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Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (stream here): Wait, I thought all the odd-numbered movies sucked? Well, here’s (the) one exception. The Search For Spock is a great movie, though it admittedly falls well short of perfection. Production design here is not all that great–the Genesis Planet is clearly just a soundstage, for one thing–and the acting is not nearly as uniformly strong as The Wrath of Khan. But the movie manages its share of powerful dramatic moments that you may well have forgotten about. It has what might be my favorite moment in all of Star Trek: Kirk, while stealing the Enterprise, gets a call from his pursuer on the faster Excelsior, to the effect of, “Kirk, if you do this, you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again.” This isn’t overplayed but if you think about it, it’s an enormously profound moment in Star Trek. This is Kirk’s calling. It’s his entire identity that he’s giving up, basically on an off-chance to save his friend, and he knows it. He also doesn’t hesitate. “Warp speed.” There’s a beauty to this, a depth of character that simply couldn’t exist in the Abrams reboots–when Kirk sacrifices himself in Into Darkness it doesn’t have a tenth of the same impact as this simple moment of sacrifice that is so subtle and underplayed relative to the enormous stakes to us, the audience. The cost of all those special effects and action setpieces, of the glib, mid-twentyteens character dynamics, is simple and powerful moments like these. The destruction of the Enterprise, the death of Kirk’s son David, the ending which even makes the line, “If I hadn’t [done it], the price would have been my soul,” which is rather clunky as written, have a real impact: put simply, this is a powerhouse movie if you know and love these characters. If you don’t love the movie, go ahead and revisit it. It’s better than you remember.

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Jonathan Bernstein makes a fair point here:

Has Obama sometimes arguably overstepped his authority? Probably. He may have even extended it further than other presidents. I’m not really seeing any important extensions of presidential authority, but that’s not really what I’m saying here anyway.

What I am saying is that Republicans have used apocalyptic rhetoric to mount a series of attacks on Obama for exercising the powers of his office in perfectly ordinary ways.

Look, we need the out party to be tough on the White House. That’s part of how the system works. But instead, Republicans have spent most of the last six years reacting to fantasies, and ignoring their obligation to do the hard work of finding real abuses. It really is a disgrace.

Then again, turning the IRS business into an organized conspiracy to destroy conservatism and making Benghazi! into Obama’s Watergate have paid some big dividends in keeping the base worked up. They’ve not done much of anything to harm Obama outside the bubble, but the sort of work needed to find the sort of substance that would hurt Obama with non-FOXers would be a needless expense from much of the right-wing media when spinning paranoid fantasies gets the viewers in there just fine, and it is work that they’re ill-equipped to even attempt–according to Gabe Sherman’s book on Ailes and FOX News, they jettisoned all their actual reporters in 2012.

That’s just it: the political benefits of IRSGhazi! were negligible, probably even a net negative when considering the opportunity cost of not pursuing something potentially more damaging. But the benefits to conservative media were huge. Guess who wins in today’s GOP?

 

Prison reform should be a no-brainer issue for Democrats. It hurts huge constituencies for the party, destroys lives, wastes potential. If there’s anything that’s the opposite of the liberal dream it’s the American prison system. This article for The American Conservative will just make a liberal sigh:

There was Jeff Tsai, special assistant attorney general for California, who preened about the Golden State’s successful reduction of the state prison population, while failing to mention that 142,000 of such prisoners were merely crammed into county jails, or that the state is now spending $2 billion more on prisons than when Gov. Jerry Brown’s reform began in 2011. Paul Fishman, U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey, informed the attendees that “nobody really wants us to stop enforcing any laws,” despite a growing trans-partisan chorus against wanton overcriminalization. And Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning think tank, repeatedly intoned the phrase “public-private partnerships,” that New Democrat mantra void of all policy meaning.

Blah blah suburban districts. But who do you think it is that is sending the Republicans who actually are working on this to office? I’d like to say that this is something other than aging Democrats who still see Reagan over their shoulders and refuse to do anything that hasn’t been green-lit by focus groups from here to Timbuktu. I’m open to other arguments.

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The death of the screenwriter of Rebel Without A Cause is a good occasion to highly recommend the movie he wrote, and not only is the whole thing on YouTube for free, I even went ahead and embedded it right here. Time to stop putting it off. I get the sense that it’s more something people are aware of than have actually seen, but if you want to understand the Beatniks, or the Hippies, or really any sort of youth movement with a political bent, this is some essential viewing. Beyond James Dean method acting in a white tee, it’s really a movie about being old enough to recognize just how goddamn corrupt the world is (and how deep the hypocrisies run), but still young enough to not have surrendered to that stuff. Dean, due to his life story, will always be able to embody that on screen, and the movie as a whole holds up incredibly well. He’s a rebel without a cause simply because he has to rebel from the prevailing morality in order to live some semblance of a decent life. And, ultimately, this is how most of these kinds of movements think of themselves–only in retrospect are they packaged with the easily digestible politics that they have ascribed to them by the media, so that Tom Brokaw can make a special of them, and don’t forget that Time/Life collection, etc. This explains incidentally why Occupy Wall Street provoked such bafflement by commentators, who seemed to think that a spontaneous movement ought to already have a fully-defined manifesto of actionable legislation behind them, which is crazy. That the Tea Party essentially did have all that just goes to prove how inorganic and unspontaneous that movement was.

 

Now that it looks almost certain that Barack Obama will make the mistake of escalating our involvement in Ukraine (here’s the latest tell), further shredding any sort of plausible commitment to peace and throwing in his lot with delusional neocons and “centrist” D.C. pundits, I figured I’d make a prediction. Maybe it won’t come to pass, but I think it would make a lot of sense if it does. And that is that, within one year of his leaving office, the very hawkish pundits decrying Obama’s every (perceived) failure of will and credibility will be praising his name. And they’ll be right to do it: after all, you could make a very compelling argument that Obama has been as hawkish as a president could be, operating under these constraints. After all, had Obama said no to the Libya campaign, it would not have ever happened. And I continue to believe that, if he’d wanted to, he could have avoided direct involvement with ISIS by citing his own unlikely election win as evidence that Americans have no desire to have any more involvement in Iraq. That argument would, I think, have been very difficult for opponents to rebuke. Instead, we got a war speech that was heavy on moral outrage but light on any kind of substance.

But while Obama has hardly satisfied all the hawks’ desires, he’s absolutely gone as far as he could without seriously damaging his presidency. If you wanted to be cynical, you argue that Obama was always more hawkish than Clinton, just more sophisticated about how to sell it to the left. Clinton sucks at that, still reads from right-wing hymnals full of nationalistic patriotic drivel, as though a Latina from South San Francisco is going to do anything but roll her eyes at that. The Obama method of Public Agony Over This Difficult Choice, with the unspoken corollary that he’s the president and he knows more than you do and it’s a hard decision so if you disagree with this, politely get lost, has worked so much better. It’s not all that much a stretch to read all this stuff cynically. I don’t entirely believe this conspiracy theory–I think it has much more to do with legacy, advisors and his questionable political strategy of placating those “centrist” pundits–but it does offer a more robust explanation of the facts than anything I can come up with.

In any event, the hawks will ultimately realize all this, I think. Given that Obama’s win was largely due to Clinton’s unapologetic Iraq War vote, it would have been plausible indeed to see Obama avoid these sorts of things as a matter of course. Certainly the public would have backed him on this. Instead, he’s gotten the U.S. involved in virtually every news-making foreign crisis of his presidency, with the exception of the Iran revolts. I actually can’t wait for the Obama era to end, if only to read all the memoirs to understand exactly why it wound up this way. I have no doubt that Obama’s interventions will be used to try to tie up a prospective Clinton Administration, with the possible ironic result that Democrats will be much more skeptical of someone many know primarily from her hawkish record (and there’s her relative lack of talent at selling her base on these interventions) rather than someone introduced as an Iraq opponent. Who knows? All I know is that Rich Lowry is an idiot:

We believe in the power of 21st-century international norms. Russian President Vladimir Putin believes in the power of lies and brute force, and implicitly asks, in the spirit of Josef Stalin, “How many divisions do international norms have?”

Breaking international norms, lies, the use of brute force to affect political change. These are serious breaches of etiquette to be opposed. Guess he opposed the Iraq War then, right?

58084213I think much of the success of The Onion and similar fake news sites is how hard it’s become to figure out whether some insane Republican actually said the insane thing we supposed to believe they said.

To wit: this actually got said, I most certainly shit you not:

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said Monday that he’s okay with the idea of service industry workers returning to work without washing their hands after touching their unmentionables, as long as customers are made aware of the situation.

Tillis made the declaration at to the Bipartisan Policy Center, … “I felt like maybe you should allow businesses to opt out,’” he said.  “As long as they indicate through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment literature, or whatever else. … I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says “We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom,” he recalled, as the audience chuckled. “The market will take care of that.’”

The particularly loony part of this is that he’s whining about something that no business in its right mind would come up with as a new policy.  “Chick-Fil-A announced today that it won’t require its employees to wash their hands.”  Further, there is no burden of compliance about which to complain!

Bear in mind: this isn’t a raving militiaman in Idaho.  It’s a sitting U.S. Senator!  Like, in Congress.

I swear this is all a calculated plot to cause libtard heads to explode.  Thus shrinking the libtard voter base.

Here’s a confesssion: I never really hated George W. Bush. I disliked the swaggering machismo he liked to show off, the bullying tone and the John Wayne brand of masculinity that he so desperately tried (and, in Dick Gephardt’s words, miserably failed) to live up to. I disliked how he governed. The people I really hated were all the Republican honchos who fell over themselves to promote him as presidential caliber without reservation, in spite of obvious indications to the contrary. And I never really hated John McCain either. I have no respect for him post-Palin, and the press’s continued obsession with a man who will not even merit a footnote in the history books (and who never has anything new or interesting to say) is baffling and annoying. But I don’t hate him.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is a person who I truly despise. Virtually every lefty I’ve talked to feels the same exact way. I’ve not seen his Netflix propaganda piece, nor do I care to. Plenty of pieces of human garbage were perfectly adequate fathers and husbands. Some were even great ones. My enmity for the man is based on his own sheer self-centeredness, which would be a tragic flaw except for that it is so vast, the flaw is itself the thing, not the blemish. Mitt Romney wants the presidency because it’s the ultimate thing he can acquire for himself. He killed off jobs and communities because there was money in it for him, recall. But he’d just as happily govern as a right-wing strongman, a dealmaking centrist or an idealist liberal, so long as he is doing the governing. The man’s only truly held belief is that he’s the greatest leader ever, way, way better than dear old daddy, who obligingly torched his own campaign early enough that Richard Nixon didn’t even have to think of him as an obstacle. This is just a reminder of how Romney works: every time he it’s time for an operating system upgrade, he assesses which policy positions he should optimally take, convinces himself completely of them (and also that he’s always held them, and aren’t you an asshole for implying otherwise), and then attacks people who actually have held them for some time and done some work on them. Literally every cynical thing that people hate about politics is embodied in this man: the gratuitous lies (which I’m sure in his head are processed in such a way that they’re truth to him), doled out so generously that people stop bothering to fact-check him because who has the time; the naked ambition; the grotesque opportunism. A man with his character is better suited to be a villain in a legal thriller than to be President of the United States. He sort of has, actually.

Admittedly, the dozens of videos of Mitt Romney proclaiming himself staunchly pro-choice or favoring a national version of his health plan didn’t derail his chances in 2012, but none of those got quite as much attention as this one did. So let’s continue to share it, shall we? Make it stick to the plastic man.

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