Batman v Superman, Zach Snyder and the Malevolent Universe Premise

HBO has had showings of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (or, BvS) in the last couple of months. I had promised Facebook friends at the time of its release that I would review the movie in regard to certain subjects, and with the Wonder Woman movie about to come out (produced, but not directed by Zach Snyder) and with the Justice League movie being promoted (originally being made by Snyder until his daughter’s untimely death caused him to bow out of directing), I thought I needed to go over BvS in terms of how it suffers in comparison to other superhero movies, and exactly why it does, with regard to how Snyder’s oeuvre leaves a lot of fans pessimistic about the overall direction of DC Comics’ movie universe.

First, if you can, I’d recommend seeing the Extended Version/Director’s Cut of BvS. The movie still isn’t that good, but it’s substantially better, giving context to otherwise slapped-together scenes and giving characters like Jimmy Olsen real dialogue. Of course there are at least two reasons this wasn’t released in theatres: the extra stuff added 30 minutes to a movie that was already 2 1/2 hours long, and the extra violence would have gotten it an R rating. (And while the studio didn’t seem to care about the movie being dark and violent, they apparently wanted it just dark and violent enough to where kids could still see it.)

Some random points:

In this movie, Zach Snyder really seems to go for a lot of blurry, out-of-focus shots, which are often irritating but are occasionally used to great effect, as with the scene where a Gotham street cop encounters the Batman for the first time.

As far as the now-famous “surprise” where Batman’s vengeance is stayed when he finds out that Superman’s (foster) mom has the same name as his deceased mother, I thought that was actually a good move. I’m quite surprised that no one else noticed the coincidence of Martha Kent vs. Martha Wayne before, although it wasn’t until now that anyone saw fit to bring it up.

With as many problems as this movie had, I think it would have been improved by a factor of triple if it did not have Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. And normally I like Eisenberg. If he had just played the character as a reinterpretation of his Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, it would have expressed the sort of cold sociopathy that Luthor has in the comics. But in terms of both intelligence and emotional stability, this Luthor makes Donald Trump look like Mr. Spock.

Although in retrospect, given that Luthor had surveillance footage of the future members of the Justice League, much of what happened in the film only makes sense if you realize that Lex Luthor knew Clark Kent’s secret identity all along, and probably Bruce Wayne’s too.

The reason I wanted to critique an otherwise disappointing experience is because of something I’d read at the time of the movie’s release, where Zach Snyder had mentioned doing a film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. Most of what I’ve seen on the subject details a movie that is not yet in production because Warner Brothers is still holding on to Rand’s screenplay, but when you type “zach snyder” in a search, the first thing that comes up is “zach snyder and ayn rand” and the articles it links to are fairly consistently from left-wing sites (like Salon) or from left-wing critics almost choking on their own snark about how bad Rand is and if Snyder likes her work, that just makes sense because he is also technically if not morally awful. As a fan of Rand’s (though not an orthodox Objectivist) I had to react to this assertion, especially since my issue with associating Snyder with Rand turns out to be the ultimate problem with BvS.

For one thing, Ayn Rand never wrote superhero comics, for another, the closest thing we have to such are the comics by Objectivist artist Steve Ditko (including The Question and Mr. A), and Snyder already did an adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen comic story, based largely on comics that the DC company bought from Charlton Comics, including The Question, and in Watchmen, the vigilante Rorschach was basically Moore’s parody of The Question taken to a murderous extreme.

Ayn Rand is now most famous as a radical atheist right-wing philosopher (as opposed to the more religious conservatives) but she had always thought of herself primarily as a fiction author, one who belonged to the “Romantic Realist” school. In Rand’s terms, she was a Realist in the sense that her work did not include supernatural premises (although many of John Galt’s inventions are pure science fiction), and she was a Romantic in the sense that she wanted to write about heroic characters who prevailed over challenges and inspired moral values. The reason for her atheism, and later political involvement, was her sense that traditional altruist morality undermined heroism. This position has made her very unpopular in traditional liberal circles. For instance, Rand’s signature novel, Atlas Shrugged, is considered unrealistic and elitist because it posits a future dystopia in which the last thinking, productive people on Earth are under constant siege from mobs of mindless moochers whose only motivation is feeding themselves. And yet, the Zombie Apocalypse genre is more popular than ever.

Much of this gets into why Rand is now more famous for political philosophy than fiction, and has little bearing on BvS, DC Comics, or Zach Snyder’s film making philosophy. But Rand matters in comparison to Snyder because she articulated two aesthetic ideas that intersected with her political views but are not dependent on them. One is “sense of life” and the other is “benevolent universe premise.”

In the Ayn Rand Lexicon (now online) these two concepts are quoted mainly from Rand’s The Romantic Manifesto. She defines sense of life as “a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence.” In smaller words, one’s sense of life is a mainly subconscious and implicit sense of existence or “how the world works” and in most people is set before they are exposed to abstract philosophy and make specific value judgments on philosophical grounds. Rand explained why sense of life was relevant to art: “It is the artist’s sense of life that controls and integrates his work, directing the innumerable choices he has to make, from the choice of subject to the subtlest details of style. It is the viewer’s or reader’s sense of life that responds to a work of art by a complex, yet automatic reaction of acceptance and approval, or rejection and condemnation. … Regardless of the nature or content of an artist’s metaphysical views, what an art work expresses, fundamentally, under all of its lesser aspects is: “This is life as I see it.” The essential meaning of a viewer’s or reader’s response, under all of its lesser elements, is: “This is (or is not) life as I see it.”

The other concept of benevolent universe premise is not so much that the universe is some animate thing that’s looking out for you, but rather, if the conditions of the universe are such if that human beings can live and find technical and social progress, then a mindset of progress and values is the correct one for existence. This is part of why liberals despise Rand, because this premise goes along with various right-wing beliefs rationalizing the already successful as being more worthy and thus implies that those who are struggling do so because of a lack of values. And yet, this concept that existence is perfectible and that humans are not doomed to tragedy and suffering is inherent to heroic fiction, whether dealing with capitalist “Randian supermen” or the altruistic Superman.

Objectivists contrast this philosophy with “malevolent universe premise” which they hold to be mostly implied in altruism (the idea that lack, disappointment and disaster are the human norm and the goal of existence is to rescue other people from various emergencies) and mysticism (the premise of various religions that the physical world is either unreal or inferior to the spiritual world, and therefore improving material conditions is meaningless). In terms of her literary tastes, Rand identified this overall approach to life as associated with the Naturalist school of fiction, which attempted a scientific or observational view of subjects but emphasized “realism” by focusing on the more grim and sordid aspects of life. Part of this was the attempt to inspect material and social conditions outside the individual, but led to a view that man’s fate is ultimately determined by greater forces than the individual. One of Rand’s objections to Naturalism was based on the sense of life concept: Since the author is the ultimate shaper of the fictional setting (its God, so to speak) then a morally downbeat and grim work says more about the author’s sense of life than about how life “really” is.

In fiction, the malevolent universe premise expresses in one of three ways depending on the author. Either the author arranges things for the hero(es) to fail because the premise of the story relies on them failing, he arranges things to fail because his sense of life disposes him to actually believe that human effort is ultimately meaningless, or he believes that the conditions of the universe are such that they punish honorable behavior and that only rat bastards are capable of doing what it takes to survive in this world (this last could be called ‘the George RR Martin’s Career Premise’).

This premise worked for Zach Snyder in his adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300, which was supposed to be an over-the-top, gory last stand movie. It worked for Watchmen, which was was supposed to be a deconstructionist take on superheroes from the get-go. It even works to some extent with Batman (dark cave, wears black, no parents) which might be why the Batman sequences of BvS work better than the Superman ones. But it doesn’t work for Superman, and it might work even less well for Wonder Woman, because if you want your story to express certain values (like ‘violence is a reliable solution to all problems’) then someone like Superman undermines those assertions by his very existence in your setting. In Watchmen, the Dr. Manhattan character is a great deal more powerful than Superman, but he’s not a hero. Whereas in the Marvel Studios movies, Captain America is simply a human being tuned up to the highest level of performance with no fancy powers of his own, but the Captain America movies do a much better job of presenting the comicbook superhero ethos- and what Rand would call the benevolent universe premise- because despite going through trials that are at least as much psychological as physical, Cap still maintains his convictions and prevails over his enemies.

Go back to Man of Steel for a bit. Clark’s foster father Jonathan wanted Clark to conceal his powers. He was willing to keep this secret even to the extent of letting himself die for it. Why? Because he was scared of what might happen to Clark if he were found out. What the government might try to do with him. This version of Pa Kent didn’t grow up in a universe with Superman comics and cartoons. He didn’t grow up with that role model. He grew up in a universe presented much as the cynical world of today, without even that fictional alternative. He was operating on malevolent universe premise.

And unlike some people, while I didn’t object to Clark killing the Kryptonian General Zod at the climax of the movie – because he was clearly left with no choice – the reason he was left with no choice, in “meta” terms, is because that’s how the script was set up. Superman didn’t have access to a Phantom Zone projector or some means of removing the villain’s threat without killing him. Which writers for Superman comics have been able to do for almost 78 YEARS. This is of a piece with all the property damage and mass casualties Superman and Zod caused by their battle within Metropolis, which was another thing that comic fans objected to. Almost as if they’d been reading comic books for years longer than Zach Snyder and expected a comicbook movie to play out LIKE a comic book. But apparently the idea of the producers (including Snyder, and also his co-screenwriter, David S. Goyer of The Dark Knight movie trilogy) was that in order to be believable you have to present superheroes “realistically” in terms of the consequences their powers have and how people would react to them. To the extent that this argument has merit, it’s been better presented in other superhero and science fiction movies, including Watchmen. But it also misses the point. Stories like Watchmen pose the question: what if people with strange abilities and colorful costumes acted just like everybody else? Traditional superhero comics ask the question: What if they didn’t?

In any case that grim approach to how people would “really” react to a superhero carries over to BvS, where events play out as direct consequence to the Kryptonian battle over Metropolis. The city builds a giant statue to Superman but others call him a “false god.” The standoff between the government and Superman in Man of Steel seemed to have been resolved at the end of that movie but is re-intensified, for no obvious reason other than Superman attacking a warlord in a Third World country (mainly to rescue Lois) whom the CIA was going to take out anyway. And nobody cares what the CIA does in the Third World, so why would they care about Superman? The other factor is that the collateral damage in Metropolis also destroyed one of Bruce Wayne’s buildings and killed most of the staff, and with this version of Bruce somewhat resembling the Frank Miller version (semi-retired from crimefighting and embittered by the Joker killing Robin) he’s inclined to outright kill Superman, even as his investigations reveal something more sinister going on with Luthor. Just as this world didn’t grow up with 70-plus years of Superman, it also didn’t seem to have anything like the spectre of the 9-11 bombings. Rather than having public and government insecurity over terrorists blowing up skyscrapers, we have paranoia over superheroes blowing up skyscrapers. Which might explain why this world doesn’t care about protection against bombers.

Luthor sees the confrontation coming between Superman and the government, and decides to escalate by blowing up the Capitol as Superman comes in to testify. Let’s not even dwell on the point that blowing up the Capitol is just another example of postmodern cynicism towards government in particular, where Congress is destroyed largely because it’s a convenient target for audience wrath (much better expressed in Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks: ‘We’ve still got two out of three branches of government, and that ain’t bad!!’). What was the guy’s wheelchair made of so that site security was unable to detect the explosive? Would Superman’s X-Ray vision have worked any better? Not like it matters. As my friend Jason Tondro says, he didn’t fucking look.  In fact, Clark actually said this to Lois the first time he saw her after the explosion. Well, not the “fucking” part.

Retreating back to the Arctic, Clark has a vision of his dead father Jonathan, who talks about how as a boy he and his family blocked a river flow during a storm to save a farm, only to find out that the diverted flow ended up ruining the Lang family farm instead.

In the movie, Luthor reveals himself to have been abused by his father (as Lex was in the most recent comic iterations). In this, Luthor’s atheism is not so much a rationalist philosophy as a “mad at God” stance, and once he has Superman in his clutches, he makes it clear that he regards him as a substitute for the absent creator he blames for his trauma. (So if we’re supposed to believe that Snyder and Goyer are apologists for Randian atheism, there’s a mixed message here.)

Blackmailed into fighting Batman, Superman tells Lois Lane, “no one stays good in this world.” No one who understands Superman would have written that line. But no one who understands Ayn Rand would have written it either.

To some extent, the fact that someone like Superman doesn’t use all the capabilities at his disposal is an example of what Siskel and Ebert used to call the “idiot plot,” as in, the plot advancement depends on the principals being idiots. And as other critics have discussed, many of the movie’s plot holes, or plot sinkholes, plot crevasses and plot canyons, are best explained if you assume the producers went with the premise “let’s have Batman fight Superman” and worked backward from there, as opposed to Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, where the fight between the two was inevitable considering Bruce’s actions, but not actually the point of the story, and where small details were introduced explaining why that confrontation would be inevitable and not contrived. But what we’re discussing with Snyder’s movies, the Superman movies in particular, is more broad and abstract. The forces of the universe, as shaped by the producers, actually work against heroism. In Pa Kent’s example, this is explicit. Even when you try to do the right thing, it blows up on you. So why try?

Ayn Rand was rather infamous for her humorlessness, but one reason for that was that she thought that heroism and heroic virtues should not be mocked. And in terms of her literary position, she saw that mockery taking place throughout a popular culture influenced by Naturalism that saw optimism and virtue as “unrealistic.” Superman, as the most famous altruist next to Jesus himself, is not the sort of character Rand would have championed. But neither would she have tried to make him seem stupid or impotent. And that’s what BvS does. It does this to a lesser extent with Batman, whose investigations of Luthor are distracted by his mad-dog obsession with Superman, but the contrast between what the comic fan knows about the character and what Snyder’s movie presents is not quite so insulting. Batman as a violent and obsessed vigilante is a simplistic interpretation, but it’s not entirely inappropriate. Superman, as a near-omnipotent character who tries to use his power judiciously while causing as little harm as possible, is a character concept that Snyder and Goyer don’t seem to get. BvS, much more so than Man of Steel, seems intent on pushing every “cool kid” conception of Superman as being useless and stupid in comparison to edgier heroes, and given that Superman has that image problem, the challenge in storytelling terms would have been to make that Boy Scout hero both inspiring and believable.  It would also have been a challenge for Ayn Rand to do so, but then, she would not have tried, rather than make a genuine hero look like a tool.

All of which is why I don’t think Zach Snyder is a Randian, or if he is, he’s not setting a great example. Most likely if he did get to do an adaptation of The Fountainhead it would end up with Howard Roark as an obscure architect who resorts to terrorism in order to compensate for his failed life, with Dominique as not merely masochistic but outright delusional, acting out a cycle of childhood conditioning and abuse a la Sucker Punch.

And if you want “gritty” superhuman movies that show all the ugliness and vulgarity of real life but are also entertaining and even heroic, you’d be better off with Logan or Deadpool.

Especially Deadpool.


REVIEW: Star Trek Discovery Trailer

Notice I refer to the preview of Star Trek: Discovery and not the actual show. For one thing, the first episode isn’t out yet, and for another, the show is on that stupid CBS All Access network which would require me to pay for a service when I can barely afford the pay TV I have now.

But there was a certain level of controversy over the preview, partially because of the perceived political correctness of casting the two stars, China’s Michelle Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green (late of The Walking Dead), who are not only women but minorities. This sort of thing doesn’t concern me. We should all be aware by now that the real “sensitive snowflakes” are the cultural conservatives, and it’s not like this is the first time they’ve bitched about new media.

The idea of two strong female characters who are “of color” is in my opinion one of the more interesting things about the show. (Although I prefer not to use the phrase ‘people of color.’ One, to me it sounds too much like ‘colored people.’ Also, Donald Trump is technically a person of color.) The two stars are the main reason I’m interested. It’s the rest of the trailer that is turning me off. For various reasons.

For one, the uniforms and spaceship sets look newer and spiffier than the Original Series Trek and even the JJ Abrams old-Trek-with-modern-production movies. This was one thing that the Enterprise series, with all its problems, got right from the get-go. That show looked to me like the characters were the precursors of the Starfleet crews in the very first episodes of original Star Trek (like ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ and ‘The Corbomite Maneuver’ where the uniforms were even more bland and utilitarian than Enterprise).

The use of Sarek and Spock. Why are they really necessary? Especially given that the Discovery storyline is supposed to be taking place ten years before the start of the original series, and to the extent that Spock is seen in the trailer, it’s as an adolescent.

The Klingons. They look that much more alien than they did when re-introduced in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and it took them until 2005 to explain THAT.

Apropos of nothing, but has Doug Jones EVER done a role without full makeup?

Let me put this another way. I’d mentioned recently that I’d seen the new Ghostbusters reboot (the one where the principals are all women), and I liked it. However, the female casting seems to get some fans’ undies in a bunch, to the extent that the hostile reaction may have affected the movie’s box office success. Unfortunately the movie, while it had good elements, undermined itself. Namely, it started with the premise of a reboot or re-imagining with no continuity to the previous series, and yet most of the actors from the original movie did appear playing different characters. This somewhat defeated the purpose of starting fresh and made it that much harder to judge the movie on its own terms. It raised the question of exactly what the producers were trying to do.

Continuity is always an issue when you’re using established intellectual property, because while it defeats the purpose of creating something new if you don’t go off in a new direction, it defeats the purpose of saying that X is X when the new thing departs from the setting of X to begin with. It would be less irritating if Star Trek: Discovery had simply taken the parallel-universe of the J.J. Abrams series, or set the show within the past of that timeline. But the implication is that this is the universe of the original series, which already has quite enough problems with “retcon.” It’s not quite so bad with comic book properties, where a superhero series gets rebooted from scratch every decade or so and nobody questions this.. But even then, continuity matters. You can say that your Superman has no continuity with the Christopher Reeve Superman, but if you want to say that he IS Superman, don’t act surprised when people wonder why he needs to kill somebody.

The politically-incorrect grousing about casting is a red herring in comparison to the other issues with Discovery. I remember that when the first trailers for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens came out, some guys were pitching a fit over John Boyega and Daisy Ridley being the stars. The fact that the new heroes were a black man and a white woman was immaterial to me. What sold me on the movie was that it FELT like Star Wars. Granted, some critics would say it feels TOO MUCH like the first Star Wars movie. But it got the job done.

Now granted, the actual series may explain some of the issues. (IF I see it.) The Sarek scenes with Spock might be flashbacks. Some fans are already claiming that the “new” Klingons are a nearly extinct subrace trying to save themselves. But to me the Discovery trailer, much more than The Force Awakens, seems like the producers’ attempt to slap a bunch of by-the-numbers elements together, even where they don’t fit, and market it under a well-loved brand name in the hopes that no one will notice or care about the difference. And the problem there is that with this particular intellectual property, fans DO notice the differences. As witnessed by all the little details I just went over, and I’m not as big a Trek expert as some people I know.

It’s Coming From INSIDE the White House!!!

Donald Trump’s international trip has actually been fairly successful thus far, if only because he hasn’t started Armageddon yet. Yet some people on both sides just have to complain. First, he and his family got attention from liberals because of their special deal to give Saudi Arabia upwards of $109 billion in weapons and equipment.

I hate to tell you this, folks, but heaping praise and aid on Saudi Arabia while turning a blind eye to their monstrous theocracy is the most conventional aspect of Donald Trump’s Administration relative to other presidents.

And on the other hand, Trump’s “alt-right” fans are going apeshit when he made his speech to the Saudis Sunday morning, and did NOT use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” and even went so far as to call Islam one of the world’s great faiths.  For this they gave him their usual insults, calling him a “pussy” and a “cuck.”

Seriously, Trumpniks, what do you expect your Dear Leader to do? Yeah, go ahead and go to the kingdom that controls the Two Holy Cities and tell them that Islam is a death cult. Go ahead and tell them that Allah isn’t the same as God. Go ahead and tell them that the purpose of Islam is to wage war with the unbelievers until they are all converted or enslaved.

You might as well expect Mr. Unpredictable to go to CPAC or the Republican National Convention and tell you, “America does not have an official religion. America does not have an official language. You cannot have the big, powerful government you want if rich people don’t pay taxes. But instead of trying to make government fair and just, you want to make everything nonsense and Opposite Day, because you’re bitter reactionaries and you’ve made Two Minutes Hate into a permanent lifestyle.”

See how far he’d get with that.

Meanwhile, in the last week before the start of the international tour, the Trump Administration continued to suffer setbacks in the court of public opinion, as news article after article revealed more embarrassing details about the president’s overall lack of competence and temperament. An example is a May 17 article in the New York Times.  The article, by the Times’ designated chroniclers Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman, mentions Trump’s reluctance to sleep in any location other than a Trump property (of which there are none in the five countries on the trip), and his request to “cut short” a trip to Israel’s Holocaust memorial site. It also says that recently, “(in) an attempt to capture his interest, aides threaded Mr. Trump’s own name through one of the two-page memos they wrote for him.” And: “in private, Mr. Trump’s advisers acknowledge that they are concerned about his off-script eruptions, his tendency to be swayed by flattery and the possibility that foreign leaders may present him with situations he does not know how to handle. They worry he will accidentally commit the United States to something unexpected, and they have tried to caution him about various scenarios.”

This story, with many, many more like it, gives the picture of a particularly bratty and stupid child who is incapable of grasping the basic tasks of his current office, let alone those of a CEO. If you are a conservative or a Trump voter (not necessarily the same thing) you can use these articles to make a case that Trump is the victim of slanted presentation by a biased media. And you would have a point. But consider: These stories are the results of leaks from Administration staff. Not just whatever people may be left from the Obama Administration, if there are any. We’re talking about Republicans who have direct access to Mr. Trump on a personal and daily basis. These are people who got on the Trump Train because they thought he had a plan to Make America Great Again (TM). And they are seeing the man in action, and they are deeply dismayed. The theory, confirmed by at least one conservative, is that the leaks are not an attempt to undermine the Administration, but rather to save it. In an article for The Hill,  Erick Erickson, best known for the Red State site, asked: “Why would a loyal staffer who adores the president of the United States leak damaging information to the national media that makes the president look bad? … The story had multiple sources. I know one of those sources. He can only be characterized as an ardent Trump supporter who desperately wants the president to succeed. But as more than one member of the Trump White House realizes, sometimes the president will not take advice. Sometimes the president treats suggestions as criticism. More often than not, the president is vastly more interested in what the media says about him than what his advisers in his employ say to him.  White House staff have ample incentive to leak to the press when they believe the president needs to pay attention or be admonished. ”

In other words, Trump, while he complains to high heaven about the mainstream media, spends a lot of his time obsessed with mainstream media, especially when it’s about him. And thus leaking to the “MSM” is the only way they can bring stuff to his attention.

It would be one thing if a partisan media were simply doing everything it could to make a Republican president look bad. Conservatives ought to expect that. But what ought to concern them is how many conservatives who know what’s going on are helping the liberal media expose their savior. And that’s because some of them are starting to realize what the rest of us have been telling them all along: Trump will do the same thing to conservatism- and the nation- that he did to the Atlantic City casino industry.

In the first month of the Administration, as Trump made his first clumsy steps to Trumpify the apparatus of state, a lot of liberals were fretting about “Trump fatigue” – the idea that Trump’s mere presence at the head of state would normalize a deeply abnormal situation and serve to usher in fascism, and people would eventually get tired of taking to the streets in protest every time he did something stupid and/or evil. But now it seems to be the other way around. Now as Trump moves on not-exactly-leftist institutions like the FBI- not just because he wants to consolidate power, but because he literally doesn’t know what he’s doing- as his unwillingness and inability to keep promises is now impossible to deny, and as the political liability to conservatism becomes that much more obvious, it’s the alt-righters and establishment conservatives who are asking: How much longer can WE put up with this shit?


Wake Up, White People

“As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law,” the report said.
In addition, his national security adviser, who was at the meeting, told the Post nothing was shared that was not already publicly known. At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly,” said Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster., May 15, 2017

“Fuck you.” -David Mamet

All right, I’ve had about enough of this.

Even as I write, Donald Trump, Viceroy for Russian North America is escalating the crisis over giving intelligence to the Russians, which was in itself an escalation of firing FBI Director James Comey, which was an escalation of investigations on Trump’s National Security hire Michael Flynn.

But who gives a damn? None of it is going to matter as long as the Republicans in Congress sit on this thing. It’s as if Trump is deliberately going as far as he can to say, “Yeah, I’m a traitor. Yeah, I’m a total Russian stooge. Yeah, I gave them information literally no one else could give them. Whatta ya gonna do about it? NOTHING. Ya wanna know why? Cause I’ve got the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, as my personal bitch. Mitch the Bitch. Isn’t that right, Mitch?”
“Yipe yipe yipe!”
“Good girl.”

Even then, however much of a punk McConnell is, he and the rest of the Republican Party are like this because they need Trump voters. So I’m talking to you, Trumpniks. And when I say, “you,” if you think I’m talking about you- well, I am.

You’re gonna have to accept that as long as you defend your precious little boy, you’re putting yourselves in the same position as Sean Spicer and H.R. McMasters and all the other officials who are destroying their own credibility – not just as professionals, but as homo sapiens – by making a case that he himself will immediately contradict, almost as if to test how much you will degrade yourselves. Because most Trumpniks, even the rich ones, know what it’s like to live in a world with jobs, bills, and responsibilities, a world where actions have consequences. A world where Donald Trump has never had to live. But you trusted him to understand that world and craft positions to help you. And it must be obvious even to you now that he doesn’t understand that world, or indeed anything beyond whichever emotion is going through his very little brain at the moment. But every time he does something stupid and dangerous, something you would never do yourself, something you would never allow your 5-year-old to do, something you would never tolerate in Hillary Clinton or any other Republican, you will defend him, because he’s Trump and you’re you.

What’s really pathetic is that Spicer and the other professionals are being PAID to look like idiots, but you’re doing it for free.

Let me see if you can grasp it from this perspective: Living in the United States is like living at home with a single mom. And the President is the guy that she’s shacking up with. And she has to change boyfriends every so often, because, well, there are term limits. And some times the new guy is a hardcase. Sometimes he’s cool. And sometimes, he’s a poufy-haired douchebag who’s addicted to cocaine.

And you know how it is: he swears he’s gonna pay all the bills, and then he watches TV all day and eats you out of house and home, he slaps you and orders you around because he’s the “man of the house” and you’re not, and whenever you try to convince your mom that the new guy is a punk and she needs to Dump The MotherFucker Already, she says, “But you don’t understand! I LOVE HIM!! Your pitiful facts and logic have no place in my reality!”

She’s you.

Now the difference between this analogy and real life is that if one is an adult living at home with a codependent parent, one can always move. But when your friends, and your neighbors, and half the state are Trump cultists (Republicans), the only way to escape the dysfunctional relationship is to leave the country. And the problem there is that the abusive party is the United States government. The United States government doesn’t believe in restraining orders.

“But what about Hillary’s emails?” Well, FUCK Hillary Clinton, FUCK her damn emails, FUCK YOU if you think you can change the subject, and FUCK THE LIVING FUCK OUT OF YOU if you seriously think that is the subject at hand. Fucker. Hillary Clinton is not the spoiled little brat who is squirting shit all over the White House because nobody ever spanked his ass and made him learn how to behave amongst humans. That’s YOUR precious little boy, Trumpniks. YOU did this. He’s on YOU.

Because everybody else knew better. The Hillary voters. The people like me who couldn’t stand Hillary and couldn’t vote for Trump either. The Never-Trump conservatives. Even those few conservatives and blue-collar folks who did vote for Trump and are willing to admit they were had. The problem is that much larger base of chumps who will lap up any excretion from that animated stool sample like it was caviar. I am willing to admit how much I hate Clinton, and I did not vote for her. But even at the time I was willing to concede that however much I hated her, she was not likely to be so consistently and progressively stupid.

And if I agree with half of what Trumpniks think about Hillary – and I do  – then why did I oppose Trump? Well, if I hate Hillary that much, then exactly how bad did Trump have to be?
How about bad enough to give presidential-level intelligence to the Goddamn Russians???

Y’know, something tells me that y’all wouldn’t be so willing to defend Trump if he’d given that info to the Chinese.

There’s a difference between hating Clinton and hating reality. And the only conclusion I can reach is that you’re addicted. Just as it’s possible for the hypothetical mom to be addicted to bad relationships, it’s possible for an individual to be addicted to bad politics, and for such individuals to form a poisonous movement.

But since drug addiction is a matter of self-absorption, by the same token that means addicts are too self-absorbed to justify their chemical romance by appeal to an ideal or political goal.

When my brother went to shoplift Walmart to get some goods he could pawn for his fix, and ended up getting in a fistfight with store security, I don’t think the thought going through his head as his teeth flew out of it was “ha ha take that libruls.”

What you do have in common with heroin addicts is a complete disregard for the damage you are doing to the world around you, not to mention yourselves. Trump is a hell of a drug. And like all habits, the first hit is free. But the price keeps going up and up. And rock bottom is a BITCH.

What happens when your source dries up?
What happens to YOU if Donald Trump is gone? I’m not even talking impeachment. He IS the oldest president in American history. What happens when he dies?

Will your movement survive carried on the surging masculine charisma of Ted Cruz?

As a right-winger who has little regard for left-wing political correctness, sanctimony and hypocrisy, I am warning you that you do not consider the real danger in enabling not only Viceroy Trump but the current anti-intellectual bent of the Republican Party. Emphasis on “bent.”

The danger is that the Republicans really are going to turn America into a one-party state. That one party being the Democrats.

Because the longer YOU let this farce go on, the more likely it is that when, NOT if, it blows up in your faces, the more likely it is that the Republican Party will be in the same bad odor that the Democrats were in 1865. And for much the same reasons.

Which is where I get to the elephant in the room. So to speak.

It perhaps overstates the racism at the core of the know-nothing movement now calling itself “conservatism” to say that was the only reason Trump won the election or why he attracted a following. Given the number of votes he got, conservatives can’t ALL be racist. Indeed, I would say that’s not the worst aspect of being a Trumpnik. I mean, anybody who heard the Watergate tapes knows that simply because Richard Nixon was a racist paranoid with authoritarian tendencies didn’t make him a bad president. It’s when you’re a racist paranoid authoritarian who is also gullible and incompetent that the racism becomes too much flavoring. And while not all unreasonable people are racists, racism, as an anti-reason philosophy, tends to lend itself to irrationality, unreasonableness and downright stupidity. Just as not everyone with lung cancer smoked cigarettes in their life, but things have gotten to where it’s a leading indicator. The problem is not so much racism in itself but willful ignorance and deliberate wallowing in idiocy and fantasy. Because that attitude leads to a whole host of other sins, including racism and petty (or not-so-petty) sadism.

This was a problem long before Trump ran for office. I say again, the Republican Party was the Party of Trump for quite some time, and they were just waiting for him to show up. And when Obama was in office, liberals were insisting that the main reason for the knee-jerk conservative opposition to him was him being a young black man. Again, I’m not a liberal. But I didn’t need any convincing.

Not when I saw at least one sign at a Tea Party rally saying, “There’s An African Lion In The Zoo, and There’s A Lyin’ African In the White House.” Not when Mitch “The Bitch” McConnell held up President Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee, making him the first president to not even be allowed to have that nominee appear before the Senate, because reasons.

But Trump, formerly an economic centrist who praised Canadian-style healthcare and had little regard for conservative issues like abortion, gravitated to the Republican party as his vehicle instead of the Democrats because they agreed on the important thing. They felt threatened by a changing demographic and wanted to cling to power by hook or by crook.

It’s no coincidence that this culture coincides with the resistance to removing Civil War monuments and the culture of Civil War re-enactments, which are not bad things in and of themselves. The problem is not erasing history, but continuing to distort it, glorifying something that was not any good to begin with.

But of course you want to have the Civil War re-enactments and the statues of Confederate war heroes because that’s the time when your spiritual ancestors were kicking ass. You don’t want to re-enact what happened after you lost. You don’t want to be reminded of being poor, conquered and fucked.

You don’t want to commemorate Sherman’s March. You don’t want to commemorate breaking up the plantations. You don’t want to be reminded that the Union encouraged black men to run for Congress to represent Southern states, and you don’t want to be reminded that the South was under military occupation until 1877 because they couldn’t be trusted to govern themselves.

That’s the future you are promising this country.

THAT’s what you mean by “make America great again.”

See, this is why we need a White History Month. Cause there’s a whole bunch of white people who don’t seem to know anything about it.

You might not actually be a racist, but if you know what these people are and enable them anyway, you are a fellow traveler.  So if that’s the path you want, consider where it leads. On the bright side, re-enacting being poor, conquered and fucked costs no costume budget whatsoever.


REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

It is fair to say that Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is basically the same movie as the first one, only more so.  And given how fun the first Guardians of the Galaxy was, that is enough recommendation in itself.

What’s surprising is how deep the movie is.  The first movie actually did a good job establishing the dynamics of each character, where the principals with the possible exception of Groot are all survivors of trauma: Rocket is a victim of animal experimentation, Gamora was forced to fight Nebula for the sake of Thanos, Peter Quill lost both his parents and Drax lost his entire family.

The new movie makes explicit this previously implicit theme.  So while it brings up the “Sam and Diane” attraction between Quill (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the real emotional confession of the movie is between Gamora and her archrival Nebula.  Drax (the hilariously deadpan Dave Bautista) develops an emotional range that he hadn’t had before, but can only reach his deepest sorrow second-hand through the empath Mantis (newcomer Pom Klementieff).  And the main character, Quill, finally meets his long-lost father (Kurt Russell) whose plans for him present an emotional temptation he may not be able to resist.  To say much more would spoil the movie.  Except that the producers took the character concept of “Ego, the Living Planet” and ran as far as they could with it.  And as others have pointed out, the best acted scene in this movie (other than the Nebula-Gamora confrontation) is between a guy in blue alien makeup and a CGI raccoon.

Which isn’t to say that Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 isn’t an action blockbuster movie with a budget bigger than the GNP of a developing nation, because it certainly is.  But a lot of movies coming out this summer will make literal tons of money, and how many of them will be worth saving in your video collection years from now?  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is funny, exciting, and at one point, intensely moving.  Hopefully Marvel Studios will be able to maintain this standard into their planned “Infinity War” phase of films.