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The Missing Picture

[ 61 ] October 8, 2013 |

Rithy Pahn’s documentary about the millions of forgotten people killed in Khmer Rouge death camps with scenes largely constructed with clay figurines looks amazing.

In related news, the 20th century was horrible. Luckily, all the secular fundamentalist* ideologies that led to the killing of so many are dead except for capitalism. Sadly, it is still in the ascendant and people die in the garment factories of Bangladesh, the coal mines of China, the houses in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. Maybe someday the last deadly secular ideology will also go away.

* I am perfectly aware that religious fundamentalists ideologies have their own problems. But that’s for another posts. And they’ve ultimately killed a lot less people in the 20th century.

The Teddy Bears

[ 20 ] October 7, 2013 |

I just realized that somehow I never posted The Teddy Bears here before. Imagine a silent movie version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears with Teddy Roosevelt coming in at the end for an, um, disturbing ending. And some early version claymation bears. And the bears in full Victorian dress. But mostly that disturbing, bizarre ending satirizing Teddy Roosevelt. This is a real favorite to show students.

Shutdown=No Union Elections

[ 25 ] October 7, 2013 |

It’s no wonder many Republicans love the government shutdown. Among other things, it stops union elections from being held since nearly everyone in the NLRB is on furlough.

This story is also a good glimpse into how companies fight unions even after workers vote for representation.

You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play by the Rules

[ 11 ] October 7, 2013 |

Not to steal SEK’s thunder here, but I was going to post this anyway and then he did a writeup.

If Republican members of Congress want to win the crazy and offensive person of the day, they have to play by the rules. Since when did Republican congresscritters say insane things anonymously?

According to the Washington Examiner‘s Byron York, an unnamed GOP congressman expressed surprise at the government shutdown. “To be honest with you, I did not think we’d be in a government shutdown situation,” he said. He blamed “the Cruz phenomenon” for “disrupting” the plans of House Republicans, likening the current GOP situation to the Battle of Gettysburg:

I would liken this a little bit to Gettysburg, where a Confederate unit went looking for shoes and stumbled into Union cavalry, and all of a sudden found itself embroiled in battle on a battlefield it didn’t intend to be on, and everybody just kept feeding troops into it. That’s basically what’s happening now in a political sense. This isn’t exactly the fight I think Republicans wanted to have, certainly that the leadership wanted to have, but it’s the fight that’s here.

That’s a Monday winner right there. If the person gives us their name.


[ 25 ] October 7, 2013 |

Naturally Rick Scott is apologizing not for purging Florida’s voting rolls of black people ineligible voters. He’s apologizing for not purging enough black people ineligible voters.

Film Blog (II)

[ 29 ] October 6, 2013 |

I have another set of reviews of films nobody has seen at my little film side blog. And hey, a couple of films people actually have seen as well! Those are movies I own and wanted to watch again.

Someone Else’s Voice, Ivanov-Vano, 1949
Hostile Country, Carr, 1950
Black and White, Amalrik and Ivanov-Vano, 1933
The Tin Drum, Schlondorff, 1979
Cerro Pelado, Alvarez, 1966
Unforgiven, Eastwood, 1992
The Maltese Falcon, Huston, 1941
No, Larrain, 2012
Railroaded!, Mann, 1947
Urbanized, Hustwit, 2011
The Human Condition, Kobayashi, 1959, 1961
Glastonbury Fayre, Neal and Roag, 1972
Music Makers of the Blue Ridge, Hoffman, probably 1965

As always my reviews aren’t worth reading. But feel free to waste your time.

Like Chocolate and Peanut Butter

[ 73 ] October 6, 2013 |

If you were Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Racist Insignias and aggressive defender of the racist name, who would hire as your team lawyer to work the Beltway in defense of your racist team name?

Yeah, I’d probably hire Lanny Davis too.

Native American Voting Rights

[ 30 ] October 5, 2013 |

In our national discussions on race, Native Americans are usually a footnote. We talk about them in the past but forget they are still around today and that they still face very real discrimination, both structural and societal. This includes access to voting. A group of Native Americans in Montana has filed a lawsuit to allow satellite voting on the reservations. Their claim last fall but is presently on appeal to the 9th Circuit. Some of them have to travel up to 100 miles to vote, a real hardship that means many simply can’t vote at all. There’s no good reason to not allow satellite voting except that Republicans don’t want Native Americans to vote.

From a strictly political perspective, this really matters in a western state that actually can and routinely does elect Democrats on the state level, even if a Democratic presidential candidate can’t come close there. Jon Tester has two terms in the Senate now in no small part because of Native American voting. Opposing satellite voting on the reservations is part of a larger Republican strategy to disfranchise as many Democratic voters as possible, especially people of color.

Of course, given the SCOTUS decision overturning the most important part of the Voting Rights Act, eventual victory in this case is probably doomed.

Grumble Grumble

[ 63 ] October 5, 2013 |

I understand that Michelle Nunn faces an uphill battle to win the Georgia Senate seat. But I’m absolutely not convinced that parroting right-wing lines about the national debt and the need to cut spending is going to help a Democrat win office anywhere. I know that she might have to make some compromises on the issues that matter to a conservative Georgia electorate–I wouldn’t expect her to take a strong statement on guns. I’d expect her to be pretty hawkish on foreign policy (which I expect anyway because of her father). I wouldn’t expect her to be a national leader of gay marriage (although I would expect at least neutrality). I wouldn’t even really resent her for being an ally of dirty energy. But how does the national debt play with the voters of Georgia? I’m skeptical it really matters to anyone but the 1% who are looking to concentrate resources in their pockets. Unfortunately, Democratic politicians tilting right seem to equate that with also supporting the extremely rich. This is DLC-style posturing at its worst. Makes the big funders happy though.

Who’s Next

[ 44 ] October 5, 2013 |

Is the Republican congressional delegation holding a drawing where the once a day winner has to say something so stupid and insensitive as to get national attention? Do the winners then get judged and the most offensive gets a committee chair? Yesterday’s lucky winner was Nebraska’s Lee Terry:

Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., was blunt when asked if he would continue collecting his paychecks during the shutdown.

“Dang straight,” he said.

Terry suggested it’s an irrelevant question because the situation would be resolved before long.

What about the other members who were donating or forgoing their pay?

“Whatever gets them good press,” Terry said. “That’s all that it’s going to be. God bless them. But you know what? I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”

Fair enough. No regular government officials have kids in college or a house payment.

Since this kind of thing seems to be happening regularly once a day (Thursday was North Carolina’s Renee Elmers, Wednesday went to Randy Neugebauer of Texas), we might as well guess who it will be today.

So I’m going to go with, oh I don’t know, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma. No particular reason. Certainly has a name of choice.

Anyone else want to play? Winner gets a cookie of their own purchasing.

1798 in 2013

[ 43 ] October 4, 2013 |

I know this cartoon is supposed to represent congressional infighting in 1798. But I think it is also a pretty good facsimile of the Republican Caucus in 2013.

The Limitations of Presidential Politics for Progressives

[ 87 ] October 4, 2013 |

This essay on Obama campaign staffers finding his likely approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline deeply disturbing and conflicting is really interesting, not because of what the story says but because of the unsaid implications. Basically, Obama’s Organizing for Action group attempts to translate the energy from his campaign into lobbying for policy victories. That’s fine, I totally support it as an idea. But of course the reality is that the hope and change of the Obama campaign–even the second campaign–simply doesn’t translate for progressives who want to see their policies enacted. I don’t know if we will ever have a president who has the ability or the desire to implement the precise policies I want. That’s especially true of someone like Obama, who regardless of the insanity of the opposition is still a politician who trusts Arne Duncan and Ken Salazar and Larry Summers.

So it’s not at all surprising that the staffers would be torn between their love of the president and their realization that the pipeline is almost certainly going to be build. What is interesting about it is that progressives would actually believe supporting a president is the way to create change in American society. Of course, what actually makes change is pressuring politicians from both inside and outside the system to enact change. Supporting a president’s policy agenda only makes sense when it is also your own policy agenda.* Otherwise, you want to push the president. So even if it isn’t going to change the world to get arrested over protesting Keystone, it’s a significant step. More significant would be taking that energy in supporting Obama and joining organizations that would make him do the right thing on the issue. There are lots of environmental organizations that need fresh blood, particularly smart people with real political experiences**

This all relates to points I’ve been trying to emphasize now for 2 years. I became a hated person by some progressives during the election because I stated that voting for President Obama was a necessity and that playing around with third party candidates was a disastrous idea. What we have in 2013 is a generation(s?) of people who are so tied in with the national political game that they see the presidency as not only the site of change but as the place to make a moral stance. They define themselves politically through who they voted for in the last presidential election. They believed in Hope and Change in 2008 and are shocked to find out the system doesn’t work that way.

I on the other hand believe that presidential elections are vitally important because of court appointments and executive authority that matters on issue ranging from National Labor Relations Board appointments to public land policies. But ultimately, the presidential election is the site where you consolidate your gains or cut your losses from the last four years. If you’ve organized and pushed the Democratic Party to the left, you will see that through the presidential primary season. If you haven’t, you won’t. The place to make the moral stand is not the election–it’s all the rest of the time. The presidential election is where you make the moral compromise. The rest of the time you yell and scream and organize to drag the lame person you elected where you want them to go.

I feel that if more people understood this–and connected it concretely to how change has historically happened in the United States–that as a coalition of movements, we’d all be a lot better off.

* Admittedly, this is often a grey area with significant room for necessary compromises when it makes sense.

** They need idealistic hippies too, but they already have those.