I Love Democracy

I Love Democracy

As regular readers know, I used to be a libertarian. I was even involved with the Libertarian Party and went to various events held by it and by other libertarian groups. So I understand the movement as a whole and to a lesser extent, I understand conservatism. One thing that all libertarians understand is that theirs is not a popular ideology. And it never will be. That’s one of the great sadnesses of being a libertarian: as much as you think the philosophy is perfect, you know that most people will never agree with you.

Make no mistake, libertarianism as well as conservatism are elitist beliefs. Almost all fellow travelers agree that it is best if fewer people vote. The idea that voting should be as easy as possible goes against their interests, but I doubt that most of them think this is the reason they are not fans of democracy. Instead, arguments go something like this: people who aren’t willing to go out of their way to vote don’t pay much attention to politics anyway and thus shouldn’t vote. For these people, voting is privilege, not a right, much less an obligation of citizenship.

As a result of my experiences, I’m not at all surprised that conservatives have taken to voter suppression with such abandon. They think it is not only okay, it is right. They think that democracy is a bad thing that must be stopped as much as possible. Now, there is a lot of racism and sexism buried deep in this. But it is not what voter suppress is all about at its core. I recommend reading Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind. In that book, he shows that what really defines conservatism from Edmund Burke onward is a resistance to the expanded inclusion of people who count as eligible voters. And modern conservatives have never really gotten over the idea that the votes of the poor ought to count as much as the votes of the rich.

This is well on display in the Supreme Court. In an excellent article, The Right to Vote, Norm Ornstein sums up the recent decision gutting the Civil Rights Act:

The reasoning employed by Chief Justice John Roberts in Shelby County—that Section 5 of the act was such a spectacular success that it is no longer necessary—was the equivalent of taking down speed cameras and traffic lights and removing speed limits from a dangerous intersection because they had combined to reduce accidents and traffic deaths.

All it really means is that Roberts and the other conservatives on the court are not keen on democracy and so they found a justification for allowing Republican controlled states to go back to the bad old days when only the “right” kind of people were able to vote.

Ornstein thinks the solution is a constitutional amendment. Although I think that would be a good idea, it isn’t going to happen. And the reason it isn’t going to happen is that conservatives don’t believe in democracy. A lot of people think they can be shamed out of this belief, but I think if we give them enough pressure, they will start proclaiming their distaste for the foundational basis of our republic. As it is, much of the conservative movement now wants to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment that made Senators elected directly by the people. This is not a group that will have a problem publicly dismissing democracy as “mob rule.”

I wish I had a solution to these problems. More and more, our nation seems to be trapped by our outdated Constitution. As it is, far too much power is given to sparsely populated states. These conservative “taker” states will never allow the nation to reform itself itself. Apart from the big states cutting themselves up, I don’t see a normal way forward. I think about this every time I hear some conservative politician claim that the US Constitution is the greatest document ever written. One could only think that if he had never read another country’s constitution. Many improvements have been made. But the very basis of ours keeps from enactment any of the great innovations over the last 226 years. This is how great countries die: when a selfish minority stops the majority from leading it into the future. Of course, I say that because I’m a liberal. I believe in democracy.

Romantics Anonymous Copyright Dispute

Romantics AnonymousAm I pissed off? Yes, I am extremely angry. But did I hide it well? I think so.

Our copyright system is totally fucked up. But it is made far worse by YouTube’s pathetic policy that any corporation can claim copyright to anything and it is up to people like me to prove that I’m not breaking the law. We may be innocent until proven guilty in a criminal court (although that’s mostly a crock too), but in the modern world, that only applies to corporations. They are innocent basically in perpetuity. We individuals are guilty until proven innocent.

I just got an email from YouTube:

Dear Frank Moraes,

Your video “My Favorite Scene from Romantics Anonymous“, may have content that is owned or licensed by Studio Canal, but it’s still available on YouTube! In some cases, it may be blocked, or ads may appear next to it.

This claim is not penalizing your account status. Visit your Copyright Notice page for more details on the policy applied to your video.

– The YouTube Team

I posted this video 10 months ago. At the time, there was one of those automatic claims. I had used 38 seconds from the film Romantics Anonymous and the computer complains. One would think that the program would only balk if it were longer than say two minutes. But no. I assume if you put in two seconds it would balk. Anyway, I was kind of looking forward to the whole thing because I had been through it with Fox over a clip from Arrested Development. Fox agreed with me and that was that. But in the case of Studio Canal’s claim, it just disappeared. So when I got this email, I was angry. I’d already filed a dispute. And I love Romantics Anonymous. It really bugs me that the owner is being such a dick about this whole thing when my only inclination is to make them more money.

Here is my official dispute, cleaned up for publishing here:

I went through this before when I first posted the video! And then it was just dropped as far as I could tell. I never got confirmation as I did from Fox about another video. The basics are that this is a short clip inside a longer video that was used as part of one of my many articles about the film:

Romantics Anonymous
My Favorite Scene from Romantics Anonymous
Humanity Over Art
American Myth and Escape Plan

This is all advertising for the film, which I gush about at the slightest provocation. I have used 38 seconds of the film as part of my continuing effort to get people to watch it. Studio Canal does itself no favor by questioning my right to witness on behalf of its film.

Finally: make a decision! I hate the idea that anyone can accuse me of infringing on copyright. I take this stuff very seriously. Look at my other videos! I don’t post large blocks of videos. My point is never to deprive copyright holders of payment; it is to provide them with a greater audience. But if the answer is no, so be it. Let’s take it down! I don’t want to be a copyright infringer in France but not America. It’s either legal or it isn’t. This little video should not be so close to the legal line that different countries have different opinions. And if it is, our copyright system is even more broken than I had thought.

Anyway, they are fucking assholes the lot of them at Studio Canal and YouTube. But I am going to try avoid letting it spoil this wonderfully sweet film for me.

Business Will Not Give Up on GOP

Martin LongmanMartin Longman over at Political Animal has been writing about how the business community might try to take back the Republican Party. He also mentions how they are interested in a third party. You know, all that Third Way bullshit. Now, I think from a practical standpoint, there is absolutely nothing to it. The business community may have backed away from people like Ken Cuccinelli, but that’s not because they are freaks and extremists; it’s because they see that they are unlikely to win.

But on the broader point, I agree: a lot of business leaders are unhappy with the Republican Party. The problem is that they always have been. In general, they don’t like the social conservatism on the right. They prefer the supposed libertarian leanings of the Republicans. So they want to pay less taxes and they want zero regulations. But they also want the crony capitalist side of the party. They want the government to grease the wheels of the market with safe transportation systems, a solid currency, and those lucrative government contracts. So they don’t want the Defense of Marriage Act and anti-abortion laws? Big deal! They’ve been grumbling about this kind of stuff for decades but it’s always been a small price to pay for all the goodies the Republican Party gives them.

I understand where Longman is coming from. Having a totally crazy, extremist Republican Party is bad for the Democratic Party. It is bad for America! And I would very much like to see the Republicans become more reasonable. But it just isn’t the case that this is going to happen via the “adults” in the party. I get so tired of talking about this, but would someone please show me how it is that the supposedly reasonable Republicans are anything but extremists? The business leaders may want immigration reform, but that’s about the only reasonable position they hold. And even there, they want reform that is almost entirely for the benefit of the business community. A decade and a half path to citizenship doesn’t show any concern for the actual people. And if the business leaders could get reform without any path to citizenship, they would.

What we are seeing is the same old attitude of the business elites: they want it all. That’s what Third Way is all about: a conservative movement without the rough edges. One where business interests don’t have to compromise on anything. Well, that’s just not the way that politics works. And the hybrid libertarian-crony-capitalist ideology that corporate America wants is really, really unpopular. So they are going to have to compromise with someone and there is no indication that they think the government shutdowns and Debt Ceiling threats are not worth everything that the Republicans will give them.

One of my main historical observations is that the New Democratic movement has destroyed both liberalism and conservatism in this country. And it did it by moving the Democratic Party far to the right on economic issues. The Democratic Party is now more pro-business than the Republican Party. Yet the business community hasn’t noticed this. There would be compromises if they moved over to the Democratic Party, but no more than there currently are with the Republican Party. But they continue to hang around in the Republican Party, hoping that it will move to the left on the issues they want them to. But if the party did that, it would have no constituency. If the Republicans moderated on abortion rights, they would lose half of their voters.

The United States has long been screwed up in the way we see business. Hollywood stars are not our aristocracy. Business leaders are. All you have to do is watch an episode of Shark Tank to see how we’ve been trained to see these billionaires as our betters—even as the people seeking money are clearly their betters. And this obsession with wealth and power hurts the wealthy and powerful most of all. It turns them into immature idiots who think the world is out of kilter if they don’t get everything they want. Well, in terms of the Republican Party, they will never get all they want. Their power is dependent on hating gays, women, and immigrants. And that’s a deal they’ve lived with this long, and they will continue to live it. Or they will as long as the Republicans continue to win elections.

Night of the Tom Savini

Tom SaviniOn or about this day in 1558, the great Elizabethan playwright Thomas Kyd was born. He more or less invented the revenge play—a genre that is still with us today. Think: The Expendables 2 where the hero is far more concerned with killing the villain than stopping him from flooding the world with Plutonium. Kyd was one of the biggest playwrights of that time. In fact, he seems to have been roommates with Christopher Marlowe. This eventually led to his downfall. In 1593, the authorities searched his lodgings and found a heretical book, which he most likely got from Marlowe. This ended in Kyd’s imprisonment and the loss of his patronage. And he died shortly after. We don’t know what the cause was, but a great conspiracy could be developed given that it wasn’t long after Marlowe’s death.

Comedian Dennis Miller is 60 today. I hate him. I remember that he had a liberal political show on some pay channel many years ago. And then he just changed on a dime and became conservative. Now this isn’t surprising. His opinions when he was a liberal didn’t seem any more wedded to reality than his conservative opinions do today. That’s true of most people. I don’t find Democrats or Republicans to be very clear in their political thinking, although you pretty much have to be delusional to be a Republican today. And if the country took a sharp left turn, I’m sure that Miller would find his way back to liberalism. The main problem with him is that his entire act is now and has always been attitude. There isn’t much substance there. It’s good he’s found his place at Fox News because he doesn’t have much to offer as a comedian.

Actor Kevin Murphy is 57. He is best known as Tom Servo V. 2 in one of my favorite shows Mystery Science Theater 3000. But let’s face it, Crow he ain’t. And Tom has latent negative feelings toward Crow as you can see in the following scene:

Comedian Dylan Moran is 42.

Other birthday: Baroque painter Annibale Carracci (1560); the father of Texas Stephen Austin (1793); politician Michael Dukakis (80); comedian Roseanne Barr (61); musician Adam Ant (59); and the great film writer and director Gary Ross (57).

The day, however, belongs to the great filmmaker Tom Savini who is 67 today. It is probably best to describe him as a special effects make-up artist. But he does a whole lot more than that: general special effects, acting, stunts, productions. But I’ve put him here because he directed the stellar remake of Night of the Living Dead. I can do no better than quote Joe Bob Briggs’s review of the film:

I admit it, I was a scoffer. I didn’t believe they could do it. Me of little faith. Night of the Living Dead—regarded by the drive-in-going public of the world as the greatest movie ever made—was rewritten two years ago, and a remake was announced. Not only did it have the blessing of George Romero, but George Romero was gonna write and produce the remake.

Excuse me, but this would be like Mark Twain waking up one morning and saying “You know that Huck Finn thing I did? I don’t like it anymore. I’m doing it again.” And so everybody went “George! No! Please! You must be senile! Don’t try it!” But he did it. He turned over the direction to Tom Savini, his special-effects makeup guy, the man whose made a whole career out of building slimy pus-filled ghoul faces. We kept trying to talk him out of it. “George, don’t do it! We love the black-and-white! It won’t work in color!” But he kept on…

This time, with professional actors, with color, with special effects, with zombies that out-zombie the original zombies, they’ve told the exact same story, with about five minutes of changes in the plot, just enough to give it a great surprise at the end, and even though you’ve seen it before, and even though you know what the zombies are gonna do, and even though you know what each of the people inside the house are gonna do, it still scares the bejabbers out of you and satisfies the first rule of drive-in moviemaking: anybody can die at any moment.

I’m humiliated that I was such a doubter. I apologize to Mr. Savini and Mr. Romero. Wheel in the Academy members from Palm Springs. Hook up their IV’s. Force em to watch this. Because, as Barbara says, “They’re us. We’re them and they’re us.”

Here is a great clip of Tom Savini with David Letterman. It’s very funny and Savini seems very sweet, but maybe that’s just in comparison to Letterman.

Happy birthday Tom Savini!

Connection Connection Connection

HoldingHandsOf all the ADD experts my favorite, so far, has to be Edward Hallowell, MD. I love him! His take is that, rather than a disorder, ADD is a trait.

One very important thing I’ve learned from Dr. Hallowell is that the greatest influence on future success, whether a child has ADD or not, is a sense of connection. There are many different types, not just connection with family or friends.

In his book, Super-Parenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child, Dr. Hallowell lists many of the possible ways of connecting, “multiple points that hold a child in place, stabilizing her and giving her joy as well as direction.

*Connection to family-This is of the greatest importance, but it doesn’t mean without conflict. There can be arguments, but the important thing is to stay engaged. Make sure to spend time together. Have dinner once in awhile, and make sure to have fun, as well. Converse.

*Connection to friends and neighborhood (I would say community)-Whether an introvert or extrovert, humans are social creatures. Friendships are important for a good quality of life. Set a good example for your children by valuing your own friendships, and support your children’s friendships.

*Connection to school or work (In our case, it would be our homeschool community.)-With respect to this category, making sure your child feels safe here is what is important rather than how well he does academically.

*Connection to activities you love-The more things one can find to enjoy, the more chances there are for one to be happy. Let your child experiment with many things.

*Connection to the past-Have children listen to their grandparents. Research family histories by studying genealogy.

*Connection to nature and special places-In our high-tech world it is easy to experience nature deprivation, but children are inherently connected to nature. Make a point of getting yours outside to experience it. If you live in a big city, simply find a park with some trees and birds.

*Connection to the arts-It doesn’t matter what, music, sculpture, drawing, painting, or poetry. Find something in this category that your child enjoys. It will enrich her life.

*Connection to pets and other animals-I will just quote what Dr. Hallowell writes. “All kids ought to have a pet if possible. Pets provide a special connection, like no other.”

*Connection to information and ideas-The most important thing here is that a child does not feel afraid of learning and connecting to new ideas. According to Hallowell, the greatest learning disability is fear.

*Connection to groups, teams, clubs, institutions-Again, I will quote Dr. Hallowell. “Groups such as these instill a sense of responsibility as well as providing an introduction to the power and joy of a group or team effort.”

*Connection a spiritual practice-Though it can be formal, it does not have to be. It is simply good to be open to discussing the big questions, such as why and how we are here.

*Connection to oneself-This will naturally grow as your child finds connection with other things. Make sure to nurture your child’s unique qualities and gifts. This will allow for his own self-acceptance.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Hallowell, check out his website by clicking here.

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici and FreeDigitalPhotos.net)