The Rich Are the True Class Warriors

Your VoteI’ve written a lot around here about the fact that we do have more or less a class war. But it isn’t like conservatives would have you believe. It isn’t that the poor are jealous of the rich. It is that the rich just hate the poor. As I show in It’s the Poor, Stupid, in general, the poor vote liberal and rich vote conservative. That’s just everyone voting their own self-interest. How can I say that the rich hate the poor?

Yesterday, Paul Waldman wrote a very interesting article at The American Prospect, Why Can’t You Miserable Commoners Be Happier With Your Lot? In it, he quotes a study by Page, Bartels, and Seawright, Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans (pdf). Unlike pretty much all polls that at most look at people in the broad category of making “over $100,000 per year,” this study looks at the truly rich. And it finds that the rich are downright mean (my word, not theirs).

The best example is how people responded the statement, “The government in Washington ought to see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a job.” The general public was in favor of this with 68%. But the rich? Only 19% of them were in favor of this. We’re not talking about giving a handout here. We are talking about government policy to allow people to earn a living.

The only justification I can think of for this is that the rich believe that if the government helps in this way, it will raise wages. The poor won’t be as dependent upon the rich and thus the rich will lose money and power. That’s a vile attitude, but it is also stupid. The economics are not that simple. It’s funny that the rich believe that “a rising tide lifts all boats” when it comes to enriching the rich. But when it comes to enriching the poor (where it’s more true), they don’t believe it.

Another interesting aspect of the report is spending priorities. These range from -100 (meaning they really want to cut them) to +100 (meaning they really want to fund them). The general public gave education funding +50. The rich still support it, but not as strongly: +31. Never believe a conservative who tells you they support equality of opportunity. Similarly, they are against Social Security with a score of -33 compared to a general public score of +46.

This is sad but not surprising, because it’s human nature. And given this, there are obvious policy implications. In the United States, we have a democracy only in a theoretical sense. Our elected officials listen almost exclusively to the rich. It’s even worse than that. There is a widely held belief that the rich are disinterested truth-tellers while the poor are self-interested. This is, of course, self-serving. It provides our leaders with the justification for ignoring the thoughts and needs of the vast majority of the country.

There is at least one thing we can all do: vote. Even the problems with the Democratic Party’s move to the right over the last four decades can be reversed if the poor start voting as much as the rich. Voting is the one aspect of democracy that we still have control over.


I do wonder, though. If the poor really did start voting and the country started being a real democracy, would the rich find a way to stop this? I’m not just talking voter ID laws. Look at Michigan with their anti-democratic state-imposed city “managers.” In general, you can count on the elites not believing in democracy and we see them more and more willing to admit it publicly.

Circling the Sun With Copernicus

Nicolaus CopernicusOn this day in 1924, the chess Grandmaster David Bronstein was born. In 1951, he made it to the World Chess Championship to challenge Mikhail Botvinnik. And over the course of 24 games, they ended tied with 12 points each—five wins each, and 14 draws. So Botvinnik retained the championship. Garry Kasparov claims that based upon the quality of the play, Bornstein should have won. He was an extremely innovative player and one of the greatest chess writers. And shockingly, he won a major tournament at the age of 70.

John Frankenheimer was born in 1930. He was a great director whose films included a string of three in the early 1960s: Birdman of Alcatraz, The Manchurian Candidate, and Seven Days in May. He is best known for thrillers, such as Black Sunday. And then there is Ronin. I’m very fond of it: a very intelligent action film. It had some of the best car chases I had ever seen. This included a chase going the wrong way down a freeway. And then, I started seeing that in just about every movie. I’m pretty sure Ronin was the one that started it. Now, I hate to see it. But I still think this is pretty cool. Those other directors are amateurs.

The singer and songwriter Smokey Robinson is 74 today. I don’t have a lot to say other than he really is one of the greatest songwriters ever. Here he is doing “Tears of a Clown”:

Other birthdays: playwright David Garrick (1717); physical chemist Svante Arrhenius (1859); sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876); expressionist painter Gabriele Munter (1877); actor Merle Oberon (1911); actor Lee Marvin (1924); game designer Danielle Bunten Berry (1949); novelist Amy Tan (62); fine actor Jeff Daniels (59); novelist Helen Fielding (56); actor Justine Bateman (48); and another really good actor Benicio del Toro (47).

The day, however, belongs to Nicolaus Copernicus who was born on this day in 1473. He’s the guy who put together the first model of the solar system with the sun in the middle. That was a brilliant insight. I remember a story about student talking to his teacher, “Those primitive people were so stupid to think the sun goes around the earth.” And the teacher replied, “Yes, just imagine how it would have looked if that were true!” The point is that it would look the same. There is nothing obvious about thinking the earth goes around the sun. Indeed, did you see this article, Poll: 26 Percent in US Do Not Know Earth Goes Around Sun. And the funny thing? “[Americans] did better than EU residents on the question about whether Earth moves around the sun.” Go figure.

There’s an interesting thing about Copernicus’ model, though. It wasn’t very successful. He had a brilliant insight, but it still wasn’t right. He had planets moving around the sun in circles. Well, they don’t move in circles. The world had to wait almost a hundred years for Johannes Kepler’s insight that the planets moved in ellipses. (Yes, I know that circles are ellipses!) So all those old models with the earth at the center of the universe might have been complicated, but they were still better at predicting where things would be in the sky. So old Copernicus made a necessary (And difficult!) contribution to knowledge, but all alone, it wasn’t sufficient to improve the practical science.

Also: Copernicus was old. And wise. He waited until he was dying to publish his book. No torture for him! That’s my kind of guy.

Happy birthday Nicolaus Copernicus!

Liberalism in American and at FC

Obama NopeA couple of months ago, Milt Shook wrote a good blog post, Of Course Obama’s Progressive! Give Him More Democrats, See What Happens. I have many problems with Obama, but he is basically right. Any politician has to be seen in the context of the political environment that he is part of. There is an unfortunate tendency among liberals to look back fondly on Reagan and Nixon. And indeed, on domestic issues, Nixon was pretty good. What I think people forget is that these men existed in a political environment. Nixon could not act like Ted Cruz does now. What’s more, if Nixon were alive and in politics today, he would be as extreme as any of them. Ditto (even more so) for Reagan.

However, Obama is the result of a 50 year assault on the political Overton Window. Republicans do not need to win elections; they have already pushed the political battle ground so far to the right that what now passes as liberal, is at best what passed as center or even center right a few decades ago.

Recently, I asked some of my readers to take the Political Compass test. The results were highly skewed, because my writing doesn’t exactly appeal to conservatives. You can see them all as black dots in the lower left hand corner of the graph:

Political Compass Results

My results were -7.75 on the left-right scale and -7.23 on the authoritarian-libertarian scale: (-7.75,-7.23). The average of all of us was (-7.10,-7.56) with 90% confidence limits of (2.73,0.95). As you can see in the graph, the website owners have tried to assess the scores of famous people. Some of these are about right. In particular, I think Francois Hollande is correct: very slightly liberal, very slightly libertarian. The Dalai Lama, however, is way off—he ought to be down with all the Frankly Curious black dots.

Mitt Romney - No We Can'tI was quite interested in where they put the last presidential race. Obama got a score of (+7,+6). Romney got a score of (+8.5,+7.5). Overall, I think these scores are a little extreme. I don’t actually think that Romney is that bad, although that isn’t far off from where he campaigned. I also think I’d give Obama something more along the lines of (+3,+2).

I like Obama and in general, he is leading the country better than any president during my lifetime. But he is constrained by the neoliberal ideology of the New Democratic movement that he is very much a part of. The Republican Party may have been taken over by the Tea Party base. But the Democratic Party has been taken over by the New Democrats. They aren’t all bad, but they believe in a lot of economic policy that is just wrong. Still, I support them because they continue to believe in facts and they are at base practical.

The bottom line is that we need to destroy the Republican Party. Then we can fight about liberalism. I believe that the modern Democratic Party would make an excellent set of parties. One liberal (the New Deal/Great Society part that I am proud to include myself in) and one conservative (the New Democrats with their “free” trade agreements and ending welfare as we know it).

And here at the People Republic of Frankly Curious, well, you all know what you are!

Republican Hypocrisy of Minimum Wage

Raise the Minimum Wage?

Yesterday, the CBO came out with an estimate of the effects that a rise in the minimum wage would have on the economy. They determined that an increase of the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would cause a range of effects on the economy from the loss of as many one million jobs to a gain of a small number of jobs. Their “most likely” estimate is a loss of a half million jobs or roughly 0.35% of all jobs. The estimate for a $9.00 per hour minimum wage was a loss of 100,000 jobs, or roughly 0.07% of all jobs. Not surprising, the Republicans have run with this. Raising the minimum wage is a job killer!

There are a number of things to note about this. First is that this is a small number of lost jobs. Second, the purpose of raising the minimum wage is not to create jobs, even though there is a decent amount of evidence that it would do that. The idea is to allow those who work to get paid a reasonable wage. The Republican argument that we shouldn’t raise the minimum wage is the same as the argument for getting rid of the minimum wage altogether. I realize libertarians would make that argument, but very few mainstream Republicans would. And remember: according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 58% of Republican voters want the minimum wage increased.

Jonathan Chait brings up an excellent point about this, The Congressional Budget Office and the Bizarre, Partisan Jobs Debate. He takes a minor swipe at liberals, “[T]he party accustomed to heeding its findings has had to painfully spin.” I don’t think that’s right, but that’s all he has to say about that side. Quite rightly he focuses on the hypocrisy of the Republicans who are only ever interested in job losses when they come from programs for the poorer classes.

The Republicans were eager to end extended unemployment benefits. The CBO says that cost the country 200,000 jobs alone. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“the stimulus”) that Republicans claim did no good has increased employment today by between 100,000 and 800,000 jobs. And the Sequester that Republicans see as their greatest recent accomplishment has destroyed almost a million jobs with a range from a quarter million to a million and a half.

Add on to this all of the things that Republicans are not willing to do to create jobs and you get what you always get: a party that is focused exclusively on the rich. What I find amazing is that anyone listens to the Republicans on these matters. They are clearly disingenuous on matters of job creation. They don’t care at all about creating jobs. It is just a cudgel to use to argue for policies they do like: tax cuts for the rich, military spending, and cutting programs for the poor.

Many Words About Milos Forman

Milos FormanOn this day in 1848, Louis Comfort Tiffany was born. He did a lot of “decorative arts,” but is primarily known for his wonderful stained glass work. He was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the jeweler would founded Tiffany & Co. But Louis’ work really does stand on its own. I recommend clicking over and checking out a bit of his work. Of course, I have a great fondness for stained glass. I’m not sure why.

Charles Schwab was born in 1862. He isn’t that Charles Schwab. He was an engineer who went on to lead Bethlehem Steel very effectively. And then he lost all his money in the mid-1930s and died in poverty in 1939. How many times have you heard this story? It makes sense. In a truly free market, this is exactly what you would expect: opportunity to succeed also means opportunity to fail. But we don’t see this kind of thing anymore. Sure, working class people crash and burn all the time. But not the elite. And that’s because we don’t have a free market. In 2007 and 2008, there should have been any number of billionaires who lost everything. There should have been a number who went to jail. Instead, they all kept their wealth and their freedom. I would have a much higher opinion of Republicans if they would be for allowing the rich to fail. And of course, they will tell you they are. But when it comes down to it, they never are. Modern conservatism is best characterized as a religion that worships rich people.

Pee Wee King was born in 1914. He was one of the great country songwriters of the last century. He is best known for writing the music to “The Tennessee Waltz.” And that’s as good a reason as any to listen to David Bromberg’s great version of the song:

The great singer and songwriter Irma Thomas is 73 today. I love her work and especially the album Live: Simply the Best. Here she is doing “It’s Raining”:

Other birthdays: Bloody Mary (1516); inventor of the battery Alessandro Volta (1745); physicist Ernst Mach (1838); stainless steel inventor Harry Brearley (1871); actor Edward Arnold (1890); pediatrician Hans Asperger (1906); actor George Kennedy (89); cartoonist Johnny Hart (1931); novelist Toni Morrison (83); talentless rich person Yoko Ono (81); film writer-director John Hughes (1950); actor Cybill Shepherd (64); singer Juice Newton (62); actor John Travolta (60); actor Greta Scacchi (54); actor Matt Dillon (50); and Molly Ringwald (46).

The day, however, belongs to the great film director Milos Forman who is 82 today. He has made some of my favorite films: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ragtime, and The People vs Larry Flynt. And he’s had some notable failures like Valmont. One thing I really like about him is that he works closely with writers but generally doesn’t take screen credit. Of course, on Valmont he did take screen credit. And I think it is illustrative. The film is based upon Les Liaisons dangereuses. At more or less the same time, Dangerous Liaisons was released and it is the one that everyone has seen. There are many reasons why Valmont is an inferior adaptation, but the biggest one is that Forman and co-writer Jean-Claude Carriere decided that the ending where the Marquise de Merteuil gets her comeuppance wasn’t necessary. They decided that it was only in the book to appeal to the moralistic culture of the time. I totally disagree. I think we very much want to see her taken down—not because she is immoral but because she is an awful person. But I think it is great that they grappled with that question and made a reasonable, if ultimately incorrect decision.

My favorite of Forman’s films is the director’s cut of Amadeus. If you have not read it, I recommend reading my rather long discussion of the difference between the original released version of Amadeus and the director’s cut. The original version is very good. But the director’s cut is great. And I don’t think anyone else has addressed the issue, but I don’t think I’m alone in noting that something was slightly off in the original. However, I will warn you that most people seem to prefer the nice safe original version. But I expect more from my readers.

It is almost impossible to pick a scene from Forman’s work. Although he makes beautiful films, what’s more important is that he’s good at telling two hour long stories. But I picked a scene from Ragtime. This is a subplot in the movie (but a large part of the novel). It’s very sweet and funny:

Happy birthday Milos Forman!

Corpse in the Dorm

Nicholas BarnesOver the years, I have written a lot about the corpse under the bed. For those of you who do not know it, it is the story of motel guests who complain about a bad order that is determined to be a dead body rotting under the bed. What’s sad about the story is that it isn’t a legend. It happens all the time. Here’s one from just last year, Police Arrest 40-Year-Old Connected to Suspicious Death at Hickory Motel. And each and every story sounds pretty much the same, “One guest at the motel described smelling a foul odor Thursday, but it wasn’t until lunchtime Friday that police got the 911 call…”

To me, these stories are about a fundamental problem in our society. People don’t stuff dead Senators under motel room mattresses. They stuff people who they think no one will miss. It makes me think of Matthew 25:40, “To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.” Generally, the people who stuff bodies under beds are desperate and frightened people, but they are also serial killers. There is a larger indictment of society here.

Gawker reported last night, University of Chicago Student’s Body Found Decomposing in Dorm. It seems that 20-year-old Nicholas Barnes died in his dorm room over a week ago and just like the classic story, no one noticed until the smell of his rotting flesh started seeping out into the hall. This is, of course, very sad. A young man has died. But as a society, we should be ashamed that it took a bad smell to notice.

According to CBS News, Barnes was a Germanic Studies major who spent last fall in Austria. It quotes Dean of Students Susan Art, “Nick will be painfully missed. He was an excellent student, admired by faculty and peers alike.” I don’t doubt that this is true. And that makes it all the worse.

In our society, someone can be well liked with lots of what passes for friends now days. But when they disappear for a week, no one notices. The modern world allows us to have social connections that are a mile wide and an inch deep.

I used to just worry that as a society we were dividing into the worthy and the unworthy. But the death of Nicholas Barnes reminds me that our problems are much deeper than even that. We are becoming a society of individuals who only know how to interact in the most facile ways. Oh, you were sick? I just thought he decided to leave Twitter! I really question whether these are the kinds of lives we want to lead. But habit is a powerful thing. And we have developed some very bad habits.

Angry People and Democratic Wimps

Thomas FrankThomas Frank is back with a great article at Salon, The Matter With Kansas Now: The Tea Party, the 1 Percent and Delusional Democrats. It is the angriest I have ever seen from Frank. He argues that the pseudo-populism of the Republican base did not come about in a vacuum. The base really is angry at the elites of the country, but while the Republicans appealed to that in the most disingenuous way, the Democrats did nothing.

The only word I disagree with is “nothing.” The Democrats actively pushed the social conservatives away by turning into a socially liberal but economically conservative party. As a result, the social conservatives had no choice but to go with the Republicans. They could either get social conservatism with economic elitism from the Republicans, or social liberalism with economic elitism from the Democrats. At the same time, economic liberals have been effectively demoralized. They will vote for the Democratic Party, but they are none too excited about it.

Frank sums up what happened pretty well:

Democrats essentially did nothing while their pals in organized labor were clubbed to the ground; they leaped enthusiastically into action, however, when it was time to pass NAFTA and repeal Glass-Steagall. Working-class voters had nowhere else to go, they seem to have calculated, and — whoops! — they were wrong.

The problem is that being wrong hasn’t changed them. After the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, we needed up with yet another New Democrat who on economic issues is only distinguished from the Republicans in being slightly less eager to enact more neoliberal policies. It almost makes me think there was a conspiracy. The power elite took control of both parties so that we would have no real choice on economic issues. Then they made the Republicans so crazy on social issues that liberals dare not go to a third party for fear that it would cause a Republican to win. In this conspiracy theory, Ralph Nader would be key.

Of course, we need no conspiracy. It is simply that money is extremely important in politics. Politicians have to appeal to those who have money. They do it by giving them the rich policies that they want. Frank’s solution is for the Democratic Party to make a populist turn on economic issues. But the fundamentals of politics push against that. We see that right now in the jockeying for the Democratic presidential nomination. The reason that everyone thinks Clinton is unbeatable is only partly because of her poll numbers. The bigger issue is that she will be a fundraising juggernaut. And I don’t think anyone expects that as president she will be anything much different from her husband or Obama. Remember: Obama got lots of little donations, but he’s governed entirely in the interests of his big donors.

I expect for this to continue on for the rest of my life. As it is, in the mainstream press “liberalism” has been redefined to mean what I call “social liberalism.” But there is no doubt that the Democratic Party is better on economic issues than the Republican Party. The Republicans want to makes things far worse while the Democrats want to limit how fast things get far worse. But Thomas Frank is right: even on the level of electoral politics, it is likely that the Democrats will lose. There are too many people who are angry and if the Democrats don’t appeal to that on a rational level, the Republicans will on an irrational level.

Isabelle Eberhardt’s Worthwhile Life

Isabelle EberhardtOn this day in the early part of the 20th century, we saw three fine actors born. The first is Kathleen Freeman who was born in 1919. She was a character actor over five decades known for her acerbic roles. I’m sure you’ve seen her countless times. She was, for example, in 11 Jerry Lewis films where she was his foil. She was also in Support Your Local Sheriff. And, most of all, she played General Burkhalter’s sister in Hogan’s Heroes. She was always great, spicing up anything she was in.

Our second actor is Hal Holbrook who is 89 today. About a decade ago, I dragged my wife to see him in Mark Twain Tonight. I knew it from my childhood. Then as now, I think there is little that can compare to a great actor on stage all alone. But she had no idea what to expect and was high skeptical. Of course, she loved it. How can anyone not? He’s done much else of note. But I don’t think this part of his career gets enough attention. So here is seven minutes of him doing Twain:

And the third actor is Alan Bates who was born in 1934. He had a long and varied career. But I most remember him for two of his later films. First there is Claudius in Zeffirelli’s Hamlet. And then there is his fantastic performance as Jennings, the alcoholic butler, in Gosford Park. I wish Bates had lived longer.

Other birthdays: astronomer Tobias Mayer (1723); stethoscope inventor Rene Laennec (1781); the man they named the line after, Andre Maginot (1877); evolutionary biologist Ronald Fisher (1890); mathematician Abraham Fraenkel (1891); activist Huey Newton (1942); actor Rene Russo (60); if I were a southerner, a comedian who would embarrass me, Larry the Cable Guy (51); basketball player Michael Jordan (51); hack film director Michael Bay (49); and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (33).

The day, however, belongs to the writer and activist Isabelle Eberhardt who was born on this day in 1877. She lived much of her adult like in Algeria during the French occupation. And she was often in conflict with it as she worked to help the native people. I wrote about her last year with regard to a biopic about her, Isabelle Eberhardt. My initial assessment of her has only grown stronger the more I’ve learned. As I wrote then:

The film ends with Eberhardt’s death due to a flash flood that destroys her home. Right before the walls crumble, she says, “I want to live!” It is a movie cliche, of course. But in the context of her life, it is a fitting epithet of her. Because there is little doubt that in her 27 years, she lived a great deal more than those of us pushing twice that age.

Happy birthday Isabelle Eberhardt!

Glengarry Glen Ross Signifies Nothing

Glengarry Glen RossThe guys at the The Q Filmcast do a podcast every week where they pick a film on Netflix to discuss. It is a surprisingly good show. There are five of them and they never seem to agree. Thus far, I have agreed the most with their producer Adam Rodgers, who the rest of the gang seem to think is a cinematic philistine. I don’t consider myself a philistine, but I do constantly rebel against what I think of as the professionalization of mediocrity. If you have the money to hire professionals, it is trivial to tell a standard story in a standard way. In general, I’m more into psychotronics and more generally personal art that is thrilling but often inconsistent or worse.

So when I heard that the Q boys were going to watch Glengarry Glen Ross, I was excited. I’ve been meaning to watch it for years, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. So I curved up with it Friday night and watched. It is everything that you expect from a David Mamet film. And if you like him, I don’t see how you can go wrong. Unfortunately, I don’t like Mamet. That’s not to say that I always hate his work. For one thing, when I read American Buffalo when I was a kid, I thought it was fantastic. But that was my introduction to him. Since then, I think everything that Mamet has to offer is on display in that play.

I remember reading that in his original script for The Verdict, Mamet ended without the jury coming back. I admire this. The story is about the personal redemption of Frank Galvin. It doesn’t matter that he wins the case in practice; we’ve seen that he has won in the eyes of Galvin. But it does have a resolution because Mamet is constrained by Barry Reed’s novel. When Mamet is not constrained by someone else’s story, he doesn’t bother to even come up with a story. Generally, he writes stories that are “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

This is entirely true of Glengarry Glen Ross. It tells the story of four salesmen and an office manager. The owners of the company have decided to have a sales contest where the top two win prizes and the bottom two are fired. We only get two days into the month before the entire office is destroyed. As is typical of Mamet, he seems not at all interested in the absurdity of the situation. Nor does he seem to be aware that ultimately the owners are to blame—you make people too desperate and they will turn on each other. Of course, they already have, just in smaller ways. We learn, for example, that the office manager has been giving out good leads to agents he likes and bad leads to agents he doesn’t. In fact, my reading of the script is that the agents’ sales are totally determined by the leads given to them, just as they allege throughout the film.

All of this conflict is in the service only of the conflict itself. The thematic core of the film comes when a once great salesman (Jack Lemmon) asks the office manager (Kevin Spacey) why he is trying to destroy him. The office manager says, “Because I don’t like you.” That’s the tautological message of the film: people are cruel because people are cruel. I don’t doubt that Mamet sees the world like that. But that isn’t the way the world seems to me. People are cruel to each other mostly because they get an advantage from it. Mamet’s take on the world is the simplistic mentality of pubescent boys who haven’t learned how to manage their hormones.

Along with the unrealism of the plot, we have the highly stylized Mamet dialog. In small doses, it’s fine. But I’ve been inundated with it for decades. It hasn’t grown. It’s the same thing we always get from him. And sadly, it is the same thing we get from a lot of writers who have followed after him. If it weren’t for how foul it all is, I’m sure critical opinion on it would have changed and more people would admit to how annoying it is. But okay, it is what it is. What is is not is realistic.

I know that Glengarry Glen Ross would work much better as a play. That was especially true of the scenes between Moss (Ed Harris) and Aaronow (Alan Arkin). These are very funny, fast paced dialogs. But the director James Foley decided not to do them in a two shot or similar. So we cut back and forth between the characters very fast. It not only makes one’s head spin, it distracts from the dialog. There is no continuity. I have no idea why it was done that way. I am rarely even tempted to say something I don’t like is wrong, but here it is hard to escape that conclusion.

The film does not expand itself very much from the play. At times, I think that works rather well. The opening in payphones worked really well, for example. It reminded me of the art direction in the 1996 version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But the vast majority of the film takes place in the office. And other than it looking totally like something built on a sound stage, it had nothing of the otherworldly feel of the other locations.

There are things to admire in the film, however: mostly the acting. It is great. Kevin Spacey as the small minded and hateful office manager was wonderful. Al Pacino gave a slightly muted performance, which was perfect for the flamboyant “closer” of the office. (Am I saying that Pacino usually over-acts? Yes!) Lemmon, Harris, and Arkin were all excellent. Alec Baldwin tried very hard but was not properly supported by the direction. The standout performance was Jonathan Pryce in a small role with almost no dialog. Throughout the film, I felt he was the human ombudsman, looking on in horror, “What kind of creatures are you anyway?”

I know that a lot of people will like Glengarry Glen Ross. And there is no doubt that Mamet is probably more in tune with American attitudes toward drama than he ever has been. But I think a close viewing of the film shows its problems. It is ultimately empty socially and spiritually. It has nothing to say and it says it in the most offensive way it can. And as much as that is modern America, I don’t want to be reminded. So in the end, my feelings about the film are the same as Adam’s: I just don’t like it; it makes me feel bad without any enrichment. Regardless of how we dress up our feelings about a film post facto, that’s what it all comes down to. It would seem that Adam is just being more honest than the rest of us.

Julianna Forlano Does Comcast

Julianna ForlanoAbsurdity Today is a periodic comedic take on the news produced and performed by Julianna Forlano. She has a wry wit with moments of extreme silliness. And she definitely looks at the world through liberal eyes.

I’ve been following her videos since almost the beginning. I first wrote about her almost two years ago. In that article, I expressed my surprise that she hadn’t broken out of the 5,000 viewer ghetto on YouTube. She is, after all, funny and insightful. And the videos are short. What’s not to like?

I wish I could report to you that Forlano has gone big, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. It is now the second day after I received an email notice that a new Absurdity Today was up. Yet there are only a bit over 6,000 views as I write this. Now, that isn’t bad. But more people really ought to know about her video channel.

That’s especially true given that her videos, which were always good, have only gotten better. And this newest episode is really great. So take two minutes out of your day and check it out. And if you like it, subscribe. Otherwise, some day we will pine for the days when everyone’s videos didn’t look like they were produced by John Green.

The following video addresses the news that Comcast is trying to gobble up Time Warner Cable. The Comcast automated phone system bit is brilliant. And the video ends with an appeal to go to Free Press and sign the petition to stop the merger. I recommend doing that too.

“Your estimated wait time is… irrelevant!”