Randall Enos -- Bleeding the Patient: what the Republican rump and their Trump man have visited on us this year
I have decided to carry on for another year as long as Net Neutrality allows, to single out informative useful writing on the Net accompanied by pictures and YouTube Videos, with recommendations of books or films. For this first week of the year, you can quickly take in the damage Trump and his regime have managed to inflict on a majority of people living in the US,and how by their recent "tax" bill they have set the stage to do much more harm: read the whole of James Mann's essay, "Damage Bigly," in the New York Review of Books, 65:1 (January 18, 2017), pp 4-8.
What is to be done: there's E.J. Dionne Jr writes in the New York Times today. We must win elections across the US for democrats and then they must unite to impeach Donald Trump: there is much accumulated lawless treasonable (underming the US democracy or Republic) behavior not just to charge but demonstrable in court. I will add after that do something for real to reform and fill our institutions and support groups helping people in all sorts of ways economically, politically socially. The states should assert their rights over the federal impositions and displacements: not just sanctuary cities but states' rights and laws to stop the federal gov't from fleecing people and ruining education. But first clear the deck of this sinister powerful presence, & the internet of these malevolent ignorant tweets.
This week I have a film also to recommend, worth the seeing but with a different kind of qualification than I usually offer. If it's a case of seeing the film in an AMC theater, I suggest you forego ithe film, until it turns up in another theater or you can buy it as a DVD or see it online. Why? AMC now owns and/or controls some huge proportion of all movie-houses in the US; I went to an AMC twice recently, once this summer and now again yesterday and vow never to go again. If you don't pay your taxes because you don't want your percentage of the US income used for foul and wrong purposes, you can go to jail; you don't have to pay this ruthless monopoly.
The film was The Post directed by Stephen Spielberg (one of the producers too), written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, featuring the box office star Meryl Streep. It's an overt defense of newspapers against the Trumpian regime though the lens of the Pentagon Papers and Nixon's attempt to silence the New York Times and Washington Post by the courts. Nixon failed but remember today the courts are filled with reactionary conservatives now okaying Trump's agenda. It's a nuanced film and we see how news is done -- except of course it is ratcheted up to be suspenseful . That's the Stephen Spielberg product. I've seen hardly any of his films but I've been doing things more popular since Jim died (sometimes reminding myself he was correct to not go). News is contacts, it is snooping, it is intrusion. One reality the film brought home is most of the people on the Post were upper or middle class, living in nice houses, and the top echelon very fancy houses with elegant dining out and super-fancy bars. Women with gorgeous clothes.
Dan Ellsberg is a character in it, for that alone, the reminder of who he is and what he did and is continuing to do, matters. My second recommended essay is also in the New York Review of Books. My only caveat is the title, "The Nuclear Worrier," because it trivializes the content and implies that nuclear war is not in the offing, only something to be anxious about. That is not what Thomas Powers's review has to say: Ellsberg has written a new book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Ellsberg demonstrates that nuclear war has been an option on the table from Eisenhower's time, that the elites of the US have been willing and wanting to drop bombs on millions of civilians in their plans at least since the 1950s, and the Cuban Crisis is not the only time the powerful agents came close. What I like is how it de-mythologizes Eisenhower who is often portrayed as a liberal Republican: it was under his administration the Rosenbergs were murdered, he led Brinkmanship, destroyed social democracies as often as Reagon and most recently Bush -- and under Obama the Latin and South American coups.
If you prefer a video, here is Ellsberg interviewed by Amy Goodman: the context is the new Trump threat against millions of people in North Korea without any true concern over retaliation.
On The Post I leave reviewing it to the paid reviewers as I'm sure it will be covered over and over. It is unusually nuanced for Spielberg; it is based on demonstrably accurate portrayals of what happened over the Pentagon papers. Perhaps the woman script writer kept nuance to the fore; she certainly did Graham's taking a position on her own as part of the film's trajectory: she is now the responsible person for decisions. The owner. There is the usual Spielberg upbeat ending, but one can readily see the striking parallels to today without a supreme court in place to defend the newspapers (the courts have been approving Trump's bans and extradiction -- exile and deportation, imprisonment for immigrants).
Streep as Graham: I suggest Streep is also dressed and made up to remind us of Hillary Clinton (who won the popular vote let us never forget)
Nonetheless, I regret having gone to see the film as I regretted this past summer having gone to see Dunkirk and recently the hero-worshipping incorrect The Darkest Hour. I recall to my reader John Berger's Ways of Seeing where he argues that the context in which we see a work of art gives it its meaning far more than the actual content, or just as much. I've summarized Berger here too with respect to how we understand animals and thus treat them. I regret going to the Darkest Hour because it is a kind of vote on behalf of the false portraits of Churchill which turns him into a Trump type (half insane, will not listen to anyone, is all for violence, a bully) and presents the whole incident from a fascistic heroic tough-man perspective (worshipping wife, nubile pretty secretary, militarism manipulated the solution); but for The Darkest Hour I did not go to an AMC theater where I did for Dunkirk. I agree it's sometimes hard to avoid them. But don't do it. Don't give them any money.
The context for the AMC theater is the hideous ruthless theater itself and its trailer and "feed" system. AMC theaters are now like airports; the last thing consulted is the comfort or convenience of the customer. You must buy an assigned seat -- apparently they are preparing to charge differently for different seats. You are forced onto a long line unless you use a kiosk where you must give information about yourself and use a credit card. It is an ugly place, very noisy, the awful neon lights everywhere, continual drum-beat type music, in some theaters kept lower but not the one at Tysons Corner. Huge ads everywhere. In the theater you are subject to a very loud feed of continual commercials and trailers for films which take the most violent moments and assault you with these.
Then these trailers: cries of terrorism and characters in extremis are shot close up by a camera and machine guns. Bombs continually blowing up. This is alternated with shots of women stars dressed very sexily and in one a male voice demanded she take off her clothes and lie back on the bed No, it was not a parody of Handmaid's Tale. There is a continual AMC feed that goes on constantly in a voice over between these trailers and "your feature." So the trailers and feed are entertainment? What? I once left after I endured such an assault in Lynchburg -- apparently these feeds and tens of trailers have been done for over 10 years down south and in the western US. Each movie trailer face-paced violence, filled by huge guns murdering people, perverse images of people looking freakish or like monsters. Stories about terrorism (one was about how Israel is deeply threatened). Not a soul including me left. But looking around I saw people who were not bothered at all. It took 20 minutes for me to calm down as The Post used some of the same assulative film techniques at its opening.
It does not matter what the content of The Post is, it cannot compete with this context. It blends into it. Afterwards in that mall was anonymous awfulness. Place crowded with people milling about with nothing to do, on the move for the next buy, My daughter, Izzy had gotten one of these gift cards (I throw them out), so we had go to Barnes & Noble. She was made herself so nervous by the place and said the books were not organized for her to find anything.
Then parking. A madhouse of a garage not set up for any kind of speed to get out. An hour and one half to get out of that garage. I lost it. A friend of mine with us began to be worried when I told one woman coming over to me to complain I was not moving ahead so she could park. "There is a car in the way, lady" says I patiently; but when she persisted in rattling my door to make me open the window, i I cry out "fuck you!" --- thne my friend worries if the woman has a gun. My friend is now scared in public. I was struck (I''m not making this up) by how the guards let lines of cars in 3 at a time and lines out 1 after 3. We were not to get out. My friend and Izzy actually saw people parking who had been pressured into determining to eat there. "Didn't I want to do that?" ask my friend and Izzy. "NO." The food in these restaurants is usually utter junk at high prices. The one thing I wanted was to get away from there.
No movie could be worth this. No movie can make a statement about civility, freedom of anything in these circumstances. Are you kidding? Don't fund this monopoly.
Even catastrophically, this mall represents public life in the US today. This is the public space the ordinary citizen can afford to go to outside their own narrow circles. There are other options: museums are community space and my next Sylvia II blog will be on these..
My last URLs: I sorrow for the loss of Al Franken from the congress. A very decent man if you have listened to any of his speeches and especially his last. I once saw him playing Pip's father in a play adaptation of Great Expectations (at the Folger many years ago). His behavior in comparison to Trump is like someone pulling pony tails. A real loss because he could have won. He has the appeal of Biden.
The essay I want to end is from the New York Times, this Sunday about the pervasive sexual harrasments and threats at women in the workplace. Everywhere in working class and lower middle environments, women are subject to harassment and how ugly it is in the blue collar jobs. Read Susan Chira: Dead Mice, Stolen Tool and Lewd Remarks: Coping with Harassment (NYTimes December 31, 2017, p 12). Forcing Franken to resign doesn't help these women; it makes it harder for them as they have one less person on their side in congress. Women quit such jobs. Their safety is sometimes threatened-- left high up on scaffold with no way to get down. This is presented as humor by men who do it. Anyone who thinks human nature's emotions lead to compassion better think again when they regard what is the source of much human laughter. There has been to my knowledge no step taken by unions in response publicly to help their female membership; it is still step-by-step incremental and not much happening to change the sexist and punitive atmosphere. Chira records none at any rate. Mann (by the way) nowhere mentions the misogyny, sexual predation, intense sexism of Trump's regime -- Ryan tells women why not have more children. Right. Rack up debts too. Peonage. Ryan'd love that.
When and where do Democrats as a group inveigh against what the Republicans are doing structurally; against the military machine, the wars, where is there a movement to organize and fight for women workers o workers' rights? They do nothing while the powerful Republican donors have carried on for 50 years.
Here I would say we need massive funds going into public education, a true integration of all races into a public sytem, and way the gov't funds college education, academic and scientific as well as business for everyone who wants to go ending debt-free. Then minority people can learn the middle class ways of negotiation and self-presentation. The state of education, the core of where the problem to reform starts is another whole blog and I'll tackle that this year too -- with essays, comments, pictures, films, videos once again.
That's the outlook for the year 2018 from my first blog for the year. From Alexandria Va where all the men, women and children and non-human animals and plants need to stand together against the destruction of our lives through a military increasingly court-supported tyranny.
Ray Gun, "Don't tread on me ... " Political cartoon