Author Archives: CrisAP

Top 15 movies of the 2010s

Okay, so we’ve gone over what the top films of 2019 were, and we’ve gone over what actually makes for great art. So given that it’s 2020–and by consensus the start of a new decade (yeah I know there is no year zero, but Christ was likely born in 6 or 7 BCE and it’s just as arbitrary to say the first decade had only nine years as to say the decade doesn’t begin until 2021…the fact is this is where the majority lies). So what are the top films of the 2010s?

As anyone who has been with this blog for the last decade will know some years I have trouble making a full Top 10, and some overflow but only with middling entertainment value, few reaching to level of great art. But it is a decade list and we should admit that there are more than just 10 films to honor. That being said, I’m going to group someone of them because my praise of them stems from a similar source.

So let’s get this list going with

#15: Les Miserables
Ideally, this movie should be higher. It appeals to a need to be both charitable in a personal sense, oppose tyranny when it comes up, but to also deal in the real world as best we can. Excellent messages of virtue all around. The problem is that upon repeated viewing it becomes clear that Hooper only realized how to film a musical about halfway through the movie, spending too much early in production with just letting the camera stay on one actor singing for far far too long to be comfortable. Also, sadly, what he did learn about the proper way to film a musical (as seen in such songs as Stars and Master of the House) was quickly forgotten as filmed the second worst film of the 2010’s—Cats. (In case you’re wondering, The Counselor is the unchallenged worst film of the 2010s and in all likelihood of all time).
14. The Age of Adeline
Snobs may have not been completely infuriated by the previous pick, but this one likely is setting them seething. I don’t care. The film may not have the pretentiousness that is so often praised by critics but is superbly acted by Blake Lively (whose range as a serious from The Town to A Simple Favor is always underrated because of her stunningly beautiful face). Compared to a lot of movies it is a quiet film about what really matters in life, and how things we may even complain about are truly blessings.
13. Destination Wedding
Never have I seen two actors carry a movie entirely. Only two actors speak for the entire film. This wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on stage, but on film it is essentially unheard of (discounting endless college films and snobby crap that no non-critic should ever waste a millisecond of their time on). But Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder manage to hold a whole film with only their dialogue and a few establishing shots. And the direction is half the joy, as many directors could not pull off having seemed natural, entertaining, or anything other than tedious. But this film is wonderfully entertaining as it honestly deals with the modern cynicism about relationships without sacrificing a faith in the timeless truth of love.
12. A Star Is Born
It took four attempts at making this movie before they made a good one. I’ll be honest, when it was first announced I was unconvinced, they had made three godawful films with this plot before why would the new one be any better. And then Lady Gaga. And then it is the directing debut of Bradley Cooper, in a film starring himself. A bad story with an annoying pop star directed by someone who was on what appeared to be a vanity project. And then the trailer interested even jaded old me…and then the movie. For once the husband was not despicable only pitiable, for once the starlet’s love for her husband was endearing and not pathetic and leaving me screaming “Leave his worthless ass.” For once they did what they meant to do, talk about how stardom is a fickle mistress who will just as soon destroy you as raise you up without making me despise all the characters involved. But now that we’ve made a good version can we never remake this movie again in my lifetime—I’ll probably be dead by the 2070’s so nothing before then.
11. The Accountant
The 2000s were a time when Ben Affleck did literally any film that would pay him money. Some were endearing in their own way (Jersey Girl and The Sum of All Fears) and others were abominations that should have never been filmed and should still be wiped from the face of the Earth so that future generation may never know of their worthlessness (Gigli, Daredevil, Surviving Christmas, Pearl Harbor, Bounce, Reindeer Games, Boiler Room…you get the idea). Thankfully the 2010s reminded us that this was the guy who wrote Good Will Hunting and made us cry in Armageddon (don’t lie we all cried before we learned a cynicism for Bay movies). And while we’ll soon deal with his directorial genius, let’s look at what is possibly his best film not directed by himself (Affleck might be the best Batman, but his performance in The Accountant is better). In The Accountant, Gavin O’Connor gave us a great mystery, a thrilling action piece, and an understanding of how autism actually presents seldom seen in Hollywood. It is thrilling and insightful at every turn and offers us not only the Accountant’s struggle to do the right thing while wanting to be a part of a society he can’t fully integrate into, but also the redemption of two separate FBI agent as they work with Affleck’s character to achieve some small measure of justice in the world.
It is touching, exciting, and intriguing all at once.
Let’s crack the Top 10 with
10. Glass.
I don’t think I include Unbreakable in the best films of the 2000s, and I don’t necessarily regret that, Unbreakable, while a beautiful film was inherently only the first part of a story. And I’m not including Split here either because it was a bridge piece that set up this final movie. But Glass is what turns these otherwise good but not great films into a perfect trilogy. So many of M. Night’s films are about finding your place in the world (The Sixth Sense, Lady in the Water, Signs) but Glass uses the modern obsession with comic book characters to relate the struggle of these larger than life characters to real human beings who are held back by fears of what they can accomplish. And while Glass may have set up a larger universe which we may never return to, as much as we might want, the theme of Mr. Glass’ initial plea about how terrible it is to not know your place in the world is resolved not just for our three central characters. And is what was needed more than any further discussion of the conspiracy that kept those with abilities down (certainly without ethics, but not entirely without logic to their purpose). And further, we see there is dignity and even greater purpose in the role of those who are not the extraordinary but in what would usually be considered the role of the sidekick, as it is those who believe without powers, who do more to harm the behemoth of the conspiracy than the superheroes and villains ever could.
9.Knives Out

Daniel Craig is a good Bond. He is great as Benoit Blanc. In possibly the best murder mystery since Agatha Christie (that sounds like hyperbole, but trust me it isn’t) Knives Out holds the promise of a new private detective that will become a part of the collective conscious right up there with Holmes, Poirot, Wolf, Marlowe, and Spade. Every line is a masterpiece of wit and mystery, and you’re not sure who killed who, who is even dead, and what is going on in-between laughing your ass off at the insanity of the characters and their well-crafted lines. With any luck, several Blanc films will grace the best films of the 2020’s list, but for now, let us revel in the genius of the first film that closed out the decade.
8. The King’s Speech/Dunkirk/Darkest Hour
I’m grouping these three together because they basically all have the same theme central theme: individuals dealing with extraordinary situations, and all three use the backdrop of Britain in the Second World War. Sadly, three great films about the virtues of the British people (notably about the nobility, the commoners, and educated gentry that straddles the two, i.e. most of Britains classes) should have the backdrop of Britain committing economic suicide and destroying the union that the WWII generation fought to create (but it’s a time when America is also opting for self-immolation, so it’s not only a flaw in Britain at present). None the less all three demonstrate that the correct attitude to problem is to face them with a personal virtue and determination to follow what you know is right even when the world and those in it seem to be against you.
7. Motherless Brooklyn
It is a film that has nearly unparalleled directing, writing, and acting. Probably if Ed Norton hadn’t burned so many bridges in Hollywood it would be recognized for the genius it has this year beyond. But as it stands it both balances a personal story of redemption with a startling accurate critique of current corruption by using real evils of the past as an example we should learn from. If all movies were this good I would never be disappointed.
6. Widows
I honestly fail to see which current social problems this film did not at least touch on. Racism, personal and structural. Political corruption and graft. Misogyny. The need to establish connections with other people to survive. And it does it all without becoming preachy or pedantic. Between this and Motherless Brooklyn Hollywood has a new standard by which to judge all movies that comment on society’s ill. If you cannot do it with the entertainment factor of both of these films don’t bother.
5. The Town/Argo/Live By Night
Ben Affleck’s personal life seems to be an endless mess. Ben Affleck the actor is good. Ben Affleck the director is a godsend. The three films are very different in tone and theme but all three show a director who knows how to tell complex stories, make characters of questionable character sympathetic and endearing, and how to give powerful messages about the nature of virtue through the lack of it, the price of redemption, and the necessity of balancing intellectual and emotional needs in both our lives and on film. I look forward to every film that Affleck directs and wish there were more of them.
4. The Dark Knight Rises
This is a difficult one to say exactly where it goes. It’s hard because it really shouldn’t be view outside the nature of the Dark Knight Trilogy, so it becomes a little difficult to fit into a decade review of films as the other two films were in the previous decade. That said, let’s try and look at this film as a stand-alone. It offers one of the most enduring messages of any of the Dark Knight movies, in that it shows the flaws of those who listen to Bane’s progressive/populist drivel and how those who spout such nonsense often don’t believe in what they say, just in playing to the ignorant masses. How different this decade would have been if people had actually listened to this message.
Further, the movie is the most character-centric of the Dark Knight films, showing Bruce dealing with his role in Gotham and the world and how his attempt to hide from life behind the cowl was not a long term solution to bigger issues.
And for this, it is still the strongest part of the trilogy and should be appreciated on its own.
3. Inception/Interstellar
Okay, so I’ve put all four of Nolan’s films for this decade on the list. Like Snyder and Affleck he is simply a director I will implicitly trust for the moment. Someday he might give a subpar film, but it was not this decade. I put these two films together not just because they both are science fiction tales, and not just because they both challenge us to think about reality in a different way, but because they show very clearly that for all the intellectual knots we can tie ourselves into it is connections to others out of love that will usually be the things that save us from the problems in our lives.
2. Winter’s Tale
This one might seem to be the odd one out to be this high on the list. Most of these films people might admit that they have exceptional acting and directing they just might think there are other, more pretentious, films that should be in the top list (usually because they believe what critics tell them). But Winter’s Tale flew under the radar. Terribly marketed, poorly understood, and just comes off as cheap fantasy to anyone who isn’t watching closely. However, this film takes a small portion of Mark Helprin’s beautiful novel and puts the dense philosophy on film. And when one takes the time to watch this movie you will realize it is not just a beautiful love story, but a stirring film about spirituality and hope, about how everything in existence happens for a reason, and how it bends inevitably toward growth and eventual perfection.
1. Man of Steel/Dawn of Justice/The Snyder Cut
Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan did for stupid and crappy comic book stories what the bards we collectively call Homer did for stupid and crappy campfire tales. They made the mundane into true art. And while Nolan’s genius was more for the last decade Snyder gave us three great films of philosophical depth that in many ways outshine the Dark Knight Trilogy.
And I get that putting a movie that hasn’t even been released yet is a bit of cheat, but the fact is that everyone with a brain knows that the actual Snyder Cut was vastly superior to the shit Justice League that the studio released and that everyone involved in ruining Justice League from Joss Whedon all the way to the WB executives should, in a just world, be subject to tortures usually reserved for the Inquisition.
But from Man of Steel, a film that tore apart the evils of Plato’s Republic, Dawn of Justice which showed the evil inherent in the beliefs of Nietzsche, and from the few clues to the real Justice League we can see that the film was supposed to be an attack on the isolationism of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Few directors would tackle one of those in a film, but Snyder kept all of his comic book movies, one after another, challenging heavy philosophical questions. He gave us superheroes who weren’t the comic book cutouts that did what was needed for the plot, but rather real human beings (even the aliens) for whom the plot followed their character development. We were treated to a Lois Lane who wasn’t just a hanger on to Superman, but a woman whom we could believe earned a Pulitzer. A Superman who wasn’t the dumb big blue Boy Scout but a virtuous man who struggles with the consequences of his choices in trying to right thing. A Batman who is understood to be mentally unstable, because stable people without superpowers don’t do this kind of shit, and who have very real PTSD issues from all the crap he’s faced. They were films for serious adults, and critics bitched that it wasn’t the mindless superhero crap Disney was putting out.
Regrettably, neither the critics nor the public want films that both entertain and cause us to think at the moment, and so these films will not get the credit they deserve. But they are still the best the decade had to offer.

On the flip side, I feel I should also discuss the worst of the decade. And that’s a toss-up.
On the one hand, there is The Counselor, in my mind the single worst film ever made. Conversations that make no sense, characters all spouting off like they’re drunken sophomore philosophy students, Cameron Diaz sexually molesting a car (and my soul in the process). It was just a terrible film at every level.
But slightly above that is what Disney did throughout most of the decade. The early Marvel films not owned by Disney weren’t great but they weren’t completely terrible. But once Disney took over they became bland, formulaic, and just a series of cheap quips and explosions. And not that Star Wars was ever great art, but the extended universe novels offered a road map for character development and depth, but not once did I see the words Mara Jade or any other suggestion that Disney wanted to offer us anything other than mindless shit. Perhaps if the entertainment industry wasn’t such a blind monkey-see-monkey-do kind of business the I could have been fine with Disney releasing some dumb crap and other studios giving me something to sink my teeth into, but it isn’t that way and Disney showed you can make money with the bland formula (but only for a while, a caveat they haven’t learned) and thus every other studio wants to repeat the same thing leaving comparatively little diversity for those of us who got tired of the formula early on. And for that, they have created the worst thing in entertainment for the decade. And the unquestionable cuteness of baby Yoda and baby Groot won’t make up for that.

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The Importance of Art and Culture in Politics

I have recently engaged in several arguments with a few people over the values of art. Some have complained about why I would waste time on blogs  The Snyder Cut and some have told me they think Shakespeare has no value. Both viewpoints are silly. Now, most people will concede the importance of art for entertainment purposes in their own lives, and maybe for having a message so long as it is entertaining and the message is clear, again in their own life. But art, in almost any form, has far more important functions than just the personal entertainment aspect, it is, as Faulkner put it “It [creating art] is his [the artist’s] privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.” (Faulkner was talking specifically about literature, but I don’t think he would disagree with having his words applied to all the arts). Specifically, in the context of this blog, art serves to aid in both an understanding of ethics, politics, and philosophy in life.

Art is important for both political and spiritual reasons. Why?  Because ideas have consequences.  Major ones.  And the single most efficient way to convey ideas is through art.  High brow or low, it doesn’t really matter.  Art is ideas, and ideas have consequences.  So, caring about even movies and books you would like to dismiss as silly or trite is an important issue in life.  But this brings up a few issues.  What is the purpose of art?  What makes good art?  How deep should we dig with a work of art?  And finally, why it’s important to look at art as more than just mindless entertainment but rather as a tool for the mind.

Let’s first deal with what the purpose of art is.

The Purpose of Art

As far as I can figure out there are three purposes to good art.

The first is catharsis. The second is what I can only call the ethical or mythic purpose. The third purpose is the philosophical. I will get into exactly what each of these is in a second but I would say that there are many good works of art that exhibit at least one of these purposes, there are a good portion of works that demonstrate two of these, and of course, the rarest of all are the works that can fulfill all three purposes. (And then there is, of course, the question of how well they fulfilled all of these, but we’ll get to that later).

The first purpose is catharsis. Catharsis is a psychological reaction to art that requires an emotional response. We smile. We grip the armrest in anticipation. We laugh. We cry. We scream in fright. We cheer and applaud. We have a strong emotional reaction. In other words, we’re entertained. There is a release of emotion. I dare you to find me a competent piece of art that doesn’t spark some kind of positive emotion. I say this because disgust and revulsions are not catharsis, even though they are the only sane reactions to most works of modern “art” (I use the word very loosely in this case). We may be angry at some movies or books, but if it is righteous indignation then it is a correct recognition to injustice and helps to stoke this virtue in the right sort of way. But emotions like revulsion or disgust are not as psychologically healthy as laughing and crying, and even sometimes anger, are. I would say that any work of art (music, books, film, paintings) should have to meet this requirement or it’s not really art. For instance, a novel that is long-winded and boring, has dull characters, and no enjoyment isn’t art—it’s a waste of paper, no matter what any intelligentsia hack critic says. If it is not taping into the emotions, at the bare minimum if it is not entertaining, then it is not art.

Art that simply covers this area of enjoyment would be the meaningless pop music we listen to, the quickly forgotten sitcoms and action films we see, and the cheesy romance novels some people read. Anything put out by Marvel would be a good example of this; it has no depth, no real insight in characters or society, no grand questions of life, but it is entertaining. And for what it is, that’s fine (but as we’ll get to later, it doesn’t mean that it only impacts is at the entertainment level.)

The second purpose provides a set of clear and simple rules for people and society to live by—ethical guidelines to follow. I call this also the mythic purpose as much of mythology wasn’t so much to explain the workings of the universe, it was to provide examples of archetypal heroism, the standards of ethics of how we should all live our lives. What is right and what is wrong. How should we act and who should we put up as a moral model. The ancients had Achilles, Odysseus, and Theseus. Nowadays we have Superman, Emma Swan, and Frodo. Just because I call this the 2nd level doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more sophisticated than the first level (there are some comedies that serve no purpose other than entertainment that are much more complex and sophisticated than a comic book which does serve the 2nd level purpose). At its best this type of art raises questions about what is right and leaves you for quite a long time in a gray area before offering you any resolution or answer, forcing you to take the chance to think for yourself about ethics and morality—hopefully a habit you use after you have left the work of art behind. And when it forces this self-reflection art begins to move into the third level.

The third purpose is the philosophic purpose. Literature has a habit of raising questions not just of ethics (and by extension politics) but also questions of metaphysics (Revolver, City of Angels, Winter’s Tale), epistemology (Inception and The Matrix), and aesthetics (Portrait of Jenny and more poems than I care to list). The Grand Big Esoteric questions that reality and life are based on. And it’s not just in movies. Go look at Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam,” it’s not a coincidence that God, the divine intellect, is depicted with a robe that is flowing in the shape of a brain. Might not seem like much now, but in a day when biology and anatomy were on questionable legal ground showing the brain as the seat of intelligence is a heavy philosophical point.

In this respect, Art can make us ponder the meaning and definition of existence and life. What is it all about? (Again, just because it tries to ask big questions doesn’t mean it’s any good…look at any piece of crap directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who should be legally barred from ever getting near a camera).

So yeah maybe all movies aren’t that third level of philosophical genius (but really how often do we get that?), but, still, they are relevant. Why? Well for two reasons. First no one is ever going to have enough life experience to cover all possible situations they could come across. The ability to live vicariously through the situations found in art is one of its greatest benefits. In fact, when dealing with the issue of politics you need to know history, you need to know philosophy and you need to know psychology…and when it comes to psychology in addition to actually having experience with people, and maybe taking a psychology course or two, you need art to understand people (especially the masters like Shakespeare, Helprin, Hugo, Hawthorne, Whitman, Tennyson, and Faulkner). Thus art, any kind of art, becomes necessary to understanding politics (the primary purposes of this blog). And as cinema is the primary form of art in this era, I would have to be a damned idiot not to discuss any film that has relevant philosophical, political, and ethical implications.

So, those are the purposes of art.  And for the purpose of art in terms of its social implications and dealing with the fact that ideas have consequences we first have to deal with what makes art good and great.

What is Great Art?

And before we can fully discuss why it is such an important feature, we need to set down some ground rules of how to judge art and decide what makes great art. “But it’s all a matter of opinion”, “it’s all subjective” “you like it but I don’t and you can’t argue that something is good because it’s just the way I feel” some will claim—nope, yes there is personal taste in what you may find enjoyable, but that doesn’t change what is great and what is not—I personally love some truly terrible books and movies, but I don’t for a minute think they’re great; conversely, there are works that I can recognize as great but which have little impact on my taste for them. There are standards that separate the works of Shakespeare, Beethoven, Michelangelo from all the rest and it’s not just personal taste. Whether you enjoy a work of art or not does not determine if it’s great.  So, let’s start with the three purposes of art.

  1. It provides entertainment.
  2. It offers ethical examples.
  3. It offers philosophical discussion.

Now, these 3 purposes lead to 4 different qualities that art needs to be judged by. And these 4 qualities are not just my ideas, you will see these qualities if you review the works of Aristotle, Sidney, Shelly, Faulkner, or Barzun when they discuss what makes great literature, I’m just highlighting and distilling their points. It’s important to have an actual way to judge good art because otherwise, you have to deal with that liberal, post-modern BS that art is purely personal taste or that “well you simply don’t get it.” If you ever hear those words be careful. Sometimes it’s true, Shakespeare for instance, to fully understand Shakespeare takes a lot of time and effort to learn the medium and language, but if you don’t understand the intricacies of the humor, the tragedy and the passion almost always come out if performed by an even remotely competent actor and director. Which is why the first criteria of any art form is that:

1.  Great art creates catharsis; effectively it mixes High Tragedy and High Comedy flawlessly. Good art will leave me with some kind of emotional reaction. With great art basically, I should be crying, either from having my heart ripped out and stomped on or from laughing so hard I’m hyperventilating or on the rarest of occasions because I am struck with a sense of awe…preferably all in the same work. Yes, there is a certain education level required to understand any work of art, but anyone with even a basic level of education listening, seeing or hearing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Michelangelo’s David, Shakespeare’s “St. Crispin Day’s speech” can’t help but be moved. If it doesn’t entertain at some level for someone, it’s not art, but to be great art it must not just entertain it must provide catharsis. This is the flaw of all modern visual art, modernist writers (E.E. Cummings, Pound, H.D., Salinger), and just a disgusting host of pompous movies as the only emotional reaction they cause is disgust or revulsion (and that’s when they cause an emotional reaction at all). If you have something to say but can’t bring it to an emotional level, we have philosophy and journalism and commentary for that—art is by definition something that causes emotional reactions. It can cause mental stimulation, but it MUST cause an emotional reaction to be art, and must provide catharsis, swelling of uncontrollable emotion, to be great art.

Now, this is the part that can be most influenced by personal taste.  As I said already education can have an effect on your enjoyment.  But, so can life experiences.  If you see something in a bad mood, go in looking to have a terrible time, or go in looking for something other than what the work is meant to give you, you might not get the catharsis that a person in the right frame of mind would get.  That’s the reason why so many great novels are ruined by bad high school English teachers—instead of teaching with passion they force-feed words down students unwilling gullets, turning art into streams of meaningless words.  Works that have moved souls for generations do not stir the being of students forced to read it from a teacher who doesn’t really care…but that doesn’t mean the work doesn’t cause catharsis to those open to it.  So, for this criteria more than most we have to look not so much to our own reaction but to the reaction of others, if we don’t particularly feel catharsis because even if it doesn’t move us if it moves a large numbers of others then we have to say that for whatever reason it didn’t move us, it still met the criteria of causing catharsis in others.

2. Great art has a deep understanding of the human psyche. It is accurately said that all good drama is character drama, and good character drama comes from understanding how people actually act. If characters don’t act realistically there can be no suspension of disbelief and thus nothing to do with point one. This is a bit harder to see in forms of art that aren’t literature, theater or film, but this understanding is there. Look at a Waterhouse painting and you will see the wheels turning in the brains of the people depicted there, listen to a Copland piece of music and you will hear the characters and people they represent and how well Copland understood them. The best art reveals something about the human psyche that reveals truth about yourself. Again, back to Copland’s music, the “Fanfare for the Common Man”, for example, reveals not only the greatness that a human being is able to achieve but upon reflection offers us a reflection of the person we should ourselves strive to be. By contrast, a painting by Picasso shows no understanding of how people think or act. There is none of the humanity that one would see in a Raphael, none of the complexity that exists in a Rembrandt, just chaos. And yes, chaos is an aspect of humanity, but it is not the only one.

And this is often the problem of the more pretentious and useless works of liberal drivel (and the little the alt-right produces).  They portray people as these terrible cookie-cutter images that act for motivations that no person has ever felt because these liberal and populist loons don’t actually understand what motivates people.

The other thing to keep in mind here is that you are not the world.  Just because you wouldn’t do something a certain way does not mean that a character is acting in a way contrary to human nature.  The ignorance involved in the hysteria over a character with severe PTSD, which was tied to the death of his mother, being triggered when someone says his mother’s name is just bizarre —  that’s how people with PTSD react.  Just because a work of art actually portrays behavior uncommon from how you would deal with things does not mean it doesn’t have a clear understanding of human nature.

3. Great art must understand how to use the tools of the medium in a skillful way. This is a twofold requirement. It needs to look or sound good depending on the medium. It needs to at some level capture real-life accurately—visual art needs to look as close to a photograph as possible (with deviations from reality only for the purpose of meaning), film and literature needs to accurately capture realistic human experience (again only deviating for theme). But I said this was twofold, the second is the complexity factor. Faces are easier to draw than hands, but the artist who can do both is great, simple tunes like happy birthday may have melody but demonstrate nothing of the complexity of a Beethoven concerto, anyone with a video camera can film something, but it takes great skill to make it have meaning beyond a record of what is happening. Great art has a complexity to it, even when it is simple (look at the levels of some Shel Silversteen poems if you want complex but simple). For poetry, that means the use of language. For music, it means the mixture of the instruments to create melody. For painting and sculpture, it means the ability to create life-like representations mixed with symbolism. The more complex the art form the more elements that have to be mastered. This is the technical aspect. A person may have written deep and powerful lyrics and mixed it with superb music but if they can’t sing, the song is probably not great art (Bob Dylan is the artist I’m thinking of here…he is in the Top 5 of 20th-century poets…but he is not a great musician.) Why must art be technically accurate? Well because art, and especially great art, has layers. You’ll notice that the first two qualifications I had for great art match up with the first two purposes of great art. Well, it is in point 3 and 4 that we get the third purpose of art, the philosophical purpose.

What do the layers of meaning and content have to do with philosophy? As you know, philosophy is the study of reason and the truth (I mean real philosophy, not the hack excuse you get in Philosophy Departments which seem to have abandoned the search for truth and instead sought out in a search for the most convoluted bullshit). Life is not easily understood. The facts are all there around us, but they do not put themselves together on their own. You have to search for meaning in all the little breadcrumbs left for you by the universe and human civilization (especially since I believe there is a higher-order to existence, then looking for the patterns and themes becomes especially important because nothing is a coincidence and there is meaning in everything). And art that includes these layers is what can train your mind to see these patterns and small details that lead to a greater understanding.  Even in the research of the social sciences like economics or politics, there is as much an art as there is a science to looking at data and deducing the motivations and causes of the reports and stats you see.  Without the understanding that comes from seeing the depth of art, you can’t fully understand how humans interact even in the dismal sciences.

Aside from the psychological, moral, and philosophical benefits that art provides this is probably the most important function that art serves—it trains us in how to think. So why didn’t I list this in my three purposes of art…well because I’m not sure most artists think about this when they’re writing. They may be intentionally hiding a message under layers (as Shakespeare hid his pro-Catholic politics under layers of metaphors, tragedy and comedy, character development, and universal themes) but he didn’t think “I’m going to write something that will train people to think.” I don’t think the majority of artists have this thought when they create their works…they may pat themselves on the back for how skillfully they hide a theme, but I don’t think they view the layers qua layers as an end in and of itself. Granted, recently, modernist and post-modernist hacks have done this but, with one exception, I can’t think of anyone who has done that and is any good. The exception to this might be T.S. Eliot who intentionally wanted his readers to wade through the layers of obscure references to make them think about what he was saying…but given that his message was the modern world (i.e. all those hacks) are dead and lifeless and without humanity, he kind of is the exception that proves the rule.

However, I can think of artists who do come up with complexity for the sake of complexity and thus ruin art by doing it. James Joyce and Herman Melville come to mind. Melville, for instance, had a perfectly wonderful 90-page novella about a man bent on vengeance against a whale; it had human drama, stirring lines, and ethical statements. The problem is that Melville never wrote that book, instead, he wrote a 300-page monstrosity that has pages upon pages of information about whale blubber and sailing and harpooning and the history of Cetology at the time of the book. Within all this boring muck is embedded an even more dreary philosophy on the nature of epistemology and some metaphysics. And it quickly becomes one of the most overrated hack works in the history of human civilization. (A basic rule I find for art: the more meaty and in-depth the philosophy you’re dealing with, the more catharsis and emotional reactions you will need to hold your audience. If you’re going to raise in-depth points of epistemology I better be seeing Keanu Reeves in a black trench coat dodging bullets or Leonardo DeCaprio spinning tops and running through dreams, otherwise, just write philosophy and ignore the art because as dry as epistemology can get, it’s better than whale blubber.) But the worst ever in this category of absolutely putting style and layers ahead of content is James Joyce. Joyce wrote Ulysses attempting to write a book that no one would understand. He failed, people got it, though it didn’t really say much. So, then he spent 20 years writing Finnegan’s Wake, and succeeded. No one understands what that thing is about, probably not even Joyce. Frankly, there is no point. In music, you should look at Mozart, technically complex and detailed harmonies, but no meaning, just notes. In visual arts, you see this in 18th-century portraits and 19th-century realism—all very lifelike, all very dull and meaningless. For the film counterpart to this look at the worst of Orson Wells, who valued pretty camera shots over plot, characterization, theme, dialogue, but he had some nice shots. All of these value style over substance, which is what makes them inferior works.

This is an important part of art as it is a process that teaches people to think at deep levels, but the process should never be more important than the message.

4. Finally, great art must have an underlying hopeful, positive, and ethical philosophical base.

I start from the premise that the universe, human nature, and civilization are more or less is intelligible, reasonable, ethical, and leading to continuous human progress and evolution.

This comes from my conservative and spiritual beliefs. As such, for art to be great it must mirror these philosophies—it must mirror the truth. There is an Aristotelian principle that art should capture life as it is (my second and third requirement) and as it should be (this requirement). If you are a conservative in the vein of Burke and Adams to Coolidge, Goldwater and Reagan you believe that life has a purpose. That human beings can rise above whatever their present condition through force of will, self-education, and the goodness of their humanity. You believe that freedom is the highest of all virtues in human society.  That the good society seeks to balance justice, order, and equality and not sacrifice any of those three at the expense of the others.  That the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Moderation, Fortitude, Justice, Faith, Hope, and Charity are what should lead a person, and the political virtues of a rule of law, limited government, free enterprise, and liberty should lead a government.

And art, great art, MUST reflect these values.

Or again, as Faulkner put it:

“The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

Why?  Because ideas have consequences.  Most people do not constantly question and reassess their ideas.  So offering small little ideas here and there against what a person might usually believe is like holding a magnet near a ship’s compass.  It won’t immediately take you off course, but after several days you’re nowhere near where you want to be.

Literature, film and paintings need heroes, poetry and music need passion for what is right and good and true…or at least the tragic absence of these things. Nothing else is worthy of being called great art. And any form of art that contradicts these principles can’t be great because it’s endorsing a lie. Now rationally since we don’t know all the minutia of the truth of human existence (if we have a vague idea that it’s in the direction of hopeful, ethical, rational, etc.) we should be willing to give a wide latitude for a variance in belief so long as it does not depict the world as utterly chaotic (the works of Picasso) irrational (the works of Joyce), dreary (the works of Mozart), that humans are inherently evil (the works of Dickens) or that life is pointless (the works of Camus). So, to review, great art must cause a cathartic experience, understand the human condition, show great skill of the form, and point to a higher ideal. There can be good art that meets two or three of these requirements. There can be enjoyable art that meets one or two of these requirements. There can be endless debate about whether or not a work actually meets these requirements. But there is no great work of art that does not meet all four of these requirements. Now we can get on to discussing why art is important to live in a political and sense….

A Question of layers

But we always have to be on guard to give any work the right amount of attention.

Art is something that no person who wishes to think deeply (be it politically or spiritually) can long avoid. One of the often-overlooked reasons that art is important is because of the skills it teaches us. It teaches us to think, to examine to look deeper. No, I don’t mean the philosophical skills. Yes, good art raises philosophical questions of life, ethics, politics and attempts to answer these questions or get us to answer them for ourselves. But I’m talking about something deeper. The peeling away of the layers of meaning one after the other, the stripping away of the surface meaning and even the meaning after that…the analysis of small details, and word choice, and metaphor and symbolism.

Right about now most of you are rolling your eyes. You’re thinking back to your high school English class and your English teacher telling you that the cup on the table, or whatever random and meaningless detail they want to focus on, was supposed to be symbolic of some major political upheaval and you just stared at the page thinking ‘is she on drugs?’ Let me get something out of the way, your reaction was likely not one of ignorance or stupidity…most English teachers are terrible at their jobs. I’m an English teacher and I can tell you without a moment’s hesitation, most English teachers are hacks. They really are. A disturbing portion of English teachers just want to pile onto their students endless heaps of obscure crap and modernist shit that they think is oh so deep…and why do they think it’s deep because they have been taught by other terrible English teachers that anything you can’t understand is deep and meaningful so they parrot what they have been taught and teach crap that amounts to nothing. They believe because they can’t understand it, it must be great. Don’t believe me? Go listen to an English teacher talk about their favorite work. Four times out of five they trying to justify the fact that they don’t get it by saying it’s just so damn wonderful because they don’t get it. And because they believe it is great they search for meaning where there is none, and since they believe it is great they create meaning where there is none. But they have this theory because they misunderstand great art. Art is supposed to be difficult and art is supposed to make you think…but what they misunderstand is that just because you don’t get something on the first round doesn’t make it great…it’s only great if there is something underneath all the work. For instance, both T.S. Eliot and Herman Melville do not give up their depth easily…but where Eliot has some rather harsh and pertinent critiques of human civilization buried under obscure references and complex metaphor, Melville only has pompous musing about knowledge buried under whale blubber. The ideas have to be valid if you’re going to bother hiding them under layers. And then these terrible hacks get into the problem of thinking that everything written must have layers upon layers. Yes, Shakespeare is the greatest writer ever because he hid a pro-Catholic plea to the Protestant rulers of England under universal themes of the human condition under complex character development under rich and exciting plots and great comedy under rich metaphor and language…but just because Shakespeare could master that many levels to be perfectly balanced at all time, that doesn’t mean that it’s in every book or work of art. Sometimes a rosebush is just a rosebush in a story and not a complex symbol for the imprecise use of symbols (and sometimes it is), it depends on the author.

Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot have layers…Stephen King not so much. And in between those two extremes is a whole lot of layers of authors who use different amounts of layers—the intelligent person realizes this and doesn’t try to force more layers on something than it deserves.  And this often has to do with the intent of the artist, they will often signal in some way how deep they want you to go, but you have to get used to a lot of art to recognize those signals.  But back to the central point, good art has layers upon layers, and it does not yield its answers immediately to the first passerby who only gives it a cursory review. Great painting should require hours of study, great music should require multiple listenings, great literature should require you to read it three, four, five times over. Each time finding some new idea, some new detail, some new insight, some new thing to apply to your life or your understanding of the world. Because that is what good art does. It’s important because it is training for life not just to dig through these layers, but to recognize how deep to dig and recognize when you’ve gone too far.

I sense eye rolling again, stop it…This kind of art is important for life because life is not simple. Life does not give up its answers easily—even when they’re staring you in the face. The problems in life for most people come from the fact that they only look at the first level of things. And politics is often the same way.  Real solutions are not simple ones.  Yes, saying that we’ll get rid of the bad politicians through term limits, but when you peel back the layers and look at the data that this has never once led to better legislation in ANY legislative body it has ever been tried in begins to tell us that the problem runs deeper and can’t be solved with feel-good statements like “drain the swamp.”  The same is true of any solution in politics it takes time, research, comparisons to other policies, looking at patterns, at history, at human nature…and this is what analyzing great art teaches us to do, to look for the deeper level and go the extra step in our thinking.  It allows us not to be comfortable with the shallow hack politician who offers catchphrases because our mind has already been trained to look through their words to the deeper meanings.

Why the discussion of art is important.

“Politics is downstream from culture.”—Andrew Breitbart

Before his name became a byword for everything he fought against, Andrew Breitbart realized that the culture wars were more important than the political ones.  Why?  Because the way culture moves determines how politics will.  And unlike every failed attempt to change culture in history which traditionally is thought to only ban things it didn’t like or scream at them—which never works because it only makes the government more powerful thus giving your enemies the power to put you down when they grab the reigns and it makes that which you’re attacking cool for being attacked—Andrew realized you have to confront the ideas head-on.

You have to talk about the ideas being pushed in culture.  You have to offer high-quality alternatives, and you have to defend those alternatives when they are of superior quality but being attacked for the very reason that they do support ideas that those who do stand for virtue support.

Now some will claim that we should not waste our time with popular culture, but that ignores two very important facts.  First that everyone from Plato and Aristotle to Shakespeare to Breitbart realized that it was popular culture, not the distant works of the intelligentsia, that drive culture and thus drive politics.  The second is the lie that popular culture cannot be great art.  Homer was once popular culture.  Shakespeare was once popular culture.  Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Oscar Wilde…all once-popular cultures.  Granted not everything popular is great, but just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s not great.  Thus, we need to look at popular culture because it is where the most influence comes from, and where the greatest works are born.

The number of times liberals and progressives have used culture to further their ideas are so numerous and well known, it doesn’t need to be bear repeating.

But it’s not just the variations of the modern Left, but the return of fascism and fascism’s “useful idiot” populism are there too but less known.

So, what do we see in pulp culture from the other side?  We see shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones which glorify absolute monsters as our main characters…and people try and defend why they love the shows…gee I wonder if treating the ethically deficient as heroes in a story has any effect on culture…I mean it’s not like we would ever put a sociopath of that level in charge of the country, oh wait we did, we elected Joffrey (I realize that is unfair, the Trumps are far worse than the Lanisters).

It’s not like the reboot of Star Trek which turned Kirk from a great leader in the mold of Horatio Hornblower into an inept sex-crazed James-Dean-wanna-be had any effect on what we were looking for in a leader.

The modern obsession with horror films at record numbers helps both the left and alt-right as it helps to stimulate the fear that both sides feed on, but the high levels of zombie survival tales, exemplified by The Walking Dead make some very fascist lessons, like all people not in our tribe our bad, the others cannot be trusted, free trade and relationships built on trust are always disastrous, and of course, might makes right.

And of course, it’s not like a movie that questions the one good thing from Hobbes, the part that Locke and the Founder realized needed to kept around, that is, the Leviathan—the government monopoly on the use of violence—to ensure the stability of society not breaking down into chaos, was questioned and the heroes were shown to be the people who didn’t want to follow legitimate government control on the use of force.  No, he has America in his name, so to hell if his actions are against the very foundations all government since the Enlightenment.  (The other series had the decency to admit that such vigilantism makes our characters “criminals” or showing those with power coming to talk to those in power.)

Nor should we overlook the fact that the villains are showing that getting away with it makes it right in How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, and dozens of others.

And dare we talk about the love of idiocy that is reality TV.  Christianity used to be a religion of thinkers and philosophers from Augustine to Aquinas to Dante to Milton to Adler, it has a rich and distinguished history of depth and reflection…and what is put by culture as the pinnacle of Christianity: a bunch of braindead hicks who make duck calls.  The most inane and worthless version of a great tradition lauded as the best and the depth and richness the religion deserved all but ignored.   Do you think this valueless, ethic-less, brainless manifestation of Christianity being put up by numerous different sources helped these so-called Christians, modern-day Pharisees, tell themselves that voting for the deal that would gain them the world at the cost of their soul was a good one?

And those are just a handful of the major examples. The smaller subtler forms are everywhere.  In pandering to the lowest common denominator to try and get every last penny the media has ended up seeking the to the lowest form of perversion: populism and fascism, and all the lies that this entails.  They’re small things, but when an incorrect belief system is reinforced a million different tiny, almost unperceivable ways they do lead up to a death of a thousand cuts for the truth.

There has always been very little that actually speaks to the best in humanity…but now it seems to be attacked.  Granted no movie is perfect, but it now seems that if a movie is actually hopeful and speaks to the best in humanity it is attacked mercilessly (Winter’s Tale, Hancock, Tomorrowland, Age of Adeline, Firefly, Wonderfalls) while movies that speak to the worst in humanity but with far worse flaws are allowed to pass or are even praised (Mad Max, Star Trek reboots, an endless train of teen-novel movies with heroes just as detestable as their villains).  I’m not saying we shouldn’t recognize the flaws in a film, we should, but we should view the work as a whole and balance nitpicking flaws against thematic greatness.  We should think about the films as more than just brain candy—brain candy is nice, but to give our brains only a diet of candy will rot them.  And it’s especially unforgivable when the work that can be both entertaining and deep when if you only take the time to think about them so many films can reveal layers upon layers of depth and when you see the depth you see the quality and easily forgive little things in plot.  (Oh by the way, if you had a bad English teacher you probably think plot is important.  It’s not.  The only thing less important is setting—in serious literature be it in print or on film, theme and character are the most important, plot is merely there to make sure that theme and characters have somewhere to go.)

And these are the works that we as individuals not only need to look at at a deeper level, but which we need to encourage others to do the same, because while most people’s conscious minds don’t run through the philosophy, their subconscious does run through.  Ideas have consequences.  And the idea of popular culture does run downstream into politics, and if the core ideas of progressivism and fascism are allowed to stand as the “great” enjoyable films and anything with depth is attacked and ignored not because it’s lacking in quality but because deep down those who want those progressive and fascist ideals at some subconscious level understand that these are a problem, and those who are just followers understand that these works promote an ethic that requires them to think and act and not just follow.*

Full Circle

So, we return to the question of why care about comic book movies like Dawn of Justice?  Because those are the films that reach people.  Because those are films with the ethics that we need to get more into the consciousness of the culture, those are the work that not just entertain but move us, that provide catharsis and thought.  They are the great works and they need to be treated as such.  To just treat everything as “I enjoyed it” or “I didn’t enjoy it” is to both insult the work of artists and to insult your own brain which is capable of so much more.  Yes, there are some works that can be dismissed as enjoyable or not…but to not treat each work with the level of depth it deserves is to either admit the shallowness of your own mind and your surrendering culture and thus politics to that shallowness, or to willfully not give the work the thought it deserves which means you are actively working for the effects such an action results in overtime.  And that may seem like a rather sweeping suggestion, that something so small can have such great results…but no single raindrop thinks it’s responsible for the flood, and yet those small little drops add up to a deluge.  Small acts of thoughtless behavior by numerous people over long periods of time do add up.  You know that’s true.  And this is one of those small acts we must all work to stop in our own lives and do what we can to convince others to do the same.

*A note here.  If the movie attempts the right ethics but isn’t just flawed in the nitpick stupid way of some very good film, but DEEPLY flawed like those Atlas Shrugged movies where they are so bad they should never have been filmed, those you don’t need to defend.  Real trash should be treated as trash.  Minor nitpicky shit in the face of thematic genius should be discarded.

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Best Movies of 2019

Source: Wikimedia commons

So it has been a weird year for movies. Long stretches of nothing, the end of two vapid franchises owned by Disney, probably the last intelligent superhero film for another ten years (unless we get the Snyder Cut). As usual, most lists of top films have a long string of pretentious crap that is all style and no substance and which no human being will ever watch…here I look at real movies. Overall the horizon doesn’t bode well for the future as most studios are going more and more for simplistic films made by committee: But still, there were some stand out films.
Up first the honorable mentions.
Jojo rabbit —I’ll be honest this one might deserve more but I didn’t see it because the marketing made it look pretty indifferent to the evils of Nazism. That and Johansson is a terrible actress that seldom makes decent films. I have been told however that it is quite damning to Nazism and will see it when I’m sure the studio will be getting a far lower portion of the ticket…they should not be rewarded for such an inept marketing campaign.
Once Upon A Time in Hollywood—Quentin has one theme “violence is destructive to a sense of identity” so when for the first time I didn’t see that theme in this movie I was left a little rudderless in how to interpret it. The best I can say is he’s depicting the lie that Hollywood likes to tell itself about itself, but I’m not sure that’s what he was going for. I’m not sure about anything about that film other than the last 10 minutes were horrifyingly entertaining.
John Wick 3–Ugh. I’m not going to say that the series jumped the shark, but this was significantly below the last two. They might still pull out of this tailspin, but I’m withholding judgment.
Serenity—An under-appreciated film. Not as good as The Matrix, Dark City, or Revolver but still entertaining and hold a modicum of metaphysical depth.
Murder Mystery—A silly Netflix film and possibly only the third or fourth watchable Adam Sandler film, but still fun.
Happy Death Day 2U—You’d think this would have just been stupid, but it was rather touching.
Doctor Sleep—I would have preferred if they had ignored that godawful Kubrick film existed (but I am impressed with the production department being able to recreate the Overlook so perfectly), but it was still fun.
Last Christmas—Not the best Christmas film ever, but it was sweet and more in line with the meaning of the holidays than a lot of Christmas films.
Dumbo—Live-action remakes for Disney are hit and miss. But Dumbo built on the original film, dropped the weird psychedelic elephants and questionable crows, and built on some real human character development.
So let’s get to the top 10 (really 11 because we have a tie)
10 tie. Charlie’s Angel—I know this got bad reviews but clearly, only idiots reviewed the movie. It is far funnier than any of the previous films, with better character development and actual wit instead of dumb sight gags.
10 tie. Bombshell—Holy shit were things bad at Fox. And given that there do not seem to be any lawsuits against the movie that suggest it’s all essentially true (or at least true enough to avoid defamation)…which is horrifying. The FoxNews building probably needs to be burned to the down to get rid of that kind of evil.
9.Pokémon Detective Pikachu—PG Deadpool. Nothing more or less. The simple trick for all movies is to make sure Ryan Reynold is not encumbered by the laws of reality.
8.Aladdin—It’s better than the original. Smith’s genie is more relatable and his jokes will not age as poorly as Williams’ have. They fleshed out the character and surprisingly improved on the story. Yeah, Jasmine’s solo felt a little forced when all the other songs didn’t stop the action, but all it really did is make me wonder why we didn’t get “Home” for Beauty and the Beast. Regrettably, between a Mulan staring a communist shill for human rights abuses or A Little Mermaid directed by an inept hack, Aladdin is probably the last good live-action Disney film.
7.Jumanji: The Next Level—Somehow they managed to make the story seem fresh and not formulaic. And again we see that Jack Black is hideously underused an actor with range (who knew?)
6. The Good Liar—Okay, it’s pretty obvious by the previous picks that this has not been the best year for serious films, but this film is a winner. I can’t talk about it too much because this is one of the rare films where spoilers really do matter. But Mirren and McKellen do a fabulous superb job of playing each other.
5. Frozen II—I honestly feel this is the first Disney film that is clearly marketed someone other than children (I’m not counting Pixar films for the purposes of that statement), but with moments ridiculing the naiveté of youth, questions mortality the need for self-discovery, and the need to “Do the Next Right Thing” no matter how much you lose in life—especially when you have lost everything—was thematic material unquestionably not geared to young children. This had teens in mind, and I appreciate Disney venturing into deeper waters. (Maybe by the third film Disney executives will have the guts to admit that Elsa is gay.)
4.It: Chapter II—I’m not entirely thrilled they changed the ending, but I get why the Ritual of Chud would have been difficult to put on film. I would have preferred to see the spider and Bill save his wife (and there are rumors that a much longer directors cut is coming), but I can still say without hesitation that this is probably the best we’re ever going to get for this story being on film. All the actors, young and old, brought depth and humanity to their characters and didn’t let them become the stiff cardboard cutouts of that abysmal TV miniseries.
And then we get to the top 3 which I feel are more than just enjoyable but true art.
3. Knives Out—This is one of the best comedies and best mysteries in years. As if Agatha Christie wrote slapstick. Rian Johnson needs to stick to writing films like this and The Brothers Bloom because his talents are wasted on second rate sci-fi. Not only is Craig perfect as the Southern gentleman sleuth Benoit Blanc, but Chris Evans for the first time in a long time acted in his performance as the arrogant Ransom. Every actor was perfect in this movie, even typically second-tier actors like Don Johnson were great throughout. It is a mystery with a giant hole, like a doughnut, that has to be filled (and that bizarre statement will be hilarious after you’ve seen it). I am pleased that Johnson has already said he has a second Benoit Blanc film planned. Please let it come sooner rather than later.
2. Glass—Probably the last intelligent superhero film for the foreseeable future (unless we get the Snyder Cut), this film completed the Unbreakable Split Glass Trilogy and offered us a satisfying conclusion to both Bruce Willis’ hero and the evil of the Hoard from their respective films. Returning to M. Night’s core theme of finding one’s place in the world and its importance in being happy in life. Certainly, there were a lot of loose ends that I wouldn’t be sad if M. Night worked into a two or three-season show for Hulu or Prime…but the story of our three central characters and their respective character arcs were finished perfectly.
1.Motherless Brooklyn—Finally what is in my mind the unquestionable best film of the year. Best Actor. Best Director. Best Script. Best Picture. A story of a 40’s PI with Tourette’s Syndrome having to solve the murder of his mentor. It is both historically accurate in showing the corruption of government building in the post-war theory, and also wonderfully gives us a villain in the person of Alec Baldwin playing a corrupt New York developer turned politician who plays to nationalist, racist and populist themes…sound familiar but Baldwin’s character is actually quite intelligent, so it’s not entirely you know who (but Baldwin probably still deserves the award for best-supporting Actor). At every turn, it works to show some of the worst and best of humanity and offers hope even in terrible situations.
And I know I usually do the worst of the year. It’s Cats. We all know it. I can add nothing to the mountains of disdain already heaped on this monstrosity of a film.  It should have never been made.  I really wanted to put Star Wars or Avengers as the worst films of the year for Disney just vomiting out mindless drivel, cheap jokes, and explosions…but no, Cats is quite possibly the worst things Hollywood has ever created sans The Counselor.

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Headlines for the Week

News & Opinion

Come Watch the Russian-Republican Propaganda Machine in Action

Women Should Have the Freedom to Discriminate against Men

Exclusive: Unredacted Ukraine Documents Reveal Extent of Pentagon’s Legal Concerns


The Unseen Consequences of Occupational Licensing

Leftist YouTuber ContraPoints Explains Why Cancel Culture Mobs Should Drop the Pitchforks

On Foreign Policy, Trump Is No Reagan

India’s Dark Path To Hindu Nationalism

There’s Only One Real Question in Trump’s Impeachment

Humor

Dave Barry’s Year in Review: 2019 was an ‘eventful’ — bad — year

Prominent Evangelical Magazine Calls For Removing Trump From Holy Trinity

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A new year…in which I return to blogging…

So it’s a new year and a new chance to improve our lives. Granted every day is that. So since we’re in a looking back sort of mood let’s start off with making the first and probably most important resolution for the whole year:

EVERY DAY IS A NEW START

If you have a goal you want to meet during the year. And you fail to meet it for one week, guess what start again.

Every culture in the world has observed the basic premise that we all fail at doing things, but it is the process of starting over that and getting better, doing it again, finally succeeding no matter how much you have failed that defines true success.

Starting weight loss resolutions is probably silly in the middle of winter when your body is making brown fat to keep you warm (which may be helpful in the long term but in the immediate you’re not going to shed the pounds)

But you know what instead of pointless bullshit like losing weight (yes it is pointless because being healthy is what you really want, and you know the easiest way to be healthy, to fill your time with something meaningful not just going to the gym and watching what you eat).

So let’s focus on some important things:

Call an old friend

Read at least one book a month

Find a charity to help with

Engage in your faith more

Journal

Say something nice to at least one person a day

Get a new hobby

Take a vacation

Or in my case, get back to blogging.

Quite frankly just pull out one of those sappy posters on life advice and do as many of them as you can.

Do things that actually fill your time instead of just passing it.

And again just accept you will fail to meet your new goal for a day, a week, a month. It doesn’t matter if you go a whole month screwing up everything you hoped to accomplish, the only thing that matters is if you start again.

For me this year is about being more positive, about planning ahead more, and about getting shit actually done. Far too often I have an idea at the last minute, that leads to stress and negativity and it means I never finish anything. This post, for New Year’s resolution was actually written in August. It’s a lot easier this way. I can write about what’s on my mind, go back and add things as they come up and am not desperate to come up with something to fill up space. It also forces me to talk about things that are more timely, not just reacting to whatever stupid and other pointless story is in the news but to focus on what really matters.

Other than that here are some other pieces of good news from over the last week to keep you in a good mood.

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A sane look at abortion…

For years now there has been something that bothers me about the abortion argument.

I tend to view it as a symptom of a larger problem caused by the entitlement culture devaluing life, its meaning, getting rid of virtue based ethics, offering incentives for short term thinking.  Abortion isn’t the problem it’s the government spending and rules that encourage it that are.  So I find the near obsession with abortion to be a distraction from the real cause.  But what’s worse is that in the desperation to win, the religious wing of the Republican Party to whom I tend to refer to as Progressives for Jesus are giving progressives every bit of ammunition they need to further wreck society.

 

Did we forget we’re conservatives and we want to limit the power of the federal government?

I have noticed for the last few years a disturbing trend—and that trend is the biggest problem I have with these progressives for Jesus, they have given in to the leftist materialism.

Here is the problem with the modern anti-abortion movement: they hold as gospel truth the idea that life begins at conception.  They maintain this because somehow just because a sperm cell and egg cell join together then you have a full genetic code and the modern anti-abortion movement is based on this idea that if you have a full genetic code then you’re a human being.  Thus every single embryo frozen in fertility clinics is a human being—I’m sorry but this is certainly one of the dumbest, and certainly in the running for the dumbest, idea I have ever heard.  A human being is something far more than just a genetic code.   But the modern abortion movement in its desperation to oppose all abortion and prove that abortion at any time, for any reason, under any circumstance, for any purpose, in any place, by any person, in any manner, way, shape or form is evil has given into the leftist materialism.  They hold that human life is nothing but genetics.  That it is our genetics that make us special.  That the complexity of genes somehow puts us above all other forms of life.  You know that .1% that sets us off from a chimp can’t be the source of our uniqueness in the universe.  (Nor can even the 30% of our DNA we don’t share with the sea sponge).    I’m sorry this is wrong, this is as wrong as wrong can be.  What makes a human life have value has nothing, not a single thing, to do with DNA.   It has to do with having a soul; the human soul is what makes a human being have value…so unless you can PROVE that the human soul enters the embryo at conception then you have no case that human life begins at conception.  None.

Now an intelligent person realizes that a human is more than just an animal with a certain genetic code, no, what makes humans humans and not just mere animals is our souls.  When the soul is present in the body of a homo sapien you have a human being, when it leaves you have a corpse…before the soul takes up residence, you have something that could become human, but is still lacking the single most important quality of human existence.
Okay, so if it’s the presence of the soul, when does the soul take residence?  Well if you read the Bible it seems to associate the soul with breath, so that might suggest the soul takes up residence only upon birth…but we’re not really going to deal with Judeo-Christian beliefs, we’re New Agers, we try for more.
Now in most studies of life-after-death and reincarnation, which I think it’s safe to say, the idea that there is more than a single body surrounding your body but several “etheric” shells that are each shed  through the process of death (see the Tibetan Book of the Dead for a more complete discussion) but conversely these bodies take time to form.  And from what little science can glean from life-after-death and reincarnation studies (see Life After Death by Chopra and Evidence of the Afterlife by Long) and tradition (see God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita by Yogananda) the soul is not directly tied to the body until well into the third trimester, sometimes not taking full residence up until birth itself.  (This does however vary).  However, as any New Ager is likely to believe evidence from respected mediums, it appears that the souls attached to fetuses that may be aborted know what they’re getting into and bear no ill will if the fetus is aborted (see Talking to Heaven by Van Praagh).
Thus the best way to describe the soul’s relationship to the body before birth is  at best a lease with an option to buy, with a not so hidden clause in the lease where the owner may terminate the lease and the house if they so choose.   So in this respect it is not murder and certainly in favor of abortion.

So from my New Ager perspective it’s pretty clear the soul does not enter the body until the third trimester…but Progressive for Jesus will not even entertain what I consider evidence so it’s really not relevant to this conversation.  You could argue that it’s still living cells but that doesn’t work because if you remove my kidney for a transplant it’s still a living clump of cells, but it does not have rights in and of itself because the soul is not directly attached to the kidney.

 

cute baby

This is a human being. Not because of genetics. Not because of its brain. But because of its soul.

 

Now why have social conservative done this?  They didn’t use to hold this line.  But I think they got tired of having to argue a spiritual point with people who aren’t very spiritual…and you can’t really prove when the soul enters the body (at least not from a traditional Judeo-Christian viewpoint)…and then there is that problem that as far as I remember the Bible only ever associates the soul with breath (as was the common metaphor in the ancient world), which kind of has that problem of suggesting the soul only enters upon birth.  Of course that would at least suggest a far more logical God than the idiot that the modern abortion movement implies—an idiot who despite infinite prescient knowledge will stick a soul into a frozen embryo that could sit there for years (think of that soul’s existence, that’s about as close to Hell as you could possibly get if God is really that dumb). I refuse to believe in an idiot God.  God does not follow arbitrary rules for the sake of following reason, because to do so would mean that God does not believe in reason.  And if that is the case, then God is not God.

But instead they chose to go with a simple scientific argument and completely ignore the soul.  You can get people in the middle with a purely scientific argument.  You can get them to more than agree to ban 2nd trimester abortions and put even more regulations on first trimester abortions if you’re just making the argument that life begins at conception because of genetics.

Yeah, they could prove that the soul is there before hand if you turned to modern science and studies on life after death and reincarnation, or just to modern psychology which shows that children learn even in the womb…but none of that evidence goes back to conception, and remember that the unwavering goal of social conservatism is that ALL abortion must be outlawed. THERE MUST BE NO EXCEPTION.

The goal is that all abortions will eventually be banned (as if you can stop black markets, but let’s ignore the economics for a moment*).  And all other points of policy, philosophy and goals are secondary to abortion when it comes to social conservatives.   Since social conservatives can only win with the genetic argument that life is nothing but a full genetic code and living cells, the soul and its importance gets left behind.
And this is where it gets dangerous.  What have we seen in history?  We have seen, time and time and time again that when the soul is not valued, that when religion or spirituality does not have a place in society, that when government and society say that human life is merely a pack of genes and a group of cells then you see the value of a human being fall apart.  Why?  Because genes are chemicals. They have no intrinsic value except what you can use them for, what you can get out of them.  They become merely a means to an end, and cease being the end in itself.  You see ethics fall aside and utilitarianism prevail. You see eugenics or transhumanism say these genes aren’t any good or aren’t good enough, let’s get rid of them and replace them with something we deem better (who deems what is good is only guided by utilitary value, because if human life had intrinsic value you’d never go down this road).  You see the argument of let’s get rid of these people because they are of no value and aren’t getting rid of themselves fast enough on their own.  You see this or that group is deemed inferior because they do not serve the utilitarian needs of those in power.  Let us sterilize and put them off to the side because we can get nothing from them…you see tyranny, fascism, communism.  The argument of that life is just being living cells, an argument detached from the soul, leads to a mind-set based in materialism.  I would be foolish to claim all atheists are unethical, but history has shown that when society embraces that kind of materialism that denies the soul (1930’s Germany, Russia, China) you get that kind of mass genocide, without exception.  You could say that religious people could never lead us down the path where the soul isn’t valued, but look to every time that religion has gone insane, it is always in the name of dogma and policy on Earth that leads to religious bloodbaths—it never comes from a side that believes that the soul, by virtue of being a human soul, has value.  The places that believe people are equal throughout history (from an early version of this ideal in the Hellenistic Era, to Poland not giving into Europe’s anti-Semitism, to the spread of religious liberties seen during parts of the Enlightenment, to America stating “that all men are created equal”**), when people value human life because of the soul (whether that’s the word they use or not) you see prosperity…when they don’t you see misery.  Without exception.

 

you are a soul

I love the picture and the quote, because it’s true… but C.S. Lewis probably did not say this .

It is the eagerness of Progressives for Jesus to win on this one little issue of abortion that affects a miniscule amount of society that is giving this kind of materialism the long range tools of philosophy to devalue all life.  They have given progressives the inroad to destroy the true value of human life. They devalue life with their argument and they perpetuate it…sure we don’t see a lot of it now (although caring more about body counts than liberty when it comes to foreign action, when a country doesn’t go into full on demands for heads to roll when some asks “what difference does it make” to the administration aiding and abetting murder, where people care only about their right to put poison into their body more than the need to fix the system…you could say we’re already seeing the devaluation of human life, but maybe I’m reading too much into that).    And to save lives they have given their enemies the greatest tool to destroy life. And I am seriously worried that in the desperation to win the abortion argument by giving up the religious based argument and going for gross materialism social conservatives are actually sowing the seeds for a worse blood bath than the one they believe they are stopping.  And all for bans on 2nd term abortions. What a bargain!
What profit social conservatives should they gain abortion but lose liberty?

Of course their support of a man who admires and wants to be a tyrant shows they don’t really care about liberty in the first place.
**Yes, none of these are perfect examples and you will always be able to point to people or groups or policies that contradict the value of the soul.  It’s because people and society are a mass of contradictions, but in the eras I list they were more dominated by valuing the soul than not.

*Now let’s deal with the economics
Then comes the economic facts.
Fact 1:  Making things illegal has never stopped the market; it only creates a black market.
What does this mean?  Well, aside from the extreme image of back alleys and clothes hangers (I think overdoses on birth control are more likely…not to mention that the upper middle class and rich can always get a D&C at their OBGYN, just as they did before Roe) it means you’ll still have abortions being performed by doctors.  Now I don’t think that, like with most black markets, you’ll see an increase in demand, but you will see an increase in supply.  Doctors who don’t do abortions now because they can always refer a patient to someone else will take a stand and start doing them so I doubt you’ll see any major decrease in numbers in abortions from accidental pregnancies (I’ll get to why I make this distinction in a minute)
Fact 2: Black Markets can’t be regulated and are open to more corruption.
Which do you think stops more abortions a 48 hour waiting period or making it a blackmarket under absolutely no regulation?  Having to see a sonogram of the fetus or going to a doctor’s office in the dead of night for a procedure that is done as quickly as is humanly possible?  Banning late-term abortions or making the whole thing a thriving underground industry?
An intelligent person knows that regulation is a greater killer of any industry as most people are willing to jump through preposterous legal hoops before they consider illegal means.   And I think most people are open to sane requirements like having to view a sonogram or having a waiting period or banning late-term abortions…whereas underground markets are a free for all.
Or how about banning gender selective abortions?…which apparently are going on in this country.  Now while I’m sure we can all agree that anyone who would abort a fetus because it was the wrong gender is too sick to be allowed to have a child of either gender, I’ll simply settle for making it illegal to even ask for one…maybe with heavy jail time involved.
But if you just outlaw abortion en masse, you won’t have any of those controls.
Fact 3: Enforcement costs on black markets are insane.
As we saw with Prohibition and with the war on drugs, enforcing rules against a black market are prohibitively expensive.  Prohibitively expensive.  Not to mention making it a federal law requires federal enforcement…like we need another government agency getting involved with our medical choices.  Then you have the costs of prosecution, which I promise you will have a remarkably low conviction rate, and probably the cost of suing states which rightly believe this is a state’s rights issue and legalize it.  (Yes that would be the one benefit to outlawing abortion at a federal level, liberals would finally believe in state’s rights and the limits of federal power.)
Fact 4: A good portion of abortions now are caused by subsidies.
And the final fact that most conservatives miss.  Right now an unhealthy portion of abortions (especially late-term abortions) are because there are extra welfare benefits to being pregnant…get more money for a few months, abort the fetus (on the taxpayer dime), and keep the money without the hassle of a kid.  We subsidize abortion.
Now the majority of abortions are women for whom their pregnancy is an unplanned accident, they have an abortion, and probably are more careful in the future and never have another abortion.  Bully for them.  Unfortunately about 20% of women who have abortions are having 3+ in a life time I don’t have the figures on this group, but I’ll lay even money that Uncle Sam is picking up most of the tab for that 20%.  Why?  Because there is no cost for this idiotic kind of behavior.  Because Uncle Sam subsidizes it.  And as any economic conservative knows when you subsidize a behavior you get more of it.
So what should we do?  Well, eliminate all taxpayer money going to abortions.  (And if I had my druthers I would also ban any welfare support on a second unplanned pregnancy.  The first time was a mistake and I’m willing to be generous…the second time it’s stupidity on the part of the mother.)  This would dry up the well very quickly for those who are abusing the system.

 

In short.  It is not ethical or possibly to ban abortion and anyone who cares about limiting the size and power of governemnt (which should be everyone) should stop trying to outlaw it and work more on creating a society where people don’t feel the need to do this (may I suggest economic growth through things like balanced budget and free trade).

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Best Films of 2018

So the Oscars are coming tonight with possibly one of the most bizarre slate of films for nominees I have seen in years. What’s even stranger than the usual films that only a critic who has no contact with actual humans is that a movie that should have checked every pretentious check box AND was actually good somehow didn’t even get so much as vaguely acknowledge. It was a strange year, least of which is that I can actually get a full top 10 movies out of 2018 (long time readers know this is not always the case).

So here we go.

Let’s start out with honorable mentions, and there were a lot of them:

Gringo: a quirky, dark comedish drama/morality play about one man’s journey through a personal hell of betrayal.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls: A fun little children’s story with the added benefit of offering a strong jumping off point on letting your children know about evils of the Holocaust without having to get into too much detail.

I Feel Pretty: I usually don’t think much of Amy Schumer’s humor—it’s typically a little too crude and low brow for my tastes—but while the plot of this film was so predictable we all could have given a 100% correct outline from the trailer alone, it was adorable, sweet, and in the end correct in its central message about self-confidence.

Game Night: It was funny. Not much more than that. But it was funny.

Ocean’s 8: I was worried going in but I have to say this is probably the second best Ocean’s film.

Tully: It’s hard to describe this film in detail because there are several spoilers I don’t want to give away, but it was a touching look at the midlife crisis of a woman suffering from postpartum depression.

The Spy Who Dumped Me: Again this was just stupid fun, although I wouldn’t mind them attempting a sequel, even it it probably won’t be as good.

Deadpool 2: On that note it wasn’t quite as good as the first one, and I have no intention of seeing the PG-13 monstrosity that they tried to force on us. If Disney doesn’t try to water it down I have hopes for a third one. Also the Brad Pitt cameo was unspeakably wonderful.

Mission Impossible Fallout: Not the best of the MI films (III) but certainly nowhere near the worst (II)

Christopher Robin: It was predictable and saccharine, but it had a perfect representation of Milne’s classic characters.

But let’s get to the real top 10 films of the year:

#10 Tag

When I first saw the trailers for this I thought it was going to be really stupid. But I gave it a chance and was pleasantly impressed by how the writers turned an otherwise stupid true story into a heartfelt, albeit still ridiculous, tale of friendship and what really matters in life.

#9 Crazy Rich Asians

I’ll admit that this isn’t the greatest film of all time, but romantic comedies have been lacking for the last decade or so and this movie was a return to form for the genre. I think the movie got too much attention the heritage of the cast and not enough to the fact that it is a very good movie. Which is unfortunate because it deserves to be praised on it’s own merits not just because it checks off some SJW box.

#8 Red Sparrow

This was a great thriller, that, unlike the current administration, understands what kind of shit run Russia and how they need to be opposed at every turn. Jennifer Lawrence, as always, turned in a stellar performance capturing both the strength and weakness of a woman caught between numerous forces that all want to use her.

#7 Disobedience

Probably the least known film on this list, the story follows a bisexual woman navigating having to return to the religiously orthodox community she grew up in. I think this movie dances very well on a knife’s edge in both condemning religious intolerance and at the same time showing the virtues that be found in belief. Of Rachel Weiz’s performances this year, this is far superior to her nominated role in The Favourite.

#6 Incredibles 2

While a little thematically weaker than the first movie, this sequel was exceptionally good and well worth the wait for it.

#5 A Simple Favor

This comedy/mystery/thriller/romance shows that Anna Kendrick is not just the actress from Pitch Perfect, but an actress who can actually carry serious story lines. I really hope a sequel is written where the momblog continues to solve crimes.

#4 Bad Times at the El Royale

Drew Goddard again shows that it was the writers of Mutant Enemy and not Whedon that made all of those tv shows great. This multilayered story of various criminal enterprises combing to a head at the worst resort in world. While the writing and directing was superb, it was actually a thrill to see that Dakota Johnson can act and should not be judged by that horrible series of films we will never talk about.

#3 Destination Wedding

I don’t think I have ever seen a whole movie carried entirely by only two actors. With one brief exception of a character off screen the entire film’s dialogue is only Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves talking to each other with delightfully cynical and morose lines. I had thought that truly great romantic comedies were a thing of the past but this movie proved that supposition wrong.

#2 A Star is Born

It only took four times to get this movie right. Unlike the previous versions that were either sappily stupid or emotionally unfulfilling (not to mention questionably acted in all previous versions) this is the first time that the characters were fully realized characters. His death actually made sense this time rather than just serving the plot. This was the first time the movie didn’t make you hate male lead because it wasn’t his jealousy of his wife driving his destruction. And while I’m not thrilled with all the music “Shallow” does have a haunting beauty to it. But, Hollywood, please, never make this movie again. This time was perfect, don’t make it a fifth time. I look forward to more movies directed by Cooper, and more acting from Lady Gaga (and I can only hope more music in the pop genre that I might actually want to listen to…her voice has just been wasted on the styles she has put out before this).

#1 Widows

Great cast. Thrilling story. Relevant social commentary on racism, corruption, misogyny without ever getting heavy handed. This movie is not only stellar in terms of writing, directing, and acting but it checks every box that the preachy loons of the intelligentsia love…and yet it barely got any recognition all awards season. I don’t get it. This should have been a movie that both critics and the general public should have agreed on was a great movie. I can only assume that because the director already got an undeserved award for Twelve Years A Slave (it was great history, but good history does not necessarily make for a good story, and there were numerous directorial choices that were highly flawed in that film that were no in Widows). I can only think that critics are actually opposed to real quality because this movie deserves all the praise.

Worst film of the year. Part of me wants to say that Justice League was so bad it wasn’t just the worst film of 2017 it will be the worst film of every year for quite a while (damn you Whedon and WB executives for allowing this disgusting filth to defile what should have been a great movie, damn you to the special hell). But to be fair there were some truly horrible movie in 2018 in their own right. Marvel continued to put out brainless schlock that was the cinema equivalent of the a week old Big Mac, but none of it was truly terrible. Solo was a mess but it’s not like anything in that franchise has any value beyond nostalgia. I just don’t get why every critic is raving about The Favorite, (nor why the main actresses are up for supporting awards, and the supporting actress is up for a best actress award—makes no sense whatsoever), but, oh well, critics love crap, always have, always will. Roma is typical Hollywood trash is all style with absolutely substance. But what the truly worst film of the year is Wrinkle in Time. Not only does it look like a poorly made for TV movie that was rushed into production, but it was clear that they did not even bother to look at the book. Anti-communist themes in the book are turned into anti-capitalist themes, the main character showed none of Meg’s strength from the book, and I’m sorry but Chris Pine is just a godawful actor—any movie where his character is still alive at the end is trash and this movie is no exception.

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The Democrats are in power, what they should do (and won’t), and how sane people should respond

So the midterms have occurred and the Dems control the House and we have blessed, blessed gridlock.

Even if Trump wants to go forward with even more acts of obstruction of justice (add that to the already impeachable tax evasion and violation of the emoluments clause…I’m not saying he will be impeached, I’m merely saying there is no legal or ethical reason why this man should not be in solitary for life*) the Democrats have more than enough to subpoena power to now show all of his numerous criminal acts for what they are. In reality, it won’t matter. Partisan Republicans exist in a world where their God-King can do no wrong, and partisan Democrats don’t see that this is a very different party from the one that nominated a man of character like Mitt Romney and told shit like Santorum to hit the road.

But just because the idiot is going to be prevented from doing anything doesn’t mean we’ll actually have good government.

I see three options going forward.
The first is that nothing changes, both parties continuing playing to their mentally unstable bases and nothing gets done. This, unfortunately, is the most likely.
However, there exist two possibilities. The least likely, which I’m going to deal with first, is that the Democrats learn from last night, realize that the Sanders/Warren wing of progressivism did not do well last night and the that moderation did win (this isn’t just me making this observation, this is the New York Times which I don’t see towing some kind of conservative line about how the progressive ideology is a losing one). The Democrats have an opportunity to reinvent themselves in this moment and become a party of moderation. But in the likely case they don’t, the disaffected parts of both parties (i.e the sane people) rally around a middle third party which brings us back to a semblance of sanity.

So let’s deal with the unlikely event that Democrats move to the middle.
Ideally the first thing that they could do to show this is not putting Nancy Pelosi in as Speaker of the House, and when they fail to do make this intelligent move it will be the first sign that they have no intention of returning to reality and rather plan to make their own party just as psychotic if not more so than Trump has made the GOP.

But let’s, for argument’s sake, say they wanted to return to sanity. How would they do this without completely infuriating the base.

Well, there are a lot of things that both moderates and the traditional left could reasonably see compromise on.

The first is returning to free trade. Free trade is not a left or right issue. Keynesian, Austrians, and Chicago school economists all agree that more free trade is a good thing. Only socialists and nationalists who really don’t understand economics to begin with think that isolationism is in any way a good thing, despite over 200 years of evidence proving free trade is a near absolute good. So what should Democrats do? They should return the tariff powers to Congress and take them away from the executive branch. Democrats can get behind this, capitalist Republicans in the House and Senate can get behind this, as well as any Republicans who still believe in the Constitution (few though they may be these day). A bill that called for all changes in tariff rates requiring at least Senate approval if not full return of all tariff powers to the legislature could easily pass both houses and I think could get to a veto proof position (if it doesn’t that can only mean that the GOP doesn’t care about law, right, truth anymore…and while I think many of them are moral cowards, I think they would sign onto this).
The next thing to do would be to overturn the Jones Act. This arcane piece of protectionist drivel serves no logical purpose and is a direct contributor to suffering in every disaster in US history. Just show all the people who are without food after a hurricane because there aren’t enough ways to get them food because of the Jones Act and it will pass, again quite possibly with a veto proof majority.

The next thing would be to do what the Republican couldn’t and solve the problems of Obamacare. Yes, they’re the party that created this disaster, but as the old Vulcan saying goes, “Only Nixon could go to China.” Voucherize the whole system as AEI scholar Charles Murray has suggested. Every US citizen gets a $3,000 voucher starting at the age of 21 that they can spend on any medical purpose they want. Every insurance company has to offer a $3,000 plan that covers all major medical and pre-existing and long-term care issues. If you want more you or your employer has to pay for it. Replace Medicaid and Medicare with these vouchers as well (hell, a good portion of those programs already use vouchers so there wouldn’t really be much of a choice). You give everyone health care and restore a complete free market and all the competition. The dollar amount comes from the insurance companies on what they need to not go bankrupt and they’ll make their money offering more at less cost on everything above and beyond. And what research has been done on this says that it will be much cheaper than the current systems as you no longer have the government being defrauded, but insurance companies with their far more competent ways of stopping fraud. Further by making this something tied directly to a Social Security number that only US citizens get you get rid of all concern about the program being exploited by immigration and being a drain on the general coffers. It’s cheaper, gets everyone health care and actually shrinks the size of government. I don’t think you could get it to a veto-proof level, and it’s a coin toss if the Der Fuhrer will sign it, but it would show that the Democrats are willing to govern from the middle.

Then comes being the adults on immigration. I will hold that the Constitution gives absolutely no power to regulate immigration, none—and James Madison agreed with me—but I’ll also deal in reality and say that neither side is ready to actually read the Constitution and admit that open borders are the only Constitutional option until someone wants to put an amendment in (which will never happen). So we need to reform the system we have as we move slowly to the actual constitutional option. The first would be offer a path to citizenship for all currently covered by DACA. The next step would be increased funding for an electronic fence (crime at the border will not go away until we grow up and realize we need to legalize drug use and prostitution because the black markets are far more dangerous than an open and regulated market could ever be…so until we become more intelligent and realize that libertarians are right about these issues, there will be human trafficking and drug smuggling at the border). Next we need a guest worker program. H-1 visas need to be expanded drastically and a documented way to get people to cross the jobs for seasonal work needs to be put in place.
If you want to further deal with issues like bringing children then Democrats need to remove federal control from education and allow for more school choice, especially vouchers. School vouchers guarantee that money only goes to the children of those legally here or children who are citizens themselves, thus a state that goes to a completely voucher-based program would not be attractive to an immigrant who had children as free education would no longer be an option.

Next to deal with the problems of education costs. The first thing Congress would need to do is work to improve and streamline the process whereby colleges become accredited and allow trade schools to be accredited for federal loans. Ideally, all federal loans would be discontinued, but I can’t expect the Democrats to grow up that much. So there needs to be a declared freeze on the size of all loan and grant money the Feds will be offering with a published statement that over the next 15 years that amount will reduced by 5% annually—that should give every college time to plan and cut costs appropriately. The next best thing would be to sue colleges that waste money and put monetary restrictions on any institution that accepts federal money, specifically targeted at reducing the size of their bloated bureaucracies (Here I would like to make it so that most schools choose it’s better to cut costs and just not take federal money, but this would be a moderate step in that direction). Finally, while I’m not thrilled with the idea I realize that college debt is just a psychotic drain on the economy and forgive a portion of all debt held by Sallie Mae…I the idea of loan forgiveness but the government is what caused these prices to skyrocket—it’s like the government stabbing someone in the kidney, they cause the problem they should bare some of the cost. Or at the very least treat it like all other debt and allow people to declare bankruptcy. We should also brush off all of Marco Rubio’s idea of how to pay for college.
Next thing I would recommend is that instead of going to that old Democrat favorite of raising taxes they should just fix the Trump tax bill…namely that a capitalist would have removed all the lobbyist bought loopholes and deduction that came with a reduction in the corporate tax rate. Businesses got the lower rate, logically the loopholes should also have gone away. Democrats can fix this, which both increases taxes and make the system MORE CAPITALISTIC. You don’t get that very often. And while you’re at it, remove all corporate welfare and subsidies. And even better it makes the government less of power broker for picking winners and losers. Always better.

After that, they should disband some the useless parts of the federal government. Specifically the DEA. Drug use is at best a state issue (it honestly shouldn’t be a personal issue but again I’m willing to deal in reality). Stop the insanity of the government harasses legal businesses which are selling products the states they are in say are legal. Stop worrying about who is smoking what. And as for the fact that there is still the issue of drugs coming over the border…just give that function to ICE, it’s a far better use of their time than the concentration camp bullshit Trump has them focused on right now.

It’s no shock that corruption is a problem in Washington. Anyone who thinks that Obama was not as corrupt as you get is just as clueless as the Trumpkins who think the orange crook walks on water. And the Democrats need to acknowledge this and start putting in permanent stop-gaps that require constant and endless investigation into both sides of the aisle and the entire bureaucracy from the president on down. And whatever they create needs to have the power indict and prosecute. And it needs to be set up so that it will always have people from both parties in it so that there will always be someone watching over government.

And finally, the bridge they should cross, but I know they won’t, is push for dismantling the entire entitlement state and replacing it with the Universal Basic Income. Welfare, SNAP, Social Security, Public Housing, Unemployment Insurance, Minimum Wage laws and a thousand other programs replaced by a single cash payment to every citizen over the age of 21 (26 would be better, but again, reality). Gone with the Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, HUD, and subdivision of so many others. It costs less, it reduces the power and size of government (which conservatives should love) and it provides the safety net for all Americans that liberals say they want. If the Democrats really had the courage of their convictions and wanted to be the party that was good for America they would push this.

But let’s be honest. Pelosi and Schumer are going to be the petty little bastards they’ve always been and just obstruct all legislation. What they do put forward will be socialist claptrap and nothing will get done.

So let’s go to the option that we should really embrace.

The fact is that Trump has all but renamed his party the National Socialist American Workers Party and as most of the Republican who lost on Tuesday were of the moderate side it’s only going to get worse. Meanwhile, the Democrats following the Sanders/Warren lead should just be honest and rename the party the People’s Socialist Progressive Party. They’ll play to the worst part of both their bases. The good news that part of each base is only about 10% of the general public for each party. Leaving 80% that might be open to sanity.

What needs to happen is that one of the Republicans that has made a principled stand against Trump and his vile behavior has to start right now work to not challenge Trump for the GOP nomination but run as a third party. They need to start now and work to get on the ballot of all 50 states.

It should probably be someone like Ben Sasse or Jeff Flake (I love Mitt but he’s simply too old at this point) and when the time comes to pick a running mate it should probably be as moderate a Democrat as they can find—but we’ll cross that bridge when we come it.

Whoever it is they should start working with people like Evan McMullin’s Stand Up Republic, and other such groups running on many of the things I listed above that can appeal to the rational center.

But there are a few other things they should include as they would not have to worry about a liberal base to keep in line.

The first would be regulation. Yes, Trump is getting rid of regulations, but he’s doing it with the intelligence of a drunk with a chainsaw being told to cut topiary. It will be a while before we can see exactly what is going on, but given the few specific stories we have (such as the corruption in NOAA) it will become clear that the Trump administration probably is getting rid of as many good regulations as bad (which is hard to do given that the vast number of bad regulations, but Trump will find a way). I think we should go back to having dollar value caps for the damage regulation can do. This will force bureaucrats to find the most efficient ways to do the most good with their regulations.

Second, they should push for a fully flat tax. One single deduction that is the same for everyone (probably around $24000, may a secondary deduction for children) but other than that it’s a flat rate (around 20%) for every person after that deduction.

Finally, they need to push as far as possible on federal ground to end such abuses as occupational licensing, asset forfeiture, and bad patent/copyright policy. Those aren’t necessarily as sexy as some issues, but they are important.

I don’t know if it will be Flake or Sasse, but someone who has the publicity and reputation of challenging the evil of this administration without becoming the evil of the other extreme needs to step up and offer us a third way. And it has to be on issues like this. A middle way that meets the desire of the rational sides of both parties and which seeks the good of the nation, the world, and the individual rather than just the oneupmanship of petty party politics.

Something along these lines needs to be done. The only other option is for both parties to get more insane. I think we all need to push for a sane third party to take over.

*If we’re talking ethically he should be in the Chateau D’if in that Cavizel version of Monte Cristo.

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Text of Trumps acceptance speech with comments:

Elementary Politics

Friends, delegates and fellow Americans: I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Who would have believed that when we started this journey on June 16, last year, we — I say we because we are a team — would have received almost 14 million votes, the most in the history of the Republican party?   

(I keep hearing this phrase – this occurs almost every time because the voter base natural increases because the number of people in the nation increases, in fact currently the younger vote outnumbers the older vote, which is new – so what – obviously his percentage of the registered voters did not increase or they would say that…and more people voted against him than any candidate in GOP primary history, they’re forgetting that little fact too…

And that the Republican Party would get 60 percent more votes…

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The Wrong Loyalties

Elementary Politics

This is a sad day in the history of the Republican Party.

While there have been many sad days, especially in recent months, this is the day where yet another once respectable bastion of conservative principles has knelt before the whims of his party and stood behind Donald Trump. About a week after Marco Rubio made this regrettable decision, Paul Ryan has joined him. Both men have stated similar reasons for doing so: “preserving the unity of the party.” Such loyalty might oft be considered noble, but not in such a time as this.

Trump’s deplorable ideology has not changed, and in many cases has only gotten worse. The damage he will bring to the party and to the country will verge on being a irreparable. I understand the desire Mr. Ryan and Mr. Rubio have to preserve the party that once stood for human rights and outstanding economic principles…

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Et tu, Repubblicanos? (A Tragic Tale of Back Stabbery)

The Collision Blog

Welcome to Election Hell. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Keep your hands and feet in the vehicle at all times. If you fail to do so, the rabid animals surrounding the minibus will gnaw on your limbs. Don’t try to feed them, and don’t play apologist for the zombie-like Trump supporters hunched over the carcass of the GOP with dead eyes, nibbling on its liver.

“They just got caught up in the movement.”

Jonestown got caught up in themovement, too.

While people like myself are watching our former knights kneel before the throne of an ego driven self-promoted demigod, we’ve found a few glimpses of hope in the words of individuals like Ben Sasse:

I’ve ignored my phone most of today, but the voicemail is overflowing with party bosses and politicos telling me that “although Trump is terrible,” we “have to” support him, “because the only choice is Trump or…

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April Fool’s Day Politics…the only sane response…

It has become clear that the nation has a lot of idiots and a lot of lunatics. Far too many in fact. I think it’s safe to say that sane intelligent people are the minority. But worse is that the dim and loons are so fragmented that they will never get along with each other. Sadly the only choice is to carve up the nation into different factions. Nothing less will do if we want to avoid the bloody business of civil war (who are we kidding even carving it up will still lead to some war, but we’ll get to that later).

I think due to the myriad of candidates we have had it’s fair to say that we can judge exactly which groups there are out there and each head of these groups will be the new chief executive of each new nation.

I propose a distribution that follows the following map (we can of course do some swaps of individual counties but these more or less follow the population distribution of support for each given candidate).
The new nations and their chief executives are as follows

People’s Republic of New England–Premier Bernie Sanders
The Trump Empire–The Divine Emperor Donald Trump
Progressivania–Prime Minister Hillary Clinton
The Confederate States of ‘Murica–Pres Ted Cruz
The Neoconservative States of America–President Marco Rubio
Lower Canada–Best Bud John Kasich
The Anarchic States of Fuck You–First Citizen Rand Paul (let’s be honest “libertarians” are a fairly anti-social bunch and would want to make it clear that non-libertarians are not welcome)

usa50out.png
Now this break down does a few things. It gives everyone access to a major water way to everyone.  It protects all the xenophobics from having to touch those evil, evil brown people.  It keeps Trump in the traditional home of racism. It keeps the neoconservatives with access to both oceans as they the only ones who will actually want to defend the oceans. Granted the NCSA has more oil but it has less infrastructure and farmland. The Trump Empire and CSM more factories and infrastructure but their economic policies will solve that shortly.  PRNE has more rich white liberals, but they’ll move when they have to live through what they advocate (or at least try to). The ASFU is colder and doesn’t have much, but the residents will be too stoned to care (not that everyone there will be a drug addict but the contact high alone will effect everyone).

So the only thing that’s really to divvy up is military infrastructure. I think Air Force, Army, and Marines can be equally divided up, but Trump, PRNE and ASFU should not have a Navy (libertarians have no use for it, Trump and PRNE wants nothing to do with those dirty foreigners, not to mention I think we all fear they would want to spread their evil). Progressivania, The CSM, and Lower Canada can each have one carrier group to defend themselves and still feel relevant, the other 7 groups will go to the NCSA as they’re the only one who will want to use it for the defense of liberty around the world.  Nuclear weapons will be divided in similar fashion (we can all agree the commies and fascists can’t be allowed to have nukes, if the libertarians want some they can have them some, but they won’t.)

Two years will be given for everyone to move to the state they want…most of the nation’s people won’t bother because most of the nation thinks politics is pointless and has no effect on their lives…they will soon learn the error of that mistake.

So let’s talk about the changes to structure of the Constitution and policies each government will put in place.

The Anarchic States
The Anarchic states will at first change their Constitution to guarantee private property rights to such a degree that even Adam Smith and Milton Friedman would be worried.  Of course they will also abolish all forms of patents and copyrights as modern libertarians hate those things…drugs being legal is a given.

Initially there will be boom of economics followed by a crash as no major companies will actually want to stay in a place where their copyrights and patents aren’t protected (and few foreign trading partners will want to have anything to do with them either with such little protection for IP beyond the sale of basic goods).  Further as there will be no bureaucracy to register property or marriage or anything like that the Anarchic states will soon find their economy looking like former Soviet Bloc nations that had similar lack of government infrastructure.  Initially the residents will not notice as they’ll be too high (either by choice or the contact high) but as the place stops looking like a frat on an early Friday night and starts looking more and more like a used crack den what little economy is left will disappear.

A few of the more intelligent libertarians will pragmatically realize they’ve gone too far and some government needs to be put in place but the rest of the body politic will be too stoned to care and the intelligent will try and move to Lower Canada, Murica or the NCSA.

People’s Republic of New England
The Constitutional protection for private property will of course be abolished…but will be replaced with a right to free healthcare, free education for however many graduate degrees in things like feminist basket weaving and privilege studies you could wish, free housing, guaranteed employment if you want it but a living wage no matter what, guaranteed 20 weeks vacation, guaranteed medical leave, parental leave, leave for days when you just don’t feel like it, and a constitutional guarantee that you will be loved.

Of course a welfare state that would make Mao think it was a little crazy will be immediately put in place.

This will of course lead to complete and total economic collapse that will make Venezuela look like a vacation resort.

Like most virulently socialist regimes they’ll soon try to compensate for this loss of income by invading other nations.  But as the libertarians to the North and the fascists to the West will be too gun happy they’ll of course turn to the only nation that doesn’t pose a major threat…Canada.  But even Trudeau will be able to turn them around.  Thus the People’s Republic will collapse.

The Trump Empire
Here the great Emperor will at first model the new government off of Rome making himself with only one Senate (all members appointed by him) himself a member of the Senate, the executive, the judiciary, the head of the church and the Commander-in-Chief.
There will be nothing else.
Borders will be closed.  Foreign trade will be abolished.
Deportation squads in shiny white uniforms will be created.
Soon the Senate will be abolished and control handed over to regional governors…fear will keep the people in line.

The minorities who supported Trump will soon regret that choice as they will find themselves the workforce of Trump Empire…whether they want to be or not.
Trump will of course pronounce an early victory in stating he has eliminated all Jews from the Empire…because none of them were dumb enough to stay (fool me once shame on you, fool me twice).

Economic output will at first be very high (slave labor is cheap and effective if you’re evil enough to use it)…but of course there will be flaws after a few years, and the Empire will need breathing room.  And while Murica will initially be too well defended, the People’s Republic, the Anarchic States and Quebec will soon fall (mainly because even Canada won’t mind too much that the damn French get taken out).  But soon they will turn their eyes on…

Lower Canada
Lower Canada will pretty much run thing like they’re going now in the USA.  There will be increase to welfare spending, and they will continue the slow death spiral (halted only very slightly by the fact that they will have no foreign military budget to speak of…but most of that will be taken out by the increase in worthless foreign aid that thinks the answer is just throw money at the problem).

They will be invaded by the Trump Empire within about 7 years however and while putting up a valiant 5 minute struggle, like the French before them.  They will fall.

This will of course present a problem for…

The Confederate States of ‘Murica
Initially the Confederate states will grant more power to the states, the power for states to veto laws, the power for the Senate to review executive orders, stronger controls on the executive branch, reaffirming of property and individual rights and a lot of other good things.  However, because of the Judiciary, because you just can’t trust those activist judges, will be gutted of power the powers to interpret law will actually move to the executive branch in charge of implementing those laws as no other branch with the power to interpret law will be there to stop them.  Also as term limits will be put in, as has been seen in every Republic with strong limits on the legislature, the executive branch will benefit and gather even more power.  Initially this will not be a problem…and were it not for the Trump Empire then ‘Murica could probably have seen something like the economic boom of the 90’s again lasting maybe even two decades.

But as they have created a recipe for an executive that cannot by checked by the other branches…like the other Confederacy in time of crisis it will turn quickly into a tyranny and in the face of war all liberties will be suspended in defense against the Trump Empire.  You might have thought this was building up to WWIII…it’s not.

The fact is that these first nations were all so isolationist that no one in the world would be their allies so it would remain a matter within their own borders.  And the weakness presented by the slugfest of a war between them would provide ISIS and the rest of the Islamofascists in the world the perfect weakness to come and attack so being the magnet that draws the poison out of the rest of the world isn’t going to piss off anybody else either.  It will be a new Syria…and this time turnabout will be fair play and nobody is going to take refugees from this conflict.

About 15 years after the nation is split apart these two nations will have all but destroyed each other’s populations and most of their infrastructure (although at least Murica will never use nukes against civilian populations.

Not that the fall of Murica is completely the fault of the Trump Empire.  As the populist desire to strip government of it’s power will lead inevitably to a dictatorial leader, and the factionalism inherent in populism will lead to social collapse…their death warrant was already signed, Trump just hastened it.

Shifting to the other coast…
Progressivania under Hillary Clinton will become like any Western European mildly socialist haven…but without the USA to prop it up it will start falling apart within only a year or so (they’ll also be a tempting target for ISIS and their ilk and won’t have the spine to do anything to stop them)…especially after the refugees from the People’s Republic start streaming in.

They will luckily be temporarily bailed out as with each economic crisis the NCSA will buy up large tracks of land from Progressivania.  Which is also what will keep Muria propped up for a while.

You see, The NeoConservative States of America will be just what its name suggests: Neoconservative.  The first that will be done is a complete capitalist overhaul of the government.  Like Murica you will have strengthening of property and states rights, a lowering of bureaucracy and taxation, and a restoration of checks on the branches of government…unlike Murica you won’t have a disregard to the balance part of checks and balances and the three branches will be more co-equal (but with the most power in the legislature) again not set up to favor the executive.  You will likely see Senators return to being elected by states not the public and a slow deliberate legislation process will return to America.

Also the NCSA gets the land bordering Mexico because unlike every other nation here, they won’t be xenophobes and will actually welcome immigrants from the world over.  This along with the capitalistic reforms that will almost immediately come out of the federal government will produce a Renaissance in innovation and economics that will make what were once the least populated states in the union an economic super power that will laugh at China.

Unlike most of the other nations which will torment and possibly execute what are now illegal aliens, the NCSA will offer them a path to citizenship at the price of four years of military service (thus solving the man power problem that would come in in trying to keep up the previous US commitments worldwide that only the NCSA will be concerned with honoring)…though this man power shortage will be short lived as economic super powers always drawn legal immigrants who want to be a part of the nation and culture that rewards skill and genius.  And not hating people who are different the NCSA will welcome them.
Not being hindered by the populists, fascists, and isolationists, long term foreign policy will be enacted and Marshall Plan like rebuilding programs will be put in place that will make our current deployments stable and drive back ISIS (they’ll survive for a while only because they’ll have so many new targets with such idiotic leaders).  With the massive revenue that will be coming in (despite low income taxes and no corporate, capital gains, death or VAT taxes or tariffs) they’ll be more than willing to buy up land from the failing nations around it…first the eastern portion of California and the Pacific Northwest, then the California central valley…then probably Alaska and Hawaii…

The Trump Empire will foolishly try to invade (big mistake) and the fascists will first be route out of Lower Canada (which will be annexed…only makes sense as most of the inhabitants will have been slaughtered in the Trump labor camps) and then having had enough of this crap will take back the all the other land that the Empire once held…this time not making the mistake of FDR and Trump and making sure that not a single Nazi is left to return.

Murica, in true Texas fashion, finding it cannot stand on it’s own, will offer to be annexed by the only adult in sight.

Finally Progressivania having become an third world nation will collapse and the NSCA will take over in a humanitarian effort to stem the suffering…at this point they’ll return to their proper name, the United States of America…sans a bunch of idiots.

What makes this an April Fool’s day post?  The fact that everything I just said is more rational than the freak show we currently have going on.  And that is either a cosmic joke or just sad.

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What to expect from the Dawn of Justice

Lex Luthor: We should all be careful when we elevate anyone, human or alien, to “super” status.

Ron Troupe: Because we’re all equal.

Lex Luthor: Well that’s just absurd. No – I’m saying we need to be selective and elevate the right people. The right human people.

“I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome.”—Nietzsche

We’re only a couple weeks away from the movie I have been waiting for: Dawn of Justice (you’ll notice I refuse to use the more sophomoric title that was clearly the brain child of an idiot studio executive *

The Trinity

This film is the extension of the brain child of producer Christopher Nolan and director Zach Snyder.  Christopher Nolan uses classic literature as the backdrop for all of his movies (Batman Begins is The Aeneid, Prestige–Faust, Dark Knight–Othello, Inception–Theseus in the Labyrinth, Dark Knight Rises–A Tale of Two Cities, Interstellar–Odyssey).  Snyder has a long habit of tacking on heavy philosophy as well (the speeches in 300 are better than any of the action, is not what you’d call shallow, and even his worst film Sucker Punch was clearly trying to be something more than pointless action—it failed miserably—but there was a clear attempt, I have no idea exactly what he was attempting but he was trying to do something more there.)

And together they went in a slightly different direction with Man of Steel; they went in a slightly different direction by not pulling from literature, but philosophy and made the whole movie a critique of Plato’s Republic (no really, Krypton is set up exactly like the Republic, castes, children raised to fit predetermined lives and are not raised by parents, they even go as far as to show you Clark reading The Republic in one scene for anyone who didn’t already get it) with Zod as the logical end result of Plato’s terrible philosophy.

Now Nolan is probably not going to be involved in the entire DC universe, but he did help Snyder chart the entire universe for the first round of films…and with charting the plots I am really hoping against hope that he outlined the themes of all the movies and they all deal with the same philosophical grounds that Man of Steel did.

I expect to see Suicide Squad tear Foucault a new one, Wonder Woman glorify 2nd Wave Feminism while destroying 3rd Wave Feminism, Justice League Part 1 to destroy Kant and Part 2 to glorify Aristotle (this is pure speculation)…but I am fairly certain that Dawn of Justice will tear the abhorrent beliefs of Friedrich Nietzsche (laughingly called philosophy)  to shreds.

What do I mean?
Well first let’s go through a crash course of Nietzsche’s insanity.  Now Nietzsche is very quotable, because he put nothing in context, and you can probably find a line to justify anything but traditional religion.  Some of it even sounds quite profound (again when taken out of context)  but when you take it as a whole it’s a poor and rambling attempt to justify sociopathic behavior.  It’s hard to deal with a man who claims at one moment to love self-reflection and then decry reason and rationality as a perversion of humanity the next. Once you’ve actively denied logic, it becomes impossible to challenge you because like a child your interlocutor just says that they don’t care about that, facts and reason aren’t relevant, they have something better, who the hell knows what that is (it’s like arguing with a Trump supporter).  Nietzsche’s ethics are just as bad, hyping the Übermensch:

I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?… All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to overman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape… The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the overman shall be the meaning of the earth… Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss … what is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.—Thus Spoke Zarathustra

While the nature of this overman, like most things in Nietzsche, hard to nail down because Friedrich was committed to an asylum a couple decades later than he should have been, it is clear that the übermensch is not bound by the slave-morality of “good and evil,” to be something superior to the common people, making his own values, free of all traces of empathy, and above the rabble, to do with them and the world as he pleases.

With as abhorrent a vision as this, it is no shock that Nietzsche’s ideas were so easily used by the Nazis (even though he personally did not support such nationalist views while he was alive), and was the subject of condemnation in an early comic which portrayed one of the overmen as a cruel dictator worthy of all the scorn ethical people would put on what Nietzsche viewed as an ideal.  That comic was of course “The Reign of the Superman” by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  Who quickly realized that the way to truly destroy the values of Nietzsche wasn’t to show how a fascist example of the master race in all its abhorrence, but to show the superiority of ethics in a Superman who was above the maxim that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And this is why Nietzsche had to be the target of this addition to the Superman franchise, because the entire comic began as an attack on Nietzschian values.

So how will this play out in the film.

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”—Nietzsche

 

“That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel.”—Alfred Pennyworth

Possibly the only part of Nietzsche that will not be lambasted is the oft quoted warning about staring into the abyss as this is pretty much where Batman is clearly going to begin this film.  His hopeless view that Superman can’t be trusted because “twenty years in Gotham, Alfred—We’ve seen what promises are worth. How many good guys are left? How many stayed that way?”

This man has been fighting for so long he doesn’t believe any one beside himself and Alfred are on the side of good.  He sees the worst in everyone.  Granted after Dent, Todd, Quinn, and who knows who else is in this universe, he’s seen a lot of people fall to their worst side. He has fought monsters so long that as Alfred warns it “turns good men cruel.”

So if this movie is a refutation of Nietzsche why make one of the most hyped points of trailers the point where Nietzsche is correct?  Because it was a tip of the hat to let us know which philosophy they would be dealing with…and because as we all know for all his fighting Bruce isn’t a monster—not now, not ever.  And this movie will show that the good can survive the staring contest with the abyss.  (Which will probably be also mirrored in Clark’s doubts about his mission that we get hints of.

“In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments.”—Nietzsche

 

“This means something.  It’s all some people have.  It’s all that gives them hope.”—Lois Lane

Nietzsche was a real downer of a person.  And for all his claims to hate nihilism, his ideas were more or less nihilistic.

Now certainly the first movie Man of Steel the concept of hope was dealt with over and over.  But we’re going to return to this in this movie and see that, like Nietzsche, people like Luthor find the idea of spreading hope to be a dangerous one…probably because it ruins their ability to control. And we will almost certainly see that the idea of hope is what is going to take Batman out of the abyss and back toward the character out to give people a symbol that we saw in the last time Nolan had his hands on the character.

 

“God is Dead”—Nietzsche

 

“If Man won’t kill God, the Devil will do it.”—Lex Luthor

Nietzsche, Luthor, Zod, and Darkseid (whom we are getting hints of) all believe themselves to be above others, above any concept, laws and judges unto themselves.  They don’t need Gods to give purpose to existence, they just find their own glorification of power to be the purpose.tumblr_o41aveP62f1uorz8zo2_500

But our heroes will show, maybe not in terms of divinity, but a higher concept is still needed to offer a course and goal for humanity…otherwise it wouldn’t be called Dawn of Justice.

“Who can attain to anything great if he does not feel in himself the force and will to inflict great pain? The ability to suffer is a small matter: in that line, weak women and even slaves often attain masterliness. But not to perish from internal distress and doubt when one inflicts great suffering and hears the cry of it — that is great, that belongs to greatness.”—Nietzsche

 

“What have you done?”—Superman

If this Nietzsche quote isn’t an actual recipe for how to create Doomsday I don’t know what is.  And when that monster (I’ll admit I too hope what we saw in the trailer wasn’t the final CGI vision of the monster) is destroyed by DC trinity, it will go a long way to show this glorification of infliction of pain is flawed.

“What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.”—Nietzsche

With all the discussion from Luthor and corrupt Senators (at least I assume she’s corrupt as she’s with Luthor a lot) about power and it’s use, one can’t help but hear a disunion of the will to power coming into this movie somewhere.  And while I think he championing of the Aristotelian virtues is still a couple movies away, I get the feeling that this film will deal with how power is only a tool to be used for virtue or vice and is in itself not the central point of life or ethics.

“When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexually.”
“I don’t think you’ve ever known a woman like me.”–Wonder Woman

And I can’t help but point out that if you read Nietzsche you may find claims of his wonderwoman.gifanti-Semitism are not as simple as pop culture would have you believe…but his unspeakable misogyny more than makes up for any perceived points by not being a complete Nazi returning Friedrich and his ideas to the category of “complete waste of space and volume.”
And what, to point out the obvious, what better way to put the final nail in the coffin of Nietzsche’s ideas, than to show how wrong his hatred of women as “the weaker sex” with not only a version of Lois Lane who is finally able to figure out who Superman is, but the most bad ass super-heroine in existence.

Granted all of this is based off what we know of Nolan, Snyder, and the few hints from the trailers…but this is what you should go in looking for, as this director and producer have no intention of showing anything so mundane as a overpowered beatdown.

*But still somehow lacked the joy of any of these options.

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Super Tuesday: Who’s on First, What’s on Second?

The Collision Blog

So… That happened.

Yesterday was Super Tuesday and, oh boy, did it not live up to its name. I think the words “should drop out” saw more action in one 24 hour span than Jack Bauer saw in 8.5 seasons. Everyone stood around poking what they assumed was the dead carcass of The Republic proclaiming, “What did you do?!”

Fingers were pointed, accusations made, and every candidate left has absolutely no viable path to the White House, or so I’ve heard. Some are right, some are really, really, really wrong, and others are over in the corner with a yo-yo trying to figure what makes it go up and down; we’ll call them “Ben Carson’s remaining supporters.”

I’m going to agree with some of you, chastise others, and give my own analysis of the situation.

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Yet another Federal Department to do away with…The Department of The Interior

While the Department of the Interior has been in the news for some fairly ridiculous reasons lately, that does not undermine the fact that it is unquestionably one of the worst uses of government power in D.C. which is actively working every day to keep Americans in poverty and hurt the economy.

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Born of an era before we had executive level offices that were not necessarily under a cabinet department, the Department of the Interior was originally conceived of a place to stick all the internal brick-a-brack that didn’t really belong in other departments but were federal government domestic issues.  Most of the things originally put in this department (like the Patent office) no longer are in the Department of the Interior.  And what is left is utterly useless.

Bureau of Indian Affairs
But of the things originally put into the Department of the Interior, possibly the worst of all of them is regrettably still around: Bureau of Indian Affairs, this long standing national disgrace, no matter what the eventual fate of the Department itself, must be eliminated.  You know all that land the Natives Americans live on, their Reservations?  Guess what they don’t own it.  The federal government through the Bureau of Indian Affairs owns it, even the land houses are built on.  Therefore those living there can never get a loan, never turn their property into capital, never actually enter into the 21st century economy because they don’t actually own their own homes and property. They’re just like a 3rd world country with welfare payments (also provided by BIA).  You have to look no further than a Reservation for proof that the welfare state destroys the people who it attempts to “help” and you can blame the BIA and Dept. of the Interior for being the ones who destroy the lives of these people.

And we need to address this issue first because unlike most of the problems in the Department which boil down to give it to the states or sell it to the private sector and close the offices, this disaster of a longstanding government travesty has more intricacies given how deeply we have screwed over, and more importantly how deeply we are screwing them over this very minute, this one group.

Before you ask, yes we are going to get rid of every bit of this god-awful department, but just closing it isn’t the way to do it.

I propose to the following actions
Every Native American currently getting checks from the government just for existing will get a lump sum check equivalent to ten years worth of payments, this should give them an appropriate buffer to either do things they never were able to do on the dole (like get an education and job skills, which sadly is all to often a story on the Res.) or to invest in their own future even if they are already leading a productive life.  As much as I hate welfare you can’t cut people off cold turkey and expect them to thrive…but given the particular evil of this department I don’t trust a slow step down either—so lump sum payment and we’re done with that.

At the same time everyone living on the reservation will get a half acre of land put in their name.

All other reservation land will be given to a corporation in the name of the tribe. Members of the tribe living on the reservation will get 1000 shares, those not living on the reservation but still recognized as members of the tribe get 500 (numbers are of course up for debate, but I understand tribal benefits for many tribes already follow this or similar models).  So everyone now has land in their own name and the rest of the land is held by a corporation.
Thus they can now get loans, use the land and houses as collateral, invest, develop and generally work to improve their own lives with all the same rights that all other Americans (seriously it is just disgusting how we do not grant basic property rights to this one group).  (And personally I wouldn’t mind giving large plots of other federal land to the reservations to also be included in their corporate holdings, they will almost certainly take care of it and make more money off it than the government ever could).  Every reservation will then be incorporated as its own county and thus will only have to deal with state and federal governments. Finally all the casinos will be granted 100 year grandfather clauses from state government interference (I don’t  like getting involved in state issues like that, but no need to further screw over the tribes, 100 years is more than enough time to find some other source of income or come to some understanding with the states they reside in).  The casinos will of course go to the ownership of the tribe’s corporation.
From there they are free to win or lose based on the laws of free enterprise and capitalism.  That much property should be a good head start, but this way from this point forward they would be treated not differently than any other American (seriously how has the government not stopped treating them as second class citizens yet..how was this never part of any Civil Right’s movement?)  Then you won’t have moments like the government getting to decide if land the tribe considers sacred will be used for mining ) (although my suspicion is that if they were actually making money from a lease of the land personally, like most rational folk profit is very sacred).

Of course the Dept. of the Interior is still a huge mess.

 

Look at all the land they own. This needs to end.

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National Parks Service

Okay here’s an easy one.  Just give the land and responsibilities of these over to the states.  I’m fairly certain someone in Phoenix has a better idea of how to take care of the Grand Canyon than someone in D.C. So that goes for every federal park. The f

Office of U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Sounds like such a pleasant name for people utterly hell-bent on destroying all progress and quite possibly human civilization.
That line may sound hyperbolic, but these are idiots who enforce the utterly idiotic Endangered Species Act. Let’s ignore that it was private business that brought back the bison and the bees. Now let’s look at what this office does.  For instance they’re involved in saving the Delta Smelt.   A worthless evolutionary dead end that has no ability whatsoever to adapt even to its own environment, and that is about as important to any ecosystem as Obama is to maintaining world peace. To save this worthless excuse of a fish the state of California (originally under orders of the this useless office, but now through efforts of their own idiocy) is dumping over a trillion gallons of water into the ocean to save the smelt.

Yes in California, a place where there is a drought, where serious water rationing is in place, where water is at a premium…the government is forcing people to dump over a trillion gallons of water into the ocean to save a useless fish. I’m sorry but the destruction of billions of dollars in agriculture (and the relating economic benefit) is clearly more important than a damn fish that no one but the US government cares about.

Oh yeah and even for the low low cost of destroying California, once the breadbasket of the world, the smelt is still dying..why because nature is about killing millions of species, the Endangered Species Act is not more intelligent than the simple rule of life since the first single celled lifeforms: adapt or die.

All other decisions made by US Fish and Wildlife are equally disastrous and equally stupid.

The Endangered Species Act needs to be overturned in whole and this department needs to be closed (if you want to charge all the employees with crimes against humanity for the massive economic damage they do on a daily basis, ethically that’s fine by me too.)

 

If you actually care about animals, trust the private sector and charity to handle this, they can.  If you hate animals and people keep the Fish and Wildlife around.

US Geology Survey, Bureau of Land Reclamation, Bureau of Mining Reclamation
If these serve any purpose, which is doubtful, it’s something the states can handle at probably half the price.

Office of Insular Affairs
This office actually does need to be kept around since they’re the management of all those territories we still have (which is a federal issue).  But it can go on as an executive office, you don’t need a whole department for it.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
These are the geniuses who told B.P that drilling close to the shore was dangerous and you have to drill further out in the ocean for it to be safe.
Yeah they’re useless.

And finally we get to the problem we’ve been hearing about so often lately

Bureau of Land Management

247.3 million acres.
That’s how much land BLM has.  One-eighth of the US.
Most of that land isn’t park land, it’s grazing land, it’s land with resources, it’s land that could be sold either to the states or the private sector for a huge profit (didn’t we have a debt we needed to pay off?)

There is no reason for the government to own any of that!  There is barely a reason that states should own this land.
This land needs to be sold off.  Granted many people depend on this land for their livelihood and I have no problem with offering them to buy the land they have been leasing at whatever the market place for such undeveloped land is…but if they don’t want to buy it the land needs to go up for auction—probably over the course of a few years as putting that much land on the market at once would collapse all prices, but the government does not need to own this land.  And not only because there is no reason for the government to own it…but because as with all things, they’re losing money on it. Only the federal government can charge people to use land that just sits there and requires little to no upkeep other than what nature provides or what people will pay you to do and still lose money on it.

 

 

We don’t need to get into how unbelievably corrupt and inept and inept the people at BLM are because they shouldn’t exist in the first place.  Even if they weren’t mentally challenged sociopaths they still shouldn’t exist so their extensive laundry list of moral and intellectual failings is a moot point (unless you want to throw them all in jail, which I’m okay with, but first sell the land and close the office).  As a quick intermediary we can just sell the land to the states, but the federal control has to be ended now.

Energy Management
Finally we have the Office of Energy Management (not to be confused with the same office in the Department of Energy).

I’m simply going to quote you from their own web page:

As the lead Federal agency responsible for the protection and sound development of the nation’s natural resources, the Department of the Interior has a special obligation to be a leader in energy management and conservation. As such, bureaus and offices across the Department are committed to conserving energy and water resources, eliminating waste, increasing renewable energy use, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts by optimizing the use of energy efficient and water conserving technologies. Bureaus and offices are also striving to incorporate energy efficiency, water conservation, and sustainable practices into the decision-making processes during the planning, design, acquisition, renovations, operations and maintenance of buildings. The Office of Acquisition and Property Management (PAM) coordinates these important Department-wide efforts.

And what in the history of the US Government makes you think that they’re in any way competent to do any of that?
Yeah close this boondoggle as well.

So again, we have a terrible organization that needs to have every single one of its responsibilities either privatized, sent to the states or just ended.

 

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Filed under Budget, Conservative, Constitution, Environmentalism, Evils of Liberalism, Government is corrupt, Government is useless, Uncategorized