Friday, December 31, 2021

Brief Thoughts on "Don't Look Up," "Vice," and "Casablanca."


Not much to say about the new Netflix film "Don't Look Up" since I haven't seen it and might never see it. I'm just reacting to the way that many leftists on my social media and internet sites I frequent are trashing it for how it didn't, instead, choose to be an uplifting film about the people coming together and showing their glorious and beautiful human spirit and overthrowing the oligarchs who are standing in the way of what obviously needs to be done.

Uh, "thwap to ever-optimistic leftist activists: You guys have been living in fucking fantasy-land for so many decades that it's hard to take you seriously. You have achieved SHIT. You have achieved NOTHING. We are closer to global heating catastrophe than ever before. Your record on Israel-Palestine, on Peace, on Inequality, on Police Racism & Violence, is terrible. It's your blinkered, unjustified optimism that keeps you going (Gawd bless you) but maybe you should shut-up here and sit this one out."

Also, some of these precious darlings object to the way that the mass of people are meant to look stupid. Because the people united can never be defeated. It's always our evil overlords who work full-time to divide us who are to blame. You know, to make those of us who think not being shot like animals in the street by racist cops for the colour of our skin should be a human right, to hate the slobbering racist troglodytes who celebrate that and who protest when a window gets broken or a fire gets started in anger over racist state violence. Those damned elites!

Also, ... while I'm sure that a film with this cast of Hollywood A-listers will no doubt be filled with smug, shit-lib hypocrisy and arrogance, ... I'm also pretty sure it's a satire. Or should we also toss Jonathan Swift and Joseph Heller and Terry Gilliam and South Park into the gutter for failing to recognize the eternal beauty of human nature?

Next: I watched about half of "Vice" (about bush II's sleazy VP Dick Cheney) on Netflix early in the pandemic. (The lockdown was why I got Netflix in the first place.) I stopped watching it because the filmmakers seemed to be repeating the term "Unitary Executive" without ever (in my opinion) explaining what it was, why Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted it for and what - therefore - made it so dangerous.

But here's some stuff that I found interesting: Cheney's girlfriend (and later wife) Lynne, apparently wrote his entrance exams to Yale (since he was incapable). Somehow or other his behaviour gets them kicked out. (Either his drinking, or they're living together. I honestly don't remember. But they both had to leave.) He gets work as a telephone lineman but his drinking continues to escalate. Lynne gets him out of jail for drunkeness and sits him down and tells him straight out that her father was an abusive drunk and she is NOT going to live her mother's life. Dick Cheney has to either shape-up or ship-out. 

That took a lot of guts and determination. For a young woman with such a childhood, to stand up to a man and read him the riot act like that. And Dick Cheney doesn't hit her in a drunken rage. He agrees to sober up. And does so. And together, with Lynne's help as the brains of the operation, he gets a career in Washington. Working for like-minded scumbags.

Lynne Cheney's long-suffering mother drowns in suspicious circumstances. She's convinced her father murdered her. At the funeral Dick Cheney tells his (drunken) father-in-law to never try to come near his wife or their two daughters ever again.

I can't remember which scenes came first, but at one point Dick Cheney suffers a heart attack right before an election campaign and Lynne is forced to make speeches on his behalf. (Some of his advisors didn't think Cheney's crowd of voters would listen to a woman but she is clearly good at it and they love her.) I've often said that I never thought Dick Cheney was very smart. His leadership of Haliburton was a disaster and he had to go back into politics and employ raw power and naked corruption to toss public dollars at Haliburton to get it back in the black. From this biopic it really appears that Dick Cheney was Lynne Cheney's creation.

The last scene that I want to mention is the hospital scene after Mary Cheney's car accident. Lynne Cheney thinks Mary has had a fight with her close female friend. But Mary blurts out that she's a lesbian and that they'd broken up and that's what made her so upset that she ended up in a fender-bender. Lynne Cheney's face registers disgust but Dick Cheney immediately says that she's their daughter and that they love her unconditionally. From her Wikipedia page it says that Mary Cheney is a close confidant to her father, so there's some cause to believe this scene happened in life as it did in the movie. Which is touching until you think about all the blood on Dick Cheney's hands. All the millions upon millions of lives he's harmed. It's kind of similar to how the racist father of the USA's racist, mass-incarceration policies of the 1990's, Joe Biden, no doubt loves his wastrel son Hunter, who would probably be serving a life-sentence if he was Black or poor by now.  It's entirely possible for these political psychopaths to be doting parents. loving spouses and true supporters of their inner circles, but that doesn't change the monstrous nature of their policies.

Lynne Cheney's courage and willpower, to not only NOT live her mother's life, but to be a female public speaker and writer, is cancelled-out by the sickening policies of oligarchy, delusion and hatred that she embraces. Dick Cheney's love for his family is totally cancelled-out by his boorish stupidity and indifference to the lives of anyone outside his own chosen circle.

Finally, and like a lot of other people apparently, I've taken to watching movie reaction videos on YouTube. There's two different female YouTubers that I watch. And recently they've each watched "Casablanca." It's a treat to see these millenials become so invested in the story and the characters and to both respond with such shock to the relatively mild (compared to the present day) violence, such as when [SPOILER ALERT!!! ;) ] Rick shoots Major Strasser.

But at the end of her video, one of the YouTubers refers to Strasser's death and says "Bad stuff was happening." IOW: The Nazis were bad. They were villains. That's what happens when people fight back. And both of these YouTubers are from the United States. And so much of the bad stuff happening now is because of the USA. In Iraq. In Libya. In Syria. In Palestine. In the Sudan. In the Ukraine. In Iran. In Venezuela. In Central America. In South America. In US prisons. In Yemen. 

No. The US oligarchy is NOT as 100% racist as the Nazis were. Their system is quite racist but I'd say a large minority of the US capitalist elite could easily tolerate a non-white person for almost an entire day. And, no, the US system of domination has not created literal factories of murder such as the gas chambers. They just use starvation sanctions, brutal mercenaries of all sorts, their own military, and other methods of slaughter to destroy or end the lives of tens of millions of people. If you want to question that then you've already identified yourself as an imbecile.

Then there's the stirring scene where the Czech anti-Nazi patriot Victor Lazlow leads the crowd at Rick's nightclub to sing "La Marseillaise" in response to the Nazi soldiers singing "Die Wacht am Rhein." The whole crowd of French refugees and unhappy Vichy collaborators and residents remember their love of country, homeland. They stand up to their conquerers. They do so in French-controlled Morocco. I wonder how the Moroccans felt about their French occupiers?  I once worked with a man from a former French colony in Central Africa. He was about my age (fifties). He recalled that when he was a child his father asked him and his brother if they dreamed in their native language or French. He told his father that he dreamed in French. His father got visibly depressed. [FWIW: "Die Wacht am Rhein" is a song, based on a poem, about German Rhinelanders resisting French attempts to conquer them.]

I don't want to claim that that's not a stirring scene or that "Casablanca" isn't a great film. Or that those two young ladies are contemptible ignoramuses. I actually watch them because of the few reaction video YouTubers that I've seen, their responses are consistently eloquent and their editing professional. It's a guilty pleasure and I don't want to get too involved with it.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Surveying the Failures of Neoliberalism


Greg Fingas's blog "Accidental Deliberations" often has posts containing links to many excellent mainstream and alternative political articles, essays and analyses. A while back there was a link to this article from the Roosevelt Institute: "The Empirical Failures of Neoliberalism." I just wanted to mention it here. Some choice quotes:

Advocates of deregulation promised both more efficient markets and economic growth (as measured by gross domestic product) that would “trickle down” to benefit the economy as a whole. Such an approach, they promised, would be like a rising tide that lifts all boats. Contrary to the theory, however, regressive policies, including lower tax rates for corporations and the already wealthy, deregulation, and privatization, have resulted in slower growth, greater income inequality, wage stagnation, and decreased labor market mobility.


Monday, December 20, 2021

COVID-19 is going to kill 20-40% of us ...


That's not the jist of this post by the brilliant Umair Haque: "It's Been Two Years - And We Still Haven't Learned COVID's Lessons." Haque actually argues that we could be facing mortality rates like that if we don't smarten up.  We need to treat this pandemic as the public health catastrophe that it is and mashall the collective resources necessary to defeat it.

The really scary stuff? It’s Covid 19 recombining with SARS or MERS. Why? Because SARS has a mortality rate of 15%. MERS has a mortality rate of 40%.

We got away easy with Covid 19. It has a mortality rate of “just” 2%. That’s incredibly high on average — but it’s low for a Coronavirus outbreak.

Now imagine the chaos and devastation that happens if, God forbid, Covid 19, this Coronavirus, recombines with its cousins, SARS or MERS. Then we don’t have a new “variant” — we have a whole new strain.

What does that strain look like? It has the infectiousness of Omicron — an R of 5, which means one person infects five more, which is incredibly high, and why Omicron has exploded in country after country at lightning speed.

Only this future strain isn’t “mild.” It’s the very opposite. It’s incredibly deadly. It has a mortality rate of between 20 and 40%.

Why? Because it’s picked up the lethality genes from SARS and MERS, and the spike protein genes make Omicron ultra infectious, and recombined them.

And far from being unlikely, Covid-19 recombining with a much, much worse Coronavirus is very likely — because Coronaviruses are adept at recombining their genes, and now there are billions of hosts for Covid. All it would take is one immunocompromised person or maybe even animal getting Covid 19 and SARS or MERS, incubating the new strain — and bang. Say hello to a new plague.

So what is the cost of precaution? How high is it? It’s super, super cheap, in fact. Protecting the world from the plague Covid could — will become — if it goes unchecked is the best bargain in human history. It would take a few billion dollars — between ten and fifty — to vaccinate the planet. That’s not even one Jeff “I like to exploit my workers” Bezos.

But we live in a society where Doug Ford panders to shit-heads like his daughter and her husband so that he and his selfish businessman constituency can play "business-as-usual" and where dreamy Justin Trudeau sides with Big Pharma against vaccinating the world while "progressive" Montreal Simon jerks himself off to all the dreaminess.

In other news, David Sirota says it's hard not to think that Joe Biden and the Democrats want to lose in 2022

On the one hand, we see congressional Democrats casting themselves as the heroes of a West Wing episode, rightly screaming about all the web of connections between the January 6 rioters, right-wing news outlets, and top Donald Trump administration officials, who appear to have been entertaining plans for an actual coup.

On the other hand, we see Democrats fully leaning into a likely 2022 disaster. They are going far beyond merely refusing to give Americans an affirmative reason to vote for them;  in sabotaging their own purported agenda, they seem to be deliberately trying to lose to the very fascists they claim to oppose, going out of their way to insult and harm as many voters as possible before their likely collapse.

Of course they do. It's hard to blame the Republicans for stopping all your initiatives when you control the House, the Senate and the Executive. They know people are seeing through this bullshit. But Biden is such a low-functioning moron that he probably thinks people will really be fooled by his giving the Repugs control of the legislature and then saying Repug control is the solitary reason why he can't do anything for them.

I wonder how Democratic Party hack blogger Driftglass would respond to that essay?

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Capitalism is going to KILL US ALL


[NOTE: I don't have any prepared thoughts on the latest foreign-policy insanity, but I still feel the need to mention the recent hypocritical drivel coming out of Washington about Russia and China. Canada's Liberal government continues to embarrass us by going along 101% with the USA's "diplomatic boycott" of China over something. Also, the country that employed lies to invade Iraq and which lied about "winning" in Afghanistan for over twenty years is now telling us that Russia wants to invade the Ukraine and that China is all set to invade Taiwan. The country that destroyed Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and other countries, and which is currently committing crimes against humanity in Iran and Venezuela with the imposition of illegal starvation sanctions and whose ruling elites happily consign tens of thousands of their own citizens to needless death to preserve the profits of private health insurance providers, is just SOOOOO concerned about the well-being of Ukrainians and Taiwanese that it's willing to go to war to protect them from the threats from Russia and China. Meanwhile, US ally Saudi Arabia has a free pass to commit genocide in Yemen. What stupid bullshit.]

Saturday, December 4, 2021

The Mental and Moral Consequences of Long-Term Partisan Hackery


I usually don't read the idiot anymore but it was morbid curiosity that made me click on the link to his blog at the blog-roll of The Galloping Beaver.  Montreal Simon was writing about the Liberal's anti-conversion-therapy bill and something about the Conservative Party's fraudulent behaviour. As I've been saying for years now, I don't follow the news closely anymore. And last I'd heard, the Liberals had a bill that hadn't passed the Senate before Justin Trudeau called that totally unnecessary election last September. 

You can read about what happened at his blog if you're interested. All I want to point out is this bit of narcissistic, self-righteous, hypocritical drivel that Simon (as he descends further into madness) felt compelled to include:

P.S. I'd like to end my post with that, but I couldn't help noticing that none of the old geezers at Progressive Bloggers bothered to write a word about this significant step in the human rights struggle in this country.

Including those who are retired TEACHERS.

How dare they call themselves progressives? Why do they bother to blog?

What bloody FRAUDS...

Really Simon? Let's ignore the stupid ageism. Simple Simon is going to be old himself one day. I'm sure he'll be delighted to hear his critics dismiss his opinions, not only for their stupidity, but also due to his geezerdom.  Let's deal with the hypocrisy. Currently the RCMP (a federally-run institution) has invaded the sovereign territory of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, (the First Nations' well-being is the stated responsibility of the Canadian federal government) in order to advance a natural gas pipeline that will only increase Canada's greenhouse gas emissions (which the Trudeau government itself committed to reducing at the latest international climate-change conference). 

Simon has said NOTHING about this. Instead he has chosen to continue to deflect with his obsessive chronicling of the doings of the opposition Conservative Party of Canada.  I condemn both the Trudeau Liberals and the BC NDP in this matter. Montreal Simon just imitates Sergeant Schultz from "Hogan's Heroes" and says "I see nothing!!"

But speaking of global warming, ... one writer after another after another after another wrote about how the results of the COP26 were a disaster for the world. The wealthy countries made empty promises and uttered platitudes. And Trudeau played his role as the errand boy of Canada's (foreign-dominated) fossil fuels industry and the privileged Bay Street elite mediocrities who invest in it. But Simon managed to find one commentator, Michael Mann, who (for whatever reasons, which I personally think was mainly an attempt to avoid the doom and gloom that continues to descend upon climate activists) chose to write as if these politicians meant their promises and that some of those promises were very big indeed. Then, like the crude, untalented propagandist he is, Simon uses Mann's opinion to talk about Canadian opinion polls showing majority support for genuine policies to reduce global warming and then somehow uses those opinion polls to argue that Justin ("No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and leave them there") Trudeau is committed to taking on the Petro-State here in Canada. What a fucking joke. Goddamnit! Global warming is going to kill us all and Trudeau has neither the courage or the inclination to stand up to Calgary and Bay Street and yet Simple Simon continues to demand that we all drop to our knees and worship him!

Has Simon said anything about his precious dreamboat Trudeau's defense of the profitability rights of Big Pharma over the lives of literally BILLIONS of people in the Global South (and also the well-being of those billions and the few billion more in the wealthier countries which will be compromised as COVID-19 continues?)

Has Simon ever acknowledged the ghastliness of Canada's foreign policy under Trudeau and the rancid Crystia Freeland? To take just one example; Our targetting Venezuela with murderous sanctions because of trumped-up "human rights" concerns in the so-called "Lima Group" which is itself filled with genuine fascist mass-murderers?  No. Simon would rather write about the opposition Conservative's internal problems on an almost daily basis than confront the monstrousness of his dreamboat Justin Trudeau.

At the end of the day you have to take stock of Simon's record of cowardice and deceit and ask if he isn't a shameless hypocrite. But I have to wonder if Simon has the brains to understand how and why he should be ashamed. As his blogging began to corrupt I would occasionally say that Simon's heart was in the right place. Because I didn't really think he had much in the way of penetrating intelligence. His criticisms of stephen harper were always more emotional than rational. And while I deludedly thought that harper would end up in prison, Simon would end post after post saying that "we" (the anti-harper resistance) would "defeat" and "destroy" him. It took a couple of years of disappointment for me to come to the conclusion that the left (or "progressives") are hopeless and that the world is a shit-hole of evil and failure. But Simon has never lost that intense desire to do battle with right-wing monsters.  Even when those monsters aren't in power and it is the Liberals who are continuing their policies. Maybe Simon genuinely can't see what a pathetic joke he is. Maybe he is simply too stupid to grasp that he is a partisan hack whose opinion is worth shit because of his towering hypocrisy.

I felt moved to write this post both out of personal disgust at that specific instance of Simple Simon's hypocrisy about "old geezers" not writing about the anti-conversion therapy bill. But I also think there's a wider relevance. The Liberal Party, the Democratic party in the USA, the BC NDP, ... all political parties, ... they're all filled with and supported by partisan hacks who ignore their own sins to focus on the sins of others. They all shriek and thunder about crimes elsewhere while committing similar or worse crimes. And to the extent that they succeed in deluding themselves and others, to that extent does humanity continue to stumble dowards the edge of the cliff.