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History is strewn with the corpses of “permanent” majorities, and change tends to come from where you least expect it. In retrospect it was pretty dumb to think that losing one presidential election would force Republicans to moderate, three or four maybe. But Republicans are so hostile to the interests of virtually every growing group of voters that it’s illogical not to assume a hefty, indefinite decline. I think the real answer to this is: after enough of the angry white male supremacists die off that changes made to build a winning party can be shoved down the throats of the rest of them. The question is whether this occurs before they finally manage to destroy the constitutional order they claim to cherish–something that would be traumatic in the short run but almost certainly better in the long run. I do think this is what it will come down to.

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We can stipulate that Jeremy Corbyn is essentially right that it’s pointless for Britain to maintain nuclear weapons–the country could fit under the US’s nuclear umbrella, and it’s more about elites not wanting to not have nuclear weapons and fall out of that club (and have yet another sign of military decline after five straight decades of such). But leading is about smoothing out differences and finding common ground, and Corbyn would rather be right than pick his battles, and would divide his party on a low-salience issue just to make a point. That’s not good.

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IdzeqzHnn days past, Republicans did a pretty good job of semi-privately nurturing the angry, paranoid septuagenarian wing of the party but yet coming off in public like all they do is find grandpa’s musings just so adorable.

Now, well, the entire Republican party is thinkin like gramps, and they can’t do much to hide it anymore:

[L]ast year, my dad, 70 years old, retired, applied for the first time for a self-carry permit. Why did he do that, I asked. He said somebody has to protect us if ISIS comes over here to cut our heads off.

ISIS shudders at the thought of Senator Tom Cotton’s armed pappy, I’m sure.


Is a great, underrated film, and one that puts the lie to the idea that Stanley Kubrick was an emotionally repressed formalist. That’s true in the case of 2001: A Space Oddysey, which I’d describe as a bunch of really great filmmaking that isn’t really a great film, but if the proposition is true, just how exactly could such a person orchestrate one of cinema’s greatest emotional gut punches of all time:

And here are my rankings for Kubrick’s canon (excluding his early shorts and B-movies):

  1. The Shining. I personally do not like horror films. Thankfully, neither apparently does Stanley Kubrick, since nearly all of the conventional scares in this movie are defused by his filmmaking choices and feel like a send up, deliberately or not. That’s part of what makes it different from the book, aside from the everything else. The film is more thriller than horror, though certainly there are Gothic elements. Every scene is great. Do I really have to make a case for this?
  2. Paths Of Glory. It’s often categorized as an antiwar film but I’m not sure I agree (and not just because a more accurate categorization would be “courtroom drama”). All Quiet On The Western Front is an anti-war book (and movie) because it takes you through the experience of being a soldier and all the nightmarishness of every aspect of it, which this film doesn’t do much of. It’s more a dark parable of human nature a la Sierra Madre, one enabled by war but not specifically about it. It’s about people who use the war to advance their own agendas and then cynically rationalize it. And they generally get away with it. Though it’s not entirely devoid of hope: there are Kirk Douglases out there, fighting the good fight. And then that ending. Man alive.
  3. The Killing. It’s a genre film but a really fucking good one. Kubrick’s obsessiveness really works to keep everything tightly wound and fast-moving, and it even touches on race and domestic violence in ways that were outside the norm in the ’50s. Plus it’s ambitious in structure, uses music well and features a fantastic cast (except for Elisha Cook, who as usual is a little too hammy). Certainly not his deepest statement as a filmmaker, but IMO his most sheerly enjoyable and entertaining.
  4. Barry Lyndon. See above.
  5. Lolita. On the one hand, it’s a hopelessly compromised version of the book, though it’s hard to imagine an even moderately faithful adaptation ever getting made and released. What would that even look like? But on the other hand, Kubrick still manages no small amount of brilliance here: his take on the late ’50s/early ’60s as a sexual cauldron just waiting to boil over (with Humbert and Lo being just one manifestation of that mood) wound up being dead on, and even though he’s a creep the film really does manage some genuine earned sympathy for Humbert at the end of the film. Career best performance for James Mason. Also, Peter Sellers is around, and doing things.
  6. Dr. Strangelove. It’s surprisingly more low-brow than one might think–all those punny character names!–but damn if it isn’t still a great movie. This is defintely peak Sellers, but the real revelation is Sterling Hayden, who everyone knows is an awesome movie badass but winds up being a killer deadpan comic actor too. (Also the rare actor who was a principal in more than one Kubrick film. If only his memoirs didn’t end at 1959!) Also a great use of comedy to do what drama failed to (boy, does Fail-Safe suck!). While the enemy has changed since 1962, the satire of security state paranoia is still quite applicable to American politics. Unfortunately.
  7. A Clockwork Orange. Incredibly well-made, incredibly unpleasant. Kubrick seems to hate the state more than he hates Alex and his friends, though the movie equivocates on its political takeaway and I don’t really think its humanism is sincere at all. In fact, I’m not really sure what the point of the movie is. Criminality can’t be fixed so we shouldn’t even try? Nonsense: this is why the book is by far the better treatment of the material, as it is genuinely humanistic and manages an actual takeaway, rather than presenting us with some unsatisfying libertarian parable. Maybe Kubrick’s best in terms of sheer filmmaking, though: so many of the images and sequences of the film are cultural touchstones. Intellectually, though, it’s squarely pitched to teenagers of a slightly anti-social bent.
  8. Full Metal Jacket. I get that it’s episodic and disjointed in the same way that military life is. But not all the episodes are equally compelling. Sort of a bathtub curve in terms of my interest in the subject matter–starting high with the boot camp material, bottoming out when it’s about GIs picking up prostitutes and drinking in Saigon and Stars and Stripes editorial meetings, then picking up again for the last battle. Strong ending.
  9. 2001: A Space Oddysey. See above.
  10. Spartacus. Kubrick works his magic as a visual stylist, but the film just feels like the dated late-’50s studio product that it is. Then again, he could do little else since he was a director for hire (at the behest of Kirk Douglas, who outranked him on the totem pole anyway). A pretty amazing cast delivers great performances generally–they got both Olivier and Laughton!–and the spectacle is remarkable. But it’s way too long and tries way too hard to sell itself as a Ten Commandments/Ben Hur type of epic, especially with the ending. Not bad, but not remarkable.
  11. Eyes Wide Shut: There should be no scarier words in the English language than long-gestating passion project. Whether it’s Barry Levinson and Toys, Scorsese and Gangs Of New York or Kubrick and this film, having decades to work on a project does not necessarily make it better–quite the opposite, in fact. Gangs at least was forgettable, and Toys merely ended Levinson’s hot streak, but Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick’s final work, the capstone of his career. And it’s terrible. So many choices here are wrong, starting with the casting of Tom Cruise as a sexually insecure, rich doctor with a hot wife who loses his shit when she tells him about a fantasy she had about another man once. Seriously. This would make some sense with alternative proposed casting choice Woody Allen, but Tom Cruise? In real life he would not have needed to stalk around Manhattan for hours to find sex–the guy could have picked up a woman in the elevator in his building, problem solved. Then there’s the modern-day setting: set in a more repressive time, such as the 1950s, when sexuality was largely undiscussed in polite society, one could see the big revelation as being shattering, but in Kubrick’s version of New York, everybody seems to constantly be talking about sex or having sex or encountering naked people who just had sex everywhere. It’s almost as though Kubrick had twenty years to pore over every possible story angle and wound up combining two that contradict each other. I’m not really buying the film’s depictions of power either, let alone that orgy scene–I can buy sex clubs catering to the rich and powerful with costumes and fake rituals and all that but why is Cruise any sort of threat to them? What, is he going to ID the head of Goldman Sachs by his penis? It feels…implausible. The film fails as a grounded drama, but it doesn’t work as an overheated thriller either. It’s just lifeless and dull, a possibly good idea dead by overthinking.
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This classic Matt Yglesias piece on the man will live forever, though his recent sorta-apology over it reminds me of why I steer clear of Vox. Not really sure why “maybe he’s dumb, but so are most other congresspeople” is the basis for a seemingly sincere apology, aside from a general desire to avoid alienating powerful people generally.

Also too, I’ve seen enough episodes of The Apprentice to take it with a grain of salt until The Donald himself has spoken the words. That dude loves to change his mind at the last second. Not saying for sure it’s going to happen, but…


I remember a time when David Cameron was a pretty popular figure among American liberals–roughly the timespan from the Republican Primaries of 2008 until 2010, when the true intent of his thing became apparent. Lots of liberals looked forward to a time when ostentatious moderation would be the Republican Party’s calling card, though many (myself included) had the hubris to think it would start right away after Obama won. It might seem like a stupid statement, but if David Cameron had been a different person, he might have been great–if his role had been filled with someone with substance, rather than a phony pragmatist and an ideologue who only cared about abstractions, who knows how much good he could have done? What positive impact he may have had on conservative parties across the world? Clearly, our mistake was assuming a career marketer had any substance.

It also seems worth it to mull over the wages of austerity for a moment. Austerity was, as any number of Paul Krugman columns have cogently argued throughout the years, improvised economics based on academic flim-flam by a political class desperate to point the finger for the financial crisis at anyone but themselves. And it sorta worked, but the unintended consequences have been shattered lives, the collapse of mainstream politics in much of Europe and the rise of the extremist fringe, ironically going first to gobble up the center-rightists like Cameron and Merkel who indirectly created them, as well as the EU apparatus that forced their doctrines upon them. I would say that history will judge them poorly but it’s not as though they’re faring particularly well in the present either…

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So it finally happened:

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders formally declared an end to their political rivalry Tuesday, joining forces to take on a shared enemy: Donald Trump.

“I have come here to make it as clear as possible why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president,” Sanders said at a joint rally here. “Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination and I congratulate her for that.”

Unlike the various Chicken Littles who thought Trump would be in the Oval Office unless he did this weeks ago, I actually think this is pretty much ideal timing. In the wake of yet another round of the email scandal (it does say something that an exoneration on the part of the Director of the FBI still somehow becomes a negative news cycle for HRC), a positive and unifying news event is a welcome change of pace going into the conventions. Hopefully it will be good for a bit of a poll bump, as some of Sanders’s supporters have still not migrated over to supporting Clinton. But even if this occurs, stuff like this shows why it’s not going to be like 1995 for the Clintons again:

What’s striking, though, is the degree to which this is driven by differences between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans are nearly unanimous in their disapproval of Comey’s decision, by 88 to seven. But according to the crosstabs, Democrats are substantially more split: 31 percent of Dems also disapprove, versus 63 percent who approve. Similarly, Dems say by 31-68 makes them worried about her presidency. Among independents, those numbers are 59-31 and 63-34.

In other words, nearly a third of Democrats disapprove of Comey’s recommendation against charges and say it makes them worried about her presidency, and a whole lot of Dem-leaning independents say the same.

What’s more, the crosstabs show that this is particularly pronounced among young voters and liberals:  A majority of voters under 40 disapprove, by 55-32. And nearly half of liberals (43 percent) disapprove, while 49 percent approve. Similar percentages of those groups say this worries them about her presidency. Given those demographic breakdowns, it is possible — though the polling doesn’t say one way or the other — that there is substantial overlap between those Democrats and Dem-leaning independents who disapprove of Comey’s decision and those who support Sanders.

This is why people (and they do exist, mostly though not entirely at Salon) who think that we’ll be returning to the dreaded days of triangulation are wrong. The circumstances that led to that were: a Democratic Party that had been losing for over a decade, an environment where the Republican Party was vastly more liked and trusted than it is now, an existential panic among many Democrats about the loss Southern conservative whites from their coalition (hence the Southern origins of the DLC), and a diminutive left-liberal wing that lacked organization or effective leadership. Given those circumstances, it wasn’t such a surprise that liberals got shafted again and again during those years, and quite a few of them developed an extreme mistrust and anger toward the Clintons as a result. As stupid and self-defeating a gesture as it was, useless crank Ralph Nader’s 3% of the vote in 2000 was just one manifestation of this anger, which shortly afterward would be channeled into more productive fora (blogs, social media, etc.). But it obviously still persists, and it most definitely colored the Sanders campaign near the end.

In any event, the incentives for Hillary to burn and betray the left are now long gone. There likely will be some overtures to traditional Clinton voters in the South–I’m sure it bothers them that their old base has abandoned the party–but I doubt it will amount to much, as the more promising way toward recovery in the region is the expansion of liberal pockets in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia, not in trying to prop up failing Democratic conservative pockets that aren’t likely to hold anyway. Also, the Republican Party is a historically unpopular basket case of bigotry, while the Democrats are about to win a third presidential term, a highly rare achievement. And the liberal wing itself is much larger now than it was back then, heavily organized thanks to the Sanders campaign and its leaders comprise some of the most popular and respected politicians in the country, who have a stature that easily compares with Hillary. Not only that, but Sanders’s dominating performances among young people–a key constituency for Democrats and one of the hardest to motivate–will make him a key figure on the political scene going forward, and will put the left at the center of Democratic politics going forward, and that left consists of quite a lot of people who will be vigilant in trying to spot triangulation and betrayal like they’re used to. They’re the proverbial squeaky wheel needing the grease: in the ’90s it was Southern whites that party leaders fretted most about losing, but now it’ll be the danger of Sanders voters flaking out. That will give the left more power in party politics than it has in a while, and that power is already showing, not only in the platform drafting, but in emphasis of the presidential campaign. How many times have you heard Hillary Clinton talking about her entitlement/plan this election cycle? Where’s that hard pivot to the center? Still waiting for that stuff guys. She’s already acting as though there’s no percentage in that stuff. Because, ultimately, there isn’t.

Simply put, there’s plenty to worry about with Hillary Clinton already, between the routine lapses in judgment, the out of touch one-percenter mentality and the batshit foreign policy that there’s no need to worry about massive betrayal of the left. Most likely she’ll distance herself from some liberal positions like ending capital punishment or the Fight for $15, but that’s not the same thing as running ads touting DOMA to homophobes. Not at all.