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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 67,581

Journal Archives

Abortion Fix (cartoon)


Mission impenetrable: are Hollywood blockbusters losing the plot?

Mission impenetrable: are Hollywood blockbusters losing the plot?
From Fast & Furious to the Avengers, Terminator and Jurassic World, the trend for ridiculously over-complicated storylining is out of control this year. Is it time for a purge?

(Guardian UK) Forty-five minutes into the seventh Fast & Furious movie, Vin Diesel drives towards a huge precipice. The audience have only the faintest idea why he’s there. Ditto why they have paraglided their cars into Azerbaijan. Is it Azerbaijan? It’s probably to rescue someone … who was it again? Something to do with a surveillance gizmo means they need to find their nemesis Jason Statham, except Statham seems to find them whenever he wants, being the one about to push Diesel off the cliff, not the random mercenaries they’re nicking the device from. Only Kurt Russell – who’s watching everything from his covert-ops unit and chatting about craft ale – seems to understand what the hell is going on.

What was once a series content to celebrate simple boy-racer pleasures, the seventh Fast & Furious fell prey to a recent tentpole-film affliction: ridiculously over-complicated plotting. Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation writer Drew Pearce draws an analogy for this blockbuster bloat, responsible for routinely pushing run times over the two-hour mark: “Much as I love a prog-rock album, if it’s a pop song I like it to be short and sweet, and I think it has more impact that way. And summer blockbusters are very proggy right now.”

This byzantine plot sprawl has been in full effect this year. Avengers: Age of Ultron lost many round about the point the villain heads off to a South African shipyard in search of something called Wakandan vibranium. Promoting the film, writer-director Joss Whedon acknowledged that keeping all the narrative plates spinning for his six-man superhero team, plus all the side players, had left him “a little bit broken”. Terminator Genisys director Alan Taylor, faced with the collective “eh?” over his recent convoluted overhaul of the Schwarzenegger classic, made a spirited attempt in interviews to break down the film’s supposed seven interweaving timelines. But if his film had worked, he wouldn’t have needed to.

Pacific Rim screenwriter Travis Beacham says he first noticed this “pet peeve” with the advent of the Marvel films: “It’s a very literal complexity, it’s not an emotional complexity. It’s very point A to point B, we have to get the talisman to stop Dr Whatever from raising an army. Very pragmatic stuff that doesn’t leave a lot of room for character.” He compares Jurassic World to the original Jurassic Park: “In the first film, there’s only a handful of major sequences: the T-rex attack in the rain, the velociraptors in the kitchen. But because there are so few, you can really spend some time with them, and let them unfold. The latest one is this wall-to-wall sequence of events, and there’s not a lot of suspense.”

What happened to the industry in the intervening 20 years? In the rush to give restless, spoilt-for-choice modern viewers value for money, the studios are making their blockbusters in an ever more feverish climate. The past decade has seen, in the struggle for prime spots on the movie-going calendar, the rise of release dates locked in years in advance. In order to hit those targets, production schedules have little room for deviation; finished scripts often lag behind the key special-effects sequences, which are devised early so mockups around which actors can be directed are ready when shooting starts. Screenwriters, says Pearce, are often left to link the showpieces as best as they can. ..................(more)


Robert Kuttner: Why Liberals Have to Be Radicals

from the American Prospect:

Why Liberals Have to Be Radicals

The reforms needed to restore the country's shared prosperity are to the left of all the candidates, including Sanders.

Just about nothing being proposed in mainstream politics is radical enough to fix what ails the economy. Consider everything that is destroying the life chances of ordinary people:

• Young adults are staggered by $1.3 trillion in student debt. Yet even those with college degrees are losing ground in terms of incomes.

• The economy of regular payroll jobs and career paths has given way to a gig economy of short-term employment that will soon hit four workers in 10.

• The income distribution has become so extreme, with the one percent capturing such a large share of the pie, that even a $15/hour national minimum wage would not be sufficient to restore anything like the more equal economy of three decades ago. Even the mainstream press acknowledges these gaps.

The New York Times's Noam Scheiber, using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, calculated that raising the minimum wage to $15 for the period 2009 to 2014 would have increased the total income for the 44 million Americans who earn less than $15 an hour by a total of $300 billion to $400 billion. But during the same period, Scheiber reported, the top 10 percent increased its income by almost twice that amount.

Scheiber concludes:

So even if we'd raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, the top 10 percent would still have emerged from the 2009-2014 period with a substantially larger share of the increase in the nation's income than the bottom 90 percent. Inequality would still have increased, just not by as much.


Nothing in mainstream politics takes seriously the catastrophe of global climate change. Few mainstream politicians have the nerve to call for a carbon tax.

The budget deadlock and the sequester mechanism, in which both major parties have conspired, makes it impossible to invest the kind of money needed both to modernize outmoded public infrastructure (with a shortfall now estimated at $3.4 trillion) or to finance a green transition.

The economy is so captive to financial engineers that even interest rates close to zero do not help mainstream businesses recover. There is still a vicious circle of inadequate purchasing power and insufficient domestic investment. .............(more)


Frightening Interactive Wildfire Map Shows That the West Is on Fire

Link: http://ecowatch.com/2015/08/01/interactive-wildfire-map/?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=5c3f8fcf6d-Top_News_8_1_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-5c3f8fcf6d-85363977

Karl Marx was right......

As soon as this process of transformation has sufficiently decomposed the old society from top to bottom, as soon as the labourers are turned into proletarians, their means of labour into capital, as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet, then the further socialisation of labour and further transformation of the land and other means of production into socially exploited and, therefore, common means of production, as well as the further expropriation of private proprietors, takes a new form. That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the labourer working for himself, but the capitalist exploiting many labourers. This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalistic production itself, by the centralisation of capital. One capitalist always kills many.

- from "Capital, Volume I"

Bankruptcy Judge Gives Go-Ahead for Mass Firings of Unionized A&P Grocery Workers

The mass firings of workers at the A&P supermarket chain is set to begin in mid-September, following action this week by a federal bankruptcy court approving a plan to quickly shed some 2,500 jobs at the ailing grocery retailer. The job cuts are a first step in a broader plan to dismember the entire 300-store chain, with expected job losses of 15,000 or more.

First on the chopping block are 1,018 workers at 10 stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey whose jobs will be terminated September 19, according to official notices filed with state labor agencies. Those job cuts are to be followed in short order by an additional 15 store closings in Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, where about 1,500 additional grocery workers will be forced on to the unemployment lines in the next two to three months, court documents detail.

Adding insult to injury, A&P managers met with leaders of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union last week to inform them that the company did not intend to honor existing collective bargaining agreements, union officers told rank-and-file members. (The contracts cover workers at several chains owned by A&P, including A&P, Pathmark, Waldbaums, Superfresh, and others.) Discarded workers may be denied severance and vacation pay, seniority rules are to be ignored, and a long list of other unilateral contract changes must be accepted by the union, according to an announcement from Harvey Whille, President of UFCW Local 1262 in Clifton, N.J. A&P managers demanded that the union officers accede to concessions, according to Whille’s statement, otherwise the company would go to court to have the contracts revised or cancelled by the judge.

Both A&P and UFCW were tight lipped when contacted by In These Times for additional information and comment. A&P spokesperson Brian Shiver would only say “we’re not commenting.” UFCW Region 1 Director Tom Clarke, who heads a coalition of 12 UFCW locals with A&P contracts, did not respond to phone calls or e-mail messages. ...................(more)


Scott Walker is a pastier Donald Trump: Wisconsin governor’s ethno-nationalism is just as egregious

(Salon) A few days ago, the Daily Beast published an article by self-styled Reasonable Conservative Matt K. Lewis on “cuckservative,” a relatively new term of abuse that has recently set off some intramural sniping within the conservative movement. As Lewis rightly noted, the term is tribalist and racist. It’s also misogynist, paternalistic and xenophobic — the nasty consequence of racial panic and toxic masculinity, but in word form.

It wasn’t Lewis’s willingness to criticize a bunch of white supremacists, however, that made his piece interesting. (His response, in truth, was an unsympathetic mix of whining and unearned chest-puffery.) What made the column noteworthy instead was the way Lewis tried to load such ethno-nationalist sentiments — or “this white nationalism business,” as he put it — entirely on the shoulders of the cuckservative-slinging Republicans’ favorite candidate. A fellow by the name of Donald Trump.

Lewis granted that “these people have always been around.” But before Trump, he wrote, they were “confined to the nether regions of the Internet.” White ethno-nationalists only became significant members of the conservative crusade because “Twitter allows them to spread their pernicious message, and Trump has given them a candidate to get behind.” But apparently it wasn’t until 2015 that the movement behind the Southern Strategy, Willie Horton and Obamaphones started flirting with racists.


If connecting Trump and Walker strikes you as odd, you probably don’t know very much about Wisconsin’s governor, who is currently sporting an approval rating of 41 percent. Walker’s name is usually associated with anti-unionism, and few could argue that he hasn’t earned the reputation. But along with turning Wisconsin into a “right-to-work” state — just like he promised a billionaire donor in 2011 — what’s defined Walker’s time in Madison has been a divisive and racially charged approach that has rendered the state’s politics “toxic and ruptured.”


If people drawn to rhetoric like this were marginal players in the pre-Trump conservative movement, as Lewis claims, then why is it that Walker’s staff, in their emails to one another, sound scarcely different? Via the TNR piece, here’s a summary of some of the worst moments:

One anonymous e-mail, forwarded by Walker’s then–chief of staff, went like this: “THE NIGHTMARE … ‘I can handle being a black, disabled, one armed, drug-addicted Jewish homosexual … but please, oh dear God, don’t make me a Democrat.’ ” Another compares welfare recipients to dogs: They are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who the r (sic) Daddys (sic) are.” This message was forwarded around by Walker’s then–deputy chief of staff, who remarked that it was “hilarious” and “so true.”


Another right-wing terrorist who isn't called a terrorist

Angel Dillard will stand trial for threats she made to a Kansas abortion provider, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit’s decision overturns a lower court ruling that held Dillard’s 2011 letter to Dr. Mila Means saying someone might place a bomb under her car was constitutionally protected free speech.

The ruling comes in the Department of Justice’s civil lawsuit against Dillard for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, the federal law that prohibits threatening or otherwise interfering with access to abortion clinics or providers.

Dillard is a notorious anti-choice radical with ties to Scott Roeder, the confessed murderer of Dr. George Tiller. In 2011, after Tiller’s murder, Dillard sent a letter to Means. At the time Dillard sent the letter, Means was preparing to start offering abortion services at the clinic of the late abortion provider. In the letter to Means, Dillard presented a “vision” of what Means’ life would look like should she start providing abortions in Wichita, Kansas. In that letter, Dillard explained how thousands of people from across the country were already scrutinizing Means’ background. Soon, Dillard promised, they would know “your habits and routines. They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live,” Dillard wrote. “You will be checking under your car every day—because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it.” .................(more)


Not to Be Outdone (cartoon)


July is the deadliest month of 2015 for police-related killings in U.S.

(Guardian UK) July was the deadliest month of 2015 so far for killings by police after registering 118 fatalities, according to the Guardian’s ongoing investigation The Counted, which now projects that US law enforcement is on course to kill more than 1,150 people this year.

The July figure brought an end to a steady decline in totals over the previous four months. After 113 people were killed in March, 101 died in April, 87 fatalities were recorded in May and 78 in June.

At least 20 people killed in July – more than one in six – were unarmed, including Samuel DuBose, who was shot by University of Cincinnati officer Ray Tensing in a 19 July traffic stop that has become the latest flashpoint in protests over the police’s use of deadly force.

Of the 118 people, 106 died from gunfire, making July also the first month of 2015 in which that number has exceeded 100. Two people died after officers shocked them with Tasers, two died being struck by police vehicles, and eight died after altercations in police custody. ...............(more)


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