Showing posts with label Commentary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Commentary. Show all posts

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Legacy of John Wayne


Adjusting the legacy of John Wayne is probably overdue. I don't think we can remove him completely from the history of film, but I do think we need to take steps to put him and his controversial views in their proper context:
"Conversations about systemic racism in our cultural institutions along with the recent global, civil uprising by the Black Lives Matter Movement require that we consider the role our School can play as a change maker in promoting antiracist cultural values and experiences," Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Evan Hughes said in a Friday announcement to the film school community.

"Therefore, it has been decided that the Wayne Exhibit will be removed."

The exhibit will instead be moved to the Cinematic Arts Library, Hughes wrote, where it can be placed "within the proper archival and research context" for continued education on Wayne's role in film history.
While the statement did not directly address the controversy surrounding Wayne, his legacy has recently been re-examined, especially after a 1971 interview with Playboy resurfaced and went viral last year. In it, Wayne espoused derogatory views of African Americans, Native Americans and films with gay characters.
"I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility," the actor said. "I don't believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people."
You could add his comments and his views to the exhibit as a way to put Wayne in the proper historical context as it relates to his place in American history. I think you have to include the fact that this was common to the entertainment industry. To me, that would help explain that he wasn't the only person who had these horrible views and opinions. There is ample evidence that he was no different than Ronald Reagan in terms of how he viewed minorities.

And while Wayne and Reagan had vastly different careers, they were part of a generation that had an enormous impact on the cultural history of the country. Providing context is probably the most helpful way of explaining who Wayne was and why it's important that we understand his contributions.

I don't have a problem changing the name of the airport, either. We could rename that and we could definitely rename Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Ed Henry Has Been Fired



Ed Henry was considered a "rising star" at Fox News which translates, loosely, into "a human being with hair who does not drool all over himself when lying to the audience." He has now been fired for sexual misconduct:

Fox News said Wednesday that Ed Henry, one of its top news anchors, has been fired after an investigation into an allegation was leveled by a former employee.

"On Thursday, June 25, we received a complaint about Ed Henry from a former employee's attorney involving willful sexual misconduct in the workplace years ago," Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace wrote in an internal memo.

The executives said that an outside law firm was immediately brought in to investigate the claims.
"‪Ed was suspended the same day and removed from his on-air responsibilities pending investigation," they said. "Based on investigative findings, Ed has been terminated."‬

Until last week, Henry was a rising star at Fox, responsible for co-anchoring three hours of morning news coverage on the network.
Henry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fox News is probably budgeting thirty or forty million dollars in sexual harassment payouts per year right now, so this is proactive and defensive in nature.

How bad of a human being do you have to be to get fired by Fox News AFTER they cleaned house and fired a bunch of creeps in the aftermath of the whole Roger Ailes debacle? Henry had to have done something not just shocking but deviant in nature as well. Holy crap.

And yes, it is news when someone gets fired after working at an organization that was forced to pay out an untold amount of serious money because it tolerated a culture of rampant sexual misconduct. You would think that Henry would have dialed it back a bit but, no. Once an abuser, always an abuser.

The good news for Henry is that he can now join the Trump regime or its campaign and continue to do God's work on behalf of the conservative movement.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Lisa Guerrero


Action shots like this demonstrate that Lisa Guerrero is the entertainment journalist that America needs during these dark times. Instead of feel good bullshit about someone's dog or drug habit, Guerrero is drawing attention to the very real problems of self-isolation, COVID-19, and alcoholism.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The Horror of This Man's Actions


I hope Harvey Weinstein is held accountable for every single heinous thing he ever did.
Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape and a felony sex crime Monday, marking a climactic end to a high-profile case that in some ways serves as vindication of the #MeToo movement.
Those two counts were connected to individual allegations made by Mimi Haley, a former Weinstein Co. production assistant, and Jessica Mann, a once-aspiring actress. Weinstein was acquitted on the two most serious charges of predatory sexual assault, which each carried a potential life sentence.

Weinstein, 69, appeared to be staring ahead while a half-dozen court officers surrounded him just after the verdict was delivered. The movie producer struggled to get up from his seat as he was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom.

Judge James Burke ordered Weinstein to be held in custody until his sentencing March 11.
It is a good thing that he is not free to live at home and continue out and about in public. As recently as October he was heckled at a comedy club. Now that he has had his due process, he should not be allowed in polite society ever again.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Oscars


What the hell happened to the Oscars?
The US live TV audience for the Oscars fell to an all-time low on Sunday.Roughly 23.6 million viewers tuned into the awards ceremony, according to the US broadcaster ABC, citing Nielsen. 
The ratings fell sharply from last year when 29.5 million people watched, amid an industry-wide decline in linear TV viewing. 
South Korea's Parasite made history, becoming the first non-English language film to win best picture since the awards began 92 years ago. 
Renee Zellweger won best actress for playing Judy Garland in Judy. Joaquin Phoenix was named best actor for Joker. 
Despite the ratings slump, the Oscars, which had no host for the second year running, remains the most-watched awards show. 
In 2019 the ceremony managed to buck a four-year trend in declining viewers and increased its audience by 11% to 26.5 million.
Both of these things can be true:

1. The movies aren't as important as they once were, and you can certainly find great art on television in long form series and through streaming services that produce great content.

2. People are tired of an endless broadcast that kisses the asses of people who are ridiculously biased against certain types of performers and anyone who ever made a successful comedy.

Hollywood realizes it has a diversity problem. The answer is thus - "if we have to give awards to people of color, then they have to still be men." Hollywood is already very diverse, as long as you don't count the fact that they ignore women. You can't honestly say that Bong Joon-Ho would have won if he was a woman because there were five other women that made films that were just as good if not better than the one he made. There, I said it. Cancel me.

Beyond that, I thought the whole thing was a turgid mess. Without a host to explain things, the show lurched from one non-sequitur to another. They made a feeble attempt to keep everything in line, and they tried their best to get the technical awards over in a hurry, but they failed. If the thing were entirely limited to seven awards - best supporting actor and actress, best actor and actress, best film, best director, and a lifetime achievement award, then you could get the thing over in an hour. Want to see who wins all the other awards? Go watch it on cable tomorrow night.

No one cares what I think and why should they? This has been a problem since forever and they're never going to fix it. The power of "the academy" is such that there will not be meaningful change until someone wises up and realizes what needs to be done.


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Parasite


The South Korean film Parasite is going to make a lot of heads explode. It is the work of a true auteur, depicts a culture that is entirely separate and unique, and it covers themes that are universal in size and scope. There is a version of this film that you could make in any language, any time, any culture.

Watching people go nuts because this film won multiple Oscars is worth the price of admission.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

You Were Never Going to be Happy


I won't properly review The Rise of Skywalker here, nor will I spoil anything for you. I will say this--American cinema is in bad, bad shape.

My overall, general reaction to this film is that it typifies the need to please everyone, especially foreign film markets, without having any core beliefs present in the actual film or story. This is a summer movie, released at Christmas, that should be taken as a fun ride through a world that is already familiar. If you take a step back and look at the Lucas films (the original three), the prequels, and the JJ Abrams series (Rian Johnson's lone contribution is meaningless here) as something to watch when nothing is on, they're fine.

Really, you could turn Brendan Fraser's Mummy movies into the "new" Star Wars and not miss a beat as long as you don't bring JJ Abrams in to ruin everything.  Neither are cinema. They're intended to be entertainment, and there's nothing wrong with that and there's no need to be snobbish about it. The fact is, they work on many levels. But they are not "elite" storytelling, nor are they as important as they are made out to be. In fact, they're just simple, enjoyable films that provide a lot of visual excitement. They are not films where adults speak to one another. They are films where adults escape from reality and shoot things that you don't mind seeing killed.

Here's my overall problem with that. Every attempt to make that excitement happen comes with a suspension of disbelief that gets old after a while. There's only so much you can take. And these films overload you with things that seem to be about marketing toys than they are about story telling.

Overhyped kiddie movies that are designed to appeal to teenagers in China? Yeah, I would agree with that. We make far too much of that crap right now. It's choking out actual creativity, little by little. Star Wars was supposed to revolutionize things. It did so visually, but did not improve story telling at all.

There's a really good story embedded here, and some day, someone will reboot that story and focus on it in a way that will really enhance it for an audience that, I hope, will be ready to experience it. There are hours and hours of performances from great actors that stumbles on dialogue that was added as an afterthought. Is there a single Star Wars screenplay that doesn't read like absolute shit? Honestly, with all of the writers in the world, you couldn't find someone to make the script work? Ever? And, yes, I remember the work Lawrence Kasdan did on the original films. Even he couldn't fully shine the turd.

You have talented actors in every scene, and some of the moments really shine. As a whole, there's not much for them to do except adapt to things that bounce around on a sound stage. There's very little acting between people, but, when there are real conversations, they are brief and forgotten on the next amusement ride through the green screen world that appears, as if by magic, and right on cue.

Star Wars was always more enjoyable as a book, for me, than it was as a film. I can remember reading the original movie tie-in books, as well as Splinter of the Mind's Eye and the series of canonical books that were released in the 1990s. This was always escapism for me, and I like that sort of thing. In the hands of skilled writers, the story is far more enjoyable than in the hands of film makers who are pressured on all sides to make something everyone will like that is full of things everyone will buy that won't offend everyone who lives in a part of the world that hates originality and rebellion.

Having said all of this, Rogue One is still the only decent Star Wars movie. I will welcome your agreement.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Karen McDougal Was Not Lying



Why do reporters seem to think that Trump's affair with Karen McDougal should still be treated as something that "allegedly" happened?
Karen McDougal, the woman who claims that she had an affair with Donald Trump after they met in 2006, filed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News on Thursday over a Tucker Carlson Tonight segment in which he inferred that she engaged in extortion. 
It was McDougal, a former Playboy model, who sold her story to the National Enquirer just before the 2016 election, but did not publish it, in a practice known as “catch and kill.” Federal prosecutors later said that American Media CEO David Pecker coordinated with Trump’s then-attorney, Michael Cohen, to pay McDougal and later be reimbursed. 
In December of last year, Carlson said that the “facts are undisputed” that McDougal and another woman who claimed to have had an affair with Trump, Stormy Daniels, “approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money.”
The White House is denying a new report that President Trump had an extramarital affair before he launched his political career. A story in the New Yorker says former Playboy model Karen McDougal had the affair with Donald Trump for about nine months. 
McDougal says it started when she met Mr. Trump in 2006 at the Playboy mansion following a taping of his reality show "The Apprentice," putting the alleged affair less than two years into Mr. Trump's marriage to wife Melania. The article is also raising questions about whether another publication tried to bury McDougal's story, reports CBS News' Jacqueline Alemany.

"Karen McDougal, in this written document, stresses that her relationship with Donald Trump was entirely consensual, but her story reveals commonalities with story after story that has now emerged about Donald Trump's either consensual relationships with women or alleged non-consensual advances," said Ronan Farrow, the reporter who broke the story for the New Yorker.

McDougal sold the rights to her story to the publisher of the National Enquirer, barring her from discussing the details of her alleged relationship with Mr. Trump. The story never ran.

McDougal refused to take money for sex with Trump:

Donald Trump once tried to offer Karen McDougal money after they had been intimate, the former Playboy model told Anderson Cooper Thursday in an exclusive interview on CNN. 
"After we had been intimate, he tried to pay me, and I actually didn't know how to take that," she said of their first alleged sexual encounter. 
When Cooper asked if Trump tried to hand her money, McDougal said, "He did." 
"I don't even know how to describe the look on my face," she said. "It must have been so sad." 
McDougal appeared on CNN to tell her story of an alleged affair she had with now-President Donald Trump over a decade ago and its emotional fallout, as well as to air her grievances with the company she's suing over the story.
Trump loves a bargain, so it's no wonder he kept going back to her for more. And, as if we're not already weirded out by this, McDougal is probably the only human being on Earth who ever loved Trump:
McDougal said their relationship was consensual and loving, and that they saw each other regularly through the duration of the alleged affair. 
"I can tell you we saw each other a minimum five times a month, up to bigger numbers per month," she said.
McDougal said they were together "many dozens of times," and responded in the affirmative when asked if they were intimate -- saying later that Trump had not used protection.
She added that she did not know Trump might have been with other women at the time besides his wife. 
"I didn't know he was intimate with other ladies," she said. "I thought I was the only one."

Well, we know that Trump has had sex with his current wife at least once, and probably not since then, so that's something. Plus, it's interesting that McDougal believes that suing Tucker Carlson is actually going to work. You don't sue a clown for trying to be funny in public, and you're damned sure going to go broke waiting for him to do the right thing.

Look at what we've become. What a debacle.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What Fresh Hell is This?




This is a very specific blog post, and it’s not directed at you.

It’s directed at the person who wrote this article and the editor, or editors, who allowed it to be published.

Who in the holy hell cares what Anthony Scaramucci has to say about anything? Who cares what he thinks about politics? About American foreign policy? About any goddamned thing imaginable?

What in the hell is wrong with you people? Scaramucci is not a credible source of information, opinion or expertise. He is a rolling sack of meat jammed into a suit. He’s less than informed about actual things happening in this world—he’s a discredited, unemployable jackass with no redeemable qualities.

You dutifully wrote down what he had to say, and you came up with this?

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci believes it would be "very smart" for Iran to de-escalate tensions with the United States, amid fears of another military confrontation in the Middle East.

President Donald Trump announced fresh sanctions on the Islamic Republic on Monday, following the downing of an unmanned American drone last week.

The U.S. president also warned an Iranian attack on Americans would be met with "great and overwhelming force" and "obliteration."

Oh, man. If the Mooch says it would be “very smart” for the Republic of Iran to do something, well, we’d all better get in line behind his wise and learned advice and follow it, huh? This is million dollar stuff here.

Jesus fucking Christ, you people. You’ve elevated a barely sentient pissant to the level of what, exactly? Why don’t you get Omarosa’s opinion on textile trade with South Asia? Why don’t you get Corey Lewandowski’s opinion on relations with the opposition running against the government of Malaysia? How about asking Tom Price what we should do about our treaty rights in relation to all things concerning the Laplanders?

These are the stupidest times of our lives, bar none.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Healthcare, How Does it Work?




Everything Trump says or does can be boiled down to a single concept:






If Insane Clown Posse were president right now, we wouldn't be having this discussion because at least those idiots know what they don't know.













Saturday, March 4, 2017

Russia is After Sarah Jessica Parker




It's all good, innocent fun:

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker doesn't have to feel left out of the foreign policy social scene anymore -- the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted that Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak would be happy to meet with Parker, too.

The invitation came Friday, from the Ministry's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, in response to Parker's Instagram post on Thursday. The "Sex And The City" star channeled her character Carrie Bradshaw to joke about the controversy surrounding the meetings between Kislyak and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions as well as the subsequent revelations that more Trump administration advisers have met with the Russian ambassador. 

Parker's Instagram post features a scene from the HBO series showing Bradshaw typing on a laptop with a caption, resembling the television script, that reads: 

    "I couldn't help but wonder... has the Russian ambassador been meeting with everybody except me?"

    I am an expert on sawhorses, and the one on which Miss Parker has positioned herself is very sturdy and would be excellent for a flooring project or even stacking hardwood materials. Think of a dark oak floorboard, perhaps five or six inches wide with a pronounced groove to it. That is the limit of my knowledge on such things. I don't know what the Russians want with her, but it has to be related to her knowledge of America's television industry.

    Unlike the Trump people, if Parker were to meet with the Russians, I am certain that she would report her meeting to the authorities and provide the FBI with as much information as they would require. I doubt very much that she would lie about any bags of money handed to her by Russian agents.













    Saturday, January 28, 2017

    Show Me Your Papers




    The Trump Regime's promise during the election to ban Muslims entering the United States has affected local law enforcement. This happened BEFORE the ban went into effect, but make no mistake about it--this is the country in which we live right now. 

    There's no way a beat cop in Bel Air, Maryland should be accosting citizens and asking for their papers. The woman in question is just as American as you or I. The Bel Air police department should have fired that officer immediately. What an outrage. 

    This shit will get out of hand fast. We are headed for panicky days ahead. If you're not ashamed of your country right now, you oughta be. This is not why I served in the Army. This is not what Americans should have to face when walking in their communities. And this is the logical extension of decades of subtle racism, courtesy of the Republican Party. White nationalism won the presidency and way too many people are cheering it on right now.













    Saturday, January 14, 2017

    Republican Hypocrisy is Eternal




    Edwin D. Williamson, today:

    President-elect Donald Trump’s attempt to put the conflicts issue behind him has failed, at least according to the mainstream media. His announcement that he would resign from all positions with companies in the Trump Organization, put the Trump Organization in a trust run by his two sons and a Trump Organization employee, and not communicate with the trustees on the business did not stifle the howl from the media and such self-appointed ethics watchdogs as Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, who continue their dire warnings about the new president's potential conflicts of interests. Even the supposedly nonpartisan director of the Office of Government Ethics has chimed in, saying that Trump's "plan does not comport with the tradition of our presidents over the last 40 years" (which is incorrect with respect to President Carter; the others did not have financial interests that came close to the extent and complexity of Trump's).

    The media and the watchdogs insist on a full divestiture by Trump of all financial interests in the Trump Organization (he will be the principal beneficiary of the Trump trust). For a variety of reasons, divestiture probably cannot be done at all, but it certainly cannot be done without creating an entirely new set of conflicts. What the president-elect has done would not satisfy the requirements of the federal conflicts law if they applied to him (they do not), but he has made a good-faith effort to distance his role as president from his financial interests.

    Edwin D. Williamson, November, 2008:

    An MSNBC article discusses ethics issues that former President Bill Clinton's extensive charitable activities could present if Barack Obama nominates Hilary Clinton to be Secretary of State. Here's an excerpt:

    [V]ast amounts of money and prestige are involved, and those factors could pose problems for lawyers at the State Department who work to prevent ethical conflicts from corrupting the nation's foreign policy.

    Edwin D. Williamson, who served as the State Department's chief legal adviser under President George H.W. Bush, said he does not know how the agency would resolve the potential conflicts. "If a client came to me with this set of facts, I would describe it as nightmarish," he said.

    The gall of these people. Their moral compass disappears as soon as a Republican gets near the White House. Every single legal argument used against the Clintons for over 25 years is simply flushed down the memory hole.

    You may remember how both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W, Bush placed their personal assets in blind trusts in order to ensure that they could not be accused of anything unethical, but that's not enough. You may remember how Presidents Clinton and Obama did the same thing, but you'd be sneered at for bringing it up. You might remember how all other candidates have released their tax returns, but now you're just being shrill.

    Trump has made a "good faith" effort. Except that he hasn't used a blind trust in any way, shape or form. That's not good faith. That's thumbing your nose at the whole idea that a president should comport himself in an ethical manner.

    The Republicans have set up a dangerous precedent. In the future, be prepared to laugh in their face if they ever raise a concern for the "appearance of a conflict of interest" with regards to any Democrat.

     













    Thursday, January 5, 2017

    How Did Larry Flynt End Up Being the Voice of Reason?




    Larry Flynt survived 2016 in order to shame the American media:

    Larry Flynt, the Hustler publisher and First Amendment advocate, says the media needs to do a better job covering President-elect Donald Trump.

    “Hold him accountable at all times,” Flynt told us. “He makes the press look like amateurs in the way he tweets and tells half-truths and lies, and he gets away with it.”

    Flynt says that shows like “Meet the Press” are “the worst culprits,” and continued, “You can’t bury your head in the sand, you have to fight back . . . If Trump could, he would like to put restrictions on the First Amendment. That’s what happens any time you give absolute power to anyone. The first thing to go is the free press and then individual freedoms go. You have to fight for it.”

    Is there anything Flynt is wrong about?

    No! Of course not! He has a very simple take on the media and on the new division pundits that have not been held even remotely accountable for the disaster that was the 2016 presidential election. He's even reminding us that freedom of the press is about to become a distant memory very shortly because we don't appreciate what we have. A lot of people fought hard in 2016, but exactly the right number of people in a few states decided that freedom isn't as important as having a kleptocratic banana republic installed as the next American government.

    How many of them were fired because they got it wrong?

    None of them!

    And here we are, just a few days into 2017, and Larry Flynt is the voice of reason. Amazing.












    Thursday, June 30, 2016

    Your College Degree is Why America is Horrible Right Now




    I am probably being ridiculous, but oh well:

    Both geographically and demographically, the British referendum split the U.K. along lines familiar in America. An extensive election-day survey by Lord Michael Ashcroft, a British pollster, found that the leave campaign carried over three-fifths of those without four-year college degrees, a comparable number of seniors, and a narrow majority of all whites. Election results showed the leave campaign amassing big margins outside of major cities. The campaign to remain won over two-thirds of non-whites, about three-fifths of college graduates, and big majorities among younger and urban voters. In London, which recently elected one of the western world’s first Muslim mayors, 60 percent voted to stay.

    All of this replicates American patterns. Democrats now rely on an urbanized coalition of Millennials, minorities, and socially liberal college-educated and single whites (especially women). Republicans thrive among older, non-college educated and religiously devout whites, especially outside of major cities. In 2012, President Obama carried less than one-fourth of America’s counties; he won fewer counties than any presidential winner since at least 1920. But because Obama so dominated the nation’s population centers, he triumphed by 5 million votes.

    In a way, having a college degree means I can't join the racist, belching rabble and vote for Donald Trump. I have too much information--I'm a high information voter--and I can't just sit here and write stupid things all day long (since when has that ever stopped anyone, including me?).

    What I think gets left out of the equation is that we are faced with choices that have not energized the populations of either Britain or America. President Obama was a once-in-a-lifetime bolt out of nowhere. He energized millions and he promised renewal. His legacy will be that of a largely successful president who could have done more with a reasonable opposition party. The fact that he accomplished anything at all was entirely in spite of the hate expressed towards him as the first black president. 

    With Hillary being the first female president, we'll see some renewal of hope and we'll see more women participating in public life, I would imagine. What we'll also see is a mirror image of the racism expressed towards Obama in the misogyny that will be directed like a broadside at Hillary. 

    Like Obama, she'll advance the movement towards a more equitable and fair United States of America. And she'll be denied any credit for doing her best to make people's lives better, just like Obama.












    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    Hillary Ruined Haiti? Give Me A Break




    Come on, try harder:

    Much of the blame for Haiti’s chaotic political scene can be pinned on Hillary Clinton’s State Department, whose handpicked president has only made things worse.

    Last week Haiti’s Electoral Council postponed the nation’s current presidential election indefinitely. The present chaos is a fitting coda to the recent presidency of Michel Martelly, a novice politician who governed accordingly.

    Amid the current upheaval, the name Mirlande Manigat is well worth recalling. As Haiti struggled to dig out from the disastrous 2010 earthquake, Manigat stood poised to become its first elected female president—until Hillary Clinton’s State Department intervened.

    A former First Lady of Haiti and a respected university administrator, Manigat invoked Brazil’s Lula as she ran on a moderately left-wing platform championing universal public education. Manigat, who holds a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne, also campaigned in the U.S., detailing at length her vision for Haiti.

    This is another ridiculous hit piece on Secretary Clinton's tenure at State. First of all, no one ruined Haiti - Haiti was already ruined. Second, she championed someone who let the NGOs come in and try to help. Third, she opposed a Sorbonne-educated candidate who, umm, went to New York City to campaign for the presidency of Haiti because that's where the money was. She made a judgement call based on what she was being told by the State Department's people in the region--the professionals who understand diplomacy.

    So, in effect, you have someone criticizing Hillary because she rejected the candidate who was wallowing in outside money raised in another country. Tell me again how her ties to corrupt people are supposed to "disqualify" her from the presidency?

    When it comes to Haiti, steel yourself for heartbreak. There have never been any great options for the place so blaming Hillary is really stretching it. Next up- an expose from Slate on how everything that went wrong everywhere in the world until modern times was also Hillary's fault.

    Friday, January 15, 2016

    This is How I See the Road Ahead




    I was commenting on Facebook when I realized I should be putting something on my crappy blog that no one reads:

    "The argument for Clinton is that she's the Democrat most likely to make progress on progressive priorities because she's the Democrat who best understands both the issues and how unbelievably difficult it actually is to get anything done in a divided political system. Sanders can talk all he wants about political revolutions, but no one seriously doubts that the next Democratic president will face a Republican House, a 5-4 Republican majority on the Supreme Court, and a country that mistrusts government action." 


    So, in other words, she's the only adult in the room? 





    How is any of that a bad thing? Knowing she's the only person running who sees things as they are as opposed to what she's going to promise to people and then have to lie about later? Hillary has to lie because this is a country made up of toddlers, bullies, and people tired of lame attempts to categorize a broadly diverse electorate.





    We are not going to get the House back any time soon. We are going to experience a blinding level of partisan obstructionism if she wins the election. The mere fact that she's running is proof that we don't have a choice this year. We have an obligation to put her in office and to keep hammering away at all attempts to destroy Obama's legacy.





    I don't understand Ezra Klein at all. He's against Clinton. But there's nobody else. There is no one running who understands the reality of American politics, circa 2016, better than she does. I mean, full stop. This is what we face--oblivion or an annoying habit of trying to get as much as possible within the confines of a heavily divided political climate. Grow the motherfucking fuck up and just accept the fact that everyone self-identifying as a Republican is living in a batshit crazy fantasy world where they can magically make the government do things it does not do and never has done.



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    Tuesday, January 12, 2016

    Hideous and Cheap




    It would appear that the Chinese took down this statue of Mao because it did not do him justice. Someone working as a monolithic statue contractor fleeced these poor businessmen out of their hard-earned cash and put up a monstrosity. The thing was hollow at the base, allowing teenagers the chance to hide underneath and make fart noises. Was all of that scaffolding part of the plan? Goodness.

    Very undignified. Next time, chip in for the solid foundation.

    Monday, January 4, 2016

    Yeah, Elections Matter




    Paul Krugman says what needs to be said:

    [...] some widely predicted consequences of Mr. Obama’s re-election — predicted by his opponents — didn’t happen. Gasoline prices didn’t soar. Stocks didn’t plunge. The economy didn’t collapse — in fact, the U.S. economy has now added more than twice as many private-sector jobs under Mr. Obama as it did over the same period of the George W. Bush administration, and the unemployment rate is a full point lower than the rate Mr. Romney promised to achieve by the end of 2016.


    In other words, the 2012 election didn’t just allow progressives to achieve some important goals. It also gave them an opportunity to show that achieving these goals is feasible. No, asking the rich to pay somewhat more in taxes while helping the less fortunate won’t destroy the economy.


    So now we’re heading for another presidential election. And once again the stakes are high. Whoever the Republicans nominate will be committed to destroying Obamacare and slashing taxes on the wealthy — in fact, the current G.O.P. tax-cut plans make the Bush cuts look puny. Whoever the Democrats nominate will, first and foremost, be committed to defending the achievements of the past seven years.


    The bottom line is that presidential elections matter, a lot, even if the people on the ballot aren’t as fiery as you might like. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


    But...but...I didn't get the public option so now I'm not going to vote and that'll make the Democrats sorry they ever pissed me off. And then, something something, I'll get what I want and everything will be the way I want it.

    Seriously, though--if you're disappointed in President Obama, I understand why. It's hard to live in a world where you don't get everything you want right now. But, if you're a functioning adult, I don't see how you can be unhappy that we're living in a country where gas is cheap, unemployment is down, and people have health insurance. I seem to remember times when this was just not the case and it sucked for a lot of people. Yes, things still suck. But they don't suck as bad as they could and they suck because people aren't voting for their economic self-interest. If you live in Kansas and Kentucky, I feel for you, but you brought it on yourselves.

    Tuesday, December 29, 2015

    You Should be Able to Refinance Your Student Loan Debt




    It took me a while to figure this out, so bear with me. Megan McArdle tries to pooh-pooh a very good question asked by Bernie Sanders:

    The day after Christmas, Bernie Sanders asked a question on Twitter: “You have families out there paying 6, 8, 10 percent on student debt but you can refinance your homes at 3 percent. What sense is that?”


    Finance types may snicker. But I’ve seen this question asked fairly often, and it seems worth answering, respectfully, for people whose expertise and interest lie outside the realm of economics.


    The short answer is: “Loans are not priced in real life the way they are in Sunday School stories.” In a Sunday School story, the cheapest loans would go to the nicest people with the noblest use for the money: single mothers who need money to buy their kids a Christmas present, say.

    That’s splendid for the recipient. But what about the lender? Let’s say you had $150 that you really needed to have at the end of the month, say to pay your rent. Would you want to lend it to the single mother whose income is stretched so tight that she needs to borrow money for Christmas presents, or would you want to lend it to some heartless leech of a securities litigator with an 800 credit rating who happens to have left his wallet at home? C’mon. You know the answer; you just don’t want to say it. If you really need the money -- if you cannot afford to turn your loan into a gift -- then you lend it to the better credit risk with the higher income, not the person who may find themselves too short to pay you when the loan comes due.


    In aggregate, most of the money in your savings account is loaned out using this cold calculus, and unless you could afford to have that contents of that account suddenly vanish, you want it to be. That’s why poor people, on top of all the other unfairness heaped upon them, pay higher interest rates. And that is why secured loans, like mortgages, get lower interest rates than unsecured loans, like credit card balances and student loans.


    Student loans are two-for-one in terms of risk: They are frequently made to people with no income, no credit history, and somewhat imperfect prospects; and they carry no guarantee of payment other than the borrower’s signature. If someone fails to pay their auto loan, you can take their car away. This ensures repayment in two ways: first, you can auction the car and recover some of the money that you lent out; and second, people need their car, and will scrimp on other things in order to keep it from losing it. The immediate personal costs of failing to pay your student loans, on the other hand, are pretty minimal, and people are going to take that into account when they decide whether to pay you or the auto finance company. That’s why the government has to guarantee these loans; the low-fixed-rate, take-any-course-of-study-you-want-at-any-accredited-institution, interest-deferred-in-school is probably not a financial product that would exist in the wild.


    Secured loans have thus always carried lower interest rates than unsecured loans, and will do so until the heat death of the universe renders moot such questions.

    And so on, and so forth. McArdle tries to demonstrate competence and knowledge here, but let's go back to the question that kicked off this discussion:

    Bernie Sanders asked a question on Twitter: “You have families out there paying 6, 8, 10 percent on student debt but you can refinance your homes at 3 percent. What sense is that?”


    Let's ignore McArdle and really answer the question. Let's say a family, who refinances their home, takes a look at their student debt and makes an honest effort to refinance that debt. They can't! And that's why the question needs to be answered from the viewpoint of a family with student loan debt as opposed to a recently graduated student with student loan debt.





    McArdle is basically right about why a student who just gets out of college is charged a higher interest rate--they're a riskier proposition. But the family, with their home as an asset, is a much lower risk. Why wouldn't you allow them to use their home as collateral so that they could refinance their existing student loan debt?





    That's the part that makes no sense. You have two people who are married and, if they're at a point where they own a home and refinance it, let's say they're also ten years into the thirty year process of paying back their student loans. They've been making ten years of payments on that debt at 7 or 8 percent while their home is financed at 3 percent. You could say that the only reason why they own their own home is because of the degrees they earned. 





    As a condition of refinancing their student loan debt, you could minimize the risk and reduce the interest rate on their student loan debt by using the equity in their home as collateral. You're telling me that someone who has paid off a third of their mortgage is the same risk as a kid just out of college? Hell, no. They're a damned good risk and they deserve an interest rate cut. That would mean huge savings for the family and bring them greater financial stability in the long run, making it more likely that not only would they pay back their mortgage but that they would pay back their student loan debt.





    And wouldn't that help bring down interest rates? Or am I being an idiot on purpose?





    These are the kinds of scenarios that Sanders is really pushing--common sense changes to how we do things so that Americans can get out from under crushing levels of debt. And no one currently self-identifying as a Republican would even dream of such a thing--it runs against the economic self-interest of their primary voters as well as their donors.