Every Single Word

Every Single WordDylan Marron has put together a Tumblr called, Every Single Word. It is subtitled, “Every Single Word Spoken by a Person of Color in [Mainstream Film Title]” where we are supposed to insert film titles like The Lord of the Rings. It’s a good idea. And it is, in general, pretty stark. The Tumblr is just a series of videos with everything but the dialog spoken by a non-white person cut out. It doesn’t leave much.

Now clearly, in one way, this is unfair. Most mainstream films don’t have much dialog at all — maybe 5 or 10 minutes, I would guess. But this is a good way of highlighting the lack of diversity of characters in mainstream feature films. For example, the only non-white character in the movie Black Swan was the physical therapist. And it turns out, that was just a fluke — a white actor was originally cast for it, and they ended up using the actual physical therapist they had on the set who just happened to be non-white.

The Every Single Word version of Moonrise Kingdom is just ten seconds long and features three lines by Andreas Sheikh. I’m actually surprised that there was that much. Wes Anderson tends to make very white films and this was a particularly white film for him. Getting a ancestrally Pakistani actor in the film was a good bit of casting.

But there are a number of them that contain no dialog at all. I was quite surprised that Noah was such a film. I would have thought that it would be a film that could easily have featured a diverse cast. So the fact that this is what Every Single Word does with Noah does not speak well of the filmmakers or of Hollywood generally:

The Tumblr is worth checking out. It contains a video that combines all of The Lord of the Rings movies. It has a bit of dialog, because apparently they hired non-white actors to play orcs. You can always depend upon orcs — and Klingons — to provide a little acting work for non-white actors.

How the IMF Ruins Economies

Joseph StiglitzAs chief economist of the World Bank in the late 1990s, I saw firsthand in East Asia the devastating effects of the programs imposed on the countries that had turned to the IMF for help. This resulted not just from austerity but also from so-called structural reforms, where too often the IMF was duped into imposing demands that favored one special interest relative to others. There were hundreds of conditions, some little, some big, many irrelevant, some good, some outright wrong, and most missing the big changes that were really required.

Back in 1998 in Indonesia, I saw how the IMF ruined that country’s banking system. I recall the picture of Michel Camdessus, the managing director of the IMF at the time, standing over President Suharto as Indonesia surrendered its economic sovereignty. At a meeting in Kuala Lumpur in December 1997, I warned that there would be bloodshed in the streets within six months; the riots broke out five months later in Jakarta and elsewhere in Indonesia. Both before and after the crisis in East Asia, and those in Africa and in Latin America (most recently, in Argentina), these programs failed, turning downturns into recessions, recessions into depressions. I had thought that the lesson from these failures had been well learned, so it came as a surprise that Europe, beginning a half-decade ago, would impose this same stiff and ineffective program on one of its own.

—Joseph Stiglitz
Greece, the Sacrificial Lamb

Now Conservatives Are Wrong About Pope Francis

Pope FrancisLast weekend, I learned that Pope Francis’ approval rating in the United States has gone way done. I guess like all his predecessors, he will be a one term pope. The big fall in his numbers comes from conservatives. Last year, 72% of them liked the pope. But now that number is just 45%. Compare this to Donald Trump who has a 49% approval rating among conservatives. But that makes sense: Trump demonstrates the values that conservatives Christians hold dear: bigotry, selfishness, hubris, vindictiveness — all the things that Jesus preached about during his Sermon on the Mount. (“Blessed are the rich, for they are not losers…”)

I have ranted quite a lot around hear about liberals and their reactions to the pope. It isn’t really their constant whining about how disappointed they are that the pope hasn’t come out and said, “I’m not really religious, but I’m spiritual.” The problem is not understanding what the pope and the Catholic Church are. All Pope Francis has done is shift the focus of what he talks about. There is no doubt that he — like his predecessors — is against contraception, homosexual relations, and divorce. And equally, there is no doubt that his predecessors — like Pope Francis — were in favor of helping the poor, managing the environment, and showing mercy even to murderers.

Now the conservatives can get a little of my ire. The fact that they claimed to widely approve of Pope Francis last year but don’t so much this year just goes to show that their opinions are meaningless. At least the liberals have an honest complaint: Pope Francis is indeed not revolutionizing the Catholic Church in the way they want. (He is however doing so as a practical matter in terms of making it less corrupt and dealing with the decades — or centuries — of child rape.) The conservatives are unhappy because they think that Francis is revolutionizing the Church in a liberal way. And that just isn’t true.

It is amazing that conservatives could be so clueless about what Christianity has stood for all these years. It has always been a mixed bag of liberal and conservative ideas. And it doesn’t matter at all that most of the conservative Christians are protestants. The theology is still the same. But modern American Christianity really has lost its way. It would be more correct to call it a political party than a religion. I saw a little video of Mike Huckabee explaining how he didn’t believe the government should feed the poor, because that’s not what God wants. He apparently wants the church to do that. But somehow God does want the government to stop women from having abortions. He should just admit: he has political and cultural opinions which he wedges into his religion — not the other way around.

The main thing is that I want everyone to leave the pope alone. I was raised Catholic. But I managed to get through the whole thing knowing shockingly little. And I literally never believed — it just isn’t in me. But I’m familiar enough with the Catholic Church to know roughly what goes on inside. I know what real debates inside the Church look like. And there just aren’t major disagreements. So if liberals want to be disappointed, I think they are silly, but their disappointment is real. Conservatives, on the other hand, have nothing to be disappointed with. They’ve just fooled themselves into think that the Church was something that it never was. And they should really rethink just what their own religious beliefs mean to them.

Straight Pride and the Slighting of Minorities

Anthony Rebello - Straight Pride ParadeLast weekend was the Straight Pride Parade up in Seattle. Anthony Rebello organized it and then turned out to be the only person in it. It’s sad. I think he just wants a friend. I mean, really, he couldn’t find a single person — a date — to go with him? Be that as it may, the idea of the parade was to spread the word about heterosexuality being okay and “to encourage younger heterosexuals that they should be proud of their heterosexuality.” Clearly, Rebello thinks he is being clever, and I have to admit that his parade colors — white and black — is pretty good. But it might be too telling.

It is something worth thinking about. When people don’t like liberation movements, they often come up with these kinds of responses. This is what we see with a lot of white nationalism — people not claiming to be against other groups but just to be “proud” of being white. And here, our paragon of Seattle heterosexuality just wants to be “proud” of being straight. But we don’t accept such claims, because they are exclusionary. And things like the gay rights parades are not. They have always been extremely welcoming of others.

Does anyone really think that heterosexuality is something that people should be ashamed of? Or that people are being discriminated against for it? Actually, my experience is that there are a lot of people who think just that. I hear from people about how their kids are being taught about homosexuality in school and how heterosexuality is being treated as some kind of aberration. But it really is just the same old complaint of the privileged: I’m no longer being held up as special! This is what is going on with Christians who get mad when department stores say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

This brings us to the issue of Black Lives Matter. On one level, the retort makes sense that “all lives matter.” It isn’t, after all, some childish parody of the type that Mr Rebello is going for, “White Lives Matter!” But it is still offensive on a number of levels. To start with, it implies that the Black Lives Matter movement is a racist one — that the slogan means, “Only black lives matter.” And clearly they isn’t the case. But more important than that is simply that “all lives matter” delegitimizes the complaint of Black Lives Matter. After all, there is a reason for the movement. I am a white guy and I absolutely don’t worry that some police officer is going to shoot me because he’s scared because I moved too quickly to scratch my head. But it isn’t just a question of anecdotes, the data are really clear.

But everything that is wrong with “all lives matter” is wrong with any attempt by powerful majority groups to take on the mantle of “pride.” It questions the motives of minority groups that gather in solidarity. And it says that the minority complaint is invalid. Anthony Rebello’s straight pride parade reminds me of an early Peanuts cartoon where one of the kids asks, “There’s Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, why isn’t there a Kids’ Day?” And the answer is, “Every day is Kids’ Day.” Well, there you go: every day is a straight pride parade. And in addition to the other problems, not knowing this is just clueless.

Morning Music: Almanac Singers

Solidarity ForeverI have long maintained that the true target of the capitalist class against unionization is not higher wages and better working conditions. It is solidarity. The greatest threat is that the workers will bind together. Nothing can stop the workers if they are united. And that is why it is not surprising that unionization in this country is all but dead: the power elite have managed to convince the workers that unions are the enemy, even while the power elite pick the pockets of every worker.

It also isn’t surprising that the last great hope for workers in this country comes from the weakest: the fast food workers. They have little to lose. They can see that their only option is to bind together. I am not a man of faith. But if there is faith to be had, surely it is to be found in this movement. So this morning, I offer up to you the song, “Solidarity Forever.” It is another Wobblies song — this time written to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Here it is performed by the Almanac Singers along with Pete Seeger:

Anniversary Post: Greece Democracy Denied 1973

Greek ReferendumOn this day in 1973, the people of Greece voted overwhelmingly to abolish the monarchy and establish a republic. It was a gambit by the military junta leader, Georgios Papadopoulos. He figured he could finesse the resulting democracy. But what actually happened was no democracy and much chaos. Almost a year and half later, the people of Greece got to vote again and they created more or less the system they now have.

But as I was reading about it, I couldn’t help but think it sounded very familiar: the Greeks vote overwhelmingly for something — and then they don’t get it. But at least in 1973, they were living under a dictatorship. Now it was their own elected officials who called for an election, celebrated its victory, and then did the opposite.

Of course, there is a real question of whether Greece still has a democracy. It seems that once a country enters the eurozone, it is no longer a democracy. This is actually why I don’t think that the eurozone is going to survive. In the 1930s, European countries had to fall militarily to Germany. This time, they’ve just surrendered to Germany. I can’t imagine that the people of Europe are going to continue to enjoy living under Germany’s thumb — especially with the way that Germany gleefully abuses its power and tells everyone they would be fine if they were more like Germany. The last thing we need are more countries acting like Germany.

But we mark this day 42 years ago when the people of Greece voted and then were ignored.