"Everything is as it should be."

                                                                                  - Benjamin Purcell Morris

 

 

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The Pentagon and Hollywood's Successful and Deadly Propaganda Alliance (Extended Edition)

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 48 seconds

The Pentagon aids Hollywood in making money, and in turn Hollywood churns out effective propaganda for the brutal American war machine.

The U.S. has the largest military budget in the world, spending over $611 billion, far larger than any other nation on earth. The U.S. military also has at their disposal the most successful propaganda apparatus the world has ever known…Hollywood.

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Since their collaboration on the first Best Picture winner Wings in 1927, the U.S. military has used Hollywood to manufacture and shape its public image in over 1,800 films and TV shows, and Hollywood has, in turn, used military hardware in their films and TV shows to make gobs and gobs of money. A plethora of movies like Lone Survivor, Captain Philips, and even blockbuster franchises like Transformers and Marvel, DC and X-Men super hero movies, have over the years agreed to cede creative control in exchange for use of U.S. military hardware.

In order to obtain cooperation from the Department of Defense (DOD), producers must sign contracts - Production Assistance Agreements - that guarantee a military approved version of the script makes it to the big screen. In return for signing away creative control, Hollywood producers save tens of millions of dollars from their budgets on military equipment, service members to operate the equipment, and expensive location fees.

Capt. Russell Coons, Director of Navy Office of Information West, told Al Jazeera what the military expects for their cooperation,

“We’re not going to support a program that disgraces a uniform or presents us in a compromising way.”

Phil Strub, the DOD chief Hollywood liaison, says the guidelines are clear,

“If the filmmakers are willing to negotiate with us to resolve our script concerns, usually we’ll reach an agreement. If not, filmmakers are free to press on without military assistance.”

In other words, the Department of Defense is using taxpayer money to pick favorites. The DOD has no interest in nuance, truth or, God-forbid, artistic expression, only in insidious jingoism that manipulates public opinion to their favor. This is chilling when you consider that the DOD is able to use its financial leverage to quash dissenting films it deems insufficiently pro-military or pro-American in any way.

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The danger of the DOD-Hollywood alliance is that Hollywood is incredibly skilled at making entertaining, pro-war propaganda. The DOD isn’t getting involved in films like Iron Man, X-Men, Transformers or Jurassic Park III for fun, they are doing so because it’s an effective way to psychologically program Americans, particularly young Americans, not just to adore the military, but to worship militarism. This ingrained love of militarism has devastating real-world effects.

 

Lawrence Suid, author of “Guts and Glory: The Making of the American Military Image in Film” told Al Jazeera,

“I was teaching the history of the Vietnam War, and I couldn’t explain how we got into Vietnam. I could give the facts, the dates, but I couldn’t explain why. And when I was getting my film degrees it suddenly occurred to me that the people in the U.S. had never seen the U.S. lose a war, and when President Johnson said we can go into Vietnam and win, they believed him because they’d seen 50 years of war movies that were positive.”

As Mr. Suid points out, generations of Americans had been raised watching John Wayne valiantly storm the beaches of Normandy in films like The Longest Day, and thus were primed to be easily manipulated into supporting any U.S. military adventure because they were conditioned to believe that the U.S. is always the benevolent hero and inoculated against doubt.

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This indoctrinated adoration of a belligerent militarism, conjured by Hollywood blockbusters, also resulted in Americans being willfully misled into supporting a farce like the 2003 Iraq war. The psychological conditioning for Iraq War support was built upon hugely successful films like Saving Private Ryan (1997), directed by Steven Spielberg, and Black Hawk Down (2001), produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, that emphasized altruistic American militarism. Spielberg and Bruckheimer are two Hollywood heavyweights, along with Paramount studios, considered by the DOD to be their most reliable collaborators.

Another example of the success of the DOD propaganda program was the pulse-pounding agitprop of the Tom Cruise blockbuster Top Gun (1986).

Top Gun, produced by Bruckheimer, was a turning point in the DOD-Hollywood relationship, as it came amidst a string of artistically successful, DOD-opposed, “anti-war” films, like Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Full Metal Jacket, which gave voice to America’s post-Vietnam crisis of confidence. Top Gun was the visual representation of Reagan’s flag-waving optimism, and was the Cold War cinematic antidote to the “Vietnam Syndrome”.

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Top Gun, which could not have been made without massive assistance from the DOD, was a slick two-hour recruiting commercial that coincided with a major leap in public approval ratings for the military. With a nadir of 50% in 1980, by the time the Gulf War started in 1991, public support for the military spiked to 85%.

Since Top Gun, the DOD propaganda machine has resulted in a current public approval for the military of 72%, with Congress at 12%, the media at 24% and even Churches at only 40%, the military is far and away the most popular institution in American life. Other institutions would no doubt have better approval ratings if they too could manage and control their image in the public sphere.

It isn’t just the DOD that uses the formidable Hollywood propaganda apparatus to its own end…the CIA does as well, working with films to enhance their reputation and distort history.

For example, as the War on Terror raged, the CIA deftly used Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) as a disinformation vehicle to revise their sordid history with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and to portray them-selves as heroic and not nefarious.

The CIA also surreptitiously aided the film Zero Dark Thirty (2012), and used it as a propaganda tool to alter history and to convince Americans that torture works.

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The case for torture presented in Zero Dark Thirty was originally made from 2001 to 2010 on the hit TV show 24, which had support from the CIA as well. That pro-CIA and pro-torture narrative continued in 2011 with the Emmy-winning show Homeland, created by the same producers as 24, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa.

 

A huge CIA-Hollywood success story was Best Picture winner Argo (2012), which ironically is the story of the CIA teaming up with Hollywood. The CIA collaborated with the makers of Argo, including alleged liberal Ben Affleck, in order to pervert the historical record and elevate their image.

The CIA being involved in manipulating the American public should come as no surprise, as they have always had their fingers in the propagandizing of the American people, even in the news media with Operation Mockingbird that used/uses CIA assets in newsrooms to control narratives. 

Just like the DOD-Hollywood propaganda machine has real-world consequences in the form of war, the CIA-Hollywood teaming has tangible results as well. 

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For example, in our current culture, the sins of the Intelligence community, from vast illegal surveillance to rendition to torture, are intentionally lost down the memory hole. People like former CIA director John Brennan, a torture supporter who spied on the U.S. Senate in order to undermine the torture investigation, or former head of the NSA James Clapper, who committed perjury when he lied to congress about warrantless surveillance, or former Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden, who lied about and supported both surveillance and torture, are all held up by the liberal media, like MSNBC and even allegedly anti-authoritarian comedians like John Oliver and Bill Maher, as brave and honorable men who should be thanked for their noble service. 

The fact that this propaganda devil’s bargain between the DOD/CIA and Hollywood takes place in the self-declared Greatest Democracy on Earth™ is an irony seemingly lost on those in power who benefit from it, and also among those targeted to be indoctrinated by it, entertainment consumers, who are for the most part entirely oblivious to it.

If America is the Greatest Democracy in the World™ why are its military and intelligence agencies so intent on covertly misleading its citizens, stifling artistic dissent and obfuscating the truth? The answer is obvious…because in order to convince Americans that their country is The Greatest Democracy on Earth™, they must be misled, artistic dissent must be stifled and the truth must be obfuscated.

In the wake of the American defeat in the Vietnam war, cinema flourished by introspectively investigating the deeper uncomfortable truths of that fiasco in Oscar nominated films like Apocalypse Now, Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Born on the Fourth of July, all made without assistance from the DOD.

The stultifying bureaucracy of America’s jingoistic military agitprop machine is now becoming more successful at suffocating artistic endeavors in their crib though. With filmmaking becoming ever more corporatized, it is an uphill battle for directors to maintain their artistic integrity in the face of cost-cutting budgetary concerns from studios.

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In contrast to post-Vietnam cinema, after the unmitigated disaster of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the continuing quagmire in Afghanistan, there has been no cinematic renaissance, only a steady diet of mendaciously patriotic, DOD-approved, pro-war drivel like American Sniper and Lone Survivor. Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker (2008), shot with no assistance from the DOD, was the lone exception that successfully dared to portray some of the ugly truths of America’s Mesopotamian misadventure.

President Eisenhower once warned Americans to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex.”

Eisenhower’s prescient warning should have extended to the military industrial entertainment complex of the DOD/CIA- Hollywood alliance, which has succeeded in turning Americans into a group of uniformly incurious and militaristic zealots.

America is now stuck in a perpetual pro-war propaganda cycle, where the DOD/CIA and Hollywood conspire to indoctrinate Americans to be warmongers, and in turn, Americans now demand more militarism from their entertainment and government to satiate their bloodlust.

The DOD/CIA - Hollywood propaganda alliance guarantees Americans will blindly support more future failed wars and will be willing accomplices in the deaths of millions more people across the globe.

A version of this article was originally published on March 12, 2018 are RT.

©2018

4th Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® Awards

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Estimated Reading Time: 69 seconds

The Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® awards are a tribute to the absolute worst that film and entertainment has to offer for the year. Again, the qualifying rules are simple, I just had to have seen the film for it to be eligible. This means that at one point I had an interest in the film, and put the effort in to see it, which may explain why I am so angry about it being awful. So any vitriol I may spew during this awards presentation shouldn't be taken personally by the people mentioned, it is really anger at myself for getting duped into watching.

The prizes are also pretty simple. The winners/losers receive nothing but my temporary scorn. If you are a winner/loser don't fret, because this years Slip-Me-A-Mickey™®  loser/winner could always be next years Mickey™® winner!! Remember…you are only as good as your last film!! 

Now…onto the awards!

WORST FILM OF THE YEAR

Kong: Skull Island: King Kong is awesome, Kong: Skull Island is decidedly not. Riddled with a cavalcade of career lowlight performances from the likes of John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson, this movie is heart-stoppingly bad. Too bad those awful performances won't be career ending. Watching a gorilla eat his own poop at the zoo is infinitely more entertaining than this movie.

Detroit - An unmitigated shitshow of a motion picture, Detroit, or as I have become fond of calling it - Detritus, is so awful as to be stunning. Kathryn Bigelow's amateur-hour direction coupled with community theatre level performances from the cast, demean a vitally important story of race in America and turn it into a redundantly repetitive exercise in the repetitively redundant. 

Downsizing - Alexander Payne manages to take the interesting idea at the heart of Downsizing and reduces it, pun intended, to a politically flaccid, dramatically impotent and incoherent showcase for bad acting and directing. Matt Damon looks like he may have been in the midst of a raging bender during the shooting of this insipid loser…for his sake, I sure hope he was.

AND THE LOSER IS

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DETROIT I have only walked out of a film once in my adult life…and that was a free screening, but Detroit is so repulsively awful that I was ready to bolt out the door on numerous occasions. Multiple times during this movie I prayed aloud that a riot would break out and burn the theatre down with me in it. An excruciating abomination of a dramatic endeavor and a new low for cinema.

 

WORST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

Brie Larson - Kong: Skull Island: Brie Larson won an Oscar a few years ago and has followed it up by consistently being a bad actress in every thing she's done. Larson hits new lows with her wooden acting in Kong: Skull Island. This is the most lifeless and charisma-free performance I have seen since my ill-fated jaunt into the world of Funeral Home Theatre. 

Seth McFarland - Logan Lucky: Seth McFarland wears a wig and has an accent in Logan Lucky, but that still doesn't cover this steaming bag of shit of a performance. For someone who has made mountains of money making comedies, McFarland seems to be allergic to being funny. I think it is safe to say that Seth McFarland is not a threat to become America's next great actor.

Carrie Fisher - Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Sadly, Carrie Fisher died before Star Wars: The Last Jedi premiered. After seeing her performance in the film, I am seriously wondering if she didn't die before, or at the very least during, the shooting of the film. 

AND THE LOSER IS...

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BRIE LARSON - Brie Larson has the uncanny ability to be able to say words in front of a camera with all the charisma of a used wet mattress left by the side of a road. When Ms. Larson's acting career is over, which can't happen soon enough for me, I think she may have a wonderful future ahead of her as a piece of furniture…or as a cigar store wooden Indian. 

 

MOST OVERRATED FILM OF THE YEAR

Call Me by Your NameOk…I will call you by your name…Poorly Made Self-Undulgent Pedophile Story.

Get Out: The critical love for this over-hyped film is baffling as it is a moderately entertaining popcorn movie. The highest praise I could give the film is that it is maybe a little bit clever. The writing, directing and acting are all fine but not the least bit remarkable. But to listen to critics speak of this film, you'd think it was a cross between Citizen Kane and The Godfather

Lady Bird: Another critical darling that was nothing more than an excruciatingly long 90 minute sitcom. A collection of comedy "bits" that never coalesces around a coherent dramatic narrative, Lady Bird is an insipid art house phony. Critics loved it because they are so enamored with their manic pixie dream girl Greta Gerwig…I am not so enamored.

The PostSpielberg's attempt to make another serious movie that falls flat on its mustached and side-burned face. This movie is a shockingly poorly made  piece of agit-prop for establishment democrats. Spielberg's direction is so inept that there are moments when I literally laughed out loud, and other moments when I groaned at the heavy-handedness of it all. 

AND THE LOSER IS...

TIE - GET OUT and LADY BIRD

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Get Out is not a terrible film, it is a mildly amusing episode of The Twilight Zone…but because it dealt with race and was written and directed by an African-American, Jordan Peele, critics made it out to be the greatest film ever made. The critical hype for Get Out was fueled by the politics of the moment which all have to do with identity and diversity/inclusion. It would be nice if critics could judge a film simply on its merits and not on its ability to satiate the identity politics du jour, but that is certainly wishful thinking on my part. 

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Lady Bird also benefitted from the politics of the moment, namely the #MeToo movement and the desperate desire of critics to celebrate a female director for making something of value. Director Greta Gerwig is every critic's art-house manic pixie dream girl and so she was chosen as the flag bearer for female excellence in film this year. The problem though is that Lady Bird, the movie she wrote and directed (which to be clear is NOT her directorial debut), is a flaccid John Hughes imitation (or as my friend Mo Danger astutely describes it - "a bad version of Napoleon Dynamite crossed with Little Miss Sunshine") without any cohesive narrative or dramatic infrastructure. More akin to a collection of high school sketch comedy skits than a feature film, Lady Bird is the poster-child for critical virtue signaling and the bigotry of low expectations. Shamelessly over-hyped, Lady Bird is nothing more than a second rate, conventional Hollywood sit-com masquerading as an art house darling. 

 

***SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATIC MALPRACTICE AWARD*** 

AND THE LOSER IS...

WORST DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR

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Kathryn Bigelow - DetroitKathryn Bigelow has a Best Director Oscar for her work on The Hurt Locker. Detroit is so poorly directed that she should be forced to give that Oscar back. A tone-deaf, ham-fisted shlock-fest of posing and preening that is so ineptly made it sets back moviemaking at least fifty years. Congratulations Ms. Bigelow, you've made the race drama equivalent of The Room

 

P.O.S. HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE

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Harvey Wienstein - Even if you put aside all of the raping, sexual assaulting and harassing, Harvey Weinstein is still a raging fuckface of a douchebag. Weinstein is notorious for strong arming filmmakers and taking a machete to their work…and not just any directors, but all-time greats like Martin Scorsese. He is also notorious for being an unconscionable bully who would threaten anyone who stood up to him. And when the threats didn't work, he would play the victim and cry anti-semitism. As top-notch reporting from this year shows, Weinstein is literally a limp-dick asshole.

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Weinstein would be a P.O.S. Hall of Famer even without the rape…but when you add in the rape he becomes an all-time, historically great, Ted Williams level P.O.S. My dream for Harvey is that he ends up like The Colonel in Paul Thomas Anderson's masterpiece Boogie Nights, his final scene being him crying on a prison cell floor with blood coming down his face as his over-sized cellmate yells at him to "shut up!". My other dream is that I get fifteen minutes in a room alone with Weinstein…and can make him pay accordingly for all the rapes…and his disrespect to Mr. Scorsese and his butchery of The Gangs of New York

P.O.S. ALL-STARS

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KEVIN SPACEY - Kevin Spacey has been overacting for nearly thirty years, but his worst performance of all was in trying to play a straight man all that time. Everyone I know in the acting world, myself included, knew Spacey was gay. I even heard some pretty sordid stories about him when I was living and auditioning in New York and he was on Broadway in the 90's. The word was Spacey would have "casting sessions" with young, beautiful men/boys in which he would, in a room by himself, "work with the actor". Yeah…right. 

When Spacey got into hot water this year when a collection of men came forward to report that he had groped or sexually assaulted them when they were teens or young men, Spacey pulled a truly All-Star Piece of Shit move by trying to make his response into a brave coming out of the closet story. Not surprisingly, the gay community said no thanks to Spacey's bid to join them, and the rest of us simply thanked our lucky stars we won't have to watch this psychopathic narcissist butcher any more movie or TV roles. 

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MATT LAUER - I try to never watch morning television…it seems like one of the worst circles of hell to me. Sadly, a few years ago, during the Rio Olympics, I was at a breakfast place and they had a big screen tv on with the sound blaring and it was the Today Show. I watched maybe ten minutes of the programming and had to leave because my colon was twinge-ing so bad from the false laughter and empty journalistic preening. Matt Lauer struck me then, and now, as an entirely self-serving, self-absorbed, talentless and dim-witted douchebag. I wasn't sure which shocked me more about Matt Lauer, that he was the highest paid person on morning television or that hadn't killed himself in man-scaping incident where he sliced off his own scrotum and bled to death. 

When news broke that Lauer was a serial sexual harasser I was not exactly shocked because he obviously thought of himself as quite an amazing guy and a remarkable catch, so in his mind he was doing these women a favor by whipping his little anchorman out for them to worship. With all of that said, I do think Matt Lauer has enough skill, charm and brains that he could do very well for himself as a parking garage attendant one day…and if he is smart he'll put this election to the P.O.S. All-Stars on his resume, at this point it couldn't hurt, right? 

And thus ends the fourth annual Slip-Me-A-Mickey™® Awards!!! To the winners/losers…don't take it personally…and God knows I hope I don't see you again next year!! To you dear reader…thanks for tuning in and we'll see you again next year!!

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©2018

Thoughts on the Academy Awards

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Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes 02 seconds

Well the Oscars are finally over, thank the Good Lord, and I thought I would share some very brief thoughts on the big night. 

- The Oscar telecast was awful…but it is ALWAYS awful. The show is ALWAYS too long, montages are ALWAYS moronic, and the comedy bits are ALWAYS idiotic. The Oscars are almost a parody of themselves at this point, and so the only thing that matters are the awards. I think they should actually expand the number of awards and have more technical awards and more in-depth filmmaking stuff like that…but I love cinema so I am probably in the minority on that. 

- Most of the speeches were fine this year. I enjoyed Sam Rockwell's, Allison Janney's, Gary Oldman's and Guillermo del Toro's speeches, and the editors and costume guy were good too. I admire people who are composed, graceful and grateful when they are accepting awards, which to me doesn't seem like a whole lot to ask. 

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- I disliked Frances McDormand's speech a great deal. I thought McDormand came across as entirely graceless and ungrateful. I would tell Ms. McDormand to act like she's been there before because you know…she has been there before. Her demand that every female nominee stand up was playing to type and remarkably asinine and tiresome. The cry for people to demand "Inclusion Riders" was annoying as well. How about this, instead of demanding "inclusivity", "diversity" or "equality" in a cast and crew, why not demand straight up quality regardless of race or gender instead…what a novel idea!!

- Emma Stone's introduction of the Best Director category was equally graceless and repulsive. Stone said in effect, here are the four men and Greta Gerwig. It was a classless thing to do, especially considering the fact that she said it as an identity politics rallying cry but ignored the fact that Jordan Peele, one of only five African-American nominees ever in the category, and Guillermo del Toro, a Mexican immigrant, were among the male director nominees she insulted. Obviously, I find the identity politics horseshit to be so stupid and self-defeating as to be amazing, but the hypocrisy of people like Emma Stone is what makes it all even more daft. I wonder how Ms. Stone would've felt if last year at the Oscar's the presenter for her Best Actress award said, "Here are four White actresses and Ruth Negga". Probaby not so great. 

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- As I expected, Kobe Bryant won Best Animated Short for his shitty tribute to himself, Dear Basketball. He got a huge ovation from the Oscar crowd, which proves that the #MeToo and Times Up stuff is all a big self-serving show. Go read about Kobe and the details of his rape case in Colorado, and how there were more women than just the one who came forward. Then watch the standing ovation he got Oscar night. The fact that Casey Affleck couldn't even show his face at this year's awards but Kobe is celebrated is insane. Hollywood is full of lying, hypocritical scumbags…but "Inclusion Rider!!" Yay!!!

- Jimmy Kimmel is not my cup of tea, but he is proficient at hosting the awards, and that is to his credit. If he could stop with the bits where he takes celebrities to meet regular people, then he'd be a much better host. 

- I was extremely pleased that The Shape of Water won Best Picture over Get Out, which I thought would win due to identity politics. The Shape of Water is a considerably heftier film than many of its Oscar critics would allow, and Get Out is a considerably more flimsy film than its Oscar critics would ever dare admit. 

- I was very pleased that an overrated sitcom of a movie like Lady Turd…oops, I mean Lady Bird, was shut out. It is always satisfying when the undeserving get what they truly deserve. Greta Gerwig is a media darling, but the reality is that she is not a good writer or director. Ms. Gerwig can fool some of the people, some of the time, but she can't fool everybody, all of the time. Time caught up with Ms. Gerwig and her underwhelming movie. 

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- The ratings for the Oscars were apparently way down again this year, and in response there is a lot of talk of Black Panther getting nominated next year. This is absurd. If Black Panther is one of the ten best films of 2018…they should shut down Hollywood forever. And what these "Black Panther should be nominated" folks don't get is that the nature of watching the Oscars, like all tv watching, has changed. It has nothing to do with big blockbusters getting nominated, it has to do with the fact that most people can't sit still to watch a thirty minute sitcom, never mind a four hour industry homage to itself. In addition, for a variety of reasons there are no true movie stars anymore, so no one is going to tune in to see the big names like in the old days, when Jack Nicholson was ruling the earth. If you are going to nominate Black Panther in an attempt to get higher ratings, you might as well nominate all of the Kardashians as well, it would make as much sense, both artistically and business wise. 

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- My favorite story highlighting imbecility at the Oscars is the one about Emma Watson's "Times Up" tattoo. What makes the tattoo so amusing is that it lacks an apostrophe…it should say "Time's Up". What a wonderful representation of all the poseurs in corporate Hollywood pretending to be in some sort of fierce resistance. It is also faintly reminiscent of the Clinton campaign's slogan "Love Trumps Hate", which is totally different if you add an apostrophe…"Love Trump's Hate". Regardless, both Watson's tattoo and Clinton's slogan made me laugh because I think Watson's time may in fact be up…and Clinton supporters aren't even aware of it, but they actually do love Trump's hate. 

- I did much better on my Oscar picks this year than I did last year, but I still wasn't perfect. I won my Oscar pool of course, extending my record-setting, DiMaggio-esque streak. As I said, I was extremely pleased that The Shape of Water won Best Picture and not Get Out, even though that screwed my pick percentage, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

 - Well, the Oscars are over but they are just a warm-up act for the biggest award of them all which are coming this week. This is the official notice that the Mickey™® Awards, THE most prestigious of all the awards on the entire planet, will be announced later this week!! Take a deep breath and try to contain your excitement…for the Mickeys™® are on the way!!

©2018

 

 

90th Academy Awards: The 2018 Oscars Prediction Post

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 66 seconds

As February has come and gone without the Academy Awards happening, March now roars in like a hungry Oscar lion. Due to the Winter Olympics monopolizing Sunday night television for the last two weeks, the Oscars were pushed back to the first week of March, and now our interminable wait for the most important night of the year is finally over. 

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The Oscars are the most Holy of all the High Holy Days here in the People's Republic of Hollywood and are the culmination of thousands and thousands of years of human evolution which will reach its apex this Sunday night. From the first time a million years ago when ape-men tossed their animal bone weapons into the sky in the shadow of giant black monolith, to Steve Guttenberg inventing movable type and printing the first bible in 1450 to Andy Kaufman being the first Man on the Moon, we have been hurtling towards the evolutionary perfection of Sunday night's Oscar ceremony.

The anticipation for this year's Oscar's is palpable, especially after last year's Moonlight - La La Land Best Picture fiasco, everyone is tingling with anticipation over what will happen this year. It is my duty as a card carrying member of the People's Party of Hollywood to express my thoughts, feelings and beliefs regarding this most glorious of events, the Oscars, so I have written my predictions for the awards below.

Last year I had an uncharacteristically bad time in predicting the awards. The reason for my off year was because last year was the first year of the "New Academy"…you see after the #OscarsSoWhite nonsense of 2016, the Academy exiled a plethora of older White members and brought in a cavalcade of younger members who were non-White and female. With no history and voting trend data for me to analyze and base my predictions upon, I struggled to keep up my usual stellar prediction standards (I have never lost an Oscar pool…ever, including last year…although I did tie with somebody once in the dark year of 1998). 

This year I have the benefit of one year New Academy data under my belt, so hopefully I won't be as dreadful as I was last year…but old habits die hard and I am no doubt prone to falling back into the ways of the traditionalist thinking of the Old Academy. We'll see. 

Back in the dark days of the Old Academy, the rule of thumb regarding categories that you had no idea about like best documentary, documentary short or short films was a cynical formula that everyone knew about but no one was comfortable saying out loud. The formula was basically this…if any film dealt with the Holocaust, pick it to win. If there were no Holocaust movie to choose, then the Oscar winners would be, in descending order of likelihood, films about gay issues, particularly the AIDS epidemic, or films dealing with civil rights/race issues.

In this current era of identity politics, the New Academy has a formula to its choices as well, the hard part is figuring out what it is. For instance, does the New Academy lean toward Black films and gay films over other issue movies, and therefore if you have a Black-gay film like Moonlight...you can win Best Picture?

Due to the powerful sway of identity politics in the New Academy, I have decided to make a new and somewhat uncomfortable addition to my Oscars predictions article, I will not only tell you who should win, and who will win, but also will handicap the "New Academy" and how they may see the Oscar race. Some may deem my blunt talk of the harsh reality of identity politics in the New Academy as insensitive or "racist" but I feel if I were to ignore this blatantly obvious issue I would be doing my readers a disservice. 

It is important to remember that these new Academy members who are mostly people of color and women (or women of color!!), were brought in to nip #OscarsSoWhite in the bud, and so last year they did just that by giving Best Picture to Moonlight and awarding two African-American actors statuettes. The New Academy people understand that the only reason they are in the Academy is to reward artists of color and women, and that is important to keep in mind when trying to guess how they will vote. My "Handicapping the New Academy" sections may seem terribly cynical, and they are, but that doesn't mean they aren't based on the reality of Hollywood in general and the New Academy in particular.

With all that said…it is time…are you ready? I hope so! I ask that you please sit back, relax…and remember that The Oscars are a Holy endeavor so no wagering please…now dive head first into the shitshow that are my blind guesses as to who will win the most coveted prize in the history of the universe…THE OSCAR!!

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Mary J. Blige - Mudbound: I have bad news for you…I haven't seen Mudbound. I think this may mean I am a racist, I'm not sure…but I hope not. I promise I will see it though…soon. You know who else probably hasn't seen Mudbound…Oscar voters. 

Allison Janney - I, Tonya : Allison Janney devours every scene she inhabits in I, Tonya. Her performance is not all flash and no bash though, as she crafts a genuine human being out of what could have been a caricature in lesser artistic hands.

Lesley Manville - Phantom Thread: Leslie Manville's work is simply stunning in Phantom Thread. Her mastery of stillness and specificity of intention is staggering and her performance a marvel to behold. Young actors would be wise to study Ms. Manville's Phantom Thread performance and steal as much of it as they can carry.

Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird: Metcalf has received many accolades for her work as Lady Bird's mom, but I felt her performance was one note and rather shallow. A lot of the problems with the character are probably due to the script, but I felt Metcalf was a bit underwhleming in the role regardless.

Octavia Spencer - The Shape of Water: Octavia Spencer is as solid and reliable an actress as you'll find working these days. She has the innate ability to create genuine and grounded characters of multi-dimensions and deep humanity that never fail to enhance any film in which she appears.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Lesley Manville - I think Manville's work is technically superior to every other actress nominated. Manville's work is less showy, but more technically proficient and precise than any of the competition and it isn't even close. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: The New Academy would want to reward Mary J. Blige or Octavia Spencer, but Ms. Spencer has already won the award and Ms. Blige appears in a Netflix film, which is something even the New Academy hasn't figured out how to properly judge. 

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WHO WILL WIN: Allison Janney: Ms. Janney has won all the other awards leading up to the Oscars, and her performance is crowd pleasing…so I think she walks away with the easy win here. It also helps that Ms. Janney is very highly regarded and well liked out here in Hollywood. 

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project: I really like Dafoe as an actor, but I thought his role in The Florida Project was not Oscar worthy. It is not that he does a bad job, just that there isn't much for him to do in the movie. 

Woody Harrelson - Three Billboards: I thought Woody Harrelson was fantastic in Three Billboards, or as I keep calling it Three Dildos, creating a complex character of real depth. Harrelson has matured into a top-notch actor in his middle age and Three Dildos is proof of his undeniable skill and talent. That said, he was even better in War for the Planet of the Apes this year

Richard Jenkins - The Shape of Water: Jenkins is phenomenal in The Shape of Water, as he never falls into the trap of caricature or maudlin preening. Jenkins is always a terrific actor, and The Shape of Water may be the best work of his stellar career.

Christopher Plummer - All the Money in the World: I haven't seen All the Money in the World…I know, I know, I am a terrible person. Plummer is an old pro and he no doubt got this nomination simply because the Academy wanted to send a signal of disgust to Kevin Spacey who originally shot the role but was disappeared down the memory hole by director Ridley Scott. 

Sam Rockwell- Three Billboards: Rockwell makes lemonade out of the one dimensional lemons the script hands him. Rockwell plays his racist, dim bulb character with aplomb and is able to subtly turn a shallow potential caricature into more than just a punch line. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: Richard Jenkins - Jenkins work in The Shape of Water is simply superb and far and away the best in this category. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: This is a weird category as there are no minorities nominated, that said Jenkins does play a gay man, which in the Old Academy would have given him a leg up on the competition, but not now. Rockwell has gotten some heat because his character is an irredeemable racist, which could spell trouble for him even though he is the front runner. 

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WHO WILL WIN: Sam Rockwell - Rockwell has won all of the other awards leading up to the Oscars, and I think the campaign against him revolving around his character being a racist will ultimately fail. I think the biggest reason it will fail is because there are no minority actors who could potentially supplant him. 

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Big Sick - I haven't seen the Big Sick…and yes, I am well-aware that makes me a really bad person. It is funny as I have gotten more marketing material in the mail from the Big Sick than any other film this past year, including a screener of the film, and still haven't watched it. Just more proof that I need to budget my time much better. 

Get Out - I finally saw Get Out about a month ago and was entirely and totally underwhelmed by it. The idea that this movie, script, director and lead actor are nominated for an Oscar is a joke. It is a moderately entertaining horror-comedy…like Scream…not exactly the stuff of Oscar gold. 

Lady Bird - Lady Bird is a poorly written film that is more akin to a CBS sitcom along the lines of The Big Bang Theory, than an Oscar worthy movie. But the Academy loves their manic pixie dream girl Greta Gerwig for some mysterious reason…so she has a real chance. Hell, Woody Allen has won numerous Oscars and he sucks…so Greta has a good chance. 

The Shape of Water - Del Toro's script is a masterfully layered piece of work that never diminishes it's characters by going down the road of the simple and easy. Del Toro also successfully weaves political and religious themes throughout his unconventional love story, proving his skill as a screenwriter.

Three Billboards - Three Dildos is a script that shows a foreigners distorted view of what they think America is, filled with caricatures and one dimensional, simplistic characters. It has all the nuance and subtlety of a Kid Rock song about France. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: The Shape of Water is the best script in the bunch and it isn't even close. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: In the old days, Three Dildos would be the favorite because it is written by a successful playwright and the Old Academy loved them some playwrights. But the new academy is either going to go with Jordan Peele for Get Out or Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird. The question becomes will gender trump race or race trump gender…hmmmm…it'll be a nail biter. 

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WHO WILL WIN: Get Out - I think Peele will get the trophy as a sort of condolence prize since they won't give him Best Director…but that said…don't be shocked if Gerwig gets the win because unlike Jordan Peele, she has been out beating the bushes and campaigning hard for votes.

 

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Call Me by Your Name - A dreadful movie and a dreadful script that is at the very least morally questionable…but Hollywood never considers morals in the moment, only in hindsight, i.e. #MeToo.

The Disaster Artist - Not a great script, and the fact that James Franco is on the #MeToo shitlist means that this movie is persona non grata on Oscar night. 

Logan - A terrific adaptation of a graphic novel. Logan was a terribly under appreciated last year but was one of the better films of the year and the script is the major reason why. A truly fantastic piece of writing.

Molly's Game - I haven't seen Molly's Game, but it is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin's writing is difficult to direct, and frankly, I am willing to bet that ironically, he is not a good enough director to master directing his own script.

Mudbound - I haven't seen Mudbound…yeah, yeah, I'm an incorrigible racist…but I do look forward to seeing it, so there's hope for me yet.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Logan - The best script of this bunch by a mile. Logan turned the moribund X-Men franchise on its head and created a dark, grounded and stunning world in which Wolverine becomes a fully fleshed out character and not just a simple super hero. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: Mudbound should appeal to the New Academy because the writer, Dee Rees, is an African-American lesbian woman, but the problem is that it is a Netflix film and even the New Academy is struggling to embrace the Netflix model. Call Me By Your Name is the next best option for the identity politics of the New Academy though, as it is a story of homosexual love written by an older gay man. 

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WHO WILL WIN: Call Me by Your Name - I think Call Me by Your Name ekes out a win over Mudbound here. I think the Netflix thing hurts Mudbound, and the fact that James Ivory has such a stellar resume filled with prestige films will put him over the top. 

 

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk: Nolan's Dunkirk is a master class in technical proficiency in the art of filmmaking. Dunkirk was inarguably the most difficult film to make of all the nominees and Nolan proved himself a brilliant craftsman. Sadly, I think Dunkirk will be overlooked in the more popular categories, but I think it will win multiple technical awards, most specifically the sound awards.

Jordan Peele - Get Out: This nomination is a complete mystery to me. Get Out is a decent if unremarkable directorial debut for Peele, but the film and his direction are so below the classic standard for Oscar material that it is absurd. 

Greta Gerwig - Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig's direction and writing on Lady Bird are the two worst things about the film…which is a pretty big deal. Manic Pixie Dream Girl Gerwig is adored by the New Academy though and so she is poised to potentially win big on Oscar night. Gerwig has won points with the New Academy by being so vocal against Woody Allen, which is ironic because she is a quirky, female version of Allen…and that is not a compliment.

Paul Thomas Anderson - Phantom Thread: Anderson is far and away the greatest auteur of his generation and the greatest filmmaker working today. Phantom Thread is a staggeringly fantastic piece of cinema. I fear though that PT Anderson, like fellow genius of cinema Stanley Kubrick, is destined to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time who will not win an Oscar.

Guillermo del Toro - The Shape of Water: Del Toro is a true visionary, and his work on The Shape of Water is a testament to his originality and his unique artistic vision. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: Anderson/Nolan- If either PT Anderson or Christopher Nolan won, it would be sweet justice, since neither of them have ever won an Oscar for directing, which is a crime. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: In the Old Academy, Nolan would be a slam dunk here because they loved them some intricate war movies. But the New Academy has zero interest in Nolan, or PT Anderson. Del Toro would, in theory, satiate the identity politics thirst of the New Academy, but oddly enough, Latino men winning the directing Oscar is something that is commonplace, they have won three of the last four awards, and that doesn't seem to quell the cries of Oscar favoritism to White men. Peele and Gerwig are not worthy of their nominations, but they are serious threats to win, Peele because he is African-American, and Gerwig because she is a woman. The fact that Gerwig has been very vocal about the #MeToo issue and has spoken out about Woody Allen, give her an advantage on Peele in this category. 

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WHO WILL WIN: Del Toro. I know I am being foolish, traditionalist and hopelessly optimistic, but I think that talent wins out and del Toro gets the win. There is a very good chance though that Peele and Gerwig split the Best Screenplay and Best Director awards…stranger things have happened, and with the New Academy, anything is possible. Do not be shocked though if Gerwig wins for, ironically, being a female Woody Allen. Yuck.

 

BEST ACTRESS

Sally Hawkins - The Shape of Water: Hawkins is stunning as the mute cleaning lady at the center of The Shape of Water. An intricate and detailed performance that us a testament to Hawkins talent. 

Frances McDormand - Three Billboards: I found McDormand's work in Three Dildos to be rather shallow, vapid and one-note. Her perpetual anger may resonate with women at the moment, but artistically it is a vacant and foolish performance. 

Margot Robbie - I, Tonya: Robbie crushes it as Tonya Harding in this unique bio-pic. Robbie proves she is much, much more than just a pretty face as she dives into the deep end of a character that in lesser hands would have been vacuous at best. 

Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird: Saoirse Ronan is a good an actress as we have working in film at the moment. She is virtually the only thing worth watching in the otherwise mundane Lady Bird. Her work in the film is a monument to her extraordinary mastery of craft, skill and enormous talent. 

Meryl Streep - The Post: It is old hat that Meryl Streep is nominated for an Oscar, but the truth is that she is spectacularly good in Spielberg's limp, piece of crap movie about the Pentagon Papers. Streep is the one and only reason to see this movie at all because she proves herself to be the real deal and still one of the greatest actresses to have ever lived. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: Sally Hawkins - Hawkins should win as she carries The Shape of Water without ever speaking a single word, which is an amazing achievement. 

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HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: Frances McDormand gets the leg up in the New Academy because she embodies the angry, fighting woman that the #MeToo movement in Hollywood perceives itself to be. 

WHO WILL WIN: Frances McDormand walks away with it…undeservingly so. 

 

BEST ACTOR

Timothee Chalamet - Call Me by Your Name: I have no idea why this kid is nominated. None. The film is awful, the performance unremarkable in every way. 

Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread: Daniel Day Lewis is allegedly retiring from acting and this is his final performance. What a way to leave the stage! Lewis is at his very best in PT Anderson's enigmatic film about fashion and love. Lewis imbues his character with a specific internal intentionality that radiates off the screen. An undeniable master gives a masterful performance. 

Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out: Another mystery nomination. Kaluuya isn't bad in Get Out, but he isn't noteworthy either. Kaluuya's nomination, along with the film's other nominations, is a testament to how low the New Academy has sunk in their quest for the holy grail of diversity in the age of identity politics. 

Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour: Oldman is one of the great actors we've had over the course of his career. Oldman defies stereotype and plays Churchill as a man plagued by self-doubt and ruled by fear. A truly terrific performance that is undermined by a rather lackluster film. 

Denzel Washington - Roman J. Israel, Esq. : I have not seen Roman J. Israel, Esq., but you can never go wrong with Denzel Washington, who is maybe the Best Actor/Movie Star we have had in Hollywood over the last thirty years or so. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: Daniel Day Lewis/Oldman- If either of these guys win then you cannot complain as they are great in these films but have also been great over the course of their esteemed careers. 

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: The New Academy is definitely leaning towards Kaluuya in this category. He is young, new blood and he is Black, all things they are desperate to reward. Kaluuya has a legit shot at winning, but I think the fact that he is a total newcomer may end up scuttling his attempt at Oscar gold. 

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WHO WILL WIN: Gary Oldman - I admit that I am falling into the trap of traditionalism again, just as I did with the Best Director category. I could be wrong here, but I think Oldman is rewarded not just for his work in Darkest Hour but also for his long and outstanding career. I think Kaluuya is a legitimate threat to take the crown though, but in the end the campaign against Oldman will fall short. 

 

BEST PICTURE

Cal Me by Your Name: A boring and morally questionable mess of a movie. If this were the Old Academy, it might have a chance…but no way, no how, this year. 

Darkest Hour: In the Old academy Darkest Hour would be a serious threat, but the film is simply not good enough or original enough to hold the interest of the New Academy. 

Dunkirk: A staggering achievement in filmmaking, that sadly has been forgotten this awards season because it has nothing to do with identity politics. 

Get Out: A beneficiary of the "Leg Up" program of the New Academy that judges on a curve when it comes to minority films. Get Out is a mildly entertaining popcorn movie that has no business being nominated for anything. The greatest irony of all is that Get Out is a movie about White Liberal Guilt and the film is only nominated for so many Oscars simply because of White Liberal Guilt. Pretty funny. 

Lady Bird: Another beneficiary of the "Leg Up" program, Lady Bird is simply not a good movie. As my friend, a famous Hollywood big shot filmmaker dubbed Mr. X said to me, "Lady Bird is a watered down Napolean Dynamite for women". Ouch! 

Phantom Thread: Another of PT Anderson's masterpieces. Phantom Thread is a remarkable film  that is a monument to the undeniable talent of its director. 

The Post: Spielberg's usual shitty "serious" movie that is more proof that Spielberg can't make a real movie unless there are aliens or dinosaurs in it. It is unbelievable how poorly made this movie is. 

The Shape of Water: A fantastic and original piece of art that is mesmerizing from start to finish. A complex and complicated religious and political metaphor that says more than most other films without ever opening its mouth. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: If you want to see what foreigners think America is like, watch Three Dildos. It is inaccurate, cheap and one dimensional. A dark comedy that isn't funny, and a comedic drama that has no drama. 

WHO SHOULD WIN: Dunkirk, Phantom Thread - If either of these movies win it will be a miracle, but they richly deserve it as they are far superior to any of the other films except for maybe The Shape of Water

HANDICAPPING THE NEW ACADEMY: The Shape of Water in old times would runaway with it without question as its subtle politics are what would usually be embraced by the Old Academy. But the Old Academy is gone, and the New Academy is an unpredictable beast. I think in the New Academy it is a battle between Get Out (race) and Lady Bird (gender). In conversations out here in Hollywood all I ever hear people say is that they want Get Out to win and the film seems to have serious momentum. I think Get Out, because it is more overtly political than Lady Bird, is the favorite in the New Academy.

WHO WILL WIN: Get Out - The Shape of Water?

I have gone back and forth on this one over the last few days. Old habits are hard to break and so my traditionalist, Old Academy side keeps pulling me to The Shape of Water, while the clues from the New Academy/Identity politics crowd all seem to be pointing to Get Out. This reminds me of the lead up to the 2016 presidential election where Hillary was presumed to be the winner and yet I saw something completely different happening. I followed my instincts back then and was right. But that was just a stupid presidential election…THIS IS THE OSCARS!!

As much as I want The Shape of Water to win because it is a superior film and is much more deserving of the award than the fool's gold of Get Out, that doesn't mean The Shape of Water will win. As my father used to say, "wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which fills up faster".  Moonlight's upset win last year has to teach me something…and if I don't learn from it I will be no better than the Hillary Dead Enders who have learned nothing from Trump's win in 2016. 

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Therefore…as much as it pains me to say it…my pick for Best Picture is…The Shape of Water!!! No…no…no…I'm so sorry, I typed the wrong title…the actual winner is Get Out

I am not going to be happy when Get Out wins because I think it will diminish the meaning and prestige of the Oscars, as dumb as that sounds…but if, as some are predicting, Three Dildos wins, I might just chop my own head off and throw it in the Ocean.

And one final note regarding the New Academy and #MeToo and all the rest. The proof that the New Academy and Hollywood is full of shit is that in the Animated Short category, Kobe Bryant has a film that is a self-serving, homage to himself titled, Dear Basketball, which is going to win the award. Hollywood loves Kobe…Kobe can do no wrong. Apparently Kobe's rape of a woman in Colorado and his treatment of that woman and others by his legal team, doesn't count in the eyes of the #MeToo gang. I always found it intriguing that OJ is so universally hated out here in Hollywood, just utterly despised, but when Kobe was accused of rape everyone came to his defense. Kobe is OJ in training…and is further proof of the rank hypocrisy of Hollywood and the New Academy. That is the end of my rant. 

And thus concludes yet another glorious Oscar prediction piece. I think that for the second year in a row the New Academy will, for good or for ill, shake things up. Get Out doesn't deserve any Oscars, but I believe it could be primed to have a big night this Sunday. Maybe…or hopefully…I am wrong and The Shape of Water or Dunkirk or Phantom Thread has a big night…one can dream…this is Hollywood after all.

Just think, a year from now we'll be having this same argument over another shitty movie that is getting too many accolades just because it satiates the New Academy's thirst for identity politics…ladies and gentlemen your front runner for the 2019 Best Picture Oscar is…Black Panther! Yuck. 

 

UPDATE: 3/2/18

I got an email from a reader asking me to expand my Oscar picks into the technical and lesser known categories. Here are my very brief picks for other Oscar categories...

Foreign Language Film - A Fantastic Woman or UPSET PICK: The Square

Cinematography - Roger Deakins Blade Runner 2049

Animated Film -  Coco

Documentary - Icarus

Animated Short - Dear Basketball

Original Score - Phantom Thread

Sound Editing and Sound Mixing - Dunkirk

Hair and Makeup - Darkest Hour

Production Design - The Shape of Water

Costume Design - Phantom Thread

Editing - Dunkirk

Visual Effects - War for the Planet of the Apes

Those are my best guesses…good luck!!

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©2018

I, Tonya: A Review

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

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SEE IT. See it in the theatre or at the very least on Netflix/cable. 

I, Tonya, written by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie, is the biographical story of infamous American Olympic figure-skater Tonya Harding. The film stars Margot Robbie as Harding with supporting turns from Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan and Juliette Nicholson. 

Bio-pics are notoriously hard to make with any sort of artistic originality. They usually fall into the same trap of simply showing the main events in the protagonists life so everyone can go, "oh yeah, I remember that", and then the movie is over and no one cares or learns anything they didn't already know. What is worse is that these films are usually a cinematic exercise in the dramatically mundane, with nary a daring or artistic vision to be found. 

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Well, if you are looking for a bio-pic with some cinematic flair, I, Tonya is the movie for you. I, Tonya avoids all of the well-worn traps of the bio-pic by utilizing multiple perspectives and shamelessly embracing the idea that not only is it impossible for all of the differing perspectives it tells to be true, it is most likely that none of them are. I, Tonya is an unabashed lie of a movie about liars telling THEIR truth…and that is what makes it so utterly fascinating and so relevant to our current age of subjective truth. 

In execution, I, Tonya isn't quite a great film, but it certainly is an entertaining one, and I truly admired the movie for its ambition. Director Craig Gillespie takes the tabloid saga of fallen white trash princess Tonya Harding and turns it into a scathing indictment of America and the illusion and delusion of the American dream. Gillespie successfully pulls the scab off of America's festering class wound and exposes the cancerous rot at the center of American capitalism that threatens to kill its host via class and cultural warfare. 

The entire cast does fantastic work, with lead actress Margot Robbie leading the charge. Robbie does solid and at times spectacular work as Harding. Robbie, for all of her obvious beauty, disappears into the rapacious inelegance of Harding with vivacious aplomb.

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Robbie's Harding is, like Donald Trump, a compulsive liar who confuses her truth with "the truth". Robbie imbues Harding with a deep-seeded yearning that is encased in a cover of defiance and petulance. In one of the more fascinating scenes in the film, Harding sits alone before a mirror and like Jake LaMotta in Scorsese's Raging Bull or Dirk Diggler in PT Anderson's Bogie Nights, this is when her true, tortured, disfigured self emerges from behind the mask, if only for a moment. This mirror scene is a subtle bit of brilliance, and is the best work of Robbie's young career and reveals an artistic depth that I hope she is able to thoroughly mine going forward.

Allison Janney plays Tonya's mother, the incomparable LaVona Fay Golden. Janney devours every scene she inhabits with the ferocity of a grizzly bear in a honey factory. When I originally saw the trailer for I, Tonya I was turned off because they made the film, and Janney's performance in particular, seem completely comedic and over the top. Thankfully, Janney's work in the film is subtler, more nuanced and much more genuinely human than it appears in the trailer. 

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Janney's work as Tonya's mother has been compared to her Oscar competitor Laurie Metcalf for her work in Lady Bird as the protagonist's difficult mother. I will tell you right now, there is no comparison between the two. Janney gives a far superior performance because she is able to fill her abrasive, peculiar character with a grounded inner life that is vibrant and humanizing. Janney's LaVona is definitely a monster, but there is a pained and tortured person buried within that monster, whereas Metcalf's distant, dead-eyed mother is a one-note performance that rings more and more hollow with her every appearance on screen. 

Sebastian Stan plays Tonya's husband Jeff Gillooly and does excellent work. Stan masterfully disappears into the nothingness that is Jeff Gillooly and at the center of his being places a primal scream that echoes throughout his inner void and reveals itself in Gillooly's impotent frustration. 

Paul Walter Hauser nearly steals the entire film with his portrayal of Shawn Eckhardt, one of Gillooly's friends and Tonya's "bodyguard". Hauser deadpans with such skill it is nearly miraculous. Eckhardt is a character that in lesser hands than Hauser's could have been an over-the-top buffoon, but Hauser turns him into a fascinating, compelling, hysterical and heartbreaking figure.

As I watched I, Tonya other films kept popping into my head. The first film I thought of was Goodfellas, not because I, Tonya is anywhere near as great a work of cinema as Scorsese's classic, it isn't, but because the film uses similar techniques to break the rather stale mold of the bio-pic, like breaking the fourth wall and showing multiple perspectives. If you look closely at the film poster above, you'll notice I am not the only one to have recognized the similarities between Goodfellas and I, Tonya

Another film that came to mind was The Post, which I had just reviewed a few days before seeing I, Tonya. The reason I thought of The Post is because that movie and seemingly every single critic and media person who writes or talks about it, always refers to The Post as "timely". In my review I pointed out how I felt The Post was rather untimely…but you know what is a "timely" film? I, Tonya. Unlike The Post which was shot in a hurry in June of 2017 in response to Trump's presidency, I, Tonya was conceived before Trump was even elected and began shooting before he was inaugurated…and yet, I, Tonya is considerably more prescient and insightful in terms of political relevance than Spielberg's flaccid ode to the establishment because it highlights class warfare and the elite versus working-class American divide. As opposed to The Post, and all of Spielberg and Hanks' films, which portray America as it wishes to see itself through the heavy gauze of its delusion, I, Tonya strips Trump's America bare and exposes the nation for what it TRULY is, not what it wants to be.

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The third film I thought of was this year's critical darling, Lady Bird. The reason I thought of Lady Bird is because it is a sort of Disney channel lite-version of I, Tonya. Lady Bird playfully attempts to show the struggle of a lower middle class/working class young woman yearning to break free of her creatively suffocating world whereas I, Tonya shows a creative young woman, Tonya Harding, whom Lady Bird would ridicule, fighting for her literal survival in a country full of liars who despise her for not telling them the truth they want to hear. Unlike Lady Bird, I, Tonya shows real American poverty and the accompanying hopelessness that is strangling our country and is the birth mother of Trumpism. The obstacles Lady Bird must overcome are all imaginary and are the result of her selfishness and sense of entitlement. In I, Tonya, the obstacles facing the generationally poor in America are revealed to be the result of systemic causes that are baked into the American cake that result in self-destructive impulses and idiocy that knows no bounds. Lady Bird is a movie by an elitist about the world she's glad to have escaped, whereas I, Tonya is a movie about the type of dead-end people Lady Bird left behind, or more accurately, doesn't even know exist.

The hopelessness of the left behind dead-enders is fertile ground not only for the desperation that gave us Trump, but for the desperation that has given us the Opioid epidemic. I, Tonya is a funny movie in many ways because it has to be, for if it played itself as a straight drama it would be far too depressing to bear, the proof of which is played out over large swaths of America where Opioid-addicted zombies roam the streets and the stench of death and Narcan fills the air over vast swaths of the country all because people cannot face the meaninglessness of their lives and the emptiness of their reality. 

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Another film that came to mind while watching I, Tonya, was The Florida Project, which I have seen but have yet to review. The Florida Project is about a little girl growing up in numbing poverty in the shadow of Disney World. The film is difficult to watch, not because it is poorly made, but because it tells such uncomfortable truths that I, and maybe most people, would rather forget or never know about in the first place. The protagonist in The Florida Project is basically a young Tonya Harding without the skating talent…which is a chilling thought for her, and America's, future. 

As for I, Tonya, the biggest drawback of the film for me was that it isn't shot particularly well. The film is a bit flat visually and lacks the cinematic vigor and camera panache of say, Goodfellas, but that hardly disqualifies it from being worth seeing. In some ways, the less than polished and professional feel of the film enhances the movie's working class appeal.

In conclusion, I, Tonya's ambition extends beyond its execution but in my eyes that it is a noble failing at worst. I encourage you to go spend your hard earned money and time to go see I, Tonya in the theatre because its courageous telling of the real story of class in America is not flattering, but it is revealing as to how we all ended up imprisoned in Trump's America. The real America, the America of I, Tonya and Trump, that Lady Bird and the rest of the elites want to pretend doesn't exist, is a Reality TV, celebrity obsessed, subjectively-truthy, Opioid-addicted, vapid, hopeless, white trash, fast-food nation. Trump is now King of I, Tonya's America, but twenty some-odd years ago, Tonya Harding was its Crown Princess, and she was a harbinger of the vacuous plague to come. I, Tonya is reminder of the warnings we have failed to heed, and the depth of the pit into which we have dug ourselves. 

©2017

The Post: A Review

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

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

My Recommendation: SKIP IT. No need to see this film except for the wonderful performance of Meryl Streep, so maybe catch it on Netflix or cable if you are so inclined.

The Post, written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer and directed by Steven Spielberg, is the story of Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee, the publisher and editor of the Washington Post respectively, as they guide the newspaper through the Pentagon Papers controversy. The film stars Meryl Streep as Graham and Tom Hanks as Bradlee. 

In case you aren't aware, The Post is one of Spielberg's "serious" movies, which the Spielberg-worshipping Amen chorus in the media tells us means that it should only be spoken about in the most hushed and reverent tones. The Post has been self-consciously selling itself as being very "timely" because it is allegedly a story about freedom of the press in the face of tyranny. The film is obviously meant as a nobly defiant gesture in the face of Fuhrer Trump, who goes unmentioned in the film but is an ever ominous presence lurking beneath the movie's surface, sort of like the Great White shark that terrorized one of Speilberg's actually good films, Jaws

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Speilberg made The Post not only after Trump became president, but because he became president. The film was hurried into production in June of 2017 in order to strike while the anti-Trump iron was hot in an attempt to convert Trump hate into dollars and awards. The political problem for The Post is that it comes across as entirely, overwhelmingly and painfully reactionary. Being reactionary is not a crime in and of itself, but the mark of a great artist is that they are ahead of the curve. The true artist dances between their individual consciousness and the collective unconscious and are able to sense things they can only articulate and express artistically (even when they may not be intellectually or "consciously" aware of them) before they come to the surface in the wider collective consciousness. With The Post, Speilberg's reactionism feels like merely a symptom of the disease of artistic fraudulence and bankruptcy, which is a malady from which he has long suffered. The film is also a result of his shameless and clumsy attempt to be politically relevant in order to be further admired by those in the political and media establishment.

The truth is I saw The Post over a month ago and was so underwhelmed by it on every single level I haven't been able to muster the creative energy to review it until now. The film is a stale and suffocatingly conventional piece of predictable moviemaking that feels as if a propaganda unit for the Hillary Clinton campaign made an after school special that was a sequel to their smash hit "Love Trumps Hate"…or as America heard it, "Love Trump's Hate".

On the most basic level, The Post is an extraordinarily poorly structured cinematic venture and is so numbingly bland as to be unremarkable in every single way. The Post is just one more bit of incontrovertible evidence that Spielberg is simply not that great at making "serious" movies, and that he needs aliens or dinosaurs at the heart of his story in order to be proficient at his craft.

In The Post, just like in his other "serious" films Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies, Spielberg seems completely unaware of how to create a cohesive and palatable narrative rhythm to a film. As with many of his previous "serious" films, Spielberg chooses to encase The Post in the most useless and clumsy preamble and coda, which renders any sort of dramatic tension or revelations that can be scrounged up in between them entirely moot and ineffective.

There are some sequences in The Post that are so cinematically inept, amateurish and heavy-handed it is difficult to not laugh out loud at them. Of all of the cringe-worthy scenes scattered throughout, none makes the colon twinge quite so much as the scene where Streep's Katherine Graham exits the Supreme Court to a soaring soundtrack amidst a sea of young, bright eyed women who part for her like the Red Sea and then gaze with awe and astonishment upon her as if she were the Goddess coming down from the heavens victorious at having slain the patriarchal dragon. This scene is so awful it actually made me unintentionally groan aloud in the theatre. There are also some ridiculous scenes of Nixon in silhouette at the White House that are the absolute height of unintentional comedy.  

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Meryl Streep stars in the film as Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham, a woman trying to make her way in a man's world. Streep is simply the very best at her craft that we have seen and her work in The Post is testament to that. With a flaccid script, she is able to turn Katherine Graham into an honest to goodness, multi-dimensional human being, the only one in the entire film. Streep's Graham never rings false, which is an accomplishment of Herculean proportions on the part of the Grand Dame, due to the emotionally and intellectually infantile script from which she has to work. 

Tom Hanks co-stars as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Hanks has proven himself over the years to be a decent movie star but at the end of the day he turns out to be a pretty shitty actor. Hanks's shallow portrayal of Bradlee, with his spray on tan and affected grumble of a voice, would be better suited in an SNL sketch than in a feature film. Seeing Hanks on screen opposite Streep is very illuminating, as Hanks is exposed as being a smoke and mirrors huckster of a performer, and Streep is revealed to be the consummate actor.

The narrative of The Post is meant to cover as many politically correct bases as possible. There is the story of the tyrannical president and the noble press fighting for American ideals and freedoms. There is also the story of female empowerment where a woman must overcome the horrors of the patriarchy that conspires to keep her down. With all of the shamelessly, not-so-subtle Hillary love and admiration for the mainstream press imprinted in the DNA of The Post, a more apt title for it may have been "The Establishment Strikes Back".

One of the things that bothered me about The Post, even more than the sub-par storytelling and ham-fisted directing, is why tell this particular version of the story in the first place? The Pentagon Papers is an important story, of that there is no doubt. Daniel Ellsberg is an important story and The New York Times publishing the Pentagon Papers in an important story, but Spielberg doesn't tell any of those stories. Instead, he tells the story of the Washington Post's part in the Pentagon Papers, and that probably isn't even in the top ten of stories surrounding the Pentagon Papers that should or need to be told. 

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The trick that Spielberg manages to pull off in his version of the Pentagon Papers is he manages to smear Daniel Ellsberg and belittles and demeans what he risked and accomplished in exposing the Pentagon Papers. It is remarkable that Spielberg could make a movie about the Pentagon Papers, one of the biggest whistleblowers stories in U.S. history, and yet completely diminishes and disrespects that whistleblower. Spielberg turns Ellsberg into a long-haired, hippie malcontent and narcissist driven solely by his self-aggrandizing instinct and ego. This would not be such a big deal except that it is entirely at odds with the reality of who Daniel Ellsberg truly is and what he did. 

The other thing that bothers me are the lies of omission committed by The Post. Ben Bradlee is portrayed as not only a truth teller in the face of power, but also the quintessential journalist who was a thoughtful and passionate man who cared deeply for his profession. The reality is that Bradlee was the consummate Washington insider and his tentacles were everywhere in The Swamp. It is shown in the film that Bradlee was a friend of JFK and a frequent guest at the White House for private dinners with JFK and occasionally Jackie, which is true. What the film doesn't dare mention is that Bradlee was married to wealthy socialite Toni Pinchot during Kennedy's presidency. Toni's sister was Mary Pinchot Meyer, a divorcee who was having an affair with JFK during his presidency and would frequently go to the White House with Ben Bradlee and Toni in order for them to cover for her and JFK's affair. Also of note is that Mary Pinchot Meyer wasn't just any divorcee, she was divorced from Cord Meyer, a powerful CIA official who was Head of the Covert Action Staff of the Directorate of Plans during Kennedy's administration, and also became the principle operative of Operation Mockingbird, which was a massive operation that was used to secretly influence U.S. and foreign media. 

Another bit of info kept out of The Post about Bradlee is this, that almost one year after Kennedy was assassinated, on October 12, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer was assassinated, gunned down in broad daylight, while walking along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath near her Georgetown home. Why is this important? Well, it is important because Mary Meyer had kept a very thorough diary of her time with JFK, which included not only the usual Kennedy sexcapades, but JFK's use of both marijuana and LSD. To make the Meyer case all the more intriguing, Mary Meyer was convinced that JFK was murdered by a conspiracy involving U.S. intelligence agencies, of which she was intimately familiar, and she was determined to bring it to light.

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After she was murdered some very strange things occurred, the first of which is that someone in the CIA called Ben Bradlee on the day of the shooting to tell him of Mary's murder. Why is this strange? Because Mary Pinchot Meyer was still lying in the morgue and had not even been identified by the coroners office, she was just a Jane Doe. Mary's family didn't even know anything had happened to her at this point, but because of a mysterious source in the CIA, Ben Bradlee did. Bradlee then went to Mary's house and scoured the pace and found her JFK diary and instead of doing the journalistically honorable thing of reporting on it, he instead kept it secret and turned it over to none other than James Jesus Angelton who destroyed it. Who is James Jesus Angelton? Well, James Angelton was just the Chief of Covert Counter-Intelligence Operations for the CIA. 

To make the Meyer story all the more intriguing is what happened when Bradlee was called to testify in the 1965 murder trial against a young Black man charged, and later acquitted, of the crime of killing Mary Meyer. On the stand Bradlee lied, in other words committed perjury, when he failed to mention his interaction with Mr. Angelton of the CIA and about the existence of Mary's diary. How do we know he lied? Because years later when he wrote his 1995 memoir, A Good Life, he told the truth about what actually happened and how he conspired with Angelton to find and destroy Mary's diary. 

Bradlee's back story is pretty remarkable, but so is Katherine Graham's. Graham's husband, Phil, was the publisher and co-owner of the Washington Post. In late 1962, Phil was having an affair with a young woman from Australia and told Katherine about it. A short time later in 1963, Phil got himself into a boat load of trouble when he got stinking drunk at a newspaper publisher's convention in Phoenix and stood up and told a room full of reporters that President Kennedy was having an affair in the White House with...you guessed it…Mary Pinchot Meyer. Mrs. Graham was alerted to her soon to be ex-husbands behavior and flew out to Phoenix with their doctor and Phil was sedated, put in a straitjacket, and flown to Washington where he was quickly hospitalized at Chestnut Lodge, a hospital in Maryland well-known to be used by the CIA for various unsavory psychiatric activities. 

After his initial release five days later from Chestnut Lodge, Phil left Katherine and told friends he was going to divorce her, take sole control of the Post, and quickly remarry with his Australian girlfriend. Shortly thereafter, in June of 1963, Phil was again placed in Chestnut Lodge and treated for "manic depression". Chestnut Lodge then released him in early August 1963 to his ex-wife Katherine's custody for a weekend break because she claimed he seemed to be doing much better. Phil stayed with Katherine at their Virginia farmhouse, and that is where he allegedly shot himself with shotgun. Against the wishes of Phil's will, which Katherine challenged, Katherine Graham then inherited the Washington Post which became a powerful mouthpiece for the intelligence community on all matters.

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Ben Bradlee was also a key part of the intelligence community's control over the Post and of American political discourse. The best way to describe Bradlee is that for the duration of his Washington Post career, he was a useful asset to the intelligence community. Katherine Graham was less an asset and more of an insurance policy for the intelligence community. They got her power over the Post, and she gave them access and unquestioned loyalty. Remember the previously Operation Mockingbird, well the Washington Post is the flagship newspaper for Operation Mockingbird, and remember who ran Operation Mockingbird…none other than Cord Meyer, Mary Meyer's ex-husband. (If you want to read more about the very tangled and incredibly fascinating story of Mary Meyer, JFK, Cord Meyer, James Angleton, Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham, I wholly encourage you to go read Mary's Mosaic by Peter Janney, it is a page-turner well worth your time if you have the interest.)

Now, don't those stories sound much more interesting and dramatically charged than the limp, third-rate Washington Post - Pentagon Papers nonsense that Spielberg conjures in The Post? Wouldn't those backstories make for at least a modicum of intrigue and drama when trying to fully flesh out who these dramatis personae really are and what actually happened at the Washington Post during the Pentagon papers incident? 

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But Steven Spielberg has no interest in telling that kind of truth in his movies, he is only interested in telling a certain kind of truth, the same kind of truth that Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham are interested in telling, namely...the manufactured, "safe" truth. If you look at the length and breadth of Spielberg and Hanks' career you notice something very troubling, they are both only interested in telling that sort of manufactured "safe" truth. Hanks and Spielberg are anything but artistic truth-tellers, they are Rockwellian myth-makers and star-spangled Riefenstahls who consistently and exclusively pump out agitprop for the Establishment and American Empire. I realize that I will be tarred and feathered as a tin-foil hat wearing kook for saying this, but it doesn't take a genius or a madman to figure out that upon closer inspection, Hanks and Spielberg are just like Bradlee and Graham, they are well positioned assets useful in disseminating disinformation propaganda for the American Intelligence community (and maybe some other nations Intelligence communities as well) in order to subtly indoctrinate the gullible and unaware masses.

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Bradlee and Graham were so well positioned to be assets for Operation Mockingbird one cannot help but wonder if they were "assisted" in their rise to such pivotal and prominent roles on the American political stage…and the same can be said of Hanks and Spielberg, who have proven time and again that they seem to have risen to heights in Hollywood well beyond their artistic abilities and use their positions of power to inundate the public with most insidious of propaganda. (For further reading on Hanks desire to alter history to appease the American Intelligence community, check out James DiEugenio's book Reclaiming Parkland, it is not a particularly well-written work, but it is does contain some fascinating and insightful information.)

When you look at the question I posed earlier about why Spielberg would make THIS film about the Pentagon Papers instead of investigating other more potentially interesting angles of that story (Ellsberg bio-pic, NY Times angle etc.), through the prism of his job as a propagandist for the Establishment and the intelligence community, then The Post makes a helluva lot more sense.  

Spielberg could not make a film with Ellsberg as a hero because Ellsberg is a whistleblower and whistleblowers cannot be perceived as heroic especially in this day and age because they could potentially reveal the crimes of American empire and the intelligence community. Hanks and Spielberg both said as much in doing interviews regarding The Post. When asked if Ellsberg was a hero they both said, "yeah sure", but when asked if Snowden was a hero, they both declined to answer and said it "was complicated". It isn't complicated, it is only complicated if you are a propagandist interested in obscuring truth, not exposing it. The reason they can sort of say Ellsberg is ok is because his revelations are ancient history with no impact on today's world, whereas Snowden is making a brave Ellsbergian stand today, and to make things worse in Hanks and Spielberg's eyes, Snowden did so while Obama was president. 

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Think of it this way, Spielberg can make any movie he wants, but he chose the safest route imaginable and made The Post. He could've made a Snowden movie, or a Chelsea Manning movie, both of which would tell the truth to power story and even the freedom of the press story that The Post pretends to tell. He could've made a film about John Kiriakou which would be immensely more interesting than The Post, but he didn't. Spielberg could've still played it safe and made a straight up, paint-by-numbers Ellsberg bio-pic…but he didn't. Hell, Spielberg could've made a Trump bio-pic, Oliver Stone made one of George W. Bush while he was still in office for goodness sake, but he would never do something so ballsy. Instead, Spielberg made the impotent and insipid The Post, with all of its narrative quirks, historical omissions and sub-textual dishonesty.

What I found even more damning than the shitty filmmaking and predictable script on display in The Post, was the audience with whom I watched it. The screening I attended was pretty crowded and at various times throughout the showing, the crowd whooped and cheered for the "good guys" (Hanks and company), and when the film ended there was a rapturous round of applause. I can easily surmise that none of these cheering people voted for Donald Trump, and that they felt their cheering was a brave and courageous act of "resistance".

What all the cheering from the audience proved to me is that this anti-Trump audience deserves that know-nothing buffoon as their president, because just like him they are dim-witted ignorami who only want to be told what they want to hear and are incurious, ill-informed and easily manipulated.  

These cheering ninnies are blissfully unaware of Ben Bradlee's connection to the intelligence community or his duplicitous relationship with JFK's affairs and Mary Meyer's murder. They are also blissfully unaware of Katherine Graham's equally nefarious connections to the intelligence community and the mystery surrounding her husbands downfall and supposed suicide and her subsequent rise to power at the Washington Post. These same simpletons probably confuse Snowden with Assange, and recoil at the truthful and accurate revelations of those two men and Chelsea Manning, but ignorantly cheer the charade of The Post as a metaphor for speaking truth to power and the battle for the freedom of the press today, just because Spielberg tells them to. These fools are Spielberg's bread and butter, for they are the worst kind of fools, they think they are savvy, well-informed, serious people, but they are simply dupes and dopes, and these vacuous, vapid and vacant numskulls have gotten the country, the president and the movie they so richly deserve. 

In conclusion, The Post is certainly not worth paying to see in the theatre. If you stumble across it on cable or Netlfix you can watch it to see Streep's marvelous performance but that is about it. The Post is fools gold for those looking for powerful stories of the struggle for freedom of the press and speaking truth to power. Viewers would be much better served avoiding the historical revisionism of The Post and seeking out the stories of Edward Snowden (the documentary Citizenfour or Oliver Stone's flawed Snowden), Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Daniel Ellsberg (the documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America) and yes, even the much-maligned Julian Assange, if they want to understand the current fight for freedom of the press and the battle against tyranny, where information and the truth are the greatest weapons of war.

©2017

Queen Oprah - Pope of the Cult of Personality

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Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes 66 seconds

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

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

FLIP SIDES OF THE SAME COIN

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

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

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

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

THE UNIVERSITY OF THE CULT OF OPRAH

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

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

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

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

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

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

A MILLION LITTLE PIECES

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

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

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

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

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

SPEAK YOUR TRUTH?

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

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

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

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

©2017

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

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 48 seconds

 

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME

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

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

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

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

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

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

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

#RESISTANCE IS FUTILE...AND FEUDAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

©2017

Some Brief Thoughts on the Golden Globes

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes 28 seconds

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

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

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

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

NATALIE PORTMAN

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

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

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

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

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

GARY OLDMAN

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

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

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

OPRAH!!

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

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

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

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

THE FEVER BREAKING?

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

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

©2017

Echoes of Totalitarianism in #MeToo and Russia-Gate

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THE RISE OF AMERICAN TOTALITARIANISM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

UPDATE: 

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

©2017

He Who Laughs Last - Edward S. Herman Edition

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 04 seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She then wrote,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017

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

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Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes 49 seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEX SELLS

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

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

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

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

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

SAUDI ARABIA

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

LEBANON

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

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

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

YEMEN

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

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

QATAR

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

IRAN

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

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

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

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

ISRAEL

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

RUSSIA

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

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

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

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

©2017

New York Times Strikes Out Again on Afghanistan

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

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes 08 seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017

 

Election 2016 Aftermath : A Practical Handbook to Survive and Thrive in the Era of Trump

Estimated Reading Time : 15 minutes 37 seconds

"IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS, THERE IS ALSO OPPORTUNITY" - SUN TZU

A little over a month ago Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election. I was in the minority as I was not one of those shocked by this outcome, but many people were and still are positively shocked and maybe even shell-shocked. Hillary supporters in particular were blindsided by the election and are very angry, hurt and upset about the result. Even though I am not a Democrat or a Clinton supporter (nor am I a Republican or Trump supporter), I truly understand how they feel and I even have empathy for them and their situation. That said, as I have witnessed Clinton supporters react to the election results over the last month on Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, in the media and elsewhere, I have been struck by how counter-productive their reactions have been. 

The biggest problem with the Clintonites reactions to the election are just that, they have been reactions and not responses. A reaction is emotion based and a response is reason based. That in a nutshell is not only what is wrong with the Clinton supporters post-election actions but also with the entire Clinton campaign. Emotionalism is the scourge of our time and the post election reaction by Clinton supporters proves this point almost as much as the emotionalist Trump campaign's victory. 

"THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO BE FOOLED. ONE IS TO BELIEVE WHAT ISN'T TRUE; THE OTHER IS TO REFUSE TO BELIEVE WHAT IS." - SOREN KEIRKEGAARD

"GET THEE TO A NUNNERY, GO. FAREWELL. OR IF THOU WILT NEEDS MARRY, MARRY A FOOL, FOR WISE MEN KNOW WELL ENOUGH WHAT MONSTERS YOU MAKE OF THEM" - HAMLET

A great example of this Clintonite reaction was from a reader of my post-election piece who wrote in response to it that because I was a "straight, white male" my opinion wasn't worth anything and should be ignored. This reader is an unemployed, middle-aged, white woman and a vociferous Clinton supporter. I understand her frustration and frankly her embarrassment at having been so catastrophically wrong about the election in every single way, so her emotionalism is to be expected, but that doesn't make it any less useful as an example or any less harmful to her alleged long term political interests. Her reaction to my piece was to, unintentionally no doubt, prove the point of it, namely that identity politics was what painted Clinton and the democrats into a corner from which she could not escape. So she reduced my argument to being nothing more than my identity. She then said that she could explain to me why I was so wrong but that she wouldn't because I "just wouldn't get it." This is a wonderful rhetorical device, refuse to actually engage an argument by blaming it on the stupidity of your opponent rather than your inability to articulate it. 

Sadly, this ill-informed woman is a perfect example of the failure of the Clinton campaign, she feels entitled to not have to actually make an argument to persuade people to her side. This foolish woman refused to acknowledge the obvious in our situation, namely that I, regardless of my sexual preference, race or gender was right about the election and she was spectacularly wrong, because that would undermine her perceived intellectual and moral superiority, which is essential for her to maintain her self-delusional identity in the world. What struck me most about this exchange was that it foreshadows the strategic and tactical ineffectiveness to come from democrats as they wander in the political wilderness for the next two years which, with this lack of thoughtfulness, will most likely turn into 8 or more years. 

"YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF TOMORROW BY EVADING IT TODAY" - ABRAHAM LINCOLN

From what I have seen coming from democrats and Clinton supporters since the election, it is blatantly obvious that they have not only learned nothing from their failure, but they do not want to learn anything from it either. Hillary supporters have pointed their finger at the F.B.I., James Comey, Vladimir Putin, the Russians, fake news, the electoral college, racists, Nazis and misogynists in an attempt to cast blame on why they lost. This finger pointing and blaming is born out of an emotionalist arrogance and does nothing more than highlight and solidify the actual reason Clinton lost, her inability to be honest with herself and others and take responsibility. Clinton supporters can bemoan all sorts of external evils that conspired to take them down, but until they can muster the humility to actually look in the mirror and take full responsibility for their historical blindness, their lack of any coherent argument, their shocking tone-deafness, the atrocious campaign they ran and the dreadful candidate they put up, they will not learn anything and will not be able to mount a successful insurgency against Trump in the coming years.

This failure to learn anything or take any responsibility is not only bad news for democrats and Clinton supporters, but for our entire nation as well. If Clinton supporters truly believe Trump is as dangerous and tyrannical as they say he is, and he very well may be, then they would be most wise to stop thinking and acting emotionally and start thinking and acting strategically in order to stop him. Which is why I have written this little handbook on a strategic and tactical approach for the democrats to use in the coming years. 

I know, I know, why on earth would anyone want to read a handbook on how to get back into power written by the horrors of horrors…a straight, white male? Great question, sweetheart. (I'm kidding!!) The answer is that straight, white men, and some gay ones too, have conquered and ruled the planet for centuries. For good or for ill, and a whole hell of a lot of it has been for ill, that is the reality of the world in which we live. With that in mind, it might be a wise move to listen to a straight, white male when it comes to issues of power and conquest if you want to conquer and rule. If you want to sit on the throne, you might want to know how to think like the king. And it might be an even smarter move to listen to this straight, white male who just so happened to be right about the election when you were so fantastically and spectacularly  wrong. So, democrats and Clintonites, ignore this handbook at your own peril. Now onto the strategic and tactical guide.

"IT'S NOT PERSONAL, IT'S STRICTLY BUSINESS" - MICHAEL CORLEONE

Michael Corleone's point is critical to understand if you want to be successful in stopping the Trump agenda and his quest for a second term. The unemployed, middle-aged woman I referenced at the beginning of this piece was very heavily emotionally and psychologically invested in the Clinton campaign. This woman took the campaign, and Hillary's loss, very, very personally. I understand, I totally get it. Clinton was the first female candidate of a major political party and was thought to be a shoo-in for the presidency. Many women projected their struggles onto Hillary and took her success to be their success. This is a natural and normal thing to do especially when her opponent was such an obnoxious, misogynistic asshole. The problem though is that when Hillary supporters projected themselves onto her, it became all too easy for them to stop thinking logically and to start thinking emotionally. It is human nature when we take things personally to react emotionally, but reacting emotionally almost always makes things worse and not better. We have all been in the situation where we are pissed about something and we furiously write an email to the person who has angered us and then we send it and we escalate a situation that needn't be escalated and we create more drama and despair than we needed in our lives. The best course of action in cases like this is to wait 24 hours before sending the email. We all know this intellectually, but goodness knows we don't always act according to our intellect. Delaying the email gives us a chance to shift out of emotionalism and its myopic, limiting thought process and into rationalism which is much more cognitively expansive. It doesn't always work that way, as humans have the uncanny ability to stay pissed for a long time, or at least I do, but it usually works. Daybreak can bring with it a new perspective and a wiser decision that ceases our pain rather than exacerbates it. 

"I RANT, THEREFORE I AM" - DENNIS MILLER

"NEVER INTERRUPT YOUR ENEMY WHEN HE IS MAKING A MISTAKE" - NAPOLEON

"THE SUPREME ART OF WAR IS TO SUBDUE THE ENEMY WITHOUT FIGHTING" - SUN TZU

Unfortunately, due to taking the Clinton loss personally, and the emotionalism that comes with that, since the election there has been a spate of Facebook rants from Hillary supporters bemoaning the outcome and belittling the fools who voted for Trump. Some have even become so enamored with their diatribes that they have filmed themselves reading those same rants (and even though they wrote the rant, they chose not to memorize it, which is the height of laziness) and then posted that as well.  These rants usually involve calling all Trump voters racist, numerous mentions of the "KKK", charges of misogyny, xenophobia and stupidity along with the demand that anyone who voted for Trump or for a third party "unfriend" the ranter. Sadly, these breathless, yet heart felt rants, have the exact opposite effect of which the ranter intended, which is to strengthen their side and weaken the other side. I hate to be the one to tell these ranters, but what your rants actually do is strengthen your opponents and weaken you.

These ranter's opinions are as valid as anyone else's and they are entitled to them, but their arguments are vapid. These rants are not arguments at all so much as tantrums. They have all the intellectual heft and political sophistication of the backstage bitching at a child beauty pageant. These rants don't actually make any arguments, they only make accusations. And while these ranters obviously think they are brilliant and are exceedingly proud of their diatribes enough to film them and share those cringe-worthy bits of cinematic detritus, they are the equivalent of a toddler who throws their poop against the wall and is so proud of it because they think they have created art. Of course, it is only the poop throwing toddler alone who believes their mess is praiseworthy. While the poop wall may be vaguely reminiscent of a Pollock, it isn't going to hang in the Guggenheim, it will only be cleaned up and forgotten as quickly as possible. 

The truth is these rants aren't meant to change anyone's minds at all, only to buttress the beliefs of the like minded. There is nothing wrong with that except the problem is that these rants don't happen in a liberal vacuum, they are posted for the entire world to see. The world not only includes the potential allies of third party voters whom you want to "unfriend", but also includes those marginal Trump voters, all 77,000 of them in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan who flipped from voting Obama twice and now made the difference for Trump. 

While It is important to remember that there are an overwhelming majority of Trump voters who will never switch their allegiance, so trying to convince them is fruitless, it is equally important to remember there are a pivotal and key group of Trump supporters who can be convinced to change their allegiance. Those are the 77,000 voters that you need for victory in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. By lumping those 77,000 in with the other more rabid Trump voters, you are alienating crucial potential allies. Your empty-headed, emotionalist vitriol is forcing people away from your point of view and your candidates and towards Trump. It is sort of like when Hillary won the nomination and her supporters, like those now ranting, decided it was still a good idea to keep attacking "Bernie Bros" and all of their "mansplainin'". How did that work out for you, Sugartits? (Again…I am kidding!!) In other words, these ranters are cutting off their nose to spite their face. I am sure their rant feels good now, but it won't feel so good at Trump's next election victory party in 2020.

Another serious issue with these arrogantly self-serving tirades is the call for "unfriending" of anyone who dared disagree with the pompous ranter. Epistemic closure and living in a bubble is exactly how democrats got themselves into this whole mess in the first place. To demand even more epistemic rigidity and isolation is so mind-numbingly moronic as to be amazing. I understand that these ranters are irritated by people who disagree with them, but you just lost an election because your arguments were so remarkably flaccid. Shutting out any contrarian opinions now will only lead to more severe political and intellectual impotence. Arguments need to be forged in fire and strengthened by opposition. If you cannot sharpen your arguments against your enemies or even mildly oppositional forces, your arguments will atrophy and wither in the delusional comfort of your epistemic bubble. Calls for immediate removal of all oppositional opinions is literally sticking your head up your own ass. What is desperately needed now is not a tighter bubble, but the humility to admit you were wrong and to sharpen your arguments against the rock of those who oppose you. I totally understand why these ranters want to only shout and not to engage, life seems easier that way, but that is a one way ticket into further political and intellectual oblivion. Being on the battlefield of ideas is scary, especially if, like these ranters, you are unarmed, so to those folks I say arm yourself and find some courage. And when I say arm yourself, I don't mean just regurgitate what you heard on Rachel Maddow or what you read on DailyKos, that is not strengthening your arguments or nurturing vibrant intellectual debate, that is just one more exercise in confirmation bias.

"I NEVER HAD A PROBLEM RESISTING SOMEBODY THAT I KNEW WAS GOING TO BREAK MY HEART" - JENNIFER GARNER

Both physically and psychologically, it is human instinct to become more rigid and resist when someone pushes you. This resistance instinct is a natural occurrence when someone calls you names, like racist or misogynist, and pretends to know what you feel deep in your heart. The form of resistance taken in the face of these charges is for those being called racists to simply join with those who are in opposition to their attacker. In recent weeks, things have ratcheted up to the point where there are even social media/video rants from Clintonites that demand that Trump voters PROVE to them that they aren't racist. This is just the most self-serving horseshit imaginable. These social media ranters build a straw man, that all Trump voters, including those who voted for Obama twice, are racists, and then demand that these voters PROVE to them that they aren't racist. These "prove it' challenges are absurd and are just the most self-righteous, self-satisfying and self-defeating tactic imaginable. The natural, normal, human response for any person exposed to a vapid challenge like that is to take the opposing position against those accusing you. This is what is happening when "Springsteen voters" see and hear these social media rants, they simply shake their heads and think they made the right decision not so much voting for Trump, but voting against Clinton and those holier-than-thou haranguing asshats.

"VICTORIOUS WARRIORS WIN FIRST AND THEN GO TO WAR, WHILE DEFEATED WARRIORS GO TO WAR FIRST AND THEN SEEK TO WIN." - SUN TZU

In addition, these jeremiads play into every single stereotype that hardcore Trump voters have of liberals and democrats, namely that they are entitled, arrogant, selfish, whiny, know-it-alls. Seeing these rants gives these hardcore Trumpists a tremendous amount of joy, pleasure and satisfaction. These diatribes give aid and comfort to the people you want to defeat and also no shortage of ammunition to be used to keep those 77,000 Springsteen voters in the fold and Trump in power. With this in mind, these rants look less like rallying the base to action and more about a form of self-aggrandizing masturbation.

While these screeds may be a way for the individual ranters, especially the desperately thirsty, fame-whoring ones inhabiting Los Angeles, to try and raise their public profile and maybe even save their moribund careers by getting a job on a political tv show (The Daily Show...fingers crossed!! Better yet…Full Frontal with Samantha Bee!!! Girl Power!!!), they certainly aren't a way to strategically stop Trump and his minions from destroying all the things these ranters claim to hold dear. So stop with the selfish, transparent and desperate rants. Stop with the weak kneed emotionalism. Grow a pair of balls (and yes, I am a misogynist for saying that only people with testicles are tough, I am an evil minion of the patriarchy, you caught me Buttercup…again, just kidding!!), get up off the canvas, brush yourself off and get back in the ring. Except this time go into that ring thinking strategically, not emotionally, and maybe you won't get knocked on your ass again. Which brings us to...

"NEVER LET ANYONE OUTSIDE THE FAMILY KNOW WHAT YOU'RE THINKING." - DON CORLEONE

"LET YOUR PLANS BE DARK AND IMPENETRABLE AS NIGHT, AND WHEN YOU MOVE FALL LIKE A THUNDERBOLT." - SUN TZU

Don Corleone said this to Sonny when he revealed to The Turk his surprise that the Tartaglias would guarantee the Corleone's investment in the drug trade. This seemingly minor error by Sonny led to the assassination attempt on Don Corleone, war amongst the five families, Sonny's death on the causeway, Michael's murder of the Turk and a police Captain, Michael's year in exile and the murder of his wife Appollonia, and eventually Michael settling all family business by killing all the family's enemies. In other words…if Sonny hadn't let someone outside the family know what he was thinking, then a whole lot of people wouldn't have been killed. The same applies to Clintonites and the election aftermath. 

As I stated previously, the social media rants against Trump voters may feel good when your doing them, but they are terribly counterproductive. Emotionalists want to feel good in the moment, strategists want to succeed in the long run. So stop with the rants already. That said…just because you shouldn't let anyone outside the family know what your thinking, doesn't mean you shouldn't think it. You can think every Trump voter is racist all you want, even though it is obviously not true. I am not telling you what to think, I am telling you what to do and how to succeed. I also don't give a flying fuck how you feel. If you want to get angry or be hurt or upset, or if you are afraid, go ahead, just don't let your enemies know that is how you feel. Tie your courage to to the sticking post. Be rational, be reasonable, be logical, and be calm in front of your enemies and then plot to eviscerate them when the time is right. 

In fact, I would tell you that instead of ranting on social media where everyone can see what you are thinking (or not-thinking as the case may be) or feeling and where you strengthen your enemies and weaken yourself…just set aside some time everyday to have a nice, private, little two minutes hate. If you have a friend with similar political leanings, call them once a day, or email them and only them, and rant for two minutes about how awful Trump or his voters are. Unleash all of your pent up hostility and rage during this two minutes. Spew forth all of the vitriol you can muster. That way you purge yourself of the emotionalism that cripples your arguments and you keep yourself sane and logical for the great fight ahead.

"THE WISE MUSICIANS ARE THOSE WHO PLAY WHAT THEY CAN MASTER." - DUKE ELLINGTON

"MOVE SWIFT AS THE WIND AND CLOSELY FORMED AS THE WOOD. ATTACK LIKE THE FIRE AND BE STILL AS THE MOUNTAIN." - SUN TZU

Another thing to strategically keep in mind regarding emotionalism is that emotion can be a valuable weapon in the hands of a master. The problem is that your opponent, Donald Trump, is a master of emotion. Trump is the archetypal trickster, and he can not only manipulate the emotions of his supporters to his benefit, but can manipulate his opponents emotions to his advantage as well. Trump masterfully plays democrats and the media to react the way he wants them to by pushing their emotional buttons. He tweets something outrageous in order to distract from a story he doesn't like (the flag burning nonsense), or he meets with Kanye West or something like that. Trump is constantly toying with democrats and the media like a cat with a mouse, and they become victims of their own emotionalism.

It is vitally important to remember this, in the battle for power, emotion is Trump's weapon, not yours. If you take Trump on, on emotional grounds, he will destroy you. You must take him on rationally, using unemotional language and arguments. Trump is a narcissist who desperately needs an emotional foil in order to maintain his self image. By not engaging him emotionally, and not reacting to his tweets or what he says, you neuter him. Without a foil, Trump flails about like a frantically drowning man. Trump needs an enemy to emotionally invigorate and engage him, if you do not give that to him, he spins out of control, then withers and dies. Emotionalism is Trump's power source, cold rationalism is his Kryptonite.

"ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS BUT NOT NEARLY AS OFTEN." - MARK TWAIN

So in order to weaken Trump you must ignore his tweets…all of them, no matter how infuriating they may be. Ignore every single word he says as well, no matter what. Ignore his neo-Nuremberg rallies and his playing to the crowd with his loaded language. You must understand that Trump's words are meaningless and are meant to make you react and not respond. Do not let him control you so easily. Instead, only respond, not react, to the things he actually does, never what he says. For instance, if Trump nominates people you dislike for cabinet positions, quietly plot to undermine them. Do not talk about them publicly, but conspire to dig up dirt on them and make their confirmation a living hell. Let Trump react to what you do, not the other way around. And when Trump reacts to you, ignore his reaction and keep on calmly working to undermine and destroy him.

"SO IN WAR, THE WAY IS TO AVOID WHAT IS STRONG, AND STRIKE AT WHAT IS WEAK." - SUN TZU

Also, Trump's great strength is in form and appearance as he is the ultimate improvisational showman, and his great weakness is detail, structure and function. So attack Trump's weakness, detail and function, with your strength, bureaucracy. What I mean by that is you must make Trump have to slog through the muck and mire, the monotonous and grueling process of actually governing. You can tie Trump up in knots over the process of writing minutely detailed and specific legislation and actually passing it. When you get outraged by his remarks, your distraction allows him to win on form instead of lose on function. If he says outrageous things, let them just float out there and let people make up their own minds. If the media asks a democrat what they think about the latest outrageous remark Trump has just made, they should respond, "I don't care what the President says, I care what he does." 

And, I understand how difficult this tactic can be, when you hear the things that Trump says it can be downright infuriating because he means to infuriate you, but it is vital that you remember that in order to stop Trump, you must make him fight you on your ground, not his. The media will be of little help in this endeavor as they proved in the campaign by covering Trump's every rally and every word. The media want Trump in the spotlight because he is outrageous and unpredictable and outrageousness and unpredictability means ratings. So my advice in order to stay sane and be effective in opposition to Trump, is to never read Trump's twitter feed, and to never watch any cable news. I know this is where many people get their news…but I have bad news…cable news isn't news, it is infotainment. So read the newspaper for your news…but do not read the editorials. And avoid cable news like the plague, because it is a plague. You literally get dumber every second you watch cable news, regardless of the channel. Those networks are meant to make you think emotionally, not rationally, so don't let them derail your opposition to Trump. If you simply cannot function without television news, watch the BBC…with the sound off.

"KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE AND YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER." - MICHAEL CORLEONE

"I'M WATCHING YOU AND FIDEL CASTRO IN THE SAND. ASSASSIN!!" - SISTER HAVANA BY URGE OVERKILL

As I stated earlier, it is a physical and psychological human instinct to resist when pushed. Many martial arts teach students to overcome this instinct in order to gain an advantage in combat. For example, Judo and Aikido teach that when pushed you should pull and when pulled you should push. The idea behind this technique is that when someone pushes you and you pull them towards you, you are using their force against them by adding a small amount of your strength to it and knocking you opponent off balance. An opponent who is off balance is one that is not an immediate threat to you and one that is also vulnerable to your attack.

Which brings us to another key strategy to derail Trump which may seem counter-intuitive, but it is to embrace Trump on any and all economic issues you even remotely agree with him on. Embracing Trump will knock him off balance and will also play to his vanity, for God knows flattery will get you somewhere with Trump. An example of what I am talking about would have been to embrace the Carrier deal Trump made to "save" American jobs. Yes, I know that the deal is a total charade, but in order to beat Trump long term you must embrace him short term. So, emphasize how great it is that those 800 people still have jobs due to this deal, but then emphasize how much better the deal could have been and go to great lengths to talk about the other workers who are now left behind because of this deal and how much they will suffer. This is crucial because it means you flatter Trump and do not alienate the people whose jobs he has "saved", but you also ally yourself with people he has screwed who will obviously be more open to vote against him. By embracing Trump on economics, it will force him to occasionally search for a different enemy and Trump's need to find a foil might land squarely on Paul Ryan and the republicans. Trump always desperately needs an enemy and if you can make Paul Ryan and the establishment wing of the republican party his enemy, you make them fight each other and they end up weaker and you get stronger. 

The union leader from Indiana who Trump attacked on twitter in the aftermath of the Carrier deal is a great example of how to handle Trump. This leader, Chuck Jones of the United Steelworkers, is a plain spoken, working class, midwestern guy…a Springsteen voter. When Trump personally attacked him on twitter he didn't get emotional, he just calmly stated his argument, which was correct by the way, and Trump was left with nothing to rage against. Trump backed down and shut up because Chuck Jones didn't get emotional, he got rational. This white working class guy gave an unintentional seminar on how to disarm and defeat Trump…I hope democrats were paying attention.

History and recent news have given us an example of how not embracing your enemies can be counterproductive. Last month Fidel Castro died in Havana. Whatever you think of Castro, it is pretty remarkable that he stayed in power for nearly sixty years while the greatest super power on the earth just 90 miles away actively tried to kill him. The reason Castro was able to stay in power was because he gained strength in resistance to the U.S. If the U.S. had been less adversarial with him, and had embraced him even a little bit, Castro would not have been able to maintain his grip on Cuba. Castro was strengthened by the unilateral opposition to him by the U.S. just like Trump will be strengthened by unilateral opposition by democrats.

"OPPORTUNITIES MULTIPLY AS THEY ARE SEIZED." - SUN TZU

Another strategy that is very Machiavellian but would be vital to eroding Trump's support, would be to embrace guns and the second amendment. I totally understand that most democrats dislike guns, I get it. But you need to think of two things in regards to guns and your political positions. The first is that Donald Trump, a man you fear and loathe, is President and has all the power of the federal government at his disposal. Many democrats and liberals are worried about people being rounded up and put in camps and all sorts of tyrannical things like that. Well, if you are afraid of President Trump and the unimaginable power he wields, it might be a good time to embrace the second amendment and arm yourself in case things get as scary as you imagine they might. If you look at it rationally, the second amendment was designed for people like you who fear the potential tyranny of President Trump. Secondly, as much as democrats dislike and oppose guns, the reality is that even after the atrocious massacre of children at Newtown/Sandy Hook, nothing has changed. Democrats have lost the argument and guns aren't going anywhere. The democrats would be wise to accept this fact and use it to their strategic advantage. 

What advantage would democrats gain by embracing guns? Well, those 77,000 Spingsteen voters are from rural, hunting states and they live in the gun culture. Guns are a wedge issue used to make Springsteen voters occasionally vote against their economic interests. If you remove the wedge issue of guns, you have taken a very valuable weapon out of the hands of your enemies. It would be very wise to do so in order to weaken your opponents and strengthen yourself. 

"WHEN THE ENEMY IS RELAXED, MAKE THEM TOIL. WHEN FULL, STARVE THEM. WHEN SETTLED, MAKE THEM MOVE." - SUN TZU

Attacking Trump would seemingly be an easy task as he is a target rich environment, but the opposite is actually true. Effectively attacking Trump, and that is the key, to effectively attack him rather than just attack him, will take great skill and patience. Here are some basics traps to avoid. First off, do not attack Trump by calling him stupid. Just as Hillary supporters took her loss personally, so will Trump supporters take attacks on him personally, specifically the ones calling him dumb. Even those marginal Springsteen voters will be roused by attacks on Trump's intelligence because they already feel that democrats speak down to them, whereas Trump speaks their language. Attacks on Trump that call him stupid will have the reverse effect that the attacker intends, as it will strengthen Trump and weaken the attacker. 

Another thing to consider is that attacking Trump as dumb is more about shadow projection by liberals than it is about his actual intellect. If you look at the last forty years or so a pattern emerges where the attacks by each political party take on a psychological consistency. Liberals called Reagan, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and now Trump, stupid. For liberals, intelligence is a highly regarded value, and obviously the shadow of intelligence is stupidity. So for liberals the fear of their being perceived as dumb lurks in their shadow, and they project that negative/shadow attribute onto their opponents. Republicans/conservatives do the same thing with their own shadow projections. Republicans value purity and strength and so their shadow values/fears are impurity and weakness. Both Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama were believed to be "unworthy" and illegitimate presidents by republicans, the most glaring example being the birther nonsense. Obama and Bill Clinton were also thought of as "weak" by republicans. Shadow projections are ineffective weapons of attack because they only ring true for those doing the projecting and not those without the same hierarchical values and  beliefs. So while it seems like a great line of attack, it is really more a sign of weakness than strength and will only harm the attacker.

Along the same lines it is essential that democrats never attack Trump voters. Hillary's "deplorables" comment played well with Trump's base but it also greatly offended those marginal Springsteen voters which was a fatal error. Attacking Trump is tricky business, but attacking his supporters is down right political suicide. As I said previously, you can think what you want about these people, but just don't think it out loud.

"APPEAR WEAK WHEN YOU ARE STRONG, AND STRONG WHEN YOU ARE WEAK." - SUN TZU

Another trap to avoid is the sirens call of victimhood and using it as a weapon against Trump. Trump will offend a lot of people with the things he says and there will be no shortage of victims of his thoughtlessness and bullying. That said, it is important to understand the historical wave and time we live in. This is the time of the archetypal "strong man". Across the globe strong men and nationalists are taking power. In order to stop them one must understand the archetypes that resonate in the collective at this time and be able to manipulate them to your advantage. 

The collective is attracted to "strength" at the moment. This sort of "strength" is not a physical, spiritual or even moral strength, rather it is the outward appearance of strength which masks the inner toxic combination of blindness, paranoia and insecurity. It hasn't always been this way and it won't always be this way, but it is this way now…which is how we got Trump (and Putin, and Erdogan and Duterte etc.). According to social scientist Jonathon Haidt, liberals are usually motivated by the moral values of care/fairness, which is often translated into equality, diversity and protecting the weakest members of society. In recent years this has morphed into a sort of elevation of status for the victim in liberal circles. So as victimhood has become status, power has been translated into the negative archetype of the bully. Well, the world and the collective unconscious has changed and the status of victimhood no longer resonates across the broader population, only among liberals. In order to effectively attack Trump and win over marginal voters (Springsteen voters), it is vital to not embrace victimhood but to embrace "strength". Chuck Jones of the United Steelworkers embraced strength in his confrontation with Trump. Those calling Trump a racist, misogynist, sexist or xenophobe are unconsciously embracing the archetype of the victim and victimhood. And I am not arguing Trump isn't a racist, misogynist, sexist, xenophobe, what I am arguing is that calling him those things is an ineffective way to attack him according to the present historical wave and the archetypes currently resonating in the collective. As Bin Laden once said, if you show a person a strong horse and a weak one, they will choose the strong one…and so it is in our time. This is also why it is vital not to share your hurt or anger or fear to Trump or his supporters, because showing those things is a sign of weakness, not strength, and now is the time of strength. 

"HE WHO IS PRUDENT AND LIES IN WAIT FOR AN ENEMY WHO IS NOT, WILL BE VICTORIOUS." - SUN TZU

This leads us to the discussion about identity politics which has come to the forefront lately. After my post-election piece, Mark Lilla wrote a similar, much talked about piece in the New York Times arguing the same thing I did. The identity politics argument seems to have veered off into a strange cul-de-sac of misunderstanding and emotion that does neither side any good. What I mean by that is both sides seem to be arguing past each other and neither seems to be making any ground. 

The issue that I need to make clear which I may not have in my previous piece is this, that if you stop making arguments about identity and start making them about class, that does not mean that you have abandoned minorities. My argument is that identity politics has come to exclude white, working class people whereas class politics includes not only those white, working class people but minorities of all kinds who fall under the "identity" politics umbrella. Black, White, Latino, Asian, Native-American, gay, straight, transgender and every other identity imaginable falls into the poor and working class denomination. Focusing on economic issues and not identity issues doesn't reduce your potential base, it expands it. 

Another reason to focus on economics and class as opposed to identity is that identity politics very often falls into the trap of victimhood politics. I am not saying the minorities of all types aren't victimized, but being victimized and embracing victimhood are two very different things. Once you understand the historical wave we are on, it is easy to see that the best way to protect the victimized regardless of their identity, is to embrace the politics of economics and strength. The politics of identity (which can morph into victimhood), has been successful in the past, but will fail at this time because of the historical wave we are on and the inability of Trump to feel shame. To be effective today, identity (and victimhood) must be jettisoned and economic class and strength must be championed. So if Trump attacks someone or some group of people, the most effective way to counter that is not to call him racist or homophobic or hater or whatever term may very well apply, but to not reveal any upset at all and to stay strong and focus on Trump's actions, not his words. This will make him look weak, and make you look strong. Make the rational, unemotional argument based on facts against Trump, ignore what he says and he will back down. Make a plea based on victimhood or weakness and he will double down and he will rally potential democratic allies to his side. Calling someone a racist or misogynist or whatever is meant to shame them, but shaming Trump is impossible because he is shameless. So you may feel righteous in calling Trump those names, but your attacks will not only be ineffective as he is immune to shame, but will also boomerang back upon you, making you weaker.

A final note about identity politics. In an article in the New York Times recently Cornell Belcher argues that focusing on the dying demographic of white working class people is foolish. Belcher claims we should disregard white, working class voters and instead focus on the Obama coalition and getting those younger, non-white voters to the polls. It is not surprising that Belcher was so terribly and arrogantly wrong about the last election and he is just as wrong about the next one as well. The most important thing about the Obama coalition is not the coalition of young, Black and Latino voters, the most important thing about the Obama coalition is Barrack Obama. Obama is a once in a generation or maybe lifetime political talent. If you think his coalition is coming together for anyone else, you are very mistaken. And I have bad news for you, Barrack Obama is not walking through that door. Going forward you are going to have to deal with second rate political hacks like Hillary Clinton, and she didn't get the Obama coalition to rock the vote. Someone ought to buy Cornell Belcher a calendar for Christmas, since he fails to understand that while white working class voters are a dying breed, they ain't nearly dead yet. Their projected year of death is 2050…another 34 years from now. 34 years is a long time to sit around waiting for the demographics to change so you can get another shot at the throne. 

I think that the wisest course forward is to build a broad based political coalition based on economics and class. Democrats must turn their backs on Wall Street, corporate interests, free trade and globalization and turn their focus back to working class people and the poor. Trump won by using an old school, democratic, populist economic message. There is no doubt Trump will completely ignore that economic message as president, so democrats must be there with a genuine form of populism in order to remove Trump from power. If they fail to embrace this economic populism and class warfare, the democrats will be left in the dust.

"THUS THE EXPERT IN BATTLE MOVES THE ENEMY, AND IS NOT MOVED BY HIM." - SUN TZU

One last thing that liberals must do going forward is both a defensive and an offensive move simultaneously, and that is to completely embrace the constitution. Rigidly embracing the constitution is a way to protect yourselves from the potential tyranny of a Trump presidency, and also a way to attack Trump and criminalize him and his actions. Embracing the constitution means that democrats must stop talking about fake news and ways to fix or stop it. Talk of shutting down conspiracy websites or fake news sites is detrimental to the long term strategy of stopping, or at least containing, Trump. Liberals need to embrace not only the first amendment without hesitation or qualifiers, but also Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, Chelsea/Bradley Manning and all of the other whistleblowers (and convince Obama to pardon them all including Snowden, Manning and Assange before he leaves office), for they will be pivotal weapons in the battle against Trump (a strong renunciation of Obama's war on whistleblowers is urgently needed now as well). The reality is that if you only want to embrace the first amendment some of the time, or when it is convenient to you, then it will not only be an ineffective tool against Trump but he will turn it around and use it as a weapon against you. As I already stated, embracing the second amendment is vital as well for not only self-protection but for political purposes. The constitution is all that stands between you and the darker instincts of President Donald Trump. The restraints the constitution can place on Trump will be the only thing that will stop him from exacting revenge on his domestic enemies…namely YOU...and he will most certainly try to do that. If you try and mess with any part of the constitution, whether it be the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth or any other amendments, the rest of it will be useless in protecting you from Trump…including the twenty-second amendment which limits him to two terms in office. Ponder that for a moment.

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, or the more recent version of it where Vladimir Putin himself is actually personally involved, 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. Russia is a nuclear power. The deep state and neo-cons are determined to have a war with Russia, we've actually been in a limited war (propaganda, economic, political war) with them for the last bunch of years. 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. 

And thus concludes my not so brief handbook on how to survive the era of Trump. I realize that most of the people who already disliked me for my pre and post-election pieces will have already chalked this piece up to just one more bit of mansplainin' by a deplorable straight, white male, but these things happen. I do not expect the hapless democrats to follow my handbook at all, and they are off to a really shitty start with the re-election of Nancy Peolosi as leader of the house democrats. Pelosi's victory is a strong sign that democrats would rather double down on the same insanity, with insanity being defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, that got them here rather than learn anything and adapt going forward. But hey, just like with the election, you can't say I didn't warn you. 

"YOUR SPIRIT IS THE TRUE SHIELD." - MORIHEI UESHIBA, THE ART OF PEACE

©2016