Monthly Archives: May 2020

This was preventable, and we need to do better.

Okay because all too many are willing to go into knee jerk behavior where they see that one side of an argument is wrong they blindly defend the other side. This is stupid but it happens all too often.

So the latest issue is the protests/looting/riots in the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by corrupt police.

As the chart above shows, there can be lots of people who are wrong in this situation. There should not be looting, there should not be riots but there should not be a corrupt police force or a government that doesn’t respond to obvious problems. But here’s the thing, we, the people, pay the police and the government to be the adults in the room, and they are failing, miserably. And thus their sins are far worse than those committed by rioters.

The fact is that we pay taxes to the government to prevent anarchy, to defend and secure our rights. And for those payments, we have the right to expect certain things, and government has the duty to perform them. The first and foremost of them is due process of law. And they’re failing at this. Why? Because we seem to be hiring idiots at every level of government. Certainly, the voters are partly responsible for this, what with the major parties for the last few decades in the last eight presidential elections we have only once been offered a candidate with both brains and ethics by the major parties (long time readers know who I’m talking about, for those of you who don’t, ask yourself who is the only Senator to not vote with party and admit that Trump was guilty, guilty, guilty). But the problem clearly goes all the way down to code enforcers who think a kid’s lemonade stand is a public safety crisis and police who are, quite frankly, completely inept at their jobs and should be swinging from a tree limb. The most obvious of these are the police because they have guns and itchy trigger fingers, but make no mistake the Institute for Justice if full of stories of other people whose lives are made hell by the brainless legions of government employees who think that because they have the power they have the right to make the lives of citizens living hell.

Finally, government is supposed to be the part of society that thinks long term. The part that sees that corruption is starting in a part of its own apparatus (like the FBI warning that racist behaviors are increasing local police, so maybe they start working on how to find the bad apples and eliminate them). Or seeing that the criminal justice system was letting corrupt cops get away with murder and putting heavier internal punishments in place. Or maybe training, like the effective system that is in Camden, NJ…but apparently we did none of that. Or, maybe, just maybe, realizing that people the stress of lengthy lockdowns is going to exert stress on both the lives of citizens and the lives of police and thus make both sides more prone to being hostile to one another and working to reduce stress and reminding cops that they are paid to be the adults in the room and that they need to work extra hard to be that in these times. But we seem to want to do none of that.

And there are idiots who want to bitch and moan that protests should peaceful. Uh-huh, as has been pointed out all too often in recent days, the same people saying that we should only listen to peaceful protests are the same ones who wanted to bitch and moan about a football player taking a knee during the national anthem. I can’t think of a more peaceful protest. There also seems to be a heavy crossover with the idiots who liked to protest lockdowns with semi-automatic rifles (so peaceful). And last time I checked cops weren’t supposed to target the media and medical workers, but the cops seem hell bent on being the bigger criminals in all of this.

But any sane person could have seen this coming—certainly there was no way to predict when but with lingering social problems, a pandemic, millions unemployed, it was a given. When peaceful protests don’t work things get violent. Acknowledging this fact is not condoning the violence, but it is condemning that no reasonable moves were made to relieve the pressure and make things better. Such has been the history of the entire United States. Usually unplanned and inefficient at getting their goals done, with examples ranging from John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry the riots of the late ’60s, there have been some organized violent protests (everything the Sons of Liberty did in intimidating tax collectors from destroying their homes to tar and feathering, the systemized intimidation of Loyalist at the behest of the Continental Congress, the burning of the British naval ship the Gaspee, and still some disorganized killing of loyalists as there was a jump in the murder rate before the Revolution). But be it organized or not, it was all a very predictable out outcome of government incompetence.

Yeah, people should not be burning private businesses. Although, let’s be honest, there are so many questions about these masked umbrella men showing up breaking things. It’s irrational, ill-conceived, and doesn’t get anyone what they want. But government exists for the very reason that people cannot always be trusted to be rational. And it should be proactive in dealing with problems before they become riots or revolutions, not only after. And as much as I have major sympathies to the most extreme libertarians, I realize that near-anarchy will result not in a capitalist paradise but in a repeat of the French Revolution. Now I still would argue that protesters should do everything they can to be the adults in the room, because the least child-like actors are the ones who tend to win in the long term and just because the cops right now are trying to be the most tyrannical asses around shouldn’t be excuse to be just as petty—I know it’s hard, but be the adult in the room.

So, yeah the people who are committing crimes and burning buildings should be arrested and prosecuted. But if that is where you think that government actions should stop you are completely missing the point.

So what does need to be done?

Among the first things that need to be done is reform for police organizations.

You know, I used to think that if we just got body cameras on every cop the worst abuses would stop because every cop would know they would have a record of their actions and thus would watch what they do…but Floyd’s murderer knew he was on camera and continued in tactics that are only acceptable in the Reich. I had assumed that cops were only emotional, ignorant, and short-sighted. But I now know some police departments are hiring full blow sociopaths, and not even high functioning ones. How else do you describe someone who not only can murder a man who is begging for mercy, but who can do it knowing he’s on camera? But still, body cams should be put in place for the ones who aren’t sociopaths.

And a lot of money needs to go expanding internal affairs (honestly this not just a problem with police but with all levels of the government) and their ability to initiate prosecutions and let the public know what is going on. There needs to be a lot more transparency on the record of every officer. We clearly need better psych screening, but I suggest we start with the simple idea that any cop with racist tattoos be fired immediately (I’d prefer gutshot with a shotgun at close range, but I’ll deal in reality). Horrifically that would take out a staggering number of cops right then and there…and it’s so sad we’ve let it come to that.

Attached to that we need more community involvement and oversight. And to acknowledge that there are still some good people whom we should follow their example.

And unions with their ability to defend their corrupt members need to be neutered (anytime you have government unions you have corruption).

And as stated above the seemingly far superior training program of Camden, policy needs to be adapted to every other police force in the nation. If someone can improve on it, great, but it needs to be the absolute minimum.

Now we could try and pay for all of this or we could cut costs. I prefer the latter. How? One of the biggest (and most racist) boondoggles in existence is the war on drugs. Since its inception, it has been a waste of time, money, and resources that only serves to hurt people. Keep the public intoxication and intoxicated driving laws, and put in a reasonable age limit, like 26 (it’s also what should be the voting age) and literally let everything else be legal. Almost all police abuses, from barging into people’s houses on bad warrants, to the murder of thousands of dogs every year by police, to the criminal racket that is civil forfeiture, qualified immunity that makes crime legal for cops, militarizing the police, to an unhealthy percentage of our incarcerations trace back to the war on drugs. Get rid of that and just not care what adults do in the privacy of their homes and guess what we can get rid of the entirety of the DEA, a good portion of the ATF (as much of their work is detailing with guns going to those in the black market drug trade), and most of the bullshit done by the state, county and city police. I’m making an educated guess here but I would say that this could remove anywhere from 10%-30% of all police forces. Which either leaves those cops to go IA, reassigned to real work walking communities, or just firing the corrupt SOBs. And when drugs are not illegal then you won’t have street gangs and cartels using violence to keep their product safe which in turn will lower crime rates even further and further reduce the need for police work (Season 3 of The Wire was right, legalize it and you will end a lot of crime, as has also been shown in every nation that has either outright legalized it or turn a very blind eye). And a lot less crime means even less need for cops.

But this is only a start.

Police may be the most egregious and newsworthy form of petty bullies using government force against a civilian population but it is not the only kind. Every state, county, and city needs to go through all of their laws and codes and remove every power and regulation that has no purpose. Because understand it is in abuses of regulators acting like little Napoleons for idiotic rules that spark confrontations with violent cops (or do you need to remember that Eric Garner was choked to death by NY police because he was selling cigarettes without the proper permits to avoid paying the ridiculous NY taxes…and we used to praise men like John Hancock for selling things like contraband tea to avoid taxes, but now police are as petty and vile as the redcoats we used to justly shoot). There will regrettably always be petty tyrants in government because power attracts the corruptible (it doesn’t corrupt it only attracts those who want to be corrupt), but we can limit what they can do by limiting their powers.

You want to further stop this kind of insanity? Read Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law, and realize that there is still a lot of de jure racism in our laws (although ignore Rothstein’s recommendations on how to fix things, he seems to think that if the government that caused the problem then MORE government will solve it), and as long as its there it’s going to attract the corrupt to enforce those laws. Get rid of all the zoning and housing regulations, and NIMBY BS that prevents affordable housing, actually implement full-scale school choice to prevent lack of education from still being something that holds people in the same economic bracket they’re born into, put in a nationwide UBI to replace the current insanity of welfare that keeps some people busy with a nearly full-time job to prove that they need assistance instead of actually going out and getting a job.

And there are dozens of smaller things, but to do any of that we’d need to realize that government’s job is to be proactive, solve the small problems with mild nudging and letting people live their lives long before it becomes big problems the merry playground for bullies and idiots.

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The Snyder Cut is coming and here is why that’s important

A perfect trilogy

I’m sorry for how rambling this is, but I haven’t been commenting on media for a few years so there is a lot of small things I need to deal with.

As might know by now HBOmax will be releasing The Snyder Cut version of Justice League in 2021 (possibly along with the Ayer Cut of Suicide Squad and maybe a lot of other DCEU content coming in the future).

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll try and give a truncated (ha! if you know the story you might want to skip down a little) version of what happened.

So, following the success of the more serious and adult version of Batman provided by Christopher Nolan in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Warner Brothers picked director Zack Snyder to direct a new Superman movie with Nolan as Executive Producer. Snyder decided to go in the same direction of the Dark Knight Trilogy and treat the story as an adult subject. Rather than putting his hero in a situation where there is an easy and satisfying resolution, the kind you usually find in comic books (especially of the Silver Age of Comics from the ’50s and ’60s) where a character is unquestionably good because they’re never put in a situation where they have to choose between only bad options. If only life were that simple. This culminated in a scene where Clark is made to choose between killing his enemy Zod or letting more people die (this is after Zod actually does the unthinkable and actually kills people in his evil scheme—up to this point most comic book villains threaten to kill millions but never seem to get the job done). Clarke does the right thing and kills Zod and then immediately has an emotional response to just an act, because that’s a big thing for Snyder’s movies, dealing with the effects of one’s actions, even the right ones that aren’t easy. But everyone freaked out that because “Superman doesn’t kill people”—which is odd because Chris Reeve’s Supes killed Zod after making him a powerless human (oh there was some unnecessary torture in there too), and the early comics has Superman killing people—but never let reality intrude on what golden past people’s nostalgia wants to believe was the case. I’m not terribly surprised, the entire world is caught between two political philosophies—one that sees a golden past where nothing was wrong, and one that sees a dystopian past where nothing was right, neither side wanting to deal in reality. But for some of us, we saw the genius of Man of Steel. Like Homer many generations before, Nolan and Snyder had taken crappy tales that had been told for generations and raised them to an adult art.

Then, Warner Brothers, seeing the money Disney was making with Marvel, pushed for more DC movies. It’s unclear if Snyder wanted more films before having the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman team-up or if he was simply rushed in production but we got Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The first part of the title was clearly WB executives playing to the lowest common denominator, the second what Snyder wanted. We know there was some executive interference because we finally got a director’s cut that that was a vastly superior movie over the studio approved original showing because the director’s cut had more character development and focus on thematic points and less of a push to make this just a fight movie. I noticed that people who went in looking for Batman v Superman were inevitably displeased with the movie, but those who went in looking Dawn of Justice were happy with it. But the people who hated it were just vicious in their reviews. And they latched onto absolutely bizarre things (the weirdest was that they were taken aback that clearly mentally unstable person would have a PTSD breakdown when he was reminded of the death of his parents—just shocking, that characters should actually act like real people). Attacks were made against the fans who liked the movie, against the director, against the actors, the writer. It was weird. I don’t like Marvel movies, so I don’t see them…I don’t claim the Russos are terrible people, I just don’t go see their movies, and when I was still seeing them for trying to be put up movie reviews attacked their thematic plots not claiming they were racists or misogynists or other weird things I saw labeled against the people behind of Dawn of Justice.  

Between the two films, Snyder and writer David S. Goyer gave us two movies that had deep philosophical material—Man of Steel was a deconstruction of the problems with Plato’s Republic, Dawn of Justice a similar look at the popular view Nietzsche’s philosophy. Then WB not thrilled with profit margins of about $200-300 million per film and wanting more of the Marvel style profits (around $400-600 million per film) started using more executive control over their DC films. This is a process I have never seen to be good, personally, I have only seen one director’s cut worse than the original film* and only a couple of movies that had a superior alternate ending that was the studio’s picks rather than the director’s**. This first resulted in heavy re-editing of Suicide Squad (leading to almost all of Jared Leto’s Joker being cut from the film), but since in terms of pure profit this had a higher return than the Snyder films the higher-ups at WB/DC decided they knew better than directors.*** They took Snyder’s plan to have three more movies (one where we have a future where Darkseid corrupts Superman and Batman, Cyborg, and the Flash have to send a message to the past to prevent that future, one that is closish to Snyder Cut we’re about to get, and one where the Justice League takes on Darkseid) and just told him to skip the third movie and just go to Justice League. So Snyder did that. And then he had to step away because his daughter committed suicide, and dealing with his family was the more important thing. So Joss Whedon was brought in. I’ll be honest I was hopeful because while he had been stumbling this was the man who created Buffy, Angel, Mal Reynolds, Echo—he knew how to deal with depth (in the years since Justice League I’ve become more convinced that he knew how to assemble a great team but when working solo he may not be as good as the writers he used to work with). We thought he would touch up a few scenes and get the final product ready. What we got was an almost entirely reshot movie.  We know because of the terrible CGI that almost every Superman scene was redone, the weird Russian family was added, terrible sexist jokes were added, and that crappy ethics of Age of Ultron where heroes suddenly don’t understand that when the fate of the entire world is at stake that the needs of the many outweigh the lives of a few, but hey let’s go back to Silver Age nonsense were acting like a boy scout doesn’t have negative repercussions real life. Between Whedon and his bosses at Warner Brother, they tried to make a Marvel movie. Not only did they fail at even that, but they also lost money, a lot of it. Which is good.

The calls for the release of the Snyder Cut started almost immediately, and that’s a story in itself, I’ll just link to that because this getting too long already.

But here’s a summary of what I saw. Fundraising. Online Petitions. Facebook pages and calls to hit social media with #ReleasetheSnyderCut. A lot of sales of shirts and whatnot with the theme of #ReleasetheSnyderCut. Now I’m not privy to all the internal of every fundraiser for this movement but I know a lot of that money wasn’t just used to buy adds but a good portion of it was used to a charitable organization that works for suicide prevention. Personally all I saw was people who wanted a movie and protested politely about it. Yeah we called Whedon, and Geoff Johns, and other WB executives idiots, because they were. They had something people wanted to see that, we now know, would only cost $30 million and will probably vastly more than that.

Luckily for human civilization AT&T recently bought Warner Brothers and it is clear they have cleared out the people who cared more about their egos than profit or artistic integrity. And they have announced that we’ll be getting the Snyder Cut of Justice League in 2021.  

_____________________

So that’s the background to this. (And here’s another take on it)

Now let’s get to the important stuff. Why is this important? Well there are as far as I can tell 4 reasons.

1. The first reason is that this shows that movies with depth can make money. Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice, and Wonder Woman—which I argue are discussions of Plato, Nietzsche, and Calvin respectively—made money. Yeah sure not Star Wars or Avengers money, but a mentality that scoffs at a $200 million profit is bad business, especially when scoffing at it makes you lose money. This shows that while Disney can make formulaic movies that everyone will go see it’s mainly because they’re Disney. Trying to beat Disney at their own game is, at best, suicidal. They have the market cornered for simple films that don’t need a lot of depth (not that all their stuff if without meat on the bones, but they’ve always been a fan of skeletons that appeal to the audience)…and what they don’t have Dreamworks and Spielberg take up. The market can only bear so much simple.

Less than a week out from the Snyder Cut announcement it’s hard to say exactly how HBOmax is doing with signups, but I don’t think anyone thinks this is going to hurt their bottom line. And this means that market will continue to give a diversity of movies. Had the #ReleasetheSnydercut movement failed we would have probably had to deal with a revival of the 1990s where there were some years where the deepest thing Hollywood would put out would be a Grisham movie. Thankfully this means that works of both high and low brow material will continue to made and thus everyone can be happy.  

2. This shows that directors should be trusted. WB screwed up trying to get too involved in the Justice League and Suicide Squad, not happy with getting $200 million a movie they wanted more and they ended up getting less. And you know, while Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker made obscene amounts of money, I don’t think anyone thinks that the studio system over at Disney is exactly churning out anything to please fans, they’re just coasting on a nostalgia…and 2020 may reveal that Disney had better switch to a new model as I don’t think fans are ready for another subpar Star Wars trilogy, another plodding phase 4 of Marvel, or more Disney live actions (especially given how mismanaged the next ones up seem to be).

Maybe AT&T’s move, and the money they’re likely going to be raking in from this, will put some more faith in directors and less in the studio system.

Maybe I’m being too hopeful.

But at least this will not kill the director’s power just yet.

(If you want to further help that I would suggest we all go see Nolan’s Tenet in a couple of weeks. Find a time and place where you feel safe and go see it).

3. Playing to the lowest common denominator doesn’t pay off.  

Clearly WB executives thought that their fans didn’t want to see non-white actors—seriously any long term reader of this blog will know that I don’t go into an argument about race or gender like a lunatic. And I tend to find arguments that say putting an all-female cast is pushing feminism (from the right), or that not including any actors of color is racist (from the left) equally preposterous if someone tries to make them. Ghostbusters sucked because it was poorly written not because it was an all-female cast, one should never look for a conspiratorial argument. But they cut out Karen Bryson, Kiersy Clemons, Harry Lennix, Orion Lee, playing Cyborg’s Mother, Iris West (Flash’s girlfriend), Secretary Swanwick/Martian Manhunter, and Ryan Choi (Atom), that ranges from major roles to fan service. And while they also cut Defoe, our new Green Lantern, and the gods…the seems to have been a lot of cutting out of non-white actors. So much so I’m not comfortable saying that WB executives didn’t think that, incorrectly, their fans were a bunch of white boys who couldn’t emphasize with anyone who didn’t look like them. Might also suggest why we had to be treated to that idiot Russian family—because WB producers thought we would be able to relate to them. Hint: we didn’t (honestly if the Russians had died and Steppenwolf had lived I would have been happier, they were so hamfistedly forced in I learned to loathe them).

Some of the characters who were cute…I see a pattern

And dare we forget the at best juvenile, and at worst sexist, “thirty” and face planting in Wonder Woman’s cleavage.  Whatever the motive was the producers thought this more sophomoric humor would be best, which is probably why they hired Whedon (both the producers and Whedon forgot that Whedon’s quirky humor, which this was hardly the best example of, only works when counterposed with serious stakes like Buffy dying or having to send Angel to hell mere moments after he gets his soul back…without tragedy the humor just comes off as dumb).  

Thankfully this has shown that this kind of assumption that your audience is dumb, racist, sexist, and just useless has proven to be a big mistake monetarily and hopefully will be kept at bay for a while longer.

4. Finally, that there is still the power of the consumer to control the market. Various idiots from all sides of the political spectrum like to talk about how capitalism is not responsive to the market anymore, and this strangely usually leads arguments that power should be put in the hand of bureaucrats or executives—weird how few sides want to give economic power to the people. But what does work is a primarily civil but forceful call for what we want.  

In the last couple of days there has been this weird call that fans of the Snyder Cut are bullies and racists. I’m sure there are some assholes out there, every movement has them. But the Snyder cut fans were asking for the scenes with Cyborg’s backstory, the return of Flash’s girlfriend Iris, the return of Secretary Swanwick (who is the Martian Manhunter), and the man who would eventually become the superhero Atom. Not one of these people is white. What we wanted to be removed was that dumb Russian family—never do we want to see that bullshit again.  

It’s a bizarre argument that I can’t find any basis in fact. At best it bizarrely cherry-picks to find the few scum that every pop culture fandom has. It’s like me saying that the one former friend I found out was hiding from me that he was #MAGA scum for years, at which point I promptly cut off all ties to him, was also a die-hard Marvel fan and extrapolating out that all Marvel fans much be fascist trash—that is obviously not the case.  

What the Snydercut fans did was raise money for charity, and make their presence known on social media, and buying a lot of ad space. I don’t recall any serious calls for Joss Whedon to die (at least not tied to this, there was some #MeToo stuff in his life but that’s a whole other bag of cats), no one threatens to burn down Warner, nothing like that. It was social media and boycotts.  

But then again we live in a society where a peaceful protest of taking a knee is seen not as something to agree or disagree with the cause of the protester but like it’s an all-out assault to end their way of life.  

But knee jerk lunatics aside, this showed that civil but forceful movement can have an effect. Just so long as we all do the right thing and not get HBOmax as we promised and do not at any level support or encourage any kind of pirating or stealing of the material. We argued for this, now we have to put up on our side and pay for what we wanted. Otherwise they’ll just go back to make worthless dreck.

And then there is this last weird thing in all of this. Several major news sources are saying that WB putting this out through is caving into “toxic fandoms” and how this sets a dangerous precedent. First off this is hardly the first time that fans have demanded that artists meet what they wanted…the first time I can recall is when the public forced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to bring Sherlock back from the dead, and then there was that time fans brought Star Trek back, and in further irony of Joss Whedon’s life I could have sworn it fans clamoring that got him Serenity to follow Firefly after it was cancelled (so when fans are for Whedon that’s good before his wife outed him as hating women, when they’re against after we know the truth about him, that’s toxic. Makes not a damn bit of sense to me but Hollywood’s always been crazy). Demands of fans have been pushing pop culture for as long as pop culture. Also weird is that none of the articles I can find show evidence of the toxic nature. The Vanity Fair article on this is a good example, they list the harassment on twitter (because just putting #ReleasetheSnyderCut on everything apparently is so mean), they also list that the writer for the new Suicide Squad, James Gunn (a man I would like you to remember was rightfully persona non grata just a few years ago because he was making pedophila jokes) was getting death threats…but as far as I can tell those threats are coming in from Marvel fans. Look I’m sure there are complete assholes who are harassing people in the Snyder fandom, because there are those jackasses in every one of the fandoms. And other than the fact that Fascist Pravda (otherwise known as Russia Times) is publishing pro-SnyderCut articles (it’s weird as the anti-tyranny and pro-immigration themes of Snyder’s work doesn’t fit with RT’s usual line…but the world is going crazy so it’s just the latest thing that makes no sense to anyone) I can’t think of any real source of toxicity coming from a movement that funded itself by splitting its proceeds with charities. But apparently not liking Whedon’s misogynistic “thirsty” jokes is now toxic. Who knew. “Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate “is apparently the only way to understand the opposition to this great moment.

*Pretty Woman, and I’m can’t find out if the “director’s cut” was actually Marshall’s doing or if the studio just wanted people to buy the movie and put in all the scenes the director cut and called it a “director’s cut.”

**The only one that comes to mind is Lucky Number Slevin where the original was significantly darker and offer no redemption for the main character making the entire film devoid of meaning, and this single example I know of where the studio choice was the right one. I’m sure there is more, but in the aggregate I’m sure the studio is usually wrong.

***I’m not sure how Wonder Woman escaped the studio interference. Either there was interference I am not aware of or Patty Jenkins repeatedly beat the studio execs with her awards and nominations for her previous work…either way Wonder Woman came off, to my knowledge, away with little interference.

****The saddest irony here is that Whedon should have known better. His original script for Buffy the Vampire Slayer was taken by inept producers and turned into a hollow, meaningless version of itself. And so Whedon did the same thing that was done to him. Nietzsche isn’t always correct, but his warning “When fighting monsters be careful not to become a monster yourself” seems relevant here.

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