Liberals Haven't Lost Their Virtues




I'm not going to be lectured to by some Republican Senator about virtue. I voted against Donald Trump. I pay taxes, I raise my kids like I am supposed to, and I believe that the best gauge of society's morality is how we treat those with the very least. I don't believe in waving religion in anyone's face. And I damned sure don't go around hating people who are different from me.

So, on behalf of liberals everywhere, fuck this noise:

In just two short years, Senator Ben Sasse has gone from Capitol Hill newbie to digital president puncher, tweeting about Donald Trump’s affairs and the Midwestern dumpster fires he found more appealing than 2016’s Oval Office contenders.

Yet, on his breaks from Twitter, Sasse managed to craft a serious new book, The Vanishing American Adult. It advances a thesis that’s at once out of place at this political moment and almost too on-the-nose for the Trump years: He believes Americans have lost their sense of personal integrity and discipline. For the country to deal with the troubles ahead—including automation, political disengagement, and the rise of nativist, huckster politicians, he says—people must recover their sense of virtue. The republic depends on it.

Earnest talk of virtue is uncommon in American politics. Forget the low lows of 2016, a year defined by political cynicism and brutish behavior, or even these first months of 2017, which have been swallowed by dramatic revelations and relentless Washington in-fighting. At this point, the idea of a shared culture is almost unimaginable: America has been carved up into mutually exclusive spheres bounded by religion, race, income, and city-limit signs. Sasse is taking on a problem more challenging than getting legislation through Congress, courting disgruntled voters, or even figuring out what to do about America’s haphazard president. He’s trying to articulate a language of shared culture and values in a country that has been rocked by technological, cultural, and demographic change. It may be an imperfect attempt. But at least Sasse has identified the right project.

The Vanishing American Adult is written as a reflection on the purpose and nature of education, which, Sasses argues, should extend beyond schooling and classrooms. “Everywhere I go across the country, I hear from people who share an ominous sense that something is very wrong with our kids,” he writes. “We’ve lost something from our older ways of coming of age.” Instead of relying on “institutionalized school-centric childhood[s],” Sasse says, families should develop practices that will prepare their kids to become “fully formed, vivacious, appealing, resilient, self-reliant, problem-solving souls who see themselves … called to love and serve their neighbors.” This is the future he wants for his kids.

Tell you what, Ben. Quit voting to help Trump, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell destroy America and get back to me on this whole virtue thing. 






Senator Ben Sasse is here to lecture everyone about how they've lost their virtues and how they aren't adults anymore while he votes, again and again, to take health care away from the American people.

Really, fuck these people and their concerns for our morality.













Sir Roger Moore 1927-2017




Sir Roger Moore was the James Bond that I grew up with; his take on the character was oft-derided but it was perfect for the times.

To say that Bond should have been cunning, ruthless, and humorless in the 1970s was to ignore the overwhelming importance of male bravado and self-awareness of the times. This was the decade that made stars out of complex characters (DeNiro, Pacino, Hoffman) and less than complex fellows (Eastwood, Reynolds, Bronson). You could not have made Bond like any similar character from American cinema, nor could he have had the detached, monosyllabic approach of international films. Bond had to be a global star, able to bridge all of the different genres of film. He had to be able to do dry humor, heart-stopping action, clever romance, and political intrigue. He had to be able to save people, kill people, and mock people, often in the course of a single action sequence. 

That meant finding a British actor with serious theater chops, which is what people still do when they need someone who can truly inhabit a character. Michael Fassbender is the Roger Moore of our time, but, really, he's just another version of Moore churned out by the wonderful schools that teach acting in Britain. You can definitely see Fassbender becoming one of the greats and surpassing quite a few great actors, but he's following the template that Moore helped create.

In his day, no one was better than Roger Moore at being everyman and superman at the same time. He had to portray a character that was marketed and sold to the vast world audience of the time. He had to be the actor who could open a film in London, Rome, Los Angeles and Tokyo and few people have ever been able to do that. The universality of his portrayal does not dim with age. You can laugh at how camp it was, but the whole goddamned 1970s was a campy affair on purpose. At no point were you ever not able to believe he could do what he did. That was what made him great.

The Bond that Roger Moore gave us was sharp, sly, quick and capable. He was very much of his time, and we do his performance a disservice by thinking he had to act like the action figures of the last thirty years or so.













Roger Stone is the First Rat to Jump Ship




The ship is going down, so celebrity ratfucker Roger Stone is trying to be the first one into the water. This sort of thing would have been unthinkable a few months ago, especially since old Roger thought they were all going to get away with whatever they were doing. Here we see him identifying co-conspirator number one--aka Jared Kushner. What sort of illegal activities have these people been up to? If someone were to look at this arms deal with the Saudis, what would they find? Would they find the usual bribes and favors and whatever else that goes with these things?

Who knows? But, I can guarantee you one thing--if Stone can flip on Kushner, he might end up staying out of jail for a while. I agree with the idea that all of them--all of the Trump people and Trump himself--will probably die in jail. I just don't know how all of this is going to unfold.

More importantly, this image is going to be burned into the conservative history of the Trump regime. When Trump bent down and curtsied to the king, he made it known that he was only here to ram cash into his pants and walk away unsullied. The Roger Stones of the world are left holding the bag every single time.

That's how it works for people who believe in Donald Trump. He walks off with your money, you get to explain to the cops why you're holding a gun, an empty bag with a dollar sign on it, and a bank teller's severed head.













A Fake News Story Was Discredited in Record Time




This story hit the wires yesterday, and when it showed up in my Facebook feed, I quickly identified it as a piece of fake news. I got into a back and forth with some low-level trolls, and was able to move on without even writing about the incident.

Well, what do you know?

Last July, a Democratic National Committee staffer named Seth Rich was shot to death in what police called a botched robbery attempt in Washington. No suspect yet has been found. Throughout the summer, showing the same kind of discretion it once extended to the family of Vince Foster, the wingnuttosphere was alive with speculation that the Clinton Death Squad once again was abroad in the land.

Which brings us to Monday's story, which appeared almost simultaneously with the Washington Post story about the president* and his relaxed attitude toward top-secret classified information. From Fox 5 DC:

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich's laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death. Now, questions have been raised on why D.C. police, the lead agency on this murder investigation for the past ten months, have insisted this was a robbery gone bad when there appears to be no evidence to suggest that. Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective, is running a parallel investigation into Rich's murder. He said he believes there is a cover-up and the police department has been told to back down from the investigation. "The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming," said Wheeler. "They haven't been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both."

So the evidence for this blockbuster is on a computer that Wheeler never has seen and that he "believes" is locked away either by the FBI or the local cops in Washington. Oh, OK.

And Charlie Pierce goes on to correctly identify Rod Wheeler as a "source" when, in fact, he's a low-grade lunatic operating somewhere between Infowars and the fevered imagination of whoever used to book Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox. This is easily discredited bullshit, and if I can do it, you can do it, too.

This is the original story, which, of course, has been updated with a paragraph at the end that basically calls into question every reason why it was written in the first place:

POSTED:MAY 15 2017 10:41PM EDT

UPDATED:MAY 16 2017 02:21PM EDT

WASHINGTON - It has been almost a year since Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered in the nation's capital. There have been no solid answers about why he was killed until now.

Rich was shot and killed last July in Northwest D.C and police have suggested the killing in the District's Bloomingdale neighborhood was a botched robbery. However, online conspiracy theories have tied the murder to Rich's work at the DNC.

Just two months shy of the one-year anniversary of Rich's death, FOX 5 has learned there is new information that could prove these theorists right.

Family's private investigator: There is evidence Seth Rich had contact with WikiLeaks prior to death

Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich's laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death. Wheeler's services were offered to the family and paid for by a third party, according to a statement issued by the Rich family Tuesday which also includes that "the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family." 

Now, questions have been raised on why D.C. police, the lead agency on this murder investigation for the past ten months, have insisted this was a robbery gone bad when there appears to be no evidence to suggest that.

Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective, is running a parallel investigation into Rich’s murder. He said he believes there is a cover-up and the police department has been told to back down from the investigation.

"The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming,” said Wheeler. “They haven't been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both.”

When we asked Wheeler if his sources have told him there is information that links Rich to Wikileaks, he said, “Absolutely. Yeah. That's confirmed."

Wheeler also told us, "I have a source inside the police department that has looked at me straight in the eye and said, ‘Rod, we were told to stand down on this case and I can’t share any information with you.’ Now, that is highly unusual for a murder investigation, especially from a police department. Again, I don’t think it comes from the chief’s office, but I do believe there is a correlation between the mayor's office and the DNC and that is the information that will come out [Tuesday].

Wheeler told FOX 5 that he will provide us with a full report with the new details.

FOX 5's Melanie Alnwick spoke with D.C. Police on Tuesday and was told that Wheeler’s assertion that a source inside the department told him that detectives were instructed to stand down regarding the Rich case was false.

The family sent Alnwick a statement on Tuesday with the following statement:

"As we've seen through the past year of unsubstantiated claims, we see no facts, we have seen no evidence, we have been approached with no emails and only learned about this when contacted by the press. Even if tomorrow, an email was found, it is not a high enough bar of evidence to prove any interactions as emails can be altered and we've seen that those interested in pushing conspiracies will stop at nothing to do so. We are a family who is committed to facts, not fake evidence that surfaces every few months to fill the void and distract law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth's murderers. The services of the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family." 

Look for this story to disappear at some point. That's why I'm archiving it here, in its entirety. Yesterday's troll tried to trade on Wheeler's status as a police detective. Fuck that shit. Wheeler just got caught in the kind of hyperbolic lie familiar to anyone who sits before a camera on Fox News. The gravy train is running off the rails so why not pretend to be a private investigator who knows something that will embarrass Democrats? This scam is going to be run again and again in the days and weeks ahead because the Trump Regime is flying apart. I expect we'll see a great deal of this because, hell, it works, doesn't it? It fools people. It reinforces their need to latch onto something phony and make it confirm their biases. It doesn't matter that it's ridiculous--all the better! It plays well on your buddy's paranoid feed, doesn't it?

These fuckers never give up. It took less than 24 hours to slap down a cynical attempt by the right wing media to deflect attention away from the dumpster fire that is the Trump Regime and create a new "right wing myth" about the Clintons, this one involving a young man shot down in the prime of life.

Seth Rich's death is a tragedy, and it should not be used by anyone to advance a political agenda. He should be allowed to rest in peace and every effort should be made to offer some measure of comfort and sympathy to his family. I can assure you, I write of this not to make something worse, but to highlight the actions of evil people and their agenda.

The fantastic Caroline O. breaks this down even further. She is really masterful at exposing bullshit.

UPDATE:






 

 













Trump Trolls Rosie O'Donnell




Given everything that has gone wrong for the President over the last 48 hours, you'd think he would be trying to change the narrative, find a solution to the mess he's created for himself, and reach out to his allies so that he can unify his message to the American people.

Nope. 

Trump spent the afternoon using Twitter to goad Rosie O'Donnell into a Twitter war.






 

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution is a beautiful thing, but it has to be studied and put into action. Trump needs to be medically examined by physicians at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center immediately. 













Mugged!




If there's one thing that Joel Hodgson and his friends at Mystery Science Theater 3000 absolutely, positively did that was smart when they brought back the show, it was this: their timing could not have been better.

In these dark times (spoiler! stay away from parts of this blog if politics causes you to break out in hives or panic attacks), nothing could be more welcome than a show about some wiseguys making cracks about movies. No one could have predicted that everything would turn to crap at precisely the moment when people needed to laugh, but, then again--when is there a time when people don't need a good show?

Don't believe the haters--it's a great show. When they make another season, it'll get even better.

I'll tell you something for nothing, though--the MST3K swag gets better and better. That's my mug up there--no handle, rough surfaces, raised letters--it's as if they knew what I like (ew!). What a mug! Couldn't be happier, couldn't be more pleased to know that at least one thing is right in the world.













Would You Tell This Woman to Lose Weight?




More proof that the world is dumb:

Miss Iceland has quit an international beauty pageant after she was allegedly told to lose weight.

Arna Ýr Jónsdóttir said staff from the popular contest, Miss Grand International, told her to eat less ahead of the final. 

    In a "goodbye" letter posted on Instagram Monday, she wrote: "I am a very strong woman, but sometimes my strength isn't enough.

    "Your staff told me that I had to lose weight for the finals because I have too much fat on me and also too big shoulders."

    It might be a good idea to point out that the man in question wasn't Trump because that was the first reaction I had to this story--what did Trump say about a woman now? But, no. It was some other ridiculous asshole.

    Oh, and as if this needs to be said--don't ever tell anyone they need to lose weight. It's none of your damned business. Period. End of story.













    Tombstone




    Anybody who writes an entire article about Kurt Russell's movie career and forgets to mention Tombstone probably did so entirely by accident.

    Kurt Russell is such a good actor, it is possible to write about the films he has made and the quality of his work and forget what is probably his greatest role. Tombstone gets a mulligan for the mangled history but five stars for being completely and utterly entertaining. 

    Oh, my bad. I meant to say Tequila Sunrise. 

    Tequila Sunrise was Russell's greatest role. Who plays the guy who doesn't get the girl by choice? That was his best performance and then, the classic Tombstone. How you could write about this guy and not mention any of those movies is beyond my comprehension.

    Yeah, I'll go see him in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Hell, the whole movie should just be about him.













    Barbed Wire Kisses: The Jesus and Mary Chain




    The Jesus and Mary Chain are a band that defies every label that you can throw at them. They have built a career out of being difficult on purpose, no matter what the cost. 

    If they became disciples of feedback in the eyes of the media, they would abandon feedback and hire a drum machine. If they became a little too dance oriented, then they'd swallow their pride and hire a real drummer. If the songs became too poppy, they'd throw violent imagery into the lyrics and abandon all pretense of being commercial. And just when their music label would reject an album, they would sign with the original label that discovered them and forge ahead.

    No one ever did more to sabotage their career than the Jesus and Mary Chain. They would turn up drunk, alienate the promotional apparatus of the entire British music industry, and play 15 minutes before walking off of the stage. Whenever they needed to speak to someone influential or important, they would take the piss and say the wrong things. They soared high with Creation's Alan McGee and dumped him as soon as they saw the bags of cash that a major label were willing to throw at them. When years of debauchery and infighting left them "stoned and dethroned," no one wanted to put out their album Munki. But it was McGee who welcomed them back into the fold and saved them from embarrassment. Loyalty is hardly the watchword for a band that dispensed with members as often as the Mary Chain. It has always been a William and Jim Reid situation; they even sacked their faithful drum machine. The book should have spelled out what happened to the device that featured so prominently in their early years. Were it not for the fickle, drum machine-averse American audiences, that thing would probably still be on tour with the bad this very summer.

    Reading this book made me angry that I can't go see them. All they had to do was find a way to make it to Texas, and I would be there. Hey, maybe next time.

    Everything is chronological, and that makes sense in that the story of the Mary Chain is one of rolling through the thick fog of pop music history. This is primarily how the book flows. The band would do something massive, and then fuck it all up. They would write a beautiful song and mangle how it would be presented to the public. At exactly the point where appearing on Top of the Pops or the BBC would have thrown them into the realm of superstar acts, they got themselves banned. When they needed to play a great show in front of a large crowd, they would walk off after abusing them with curses and feedback. It is exhausting to read, but essential for understanding how they created artistic success without ever selling out. That's the explosive, vital lesson of the Mary Chain--you can make it in spite of yourself, and you can do great things without having to compromise your integrity. Rock and Roll is not about playing a perfect set for 90 minutes to an adoring crowd that gets every hit they want to hear. It's about danger, mistakes, and passionately fucking everything up in front of people who get everything they weren't expecting.

    Several celebrities have cameos in the book, but none more hilarious than a hapless Paul Weller, who crossed paths with the band and gave them passive aggressive advice and things to laugh at. None of this degrades the legend of the Modfather in any way, shape or form.

    I have a very personal connection to how they subverted everything in the 1980s, but I would not consider myself an obsession fan. I discovered them on MTV like everyone else because the American Midwest was never friendly for Indie bands from England.

    The very first thing I ever read about them was a baffled album review in People Magazine from 1985. What the hell was Psychocandy? Who the hell were these guys? Good God, no one knew, but they were slightly blasphemous and they had the right hair so they had to be good, right? It was the innovation, dummy. They were influencers without figuring anything out. They were shy but abusive, reclusive but on tour constantly.

    Nobody ever took a bigger right turn from a debut album to a second album than the Mary Chain. Go back and listen to "April Skies" and then listen to anything from Psychocandy. Who reinvents themselves like that? Who says, "Alright, that's enough of what just made us huge. Here's something completely different." No two albums sound alike and nothing could illustrate their artistic merit better than the diversity of their sound and the reach of their efforts to eliminate everything boring from music.

    Where do you slot them? Which genre describes them? Who gets to claim them--noise merchants, shoegazers, 90s alt-legends, or aging hipsters? They have credibility everywhere and belong to no one. They are the closest thing there is to a slightly different, but wholly separate version of Echo & the Bunnymen; when all other comparisons fail, just put them in the bucket with "English and accomplished" and leave it at that. The parallels are stark, but the Mary Chain never made an Electrafixion record and they never made a sleepy stinker like What Are You Going to Do With Your Life. They have their clunkers, but don't we all? Show me a great, interesting band and there will be at least one or two things that make you look away out of embarrassment.

    The reason why this book works as a career narrative is because it doesn't shy away from explaining just exactly what they did right and wrong in equal measures. It focuses on the songs, the albums, and the tours and it breaks down the way they dissolved into dysfunction and thrown punches. It takes you through the embarrassing, cliched use of alcohol and drugs without looking for pathos.

    There's even a disastrous detour through the Far East, replete with cancelled gigs and confused fans. The band went from broke to rich to broke to whatever they are now without abandoning whatever it is that passes for artistic credibility. There isn't even a butter ad in their immediate past, but how could you sell butter with one of their songs? You might be able to sell your soul to the devil for an album like Automatic, but why would you want to? The Reid brothers were there first, and they suffered on the cross for everything they did. They have lived and died for your rock and roll sins.

    Isn't that enough?

    House of Cards Can't Top America's New Reality




    The good folks who write the show House of Cards are running into the same problem that the people writing Veep have confronted this season--the current reality faced by the American people is far worse than anything they can come up with.

    In this new trailer, Spacey’s President Underwood prepares for his election campaign with a sinister message. “The American people don’t know what’s best for them. I do. I know exactly what they need,” he tells wife Claire, played by Robin Wright.

    “They’re like little children, Claire. We have to hold their sticky fingers and wipe their filthy mouths. Teach them right from wrong. Tell what to think and how to feel and what to want. They even need help writing their wildest dreams. Crafting their worst fears. Lucky for them, they have me. They have you.”

    Spacey’s character finishes the monologue by saying: “Underwood, 2016. 2020. 2024. 2028. 2032. 2036. One nation, Underwood,”

    What do you do when you have a country actually being ruled by a dictator? You turn your show into a story about a guy who wants to declare himself a dictator and rule the country for the next twenty years. I wish them well, and I know that Kevin Spacey is good in everything he does, but, wow. Look at where we are as a country. We're fictionalizing things that still can't top what's real.