Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Maybe WSWS shouldn't do arts coverage?

At WSWS, Joanne Laurier reviews Tarantino's latest flick:

The unwholesomeness of this conception is confirmed by Once Upon a Time’s quasi-nativist streak. For whatever reason, Tarantino decides to pick on Hong Kong-American actor and martial arts celebrity Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh). The film presents Lee as an obnoxious, inflated egotist who gets his comeuppance from Cliff—something out of a Sylvester Stallone fantasy. (Sharon Lee has objected to the portrayal of her father: “I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie. I understand that the two characters are antiheroes and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen.” She added: “I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-ass who could beat up Bruce Lee. But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.”)
Slighting references to “the Mexicans” and to Polanski as “that Polish prick” add to the unsavory tenor of the film.
Essentially, the director is offering himself as the defender of solid “American working class values.” Rick and Cliff are likable schmoes. DiCaprio and Pitt in particular are appealing performers. But, as Tarantino generally does in his unconscious or unthought-out manner, he tends to celebrate in Once Upon a Time what’s backward and passive, and most national-oriented—the meager Westerns, the trashy lifestyle, the banal pop songs.
It is important to say: kitsch is not art but the opposite of art. And the attraction to or glorification of kitsch is not artistic, it is an intellectual dereliction of duty. It is the worst sort of worship of the accomplished cultural fact.
In 1969 there were also young people and workers who were attuned to the historic general strike in France, to the big industrial battles in the US, to the massive anti-Vietnam War protests, to the inner-city riots. Many were drawing oppositional conclusions as well from the political convulsions and wave of assassinations. Of course, the summer of 1969, as the WSWS recently noted, also witnessed the first landing on the Moon by human beings, an event watched by some 650 million people.
With all their limitations, films of the period reflected some of the rebelliousness, social criticism and popular aspiration: Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, The Wild Bunch, They Shoot Horses, Dont They?, Z, Kes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Once Upon a Time in the West, Romeo and Juliet, Teorema, If…, The Dirty Dozen, The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke, Hombre, In the Heat of the Night, In Cold Blood and others.
One gets no sense of any of this from Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. The unseriousness with which Tarantino treats the Tate murders is also telling. This was a horrific event, both in the lives of those affected, including Roman Polanski, already a survivor of the Holocaust who lost his pregnant wife, and as an episode in American life. The slayings were allegedly intended to help incite a “race war” that Manson, who later tattooed a swastika on his forehead, was hoping to see unfold. For Tarantino, this is the pretext for an unreal bloodbath that deepens the theme of “ordinary Americans’” acting out their resentment and vengefulness.

It's a really weak piece.  I think I made a better argument in "ONCE UPON A TIME . . . IN HOLLYWOOD" than she makes in her review.  It is a racist film.  At once point, she's talking the pop song hits -- those aren't hits.  Those aren't even -- and weren't even -- AM radio staples.

They are embarrassing songs that were not big hits and that no one remembers for good reason.  The musical choices were as racist as everything else about the film.

I really question the arts coverage that WSWS produces.  David Walsh? I'll disagree with him from time to time but I largely get where he is coming from and I think he wrestles with what he's reviewing and really tries to explore it.  But some of this coverage at WSWS is so facile.

And the f**k did they miss the biggest program they should have been reviewing?

It was left to Ava and C.I. to cover it and they did the heavy lifting in "TV: A fairy tale they won't stop telling:"

That's not a complete listing and films like ASSASSIN OF THE TSAR are not included because they were made by Russia or the Soviet Union.  We have included joint-productions where the US or UK teamed with Russia for a film or mini-series.

But that Russia would be interested in the story of the Romanovs makes sense, it is their history.  We can understand that.  Natalie Wood, before she died, having had trouble getting studios interested in a film about Frances Farmer, had decided to play Anastasia on stage and this made sense as well, her parents were Russian immigrants.  If, tomorrow, Carly Simon decided to write a musical about the dynasty, we wouldn't question that (due to her college studies).  However, this obsession that is this topic by so many others?

Over the holiday, TCM aired a number of movies supposedly fitting the 4th of July.  So they trotted out the musical 1776, THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (a 1938 short film) and, best of all (the only one with true entertainment value) THE SCARLET COAT.  That last one is a 1955 film starring Cornel Wilde, Anne Francis, Michael Wilding and George Saunders that's built around whether or not the revolutionaries will learn Benedict Arnold is a traitor.

Watching that film especially, we were reminded that the last big American project about the Revolutionary War was that musical (1776) from the year 1972.  It's true that, in 1985, the UK made the film REVOLUTION but, again, it was made by the United Kingdom.  It's also true that for years Jane Fonda attempted to make a film (A HOUSE DIVIDED) about the Revolutionary War with no luck.

So why is that?

These Romanov films and mini-series and TV movies aren't really needed or wanted.  They never explore the revolution or the people who were a part of it.  It's just oh-poor-dynasty.

It starts to seem less like it has to do with the Romanovs and more like it has to do with the emergence of a revolution that a capitalist system really doesn't care for.  Isn't that really the point of this obsession with the Romanovs on the point of people who have no real stake or interest in it?  It's just more propaganda and hasn't this propaganda been going on since the start of the Bolshevik Revolution that took down the Romanovs to begin with?

Think about it, how many films or TV shows has the US made questioning what happened to those in the colonies loyal to England?

But we have had non-stop portrayals of those poor Romanovs.  Poor, poor Romanovs.

John Reed and Louise Bryant tried to report reality and were attacked by the US press and the US government -- so very often the same apparatus.

NETFLIX's THE LAST CZARS would be bad entertainment regardless of its focus.  It's entire format and execution would render it useless.  But as consumers, we also need to be critical about what they're putting in front of us.  The Russian Revolution was a historic thing.  But that's not the story they're telling, is it?  The story they're telling is that the revolution destroyed those wonderful Romanovs, those poor Romanovs.  Looking at how THE LAST CZARS fits into that body of work, we're seeing a non-stop effort to demonize the rights of the people while glorifying a few.  We don't see that with the French Revolution portrayals and we don't see it with the Revolutionary War portrayals.  So ask yourself why we see it always and forever with the Russian Revolution?

The points Ava and C.I. make?  Those are points WSWS should be making and they damn well should have covered it because the Russian revolution is supposed to have mattered to them.  These Romanov tales that the US keeps serving up are about tearing apart the Russian revolution and trying to sell sympathy for the corrupt system the Russian revolution toppled.

Why the hell do Ava and C.I. have to do the heavy lifting?  When the f**k are we going to see WSWS take on the nonsense of THE LAST CZARS?

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, July 31, 2019.  We take a look at night one of the Democratic Party's presidential debates.

We need more people who will analyze and critique.  Yes, on the left, where we are, but also on the right.

Too many on the left can't deal with what Donald Trump said because they're too rabid and hear instead what they think he said and foam at the mouth in stupidity.

It's not just the left that can catch that brand of rabies.

Zach Haller was a leftist at one point.  A primary -- as with Amy Suskind -- sent him the other direction.  (Yes, I know Amy pretends she was always left, that's not the case.  That's her pretense today.)  Zach is now on the right.  That's fine.  If he used his some keen insight he could be as valuable now as he was before the 2016 election.

But that's not what he's doing.

*WE* are Yada Yada Yada? Sit and spin, Marianne. Good luck getting anywhere with that attitude against Americans.

That is not what Marianne Williamson was talking about.

Maybe Zack just saw a meme and missed the point?  Or saw the FOX NEWS article that managed to devote itself to an episode of SEINFELD that used the phrase and detailing that episode while ignoring what Marianne actually said.   This is what she said:

For politicians, including my fellow candidates who themselves have taken tens of thousands and, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars from these same corporate donors, to think that they now have the moral authority to say, ‘We’re going to take them on,’ I don’t think the Democratic Party should be surprised that so many Americans believe ‘yadda, yadda, yadda,’”

So many Americans believe that's just more talk.  That's what she's saying.  Politicians keep taking thousands, "hundreds of thousands of dollars," from corporations and then stand before the American people and claim that they will take on the corporations -- Big Pharma was one of her targets throughout the night -- the American people who hear that are going to believe "yadda, yadda, yadda" -- that it's just more empty talk.

She was not, as Zach Tweets, calling the American people stupid.  She was saying that talk from a politician bought and paid for by, for example, Big Pharma can stand on the stage claiming he or she will take them on but the American people are not going to believe that person.  Rightly so.

Zach, for those who don't know, loves to climb on the cross.  His pinned Tweet, all these months later, is still about how he was banned from MEDIUM back in March (March 18th is the date of the pinned Tweet).  To Zach, that is the most important event in March, in April, in May, in June and, yes, still in July.  Others have been banned from various platforms since then but, even today as July wraps up, it's still about Zach the victim.  Which is hilarious because as he's moved to the right, he's attacked 'victim mentality' and pretended it is something exclusive to the left.

But he is so upset that this person or that person did him wrong.

Is the greatest crime really when Zach's done wrong by others?

He's done Marianne Williamson wrong.  Why?  She attacked Donald Trump last night and Zach's new brand has been all about pro-Donald Trump.  He can't listen because he's too busy gearing up for his attack.

And that's a shame.  First of all, it distorts what Marianne said -- a statement that he not only actually agrees with but that he could have used to call out many other Democrats onstage last night.  Second, it makes  him less honest and less useful.  He cheats himself by doing that and he cheats the public debate.

Marianne was onstage last night with nine other Democrats:  Tim Ryan, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, John Hickenlooper, John Delaney and Steve Bullock.  Tonight Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Michael Bennet, Kirsten Gilibrand, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Mike DeBlasio and Joe Biden take the stage.  The debates are airing on and moderated by CNN.  20 of the 25 candidates running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination made the cut -- five will not be permitted to stand onstage and debate.

CNN tried to be more in-your-face with the candidates.  It led to a lot of nonsense.

Don Lemon was especially an embarrassment.  In the first hour, he was repeatedly sarcastic and patronizing in his tone when addressing (usually just trying to silence) Marianne.  But his most embarrassing moment was when he wanted to ask about gun control.

Don, you understand, is all upset about people being shot dead.

Well . . . not really.

Because he waited until the 'race' segment to bring up the issue that should have been brought up immediately with regards to gun violence.

The numbers do not lie, police in America have killed 12.8 times more citizens than mass shooters in just the last 4 years. Why do you tolerate murder behind the badge?

If Don wants to talk about ending gun violence, the issue of people shot dead by the police is not a topic to be ignored.  It's not something to be shelved until the issue of race is raised.  Police shootings are part of gun violence, stop pretending otherwise.

This is not "Piss on the police!"  This is not me saying, "All police are bad!"  This is me stating, as I've noted before, there is a culture of violence that our society participates in and that participation includes some police officers.  I have noted before my shock over a police training I observed where the speaker went on and on about what he saw as ''protecting yourself'' but which declared every one you encounter should be treated as a dangerous criminal.

Why do you shoot a child?  And don't say you shot the child because they were holding a toy gun and you thought it was a real gun.  That's not an answer.  The question is why did you shoot a child?  Tamir Rice was 12-years-old.  Why was he shot?

You thought his toy gun was real.  Okay, I can understand how that would make you approach the child and try to reason with a child.  I don't, however, understand how that makes you shoot a child.

You didn't know it was a toy gun?  I get that, I understand that.  But by the time you're shooting a 12-year-old child, you should have been addressing the situation, sussing it out and you should have ascertained that it was a toy gun.

There was never a reason for Tamir Rice to have been shot.

That's one example, there are many more.

We don't value life -- as a society, we don't value it.  That's why a Tamir Rice can be killed so quickly and so easily.

These community sites covered the debate last night:

  • Like many of them, I do wonder who Bullock, Delaney, Hickenlooper and Ryan appeal to?  Then I look at the polling and see that they appeal to no one.  This despite all four getting some of the easiest press in the world.

    After last month's debate, remember it was Senator Kamala Harris that many took to lecturing -- including the fat ass who wrote the column for USA TODAY and who will have his own MeToo moment when we pull back to include sexism in the debate (women have long complained about the way they are treated and ignored by that professor in a classroom setting).

    Kamala, they felt, needed a lecture about busing.  Why?

    Apparently because she was a woman.

    Kamala does know about busing.  She experienced it first hand -- something her critics couldn't also say.

    They went after Kamala, trying to 'school' her and they ignored Tim Ryan.  There was no bigger idiot in the first two debates last month than Tim Ryan.  He claimed the Taliban attacked the US on 9/11.  It was al Qaeda.

    If someone needed to be "schooled" following those first two debates, it was Tim Ryan, not Kamala Harris.

    CNN got a little schooling watching what had happened on MSNBC and they were better, for the most part, about insisting that all stop speaking once their time was over.  MSNBC, by contrast, had an urge to cut off women while, after telling men there time was up, allowing the men to keep talking and talking and talking.

    Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders came off very strong last night.  Hickenlooper and Bullock tried to mock them -- and, as Betty noted, Bullock tried to mansplain to Elizabeth -- but their theatrics didn't play well.  Bullock came off smarmy while Hickenlooper, as Ruth noted, minced like no one's ever minced before.

    Delaney just looked repulsive -- both in presentation and appearance -- on the latter does the US really want to elect Curly from The Three Stooges to the Oval Office?

    Weak candidates like Delaney were called out by Elizabeth and Bernie for using "Republican talking points" -- they also called out CNN moderator Jake Tapper for doing that.

    Delaney was nothing but a Republican talking point and those who know history will especially roll their eyes at this nonsense.

    DELANEY: Folks, we have a choice. We can go down the road that Senator Sanders and Senator Warren want to take us, which is with bad policies like Medicare for all, free everything and impossible promises that will turn off independent voters and get Trump re-elected. That's what happened with McGovern. That's what happened with Mondale. That's what happened with Dukakis. Or we can nominate someone with new ideas to create universal health care for every American with choice, someone who wants to unify our country and grow the economy and create jobs everywhere. And then we win the White House.

    By the way, I'm using the transcript that NBC has posted.

    I don't remember Mondale, Dukakis or McGovern offering Medicare For All.  Do you?

    Delaney has no big ideas and, honestly, he's got no ideas at all.  Elizabeth, for example, has a Green New Deal that will create over a million new jobs and Delaney's notion to spur job growth is probably more along the lines of having a garage sale this weekend and getting granny to 'work' it with the promise of buying her lunch from McDonalds.

    On appearances, Mayor Pete?  Betty wasn't the only one wondering what was on his forehead.


    Red mark on forehead -- five o'clock shadow -- sweaty upper lip. may be gay, but his makeup artist sure isn't.

    I think smacked a fly to death on his forehead right before

    What's up with 's forehead tho

    The blotch is now gone from Pete Buttigieg’s forehead!

    Looks like the EMTs came in and cleaned up Pete Buttigieg’s forehead...


    Why does have a gash on his forehead?

    I need the deets on what happened to forehead?!?!

    Me: What's on forehead?
    Schwarzenegger: It's naught a tumaw.

    Whoever tells Pete Buttigieg he's got something on his forehead has my vote.

    What had happened to Mayor Pete’s forehead???

    Internet freaks out about mysterious blotch on Pete Buttigieg’s forehead | Raw Story

    via rawstory

    What the hell is on 's forehead?

    What was on Pete Buttigieg’s forehead? Wrong answers only.

    Is there a booger on Pete Buttigieg’s forehead?

    That's how you run a campaign?

    You're at a nationally televised debate.  You've been unable -- despite a ton of easy press -- to break through in the polling.  You know the June debates had historic viewership levels and you're on the first hour of the debates with something on your forehead?  Some splotch or scab or booger or dead fly or whatever?

    They took commercial breaks throughout.  Why did it take so long for Team Buttigieg to get their act together and clean the candidate's forehead?  And, honestly, why didn't he notice it himself?  He's going before the cameras it is actually his duty to do a self-check in a mirror.  That's not vanity, that's taking the time required to present yourself properly.

    Beto O'Rourke?  He may have scored points on likability but, on policy, he was a big disappointment.  With regards to Medicare For All, his position expressed in the debate was not clear and, as Trina noted, that was more due to CNN moderators refusing to allow him to finish answering their question then it was to Beto's flubbing the response.

    That said, he has only himself to blame for the big moment of the debate to those of us who care about these never-ending wars.

    TAPPER: Thank you, Mayor. Thank you, Mayor.


    I want to bring in Congressman O'Rourke. Congressman O'Rourke, responding -- returning, rather, to the question of whether you would withdraw all U.S. servicemembers from Afghanistan during your first year in office as president, how do you respond, sir?

    O'ROURKE: I would in my first term in office. Agree that there is nothing about perpetuating this war, already in its 18th year, that will make it any better. We've satisfied the reasons for our involvement in Afghanistan in the first place. And it's time to bring those servicemembers back home from Afghanistan, but also from Iraq, also from Yemen, and Somalia, and Libya, and Syria.
    There is no reason for us to be at war all over the world tonight. As president, I will end those wars, and we will not start new wars. We will not send more U.S. servicemembers overseas to sacrifice their lives and to take the lives of others in our name. We can resolve these challenges peacefully and diplomatically.

    So the war needs to end and has gone on to long and Beto agrees with that but he says he will bring troops home "in my first term in office."  The question Jake Tapper asked was if he would do it in his first year in office?  No, Beto won't promise that.  He'll promise to do it in his first term.

    That's very disappointing.

    Especially when Mayor Pete could -- and did -- speak so much more clearly on this issue.

    TAPPER: Thank you, Senator Klobuchar.
    Mayor Buttigieg, you served in Afghanistan where just yesterday two U.S. servicemembers were killed. There are currently about 14,000 U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan. You've said, quote, "One thing everybody can agree on is that we're getting out of Afghanistan." Will you withdraw all U.S. servicemembers by the end of your first year in office?
    BUTTIGIEG: We will withdraw. We have to.

    TAPPER: In your first year?

    BUTTIGIEG: Yes. Look, around the world, we will do whatever it takes to keep America safe. But I thought I was one of the last troops leaving Afghanistan when I thought I was turning out the lights years ago.
    Every time I see news about somebody being killed in Afghanistan, I think about what it was like to hear an explosion over there and wonder whether it was somebody that I served with, somebody that I knew, a friend, roommate, colleague.
    We're pretty close to the day when we will wake up to the news of a casualty in Afghanistan who was not born on 9/11.
    I was sent into that war by a congressional authorization, as well as a president. And we need to talk not only about the need for a president committed to ending endless war, but the fact that Congress has been asleep at the switch.
    And on my watch, I will propose that any authorization for the use of military force have a three-year sunset and have to be renewed, because if men and women in the military have the courage to go serve, members of Congress ought to have to summon the courage to vote on whether they ought to be there.

    TAPPER: Thank you, Mayor. Thank you, Mayor.
    I want to bring in Congressman O'Rourke.

    "I want to bring in Congressman O'Rourke" is included so that everyone gets that Pete had already answered the question and he answer it: Yes, I will promise to bring home US troops in Afghanistan in my first year as president.

    But Beto couldn't, wouldn't make the same promise.

    That's very disappointing.  He's called out the forever wars but he can't promise to immediately address them.  He can't promise to end them in his first year as president.  Give him a four year term, though, and he promises that, at some point, he'll get around to ending the never-ending war in Afghanistan.  At some point.

    Bernie was asked about the issue of these wars and we'll include his response.

    TAPPER: Thank you, Senator. Thank you, Senator. I want to turn to foreign policy now.
    Senator Sanders, President Trump has argued that the United States cannot continue to be the, quote, "policeman of the world." You said the exact same thing on a debate stage in 2016. If voters are hearing the same message from you and President Trump on the issue of military intervention, how should they expect that you will be any different from him?

    SANDERS: Trump is a pathological liar. I tell the truth.


    We have been in Afghanistan I think 18 years, in Iraq 16 or 17 years. We have spent $5 trillion on the war on terror. And there are probably more terrorists out there now than before it began. We're going to spend -- the Congress passed -- and I will not vote for -- a $715 billion military budget, more than the 10 next countries combined.
    What we need is a foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy, ending conflicts by people sitting at a table, not by killing each other. As president of the United States, I will go to the United Nations and not denigrate it, not attack the U.N., but bring countries together in the Middle East and all over the world to come to terms with their differences and solve those problems peacefully.

    TAPPER: Thank you, Senator.

    SANDERS: The United States cannot be the policeman of the world.

    We should point out the obvious here, CNN's three moderators refused to ask that question of all on the stage.  Commander-in-chief is a power of the presidency.  How they would use that role and that power is of serious concern.  It was only addressed with four male candidates.  (Amy Klobuchar discussed diplomacy.)

    Throughout, Marianne Williamson addressed larger issues than the narrow scope the moderators tried to impose.  We'll note this exchange:

    BASH: Thank you, Senator Sanders. Ms. Williamson?

    WILLIAMSON: I'd like to respond.

    BASH: You are proposing to make college free for all qualified students. Should the government pay for children from wealthier families to go to college?

    WILLIAMSON: I think that all domestic and international policy should be based on the idea that anything we do to help people thrive is a stimulation to our economy. That's how you stimulate your economy. So if a few people take advantage, but there are four or five people who were going to take the money that they then have in the bank -- when you look at this $1.5 trillion college debt -- this is why I agree with Bernie, or I would be -- OK, why don't we swap it? We had a $2 trillion tax cut, where 83 cents of every dollar goes to the very, very richest among us, that does not stimulate the economy.
    If we get rid of this college debt, think of all the young people who will have the discretionary spending; they'll be able to start their business. The best thing you could do to stimulate the U.S. economy is to get rid of this debt.


    This is not just about a plan to to do it. It's about a philosophy of governing. And I've heard some people here tonight, I almost wonder why you're Democrats. You seem to think there's something wrong about using...


    ... about using the instruments of government to help people. That is what government should do. It should -- all policies should help people thrive. That is how we will have peace...

    BASH: Thank you.

    WILLIAMSON: ... and that is how we will have prosperity.

    Amy and Steve repeatedly tried to sell themselves as people who had appealed -- in their own state -- to Donald Trump voters.  Polling would indicate that they struggle to appeal to voters on a national level and that's in every state except their own.  They may be huge in their own states but winning one state only doesn't win the White House.

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