Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ranking Brutality

Yesterday driving to work some NPR report said that Romney had spent over a billion bucks in his 2012 Presidential campaign. The idea was that this time around, any serious candidate is going to spend (or have spent in their behalf) way more than that. That means Mr. Trump can only run maybe three times on his own nickel. This is the world that Citizens United gave us, not that it wasn't already slouching in our direction since some historically opaque birthing moment deep in the Reagan years of darkness. And the principle was already well in view long before Reagan managed to achieve national traction when Mr. Carter was so taken aback by the Iranian revolutionary mob's kidnapping of the American Embassy in Teheran that he lost his Presidential stature altogether. (Never mind that the Reagan boys also made a deal with the Iranians to not muddle up the sparkling October of 1979 with any confusing hostage releasing.)

So I wondered, driving along, was the guy from ISIL who pontificated on TV whist cutting off the head of an American journalist actually any more brutal that the American dentist who paid some guys to lay a dead animal carcass across a car hood just outside the protected animal preserve in Zimbabwe, and then laid in wait till an almost tame lion with a radio collar and a fucking name came out of his sanctuary to investigate the delicious aromas, and then shot that lion, and badly, with a crossbow, and then finally two days later put the dying animal down with a rifle. I know we're supposed to see ISIL as the absolute worst, and they are, if you like, the absolute worst. But as far as beheadings go, the Saudis do that too, and quite a lot of it. And as far as innocence goes, Cecil the lion was about as innocent as you can get. You'd think some flicker of something would have passed briefly across that dentist's brow. This isn't even Hemingway's decrepit century, who when you think about it wasn't all that romantic about killing wild African animals, and who wrote a whole book about the ashes at the end of the hunt, called Old Man and the Sea.

I hope Zimbabwe gets their chance to put the monumental brute on trial. He can have his lawyers. Let's hear Mark O'Mara's brilliant defense. There must be one. The white-hunter dentist is a character actually come to life. Terry Southern invented him, Jean-Luc Godard refined him. How far we've come.

Last night Hannity decided to run short clips of all the Rethug candidates stating their "positions" on various matters. Aside from Trump, who's position is basically I am Trump, hear me roar, which is yet another transliteration of the basic fascist principle, which is the membrane between ideas and action: "my first act, upon election, will be to kill you," the rest of the craven, sordid lot just recited the old time-worn broken principles. I will cut taxes. No, I will cut taxes. Santorum, who's only job for the past five years has been running, for which he is and must be handsomely paid by some billionaire or other, added that he thought we needed to spend a lot more on the military.

I could watch but briefly. I was still recovering from the magnificent film I watched the night before, First Name, Carmen. By gawd, that's a movie. It even ends with a statement, "In Memoriam the last small movie." A great double feature would be Le Chinoise, then First Name, Carmen. Godard always wants to make movies you have to think about, you have to think "in." They are never "entertainments," places to go to just lose yourself and watch. If you don't think about what's going on in a Godard movie, you will be lost and bored. If you engage with him, it's another matter.

It's not like Carmen isn't funny. Godard himself has a wonderful role playing somewhat himself but as a man who's pretending to be ill and living in a nursing facility, hiding out from his job as movie director. The Godard character is introduced in a scene where the staff is telling him that if he doesn't show some symptoms of illness he will be evicted. "This isn't a hotel," a doctor intones. After the upper staff leaves and a nurse comes to putter around his night table, he says to her, "If I stick my thumb up your ass and count to thirty-three, will I develop a temperature?" It took me a while to realize that this was an erudite medical joke: a patient would be receiving the rectal thermometer from the nurse, who would count to keep track of how long it needed to stay in place. Ah ha.

Carmen the film is as beautiful as any Godard ever made. It is punctuated with scenes of the ocean at the shore, including the shore sounds, waves, gulls, the water as sparkling and translucent and "real" as if you were there, with the warm sand between your toes. Then there are recurring scenes of passing trains on a bridge over an urban river, perhaps Paris. They rumble towards each other, pass, one behind the other, vanish. The city sparkles behind, the water below. It is of course night. A string quartet also recurs, practicing a late Beethoven quartet. One of its members seems to be unrequitedly in love with the protagonist, a love-struck soldier boy who falls for the heroine, Carmen, as she's shooting up the bank he's guarding. At the end of the movie Godard appears and calls "wrap." He's been kicked out of the nursing home.

The laughable Republican field might as well be the cast of a Godard film. They are all of them absurd. Only Trump has some reality. Only Trump can dare to say anything he wants. He could say the thumb up the ass line to an earnest female reporter who tries to seriously interview him about "positions," or he could say, laughing, "Positions? We don't need no stinking positions." He could even say "Praxis, you talkin' about praxis?" He's willing to be what he is, a pompous blowhard who thinks money proves it all. He is the embodiment of the whole Republican grounding principle, the actualization of the dictum. The rest of them like to shout that money proves it all, then whisper "so give me some." Trump is the principle in action. Trump, and that lion-shooting dentist. As Reagan famously said, "I bought this microphone."

That would be a meditation for a Godard movie, wouldn't it? Reagan, of course, did not buy the microphone. His backers, who back in the day preferred to stay anonymous, bought the microphone. Romney was the first billionaire who emerged into the spotlight. Once there, he immediately gave up too much. We're the makers, they're the takers. Too bad Waylon was gone:

"He'll do her, in ways that I never, damned if he won't do her wrong."

Now it's four years later, and Trump can probably formulate Romney's rich guy credo in such a way as to bring cheers. I read this morning he's leading, among Republican candidates, amongst Hispanics. As Trump has said, "They love me."

The other thing I read this morning was that Hillary has finally decided to start kicking ass. Yesterday she spoke to the Urban League whilst Jeb Bush was waiting back stage:

In a biting pre-emptive attack delivered as Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, waited backstage here at the annual convention of the National Urban League, Mrs. Clinton portrayed him as a hypocrite who had set back the cause of black Americans.

Mrs. Clinton, a Democratic candidate for president, latched onto Mr. Bush’s campaign slogan and the name of his “super PAC” — “Right to Rise,” his shorthand for a conservative agenda of self-reliance and hope — and turned it into a verbal spear.

“People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care,” Mrs. Clinton said to applause from conventiongoers, a dig at Mr. Bush’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

“They can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on,” she said, a jab at his opposition to raising the federal minimum wage....

Jeb's people were unhappy. They said she was being "uncivil." We paid for that lion, they said. Documents were properly stamped. As Digby recounts:

On Twitter, Tim Miller, Mr. Bush’s communications director, called it a “Clintonesque move to pass over chance to unite in favor of a false cheap shot.”

We paid for that lion. It was not a false cheap shot. If they can just get Trump to go away they can have a campaign on their own terms, the terms of cant and misogyny and veiled racism and makers versus takers. They've got the whole Fox Network, and apparently MSNBC is now going to join the chorus. In truth, there isn't a media network that isn't controlled by billionaires. Even PBS gives David Brooks a weekly voice, and it is said that Wall Street backs Hillary.

Godard was right. In memoriam, the last small movie. These days we're in the big time. The problem remains, same as it ever was. Best we can do is stave off the brutes. Otherwise we'll live it the hard hard way, even if the brutes feel the wheels of justice just as much as the rest of us. Go watch A Woman in Berlin, or the Marriage of Maria Braun. There is an aftermath, and the sharks feast until there is nothing left but the ragged bones.

Along with Carmen on the disk from Netflix was another Godard film, Passion. It's star is Hanna Shuygulla, the star of Maria Braun. It's another movie about making a movie. There are many beautiful women, often unclothed. There is some sort of tangled relationship of several. At the end most of the characters decide to drive off to Poland. It has started to snow. In France, snow is very beautiful, just like the women. Poland perhaps stands for reality, but certainly not for a lack of beautiful women. Ms Shuygulla is Polish. According to what I've read, the totalitarian regime there had just been overthrown as the film was being made.


Sunday Update

I found this link via Lawyers Guns & Money.

I really like Oreos now and again, so this is personal. How depressing. What a sad, sad story for America.

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