-term consequences of going all in on Russiagate for the #Resistance, Clinton projectors/supporters and the media are dire.

In their fever and fervor to bring down Trump, the media have handed him a gift of epic proportions by stripping themselves of any last vestiges of credibility they had left. Trump’s favorite claim is that of “fake news”, and when something comes out that makes him look bad, he labels it “fake news” and the media and #Resistance goes crazy. Now with Russiagate, the media have propagated the motherload of “fake news” and have legitimized Trump’s future claims of “fake news”, thus neutering themselves as a functioning and vital part of our Republic.

The Russiagate fiasco is a weapon that Trump will now use to bludgeon his enemies and to protect himself from any further charges of wrong doing (of which, I am sure, there are a lot), and it is entirely the fault of the fourth estate and the #Resistance for having gotten out ahead of themselves and the evidence.

Sadly, just as with their utter failure regarding the Iraq War and WMD’s, the media will face no consequences for their miscarriage of journalism in the case of Russiagate. The loudest media voices that got it wrong…AGAIN…will simply fail upwards and maintain their standing as guardians of the establishment just as they did after the Iraq/WMD mess. The corporate media in America is so tainted and so toxic that it is a cancer on our culture and simply cannot be trusted at all anymore…and that is dangerous for our Republic.

LOOKING IN THE MIRROR

While the media is certainly to blame for this Russia-Gate fiasco, at some point people need to take responsibility for their own thinking, or lack thereof. How many times does the media have to reveal itself to be a mendacious propaganda machine before people wake up and push back? The media malpractice in their coverage of the Iraq War/WMD lies, the housing collapse, the Chris Kyle fabrications, the cavalcade of anti-Russian misreporting, the Jussie Smollett nonsense, the Russiagate fraud, how many more times does the media have to prove itself to be untrustworthy before people start holding them accountable?

And this is not some frivolous question, this is crucial for the survival of the Republic. If the press cannot function with some semblance of impartiality, journalistic quality and professionalism then an authoritarian will simply use the public’s distrust and disgust with them to his advantage and will further erode our already tenuous civil liberties….oh wait…that is already happening!

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That is the most frustrating thing about the Russiagate horseshit…it has aided, abetted and emboldened Trump. This shouldn’t be surprising since the corporate media were already complicit in getting Trump elected the first time, but now with their incessant shrieking about the Russiagate “collusion” hoax they have given Trump a great boost for 2020.

At this point in the Russiagate story It isn’t about people having more knowledge in regards to Russia, or Trump or the media, it is about knowledge of oneself. Why do you believe what you believe…and where does your loyalty lie? If it lies anywhere besides the Truth, you are bound to be suckered by something or someone. Remember…if you desperately want something to be true, you should be particularly wary of those who you tell it is.

Regardless of how things go forward from here and whether the report gets released (which I hope it does) or if it gets buried, I ask the #Resistance to listen to me now. I warned you two years ago and you ignored me. Don’t make that same mistake again. My advice to you now is to stop being so God-damn emotional and weak. Get tough. Get rational. Get logical. Get strategic. And most importantly pledge your loyalty not to your party, ideology, country or identity but rather to the Truth. It will serve you and America much better in the long run.

ADDENDUM

As I was writing this piece this week a story titled “Some on Mueller’s Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed” broke in the New York Times that claimed that people from the Mueller team were frustrated over Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of their findings, and claimed that Mueller’s report is much more damaging to Trump that Barr makes it seem.

Well…that isn’t really what the New York Times article says…but that is how it is being “reported” in its headline and by cable news outlets like MSNBC. In fact, in an odd confluence of events, I was watching MSNBC when the story broke and got to see in real time how dubious their journalism really is as Chris Matthews “paraphrased” the Times article by saying that Mueller’s team is finally speaking up after two years of silence.

Here is the first paragraph of the Times article which caused such a stir.

Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney general William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

That is one hell of a paragraph…so let’s break it down.

Cable news and other media have declared that this story is really bad news for Trump because Mueller’s team is finally speaking out and is saying the report will be damning of the President. Of course, upon closer inspection, virtually none of the cable news pontification is even remotely backed up by the facts stated in the article.

For instance…even though the media is claiming this is Mueller’s team breaking their monk like silence…they aren’t. This isn’t Mueller’s team speaking out…these claims are allegedly being made by “associates” of Mueller’s investigators, not the investigators themselves. Beyond that, in that opening paragraph the Times also makes it clear that the sources for the story are “government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations”.

So let’s be perfectly clear as to what this story claims…that “government officials and others” have heard from “associates” of members of the Mueller team, that said Mueller team members believe that the Attorney General “failed to adequately portray their findings”.

This is like a bad game of telephone where the esteemed New York Times reports on third and fourth hand information that was allegedly told to “associates” of investigators on Mueller’s team, and then those “associates” told associates of theirs who are “government officials and others” who then told the New York Times who are now telling us.

Not surprisingly, MSNBC, CNN and the Washington Post all followed up the Times story with equally explosive claims but with similarly distant and dubious sourcing.

It is absolutely stunning when you break down the story and its sourcing and then consider the shock waves of glee this report sent through cable news and the #Resistance. Bill Maher, who is the id and village idiot of the center left, just last night was touting on his HBO show that treason is back on the table and so is collusion, all based on this extremely vacuous and flimsy report in the Times…which clearly states that the finding of “no collusion” is not in contention.

Maher is the hackneyed comedy version of cognitive dissonance with bad skin as on his show last week, the first since the Mueller Report was submitted and the Barr synopsis came out, he declared that he doesn’t need Mueller’s report because he KNOWS Trump is a traitor! This is textbook Cognitive Dissonance, where people “seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists."

This story and the media and the #Resistance’s rapturous response to it proves once again the seriousness of the maladies from which they suffer. This report and the liberal response to it highlights the conformation bias, cognitive dissonance, denial and delusion which I wrote about above. It is also emblematic of the media’s blatant dishonesty and unprofessionalism. This story is just one more piece of evidence for the thesis I laid out in the above article.

It is also a damning indictment that the #Resistance and its media cohorts like Bill Maher and MSNBC are irredeemable and a hopeless lost cause.

MY BEST GUESS

When discussing my skepticism regarding this whole issue, I am often asked what it is that I believe regarding Trump, Russia, collusion and the rest of it. Well, what I think is this…and this is entirely and purely speculation…that Trump is certainly “guilty” of obstruction of justice. I mean, Trump is a walking obstruction of justice…but the problem is that if there is no underlying crime, that makes both the legal and political case for obstruction much more difficult.

In addition, I have yet to see any clear evidence of the underlying claim that Russia hacked the DNC server and the Clinton campaign emails. In fact there has been no evidence released that even shows that the DNC server was hacked at all. Now that doesn’t mean the server wasn’t hacked, it may have been, it just means I haven’t seen any evidence of it. It also doesn’t mean that if it was hacked, that Russia hacked it, it just means I haven’t seen any evidence of those claims. I am not alone in my skepticism regarding the alleged hack, as the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), a group which includes Ray McGovern, Colleen Rowley, Mike Gravel, Philip Giraldi, Larry Johnson, John Kiriakou and Lawrence Wilkerson among many others, have stated their skepticism as well regarding this claim of a hack that is now assumed to be true despite the paucity of evidence for it.

And finally, in regards to the charge that Russia “interfered” in our election, I would say that the evidence put forth thus far is woefully inadequate to the point of absurdity. The Facebook and Twitter meme operation allegedly run by Russia is an absolute joke and is not proof of Russian interference in anything at all.

If people are serious about identifying and punishing nations for interference and meddling in our electoral and political process, then there are two criminal states that should be the entire focus of attention…Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which a nefarious actors in our political process with tentacles into the highest echelons of power in America.

As I stated earlier and as I stated throughout the last two and half years in all of my writing…I am open to evidence of Russian interference in the election and any conspiracy with Trump or anyone else…and will gladly scrutinize that evidence if and when it comes forward, and accept it if it is credible. But until it comes forward I maintain the only logical and rational position there is, and that is of maintaining a pronounced skepticism towards these and all evidence-free claims.

For a glance at my previous writings on Russiagate over the last few years, here are some links.

Joe McCarthy Was Right!! Shocking Revelations From a Manchurian Op-Ed Writer

Deconstructing Criticism of Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews

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

Stephen Colbert Goes to Russia Looking For Laughs

Has the Fear of Putin Seized Hollywood?

Echoes of Totalitarianism in #MeToo and Russia-Gate

Hollywood’s Malicious Propaganda Dehumanizes All Russians

Captain America v Trump in Battle of the Useful idiots

In a Fit of Anti-Trump Pique, Liberals Shamelessly Embrace Deep-State Criminals

A Curious Case of Mystery Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation

©2019

5th Annual Mickey™® Awards: 2018 Edition

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Estimated Reading Time: The Mickey™® Awards are much more presitigious than the Oscars, and unlike our lesser crosstown rival, we here at The Mickeys™® do not limit acceptance speech times. There will be no classless playing off by the orchestra here…mostly because we don’t have an orchestra. Regardless… expect this awards show article to last at a minimum approximately 5 hours and 48 minutes.

The ultimate awards show is upon us…are you ready? The Mickeys™® are far superior to every other award imaginable…be it the Oscar, the Emmy, the Tony, the Grammy, the Pulitzer or even the Nobel. The Mickey™® is the mountaintop of not just artistic but human achievement, which is why they always take place AFTER the Oscars!

This year has been an erratic one for cinema, but with that said there are still a multitude of outstanding films eligible for a Mickey™® award. Actors, actresses, writers, cinematographers and directors are all sweating and squirming right now in anticipation of the Mickey™® nominations and winners. Remember, even a coveted Mickey™® nomination is a career and life changing event.

Before we get to what everyone is here for…a quick rundown of the rules and regulations of The Mickeys™®. The Mickeys™® are selected by me. I am judge, jury and executioner. The only films eligible are films I have actually seen, be it in the theatre, via screener, cable, Netflix or VOD. I do not see every film because as we all know, the overwhelming majority of films are God-awful, and I am a working man so I must be pretty selective. So that means that just getting me to actually watch your movie is a tremendous accomplishment in and of itself…never mind being nominated or winning!

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The Prizes!! The winners of The Mickey™® award will receive one acting coaching session with me FOR FREE!!! Yes…you read that right…FOR FREE!! Non-acting category winners receive a free lunch* with me at Fatburger (*lunch is considered one "sandwich" item, one order of small fries, you aren't actors so I know you can eat carbs, and one beverage….yes, your beverage can be a shake, you fat bastards). Actors who win and don't want an acting coaching session but would prefer the lunch…can still go straight to hell…but I am legally obligated to inform you that, yes, there WILL BE SUBSTITUTIONS allowed with The Mickey™® Awards prizes. If you want to go to lunch I will gladly pay for your meal…and the sterling conversation will be entirely free of charge.

Enough with the formalities…let's start the festivities!!

Is everybody in? Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin...

Ladies and gentlemen…welcome to the fifth annual Mickey™® Awards!!!

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Cold War - Lukasz Zal: Zal’s masterful use of a black and white with sharp contrast and his at times eye-popping framing make for exquisite visuals in Cold War that help to propel the narrative and tell the story in theri own right.

Roma - Alfonso Cuaron: Cuaron’s virtuoso camera work in Roma, which includes dazzling camera movements and remarkable framing, is a master class in the art. Any single frame from this movie could hang in a photography exhibit in any of the great museums of the world.

The Favourite - Robbie Ryan: Ryan deftly uses light and darkness, especially with candles, to illuminate the dramatic sub-text in The Favourite.

If Beale Street Could Talk - James Laxton: Laxton paints this film with a striking and lush palette in this film that is gorgeous to behold.

Widows - Sean Bobbitt : Bobbitt’s framing, particularly his use of mirrors, is simply stunning and elevates this rather sub-par material.

First Man - Linus Sandgren: Sandgren’s ability to contrast the claustrophobia of space travel to the vast expanse of the moon is breathtaking and aids in giving this film a visceral element.

You Were Never Really Here - Thomas Townend: Townend’s wondrous cinematography amplifies the fever dream feeling that envelops this entire film.

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And The Mickey Goes To….ROMA - ALFONSO CUARON - This was an absolutely stacked category this year but Cuaron’s masterful work on Roma takes the award. Cuaron's cinematography on this film is stunning as he pulls off numerous, extremely difficult maneuvers with an ease and subtlety that is staggering to behold. Is Cuaron winning a Cinematography Oscar this year a big deal? Yes it is. Is Cuaron winning The Mickey™® Award for best Cinematography a bigger deal? You bet your ass it is.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

First Man : A film more about grief than space travel, this script is able to take an expansive and historical subject and reduce it into a viscerally intimate and personal film.

The Sisters Brothers : An extremely well-written narrative filled with deep symbolism and genuine humanity that turns the western genre on its head.

Leave No Trace : This script perfectly captures the powerful relationship of a young girl coming of age with a damaged father, and never falls into the trap of sentimentality or caricature.

You Were Never Really Here: Intense and disturbing, this script grabs you and pulls you into its protagonist’s tortured mind and soul and never lets you go, even when you want it to.

The Death of Stalin: An uproariously funny script that is masterfully paced and wondrously smart.

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AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE - Lynne Ramsay’s script drags us kicking and screaming into the mind of her kicking and screaming main character, Joe, and never lets us leave. A wonderfully woven nightmare of a movie that is both grotesque and gripping. Lynne Ramsay is now among the best of the best having won a Mickey™® Award.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Cold War: A narrative that stretches over decades and vast swaths of Europe but with an immediate pace that never loses its sense of intimacy.

Roma: A story of a simple woman that is anything but simple. Riddled with rich symbolism and moments of magical realism, Roma is a magnificent script.

The Favourite: Darkly funny and deeply insightful, The Favourite never fails to shock, compel or intrigue.

The Quiet Place: A fascinating story that transcends genre and speaks to the larger issues of our time without ever losing its horrifyingly entertaining value.

First Reformed: An extraordinary script that seriously grapples with matters of faith, theology, philosophy and eco-politics while also being a poignant and exacting character study.

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AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…ROMA - Alfonso Cuaron masterfully weaves a precise and detailed story of harsh realism with mysticism in this slice of life/family drama that never fails to compel. Cuaron has already won more Mickeys™® in this ceremony than other mere mortals could dream of winning in their entire lives.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams - Vice: Amy Adams is stunning as Lynne Cheney, the Lady MacBeth who is the straw that stirs the drink of Darth Cheney’s nefarious political career. This is the very best work of Ms. Adam’s stellar career.

Sakuro Ando - Shoplifters: Ando gives a mesmerizing performance as the de facto mother of this rag tag family trying to make ends meet under the oppressive boot of capitalism. A powerful yet delicate performance that is simply wondrous.

Emma Stone - The Favourite: Stone gives a delicious performance as the ambitious social climber who will do whatever it takes to survive and thrive in Queen Anne’s court. A sexy, funny and compelling piece of work.

Emily Blunt - A Quiet Place: Best Actress Mickey Award winner (for Sicario) Emily Blunt proves once again that she is not just a movie star/pretty face, but one of the very best actresses working in film today. A kinetic, immediate and stunning performance.

Claire Foy - First Man: Foy imbues her character with a frenetic and unrelenting power that bubbles just beneath her calm facade. When that power boils to the surface it brings with it a magnetic intentionality that is palpable and mesmerizing.

Rachel Weisz - The Favourite: Weisz’s use of physicality to convey her character’s intellectual and political prowess is a master class in posture and stance and is something actors should study and steal from.

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AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…AMY ADAMS - VICE : Adams’ very first scene in Vice is the best acting I have seen by an actress on film this year. Adams’ Lynne Cheney is a force of nature and when unleashed is a sight to behold. Adams’ Lynne has an insatiable hunger for power and an arrogant streak that drives the film even if it is from the backseat. Amy Adams is a hugely rich and famous movie star, but it wasn’t until now, when she won her first Mickey™® Award, that she finally “made it”. Congratulations m’lady!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Ben Foster - Leave No Trace: Foster is one of the great under rated talents of his generation and in Leave No Trace he gives yet another magnetic performance by imbuing his character with a palpable wound that torments and propels him to seek solace from it.

Sam Rockwell - Vice: Rockwell gives a delicious performance as Dubya, never falling into imitation or caricature, Rockwell turns Bush into a genuine yet damaged human being that is always compelling to watch and often times hysterically funny.

Thomas Hoult - The Favourite: In lesser hands, Hoult’s character in The Favourite, a sharp tongued and sharp elbowed dandy who plays to win the game of palace intrigue, would have been reduced to a punch line, but Hoult turns him into a dynamic presence that elevates the film considerably.

Joaquin Phoenix - The Sisters Brothers: Phoenix’s tortured character is a combustible mess who never fails to make the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons but also never fails to be a compelling, unsettling and dynamic screen presence.

Jonah Hill - Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot: Hill creates an intriguing character in this film who is both a self-help bullshitter and a complicated and real human being. A subtle and finely crafted piece of acting that is a testament to Jonah Hill’s skill and commitment.

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AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…BEN FOSTER - LEAVE NO TRACE: This is Ben Foster’s second Mickey nomination (Best Supporting Actor Hell or High Water) and first win. Foster has been known to be a rather explosive actor in the past and often thrives in roles where he is combustible, but in Leave No Trace he eschews his usual pyrotechnics for a more subdued, more nuanced and more subtle approach. Foster’s Will is an explosive character, but Foster takes all of that combustibility and stuffs it into a little furnace inside him. The furnace gets hot and even feels like it could explode, but Will fights to keep it contained and it is this struggle which makes for such a compelling and satisfying performance from Ben Foster…who rightly takes his place among the best actors of his generation with this Mickey™® award win.

BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

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Thomasin McKenzie - Thomasin McKenzie is so great in Leave No Trace it is miraculous. She masterfully brings to life a teenage girl struggling to make sense of her ever changing world and also her damaged father. A deft and subtle performance, highlighted by her ability to have the impulse to cry but the skill to not let herself, McKenzie proves her worth as a vibrant and compelling actress in Leave No Trace. Much like Jennifer Lawrence, who starred in director Debra Granik’s previous film Winter’s Bone, which launched her career, McKenzie has an undeniable screen presence and a surprising level and command of craft for such a young actress. I look forward to seeing what her very bright future holds.

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale - VIce: Bale proves he is one of the very best actors working in film with his remarkable transformation into Dick Cheney. A master of physicality, Bale also is able to fill Cheney’s silences with a palpable intentionality that gives even the quietest scenes an unsettling air of menace.

John C. Reilly - The Sisters Brothers: Reilly gives the very best performance of his versatile and stellar career as the older and more sensitive of the Sisters brothers. Reilly’s well-crafted and nuanced work never falls into the trap of sentimentality and is a testament to his great talent.

Joaquin Phoenix - You Were Never Really Here: Joaquin Phoenix is may be the best actor on the planet right now and his volatile, magnetic and dynamic performance in You Were Never Really here stands as a monument to his towering talent and his mastery of craft. Phoenix creates an unsettling character suffering a Sisyphean wound that eats at his soul but never contaminates his pure heart.

Tomasz Kot - Cold War: Kot masterfully portrays a man who seems above the fray of life and then adeptly shows his unraveling and descent at the hands of love. A compelling and finely crafted piece of work that highlights Kot as both a movie star and a sublime actor.

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AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…JOAQUIN PHOENIX - YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE: This is Joaquin Phoenix’s second nomination (Best Actor Inherent Vice) and first win. Joaquin Phoenix may be the very best actor working in film today. Phoenix is blessed with an undeniable talent and an interesting look, but what makes him so potent as an actor is his mastery of craft and exquisite skill. Phoenix never half-asses his way through a role, always committing fully to whatever is demanded. Phoenix’s work in You Were Never Really Here is as unnerving as it is glorious, as it reveals the tormented soul of a man on the edge and falling off of it. For this hypnotic and mesmerizing piece of work Joaquin Phoenix rightly takes his place atop the acting world with his much deserved Mickey™® Award.

BEST ACTRESS

Joanna Kulig - Cold War: Kulig gives an electrifying and explosive performance as an alluring Polish songstress. Kulig is like a Polish Jennifer Lawrence, charming, sexy and beguiling with a dash of danger sprinkled in. A truly mesmerizing performance.

Yalitza Aparicio - Vice: Aparicio makes her debut in Roma and could not have been better. Entirely genuine, present and grounded, Aparicio makes us feel as if she isn’t acting at all, but those of us in the know realize she is doing incredible and complicated work.

Olivia Colman - The Favourite: A deliriously delicious performance that is both funny and poignant. Colman won an Oscar for her dazzling work in the film, but being nominated for a Mickey trumps winning an Oscar…this is a fact.

Thomasin McKenzie - Leave No Trace: The winner of the presitgious Breakthrough award, McKenzie is one to watch as her work in Leave No Trace proves. A finely crafted and intricate performance that shows an actress with a refined skill set and in command of her craft.

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AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…JOANNA KULIG - COLD WAR: This is Joanna Kulig’s first nomination and first win. Joanna Kulig is an intoxicating screen presence in Cold War and she expertly makes the audience fall in love with her even while keeping them at an arm’s length. This performance is so dynamic as to be glorious and is a pure joy to watch even when things take a darker turn. Masterfully crafted and palpably brought to life, Joanna Kulig’s work in Cold War gives her the highest honor an actress can ever receive…The Mickey™® Award.

BEST ENSEMBLE

Vice: Christian Bale and Amy Adams give career best performances in this uneven film and are joined in their sublime acting by Sam Rockwell and even Steve Carrell. Across the board this film is blessed with top-notch talent doing high level work.

The Favourite: A cornucopia of delectable performances make The Favorite a delicious joy to behold. Boasting four Mickey™® acting nominees, The Favourite is an actor’s delight.

The Death of Stalin: A cavalcade of talent lends their skill to this phenomenal dark comedy. Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough and Jeffery Tambor are among the multitude of actors who shine in this movie. A very skilled and very deep cast.

The Sister Brothers: The four actors in this film, John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed all give nuanced, layered and standout performances in this alt-western gem. Reilly and Phoenix in particular have a crackling chemistry that is a pure pleasure to watch.

Shoplifters: A wonderful cast which includes Mickey™® nominee Sanduro Ando, Lily Franky, Mayu Matsuoka and the late Kirin Kiki. All of the actors in this film, including the child actors, do tremendous and very complex work.

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AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…THE FAVOURITE - Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult give stellar performances in The Favourite that are intoxicatingly funny and layered. When you put a collection of talent this strong with a director of such vision, great things happen…like winning a Best Ensemble Mickey™® Award!! I am truly looking forward to this cast claiming their award and joining me for a feast fit for a Queen at Fatburger!

BEST DIRECTOR

Pawel Pawlikowski - Cold War: A stunning piece of film making that is concise, precise and beautiful. An achingly beautiful yet complicated love story set in the shadow of European history that never takes a misstep.

Alfonso Cuaron - Roma: Cuaron’s masterpiece is a piece of virtuoso film making that is undeniably compelling and viscerally heartbreaking. At once a beautifully shot piece of magical realism as well as an earnestly told and acted slice of life. A simply stunning and unforgettable piece of work.

Hirokazu Koreada - Shoplifters: A finely crafted film that never lets you go and haunts you for weeks after seeing. An exceedingly well directed film that boasts top notch performances from a big cast of actors.

Lynne Ramsay - You Were never Really Here: This film is a disturbing and unrelenting fever dream and character study that draws you in and refuses to let you go. Both visually and dramatically dynamic, this movie is a testament to Lynne Ramsay’s talent and vision.

Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite: Lanthimos has been nominated twice before for a Mickey™® and is proving himself as one of the great and original filmmakers of our time. The Favourite is proof of Lanthimos’ great ability and intriguing style.

Debra Granik - Leave No Trace: Granik is one of those understated directors that often gets overlooked. She has the increasingly rare skill of coaxing terrific performances from actors without surrounding them with cinematic pyrotechnics. A highly skilled, old school director who puts character and drama before spectacle.

AND THE MICKEY GOES TO…ALFONSO CUARON - ROMA: This is a loaded category but Cuaron has made a personal film that is universal in its beauty and insight. A gorgeous movie to look at and a heart breakingly human story make for a glorious piece of cinema. Cuaron has established himself as the auteur of our times with this masterpiece and with his unprecedented 3 Mickey™® Awards tonight!

ACTOR/ACTRESS OF THE YEAR - JOAQUIN PHOENIX

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Joaquin Phoenix gives three stellar performances this year in the films You Were Never Really Here, He Won’t Get Far on Foot and The Sisters Brothers. All of these performances were intricate, delicate, dynamic and magnetic and show him to be a master craftsman as well as a transcendent artist. Few actors have ever churned out three performances of this caliber in their career, never mind in one year…and it is for this reason that Mr. Joaquin Phoenix wins the prestigious, and first ever, Actor/Actress of the year Mickey™® Award.

BEST COMEDY OF THE YEAR - TIE BETWEEN THE FAVOURITE & THE DEATH OF STALIN

Two dark and exceedingly hilarious films, that boast rapturously glorious and deep casts, and speak volumes about the corrupting influence of power in history and today. In dark times, these two films bless us with their morbid but enlightening humor mixed with drama that make for spectacular cinema.

BEST BLOCKBUSTER OF THE YEAR - A QUIET PLACE

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A Quiet Place came out of nowhere to dominate the box office and to open my eyes. Who knew that Jim from The Office, otherwise known as John Krasinski, could be such a great writer, director and leading man? A Quiet Place isn’t just a fantastically well-made, finely-crafted, heart pounding and stomach churning horror/thriller, it is also an insightful commentary on our current culture. A remarkable and entertaining film that is both scary and smart and that beat out other blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2 and Ready Player One, who all won the box office battle but lost the prestige war to A Quiet Place, the first ever Mickey™® Blockbuster of the Year award winner.

BEST PICTURE

10. HAPPY AS LAZZARRO - A magical movie that uses the mystical to peal back the scab of capitalism and exposes the gangrenous wound festering underneath.

9. LEAVE NO TRACE - This film poignantly reveals that genuine masculinity is dying in America. Subtly directed and marvelously acted, Leave No Trace is an understated gem.

8. A QUIET PLACE - A shockingly good movie that is extremely well-crafted. This movie was so well-made I exhaled a breath of relief when it was over…and I wasn’t even consciously aware I had been partially holding my breath the whole time.

7. THE DEATH OF STALIN - A masterful comedy with an exquisite cast that is perfectly paced and precisely acted.

6. THE SISTERS BROTHERS - A film that challenges conventions and overturns genres, The Sisters Brothers was an overlooked piece of gold.

5. SHOPLIFTERS - This movie is haunting as it stayed with me for weeks after seeing it. An insightful that challenges us to question what we think we know about our world and ourselves.

4. THE FAVOURITE - A top notch cast and a daring director combine to make a rabidly funny mediation on the intoxicating and corrupting sway of power.

3. COLD WAR - A gloriously shot, extremely well-acted and well-directed film that is so mesmerizing as to be hypnotic.

2. YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE - This film is an electrifying and pulsating fever dream of a movie that transports us into its lead character twisted mind and never lets us go. A masterfully directed and acted film that shows the moral decay on the soul of America.

1. ROMA - A true masterpiece, impeccably shot and directed. Alfonso Cuaron brings his artistic vision to life with such originality and technical skill that it is a marvel to behold. Cuaron has a lot of Fatburger meals waiting for him after winning an unprecedented FOUR Mickey™® Awards tonight!

MOST IMPORTANT FILM OF THE YEAR - THE FAVOURITE, VICE, THE DEATH OF STALIN AND YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE

What could these four seemingly disparate films have in common that could make them the most important films of the year? The answer is that they are all meditations or contemplations on corruption.

In The Favourite and The Death of Stalin we see those who get closer to power losing their minds and distorting or ignoring reality just to stay in close proximity to power. If this doesn’t reflect the current state of Washington and the establishment media, nothing does.

In Vice we see the full arc of corruption when the same type of sycophants on display in The Favourite and The Death of Stalin finally finagle their way into the top spot and unleash their power on to innocents across the globe.

And in You Were Never Really Here we see the how the moral and ethical cancer that infects those in the power structure, compels the ruling elite to seek out the innocent in order to satiate their depraved desires and pass on their sickness by devouring the purity of the next generation.

All fo these films high mirror back to us the sickened world in which we live. As far fetched as the narrative in You Were Never Really Here may seem, a cursory glance at the news will reveal that it is not as fictional as we would like to believe. Whether it be the Catholic church and its never ending sex abuse scandals or Bryan Singer and the pervasive pedophilia in Hollywood or Jeffrey Epstein and his Lolita Express that exposes Washington’s elite sexual abuse of young people, this issue is very very real.

These stories are not the whole ugly truth, they are but the tip of a repulsive iceberg. If you think the Catholic church is the only institution to sexually prey upon young people, you are a fool. If you think Bryan Singer is the only Hollywood power player to systematically sexually exploit young people, you’re an even bigger fool. And if you think the Lolita Express is the last word on Washington depravity, you are the biggest fool of all.

The moral and ethical corruption on display in these films and in these scandals are epidemic in American culture. Corruption doesn’t just infect institutions but also individuals. When the powerfully depraved and the depraved powerful control the levers of power then truth gets perverted and reality itself comes under assault….this is America in 2019.

The Favourite, The Death of Stalin, Vice and You Were Never Really Here shows us that the corrupting influence of power has made the world mad (crazy), which in turn has made the world mad (angry). This anger and this madness combine to create an unstoppable force, a vortex of spiritual, mental, emotional and political insanity, that will eventually gather more and more momentum until it destroys absolutely everything in its path.

We aren’t at this tipping point just yet…the despicable Dick Cheney is still allowed to live free and walk the streets of America without fear of someone bludgeoning his brains out with a hammer. Donald Trump, the Queen Anne of our times, still skates through life without a care. Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, act like a modern-day version of Beria, Khrushchev and Melenkov as scramble to hold up the illusion of democracy in the wake of America’s death, all while feeding at the corporate trough like the insatiable pigs that they are.

That said, it does become clearer and clearer as every moment passes that this shit house is a tinder box that is going to go up flames. So the time is fast approaching when we will have to grab our ball peen hammers and get to work...the ruling elite are a target rich environment…we will have a lot of smashing to do.

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On that upbeat note…WHO’S READY FOR SOME FATBURGER!!

And thus we conclude our 5th annual Mickey Awards™®!!! Thank you for reading. I appreciate all my readers, their support and openness to debate and discussion!! We’ll see you next year at The Mickeys™®!!

And tune in later this week for the shadow of The Mickey™®, the Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® awards!!

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©2019

Post Oscar Musings

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 47 seconds

The Oscars are over and it was a bit of a surprising night. Yes, Green Book won in an upset and Olivia Colman shocked the world by beating out Glenn Close for Best Actress, but the biggest shock of the night was that my Oscar picks were so dreadful (15 out of 24). But in a striking sign that this years award’s were so incoherent was that even with my awful picks I still won my Oscar pool…again…which in the big picture is really all that matters.

In terms of the Oscar show, I have to say the lack of a host was perfectly fine with me. Not having to suffer through some hackneyed bit or contrived comedy made the evening much more bearable. Some of the presenters were mildly amusing, some were not. Some of the winners had decent speeches, some of them not. Melissa McCarthy was funny, Awkwafina was not. Mahershala Ali’s speech was good, Spike Lee’s was not.

The trio who won Best Hair and Makeup and tried to choreograph their shared speech were an embarrassment to humanity. This speech made me want to have a new rule at Oscars going forward…whoever gives the worst speech of the night is executed live on stage at the end of the show. This would accomplish two things, first it would make people really prepare a speech and practice it so they don’t mess it up, and secondly the ratings for the show would go through the roof because America likes nothing more than competition and violence.

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I dvr’d the show and watched it later sans commercials and it still felt oppressively long. My solution to the Oscar show problem is to declare that there is no problem. The show is once a year and if it runs long who cares? Also, the Academy is concerned about dropping ratings, well, tough luck, ratings across the board are down. People simply don’t watch anything for more than 30 minute intervals at the most anymore.

That said, if you want to cut time off the show you could drop the short film categories and put them at the technical Oscar awards that are held at another time. I think the show should focus more on the craft of filmmaking and less on celebrity, which puts me in a very miniscule minority, so I don’t want the show to jettison the technical and behind the camera awards like editing or cinematography or even hair and makeup. But not televising the short film awards seems alright even to a cinephile like me.

Another thing would be to cut the musical numbers…or at least some of them. I know some dopes loved the Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper song last night, but good lord I thought it was just awful. And I did not need to see Jennifer Hudson and Bette Midler of all people sing totally forgettable songs. If you cut the song performances down to two you cut approximately 15 minutes off the show. Non-problem problem solved.

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As for the actual awards, the thing that sticks out to me is that Green Book winning Best Picture is a perfect encapsulation of the shit show that is our culture. Green Book is a good movie, it isn’t a great movie, but that said there was only one great movie nominated this year and that was Roma. Green Book is better than Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice and Black Panther but it definitely wasn’t better than Roma (or The Favourite). Green Book is a finely crafted, well acted and well-made film, it just isn’t an artistically made film. Roma is both an exceedingly well made film and an artistic vision made manifest.

Roma is a complicated potential Best Picture winner though because it is a Foreign Film, which have never won Best Picture, it is a black and white film, and it is a Netflix film, which makes it controversial in the movie industry that hasn’t quite come to grips with Netflix. For these reasons, Roma losing is at least understandable according to industry logic. I loved Roma with a passion, but I don’t think that the voters who chose Green Book over Roma did so because they hate Mexicans…I think they have their reasons that makes sense even if I disagree with them.

Unlike me, the elite pundit class is less nuanced in their feelings about Green Book’s win. The LA Times declared in its headline this morning that Green Book is the worst Best Picture winner of the last decade…and equal in its awfulness to Crash, which is the meanest thing you can say to a Best Picture winner.

The other and more insidious talking point making the rounds is that Green Book won because older White male voters in the Academy are racist. The reasoning behind this is that Green Book, because it is a story about racism told from a White man’s perspective and allegedly propagates the “White savior complex”, is “regressive” on race issues and anyone who likes it is racist. Therefore, Green Book winning Best Picture means that the Academy is racist.

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Of course, what this talking point fails to take into account is that the same allegedly racist Academy nominated BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther for Best Picture (and gave Best Picture to Moonlight 3 years ago), gave awards to people of color in 3 of the 4 acting awards, and gave awards to minorities in Adapted Screenplay, Director and Cinematography. The “Oscars Are Racist” people seem to think that these “good” outcomes only happened because of the non-old White Male voters and that the “bad” outcome of Green Book winning happened only because of the old White male voters.

This sort of twisted illogic, which is simply a short cut to thinking, is similar to the politics of declaring America a racist cesspool after electing a Black man as president in two straight elections. After Obama’s eight years in office, the cries of racism following Trump’s win were still deafening, with many saying bluntly that anyone who voted for Trump was a deplorable racist, even those who had voted for Obama in the previous two elections. This goalpost moving by the super woke in our culture does little more than lead people to throw up their hands and tune out any discussion related to race in America.

The New York Times ran an op-ed by philosopher Crispin Sartwell on Monday titled, “The Oscars and the Illusion of Perfect Representation” that made similar arguments to what I have been writing for the last few years, and that is using awards shows as a referendum on racial equality is a fool’s errand that actually undermines the genuine struggle for racial equality in America.

Mr. Sartwell makes the case that the issue of “representation” in films is a band-aid on a bullet wound that is little more than a distraction.

“Whatever the Grammys or Oscars looks like in the long run will have little actual impact on social justice. Perhaps, over all, the emphasis on what sort of person is on television has been a distraction from much more urgent matters. Imagine an America that gets the awards shows exactly right but in which, for example, mass incarceration or the internment of asylum seekers just ticks right along, or in which income inequality grows or residential segregation remains unchanged. It’s easy if you try: That’s liable to be the reality of 2020. And 2030, and beyond.”

As I have written in the past, my addition to Mr. Sartwell’s criticism is that not only are the award show representation battles a distraction but they actively undermine legitimate issues because award show “under-representation” is a myth that is provably false. When liberals decide to die on the hill of awards show representation they are not only striking a blow against their cause elsewhere but also fighting for an observable lie, thus decimating their credibility on other more important issues.

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I find these race based awards arguments to be so frivolous as to be absurd but I readily admit this sort of nonsense is going to get much much worse before it ever gets better, if it ever gets better. Major awards shows like the Grammys and Oscars have already been reduced to mostly affirmative action/quota competitions that have very little at all to do with merit and everything to do with virtue signaling.

As for as Green Book being a racist film, this carries with it a very uncomfortable side effect, namely that those calling Green Book racist are in essence calling the Black people associated with the film, like its star, Mahershela Ali (who won his second Supporting Actor Oscar last night), its producer, Octavia Spencer, and Congressman and Civil Rights icon John Lewis, who passionately introduced and advocated for the film, Uncle Toms.

This is the problem that arises in woke culture, no one is ever pure enough, and the White people who are calling Green Book racist are actually calling the Black people associated with the film self-loathing racists as well.

Green Book is considered racist mostly because it is a story about racism told from the perspective of a White man. I also find this argument specious at best, for as Hall of Fame basketball player and extremely insightful cultural critic Kareem Abdul-Jabbar so astutely noted in his defense of the film in the Hollywood Reporter,

“The film is much more effective from Tony’s point of view because the audience that might be most changed by watching it is the White audience.”

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To Green Book’s credit, it at the very least attempts to try and grapple with racism, and yet just by taking on that issue from a White perspective is declared “not woke enough” by the woke gatekeepers who then quickly label anyone who likes it irredeemably racist. What woke culture tends to forget is the obvious, that America is a majority White country, and if you want to reach as large an audience as possible, connecting to that White majority through perspective is a rational maneuver for a film maker.

There is some talk that Green Book’s win is a result of a backlash against the backlash to the film. This makes total sense to me. Green Book was singled out as this “unwoke” abomination and I think voters who liked it simply kept their feelings to themselves and may have ended up voting for it out of spite just as a way to tell the politically correct brigade to fuck off. I understand the sentiments.

As I am fond of saying, “wokeness kills art”, and eventually it will kill commerce too, which is when Hollywood will really see a backlash to the backlash. In our current “woke” moment no one is ever woke enough, and so minorities winning 3 of the 4 acting awards and a plethora of the other prestigious awards is not enough, and Green Book winning is an apostasy because it doesn’t fit entirely into current rigid racial orthodoxy and sensitivities.

In my review for Green Book I said that if it came out twenty years ago it was a shoe in for Best Picture, but that it stood no chance nowadays. Obviously I was wrong, and in my defense the reason I was wrong is that I constantly under estimate my fellow man and woman. In the case of Green Book winning over Roma, I was wrong in thinking that Green Book had no chance, but right in underestimating the people in the Academy, who failed to give Roma Best Picture, not because they are racists, but because they have simple tastes.

©2019

91st Academy Awards: The 2019 Oscars Prediction Post

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Estimated Reading Time: Just Like the Oscar Ceremony this article will last 4 hours and 38 minutes

As every sentient being on the earth, in the solar system, in the galaxy and in the universe knows, this Sunday night is the biggest night in the history of history. Yes, Oscar night is upon us. Ever since a loathsome but determined little creature crawled out of the primordial ooze, that creature has been making its way to this Sunday night, which will be, after billions of years of evolution, symbolic of the apex in human development. When most impossibly beautiful people gather to congratulate one another for their superiority, be it artistic, moral or both, mankind will officially have made the Kubrickian leap from fighting monkeys to star children.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is my church, movies are my religion and the Oscars my high holy days. I have been fasting and meditating for months to prepare for this most sacred of nights…and to hopefully fit into my gown by Karl Lagerfeld (RIP)!!

This has been an awful year for Hollywood movies and I have to admit that this years Oscars are particularly difficult to predict. Since the “New Academy”, formed in the wake of the ridiculous #OscarsSoWhite controversy three years ago, I have yet to figure out with any confidence or certainty how these new members and the old guard come together to form some sort of consensus. Obviously identity politics, diversity and inclusion are important issues to the new members…but how important? And how much has the old guard either embraced these issues out of solidarity or rejected them out of resistance? The answer of course is…I have no idea.

But will my ignorance stop me from making not just humble predictions but bold and assertive declarations of my Oscar picks? No. No it won’t. As long time readers can attest, not having a clue on a subject has never, ever stopped me from loudly pontificating my less than useful opinion…and that is most definitely true when it comes to the Oscars.

So with that in mind…light some incense, spike the holy water and buckle up because the most holy and most sacred Oscars are here. Like the Israelites in Moses’ absence, we must worship the golden calf of the Oscar statuette, for it may bring us salvation!! But please keep in mind that since the Oscars are a religious holiday…please no wagering.

So here are my picks for the 91st Academy Awards…

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams - Vice : Amy Adams has had a great career garnering 6 Oscar nominations. Adams’ portrayal of Lynne Cheney is the best performance of her stellar career, which is saying a lot.

Marina de Tavira - Roma : I loved Roma…but I have no idea why Marina de Tavira is nominated. Her role is so small and unremarkable that I am entirely baffled as to why she is here.

Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk : Regina King is a fine actress but If Beale Street Could Talk is not a fine film and her work in it is just as underwhelming as the movie.

Emma Stone - The Favourite : The Favourite is proof that Emma Stone keeps getting better and better with each year. Stone’s manipulative social climber is a finely-tuned, sexy and charismatic performance that is a testament to her skill and talent.

Rachel Weisz - The Favourite : Weisz’s immovable object meeting Stone’s irressistable force makes The Favourite one of my favorites. Weisz’s masterful use of physicality in this role is something that actors should study closely.

Who Should Win - Amy Adams : Amy Adams first scene in Vice is so good as to be delicious and sets the stage for her powerhouse performance. Adams deftly turns Lynne Cheney into a formidable Lady MacBeth that is the straw that stirs the drink of Darth Cheney’s career. A truly great performance from one of the best actresses working in film today.

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY : The Academy’s push for diversity clearly gives the edge here to Regina King over Marina de Tavira because for some reason diversity, at least in the eyes of the New Academy, only relates to Black people.

WHO WILL WIN - Regina King : King’s work is strikingly inferior when compared to Adams, Stone and Weisz, but she will walk away with the Oscar due to the Academy’s yearning to be “inclusive” and to quell any charges similar to the #OscarsSoWhite nonsense from a few years back.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali - Green Book : Ali does strong work as Dr. Don Shirley, the Black, gay, effete (and upper class) pianist struggling to survive in a decidedly hostile 1960’s world. Ali makes Shirley a genuine human being and uses his formidable skill to masterfully avoid falling into the easy trap of caricature.

Adam Driver - BlackKklansman : Adam Driver is…fine…in Spike Lee’s racial drama set in 1970’s Colorado. I didn’t think the performance was Oscar worthy…but what the hell do I know. It isn’t awful…but it isn’t great either. To be fair, I am entirely baffled as to why Adam Driver is a thing…I just don’t get it.

Sam Elliott - A Star is Born : I think you have to love Sam Elliot to love A Star is Born or love A Star is Born to love Sam Elliot. I love neither.

Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me: This is not a great movie…but Richard E. Grant is great in it. Grant turns what could have been a stereotype into a fascinating, frustrating and engaging character that captivates every second of his screen time.

Sam Rockwell - Vice : Rockwell gives his dim bulb character George W. Bush a desperate yearning for acceptance and respect that is genuine and compelling and shows an exquisite command of craft in avoiding the pitfall of imitation.

WHO SHOULD WIN - Mahershala Ali/Richard E. Grant - Both men give stand out performances that highlight their mastery of craft and undeniable talent. A win for either will not garner complaints from me.

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY - The New Academy will want to reward Ali, who won the award just two years ago for his work in Moonlight, for no other reason than he is African-American in order to satiate the knee-jerk #OscarsSoWhite criticisms. That said, Ali’s award for Moonlight could actually hurt him this year as the Academy may feel they don’t NEED to award him since he already has one.

WHO WILL WIN - Richard E. Grant : Mahershala Ali has won all the preceding awards and is the favorite, but I am sensing that this will be the first upset/surprise of the evening. Grant has been on a charm offensive recently and with my ear to the ground I am picking up a great deal of support for him. Another factor helping Grant is that Mahershala Ali won the award two years ago and the actor’s actor, Grant, has never won it.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Favourite - Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara : A tight and smart script that plumbs the depths of palace intrigue to create a darkly funny and insightful story. The dialogue is exceedingly smart, funny and crisp.

First Reformed - Paul Schrader : Paul Schrader is one of the great screenwriters in Hollywood history, having written both Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. First Reformed is a better script than it is a movie, which is both an indictment of Schrader’s directing and an endorsement of his writing.

Green Book - Nick Vallelonga and Peter Farrelly: This average script was elevated by Farrelly’s skilled direction, and with the addition of the controversy surrounding the writers, I don’t think it will win. If it does…this is going to be a very interesting Oscars indeed…and a very controversial one too.

Roma - Alfonso Cuaron : A phenomenal script in terms of the themes it tackles and the scope of its narrative. Cuaron’s singular vision starts with his script and this one is chock full of magical realism mixed with working class reality. A truly terrific piece of screenwriting.

Vice - Adam McKay : I felt this script bit off more than it could chew, lacked focus and was structurally flawed. Definitely could have used a few more re-writes and edits to fine tune the whole thing.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Roma/The Favourite - Two high quality scripts that were exceedingly well written. An Oscar for either and you’ll hear no complaints from me. If Alfonso Cuaron wins this award…expect Roma to have a very, very, very big night.

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: With no “diverse/inclusive” candidates to choose from (the New Academy doesn’t count Mexican men as diverse/inclusive for some reason), the New Academy will only work in the negative here by cutting Green Book off at the knees. Vallelonga and Farrelly have made enemies among the New Academy for their less than politically correct behavior and will be punished accordingly.

WHO WILL WIN: The Favourite : While I’d like to see Roma sweep the entire awards ceremony, I think voters hold a grudge against the film because it is a Netflix movie and it is foreign, the former of which will particularly hurt it in this category since the dialogue is in Spanish and Mextec. The Favourite is certainly deserving of an Oscar though as it is a beautifully written movie.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - The Coen Brothers - I have seen Buster Scruggs but have not reviewed it. I enjoyed it. I don’t think this script deserves a nomination though.

BlacKkKlansman - Spike Lee and friends - This was a good movie, but I do not think it deserves a nomination for its script. Spike Lee has written some masterworks in the past, Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Jungle Fever, but this is not his strongest work.

Can You Ever Forgive Me - Nicole Holofcener - I thought this script and this film was pretty shitty as it never figured out what it wanted to be and ended up being not much.

If Beale Street Could Talk - Barry Jenkins - Again…a bad script and an at-best average movie. The story and characters did not translate well at all from James Baldwin’s book.

A Star is Born - Bradley Cooper and friends - This script was a piece of junk too. God what an awful category. How is modernizing a movie that has been made three times before considered Oscar worthy?

WHO SHOULD WIN: BlackKklansman : As I said, I don’t think this is an Oscar worthy script…but this category is pretty terrible so this movie wins the tallest dwarf award.

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: Well, obviously the New Academy want to reward either Spike Lee or Barry Jenkins due to their race. Nicole Holfcener is another sleeper pick because she is a woman. The fact that Jenkins won this award two years ago, and Lee has never won and has never been properly awarded in his entire career, and his film was so politically charged for this moment in time, I think the New Academy goes with Lee.

WHO WILL WIN: BlackKklansman : Spike Lee finally gets the Oscar he deserves but only for a script that is undeserving.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Cold War - Lukasz Zal: Zal’s use of black and white and his framing in Cold War is impeccable and stunning. A beautifully photographed film whose cinematography was integral to the storytelling.

The Favourite - Robbie Ryan: Ryan’s use of candles, shadow and light is exquisite in The Favourite and is a wonderful cinematic device that reveals much of the sub-text.

Never Look Away - Caleb Deschanel: I found Deschanel’s work on this film to be less than Oscar worthy. Not terrible at all, but just not noteworthy.

Roma - Alfonso Cuaron : Cuaron puts on a virtuoso performance with Roma, and his cinematography is the icing on this cinematic cake. A stunning film to behold, Cuaron’s use of black and white and his extremely effective and complex camera movements and beautifully rendered framing is simply magnificent.

A Star is Born - Matthew Libatique : I found Libatique’s cinematography, with its excessive use of flares and close-ups, to be as underwhelming as the film.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Roma - Roma is a cinematic masterpiece and Cuaron’s cinematography is absolute artistic and technical perfection.

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: Since the New Academy doesn’t recognize Mexican men as qualifying for their diversity/inclusion games, then this category offers no chance to virtue signal.

WHO WINS: Roma - Alfonso Cuaron: This is a tough category where virtually anyone can win. The knock against Cuaron is that the Academy, for a variety of reasons, do not want him to win all the awards. In this category cinematographers and other behind the camera technical people will resent Cuaron a bit for being a director AND a cinematographer…this stuff can be very territorial. A sign of that was when Lukasz Zal won this award at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards. Anyone can win this thing…and as much as I think the Academy has a bug up its ass over Cuaron and Netflix…I still think he sneaks out of here with this win. But if he loses it will be to Zal…who to be fair is a very deserving candidate as well.

BEST FOREIGN FILM

Capernaum - Due to time constraints, this is one of the few noteworthy films I haven’t seen this year…which bums me out. I hope to see it soon though.

Cold War - One of the best films of the year that boasts two outstanding performances and luscious black and white cinematography.

Never Look Away : An enigmatic movie that never quite lives up to its grandiose ambitions although it does raise something interesting thematic questions.

Roma - An absolute masterpiece that is as heartbreaking as it is gripping.

Shoplifters - An absolutely mesmerizing film that stayed with me for weeks on end after seeing it. Deftly directed and wonderfully acted, Shoplifters is an understated yet exquisite gem.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Roma - It is easily the best film of the year and should easily win this award.

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: Roma hits all the right notes for New Academy voters but because it is a Netflix movie there is resistance to it.

WHO WILL WIN: Roma - There is an outside chance that the Netflix/Cuaron related backlash against Roma elevates Cold War to the victory. If that is the case, then this Oscar night will be turned upside down. I adored Cold War and it is one of the very best films of the year, but Roma is the best film, foreign or domestic, of the year, and if it doesn’t win here it will be a major upset.

BEST DIRECTOR

Alfonso Cuaron - Roma : Cuaron’s directing on Roma is a auteur’s virtuoso performance, a stunning tour-de-force that masterfully brings to life his vision with singular cinematic genius and reminds us of the power and artistry of cinema.

Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite : Lanthimos is one of the best directors in cinema and his masterful work on The Favourite has catapulted him to the heights he deserves.

Spike Lee - BlackKklansman : Spike Lee was once one of the most important figures in cinema, but that was over 25 years ago. Lee’s direction on BlackKklansman is not perfect and is at times jarringly shoddy, but in a down year for movies this one is a good enough comeback vehicle for him.

Adam McKay - Vice : I wanted to love Vice…I didn’t love Vice. McKay’s direction is scattered and uneven…a lot like this movie.

Pawel Pawlikowski - Cold War : Pawlikowski direction on Cold War is superb as he crafts a compelling and beautifully profound film that is packaged in a tight 88 minute running time.

WHO SHOULD WIN : Alfonso Cuaron - Not to sound like a broken record, but damn Cuaron showed himself to be at the very top of his game and at the top of his profession with his work on Roma.

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: The New Academy want to reward Spike Lee for his career and his making an overtly political film this year that is a favorite of social justice warriors, and because he is Black which would feed their need to virtue signal. Once again, Alfonso Cuaron, a Mexican man, doesn’t qualify for the diversity vote…a fact which helps those arguing that the Oscars aren’t “inclusive” since Mexican men have won this award 5 of the last 6 years.

WHO WILL WIN: Alfonso Cuaron - Roma : There is a chance…and it is actually a pretty good chance…that the New Academy and its “diversity” initiatives rear their ugly head and Spike Lee wins this award. If Roma and Cuaron are getting beat in other categories like screenplay and cinematography, then watch out for Spike Lee sneaking in for the upset which would be a travesty. That said, I think Cuaron’s work, regardless of the fact that it was for Netflix, is so overwhelmingly spectacular that voters will find it nearly impossible to deny him this Oscar…but stranger things have happened.

BEST ACTRESS

Glenn Close -The Wife: The Wife is a truly dreadful film, just awful, and to be frank, Glenn Close is pretty terrible in it. That said, she has been nominated a bunch over her long career and never won. The consensus seems to be that it is her time.

Yalitza Aparicio - Roma : A first time actress nominated for an Oscar is a pretty great story. Aparicio is terrific in Roma, totally present, genuine, grounded and alive on screen. A pleasantly surprising but very well deserved nomination.

Olivia Colman - The Favourite: Olivia Colman’s scenery chewing performance as the emotionally incontinent Queen Anne, who has the attention-span and temperament of a toddler, is a joy to behold. Colman is deliriously and deliciously delightful in The Favourite and is most-deserving of her nomination and if it happens, the award.

Lady Gaga - A Star is Born: I don;t get it. I don’t get Gaga being nominated, I don’t get all the love this film gets. This movie is kind of a hot mess, and Gaga’s performance is most definitely not Oscar worthy.

Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me : This movie stinks but Melissa McCarthy is a revelation as the curmudgeonly Lee Israel. McCarthy uses he natural comedic ability to great effect in this role but never allows it to overwhelm the dramatic honesty of her character.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Olivia Colman : Colman is so good in The Favourite it made me giddy. Just a ridiculously great performance that is compelling, energetic and devastatingly honest. I can’t wait to see Colman as Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown.

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: Glenn Close made a smart move at the Golden Globes by giving a speech that spoke to the Girl Power/Pussy Hat contingent in the media and the New Academy. This speech positioned Close to be the recipient of the New Academy’s diversity/inclusivity vote even though she is a White woman. Well played Ms. Close.

WHO WILL WIN: Glenn Close - The Wife: As much as I want Olivia Colman to win this award, and as much as I think she deserves it, I think Glenn Close wins it because she is a symbol of the #ImWithHer/Hillary brigade due to her always being the bridesmaid and never the bride come Oscar night. The Academy will reward Close despite the shitty work she does in that shitty movie. Such is life. That said, I put the chances of Colman sneaking in and winning this thing pretty high…so don’t be too shocked if Close is left holding the bag once again…and try not to laugh too hard at her expense.

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale - Vice: Bale’s work in Vice is absolutely stunning. His physical transformation into Dick Cheney never falls into the trap of imitation and that is a testament to Bale’s remarkable talent and skill.

Bradley Cooper - A Star is Born: Cooper’s work is the best thing about A Star is Born and I think he is deserving of an Oscar nomination even though i think the movie is not. Cooper is establishing himself as one of the top movie star/actors in the business. The next few years of his work will be interesting to see.

Willem Dafoe - At Eternity’s Gate : Dafoe’s acting in At Eternity’s Gate is very impressive, but the film never lives up to the stellar work he does in it.

Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody : I like Rami Malek. Everybody likes Rami Malek…he’s a good guy. That said, I was not as impressed by his performance as everybody else was. To me the script was so thin that Malek was never really able to get much depth to his performance. That said, he does the very best he can with the little he is given.

Viggo Mortenson - Green Book : Green Book has gotten a lot of heat for its racial politics, but Mortenson’s solid performance is beyond reproach. Mortenson uses skill and craft to give great depth and nuance to a character that easily could have fallen into caricature.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Christian Bale - Bale is head and shoulders above everyone else in this category. A remarkable performance that elevates Bale into the stratosphere of best working actors on the planet.

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: This category has no Black actors in it so it is open to moronic charges of #OscarsSoWhite. But rest assured, Rami Malek is of Egyptian descent so the New Academy will rally behind him and be able to virtue signal their moral superiority due to their embrace of “diversity”.

WHO WILL WIN: Rami Malek - Everybody loves Rami Malek. While his performance isn’t Oscar worthy to me, my vote doesn’t matter. Malek is winning and there is nothing we can do about it. Since he is such a good guy, I won’t get mad about it. I do hope he wears the Freddie teeth to the ceremony though…or at least thanks them in his speech.

BEST PICTURE

Green Book - Green Book is a well crafted and fine film. Is it Oscar worthy? No. If this were 1985 then Green Book would win this award with ease…but this isn’t 1985. This sort of simple film is a lightning rod for those who hate it AND for those that hate the people who hate it. To be frank, I find all this shit exhausting.

Black Panther - It is a total joke that Black Panther, an at best middling super hero movie that isn’t even the best super hero movie of the year (which is easily Infinity War), is nominated for an Oscar. Black Panther is the recipient of the “leg up” program, and its nomination is a blatant piece of pandering and paternalism and is frankly a disgrace.

BlackKklansman - I liked this movie but it is deeply flawed and because of that do not think it is Oscar worthy. That said, due to Spike Lee directing, it is a sentimental and political choice for some.

Roma - The greatest film of the year. A masterpiece.

Bohemian Rhapsody - This movie is an absolute mess, a total shitshow. Yes, it is entertaining and fun to get see Queen rocking Wembley once again…but Oscar worthy? Good Lord no!

A Star is Born - I don’t get it…I just don’t get it. Thought this movie was not great…not great at all. Why people are so invested in it is beyond me.

Vice - An ambitious (and noble) misfire that boasts fantastic performances but never coalesces into a coherent piece of cinema enough to be considered an Oscar worthy movie.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Roma - This is as clear as day. Roma is easily the greatest film of the year and it isn’t even close.

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: I think Black Panther is going to get an awful lot of love for its diversity and inclusivity.

WHO WILL WIN: Buckle up. Roma should win…but in the shock of the night…BLACK PANTHER is going to steal this award. Roma has a lot of hurdles in the voting, the most obvious is that it is a black and white, foreign language film, and a foreign language film has never won Best Picture…and on top of that it is a Netflix film and the movie industry is very uncomfortable with Netflix. The Academy doesn’t want Roma to win Best Picture (or sweep all the awards) and is actively trying to find a substitute…and what I have picked up out here in Hollywood is that Black Panther is that choice. Listening to and talking with Oscar voters over the last month and Black Panther is the film that keeps getting mentioned…and never because people think it is great but because to a person they say they will vote for it because of the message it will send about “representation”, “diversity” and “inclusion”. Sadly, this is the world in which we now live, and Black Panther, that ridiculously shitty super hero movie, is going to beat out one one of the greatest films in recent history, Roma, because of a wave of self-righteous, identity politics driven virtue signalling.

Hopefully I am wrong (Please God let me be wrong!!). Hopefully Roma is justly rewarded, not just in the Best Picture category but in Screenplay, Cinematography, Directing and Foreign Picture…but I don’t have my hopes up.

As for the rest of the categories…I have even less of an idea about these than I do about the previous picks…so take them with a grain of salt as they are my best guesses.

VISUAL EFFECTS - FIRST MAN : If Infinity War wins this award it could signal the Academy’s acceptance of Marvel films and point to a big night for Black Panther.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING - VICE

ANIMATED SHORT - BAO

LIVE ACTION SHORT - SKIN

DOCUMENTARY SHORT - PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE.

SOUND MIXING - FIRST MAN - Bohemian Rhapsody has a shot here, but the one to watch is Black Panther, which if it wins this award could point to a big night for the Marvel film.

SOUND EDITING - FIRST MAN - Same comment as the Sound Mixing award.

COSTUME DESIGN - BLACK PANTHER - If BP loses these next two awards to The Favourite…then it is done and won’t win Best Picture. (I have my fingers crossed this is what happens!!)

PRODUCTION DESGIN - BLACK PANTHER

FILM EDITING - VICE - Bohemian Rhapsody has a shot here.

ORIGINAL SCORE - BLACKKKLANSMAN - Black Panther is the favorite…but I think the Academy rewards Terence Blanchard…which will make me happy. But if BP wins this…and the Design awards and Sound Awards…look out…Best Picture is coming.

ORIGINAL SONG - “SHALLOW”, A STAR IS BORN - Outside chance BP and Kendrick Lamar wins this award.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE - RBG - This is neck and neck with Free Solo, but I went with RBG because of the politics.

ANIMATED FEATURE - SPIDER-MAN : INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

Ok gang…I think I covered all the categories. A few other things to touch upon before I go. Keep an eye out for certain narratives taking shape in the early awards.

The narratives that are in play…

  1. Roma dominates - Roma has a chance to absolutely destroy these Oscars as the film has a legitimate chance to win Best Picture, Best Foreign Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography and has an outside chance to win Best Screenplay and Best Editing as well…and if the longest of longshots happens and Yalitza Aparicio wins Best Actress…that will signal Roma has had a totally and gloriously dominant night…and I will be the happiest man on earth….except for Alfonso Cuaron.

  2. Roma destroyed - There is also a chance that Roma, due to its affiliation with Netflix and its artistic pedigree, could get snubbed across the board. There is a scenario where voters don’t vote for it for Best Picture because they assume it will win Best Foreign Film, and then other voters don’t vote for it for best Foreign Film because they assume it will win Best Picture…and it ends up winning neither. This scenario is much much more likely than I would like to imagine…and that along with all of the cocaine I’ve been doing is keeping me awake nights. In addition, it is very possible that Spike Lee is chosen over Alfonso Cuaron for Best Director out of a sense of wanting to finally reward Lee for his career’s work. Then throw in a Best Cinematography win for Cold War (which won the Guild award) and there is a chance that Roma leaves empty handed. YIKES.

  3. Black Panther goes on a run. As noted above, I have Black Panther winning Costume and Production Design…and if that happens it will look very good for my prediction of a Best Picture win. If the movie wins Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and either Original Score or best Song in addition to the production awards…it will definitely win Best Picture. There is a shot that we are looking at an Oscars where Black Panther wins 7 awards…let that sink in for a minute.

  4. Black Panther gets shut out. Things could go this way if Black Panther loses to The Favourite in costume and production design. If Black Panther loses those awards it is done in the Best Picture race and we Roma fans can breath a sigh of relief. If BP loses in the production awards it will not win Song, Score or either Sound award and will leave empty handed. The fact that this is a Marvel/Disney film could be a hurdle that even its identity politics cannot overcome. We will see.

  5. Bohemian Rhapsody goes on a run. Bohemian Rhapsody is an awful movie but it did win the Editing Guild award and has a legit chance to win Best Sound Editing and Sound Mixing awards as well as the Best Editing award which would be a terrific night for the film. Add in Rami Malek’s guaranteed win for Best Actor and we are looking at 4 Oscars for this fun piece of crap.

  6. Chaos - A totally incoherent Oscars. In this scenario a non-Roma film wins Best Picture, Olivia Colman wins Best Actress, there are upsets in both Supporting actor categories as well as in Best Director and the Screenplay awards. Green Book ends up being a big winner.

  7. Non-chaos. All of the favorites win. Roma does well and everything goes according to plan with the other categories.

If you pay attention to the early awards you might be able to discern how the rest of the night is going to go…or not…who knows. This Oscars has me baffled and it shouldn’t because Roma is so clearly the best of this sad bunch in a very down year for Hollywood Cinema (foreign films excluded).

And thus ends my rambling and ragged Oscar predictions post. I have zero confidence in my picks and am genuinely concerned I will lose for Oscar pool for the first time in my life this year. That said, i do reserve the right to change my mind between now and the awards show. In a fit of cinema idealism I may discard my Oscar cynicism (Black Panther) and embrace my optimism and pick Roma to win because my heart tells me to…I’m just not sure my head will let me.

©2019

Toxic Femininity: 'Badass' US Women Demand Right to Torture, Maim and Kill for Empire...Just Like Men

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Estimated reading Time: 3 minutes 56 seconds

Thanks to a new wave of feminism and its call for equality, it isn’t just toxic men who can kill, torture and surveil in the name of American militarism and empire, women can now do it too!

 This past weekend was the third annual Women’s March, which is a protest originally triggered by Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election that encourages women across America to rise up against misogyny and patriarchy.

 As sincere as these women are in their outrage, in their quest for power they are inadvertently reinforcing the immoral and unethical system that they claim to detest. This is most glaringly apparent when this new feminism boldly embraces the worst traits of the patriarchy in the form of militarism and empire.

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 The rise of the #MeToo, Time’s Up and the anti-Trump Women’s Movement has brought forth a new wave of politically and culturally active neo-feminists. This modern women’s movement and its adherents demand that “boys not be boys”, and in fact claim that the statement “boys will be boys” is in and of itself an act of patriarchal privilege and male aggression. The irony is that these neo-feminists don’t want boys to be boys, but they do want girls to be like boys…at least the morally degenerate boys.

The inherent contradiction of that ideology was on full display recently when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) put out a guide to treating men and boys. In the guide’s summary the APA makes this extraordinary claim, “Traditional masculinity – marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression – is, on the whole, harmful.”

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 These APA guidelines blatantly turn “traditional masculinity” and “toxic masculinity” into synonyms, and never once mention testosterone, revealing a staggering ignorance of male biology. The APA is in essence blaming the bull for his horns. Further diminishing their credibility, how can anyone look at the mess that is the current emotional state of our world and think we need less stoicism and not more?

 The hypocrisy of the APA guidelines are glaringly evident because everywhere you look nowadays girls and young women are constantly being urged to be more competitive, dominant and aggressive. I guess when women do it, it is empowering, but when men do it, it is dangerous.

 Women, and some men, often tell me that if women were in power, the world would be a better and safer place. But that old trope, which obviously animates the feminist movement of today, is foolishness. I mean have none of these people ever heard of that pernicious beast Margaret Thatcher? And does anyone think that Hillary Clinton’s proposed no-fly zone over Syria or her tough talk about Russia would have led to more peace and less war?

 Another example of the vacuity of this ideology is the group of Democratic women with military and intelligence backgrounds who won seats in Congress in 2018. These women, who have dubbed themselves “The Badasses”, how toxically masculine of them, are being touted as the “antidote to Trump”.

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 No doubt these former military and intelligence “badasses” will be so much less toxic than their male counterparts when they demand the U.S. “get tough” by militarily intervening across the globe to further American interests. This sort of star-spangled belligerence is no less toxic in a pantsuit than a three-piece suit, and will only lead to more victims of America’s “competiveness, dominance and aggression” around the world.

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 Other toxically masculine women in government are also being hailed as great signs of women’s empowerment. Gina Haspel is the first female director of the CIA and women now also hold the three top directorates in that agency. Ms. Haspel proved herself more than capable of being just as deplorable as any man when she was an active participant in the Bush era torture program. No doubt the pussy-hat wearing brigade would cheer her “competitiveness, dominance and aggression” when torturing prisoners…most especially the traditionally masculine ones.

 Hypocritical Hollywood has long been a haven for toxic masculinity, be it in the form of depraved predators like Harvey Weinstein or Woody Allen or counterfeit tough guys like John Wayne. Hollywood has also long been the propaganda wing of the American military machine. It is well established that for decades Hollywood and the Department of Defense have worked hand in hand in creating films that tout muscular American militarism and empire.

 Now Hollywood and the Department of Defense are using the social justice calling card of “diversity and inclusion” to take the next step in indoctrinating young people with the noxious ideology of American exceptionalism and aggression…but this time they are targeting girls and young woman.

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 The latest product of the Hollywood and D.O.D. propaganda machine is the Disney/Marvel movie, Captain Marvel, which comes out this March. The film, which has a budget north of $150 million and stars one of the leading feminist voices in Hollywood, Academy Award winner Brie Larson, tells the story of Carol Danvers, a former Air Force pilot who “turns into one of the galaxy’s mightiest heroes.”

 With Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans set to potentially leave their roles as Iron Man and Captain America respectively, Disney is positioning itself to replace them as the face of the multi-billion dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe with Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel, who is described as a “badass superheroine”…one more flag-waving, baddass lady for the girls to look up to!

 The movie has been described as “the recruiting tool of the Air Force’s dreams”, and will no doubt be a huge boost to female recruitment, much like Tom Cruise and Top Gun boosted male military recruitment in the 1980’s.

 The Department of Defense has been partnered with Marvel since 2008’s Iron Man. The D.O.D. and Air Force demand that any film project with which they assist “portrays the Air Force and military in an accurate way and that it is in the service’s interest to partner on the project.”

 It is good to know that ultra-feminist Brie Larson is cashing in by partnering with the Air Force to make a movie that indoctrinates millions of American kids, specifically girls, with the dream of being able to bomb innocent brown people across the globe from miles up in the sky and look really “badass” while doing it.

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 I’m sure Ms. Larson, a public and outspoken advocate for abuse victims here in America, has meticulously weighed the pros and cons of being a recruitment tool for the U.S. military, who in recent years have aided and abetted, or been directly responsible for, the murder of women and children in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

 The cacophony of feminist voices in the public square has effectively challenged some minds about some things, but not the right minds about the right things. The mendacious U.S. establishment and its virulent military industrial complex have co-opted this current feminist moment and are using it to further solidify their deadly stranglehold on the American consciousness and Brie Larson is now an accomplice to that crime.

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 Is this what the new wave of feminism is all about, putting lipstick on the pig of American empire and militarism and calling it a victory for equality? If so, I’ll pass on that toxic femininity. I’ll stick with traditional masculinity, you know, the stoic kind, whose adherents, principled men like Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Daniel Ellsberg, Pat Tillman and Edward Snowden, among many others, all did the right thing in the face of enormous opposition, and who didn’t tout themselves as “badass”, didn’t start fights but finished them, didn’t torture, didn’t spy and didn’t bomb innocent women and children into oblivion.

 I strongly believe that men and women should be equal in their rights and opportunity, but I also believe that regardless of gender, no one has the right to kill, maim and torture for American empire.

This article was originally published on January 25, 2019 at RT.com.

©2019

JIMINY CRICKET! A Curious Case of Mystery Attacks, Microwaves and Media Manipulation Gets Even Curiouser

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 47 seconds

MY ORIGINAL ARTICLE ON THIS SUBJECT, PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 19, 2018, IS PASTED BELOW THIS NEW ARTICLE. PLEASE READ IT FOR A MORE IN-DEPTH BACKGROUND ON THIS STORY.

On September 1, 2018 the New York Times ran an article from Pulitzer Prize winning science reporter William J. Broad titled, “Microwave Weapons are Prime Suspect in Ills of U.S. Embassy Workers”. In the article Broad makes the case that U.S. “diplomats” (code for spies under diplomatic cover) stationed in Cuba, were attacked by Russians using a microwave weapon that caused concussion like symptoms and brain injuries.

On September 11, 2018, NBC News and its cable news outlet MSNBC, broke a story titled, “U.S. Officials Suspect Russia in Mystery Attacks on Diplomats in Cuba, China”. MSNBC ran the story, based entirely on the claims of anonymous U.S. Intelligence sources, as breaking news and covered it across their programming that day and into the next, with numerous hosts and guests saying that Russia and Putin had never stopped fighting the Cold War and that this attack was a dangerous escalation.

In the wake of that NBC report, numerous media outlets regurgiated the evidence free-claims and the hysteria went up a notch with feeble minded info-tainment hosts like Chris Matthews and Little Bill Maher and latching onto the story and declaring “of course Russia did it!!” and “Russia attacked us in Cuba!” respectively.

On September 19, 2018, I wrote an article on the subject that was published at CounterPunch.org where I made a clear case that the reporting on this story was at a minimum, journalistic malpractice, and more likely than not bold faced U.S. Intelligence agency anti-Russian propaganda.

The most compelling pieces of evidence of Intelligence agency manipulation were the Times article’s focus on a rather dubious source, Allen H. Frey, a biologist, who based on no tangible evidence at all claimed that Russia did it and that his theory should be believed because it was “viable”. Mr. Frey also made the far-fetched and incredulous claim to have been given access in the Soviet Union to the Soviet’s classified microwave weapon technology by the Soviet’s themselves at the height of the cold war and with the fear of the Cuban Missile Crisis fresh in Soviet hearts and minds.

The another piece of evidence was that NBC’s National Security Reporter, Ken Dilanian, was the point man for that network’s breathless and hyperbolic coverage of the story. As I have pointed out repeatedly, Dilanian is a notoriously ethically challenged reporter who has a long history of being a collaborator and shill for the U.S. intelligence community, so much so that as a reporter for the L.A. Times he would send the CIA his stories for them to vet and edit.

One final piece of evidence shows that these reporters and media outlets were either willing accomplices in deception, or blind to their own bias and anti-Russian animus, and that is that there was very clear and compelling evidence that Russians had no involvement in the “attacks”, but also contradictory evidence doubting that any “attacks” had taken place at all. The New York Times and NBC both either ignored or downplayed that evidence and instead embraced the “Russia did it!” narrative all based on either a dubious and uninformed source, or anonymous intelligence sources.

Now, four months later, a study has come out that puts a major kink in the “Russian Microwave Attack” story. The study, done by Alexander Stubbs of Berkeley and Fernando Montealegre-Z of the University of Lincoln (UK), decimates a critical piece of evidence claiming a Russian attack.

In 2017 the Associated Press obtained a recording of the sound the “diplomats” heard during the alleged attacks. The thinking was that this this sound was the sound of the microwave weapon being used and what caused all the damage and injury to the embassy personal.

The study by Stubbs and Montealgre-Z shows that this sound is not a microwave weapon, but a particular type of cricket trying to get the attention of any and all single crickets for the purpose of making more crickets. In other words, the nefarious Russian Bond-villain microwave super weapon is in reality nothing more than a horny cricket.

Stubbs and Montealgre-Z’s findings are in complete agreement with another group of scientists who studied the sound but were ignored, Cuban scientists have long claimed the sound was that of crickets…but since they are Cuban, and God knows we can’t trust Cubans, well, at least Cubans in Cuba, their findings were discounted.

The Cuban scientist weren’t the only ones whose conclusions were ignored by the media in favor of the more salacious claim that Russia did it with a microwave super weapon. Numerous American doctors and scientists, even the esteemed JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) examining the case thought that the evidence of physical harm showed that no “attack” had taken place at all. These scientists and doctors thought that there were other reasons behind the symptoms that the alleged “victims” had suffered, up to and included hysteria.

Look, more evidence may come out that proves or shows beyond a shadow of a doubt or even a preponderance of evidence that attacks did take place on U.S. “diplomatic” and embassy personnel in Cuba and China, and that Russia was behind it. A mysterious attack of some kind having taken place is a possibility. Russian guilt in that potential attack is definitely “possible”…but at looking at the evidence presented (or not presented as the case may be) and the claims made in the media in September, that possibility seemed unlikely to me then, and with this new study pointing the finger at crickets, seems even more highly unlikely today.

The lessons to be learn from this story are thus…first…skepticism regarding any claims of Russian misconduct or criminality is a must if you are going to keep your head about you in our current media climate. Russia has been successfully turned into a boogey man for all the ills of the U.S. and the world. This phase of the propaganda war against Russia began in earnest earlier this decade and has hit hyper-speed since the 2016 election. In order to wade through the morass of anti-Russian stories that are riddled with an implied or implicit Russo-phobia, one must not only seek, but demand, actual evidence when claims are made against Russia.

These false stories of Russian nefariousness, whether it be their supposed hacking into the Vermont electrical grid (false), the election systems of 21 state (false), C-Span (false), or their manipulation of the mainstream news or social media (false), all come in with a chest-thumping and flag-waving bang and leave with a red-faced whimper because they were such hysterical nonsense.

I know liberals and Democrats don’t want to hear this, but another story included on that list should and will be all of the claims about Russian “meddling” or “interference” in the 2016 election. The paucity, if not the downright total absence of evidence in the Russian meddling case is astonishing, and if you do not see that, that is an indictment of you, your wishful thinking and your confirmation bias, not Putin and the evil Russians.

Secondly, any story that relies on anonymous sources who make convenient claims that support your previously held belief, must be discarded. That doesn’t mean you immediately ignore all anonymous sources, just those who do not back up their claims with documentary evidence. For instance, Edward Snowden gave us documents, Bradley Manning gave us documents, Wikileaks gives us documents. Of course, Snowden, Manning and Wikileaks are now atop the public enemies list because they PROVED U.S. criminality, and the establishment and their media wing are not interested in documented U.S. wrong-doing, only in speculation of undocumented Russian wrong-doing.

In this case NBC News had anonymous sources from various U.S. intelligence agencies that claimed to have signal intelligence that proved that Russia was behind the attacks. Of course, NBC never saw that intelligence but just took the word of the intelligence officials that the alleged signal intelligence existed and that it proved Russian guilt. As I said in my original piece, “this is not journalism, this is stenography.”

And finally, and maybe the most important thing to take away from this whole story is that…I was right in smelling a rat. I’m kidding of course, no one cares that I was right in sniffing out a piece of propaganda. I will not be offered a job at The New York Times or The L.A. Times or NBC News for having seen this story for what it is…or for the myriad of other stories I have accurately diagnosed and dissected. No, I am not the type of guy those media outlets want to let loose on the world because I am not a mealy-mouthed, kiss ass only interested in access to power or fame or any of the other bullshit that distracts those fools from seeing the crickets fucking at the end of their nose. No, my only interest, and where my loyalty lies, is the Truth.

A good way to try and find the Truth amid the tidal wave of bullshit is don’t just read the headlines, but read the news, and don’t just to read the news, but read between the lines of the news. The major media in the U.S. is designed to disseminate disinformation and to leave citizens either misinformed or uninformed and always either afraid or angry or both. My best advice to news consumers trapped in a corporatist, oligarchic and aristocratic empire in a death spiral…think often, think critically, think skeptically and think rationally (and go read Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent). As Orwell tells us, “To see what is in front of one’s nose, needs a constant struggle.” Keep struggling...constantly.

©2019

MY ORIGINAL ARTICLE OF SEPTEMBER 19, 2018, IS BELOW. PLEASE READ IT FOR A DEEPER BACKGROUND ON THE STORY.

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The U.S. media’s lazy reporting of mystery attacks on American personnel in Cuba takes the predictable path of blaming Russia without evidence.

I came across a story recently in the New York Times that was intriguing. The story, headlined “Microwave Weapons are Prime Suspect in Ills of U.S. Embassy Workers”, was written by William J. Broad and was about mysterious “attacks” that started in 2016 on U.S. personnel stationed in Cuba who had suffered the equivalent of concussive brain trauma and the ensuing after effects, such as hearing loss, dizziness and diminished cognitive function, yet had not been visibly assaulted or struck in the head. The article posits the “attacks” were made by a microwave-type of weapon that would invisibly strike its targets.

In the Times article it never states outright but certainly gives the distinct impression, that the mystery is now solved and that the “attacks” were made by a microwave type of weapon that would invisibly strike its targets.

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The most striking thing about this story was the seemingly out of nowhere speculation that it was Russia that perpetrated these “attacks”. What was so odd about this assertion was that upon closer inspection it became clear the actual facts presented in the story indicate there is no consensus or actual evidence Russia was responsible for the attacks or that any attacks had even taken place.

The article begins by giving a brief history of microwave radiation as a weapon, stating in its opening sentence, “During the Cold War: Washington feared that Moscow was seeking to turn microwave radiation into covert weapons of mind control.”

For the next nine paragraphs, Broad never mentions Russia, but then with no background as to where his speculation comes from, he writes,

“The microwave idea teems with unanswered questions. Who fired the beams? The Russian government? The Cuban government? A rogue Cuban faction sympathetic to Moscow? And, if so, where did the attackers get the unconventional arms?”

In re-reading the opening paragraph, you will notice that there is no proof that Russia has ever had a microwave weapon, only decades-old “fears” it was “seeking” to develop one. It would seem the entire basis for the speculation blaming Russia in this article is nothing more than some old, fleeting sense of Soviet super-villainy, that this fact is hidden in plain sight reveals a deft but ultimately duplicitous hand writing the story.

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In fact, the only person quoted in the piece claiming Russia as the prime suspect is a scientist, biologist Allan H. Frey, who has vast experience with microwave technology. Mr. Frey is described as having “traveled widely and long served as a contractor and a consultant to a number of federal agencies.” That description of Mr. Frey is curiously, if not suspiciously, lacking in specifics.

The New York Times goes on to write in regards to Mr. Frey, “he speculated that Cubans aligned with Russia, the nation’s longtime ally, might have launched microwave strikes in attempts to undermine developing ties between Cuba and the United States.” Mr. Frey describes his own analysis as a “perfectly viable explanation.”

So the New York Times bases the underlying assumption of Russian guilt on the uninformed speculation of a biologist, who has no expertise or insight into the subject, and who also admits that his beliefs only rise to the rather tepid level of being a “viable” explanation.

Frey’s credibility and believability takes a serious hit later in the article when he recounts the story of how, after he made a name for himself in the early 60’s with numerous papers about the effects of microwave energy on the human body which brought him a lot of attention, so much so that these effects were given the name the “Frey effect”, he was invited to the Soviet Union to speak.

The New York Times writes, “The Soviets took notice. Not long after his initial discoveries, Mr. Frey said, he was invited to the Soviet Academy of Sciences to visit and lecture. Toward the end, in a surprise, he was taken outside of Moscow to a military base surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire fences.”They had me visiting the various labs and discussing problems”, including the neural impacts of microwaves, Mr. Frey recalled. “I got an inside look at their classified program.

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Now, just think about what Frey is claiming here. Frey is saying that at the very height of the Cold War, with the Cuban Missile Crisis fresh in everyone’s mind, he was invited to go to the Soviet Union and then WAS GIVEN AN INSIDE LOOK INTO THE SOVIET’S CLASSIFIED PROGRAM! In what universe is this even remotely plausible? This story has got to be at best embellishment and at worst a total fabrication. And yet, the New York Times prints it as if it isn’t a big deal and must unquestionably be true. Frey reveals himself to be a pretty dubious character with that statement, and yet the New York Times’ reporter, William J. Broad, still uses him as the backbone of his assertion that Russia was behind the “attacks”.

Another rather remarkable piece of news that appears towards the end of this article is some contradictory evidence to the notion that Russia is the culprit behind the attacks, namely that other alleged microwave attacks have happened to U.S. diplomats stationed in China.

What makes that fact all the more salient is that the article describes a list of states that may have the ability to make a microwave weapon.

“Russia, CHINA and many European states are seen as having the know-how to make basic microwave weapons that can debilitate, sow noise or even kill. Advanced powers, experts say, might accomplish more nuanced aims such as beaming spoken words into people’s heads.” (emphasis mine)

Obviously, if China is capable of making this sort of weapon and there have been “attacks” upon U.S. diplomats in China, wouldn’t China be a better suspect than Russia? And China also has deep connections to Cuba…so…why did the New York Times write so suspiciously of Russia and not China? It makes you wonder if an “advanced power” like the U.S. beamed this article into the head of reporter William J. Broad.

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Further proof of something being greatly amiss about this article and story is the paucity of actual evidence that an “attack” even took place. According to thew York Times’ own reporting, the most clear cut pronouncement of an attack was made by James C. Lin, a scientist and expert in the field who wrote in a paper that the effects felt by the U.S. diplomats could “plausibly arise” from microwave beams. “Plausibly arise” is an extremely low bar, so much so that it is absurd to base any conclusions on that statement at all. Of course, many other things could be “plausible explanations”, and Broad even admits that no one really knows or agrees on what happened.

“Scientists still disagree over what hit diplomats. Last month, JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) ran four letters critical of the March study, some faulting the report for ruling out mass hysteria.”

Mass hysteria sounds like it could be not only a “plausible” explanation for this alleged Russian microwave attack in Cuba but also for the Times’ slanted article, as well as the spate of Russo-phobia infecting America’s establishment media.

The Times article glosses over the skepticism of scientists that actually claim they do not know what happened, and instead embraces speculation it was a “microwave attack”, and then despite a total lack of evidence and in the face of some contradictory evidence, confidently speculates that it was Russia that is the likely suspect.

Furthering this journalistic malpractice was NBC News, which followed up on the Times article ten days later with even more vapid reporting on the subject. The NBC News headline of September 11th reads “U.S. officials suspect Russia in mystery ‘attacks’ on diplomats in Cuba, China”.

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What is so amusing is that even the headline questions whether these events are attacks at all, putting quotation marks around the word. But that doesn’t stop NBC from devouring intel agency pablum hook, line and sinker. NBC relies entirely on anonymous sources for the story and never quotes anyone saying what the story so boldly asserts, which is that Russia is the main culprit in these “attacks”.

NBC News simply repeats unchallenged, the claims of anonymous intelligence officials that the suspicion of Russia is “backed up by evidence from communications intercepts”. The same paragraph making this assertion ends with this gem of a revealing statement, “The officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence”.

So NBC, which ran the story on as “Breaking News” and hyped it endlessly on MSNBC, simply repeats intelligence agency speculation without ever seeing any of the alleged corroborating evidence or challenging the voracity of that alleged evidence, and calls it news. That isn’t journalism that is stenography.

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The stenography charge against NBC shouldn’t come as a surprise since one of the reporters who “broke” the story is Ken Dilanian. Dilanian is a notorious intelligence agency shill, who was exposed by The Intercept as having shared his stories and outlines with the CIA before he submitted them while he was working as a national security reporter at the L.A. Times, a shockingly unprofessional journalistic practice. What is even more outrageous is that Dilanian’s lack of journalistic ethics never hampered him from getting a job at NBC as their lead national security reporter. And since he has gotten to NBC he has done nothing but regurgitate intelligence agency approved talking points and narratives non-stop.

NBC’s and the Times’ reporting on this issue is perniciously vacuous, insipidly shallow and riddled with an insidious anti-Russian bias. These articles are forms of malignant disinformation that alchemically transform speculation into fact and replace critical thinking with presumption, the final result of which is that these presumed “facts” will go unchallenged and become part of a wider and often nefarious narrative. An example of which is that last week cable news talking heads like Chris Matthews proclaimed “of course Russia did it!” and even comedian Bill Maher roared “Russia attacked us in Cuba!”

These incidents may very well be proven to be attacks, and Russia may ultimately be responsible for them, but we should wait for actual evidence and not accept whispered innuendo wrapped in a slavish deference to intelligence agency authority as proof.

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After the media’s complicity in deceiving the American public into war with Iraq, followed quickly by their acquiescence on torture, or as the Times preferred to call it “enhanced interrogation”, and then concealing Bush’s warrantless surveillance program, of which the Times was aware but refused to publish for more than a full year, we the people must condition ourselves to read all of the establishment media news with an acutely jaundiced eye.

Similar to the delirious fever for war in the lead up to Iraq, the media are currently suffering from a virulent hysteria, this time of the anti-Russian variety. Now more than ever it is imperative to maintain a healthy and vigilant skepticism whenever Russia is blamed for misdeeds but there is a dearth or absence of concrete evidence. If we succumb to the corporate media’s Siren’s call of compulsive Russia blaming, our new Cold war may just turn very hot, and that will be a catastrophe for all of us.

A version of this article was originally published at CounterPunch.

 

©2018

Scrooge Sends Season's Greetings From Syria

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Estimated Reading Time: Longer than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer but shorter than The Little Drummer Boy

Since it is the holiday season, I thought now would be a good time to try a different approach to my writing and actually say something nice for once. I know, I know, it is as big a shock to me as it is to you, but sometimes at Christmas there is a wondrous magic in the air that allows people to have their hearts opened and their perspectives changed…just ask Ebeneezer Scrooge (a role I once played…PHENOMENALLY…on stage!!).

In my case, I thought it would be a good time to give credit where credit is due for people who I usually chastise but who have recently done something good and honorable. The catalyst for my change of heart regarding these folks isn’t Scrooge, but Syria.

First on the list is everybody’s least favorite carnival barker, sideshow clown and general asshat Donald Trump. I loathe Trump with the intensity of a thousand suns and have for decades, but like a toddler, when he does something good, he deserves my encouragement. Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria is an excellent thing…a truly excellent thing.

My fear with Trump has always been that because he is such a needle-dicked, insecure bully and poseur, that he would start a war to bolster his flaccid virility and tenuous manhood. The fact that Trump is actually ending a war, or at least the U.S.’s involvement in one, is…and I can’t believe I am saying this…a courageous act.

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Trump is going against the entire political and media establishment in America. The Military Industrial Complex, the Intelligence community and their lackeys and shills in the corporate media, and the Israeli lobby, do not take kindly to American militarism and imperialism in the Middle East being curtailed in any way. This is why I think Trump was brave to do this (we will see if he actually follows through) because he basically signed his death warrant or the death warrant of his presidency. The forces Trump is taking on with this Syria decision are not known for playing patty cake and they do not forgive or forget. When Kennedy reversed course on the war in Vietnam and shifted toward deescalation, he ended up with his brains all over Jackie’s nice Chanel suit, I would not be shocked if a similar fate awaited The Donald in one form or another. Robert Mueller might be laying in wait on his own grassy knoll as we speak with an indictment in his hands instead of a Mannlicher-Carcano. (Or don’t be surprised if one of the CIA’s friends in ISIS kills a bunch of people in America and Trump is blamed because he pulled out of Syria or as evidenced by Mnuchin’s signals to the big banks, that the propped up, phony, smoke and mirrors American economy has the rug pulled out from under it in order to knee cap Trump and Trumpism once and for all)

Of course, Trump could reverse course on his reversing course, or could start a war somewhere else that is bigger in scale, in a place like Iran, in order to appease the rabidly nefarious neo-con class, but for now, leaving Syria is a very good thing, and because of that I am saying…gulp…Thank you Mr. President.

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There are a few other people that stand out for sticking to their convictions regarding Syria. Ted Lieu, the congressman from my neck of the woods, has been a vociferous attacker of Trump but he stood up for Trump’s Syria withdrawal. Republican Senator Rand Paul along with Democratic Representatives Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard and Republican Justin Amash have all done the same. These people have shown themselves to be loyal to something higher than political party, they are loyal to their moral and ethical values and beliefs, and it is refreshing and encouraging to see politicians actually have principles and stand by them.

What is not so encouraging are the plethora of politicians on both sides of the aisle who are slavishly addicted to American militarism. Most disheartening are not just the pro-war Democratic politicians, but everyday liberals who are so hypocritically opposed to Trump’s withdrawal from Syria (including the usually reliable Michael Moore).

It is truly astonishing but these supposedly liberal people are angry at Trump for ending U.S. involvement in a war. Of course most of these dopes didn’t even know the U.S. was so heavily involved in Syria in the first place (the U.S. occupies 1/3rd of the country), but that doesn’t matter, all that matters is if Trump is for something that means it must be bad. This is how the game works now, and the establishment has used that emotionalist response to great effect to get people to go against their own interests.

Liberals are currently being played by the establishment class. Liberals hatred of Trump has blinded them to reality, has muddied their mind, soiled their soul and left them with a permanent case of political myopia. Hating Trump is not a belief system, it is not an ideology, it is not a governing philosophy…it is a moral, ethical, political and philosophical cancer…and it is eating at the heart, soul and mind of liberalism and our democracy as it distorts the judgement and reason of both the liberal and conservative populace.

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Great examples of this are how liberals now adore the FBI and CIA. War criminals like John Brennan, Michael Hayden and James Clapper are held up as guardians of all that is good and pure. Robert Mueller and James Comey, two of the worst deep state operators, are held up as paragons of virtue. George W. Bush, who lied us into a war that killed millions, tortured thousands and surveilled millions across the globe, is being rehabilitated in the media and held up as a decent man because he gave Michelle Obama a piece of candy at church…what the fuck?. None of the crimes of these people, from their deceptions on Iraq, to their support and involvement in torture and illegal surveillance, are ever mentioned when they are spoken of in such hushed and reverential tones by know-nothing talking heads. (as an aside, the reason for this might be because St. Barrack Obama decided to look forward and not backward, thus becoming an accomplice to war crimes after the fact…thanks Obama!)

Bush cronies and Iraq war demagogues like Max Boot, David Frum, William Kristol and Richard Painter are regulars on America’s liberal network MSNBC, and their complicity in war crimes and their moral and ethical depravity are never mentioned. Nicolle Wallace, a former Bush administration official even has her own show on the “liberal” network.

These national security establishment shills in the media pout and preen like cheap tarts at a red light street when it comes to Trump and his “lawlessness”…but international and domestic laws are nothing but props for these people as evidenced by their embrace of torture, surveillance, the use of depleted uranium and white phosphorus by U.S. forces and their support for the war in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan and their unabashed adoration Israel and its illegal occupation of the Palestine.

The establishment, in an impressive bit of propaganda jiu jitsu, has used the fear of Trump to bolster their grip on the minds of Americans, most especially liberal Americans who should know better, or at least think they know better.

If only liberals would stop claiming to be “woke” and actually wake the fuck up and realize that the #Resistance is being co-opted by insidious and duplicitous neo-cons. Understand this, all of these newly politically active liberal anti-Trumpers out there are being indoctrinated and propagandized to worship the military/intelligence industrial complex, and that will be disastrous for the future of America and the world.

The allegedly liberal NBC and MSNBC have been the worst agents of disinformation and propaganda in this respect. Proven Intelligence Agency asset, NBC’s Ken Dilanian, has been breathlessly reporting how Trump is endangering America by leaving Syria and how the Pentagon is in shock and horror at the news. I wonder if the CIA proof read Dilanian’s work which is his standard operating procedure.

Another example of MSNBC’s madness has been the lather raving Russophobe and liberal charlatan Rachel “Mad Dog” Maddow has been in for days now, particularly when 5 star douchebag and ”confirmed life-long bachelor” (*wink-wink*) General “Mad Dog” Mattis, announced, no doubt with his signature lateral lisp, his resignation as Secretary of Defense over Trump’s Syria withdrawal.

MSNBC has had a cavalcade of “national security experts” on as well to assure liberals that leaving Syria now is the worst decision ever and jeopardizes American lives. It is amazing to me that we are supposed to listen to and believe these “national security experts” as they are the same geniuses who got us into Iraq, which went so well, and Yemen, where that is going so well, and Libya, where that went so well, and Syria, which is again…going so, so well. These are the same moral and ethical stalwarts that have allied us with the deplorable terrorists of the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia, which gave us 9-11, and the Nazi coup in Ukraine….both of which have gone so swimmingly.

These are the same “national security experts” who got us into Somalia in the 90’s, Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 80’s, South America in the 70’s and Vietnam in the 60’s…all of which worked out incredibly well too...right? RIGHT? Sadly, watching MSNBC has now turned into watching Soviet era state-tv or Fox News, where no voices in opposition to the war are ever allowed to be heard.

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Watching the media’s hysteria in the wake of Trump’s Syria plan has been extremely enlightening and entirely disheartening. As far as I can tell, there have been no voices in the corporate media that have pointed out the most obvious fact about America’s involvement in Syria…namely that it is entirely illegal. Not only is it illegal under U.S. law, as congress has not approved the war, but it is also illegal under International law, as the U.S. is illegally occupying a third of Syria. The fact that the media instinctively supports any and all military action by the U.S., and only gets up in arms over a proposed withdrawal of troops, tells you all you need to know about who is pulling the strings on the information machine. U.S. military withdrawal from anywhere in the world, be it Japan, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria, is entirely inconceivable to the corporate media, who are totally blind to their imperialism and militarism. Somewhere Noam Chomsky is nodding to himself saying, “I told you so, you stupid sons of bitches”

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You know what else is never mentioned on NBC or anywhere else in the media? The Richard Engel scam that NBC participated in with anti-Assad forces (aka ISIS) when the reporter claimed he was kidnapped by Assad’s forces and then was saved by anti-Assad groups that killed his kidnappers. NBC hyped the story no end and kept up the charade after Engel was returned safely, even though the network knew that his story was bunk, and that the truth was that it was anti-Assad forces (aka ISIS, no doubt with an assist from the CIA) that kidnapped Engel in a bit of false flag political theater. I wonder why no one mentions that story when Syria is brought up?

Another topic that never gets explored are the alleged chemical weapons attacks that the U.S. blamed on Assad but that were in actuality false flag attacks by anti-Assad forces to dupe the American public into supporting more U.S. military intervention in the region. The media, despite compelling evidence to the contrary, simply regurgitates the dubious official story in regards to these attacks and blames it on Assad. I wonder why the corporate media doesn’t want to look to hard into those stories? I also wonder why liberals are so willing to accept them as proven fact? Maybe because they have stopped thinking rationally and are victims of their own emotionalism.

Speaking of emotionalism, remember when the media used a dead little Syrian boy washed ashore on a beach to try and get the U.S. more militarily involved in the Syrian war? Such naked pleas to emotion are a hallmark of manipulation and propaganda and are used to cover the truth, not reveal it, and in the case of that poor little boy, are a case of American foreign policy making it rain outside and then Americans complaining about the weather.

The truth is this, the U.S. and its intelligence agencies started the civil war in Syria. The intelligence community and their assets and shills in the corporate media have been feeding the American people a truck load of bullshit and blatant propaganda in order to drum up animus toward Assad and Syria (as well as toward Putin and Russia). This entire Syria (and Iraq before it) operation has been done for the benefit of neo-conservatives, Israel and powerful oil and gas interests that are all virulently opposed to Iran and Russia. The civil war in Syria that started in 2011 was, just like the coup in Ukraine in 2014, just another geo-political maneuver by the U.S. in an attempt to isolate, weaken and ultimately destroy Russia economically and eventually militarily by drawing Russia into two quagmires.

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The U.S. has also been in a full scale, blatant and shameless propaganda war against Russia and Russians for a long time, but that shifted into overdrive in 2014 with the coverage of both Ukraine and the Sochi Winter Olympics. The saddest part of all this is that since it began under Obama, liberals have fully and whole-heartedly embraced the vicious anti-Russian xenophobia being peddled by the corporate media and our government. Liberals blind hatred of all things Russian went into the stratosphere with the alleged “hacking” of the election, which is such a foolish and vacuous story that it truly boggles the mind that liberals, who pride themselves on being so smart, fall for it. But to be fair, Russia makes an easy scapegoat, and it is much easier for Democrats to blame Russia than blame themselves.

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Ok…I am not doing a good job of being filled with the Christmas spirit here, so I am going to end on a positive note. There is one media member in particular who has been the target of my ire and been on the receiving end of many a vicious drubbing from me over the years because he was consistently behaving like a brain-addled buffoon. An example of my distaste for this person is that I once eloquently and accurately described him as a “spittle-flecked, syphilitic baboon”. But since it is the Christmas season, I want to extend my thanks and gratitude and even my momentary respect to my favorite spittle flecked, syphilitic baboon…MSNBC’s Chris Matthews of Hardball fame.

Matthews actually stood up for genuine progressive values and principles when, during his “Let Me Finish” segment on Hardball last week, he fervently and ferociously took to task the neo-con and neo-liberal war mongers and chicken hawks who were so outraged by Trump’s withdrawal from Syria. I was genuinely shocked, and frankly moved, to see Matthews so boldly and brazenly take on the Washington Establishment and their default setting of war, war and more war.

What Matthews understands is that it is easy to get into a war and very difficult to get out of one. Once troops are in place, any attempt to withdraw them will be met with cries from war-mongering armchair tough guys of “appeasement” or “defeatism” or “anti-Americanism”. “Right-minded serious people”, as liberals like to think of themselves, will chastise any attempts at withdrawal by saying “now is not the right time” or that “we need a plan for the aftermath” or “we need to think about the children” or “what about our allies” or my favorite “we need to listen to the generals”, because yes, the people we need to listen to are the ones whose livelihood depends on maintaining war.

Anyone clamoring for the U.S. to stay in Syria, or Iraq or Afghanistan, needs to pick up a history book. As the Pentagon Papers show, the Washington establishment and the Military/Intelligence Industrial Complex knew full well for years that Vietnam could never be won but sacrificed young American boys and men at the altar of American Empire and ego rather than do the right, but difficult thing.

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The powers that be knew before any invasions ever took place that Iraq and Afghanistan were ultimately unwinnable wars, but winning those wars was never the point, fighting them was. Those wars in particular and the War on Terror in general, have generated billions if not trillions in profits for the weapons, construction, intelligence, surveillance, energy and technology sectors of the U.S. economy. War is big business and with the militarism of American Empire, business is booming. Pulling out of Syria is bad for the war business and bad for Israel which means it is bad for the business of corruption in Washington, which also booms during wartime. (As an aside, if you want to see real election meddling, turn your gaze from Russia and open your eyes to the real power behind the American throne…Israel)

And this is why I tip my cap to Chris Matthews, Ted Lieu, Ro Khanna, Justin Amash, Tulsi Gabbard, Rand Paul and even Donald Trump. These folks are swimming against the overpowering tide of blood-thirsty, greed-fueled war mongering, the deep-seeded moral and ethical depravity in the form of indifference to other people’s suffering among political elites and the shameless corruption of the Washington/media establishment and the Military Industrial Complex, and they deserve our praise for speaking up when everyone else, most depressingly liberals, are shouting for more war, more empire, more death and more destruction.

In conclusion, I wish all my readers, all my friends, all my enemies and everyone everywhere, even the spittle-flecked, syphilitic baboon Chris Matthews and spittle-flecked, syphilitic orangutan Donald Trump, a very Happy Christmas. May the celebration of the birth of Jesus bring about a birth of conscience in the halls of power and in the hearts and minds of less powerful people across the globe.

©2018

Fahrenheit 11/9: A Review

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

My Rating: 3.9 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. An insightful glimpse into America’s future and its not too distant past, that shows Trump is a tumor that grew out of the cancer that is the corporate controlled establishment political parties.


Fahrenheit 11/9, written and directed by Michael Moore, is a documentary that explores Donald Trump, the forces in America and American politics that made his presidency possible, and the repercussions of Republican and Democrat corporate rule upon regular Americans.

Michael Moore may not be the best documentarian of his time, but he is certainly the best known documentarian of his time. Moore is a polemicist and a provocateur, but to his credit he is a really good one.

Moore’s filmography is a testament not only to his liberal bona fides but his extraordinarily accurate instincts in regards to the American unconscious. His scathing Roger and Me swam against the Reaganite tide and exposed free-market, trickle-down economics for the charade that it is well before that was a popular notion.

His Oscar winning Bowling for Columbine exposed the deep psychological wounds inflicted upon generations of young people raised under a flag-waving dream of unabashed corporate militarism that led to the illusion shattering nightmare of Columbine.

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His most financially successful film, and the most financially successful documentary of all-time, Fahrenheit 9/11, pushed back against the establishment media’s War on Terror hagiography and exposed it for the fraud that it was. Fahrenheit 9/11 was a cultural phenomenon, a lightning rod both for liberal anger at the Bush administration and for conservative angst with liberal fifth columnists.

Moore’s films in recent years have not had the same cultural cache of Fahrenheit 9/11. Sicko was a smart and insightful film, as was Capitalism: A Love Story, but it sells out at the end by embracing Obama, who ended up being a poison pill for any real Wall Street or health care reform that would work for regular folks.

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Moore’s, Where To Invade Next, is a film that was widely overlooked and ignored, but which is a gem, and shows Moore to be at his most prophetic best. In the movie, Moore goes to various foreign countries to see what parts of their culture and government we should bring to America. This film was a precursor for the wave of progressive ideas that buoyed Bernie Sander’s campaign and which have animated the progressive left to such a degree that even some centrist corporate Democrats are parroting the same lines.

Fahrenheit 11/9 is Moore’s best film since it’s pseudo-namesake, Fahrenheit 9/11. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is pulsating with an anger bordering on desperation that shows the iconic filmmaker taking on not only Trump and the Republicans but establishment Democrats as well.

Moore wisely doesn’t focus on Trump for the majority of the film, we know Trump and most everybody is sick of the guy, instead, Moore takes side trips to Flint, Michigan, to reveal what the rest of America is going to look like if the corptacracy of establishment Republicans and Democrats stays in place, then to West Virginia to show what the power of unionization and solidarity can accomplish in the face of government corruption, and finally to Parkland, Florida to show the younger generation as the key to breaking the logjam of bullshit that is American politics.

The opening sequence, an homage to Moore’s own Fahrenheit 9/11, is exquisitely funny in the darkest of ways. Watching the “I’m With Her” crowd of fools and the media, so sure of her ascension to the throne, have their hopes dashed upon the rocks of reality is hysterically funny, especially for me, since like Michael Moore, I actually told people before the election that Trump would win. I was ridiculed before the election for saying that, and was pilloried after the fact for having been right.

As Moore dives into the loathsome oddity that is Trump, he covers much well-trod ground. What was refreshing about this section is that Moore holds himself accountable for not having taken Trump to task when they were on a talk show together, and for how Moore’s own career has been bolstered by Trump lackeys Steve Bannon and the crown prince himself, Jared Kushner. Moore’s honesty is refreshing and no doubt will blunt counter-attacks to his movie.

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Trump is a pretty disgusting character and is a total conman, this we all know, and Moore backs up his claims to this fact, but where Moore stumbles in this section is in his gravitating towards the salacious and the prurient by making the argument that Trump and Ivanka have or had a sexual relationship. I get what Moore is doing, he is exposing Trump for being a gross and lecherous fiend, but this part of the film feels cheap and much too placatingly easy for me. I actually think Trump is a lech and a fiend, but Moore leaves himself too easily open to charges of being more tabloid propagandist than documentarian with this particular section of the movie.

The best parts of the film are the Flint and West Virginia sections. The Flint section is breathtakingly depressing, as it lays bare the craven contempt that politicians (of both parties) hold not only for the truth but for their fellow citizens. Moore’s compelling thesis is that Flint is the future of America, where corporate interests override all humanity, and people are left to live in an environmentally toxic open air prison.

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Included in this indictment is the Holiest of liberal Holies, President Obama, who is shown to be a despicable shill for corporate interests and brazenly contemptuous of the working class and poor people of Flint. Adding to the case against Obama is the fact that not only did he aid and abet the poisoning of the population of Flint, he also terrorized them by using their city for target practice. Obama’s charlantanry, including his subservience to Wall Street (Goldman Sachs in particular), his callous drone program and his complicity in war crimes, is no shock to me, but I think the Obama adoring liberals I know will feel like this section of the film is an absolute gut punch. Fahrenheit 11/9 is a worthwhile film for no other reason than no liberal who watches this movie will ever feel the same way about Obama again.

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The West Virginia section of the movie is as equally insightful as the Flint section, but much less depressing. As per Moore’s thesis, Flint is the future of America, but West Virginia is the model for how to fight back. Moore’s examination of the teacher’s strike and how unionization and solidarity are the the only way to stop the spread of government/corporate fascism that is destroying America, American cities and towns, and the American family, is so energized it makes you want to put a red bandana around your neck and go out and crack some skulls.

Moore makes an important point in both the Flint and West Virginia stories, namely that race and ethnicity is used by both Republicans AND Democrats to divide working class and poor people in order to maintain the corrupt and disastrous status quo. As a striking teacher says in the film, “class above all else”, and this clarion call for unity through class will no doubt be a sharp slap in the face to the establishment corporate Democrats, the Hillary Hypocrites first among them, but it is one, as Moore points out, that they so richly deserve.

Moore’s multiple story lines don’t all work, as I found the Parkland narrative to be especially vapid and frankly illogical. Moore’s anti-gun sentiments are well-known, but it is striking to see these young Parkland students, so traumatized by the shooting at their school, be held up as the ideal because they are so stridently anti-gun, in the context of a documentary arguing that Trump may literally be the next Hitler. The lack of self-awareness in this Parkland section is staggering, especially in the midst of the Trump and Flint sections, which lay bare the fact that regular Americans are literally under assault and it is only going to get worse.

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To watch earnest but misguided young people, so sure of their righteousness and rightness, vehemently argue for disarmament right after watching the U.S. military invade Flint and Trump contemplate being president for life, is breathtaking for its stupidity. Moore’s blind spot on this issue, like those of the teenagers he highlights, is due to being the victim of unabashed emotionalism. The young Parkland teens that Moore holds up as the paragon of virtue and the path forward, are not the solution to the problem Moore presents, but the problem itself. To see the effects of emotionalism laid so bare in the form of these Parkland teens is a remarkable thing.

An example of the illogic on display in the film is when Moore declares the danger of Trump as a potential Hitler, and then uses history professors from NYU and Yale to persuasively make the case that America is in peril but then transitions to the Parkland anti-gun crusaders, which completely undermines the intellectual and political seriousness of the thesis of the film. If Trump is Hitler, disarming is ridiculous if not absurd. The logical and rational response to the notion that Trump is a tyrant or Hitler is to go out and arm yourself, not disarm yourself and everyone else.

Despite the weakness of the Parkland section, Fahrenheit 11/9 pulses with a vitality and urgency because Moore, like many Americans, even Trump voters, feels America disintegrating before him. Moore is a polemicist, of that there is no doubt, but he is a damn fine documentarian and an even better political physician. In Fahrenheit 11/9 Michael Moore’s diagnosis of America is once again completely accurate, and his prescription is, for the most part, spot on as well. Moore makes the extraordinarily insightful case that the establishment Democrats are fighting for a return to the Pre-Trump America, but that Pre-Trump America is what got us to Trump. As Moore points out, the good old days before Trump weren’t so good and and the tumor of Trump grew out of the cancer of establishment Republicans and Democrats who are beholden to corporate interests over the interests of the people.

America, and liberals in particular, had better wake up and start listening to Michael Moore, who, like me, accurately foretold of Trump’s presidency. If liberals ignore Moore’s prescription and turn back to the old centrist Clinton medicine to heal the Trumpism that ails them, the disease of Trump will spread and gain strength, and once again liberals will have no one to blame but themselves, but will lack the self-awareness to do so.

In conclusion, if you like Michael Moore, go see Fahrenheit 11/9, you’ll love it. If you are a sturdy centrist Democrat who cheered Hillary and loved Obama, go see Fahrenheit 11/9 to be disabused of the notion that those two people are anything but different faces on the same evil machine of exploitation, abuse and destruction. If you are a progressive or liberal looking for hope, go see Fahrenheit 11/9, and learn the lesson that I have been preaching for decades, that hope is insipid. If you are an American citizen, the bottom line is this, go see Fahrenheit 11/9, if for no other reason than to see what has been done to Flint, and what can be done by West Virginians.

©2018

A Curious Case of Mystery Attacks, Microwaves and Media Manipulation

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 47 seconds

The U.S. media’s lazy reporting of mystery attacks on American personnel in Cuba takes the predictable path of blaming Russia without evidence.

I came across a story recently in the New York Times that was intriguing. The story, headlined “Microwave Weapons are Prime Suspect in Ills of U.S. Embassy Workers”, was written by William J. Broad and was about mysterious “attacks” that started in 2016 on U.S. personnel stationed in Cuba who had suffered the equivalent of concussive brain trauma and the ensuing after effects, such as hearing loss, dizziness and diminished cognitive function, yet had not been visibly assaulted or struck in the head. The article posits the “attacks” were made by a microwave-type of weapon that would invisibly strike its targets.

In the Times article it never states outright but certainly gives the distinct impression, that the mystery is now solved and that the “attacks” were made by a microwave type of weapon that would invisibly strike its targets.

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The most striking thing about this story was the seemingly out of nowhere speculation that it was Russia that perpetrated these “attacks”. What was so odd about this assertion was that upon closer inspection it became clear the actual facts presented in the story indicate there is no consensus or actual evidence Russia was responsible for the attacks or that any attacks had even taken place.

The article begins by giving a brief history of microwave radiation as a weapon, stating in its opening sentence, “During the Cold War: Washington feared that Moscow was seeking to turn microwave radiation into covert weapons of mind control.”

For the next nine paragraphs, Broad never mentions Russia, but then with no background as to where his speculation comes from, he writes,

“The microwave idea teems with unanswered questions. Who fired the beams? The Russian government? The Cuban government? A rogue Cuban faction sympathetic to Moscow? And, if so, where did the attackers get the unconventional arms?”

In re-reading the opening paragraph, you will notice that there is no proof that Russia has ever had a microwave weapon, only decades-old “fears” it was “seeking” to develop one. It would seem the entire basis for the speculation blaming Russia in this article is nothing more than some old, fleeting sense of Soviet super-villainy, that this fact is hidden in plain sight reveals a deft but ultimately duplicitous hand writing the story.

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In fact, the only person quoted in the piece claiming Russia as the prime suspect is a scientist, biologist Allan H. Frey, who has vast experience with microwave technology. Mr. Frey is described as having “traveled widely and long served as a contractor and a consultant to a number of federal agencies.” That description of Mr. Frey is curiously, if not suspiciously, lacking in specifics.

The New York Times goes on to write in regards to Mr. Frey, “he speculated that Cubans aligned with Russia, the nation’s longtime ally, might have launched microwave strikes in attempts to undermine developing ties between Cuba and the United States.” Mr. Frey describes his own analysis as a “perfectly viable explanation.”

So the New York Times bases the underlying assumption of Russian guilt on the uninformed speculation of a biologist, who has no expertise or insight into the subject, and who also admits that his beliefs only rise to the rather tepid level of being a “viable” explanation.

Frey’s credibility and believability takes a serious hit later in the article when he recounts the story of how, after he made a name for himself in the early 60’s with numerous papers about the effects of microwave energy on the human body which brought him a lot of attention, so much so that these effects were given the name the “Frey effect”, he was invited to the Soviet Union to speak.

The New York Times writes, “The Soviets took notice. Not long after his initial discoveries, Mr. Frey said, he was invited to the Soviet Academy of Sciences to visit and lecture. Toward the end, in a surprise, he was taken outside of Moscow to a military base surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire fences.”They had me visiting the various labs and discussing problems”, including the neural impacts of microwaves, Mr. Frey recalled. “I got an inside look at their classified program.

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Now, just think about what Frey is claiming here. Frey is saying that at the very height of the Cold War, with the Cuban Missile Crisis fresh in everyone’s mind, he was invited to go to the Soviet Union and then WAS GIVEN AN INSIDE LOOK INTO THE SOVIET’S CLASSIFIED PROGRAM! In what universe is this even remotely plausible? This story has got to be at best embellishment and at worst a total fabrication. And yet, the New York Times prints it as if it isn’t a big deal and must unquestionably be true. Frey reveals himself to be a pretty dubious character with that statement, and yet the New York Times’ reporter, William J. Broad, still uses him as the backbone of his assertion that Russia was behind the “attacks”.

Another rather remarkable piece of news that appears towards the end of this article is some contradictory evidence to the notion that Russia is the culprit behind the attacks, namely that other alleged microwave attacks have happened to U.S. diplomats stationed in China.

What makes that fact all the more salient is that the article describes a list of states that may have the ability to make a microwave weapon.

“Russia, CHINA and many European states are seen as having the know-how to make basic microwave weapons that can debilitate, sow noise or even kill. Advanced powers, experts say, might accomplish more nuanced aims such as beaming spoken words into people’s heads.” (emphasis mine)

Obviously, if China is capable of making this sort of weapon and there have been “attacks” upon U.S. diplomats in China, wouldn’t China be a better suspect than Russia? And China also has deep connections to Cuba…so…why did the New York Times write so suspiciously of Russia and not China? It makes you wonder if an “advanced power” like the U.S. beamed this article into the head of reporter William J. Broad.

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Further proof of something being greatly amiss about this article and story is the paucity of actual evidence that an “attack” even took place. According to thew York Times’ own reporting, the most clear cut pronouncement of an attack was made by James C. Lin, a scientist and expert in the field who wrote in a paper that the effects felt by the U.S. diplomats could “plausibly arise” from microwave beams. “Plausibly arise” is an extremely low bar, so much so that it is absurd to base any conclusions on that statement at all. Of course, many other things could be “plausible explanations”, and Broad even admits that no one really knows or agrees on what happened.

“Scientists still disagree over what hit diplomats. Last month, JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) ran four letters critical of the March study, some faulting the report for ruling out mass hysteria.”

Mass hysteria sounds like it could be not only a “plausible” explanation for this alleged Russian microwave attack in Cuba but also for the Times’ slanted article, as well as the spate of Russo-phobia infecting America’s establishment media.

The Times article glosses over the skepticism of scientists that actually claim they do not know what happened, and instead embraces speculation it was a “microwave attack”, and then despite a total lack of evidence and in the face of some contradictory evidence, confidently speculates that it was Russia that is the likely suspect.

Furthering this journalistic malpractice was NBC News, which followed up on the Times article ten days later with even more vapid reporting on the subject. The NBC News headline of September 11th reads “U.S. officials suspect Russia in mystery ‘attacks’ on diplomats in Cuba, China”.

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What is so amusing is that even the headline questions whether these events are attacks at all, putting quotation marks around the word. But that doesn’t stop NBC from devouring intel agency pablum hook, line and sinker. NBC relies entirely on anonymous sources for the story and never quotes anyone saying what the story so boldly asserts, which is that Russia is the main culprit in these “attacks”.

NBC News simply repeats unchallenged, the claims of anonymous intelligence officials that the suspicion of Russia is “backed up by evidence from communications intercepts”. The same paragraph making this assertion ends with this gem of a revealing statement, “The officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence”.

So NBC, which ran the story on as “Breaking News” and hyped it endlessly on MSNBC, simply repeats intelligence agency speculation without ever seeing any of the alleged corroborating evidence or challenging the voracity of that alleged evidence, and calls it news. That isn’t journalism that is stenography.

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The stenography charge against NBC shouldn’t come as a surprise since one of the reporters who “broke” the story is Ken Dilanian. Dilanian is a notorious intelligence agency shill, who was exposed by The Intercept as having shared his stories and outlines with the CIA before he submitted them while he was working as a national security reporter at the L.A. Times, a shockingly unprofessional journalistic practice. What is even more outrageous is that Dilanian’s lack of journalistic ethics never hampered him from getting a job at NBC as their lead national security reporter. And since he has gotten to NBC he has done nothing but regurgitate intelligence agency approved talking points and narratives non-stop.

NBC’s and the Times’ reporting on this issue is perniciously vacuous, insipidly shallow and riddled with an insidious anti-Russian bias. These articles are forms of malignant disinformation that alchemically transform speculation into fact and replace critical thinking with presumption, the final result of which is that these presumed “facts” will go unchallenged and become part of a wider and often nefarious narrative. An example of which is that last week cable news talking heads like Chris Matthews proclaimed “of course Russia did it!” and even comedian Bill Maher roared “Russia attacked us in Cuba!”

These incidents may very well be proven to be attacks, and Russia may ultimately be responsible for them, but we should wait for actual evidence and not accept whispered innuendo wrapped in a slavish deference to intelligence agency authority as proof.

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After the media’s complicity in deceiving the American public into war with Iraq, followed quickly by their acquiescence on torture, or as the Times preferred to call it “enhanced interrogation”, and then concealing Bush’s warrantless surveillance program, of which the Times was aware but refused to publish for more than a full year, we the people must condition ourselves to read all of the establishment media news with an acutely jaundiced eye.

Similar to the delirious fever for war in the lead up to Iraq, the media are currently suffering from a virulent hysteria, this time of the anti-Russian variety. Now more than ever it is imperative to maintain a healthy and vigilant skepticism whenever Russia is blamed for misdeeds but there is a dearth or absence of concrete evidence. If we succumb to the corporate media’s Siren’s call of compulsive Russia blaming, our new Cold war may just turn very hot, and that will be a catastrophe for all of us.

A version of this article was originally published at CounterPunch.

 

©2018