Monthly Archives: August 2018

Conservatives Are the New Postmodernists — What Truth?

President Donald TrumpDonald Trump tweeted out a video that claims that while Google promoted a live stream of Obama’s state-of-the-union addresses, they didn’t do it for him. It’s nonsense, of course. Check out the archive.org copy. Now the producers of the video could maybe get away with ignorance, because archive.org stores pages using GMT. So instead of starting at 9:15 pm on 30 January 2018, archive.org has it stored starting at 3:15 am 31 January 2018.

But is this reasonable? For one thing, they must have understood the time change to get the Obama screenshots. But just as important, anyone making such a claim would be very careful. But its clear they didn’t care. Certainly, Trump has made no retraction, and Google corrected the record within a minute of his tweet. What else is new? It makes total sense that Trump sees lies everywhere, since that is all he produces. I’ve been talking about conservative projection for many years.

More interesting is that Jim Hoft (Gateway Pundit) produced an article, HOLY CRAP! President Trump DESTROYS Biased Google in One 24 Second Clip.

That too has been up for well past 24 hours. The page has not been taken down. (I don’t agree with it, but this is how conservatives normally respond to their idiocy.) And the page has not been amended.

I’m so tired of this. This isn’t a matter of opinion. The president just spreads lies and never retracts them. And there is a billion dollar industry dedicated to supporting his lies.

Meanwhile, the Trump Cult continues to think anything out of his mouth is gospel. Have you seen this? California Man Parroting Trump’s “Enemy of the People” Line Threatened to Shoot, Kill Boston Globe Staff, FBI Says.

This is why it is so poisonous for a president to make such claims. It’s even worse with people in the Trump Cult because there is nothing to convince them to change their opinions. Trump has already told them that the press is out to get him. So they won’t believe it. I suspect that even the man who made the threats considers the press coverage a lie.

The fact is that Trump’s “the press is the enemy of the people” is identical to what authoritarian leaders always say. It’s the only way they can justify getting rid of a free press and installing a propaganda outlet in its place.

Of course, thanks to the miracle of capitalism, we already have that throughout the right. As if Fox News alone weren’t enough to destroy a free country.

Mindless Retweets

I do, however, take a certain amount of sollace that Jim Hoft’s tween generated 33 comments — all of them contradicting his nonsense. But maybe I shouldn’t be, because 67 people retweeted.

Of course, this is nothing compared to the effect that Trump had. Almost 38,000 people retweeted. After all these years of Donald Trump being very open with the fact that he is stupid, heartless, and craven, you would think people wouldn’t trust him. But no.

Can’t Stop the Con

It reminds me of how high level managers so often fall for charlitans who workers can see are nothing but useless braggarts.

Whenever I hear someone talking about how great they are, I become suspicious. But even without that, how could regular working people not see that Trump has nothing but derision for them?

I really don’t know. But I don’t think it will change. This country is doomed.

Death Came to Senator John McCain

John McCainEarlier today, as it must to all men, death came to Senator John McCain. I don’t have a horrible opinion of the man. But I also don’t have a good opinion of him. And I don’t think death should make me forget that McCain had an almost completely bad effect on this country.

Obviously, if I thought his loved ones would read this, I wouldn’t say bad things about him. I’m not a monster. But that also means that I wouldn’t say anything at all. Because there is very little good to say about him that I don’t think is tainted.

But given that I have the luxury of obscurity, I will say my piece.

McCain Wasn’t Principled

This article really grows out Matt Yglesias’ obituary at Vox, John McCain, Who Died at 81, Explained. It’s actually better than the countless obituaries we are going to see that will portray McCain like he had been Patroclus climbing the walls of Troy in The Illiad. Yglesias at least notes that McCain’s past is spotty.

But I feel certain that Yglesias is just being a good whore of a writer and creating the general obituary for McCain that won’t offend anyone too much. I suspect that Yglesias feels rather like me. But his obituary will be read. So it ends up giving McCain too much credit.

Maybe this is how it should be. When a man dies, you give him the benefit of the doubt. But I question that. Did McCain vote against the Bush tax cuts because he was actually against them? It’s possible. But the overwhelming evidence is that he did it because he was (understandably) angry at Bush’s campaign tactics in the 2000 primary. Remember, McCain had a notoriously volatile temper. He wasn’t the cuddly guy he made out in the 2008 campaign.

If you look at McCain’s career, it seems that everything good he did was simply a way to save face for something he did wrong before. If not that, it was like with Bush, settling a score. None of these were indicative of a strong moral sense. They were indicative of a strong sense of reputation. And I’m not going to let that be something to applaud just because Trump has set the bar so low.

McCain and Torture

The one thing I did like McCain for in a big way was his stand on torture. But that was just his Gay Son.

You may remember that Rob Portman was quite the anti-gay politician. He thought that employers should be able to fire people just because they found out the employee was gay. But then Portman’s son came out to him as gay. Suddenly, Rob Portman was in favor of same-sex marriage!

But this is the conservative way. If you don’t have direct experience with an issue, you can’t understand it. This is why conservatives will always give huge tax breaks to the rich. None of them will ever have a son who comes out to them as poor.

McCain’s Gay Son

In McCain’s case, he had suffered from torture. Thus, as a conservative, he could understand it. Bush and Cheney had never suffered it so they couldn’t understand it.

I’m glad that McCain was fairly reasonable on torture. But I don’t see that he gets a big red star for it given that it was his Gay Son. He didn’t show any empathy for anything that he didn’t have direct experience with.

He was an extremist on abortion, birth control, and sex education — probably because it never affected his life. He was against same-sex marriage because he literally didn’t have a gay son. And he was for eternal war because his experience fighting it was from high above it.

McCain’s So-So Torture Record

But even on torture, McCain was far from perfect. Jennifer Williams explains this in Vox, Senator John McCain’s Complicated Moral Legacy on Torture. It’s worth reading all of it, but the main thing in it is that McCain, while he was getting lots of positive news about stopping the army from torture provided a carve-out for the CIA — the only ones who were actually doing it.

When Dianne Feinstein proposed a bill to end torture, McCain worked and finally voted against it. When it passed anyway, McCain pushed Bush to veto it. And perhaps most important of all, McCain was the one who allowed all the CIA torturers to get off scot-free — and in the case of Gina Haspel, becoming Director of the CIA.

It’s bad that McCain died because his replacement will be even worse. But that doesn’t mean we need to pretend that McCain made America better. He didn’t.

Update

I began to feel bad that I wrote anything about McCain at all. But then I watched a little of the television news coverage of his death and I knew why I wrote this in the first place. The coverage is all myth-making. It doesn’t present a man; it presents a Greek hero. And it is all wrong. Most annoying of all is the way that McCain gets credit for his face-saving political theater of telling a voter that Obama wasn’t a Muslim — after he knew he would lose the election.

Why Medicare Is Okay but Not Medicare-for-All

Centers for Medicaid and Medicare ServicesI find it curious that in America, Medicare is an accepted institution but Medicare-for-All is somehow radical. Don’t get me wrong: I understand that Medicare-for-All is popular. Back in March, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 59 percent of Americans are in favor of it. But the fact remains that the establishment of the Democratic Party is highly skeptical of it. And the media is even worse.

“Objective” “Liberal” Media Against Tax Increases

This is most telling in Jake Tapper’s recent “fact check” of Bernie Sanders’ statement that the Mercatus Center report showed that Medicare-for-All would save Americans $2 trillion over a decade. In order to find the statement deceptive, Tapper claimed that Sanders had said it would save the government $2 trillion.

I don’t think Tapper meant to misquote Sanders. I think it is simply a matter of how Medicare-for-All is seen by people in Jack Tapper’s class. They know that they would have to pay more in taxes. So there’s really no thinking involved — just a gut reaction that they might lose a little money in the name of allowing poor people to live.

Old people are far more expensive to insure. Since they would not, in general, be able to afford insurance, give it to the government!

And this is a poison of this entire class. It’s funny that these are the very people who most think they are non-ideological — that they just look at the facts. They are the self-described moderates. But the truth is, they do have an ideology — one so insidious that they can’t even admit to it. And when their errors are pointed out, they just retool their arguments without the errors and — What a surprise! — conclude the exact same thing.

For example, Tapper was going to take the error out of his online video. But that was it. The rest would be the same. And there would be no on-air recantation because Tapper doesn’t see that his entire argument fell to pieces.

Similarly, it’s funny that before Glenn Kessler had to take out all his salient points against Sanders, he gave the claim “Three Pinocchios.” After his argument was shown to be nonsense: “Three Pinocchios.” The article was changed to its core, but the conclusion remained. It’s shameful.

Why We Can’t Have Medicare-for-All

But I’m interested in the usual question: why can’t we have nice things? Why is it that Medicare is fine but not Medicare-for-All.

Part of this is just ossification: we’ve had Medicare for a long time. Thus, for most people, it is fine. For rich journalists, that money is already taken from them so they don’t have to worry that they might have to give up a day of vacation each year.

But I think the bigger issue comes down to what is best for insurance companies. In general, they are glad there is Medicare. Old people are far more expensive to insure. Since they would not, in general, be able to afford insurance, give it to the government!

This is time-honored. In our country, where the only kind of speech that matters is lobbying, we allow the government to do those things that the private sector doesn’t think it can make much money at. Certainly, if we did not have public education, we would never be able to get it today.

As it is, that’s what the charter school movement is all about. When businesses couldn’t get vouchers, they changed to charter schools. It’s never been about providing students with a quality education. If it had been, we would get rid of charter schools because there is no indication that could be notably better than public schools. But we keep with them because rich people are making money off them.

What we see in modern America is a political system that only caters to the rich. And we have a media landscape that pretends that their highly ideological dismissal of popular working class policies are objective. Both facts alone would poison a good political system. And we didn’t exactly start with the most informed and democratic system.

I Don’t Think Hans Fiene Is Funny, but He Is Arrogant

Hans FieneI was looking for a quote from Garrison Keillor where he jokes about his ancestors coming to America in search of less freedom of religion. I couldn’t find it, but I did find an article he wrote in The Washington Post right before Donald Trump was inaugurated president, Trump Has Me Searching for a New Religion. It’s okay — more a testament to how we liberals felt at the coming of President Trump than anything else. It’s well written and as funny as one could expect under the circumstances. But Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene doesn’t think so!

The Problems With Garrison Keillor

In his article, Garrison Keillor Is on a Quest to Leave the Religion He Never Found, Fiene tells us two important things: Keillor isn’t a real Lutheran and he isn’t funny. Now I have a general problem with both of these claims. You can’t really say that someone isn’t funny — only that you don’t find it funny. For example, I couldn’t make it more than 5 minutes into Dumb and Dummer, yet I know it is funny because people laugh at it. As for being a “real Lutheran,” that’s not just a classic case of No True Scotsman, it is the height of hubris.

I’m not sure what to make of the sexual abuse allegations against Keillor. They don’t seem terribly strong, but just the same, why would any woman have a reason to lie about such a thing? I’m sure that Hans Fiene would have said something about this, but these articles were both written before these allegations became known. Regardless, they don’t really have anything to do with Keillor’s humor and they certainly don’t have anything to do with his status as a Lutheran.

Hans Fiene Thinks He’s Funny

One person Hans Fiene does think is funny is himself. His bio on The Federalist explains that he is “the creator of Lutheran Satire, a series of comical videos intended to teach the Lutheran faith.” Wow. There’s nothing like pastors who think they are funny. So I checked out his YouTube channel. Here is his most recent humorous video:

I’m sure that this video is hilarious to fellow conservative Christians. But I don’t see anything to laugh at. If I hated Catholics and loved guns, I’d probably find it somewhat amusing just because it is fun to pretend you are having a debate with someone you hate and showing how dumb they are. But since I’m kind of ambivalent toward both Catholics and guns, I don’t see anything to laugh at.

Fiene used another fallacy in his attack on Keillor: appeal to authority. He claimed (more than once) that Keillor wasn’t funny. And the closest he came to defending it was to refer to The Simpsons episode “Marge on the Lam.” In it, there is a parody of a PBS pledge break. It’s a pretty tame parody and doesn’t make the point that Keillor isn’t funny but that different people like different things. But whatever.

Conservative Christian?

Normally, I would say that it takes a lot of guts for someone who supposedly makes comedy to make such unsubstantiated claims about the most successful humorist of his generation. But in the case of Fiene, it’s just arrogance. The man is full of himself. But what do you expect from a religious person who is so focused on politics?

I was going through his recent videos and they are mostly just about how awful other religions are. If they aren’t, they are explicitly political. How they “teach the Lutheran faith” I can’t say.

Hans Fiene: More Catholic Than the Pope

Probably the worst part of the video above is its presentation of Pope Francis. It’s all based on this tweet:

Hans Fiene doesn’t just tell the pope things about Christianity that I’m sure the pope knows more about he does. He also tells the pope about Catholic doctrine. Again, I’m sure this makes his fellow conservatives very happy. If you look at the replies to the pope’s tweet, it is filled with similar arrogance like “Pope needs to remember the story of Sampson and Goliath. I stand with the true God. I don’t know who the pope stands with.”

But Fiene isn’t just some idiot on twitter. He is a Lutheran pastor. Frankly, I would think he would show more humility and class. But such is not the case.

It’s all kind of a shame because the videos themselves are well made. If Hans Fiene had something good or even positive to say, I would recommend them. But it’s a waste of effort to just tell other Lutherans that they are the right kind of Christians. It reminds me of how in 17th century England, you were an atheist if you weren’t protestant. Meanwhile, in France, you were an atheist if you weren’t Catholic. It’s all very silly but also sad.

Frankenstein vs the Wolfman — 2008?!

Frankenstein vs the Wolfman

For people who have never grown up, Frankenstein vs the Wolfman means the Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, the 1943 Universal classic starring Lon Chaney Jr and Bela Lugosi. But while working hard to avoid working, I came upon this film on Amazon Prime — a short from 2008. And I have to say, this discovery is well worth the whole year’s subscription.

15 Glorious Minutes

If you get rid of the titles, Frenkenstein vs the Wolfman is about 15 and a half minutes. And they are glorious minutes! I’ve often reflected on the desire of humans to tell stories and this is a great example because the technique is really not up to the story. Just the same, it tells an incredibly interesting story — so interesting that the relative weakness of the animation really doesn’t matter.

I should point out before I continue, the animation is at least a hundred times as good as anything I could ever do. But my talents lie in analysis. (And maybe in my experiment plays that no one will ever want to perform.) Frankenstein vs the Wolfman is animated with what looks very much like gaming software. Just the same, I found it far more interesting than any game.

One of the complainers on Amazon wrote, “This is a ‘movie’ (featurette) that only family of the ‘actors,’ animators, etc, could possibly love.” When I read that review, I knew I had to watch it. There’s nothing like an ignorant and opinionated jerk to make me want to watch a film. I start watching everything other than big-budget superhero dreck with the idea that the film was made by my son. Why don’t others?! It is a far better mindset to enter a film if you want to be entertained.

Frankenstein vs the Wolfman Overview

Frankenstein vs the Wolfman tells an incredibly compelling story of three orphans who live in, well, let’s say Transylvania because it has Gypsies in it. It is of interest because the “monster” of Frankenstein is more or less the guy that we know from Mary Shelley’s book: an ugly but intelligent creation. But in this reality, he has been accepted by the community (admittedly somewhat far-fetched given how awful humans are).

Living in this town is a man who has been cursed (by a Gypsy — racism, it seems it eternal and not at all solely an American thing) to spend each night walking the Earth as a wolf. During the day, he’s a writer of horror stories — a wonderful bit of self-incrimination: what writer doesn’t think that they aren’t a total fraud?!

Frankenstein, an “orphan” because he, like the children, has no parents, helps the three children. The Wolfman, on the other hand, is unrepentant. He doesn’t even try to stop his killing spree. Even though the film humanizes him, he isn’t very likable because he puts his needs above those of other humans. It shouldn’t be a surprise that, in his fight with Frankenstein, he is the loser. But you will be surprised to see how.

Analysis

If I can get a bit political, the film shows the importance of collective action. Even though Frankenstein is a “superhero” in the film, it is only due to the help of the other orphans that he is able to defeat the Wolfman. This is in stark contrast to most superhero films.

What is most remarkable about Frankenstein vs the Wolfman is that, compared to a Hollywood animated film, it is weak. Yet if you just accept it for what it is — or imagine what you personally would be able to produce — you easily get lost in the story. That isn’t to take away from the animation. As I’ve said, I couldn’t do anything close — regardless what software you gave me. But there are so many things besides the animation that the film does really well.

I thought the editing could have been a bit better; there were parts where the pacing didn’t seem quite right. But it didn’t pull me out of the story. The individual images always looked good. The music by Andrew Kalbfus was very effective. The acting was good. But most of all, the screenplay by Colin Clarke & Marc Packard was first-rate. It triumphed over everything else. The overall production by Andrew Carlson and Colin Clarke works — which is how I try to judge any piece of art.

Colin Clarke’s Other Films

And it shouldn’t be forgotten that this was the first film Colin Clarke directed. He’s made a total of five films over the last decade. I’ve seen four of them, which are all worth checking out: Raven’s Hollow (2011), Witchfinder, and Slit.

Raven’s Hollow is animated the same way as Frankenstein vs the Wolfman. It’s not as strong, simply because the story isn’t as strong. But it’s well made and interesting throughout.

Witchfinder is mostly a live-action film as the rest of Clarke’s film seem to be. The acting in it at the community theater level. But it mostly doesn’t get in the way. And I thought Valerie Meachum as the witch was particularly compelling. Again, the focus of the film is on the story, which is very strong.

Slit is probably Clarke’s strongest film in terms of production value. I have some problems with the story. In particular, the denouement was exactly what I expected. And overall it struck me as a bit misogynistic. And there are strong fetish elements to it. Regardless, the film works and is of interest to see Clarke’s growth as a filmmaker.

I still like Frankenstein vs the Wolfman most. Other people will probably find his live-action films better (especially Slit). But there is something special about this animated film that brings back memories of watching Creature Features with my older siblings.

Regardless, I think any of Colin Clarke’s films are worth checking out. At $1.99 to rent, they are probably over-priced. But if you have Amazon Prime, there’s no reason not to. I’d start with Frankenstein vs the Wolfman. Next, I recommend Witchfinder.

Butterfingers Irving — The 142nd Fastest Gun in the West

When You're in Love the Whole World Is Jewish - The Ballad of IrvingWhen I was a teen, I listened to The Dr Demento Show every Saturday night. I think it was a social thing: my closest friends all listened to it. I disliked a lot of the material that was played. And it was repetitive. Still, there were transcendent pieces like Doodles Weaver’s parody of “Eleanor Rigby.” But it was very rarely played. One song that was played quite a lot was “The Ballad of Irving.”

In order to understand “The Ballad of Irving,” we have to go back to 1964 and a surprising number one hit in the US by Lorne Greene. That’s right: Ben Cartwright (“Pa”) on Bonanza. It should not surprise you that this iconic American character was played by… a Canadian. But I digress.

Greene had a hit with the song “Ringo.” It’s about the drummer of a really famous band who has no detectable skill in anything at all. It’s about an outlaw in the old west. I rather like it. But then, I’m a sucker for this kind of sentimental drivel.

But the only part of the song that is sung is by a chorus that repeats, “Ringo! Ringo!” Otherwise, it is just Greene telling the story. Rather than recount it, you should just listen:

You can see why people would like it at the time. But you can also see why two years later, people would find it ripe for parody — especially since this kind of song became something of a thing.

Here Comes “The Ballad of Irving”

Those people were Frank Peppiatt, John Aylesworth, and Dick Williams. “The Ballad of Irving” tells the story of a Jewish gunman Irving: the 142nd fastest gun in the west. It was first released on the Bob Booker and George Foster comedy album When You’re in Love the Whole World Is Jewish and “sung” by Frank Gallop.

The song is basically one long Jewish joke.

I Don’t Want to Be Racist

What’s strange is that the people involved with that album, and it’s predecessor, You Don’t Have to Be Jewish, mostly don’t have classic Jewish names. I know some of them were Jewish. Probably they all were. In general, one gets Jewish humor from Jews.

I bring it up because (1) Jewish as a race has never made any sense to me and (2) I would feel slightly more comfortable about it if it were created by Jews. I probably shouldn’t worry. It’s hard to imagine a group of Baptists putting out You Don’t Have to Be Jewish and When You’re in Love the Whole World Is Jewish.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Butterfingers Irving

Regardless of my natural liberal guilt, I find this song extremely funny — as I suspect most American Jews would too. There’s something very likable about Irving. I’m not Jewish. (I’m Catholic, which a Jewish friend told me made me half Jewish — a thought I rather like.) But had I been a gunman in the old west, I would have acted very much like Irving, the 142nd fastest gun in the west.

Son of Irving

Shortly after the success of “The Ballad of Irving,” the same songwriters wrote “Son of Irving.” The song was not a success at the time. But worse is that it hasn’t aged well because, at least to me, it is implicitly homophobic. And I do mean “implicitly,” because there is nothing in the song that really signals this. It’s about a moma’s boy.

But there’s something about him being thin, tall, and good-looking that makes me think that they were implying homosexuality.

Regardless, even though the denouement is as strong as it is in “The Ballad of Irving,” the song doesn’t work nearly as well. Still, it’s worth a listen.

Dr Demento Days

Dr Demento is still around. There seem to be umpteen Dr Demonto CD collections. It’s nice to be reminded of him. But I doubt I would want to listen to his show — or any of his CDs. It’s all too uneven. But I’m glad to have been introduced to all those songs — even the ones I hate like Shaving Cream and Wet Dreams.