Greg Sargent points out that Russia may sabotage the next election, too and asks, "What will Trump and Republicans do about it?" His piece points out that he hasn't done jack so far and there's little evidence that the Republicans in congress are taking the threat seriously either.
They don't want to do anything about it because they are laboring under the illusion that it will always help them. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. But unless it hurts them personally they are fine with it. After all, that's how they are with everything. Empathy is for losers and winning is for winners, period.
On Sunday night's Emmy awards show, many people were dismayed to see former Fox News chair Roger Ailes mentioned in the "In Memoriam" segment, given that he was a truly odious human being who ran a brothel that doubled as a news network for decades. His legacy is hardly confined to his reputation as a cable news pioneer and unique television talent.
I think the Emmys could have skipped the tribute, but there is no doubt that Ailes changed the face of television and was, not incidentally, one the most influential political figures of the last 50 years. We are all living in a political world at least partially created by Roger Ailes.
Dylan Matthews at Vox.com recently reported on a truly frightening study published in the American Economic Review showing that "the Fox News effect translates into a 0.46 percentage point boost to the GOP vote share in the 2000 presidential race, a 3.59-point boost in 2004, and a 6.34-point boost in 2008; the boost increases as the channel's viewership grew." The study's authors say this alone explains nearly "all the polarization in the US public's political views from 2000 to 2008." You have to assume that this effect only grew during the Obama years.
The other networks had no such effect in persuading people to vote Democratic. Indeed, during the early 2000s they moved right as well, although they didn't have much luck persuading anyone of anything. Whatever the secret sauce was in Ailes' formula, it didn't translate to any other entity. Ailes understood his audience and knew how to draw others into it.
So Fox is a hugely important feature of our political life. But it is also a hideous hellhole for women, as has been amply demonstrated by dozens of sexual harassment complaints against Ailes himself, as well as many of the network's top executives and on-air talent. On Monday, The New York Times reported that yet another woman, Scottie Nell Hughes, filed a lawsuit claiming that she was sexually assaulted by anchor Charles Payne and then blacklisted by the network after she came forward. The most shocking thing about that story is that it's not shocking. There are a few on-air female personalities who never complained but many who have, including such major stars as Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, both of whom left the network.
None of this dissuaded one female conservative star from joining the network, however:
DONE DEAL: LAURA INGRAHAM SIGNS CONTRACT WITH FOXNEWS...
Ingraham obviously has no problem with men committing sexual harassment in the workplace, since her own failing website Lifezette, originally billed as the right-wing answer to Huffington Post, is reportedly yet another abusive sexist cesspool and she apparently doesn't care.
Ingraham had been courted by the Trump administration for months and has apparently finally said no. You may recall that she gave a passionate endorsement of Trump at the Republican Convention and as one of talk radio's top anti-immigration zealots, fervently supported him in the election campaign. Immediately after the election, Trump very much wanted an attractive woman in the press secretary job and had offered it to her and later to Kimberly Guilfoyle of Fox News' "The Five."
Ingraham claimed to be considering joining the administration early on, saying, "If your country calls you, if God opens that door, you have to seriously consider it. If I can really help, it is hard to say no to that. If I think I can help, which I think I could." God opened the door but she closed it: "I’m not sure if that’s the role I would pick for myself, but I have a legal background, strategic, you know, political communications planning. I’m not sure the press secretary thing is something I’m dying to do.”
It was clearly beneath someone of her stature to do such a menial task. All those previous presidential press secretaries like Bill Moyers, George Stephanopoulos, Tony Snow and Jay Carney must have felt so embarrassed at having lowered themselves to that level. But it all paid off for Ingraham. She will now have a job that's truly worthy of her talent: nightly Fox News host.
This hire puts to rest any thought that Fox was going to shift to a less ultra-conservative editorial line after Ailes' departure and the toll of all the scandals. The network has lately seemed to be in perpetual turmoil, losing both their visionary leader and their biggest star, Bill O'Reilly (due to yet another sexual harassment scandal). While it has generally maintained its lead in the ratings, it has not been as dominant as it once was. Some people thought that with the rise of Breitbart and the direct supervision of Rupert Murdoch and his sons, the organization would change gears and become more mainstream. Ingraham's hire puts that notion to rest. There are very few people in the media business as hard right as she is.
Think Progress compiled just a few of her greatest hits:
I also recall her "comedic" riffs using the "yo quiero Taco Bell" commercial to demean child refugees at whom she railed, “Oh no, you won’t. This is our country. Our borders matter to us, our way of life and our culture matter to us, our jobs and our wages matter to us. No, you won’t.”
Laura Ingraham will now be on Fox for an hour every night, carrying on Roger Ailes' legacy, spreading all that ugly rhetoric to millions of people as the network has always done. But she'll really be speaking to one special Fox viewer, the man who records all his "programs" to watch late at night when he's alone: the president of the United States, for whom nothing is real if it isn't on TV. Laura Ingraham just became one of the most influential women in the world.
A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech.
SLAPP suits are now illegal in twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia, but there is no federal prohibition. (We'll get to that.) Several federal anti-SLAPP bills, like the latest, have never made it out of committee. Here are a few examples from Texas and more via the Ohio ACLU. Typically, the suits are brought by individuals, or by corporations against consumers.
In June, Murray Energy filed what looks for all the world like a SLAPP suit against HBO, Jon Oliver, Time Warner and the writers of Last Week Tonight for a segment satirizing the coal industry that mentioned Murray and its CEO by name. In what looks even more ironic this morning, the Daily Beast's Betsy Woodruff wrote, "Parts of the complaint read like it had been written by President Donald Trump."
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Oregon parent wanted details about school employees getting paid to stay home. A retired educator sought data about student performance in Louisiana. And college journalists in Kentucky requested documents about the investigations of employees accused of sexual misconduct.
Instead, they got something else: sued by the agencies they had asked for public records.
Government bodies are increasingly turning the tables on citizens who seek public records that might be embarrassing or legally sensitive. Instead of granting or denying their requests, a growing number of school districts, municipalities and state agencies have filed lawsuits against people making the requests — taxpayers, government watchdogs and journalists who must then pursue the records in court at their own expense.
The lawsuits generally ask judges to rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged. They name the requesters as defendants but do not seek damage awards. Still, the recent trend has alarmed freedom-of-information advocates, who say it’s becoming a new way for governments to hide information, delay disclosure and intimidate critics.
Do you insist government be run like a business? Enjoy. Then again, if you are an authoritarian, you probably do.
ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!
So far Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has not sued the Kansas City Star over its FOIA requests for emails pertaining to his participation on the president's voter fraud commission. His office simply asserts he is not bound by the new Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) because he is serving on the panel as a private citizen.
“Secretary Kobach’s personal emails concerning the Commission are therefore not subject to KORA, since he is not conducting public business on behalf of the State of Kansas while serving on the Commission,” said a spokesperson.
Max Kautsch, a Lawrence attorney who served on a state panel that helped draft the 2016 law, called the private citizen dodge, “obviously totally insane.”
And your point is?
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"We were torn apart in the Civil War - brother against brother, North against South, party against party. What changed?" Moore asked in footage provided to The Hill by a Republican monitoring the race
"Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What's going to unite us? What's going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It's going to be God."
Moore's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his language.
The judge is no stranger to controversial comments - reporters have dug up a handful of eye-popping comments from Moore's past, even as his campaign sits in strong position ahead of next week's Senate GOP primary runoff.
Last week, CNN reported that Moore implied that the 9/11 terror attacks could have been caused by a lack of religious faith.
Moore leads Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) in all recent public polling of the runoff. The winner of that contest will advance to the general election and be expected to beat a Democrat to serve out the rest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions's term.
We knew we weren’t completely out of the woods on TrumpCare, but we got good news on September 1, when the Senate Parliamentarian (basically the referee on Senate rules and procedure) announced that the legislative vehicle that Republicans were trying to use for TrumpCare would expire on September 30.
Nothing motivates Congress like a deadline. Senate Republicans are whipping votes and moving things around the Senate calendar to make room for one last push—a bill known as “Graham-Cassidy”—and they are as close as they’ve ever been to passing it.
FYI: I agree with Indivisible's policy director, Angel Padilla, although it's all spilled milk now ...
“Early on in September, we said, ‘Look at how crazy jam-packed this month is. This is going to be a tough month for them to do anything.’ But that deal that Schumer and Pelosi cut made it a lot easier for Republicans to pursue what they really want, including this.”
They could have demanded something from the deal and at least strung out the negotiations on the debt ceiling and the disaster relief until the end of the month and it was too late for them to use reconciliation. Democrats keep having premature victory parties. Over and over and over again. They love to celebrate themselves and this is almost always what happens.
The Republicans brought back their monstrosity in the House and passed it and it had several lives already in the Senate. Why the Democrats continued to take chances with this I'll never understand.
Anyway, here we are. So lets hope this finally kills the zombie for 2017. Jesus...
By the way, if you live in a big blue state they really stick it to you. That's one of their features.
I'm not going to review Hillary Clinton's book "What Happened," since there are approximately 12,576 reviews out there already, with more to come. But I do want to discuss one issue that came up in the book that has been addressed in a couple of those reviews. That would be the fact that the press regularly and tiresomely slags Clinton for her failures in the 2016 campaign but have still completely failed to acknowledge their own.
The Clinton rules are driven by reporters’ and editors’ desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire. At least in that way, Republicans and the media have a common interest.
Indeed they did. (As it turns out, maybe some members of the Russian government did too.) And one aspect of the coverage verged on outright corruption: the "deal" The New York Times and The Washington Post made with a Steve Bannon associate to publish excerpts of a book of lies called "Clinton Cash" that set the tone for much of the coverage to come.
The Atlantic's James Fallows addressed the press obsession with the Clinton email story in his review of "What Happened":
No sane person can believe that the consequences of last fall’s election — for foreign policy, for race relations, for the environment, for anything else you’d like to name (from either party’s perspective) — should have depended more than about 1 percent on what Hillary Clinton did with her emails. But this objectively second- or third-tier issue came across through even our best news organizations as if it were the main thing worth knowing about one of the candidates.
David Roberts at Vox took on the subject by analyzing in depth the way the media reported one particular incident in the campaign: Hillary Clinton's alleged "coal gaffe," which he described as "navigating a hall of mirrors." Her comment about putting coal miners out of business was poorly phrased, but as it was reported, it was also truncated and taken out of context. The way her response was then distorted by the GOP and the press as an illustration of Clinton's disqualifying character flaws was the real crime, Roberts writes:
Mainstream news outlets should stop treating “how it looks” as though it’s some fact in the universe that they discover. They are the arbiters; they decide how it looks. They build and reinforce narratives. They seek out confirming evidence and ignore disconfirming evidence. They amplify some voices and not others. They direct attention, which is the coin of the realm in modern politics. If they draw attention to a bullshit scandal, they are the ones ensuring that it damages the campaign. If they play along with the ludicrous notion that Clinton loves firing coal miners, they are sanctioning and disseminating misinformation. They are not doing their jobs.
Whether you are convinced by these arguments or not, it's tempting to write them all off as something that only pertains to Hillary Clinton. There is no doubt that the narratives spun around her in the campaign and for years prior were informed by systemic sexism. The press is no different from the rest of society in being unable to grapple with that reality. But in fact, this wasn't the only time this happened.
The coverage of the 2000 presidential campaign, and to a lesser extent the 2004 campaign as well, had similar characteristics. In the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, the media mercilessly abused the latter with a series of shallow character attacks that were both unfair and untruthful. Roberts' analysis of Clinton and the "coal gaffe" is exactly the same sort of prejudicial coverage the media gave Gore for his "I invented the internet" and "Love Canal" gaffes, among a dozen others.
One vivid illustration of journalists' collective disdain for Gore was reported in Time's article about an early New Hampshire debate between Gore and his Democratic primary rival, Sen. Bill Bradley:
The 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out. Whenever Gore came on too strong the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of fifteen-year-old heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.
Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank explained why the press corps was so hostile:
Gore is sanctimonious, and that’s sort of the worst thing you can be in the eyes of the press. And he has been disliked all along, and it was because he gives a sense that he’s better than us -- he’s better than everybody, for that matter, but the sense that he’s better than us as reporters. Whereas President Bush probably is sure that he’s better than us -- he’s probably right, but he does not convey that sense. He does not seem to be dripping with contempt when he looks at us, and I think that has something to do with the coverage.
Reporter Margaret Carlson explained in her book that one of the reasons the media gave Bush such good coverage was that he served Dove bars and designer water on the press plane, while Gore only offered granola bars and sandwiches.
As far as I know, the media have still never given their coverage of that campaign a second thought. Four years later, John Kerry was mocked for ordering the wrong cheese and drinking green tea and otherwise being a snobby New Englander without the common touch of George W. Bush, originally of Kennebunkport, Maine. And then there was 2016 and "her emails."
None of this is to say that these candidates weren't flawed or bear no responsibility for the outcome. The point is that the press corps made a collective decision that they didn't "like" these people and obsessively covered them in a trivial manner, as if they were running for Prom Queen instead of President of the United States. With fake news and social media and foreign propaganda distorting our democracy the press has got to grow up and stop behaving like the mean girls of DC High.
John McCain has said he'll vote for the latest repeal monstrosity if his Governor is for it. Here's Lindsay Graham on Breitbart:
Number 45, Donald Trump, is on the phone. He's the Mariano Rivera of presidents. He's gonna come in and close the deal with some of these governors who are showing reluctance. To everybody out there, from Arizona, this is the last best chance you will have to take the power away from Washington and put it in Arizona.
I don't know if he was reassuring his bestie John McCain or what but somehow I doubt that kissing Trump's ass will get the job done.
Whatever he's trying to do, that quote is enough to make me lose my breakfast.
Mr. Trump’s legal team has been a caldron of rivalry and intrigue since the beginning. His first private lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, grew alienated from the White House in part over friction with Mr. Kushner. The lawyer was unhappy that Mr. Kushner was talking with his father-in-law about the investigation without involving the legal team.
At one point, the private lawyers explored whether Mr. Kushner should resign because he was involved in the investigation, The Wall Street Journal reported. People close to the situation confirmed that talking points were drawn up to explain such a resignation, although it was not clear how directly the issue was raised with Mr. Trump.
Mr. Kasowitz was eventually pushed to the side, and Mr. Trump elevated John Dowd, a Washington lawyer with extensive experience in high-profile political cases, to take the lead as his personal lawyer. At the same time, Mr. Trump decided he needed someone inside the White House to manage the official response since Mr. McGahn, whose professional experience is mostly in election law, already handles a vast array of issues from executive orders to judicial appointments.
Mr. McGahn’s first choices turned down the job, in part out of concern that Mr. Trump would not follow legal advice. Eventually, Mr. Dowd introduced Mr. Trump to Mr. Cobb, another veteran Washington lawyer known for his high energy and expansive, curly mustache, and he was tapped as special counsel to the president, much to Mr. McGahn’s chagrin.
Tension between the two comes as life in the White House is shadowed by the investigation. Not only do Mr. Trump, Mr. Kushner and Mr. McGahn all have lawyers, but so do other senior officials. The uncertainty has grown to the point that White House officials privately express fear that colleagues may be wearing a wire to surreptitiously record conversations for Mr. Mueller.
Admirers said Mr. Cobb has developed a rapport with the president and does not report to Mr. McGahn, who they believe feels insecure about his place in Mr. Trump’s orbit. Mr. McGahn’s supporters argue that Mr. Cobb is wildly over-optimistic to think he can steer the investigation away from the president, given that Mr. Mueller has now hired 17 prosecutors.
The suspicion within the legal team seemed evident in the lunch conversation Mr. Cobb had last week with Mr. Dowd at BLT Steak, not far from the White House and a few doors down from The Times’s office. Mr. Cobb could be heard describing varying views of how to respond to Mr. Mueller’s requests for documents.
“The White House counsel’s office is being very conservative with this stuff,” Mr. Cobb told Mr. Dowd. “Our view is we’re not hiding anything.” Referring to Mr. McGahn, he added, “He’s got a couple documents locked in a safe.”
Mr. Cobb expressed concern about another White House lawyer he did not name. “I’ve got some reservations about one of them,” Mr. Cobb said. “I think he’s like a McGahn spy.”
While Mr. Cobb advocated turning over documents to Mr. Mueller, he seemed sensitive to the argument that they should not necessarily be provided to congressional committees investigating the Russia matter. “If we give it to Mueller, there is no reason for it to ever get to the Hill,” he said.
Mr. Cobb also discussed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting — and the White House’s response to it — saying that “there was no perception that there was an exchange.”
Right now, there is a hideous genocide unfolding in Myanmar, carried out, incredibly, by a Buddhist government. But that is not what this post is about. This post is about how genocides like Myanmar's begins, and it happens with events like this.
Jack Phillips bakes beautiful cakes, and it is not a stretch to call him an artist. Five years ago, in a decision that has led to a Supreme Court showdown, he refused to use his skills to make a wedding cake to celebrate a same-sex marriage, saying it would violate his Christian faith and hijack his right to express himself.
Unbelievable. The highest court in the land is wasting its valuable time listening to a bigoted cake-maker. Meanwhile, our cities burn with inequality and a man who may have colluded with a foreign government is the president of the United States.
But that's hardly the worst of it.
Simply by agreeing the hear this case, the Supreme Court is openly signaling its interest in taking America back to segregated lunch counters, separate drinking fountains. Because what other reason besides revisiting how to legalize discrimination is there for hearing this ridiculous case?
Even worse, even though he didn't get far in the lower courts, he may win. My guess is he will. And if he does, regardless of how eloquent Ginsburg's and Sotomayor's opinions are (and I know they will be searing), we'll see the same stunt pulled off by newly-empowered White Supremacists against inter-racial couples, against Jewish/Christian couples, against couples with Arabic-sounding names, and so on.
For shame.This is how genocides start, with something both obscenely preposterous and dangerous.
Senate Democrats yesterday began issuing the call for supporters to take to the phones once again to stop the Republicans' last-gasp attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare with underfunded block grants. (The GOP loves them some block grants.)
This is happening. Drop what you are doing to start calling, start showing up, start descending on DC. Game on. https://t.co/WrNVAhXTcJ
The measure, put forward by Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), aims to give more power to states by converting ObamaCare funding for subsidies — which help people afford healthcare coverage and pay for Medicaid expansion — into a block grant to states.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has withheld full-throttled support by telling Cassidy and Graham find the necessary 51 votes on their own, Cassidy says leadership is asking the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to prioritize its analysis of the measure in an effort to get it to the floor.
Don't discount the possibility that they might, writes Hullabaloo alum David Atkins:
September 30th is the deadline for any bill to be considered under reconciliation, which allows Republicans to pass budget-related legislation with only 50 votes. So action would need to come quickly, perhaps even before a full scoring by the CBO. Of course, the less the public knows about the legislation and the less actual analysis of its effects, the better for Republicans.
... Most analysts think the bill will die because Republicans are tired of working on healthcare and have too many other priorities to tackle in the waning days of September. But that’s precisely when the calendar becomes most dangerous.
Good advice. Just because they've failed so far doesn't mean under the right circumstances they might not get lucky. "The Affordable Care Act isn’t truly safe until the clock strikes midnight on October 1st," Atkins writes. Even a stopped clock, you know?
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Harry Dean Stanton died on September 15. Who? You know...the guy who was in the thing. He was 91 years old, but that’s a moot point. He fell out of his crib careworn and world-weary. That is not intended to be a flip observation. He was timeless, and will remain so. Most people couldn’t pick him out of a lineup; but as soon as you put him in front of a camera, you could not miss the story in his eyes. It was the story of humanity.
He was born in Kentucky in 1926; his mother was a cook and his father a barber and tobacco farmer. He served in WW 2 as a Navy cook (he was on a tank landing ship in the Battle of Okinawa), and after the war cut his teeth as an actor working with the Pasadena Playhouse. He made his screen debut in 1957 in a forgettable western, which nonetheless led to a fairly steady stream of small movie parts and television work. Still, he obviously stood out to casting directors, who started to get him progressively meatier parts from the mid-60s onward. He never stopped working; you may have seen him in David Lynch’s recent Twin Peaks revamp on Showtime, and was quite memorable in HBO’s Big Love.
It didn’t matter whether he played a convict on a chain gang, a 1940s L.A. homicide detective, street corner preacher, repo man, crew member on a space merchant vessel, ranch hand, mysterious drifter, or Molly Ringwald’s dad in a teen comedy...from the moment his character pops on screen, there was something all at once familiar about him.
Of course he was a trained actor; but I’ll be damned if I ever saw him “act”. He simply “was”...and it worked. I don’t think he sweated the small stuff, and that was his secret. Like all the great actors, he just let it happen. That is not to say that he didn’t focus on the work. From accounts I have read, he could be “difficult” with directors; but not to appease his own ego, rather always in service of the character he was playing. He wanted to get it “right”. From my observation, he never failed to. Here are my top 10 film picks:
Cool Hand Luke- “Still shakin’ the bush, boss!” Paul Newman shines (and sweats buckets) in his iconic role as the eponymous character in this 1967 drama, a ne’er do well from a southern burg who ends up on a chain gang. He gets busted for cutting the heads off of parking meters while on a drunken spree, but by the end of this sly allegory, astute viewers will glean that his real crime is being a non-conformist. Stuart Rosenberg directs; sharp script by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson. Highlights include Strother Martin’s “failure to communicate” speech, Harry Dean Stanton singing “The Midnight Special”, that (ahem) car wash scene and George Kennedy’s Best Supporting Actor performance.
Rancho Deluxe- This criminally underappreciated 1975 Frank Perry comedy-drama sports a marvelously droll original screenplay by novelist Thomas McGuane. Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston star as a pair of modern-day cattle rustlers in Montana. Great ensemble work from the entire cast, which includes Elizabeth Ashley (her best role), Slim Pickens, Clifton James, and Harry Dean Stanton as a bumbling cow hand. Stanton’s part is relatively minor, but it showcases the fact that he had a talent for understated comedy.
Farewell, My Lovely- This 1975 entry, one of a relative handful of films directed by renowned 1960s photographer/TV ad creator Dick Richards, is an atmospheric remake of the 1944 film noir Murder My Sweet (both films were adapted from the same Raymond Chandler novel). Robert Mitchum is at his world-weary best as detective Philip Marlowe, who is hired by a paroled convict (Jack O’Halloran) to track down his girlfriend, who has made herself scarce since he went to the joint. As usual, Marlowe finds himself in a tangled web of corruption and deceit. Also featuring Charlotte Rampling, John Ireland, and Sylvia Miles. Stanton is memorable as a perpetually pissed off homicide detective.
Straight Time- Ulu Grosbard (The Subject Was Roses, True Confessions) delivers one of the finest character studies of the late 70s with this gritty 1978 portrait of a paroled burglar (Dustin Hoffman) trying to keep his nose clean. Unfortunately, his goading parole officer (M. Emmett Walsh) is bent on tripping him up. One thing leads to another, and it’s back to a life of crime. Excellent performances abound, from the likes of Theresa Russell, Gary Busey, Kathy Bates, and Stanton (as one of Hoffman’s partners-in-crime).
Wise Blood- One of director John Huston’s finer latter-career films, this 1979 comedy-drama was adapted by Benedict Fitzgerald from a Flannery O’Connor novel. Brad Dourif stars as a young dirt-poor Southerner who is desperate to make his mark on the world. He decides that the quickest shortcut to grab the public’s attention is to become a crusading, fire-and-brimstone preacher. Stanton is simply wonderful here as a veteran street corner proselytizer (and con man) who mentors the young man in the ways of spiritual hustling.
Alien- Ridley Scott’s first (and best) entry in what has become a lucrative (and apparently never-ending) franchise is the least bombastic and most character-driven of the series. This 1979 sci-fi thriller concerns the workaday crew of a space merchant vessel who are forced to deal with the erm, complications that ensue after the discovery of an otherworldly stowaway on board. It’s a taut, nail-biting affair from start to finish, with outstanding production design. A great cast helps: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright, and of course, Harry Dean Stanton!
Escape from New York- John Carpenter directed this 1981 action-thriller set in the dystopian near-future of 1997 (ah, those were the days). N.Y.C. has been converted into a penal colony (long story). Air Force One has been downed by terrorists, but not before the POTUS (Donald Pleasence) bails in his custom-built escape pod, which lands in the center of Manhattan, where he is kidnapped by “inmates”. The police commissioner (the ever squinty-eyed Lee van Cleef) enlists the help of Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), a fellow war vet (special ops) who is now one of America’s most notorious criminals. Imaginative, darkly funny and highly entertaining, despite an obviously limited budget. Carpenter and co-writer Nick Castle even slip in a little subtext of Nixonian paranoia. Also with Ernest Borgnine,Adrienne Barbeau, Isaac Hayes (the Duke of N.Y.!), and Stanton, who steals all his scenes as “Brain”. Carpenter also composed the catchy theme.
Repo Man- This 1984 punk-rock/sci-fi black comedy version of Rebel without a Cause is actually one of the more coherent efforts from mercurial U.K. filmmaker Alex Cox. Emilio Estevez is suitably sullen as disenfranchised L.A. punk Otto, who stumbles into a gig as a “repo man” after losing his job, getting dumped by his girlfriend and deciding to disown his parents. As he is indoctrinated into the samurai-like “code” of the repo man by sage veteran Bud (Harry Dean Stanton, in another masterful deadpan performance) Otto begins to realize that he’s found his true calling. A subplot involving a mentally fried government scientist on the run, driving around with a mysterious, glowing “whatsit” in the trunk is an obvious homage to Robert Aldrich’s 1955 noir, Kiss Me Deadly. Cox tosses a UFO conspiracy into the mix, and makes good use of L.A. locations. The fabulous soundtrack includes Iggy Pop, Black Flag, and The Circle Jerks.
Paris, Texas- What is it with European filmmakers and their obsession with the American West? Perhaps it’s the wide open space, revealing itself to the creative eye as a blank, limitless canvas. At any rate, director Wim Wenders and DP Robby Muller paint themselves a lovely desert Southwest landscape for this enigmatic, languidly paced 1984 melodrama (written by Sam Shepard and L.M. Kit Carson).With Shepard on board, you know that the protagonist is going to be a troubled, troubled man-and nothing says “rode hard and put up wet” like the careworn tributaries of Harry Dean Stanton’s weather beaten face. In what is arguably his career-best performance, he plays a man who has been missing for 4 years after abandoning his wife (Nastassja Kinski) and their young son. One day he reappears, with a tight-lipped countenance and a 1000-yard stare that tells you this guy is on a return trip from out where Jesus lost his shoes. Now it’s up to his brother (Dean Stockwell) to help him assemble the jigsaw. Stanton delivers an astonishing monologue in the film’s denouement that reminds us what a good actor does.
Pretty in Pink- This may be damning with faint praise, but I have always found this 1986 film to be the most enjoyable and eminently watchable of the otherwise interchangeable slew of John Hughes teen dramedies that inundated theaters in the 1980s. Actually, Hughes did not direct this one (he handed that chore over to Howard Deutch)...but it remains very, very much a “John Hughes film”. Molly Ringwald stars as a young woman from the poor side of the tracks who gets wooed by a “preppie” from a well-to-do family (Andrew McCarthy). Their respective peers are very disapproving. Much romantic angst ensues; but luckily a lot of laughs as well. At its heart, it’s a sweet story, helped along by excellent performances. Stanton (out of place as may seem) lends realism to the proceedings as Ringwald’s father; the scenes they have together exude genuine warmth.
...And here he is, doing what an actor does. One for the ages.
California lawmakers on Saturday passed a “sanctuary state” bill to protect immigrants without legal residency in the U.S., part of a broader push by Democrats to counter expanded deportation orders under the Trumpadministration.
The legislation by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), the most far-reaching of its kind in the country, would limit state and local law enforcement communication with federal immigration authorities, and prevent officers from questioning and holding people on immigration violations.
After passionate debate in both houses of the Legislature, staunch opposition from Republican sheriffs and threats from Trump administration officials against sanctuary cities, Senate Bill 54 was approved Saturday with a 27-11 vote along party lines. But the bill sent to Gov. Jerry Brown drastically scaled back the version first introduced, the result of tough negotiations between Brown and De León in the final weeks of the legislative session.
The decision came hours after a federal judge in Chicago blocked the Trump administration's move to withhold Justice Department grant funds to discourage so-called sanctuary city policies.
On the Senate floor minutes before 2 a.m. on Saturday, De León said the changes were reasonable, and reflected a powerful compromise between law enforcement officials and advocates.
“These amendments do not mean to erode the core mission of this measure, which is to protect hardworking families that have contributed greatly to our culture and the economy,” he said. “This is a measure that reflects the values of who we are as a great state.”
Officially dubbed the “California Values Act,” the legislation initially would have prohibited state and local law enforcement agencies from using any resources to hold, question or share information about people with federal immigration agents, unless they had violent or serious criminal convictions.
After talks with Brown, amendments to the bill made this week would allow federal immigration authorities to keep working with state corrections officials and to continue entering county jails to question immigrants. The legislation would also permit police and sheriffs to share information and transfer people to immigration authorities if they have been convicted of one or more crimes from a list of 800 outlined in a previous law, the California Trust Act.
Some immigrant rights advocates who were previously disappointed with the list of offenses under the Trust Act, were dismayed to see the same exceptions applied in the so-called sanctuary state bill. The list includes many violent and serious crimes, as well as some nonviolent charges and “wobblers,” offenses that can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, which advocates said has the potential to ensnare people who do not pose a danger to the public.
But immigrant rights groups did not withdraw their support for Senate Bill 54 and also won some concessions. Under the additions to the bill, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would have to develop new standards to protect people held on immigration violations, and to allow immigrant inmates to receive credits toward their sentences serviced if they undergo rehabilitation and educational programs while incarcerated.
The state attorney general’s office would have to develop recommendations that limit immigration agents' access to personal information. The attorney general also has broad authority under the state constitution to ensure that police and sheriffs agencies follow SB 54’s provisions should it be signed into law.
“This was a hard-fought effort, but the end product was worth the fight,” Jennie Pasquarella, immigrants’ rights director with the ACLU of California, said in a statement Saturday.
The compromise helped draw support for the bill from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), and moved the California Police Chiefs Assn.’s official position from opposed to neutral. The California Sheriffs Assn. remained opposed.
Senate Bill 54 received national attention as the U.S. Department of Justice pledged to slash government grants for law enforcement from any so-called sanctuary cities, which limit the collaboration between local and federal authorities on immigration enforcement.
In a statement Saturday, Department of Justice spokesman Devin O'Malley said “state lawmakers inexplicably voted today to return criminal aliens back onto our streets.”
“This abandonment of the rule of law by the Legislature continues to put Californians at risk, and undermines national security and law enforcement," he said.
At the request of the California Senate earlier this year, former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H Holder Jr. reviewed the bill and said it passed constitutional muster, adding that the states “have the power over the health and safety of their residents and allocation of state resources.”
Still, debate raged on and divided even law enforcement officials and associations. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck voiced his support, while L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell was a vocal opponent.
In a statement Saturday, McDonnell said the final version of the bill was not perfect, but “reflects much of what the LASD implemented years ago and the work is well underway.”
On Friday, lawmakers said some children without legal status were too afraid to go to school, while police statistics showed a drop in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence as immigrant victims refused to come forward.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) said the era was reminiscent of the 1980s, when her father dreaded immigration raids.
“We are not living in a hypothetical fear,” she said. “That fear is a reality.”
Most every journalist who covers Trump knows of these things:
1. He isn’t good at anything a president has to do. From the simplest, like pretending to help out in flood relief, to the hardest: making the call when all alternatives are bad. (We’re told he can be charming one-on-one. So maybe that’s his one skill.)
2. He doesn’t know anything about the issues with which he must cope. Nor does this seem to bother him.
3. He doesn’t care to learn. It’s not like he’s getting better at the job, or scrambling to fill gaps in his knowledge.
4. He has no views about public policy. Just a few brute prejudices, like if Obama did it, it was dumb. I do not say he lacks beliefs — and white supremacy may be one — but he has no positions. His political sky is blank. No stars to steer by.
5. Nothing he says can be trusted.
6. His “model” of leadership is the humiliation of others— and threat of same. No analyst unfamiliar with narcissistic personality types can hope to make sense of his actions in office.
It’s not like items 1-6 have been kept secret. Journalists tell us about them all the time. Their code requires that. Simultaneously, however, they are called by their code to respect the voters’ choice, as well as the American presidency, of which they see themselves a vital part, as well as the beat, the job of White House reporting. The two parts of the code are in conflict.
If nothing the president says can be trusted, reporting what the president says becomes absurd. You can still do it, but it’s hard to respect what you are doing. If the president doesn’t know anything, the solemnity of the presidency becomes a joke. That’s painful. If they can, people flee that kind of pain. In political journalism there is enough room for interpretive maneuver to do just that.
I just have to add that some of the top Democrats are enjoying the "good press" about all this "bipartisanship." They too are normalizing Trump.
He's a monster and every time they embrace him he gets a little bit more undeserved credibility. Sometimes they have no choice. When 800,000 people's lives and futures are at stake, for instance. But they should not be so celebratory or tell the media that "he likes them" even if they think they are being cute and trolling his base. His base doesn't care what they think. Their base does though and there's slightly foul taste their mouths over all this Trump love. They should carefully think through what they say as they work their way through this mess.
The New York Times published an article today about Donald Trump's lack of humor. It's true. We've rarely ever seen him laugh and his "jokes" are usually just crude insults that his followers laugh at because they hate everyone who isn't them.
This recounts the only known time anyone can find when Trump laughed out loud on the campaign trail:
Thanks to the power of the internet, there is proof that our president has indeed laughed at least once. This was during a campaign rally in January, when Mr. Trump’s speech was interrupted by a barking dog.
“It’s Hillary!” an audience member shouted. And the candidate tilted his head back, opened his mouth wide and laughed without reservation, quite possibly for the first time in his political life.
I'm sure he laughed at this today as he retweeted it:
President Trump retweeted a meme on Sunday morning that showed him hitting Hillary Clinton in the back with a golf ball, prompting another round of outrage from critics who felt the president’s tweets had once again crossed the line.
The animated GIF spliced together a clip of Trump swinging a golf club with footage of Clinton falling, apparently edited to appear as though a golf ball had struck her down.
The image was originally posted as a reply to the president by a Twitter user named @Fuctupmind, whose bio consists of pro-Trump, anti-Clinton hashtags.
Trump’s love of Twitter and his propensity to post controversial tweets — often very late at night or first thing in the morning — is well known. The golf-swing repost, however, was part of an unusual retweet spree in which Trump shared at least half a dozen tweets from other accounts that showed him in a favorable light. Three were from an account called “Trumpism 5.0,” which included a train wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
At the core of Graham-Cassidy are provisions that repeal Obamacare tax credits for middle-income individuals, certain other subsidies for lower-income Americans, and the law’s Medicaid expansion. It replaces all of these provisions with a block grant that is smaller than the total amount of the money it takes away. The block grant then expires in 2027, causing health care spending to fall off a cliff.
Additionally, the bill allows states receiving these block grants to waive certain federal laws that protect health insurance consumers — primarily laws which were enacted during the Obama administration. One of those provisions allows for an especially sweeping waiver, requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to waive:
Any provision that prevents a health insurance issuer offering a coverage plan in the individual or small group market from requiring an individual to pay a premium or contribution (as a condition of enrollment or continued enrollment under the plan) which is greater than such premium or contribution for a similarly situated individual enrolled in the plan on the basis of any health status-related factor in relation to the individual or to an individual enrolled under the plan as a dependent of the individual.
To translate this a bit, currently the Affordable Care Act forbids insurers from discriminating against sick patients by denying them coverage or charging them higher premiums. Graham-Cassidy, however, wouldn’t simply allow waivers of Obamacare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions. It would also permit insurers to charge higher premiums to people who are currently insured through the Obamacare exchanges as a condition of “continued enrollment.”
In essence, an insurer could take someone’s money for years while that individual is healthy. Then, on the day that that person is diagnosed with cancer, jack up their premiums so high that they are no longer affordable. Healthy people would have insurance until the moment they need it, at which point their premiums could become prohibitively expensive.
Health “insurance” under Graham-Cassidy, in other words, would no longer provide any real insurance whatsoever.
They may be thwarted this time but I hope people realize that they will never quit. Never.
“Let’s put it this way,” Mr. McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, said Monday in an interview for The New York Times podcast “The New Washington.” “The deal is not quite as good as my counterpart thought it was.”
The reason? Mr. McConnell said that he insisted the newly passed legislation preserve Treasury’s ability to apply “extraordinary measures” and shift money within government accounts to pay off debt and extend federal borrowing power.
That will delay the need for another increase in the debt limit well beyond the December deadline that Democrats have been trumpeting as their big moment of leverage. And Mr. McConnell said he did so over the objections of Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader and aforementioned counterpart.
In fact, Mr. McConnell said, the debt limit will not have to be increased until well into 2018, taking that volatile subject off the table for the December spending talks, and eliminating the Democrats’ most dangerous bargaining chip in the first round of negotiations.
Separating the debt ceiling from the deadline to fund the government also addresses one of the main complaints of conservatives who were unhappy that last week’s legislation linked hurricane relief and the increase in the debt limit, forcing many to either cast a debt limit vote they were unhappy about or to oppose hurricane relief.
“Since I was in charge of drafting the debt ceiling provision that we inserted into the flood bill we likely — almost certainly — are not going to have another debt ceiling discussion until well into 2018,” said Mr. McConnell.
Clearly irked by the perception that he got rolled by Democrats when President Trump accepted their proposal for a three-month extension of the debt limit and government funding, Mr. McConnell, an avid college football fan, said Democrats “spiked the ball in the end zone a little too early.” Instead, he said, he used his majority leader’s position to make something of an end run.
“One of the advantages of being the majority leader is you control the paper,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to legislation. “I wrote it in such a way that it does not prevent what is frequently done, which is the use of extraordinary measures. The minority leader and his team were trying to get us not to write it that way, but I did write it that way and that is the way it passed.”
Under the scenario Mr. McConnell sketched out, the December talks will now focus on hurricane relief and other budgetary matters and the administration can tell Democrats “see you next year on the debt ceiling.”
“I think I can safely say the debt ceiling and the spending issue in December will be decoupled because the debt ceiling will not come up until sometime in 2018,” he said.
The length of the increase in federal borrowing authority was a main sticking point in last week’s White House showdown that ended with Mr. Trump embracing the Democratic approach — his first real reach across the aisle on a major issue. Mr. McConnell and Speaker Paul D. Ryan were hoping for a much longer extension, possibly past next year’s election, and were caught off guard by the president’s acquiescence.
But though they are in the majority, Republicans need Democratic votes to raise the debt limit since many conservatives simply will not vote to do so. That dynamic is what caused Mr. Trump to accept the Democratic proffer.
Democrats were hoping that the same combination of factors — expiring federal funding and a necessary debt limit hike — would play to their advantage again in December, allowing them to cut an even bigger and more favorable deal that would cover spending for the rest of the fiscal year and other issues such as bipartisan legislation to stabilize health insurance markets and the immigration fight over young, undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
Mr. McConnell’s strategy now is to break the two issues apart and try to put Republicans in a better position in the spending talks, leaving the debt limit for 2018.
Democrats, assessing the situation, said they were not sure it would inhibit them that significantly and were skeptical that Mr. McConnell would follow through since it would put Republicans on the spot for two difficult votes.
They said Republicans would still likely need Democratic votes for both the spending bill to come as well as the debt limit hike. A spending impasse could lead to a government shutdown that Mr. McConnell has been determined to avoid while a failure to raise the debt ceiling could cause a government default — an even more catastrophic outcome. And the debt limit fight would now be pushed into a difficult midterm election year when Republicans might be even more averse.
McConnel is not the "master legislator" that people liked to give him credit for. But neither is he someone who has no game at all.
The drug company Allergan has found a creative way to skirt the limitations on its patent for an eye medicine called Restasis. Joe Nocera explained last week at Bloomberg View he had heard CEO Brent Saunders speak at a conference speak of how drug prices had gotten out of hand. His company had a "social contract" with its patients, Saunders said, sounding statesmanlike. And now?
Late Friday afternoon, Saunders and Allergan showed their true colors: The company announced that it would transfer the patent rights to one of its most important drugs, the eye medication Restasis, to the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. No pharmaceutical company has ever done anything like that before.
For the Native American tribe, the deal will generate a nice chunk of change: a $13.75 million upfront fee, and $15 million a year in royalties for “licensing” Restasis to Allergan. In the news release disclosing the deal, the tribe said its entry into the patent business would help make it less dependent on its casino in northern New York.
For Allergan, the deal means that, with the patents in the hands of a sovereign entity -- which is the legal status of any officially recognized Native American tribe -- potential generic competitors trying to overturn Restasis’s patents at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board will be stymied. Once the transfer takes place, the tribe plans to file a motion to dismiss those proceedings on the grounds that the patent office has no jurisdiction over a tribe. Assuming this is a winning argument -- and it will surely be contested -- Allergan’s Restasis monopoly, which reaps in the range of $1.5 billion a year, will continue.
But this is what businesses do. As the scorpion said after stinging the frog, "It is my nature."
Wall Street calls the Allergan deal "innovative." Nocera calls it sleazy, plus "sneaky, unscrupulous and just plain wrong." Worthy of a Trump business, he didn't add.
John Lanchester offers a lengthy New Yorker review of how the history of our civilization has been shaped by non-legal innovations. Technology of the non-digital variety having existed long before science, mastering fire and soap have had longer-lasting and more profound impacts on humanity than the iPhone. Yale political science professor James C. Scott examines just how profound in “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States.”
Scott revises the conventional narrative that the Neolithic Revolution in which humans shifted from being hunter-gatherers to growing crops and domesticating animals gave birth to complex societies twelve thousand years ago. A gap of four thousand years separates people living in settled communities and the adoption of agriculture and animal husbandry.
Our ancestors evidently took a good, hard look at the possibility of agriculture before deciding to adopt this new way of life. They were able to think it over for so long because the life they lived was remarkably abundant. Like the early civilization of China in the Yellow River Valley, Mesopotamia was a wetland territory, as its name (“between the rivers”) suggests. In the Neolithic period, Mesopotamia was a delta wetland, where the sea came many miles inland from its current shore.
This was a generous landscape for humans, offering fish and the animals that preyed on them, fertile soil left behind by regular flooding, migratory birds, and migratory prey travelling near river routes. The first settled communities were established here because the land offered such a diverse web of food sources. If one year a food source failed, another would still be present. The archeology shows, then, that the “Neolithic package” of domestication and agriculture did not lead to settled communities, the ancestors of our modern towns and cities and states. Those communities had been around for thousands of years, living in the bountiful conditions of the wetlands, before humanity committed to intensive agriculture. Reliance on a single, densely planted cereal crop was much riskier, and it’s no wonder people took a few millennia to make the change.
When finally they did, civilization bloomed. And cities and states and writing. What was different about grain as opposed to root vegetables or legumes? They grow underground or ripen at different times. Grains are visible and ripen at the same time, making them easier to quantify and tax. The earliest writing was used for bookkeeping and the earliest tablets were “lists, lists and lists,” says Scott.
It was the ability to tax and to extract a surplus from the produce of agriculture that, in Scott’s account, led to the birth of the state, and also to the creation of complex societies with hierarchies, division of labor, specialist jobs (soldier, priest, servant, administrator), and an élite presiding over them. Because the new states required huge amounts of manual work to irrigate the cereal crops, they also required forms of forced labor, including slavery; because the easiest way to find slaves was to capture them, the states had a new propensity for waging war. Some of the earliest images in human history, from the first Mesopotamian states, are of slaves being marched along in neck shackles. Add this to the frequent epidemics and the general ill health of early settled communities and it is not hard to see why the latest consensus is that the Neolithic Revolution was a disaster for most of the people who lived through it.
The Law of Unintended Consequences is a bitch.
Lanchester spends the remainder of his essay wondering if perhaps humans weren't better off before agricultural technology radically reshaped the way we live. Hunter-gathering societies were much flatter and less acquisitive. Bushmen who haven't yet been assimilated still live that way, with social mechanisms to prevent members from treating other tribe members as inferiors, writes James Suzman in “Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen.” They put about seventeen hours a week into finding food and another nineteen hours into domestic chores. Are our lives so much better?
We are still promising ourselves that technology will free us from the drudgery of work even as our work-weeks lengthen and our prospects shrink. Our technology, we believe, will eventually create a world where, as John Maynard Keynes wrote in 1930, "the struggle for subsistence" is over, "the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance," and we will view the love of money as kind of disease itself. How divorced from reality that dream seems today.
Which brings us back to the Allergan corporation acting according to its nature rather than to its CEO's words. The legal technology of the corporation, as I have argued for years,
... the corporate model, this legal technology for engaging in what Robert Nozick describes as "capitalist acts between consenting adults," has metastasized into a system where humans serve what they created. The corporation has gone Skynet. And as in the Terminator series, there is no system core to shut down.
The "core" is now woven into our daily lives. Corporations touch every aspect of our them, as agriculture did before their invention. How long before anthropologists and political scientists are examining the radical reshaping of civilization that accompanied the Corporate Revolution?
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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.
I did not mind killing anything, any animal, if I killed it cleanly they all had to die and my interference with the nightly and the seasonal killing that went on all the time was very minute and I had no guilty feeling at all. We ate the meat and kept the hides and horns.
-from Green Hills of Africa, by Ernest Hemingway
He went out tiger hunting with his elephant and gun In case of accidents, he always took his mom He’s the all-American, bullet-headed, Saxon mother’s son All the children sing -From “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” by Lennon & McCartney
I can count the number of times in my life that I’ve fired a gun on less than ten fingers. I have never had a fascination for them, in any shape or form. And as far as hunting goes, I have taken the life of approximately one animal; albeit reluctantly. I think I was 14 or 15, on a trip with my family to visit some friends of my parents, who had a farm in upstate New York. I somehow got roped into joining a hunting party comprised of my dad, my uncle, and the man who owned the farm. The mission was to rid the property of varmints.
Actually, they were woodchucks, which apparently are considered pests in some quarters. Long story short, I ended up bagging one of the critters with a .22 rifle. I’m sorry to report that I did not eat the meat, nor did I keep the hide and horns. What’s that? Oh, right, woodchucks don’t have horns (although I understand that they chuck wood like nobody’s business). That was enough for me. I felt awful. I suppose on one level, it was a classic rite of passage for an all-American boy (you know...killing something with dad).
The murder of Cecil, the magnificent Zimbabwean lion, is a vivid but shabby illustration of the dilemma posed by the hunter-conservationist. President Theodore Roosevelt epitomized this dilemma. No other American President has ever been as close to nature, or loved it more. No other president has killed, or saved, as many animals.
The cognitive dissonance is not lost on co-directors Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau, who kick off their provocative documentary Trophy by similarly naming Roosevelt as the poster child for this dichotomy. The fact that Bull uses his T.R. reference as a foundation for what essentially becomes a partisan defense of the “hunter-conservationist” concept, while Schwarz and Clusiau use theirs to nudge viewers to ponder whether there ever was such a thing as a “hunter-conservationist”…demonstrates why this issue is so polarizing.
Now I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about Trophy, which is not all about the tragedy of Cecil the lion, or the confounding legacy of Teddy Roosevelt (although they are both mentioned). Nor is the film necessarily designed to make you despise smug trophy hunters, or for that matter to roll your eyes at sign-carrying, self-righteous vegans (although you will witness the worst of both “sides”…all straight out of Central Casting).
What you do get is a fairly evenhanded look at the interactive “industries” of big-game hunting, breeding, and wildlife conservation in the U.S. and in Africa, and the complications that ensue (legal and existential). Despite what you may expect going in, this is not a cut-and dry, black and white, good vs. evil, morality vs. commerce scenario.
Not that it makes the film an easy watch (although it is visually stunning and beautifully constructed). One particular scene has haunted me for days. An elephant is brought down by a trophy hunter. The camera tracks behind the hunters for what seems to be an eternity as they cautiously approach the dying animal. As it lies on its side, struggling to raise its head while taking its final breaths, it begins to emit what can only be described as the most plaintive, primal, bone-chilling wail of surrender to the void that I have ever heard from any creature great or small. If there is ever a demand for unimpeachable proof of sentience in such creatures, this heartbreaking, funereal sequence should be Exhibit “A”.
No matter where you stand on the issue of big game hunting (or “harvesting”, if you prefer), the sad fact remains many magnificent species are on the brink of extinction; and if it takes an occasional deal with the devil (or the all-American, bullet-headed, Saxon mother’s son) to facilitate their survival, does the end justify the means? The film makers may not offer a pat answer, but provide enough deep background to let you be the judge.