Why I Quit Hollywood Revisited

Last September I wrote about a little film project named Monster Trucks, that hadn’t been released yet, and might not be. It was a post called  Why I Quit Hollywood and described the absolutely batshit crazy provenance of that movie project. The artistic endeavor, about monster trucks that are actually monsters (I get it, sure, like what you did there), was released this weekend with ads on TV and everything and amazingly enough it bombed.

Paramount had taken a $115 million write off on this film, whose concept came from the 4 year-old son of a studio executive. Maybe they’ll get to recoup a couple hundred grand. Maybe more if the weather is good this weekend in certain rural areas where they like (actual) monster trucks.

In a month they’ll be pushing it in ads for your cable system’s “on demand” service. As advertising will do, they’ll call it a recent “hit”.


A Cold Civil War

After 30 years of Reaganism, Bushism and now Trumpism, a devolution of the GOP and conservatism to pure nihilism and the demonization of FDR, the New Deal, Civil Rights, the Great Society, hell even the Enlightenment and math… we are in a Cold Civil War.

You heard it here first!

In summary- It was started by hard core conservatives in response to the evolution of our society in the 30s-60s. They hated the New Deal, hated unions, hated Civil Rights, hated Feminism, Secularism – literally everything that most people accepted as expansions of fairness and democracy (economic and political). Many were religious and previously uninvolved in secular politics. They started organizing in the mid-60s after Goldwater, rightwing millionaires creating think tanks. They gained steam in the late 60s around a perceived breakdown of law and order, in the north and especially the south (the Southern Strategy converting southern Democrats to Republicans over issues of culture, race).

Early 70s saw organization around school bussing and textbooks (not Roe v. Wade, believe or not, abortion didn’t become an issue until the 80s). Some people got on board because of Reagan and his exploitation of fear and the integration of Christian groups (Moral Majority, later Christian Coalition) with JohnBirch Society reactionaries and old fashioned conservatives. In 1976 a coalition nearly gave Reagan the GOP nomination over Ford but ultimately even they considered him too far out of the mainstream. Then in 1980 with hostages in Iran and 17% interest rates his rhetoric was mainstream enough.

Then came talk radio, a powerful mouthpiece for propaganda, pure and simple, and the culture wars were on. Christian conservatives announced that Democrats weren’t just wrong they were evil. Now we weren’t having mere political debates it was that their way was the righteous way decreed by Jesus and liberalism was Satanically inspired. Thrice divorced Newt Gingrich weaponized this thinking with the help of Frank Luntz who focus group tested phrases that would turn rational political positions into emotional battles, demonizing Democrats. Roger Ailes’ Fox News magnified that as the embodiment of his idea for “GOP TV” that he proposed to Nixon in 1968. It didn’t get done until 1996 when Rupert Murdoch committed to losing hundreds of millions of dollars to be a cable TV propaganda arm of the Republican Party. They lost money for a decade, but won elections.

Now we have a generation of Republicans raised not on Abraham Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt or even Reagan, but instead on Rush Limbaugh and the myths of the Reaganism, Republicanism, Christianism. Republican liberals were alienated, then the moderates. There are no more rational statesmen in the party anymore like Dole, Kemp, Ford. They’ve all swallowed a form of conservatism that Goldwater and Reagan wouldn’t recognize. And so here we are in a Cold Civil War where Republican refuse to work with Democrats for the sake of the country, they’re willing to pervert the electoral system to suppress the vote and gerrymander states in toxic partisan ways and most importantly lie – lie as a matter of course, because the ends justify the means.

If millions of Americans can be helped by something, but it was proposed by a Democrat, they have to be against it. Even if now it’s been in existence on the ground, saving lives, they’re committed to ending it and if people die, that’s a price worth paying for Republican victory. This would sound like a dystopian science fiction story if we weren’t living it, right now in real time.

Of course we’re talking about the ACA, but imagine this group of Republicans could have gotten control in 1939. Six years into Social Security they would have overturned it. Medicare would have been overturned in the 70s. Nothing is accepted, sacred, sacrosanct. Anything can be upended.

Marco Rubio Could End Tillerson, But Will He?

Little Marco did a fine job showing what an empty vessel Tillerson is.  It would seem that his intention would be to vote against, as anybody with integrity should (we’ll revisit this and he would probably be the only Repub. to vote no).  But having that kind of leverage might make Marco think to get a deal out of Trump for something he wants and then go ahead and vote yes.  Or, given that Rubio has not shown any propensity for integrity before, he might just have tantalized with his questioning and then vote yes anyway.  What does he care if he’s inconsistent and awful at his job?  He just got re-elected for a 6 year term after earning a horrible record and stating unequivocally he wouldn’t run again.

So I’ll be happy if he scuttled Tillerson, but I’m not holding my breath.

I’m also thinking that the GOP will end Obamacare and then, as legislative theater and gamesmanship, hold a series of ridiculous one off votes on bringing back certain aspects of the law like covering pre-existing conditions.  That would force Dems to vote with them to save those essential parts of the law.  It’ll be a joke exercise because you can’t actually separate any one of these aspects from the whole and expect it to work for insurance companies, etc., so it’ll be a meaningless exercise.  But after the vote McConnell will be able to say “see, we tried to help people and the Democrats voted against helping people.”

That’s going to happen.

I Know Where I Was 48 Years Ago This Day

One of my great regrets is that I never kept a diary because it really would be cool to be able to look back and know what you did and thought on any given day in your history.  (I also know the reason I never kept a diary is that constitutionally I am incapable of such a regular commitment to what amounts to trivia.)  Nevertheless, I can always connect to memories from that day January 12, 1969.

I watched the game with my father at my Aunt Ida’s apartment on 5th Avenue in Manhattan.  We watched in the den with a lot of other people.  She had a color TV.  Big deal in 1969.

Watched a rerun of The Mary Tyler Moore Show recently that showed the gang watching the 1973 Super Bowl on her 15 inch TV.  I’m thinking of getting a 60 inch.   So how much better is life today?  45 inches better!!!

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things (Like Cheaper Drugs)

Canadians pay less for pharmaceuticals than we do.  They can negotiate for lower prices from the pharmaceutical companies, and they do, and import American drugs for less money than we Americans pay.

Last night the United States Senate had a vote on the re-importation from Canada of drugs at lower prices, which would help a lot of people out who can’t afford their medicines now and also would create a two tier system that would break down Big Pharma’s non-competition scheme and force a show down.  Ultimately all Americans should pay those lower prices too.

Big Pharma’s bogus rationale is that those high American prices pay for their research and development. This is a lie and a very hard one to swallow (even with a spoonful of sugar) when the CEOs of those companies earn tens of millions and fly around in corporate jets and these companies spend hundreds of millions in lobbying, marketing and advertising. Very often that research and development they speak of is paid for by American tax dollars and then the findings are turned over to private companies who over charge us for the medicines developed.  That’s double taxation, baby.

Here’s the real rub:  we could have taken a bi-partisan step forward to lower drug prices for Americans last night.  But it was defeated 46-52.  Twelve Republican Senators supported the amendment!  But thirteen Democrats voted against it, including my two Senators, Cory Booker and Bob Menendez.  Their offices must be called to wag a verbal finger at them.  These people have to be put on the record for this.  They have to be made to answer why they voted “no.”

  • Bennet (D-CO)
  • Booker (D-NJ)
  • Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Carper (D-DE)
  • Casey (D-PA)
  • Coons (D-DE)
  • Donnelly (D-IN)
  • Heinrich (D-NM)
  • Heitkamp (D-ND)
  • Menendez (D-NJ)
  • Murray (D-WA)
  • Tester (D-MT)
  • Warner (D-VA)

Having the pharmaceutical companies here in the Great Garden State are a mixed bag.  I pay lower property taxes where I live because of the concentration of companies in my neighborhood.  However, my Senators, well meaning as they may be on other issues are perpetually in the pockets of those same companies.

It is a shame.  I’ll let you know how my phone calls to their offices go.

The Big Russia/Trump Story (the one about golden showers) and Being Fair Minded

Let’s start with this:  I am against the death penalty.  However, for Dylann Roof I’m not exactly going to march in the streets.

Likewise, I am all for benefit of the doubt qualifications in journalism when a story is unproven and maybe unprovable.  Can we know for certain whether Trump’s administration has direct connections to Putin and Putin guided and helped the Trump campaign (other than the hacking of the electorate with fake news and the Wikileaks e-mail dump, which we can be pretty certain of)?  Maybe, maybe not?  Can we know if Putin and his operatives have compromising materials on Trump?  No, not likely.  Although it feels like we ALL have compromising information on Trump, it’s just that he doesn’t have shame and his followers have lost all sense of propriety.

However, Trump has so trafficked in smears and innuendo, so profited from stating things about his opponents as facts that clearly were unfounded allegations that I cannot possibly feel any qualms about such tactics being used against him.  Justice ain’t always swift or hygienic.

Every reference to “crooked” Hillary.  Every time he mentioned something written in an e-mail, not even written by Hillary Clinton and inferred something criminal.  Every time he stated that “we know” something is dirty, when we did not know any such thing.  The entire “lock her up” gambit.  The Comey letter which Trump touted as “they wouldn’t have sent this if they didn’t have big big stuff” when they hadn’t read the e-mails at all.

No.  If Trump gets tarred with golden showers the rest of his miserable life (despite the irony of him being a germophobe) it would be just fine by me.

Live by a lack of good faith and decency and die by the same.

All that said.  Josh Marshall notes that a lot of what’s in it is checkable and the reliability of operatives of our allies like MI6 is knowable.  The press should not “alledgedly” this to death – fair mindedness means allowing that intelligence services don’t throw this kind of stuff around willy nilly.

The End of Gerrymandering

Old Elbridge Gerry was a goat fucker, I’m convinced.

Gerrymandering, especially the weaponized form used by the GOP to intentionally screw the Democrats, isn’t just a product of politics ain’t beanball.  No, what the GOP did in states like AZ, MI, WI, NC, PA and OH was downright undemocratic and courts have found it so.

The difficulty in curbing partisan gerrymandering has not been in convincing judges that the practice is unconstitutional—the Supreme Court has found that it is—it’s convincing judges that they can fix it.

Redistricting in such a discriminatory way just has to go (along with money in politics and the electoral college).  Slate has the story of how it might go, faster and sooner than people think (but not soon enough).

But first a reminder that in the debates about how the democrats have lost thousands of seats over the last decade, a large chunk of that is because of this toxic gerrymandering.

The imbalance was particularly apparent in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where Democrats won more than half the votes but less than half the congressional seats.

Also, too, in addition to that let’s be reminded that states like Kentucky and West Virginia, along with lots of seats in the South were just vestigially Democratic in the 21st century. Local conservative pols who remained Democratic because of tradition, finally switched over after  decades of voting with the GOP.

So while I’m not arguing that the Dems don’t have to make structural and strategic changes to how they do business, it’s not as bad as some would have you think.

Litigator Paul Smith thinks he can get the Supreme Court to rule that gerrymandering violates  individual’s rights to free speech and equal protection.  If so a huge problem of political injustice is corrected…

Until somebody, probably a Republican, figures out another way to do it.