Tuesday was like an emotional whiplash, driving to practice…I was crying for songs I heard on the radio, songs that really were not the kind to get weepy over. (I mean, John Mellencamp’s Check it Out?)
I take a route that follows the exact path of the Trail of Tears, even passing by Chief Vann House that sits atop a hill overlooking a four corner stop that is home to two gas stations and a used car lot. This grand house that once belonged to James Vann, a member of the Cherokee elite. It was built in 1804…and in 1819 President James Monroe spent the night in this home of Cherokee honor. The Vann family continued to live there until February 1835, when James Vann’s eldest son Joseph…and his family were forcibly removed. Imagine, a family whose home once hosted the President of the United States, forced from that home by a different President…sixteen years later. And who was that President? Andrew Jackson, of course.
- Jackson authorizes Indian Removal Act of 1830.
- Jackson signs Treaty of New Echota with unrecognized leaders of Cherokee Nation, which allows him to force the Cherokees to move to land in what is now Oklahoma. 4,000 Native Americans die on this journey, also known as the Trail of Tears.
I wonder if Jackson would have called the number of deaths due to his Trail of Tears, “fake news” if Twitter was around back then?
But back to what I was saying….
While following this path of sorrow and death, that is constantly in my thoughts as I drive, I think about the horrors the Cherokee experienced so many years ago.
I think about the irony, that not a half a mile away from the Vann house, along the original route….the original round up route, there is this sign. Blatant. Hate filled. Disgusting.
Yes, on this Trail of Tears, there is a wall of support for tRump. The twist of the screw is painful. This tRump supporter is so deplorable, he puts up a sign expressing bigoted racist views, on a road that many years ago…thousands of Native Americans died on while they were rounded up and kicked out of their own country. And the frosting, the person responsible for this horrendous Act, is the one President that tRump admires most.
On Tuesday, it seemed to truly come into focus.
It was an anniversary, thousands were killed 17 years ago. The death totals from Hurricane Maria were finally making news, in fact it would only be a matter of 36 hours before tRump would tweet this disgusting shit:
There was only a sliver of a moon on Tuesday, it was the same orange color as the other bright star in the sky…Mars. The road was pitch black. I could see nothing at all, except for the area that my headlights illuminated. I was startled to see a horse and rider coming towards me on the right hand side of the road. This original road marking the Trail of tears.
The horse and the rider were all dark, nothing alerted me to their presence except for the whiteness of the rider’s bare feet. I know it is strange but those white bottoms of a shoe-less rider hit me like a slap across my face. The horse, saddled…not bare backed. The rider fully dressed including a cowboy hat, but riding barefoot? And my headlights reflecting back to me the whiteness of the soles of his feet.
The darkness surrounding this Trail of Tears. The darkness of the day, September 11th. The hate filled sign of a tRump Wall and an American Flag. It seemed to echo back to the sliver of a blood orange moon…was it waning or waxing? I am so tired of the months that go by…watching everything going to hell. I just want to sleep. No more, please, no more.
This is an open thread…please post links to worldly events below.
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
We learned yesterday that we might have been closer to a repeat Saturday Night Massacre than we thought. KKKremlin Caligula tried to fire Robert Mueller only to back off when the White House Council threatened to resign. We have entered the Nixon Zone.
Here’s some analysis of the NYT investigative piece by Lawfare.
The New York Times reported Thursday evening that President Trump ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June and was only dissuaded when White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign rather than transmit the order to the Justice Department. Mueller has reportedly become aware of the attempt to dismiss him in the course of investigating possible obstruction of justice by Trump and his associates.
According to the Times, Trump claimed that multiple conflicts of interests disqualified Mueller from overseeing the Russia investigation—including a fee dispute with a Trump golf club, his prior firm’s representation of Jared Kushner, and the fact that Trump had interviewed Mueller to potentially again become FBI director the day before he was appointed as special counsel. In May, career Justice Department ethics officials formally cleared Mueller to lead the probe, determining that he did not have disqualifying conflicts. In a follow-up story, the Washington Post reports that McGahn “did not deliver his resignation threat directly to Trump, but was serious about his threat to leave.”
The Times also noted that Trump considered firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, in order to place Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand in charge of the investigation.
At the time Trump ordered Mueller’s firing, he was still represented by his longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz, who took an adversarial approach to the Russia investigation. Reportedly, Trump’s new counsel, Ty Cobb, has convinced the president that “the quickest way to clear the cloud of suspicion was to cooperation with Mr. Mueller, not to fire him.” Nevertheless, the Times reports that Trump has wavered in the intervening months over the decision to fire Mueller and that in his public comments on the subject Trump has kept open the possibility of dismissing Mueller.
A few observations:
First, the Times’s reporting demonstrates just how out of control the president had become in June, less than a month after firing James Comey as FBI director. A few of his tweets from that time offer a stark reminder that the special counsel’s investigation—and Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller—weighed heavily even in his public statements …
“Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials.” (Including the counsel who threatened to resign, Don McGahn!)
Key point: “McGahn disagreed with the president’s case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency.”
“McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.”
“Amid the first wave of news media reports that Mr. Mueller was examining a possible obstruction case, the president began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him.”
“First, [Trump] claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.”
Why it matters: “The White House has denied nearly a dozen times since June that Mr. Trump was considering firing Mr. Mueller.”
Be smart: As we told you Wednesday in our piece about Mueller following Trump like a dark cloud: These actions were taken in office knowing the whole world is watching for a cover-up. It’s the ultimate unforced error — and reason many around Trump fear him testifying.
P.S. CNN’s Groundhog Day headline this morning: “TRUMP TRIP OVERSHADOWED BY CONTROVERSY.”
Julian Zelzer of The Atlantic has the Nixonian take calling the Drumpf regime “The runaway President.”
The reason that so many Americans react badly to the news about Trump is similar to what drove the outrage about President Richard Nixon’s famous Saturday Night Massacre, as the Washington Post reporter David Broder named it, in October of 1973. The path to that scandal started when Alexander Butterfield, a former aide to H.R. Haldeman, revealed to the Watergate congressional committee that the president had recorded secret Oval Office conversations. Archibald Cox, the Harvard professor who had been appointed as an independent special prosecutor in May to investigate Watergate, wanted those tapes. He wanted to know just what they revealed about the June 1972 break in to the Democratic National Headquarters. On October 12, a U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Nixon to comply. Nixon tried to broker an agreement with Cox to release a small portion of the tapes, but the negotiations broke down.
Nixon was livid when he heard that Cox was demanding that the White House release all the recordings. It was bad enough that the Ivy-League professor was being so aggressive with him, but now Cox seemed to be taking the investigation to a new level that could be extremely damaging. Nixon, who believed that his office gave him the power to do almost anything, ordered that Attorney General Eliot Richardson fire Cox. The problem was that Richardson refused. “Let it be on your head,” the president angrily told the attorney general when they met. Soon after, Nixon turned to the next person in command, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who also refused to carry out the order. “I am, of course, sorry that my conscience will not permit me to carry out your instruction to discharge Archibald Cox,” he wrote in his resignation letter. It wasn’t until Solicitor General Robert Bork said yes that Nixon found someone to do what he wanted. “I am, as instructed by the President, discharging you, effective at once, from your position as Special Prosecutor, Watergate Special Prosecution Force,” Bork wrote in a letter. Cox’s staff of 38 lawyers and 50 staff was immediately dismantled.
The response was sheer outrage all over the country. “It was a terrifying night. It felt like we were in a banana republic,” the journalist Elizabeth Drew later recounted in an interview. The fact that the president took it upon himself to try to kill the investigation by getting rid of the investigator was evidence that Nixon was out of control. NBC Newscaster John Chancellor told his viewers: “The country tonight is in the midst of what may be the most serious constitutional crisis in its history.”
Here’s some other news. From WAPO, we learned the Guggenheim trolled the White House with total finesse. “The White House asked to borrow a van Gogh. The Guggenheim offered a gold toilet instead.” The artist “Cattelan has also suggested that he had in mind the wealth that permeates aspects of society, describing the golden toilet “as 1 percent art for the 99 percent.”
The emailed response from the Guggenheim’s chief curator to the White House was polite but firm: The museum could not accommodate a request to borrow a painting by Vincent van Gogh for President and Melania Trump’s private living quarters.
Instead, wrote the curator, Nancy Spector, another piece was available, one that was nothing like “Landscape With Snow,” the 1888 van Gogh rendering of a man in a black hat walking along a path in Arles, France, with his dog.
The curator’s alternative: an 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet — an interactive work titled “America” that critics have described as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country.
For a year, the Guggenheim had exhibited “America” — the creation of contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan — in a public restroom on the museum’s fifth floor for visitors to use.
But the exhibit was over and the toilet was available “should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House,” Spector wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post.
The artist “would like to offer it to the White House for a long-term loan,” wrote Spector, who has been critical of Trump. “It is, of course, extremely valuable and somewhat fragile, but we would provide all the instructions for its installation and care.”
You’ll have to get this Dutch article translated but it has a particularly interesting bit of news exposing Dutch intelligence on the “cozy bear” hackers and the Russian hacking of our 2016 election.
Hackers from the Dutch intelligence service AIVD have provided the FBI with crucial information about Russian interference with the American elections. For years, AIVD had access to the infamous Russian hacker group Cozy Bear. That’s what de Volkskrant and Nieuwsuur have uncovered in their investigation.
It’s a fascinating read worthy of a Le Carre novel. It actually begins around 2014.
The Dutch access to the Russian hackers’ network soon pays off. In November, the Russians prepare for an attack on one of their prime targets: the American State Department. By now, they’ve obtained e-mail addresses and the login credentials of several civil servants. They manage to enter the non-classified part of the computer network.
The AIVD and her military counterpart MIVD inform the NSA-liaison at the American embassy in The Hague. He immediately alerts the different American intelligence services.
What follows is a rare battle between the attackers, who are attempting to further infiltrate the State Department, and its defenders, FBI and NSA teams – with clues and intelligence provided by the Dutch. This battle lasts 24 hours, according to American media.
The Russians are extremely aggressive but do not know they’re being spied on. Thanks to the Dutch spies, the NSA and FBI are able to counter the enemy with enormous speed. The Dutch intel is so crucial that the NSA opens a direct line with Zoetermeer, to get the information to the United States as soon as possible.
Finally, Phillip Bump looks at and talks with Hillary voters. Finally! We get our due!!
And then, there’s this one too:
No, life on these blocks centers around a joint on Carpenter Lane called Weavers Way, the venerable corner food co-op that launched in the twilight of the hippie era in 1972, where today senior citizens and young social workers wander down from rambling old-stone houses with their reusable canvas bags to load up on bulk spices, home-baked muffins, or maybe a treat like pumpkin gingersnap ice cream.
It’s the kind of place where the regulars pause on the front steps to check out ads for dog walkers or fiddle lessons, then trade friendly banter with familiar neighbors in the narrow aisles. And so Brittany Barbato, a 29-year-old writer and photographer for mission-driven publications who lives nearby, was when she strolled into Weavers Way on the morning of Nov. 9, 2016 — just hours after Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States.
“Usually there’s a buzz — you can hear people chatting, the bulk canisters flowing with what people are buying — and the cashiers are all chipper and friendly,” said Barbato, standing outside the food co-op in the January chill. “That’s why we love living here, the community. But I remember coming into the store and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so eerie, so quiet.’ It did feel as if something had died. And I remember thinking, ‘This is how I feel, too.’ ”
More than a year after that funereal morning in Mount Airy, the neighborhood has a bit of a feel of an occupied territory. Behind ancient stone walls, on the narrow, sloping yards, stand the signs of resistance at home after home: “Impeach Trump,” or “Black Lives Matter/Philly Children’s March,” with more than a smattering of “Hillary” yard signs that owners refuse to take down, and one that declares: “In This House, We Believe: Black Lives Matter/Women’s Rights Are Human Rights/No Human Is Illegal/Science Is Real/Love Is Love/No Matter Your Faith Or Ability/Kindness Is Everything.”
Boston Boomer will undoubtedly have a lot to say on Tuesday on why we will not be live blogging the SOTU address. This is something we have done for years but not this one. I, for one, can’t bear to hear or watch him mangle the English language and our American values. However, we might give some consideration to listening to Representative Joseph Kennedy’s response. Let us know how you feel.
Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, one of the Democratic Party’s rising political stars, has been tapped by top party leaders to deliver the official Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address next week.
The choice thrusts the 37-year-old, three-term congressman from Brookline into the national spotlight more squarely than he has ever been before. The job will put him on national television as the face of the Democratic Party and the voice of chief Trump critic at an extraordinary moment in the country’s politics. For many Americans, it will be their first introduction to the latest Kennedy on the political scene.
“Congressman Kennedy is a relentless fighter for working Americans,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a press release announcing the move. “While President Trump has consistently broken his promises to the middle class, Congressman Kennedy profoundly understands the challenges facing hard-working men and women across the country.”
The Republicans and Drumpf continue their assault on the FBI. Slate’s Impeach-O-meter is going off once more but stuck at 45% after the probing of Andrew McCabe’s 2016 voting records. He definitely is stuck on finding all of his men.
Not that I really care about what Bob Woodward thinks but in a recent interview with Poynter he says we’re still not reaching peak Watergate.
Bob Woodward would know better than most of us if Donald Trump was the new Richard Nixon.
But he’s not, said the reporting icon responsible for breaking the Watergate scandal during a talk at the Mahaffey Theater on Wednesday night. At least, it’s too early to tell.
“We talk about maybe what Russia did or the extent to which they did — it’s not clear — meddle in our election,” he said to a predominantly older audience of several hundred people. “But in 1972 we had the real thing: the inside destruction of our electoral system, funded, organized, championed, led by Richard Nixon.”
Woodward insists we still don’t know where it’s going. I think we’re inching closer to definite ‘Obstruction of justice’ charges. We’ll be in a better place after a Blue Wave to take this menace out of office and his little dog Pence too.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Sometimes you come across an article that hits home…it reaches out to you, states something obvious or maybe significant in a literal way, that you connect with…you find yourself completely immersed in the writing. Hey, it could be a passage written with such clarity and precision, the idea put forth hits you dramatically and changes your way of thinking. A paradigm shift.
Well, this first link I have for you did not do any of that for me…it probably won’t do any of that for you…it pretty much reiterates the same shit we have been talking about for years on this blog. Dakinikat and Boston Boomer have gone to great lengths to bring up most of the same…if not the exact, points. But I found it interesting to see this op/ed by Michael Goldfarb in The Guardian, highlight many topics of disgust that has been fodder for those who read Sky Dancing. I encourage you to read the whole piece: Is the American republic built to withstand a malevolent president? | Michael Goldfarb | Opinion | The Guardian
The principle of common good underpins the constitution. Donald Trump is gleefully shredding that ideal
he Trump administration, having passed the six-month milestone in office, kicked off the next phase of his presidency with an explosion of crazy, spread over the past seven days. Like sweeps week on The Apprentice, every day saw some headline-grabbing event to garner ratings. It started with leaks against his former bosom buddy, attorney general, Jeff Sessions. President Trump, “sources” said, was planning to fire him. It moved on to a speech to the Boy Scouts of America jamboree, where Trump told the story of a property developer who lost a fortune and was lurking at a New York party with the “hottest people”. Later, there was a tweet announcement banning transgender people from the military.
This explosion of crazy concluded with his new White House chief of communications, Anthony Scaramucci, calling the New Yorker’s political correspondent Ryan Lizza to trash virtually everyone in the White House. He compared himself positively to the president’s dark lord and special adviser, Stephen Bannon: “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock. I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the president.”
Doesn’t Scaramucci, or “the Mooch”, as he was known on Wall Street, have a mother? Won’t she be ashamed to see him talking like that in public? The week ended with a big name fired: White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
And up on Capitol Hill things weren’t a lot less calm. There was the closed-door interrogation of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, on Russian connections to the Trump campaign. Then came the Republican Senate majority’s inability to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, featuring John McCain voting yes, to debate the bill, then no, to kill it stone dead – until The Apprenticegoes into reruns.
All of these events, and a dozen more I don’t have space to mention, create a picture of utter chaos across the American government. Trump has ridden roughshod over not just the customs and norms of presidential behaviour but also basic standards of human decency.
In doing so, he has forced journalists and the institutions they write for to change their basic standards of acceptable language. We use the words crazy and stupid now in our reports because some of the behaviour and actions of Trump and his team are crazy and stupid. We debate whether to refer to the Trump administration or the Trump regime, with all the pejorative connotations that word carries. The New York Times is still the Grey Lady, but it has to print “sucking his own cock”, because that’s what the president’s top communications official said.
People on the outside wonder where the famous checks and balances are that have made American democracy function for more than 230 years? They are still there and, up to a point, still working. For example, presidential power was checked when Trump’s ban on travellers from seven Muslim nations was halted by the courts. The ban is now mired in a legal process.
However, what the madness, abnormality or whatever you want to call it emanating from the White House does draw attention to is the real problem in American politics – the Republicans are no longer a political party but a political faction, a much more dangerous thing.
Goldfarb continues his discussion with Madison and the dangers of factions….where James Madison,
…defined faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community”.
As y’all know, this shit has been coming on for some time within the Republican Party.
…the US has, over the past quarter of a century, become ungovernable at the national level. Sadly, Madison, having identified the threat in the 18th century “that either a minority or a majority” might become a faction, was unable to think of a solution to the problem that might work in the 21st. The minority in the country – the Republican faction – is now the majority in both houses of Congress and in the state governments. It holds the White House, although neither of the last two Republican presidents gained office while winning a majority of the popular vote.
Trump’s overall approval ratings may be historically low but his support in the Republican faction remains remarkably high. And for a reason – Trump has delivered for them. He appointed Neil Gorsuch, a hard-right judge, to the seat on the supreme court the Republican faction wouldn’t allow President Obama to fill. Immigration from Mexico has slowed dramatically. And in a wave of executive orders, he overturned many Obama-era environmental rules and reinstated the Dakota pipeline project. What’s more, Trump daily drives liberals absolutely crazy with his politically incorrect tweets. The base of the Republican faction, roughly 36% of the population, will stay loyal to him.
Ultimately, the supreme constitutional checks on presidential behaviour remain article 1, section 3: impeachment, or the 25th Amendment (which deals with succession). If the Republicans were a political party as they were at the time of Watergate, that would have to be a consideration for Trump and his team. It might moderate the administration’s behaviour if there were a genuine threat of being constitutionally removed from office. But there isn’t. The Republicans are a faction and the president is one of them.
So Trump carries on in office, unchecked and unbalanced. A majority of Americans, and most of the planet, watch and say, this can’t go on. But it can. For a while, at least.
Like I said, please go read the whole article at the link, it goes more into Madison and Jefferson and a few other things.
And while you think about all that, keep this in mind: Suffolk County Cops’ Ex-Chief In Prison For Police Brutality | Crooks and Liars
Yeah, that bunch of cops who cheered and hollered in agreement when tRump advocated police brutality and violence…their ex-chief is in prison for committing those same kinds of crimes.
For a quick review on yesterday’s tRump twit’s Twitter activities: ‘Is this your airing of grievances?‘: The internet mocks Trump’s out-of-the-blue ‘Festivus’ gripes
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution on Saturday said the Democratic race for governor in Georgia could be like a battle between pop stars Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.
The publication explained that Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams — who is black — could be facing off with state Rep. Stacey Evans — who is white.
“If certain parties have their way, next year’s Democratic race for governor in Georgia could have the feel of a feud between Beyoncé and Taylor Swift,” Atlanta-Journal Constitution wrote.
But the analogy is drawing some rebuke on social media.
“Delete this and try again,” one reader wrote on Twitter.
“Whose idea was this? Maybe let’s not simplify complex women candidates into pop stars? Don’t remember y’all reducing Perdue to a pop star,” said another.
“There is so much wrong with this tweet: it’s condescending/sexist, it reduces serious issues to entertainment, & it fails to inform. Stop,” a third person added.
“A race for governor that could feel like Beyoncé vs. Taylor Swift? What kind of professional journalist floated this trash out there? SMH,” remarked a fourth.
The comparison to Beyoncé, at least, does have some significance. As the Atlanta-Journal Constitution explains, the recently-formed political group “Get in Formation” is hoping to rally black women behind Abrams. The group takes it name from Beyoncé’s hit “Formation.”
If you want to read the original article that started this latest…I can’t even think of something sarcastic or witty to call it, controversy…take a look here: A Democratic race for governor that could feel like Beyonce vs. Taylor Swift | Political Insider blog
If certain parties have their way, next year’s Democratic race for governor in Georgia could have the feel of a feud between Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.
Or so I have been informed. I have let my attention to music industry politics slide since Simon & Garfunkel broke up.
What I do know is that state Rep. Stacey Abrams is attempting a profound shift in how Democratic primaries are won in Georgia, which in turn could have broad implications for biracial dynamics within the party.
Abrams, an Atlanta lawmaker and former House minority leader, is one of two major candidates on the Democratic side of the 2018 contest. The other is state Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna. Both are lawyers. Both have admirable, by-the-bootstraps biographies.
Abrams is black. Evans is white.
In politics, you often lead with candidates who look like the voters you need – but don’t have. This is one reason why Republicans give prominent roles to African-Americans within their camp.
Likewise, Evans fits the pattern of recent Democratic attempts to return to power by appealing to white, independent voters – even though a strong majority of the party’s voters and activists are black. It is a general election strategy.
A video that accompanied the launch of Evans’ campaign, entitled “16 Homes,” told of Evans’ mobile-home upbringing in far north Georgia. It set many Democratic mouths to watering.
“She has a powerful message,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said of Evans early this month, via Twitter.
This is the thinking that Abrams wants to subvert, with a nationalized campaign that unites white Democratic progressives with African-American women. The latter are the most reliable demographic within the Democratic party, nationally and in Georgia.
“I’m not going to shy away from the fact that people of color have to be centered in my campaign, because I know I can talk to people of color and white people at the same time, and they’re not going to recoil from one another,” Abrams said Thursday on Hellbent, a feminist podcast.
“We have to stop recruiting the candidates that look like what we wish we had, and we have to recruit candidates that look like where we are,” she said.
Enter Beyoncé. Or at least a slice of her lyrics.
“Get in Formation” is the effort by three national, black-oriented political organizations that debuted earlier this month – with the goal of rallying black women behind Abrams. The Beyoncé reference was no accident. “Formation” was a hit from last year’s “Lemonade” album.
“It honors the power and solidarity of black women. It definitely resonated with black women, but also with all types of women,” explained Sharline Chiang, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Democracy in Color, one of the three groups behind the project.
Read the rest at the link….if you want to.
I thought this next remembrance, brought to you by Josh Marshall at TPM was a nice bit of escapism. Maybe it is because Marshall and I are the same age…and we both loved Leslie Nielsen? Leslie Nielsen and the Meaning of Life – Talking Points Memo
Leslie Nielsen died 6 1/2 years ago at the age of 84, a respectable degree of longevity after a working life as an actor that stretched over 60 years. I started thinking about him today for no particular reason: I was paddling around the Internet, reading one thing and then another and then happened upon Leslie Nielsen. For what it’s worth, my browsing history shows a series of searches and pages tied to the firing of Reince Priebus followed by stuff about Leslie Nielsen. How I got from one to the other I do not know.
Today I poked a bit deeper into something I’ve thought about here and there many times. Nielsen began his career in 1950 during the so-called ‘Television Golden Age’. According to his Wikipedia page he appeared in 46 live TV episodes in 1950 alone. His first big success was in the 1956 sci-fi flick Forbidden Planet. From 1950 to 1980 he worked more or less in this vein as a successful TV and movie actor. But if his career had ended in 1980 he would be indistinguishable from and largely immemorable as one of hundreds or thousands of mid-grade actors and actresses who populated film and television over many years but who few of us today would remember or have any need to remember.
But in 1980 Nielsen appeared as Dr. Rumack, his first ever comedic role, in Airplane!, a wildly successful spoof of the then popular transportation disaster movie genre. (Nielsen had also appeared in one of the classics of the genre, 1972’s Poseidon Adventure.) The Dr. Rumack character was an early iteration of the deadpan/ridiculous Det. Frank Drebin character Nielsen went on to play in the Police Squad!/Naked Gun franchise, the character he is now known for.
If you’re my age or older you’re old enough to have some memory of the pre-Airplane! Nielsen, which I think is at least marginally necessary to fully get the magic of the characters he played for the next 30 years of his life. It wasn’t just that Nielsen wasn’t a comedy actor. Nielsen specialized in a genre of mid-20th century American male screen roles from which all traces of comedy or irony were systematically removed through some chemical process in pre-production or earlier. He was the straightest of straight men. That’s what made his comedic roles – playing against that type or rather playing the same type in a world suddenly revealed as absurd – just magic.
Oh please, go and read that one in full. It is a nice tribute to Leslie Nielsen. It also makes a nice contrast to my last link for you today. When you think of movies, and the kind of “entertainment” that is put into production today from political movies to adult movies, although people consume the most of their adult entertainment online, visiting adult websites and services from sites like zoomescorts.co.uk…still in the movies it isn’t really too far off from the Idiocracy film within a film, “Ass” :
Narrator: The #1 movie in America was called “Ass.” And that’s all it was for 90 minutes. It won eight Oscars that year, including best screenplay.
Hollywood is aggressively adapting material that doesn’t have a narrative or even any characters. But not all intellectual property is created equal.
In 2013, a movie producer named Tripp Vinson was thumbing through Variety when he stumbled upon a confounding item: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, a pair of writers and directors, were working on something called ‘‘The Lego Movie.’’ Vinson was baffled. ‘‘I had no idea where they were going to go with Legos,’’ he says. ‘‘There’s no character; no narrative; no theme. Nothing.’’
A sharply handsome man in his mid-40s, Vinson has worked in Hollywood for 14 years, racking up 19 producing credits. He’s a journeyman producer who specializes in popcorn flicks; over all, his films have an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 30 (out of 100). Vinson may not win Oscars, but he knows how to get his projects into theaters. He has survived and advanced in Hollywood by quickly adapting to trends — what’s selling and what’s falling out of fashion. His filmography reads like a map of Hollywood’s shifting sands.
Vinson has produced a movie starring Pierce Brosnan as an aging master thief (‘‘After the Sunset,’’ 2004); a movie about Coast Guard swimmers with Kevin Costner (‘‘The Guardian,’’ 2006); and a psychological thriller with Jim Carrey (‘‘The Number 23,’’ 2007). He has made two movies about exorcisms, one with Laura Linney (‘‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose,’’ 2005), the other with Anthony Hopkins (‘‘The Rite,’’ 2011); a thriller about a psychic who helps the F.B.I. hunt down a serial killer, also with Hopkins (‘‘Solace,’’ 2015); and a romantic comedy with Anna Faris and Chris Evans, the guy who plays Captain America (‘‘What’s Your Number,’’ 2011). He has even made a dance-competition movie (‘‘Battle of the Year,’’ 2013).
Since Vinson got into the business, something has changed in Hollywood. More and more movies are developed from intellectual property: already existing stories or universes or characters that have a built-in fan base. Vinson thinks it started in 2007, when the Writers Guild went on strike. ‘‘Before the strike, the studios were each making 20-something movies a year,’’ he says. ‘‘Back then, you could get a thriller made. After the strike, they cut back dramatically on the number of films they made. It became all about I.P.’’ — intellectual property. With fewer bets to place, the studios became more cautious. ‘‘The way to cut through the noise is hitching yourself onto something customers have some exposure to already,’’ he says. ‘‘Something familiar. You’re not starting from scratch. If you’re going to work in the studio system, you better have a really big I.P. behind you.’’
Vinson didn’t see how Legos could be the basis of a feature-length film. He watched in disbelief as the movie raked in $69 million its opening weekend, grossed almost $470 million worldwide and was almost universally lauded by critics. ‘‘It was magical and fresh and really profitable,’’ he recalls. The movie was clever, telling the story of a Lego construction worker caught in a battle between good and evil, which is eventually revealed to be all in the imagination of a boy playing with his controlling father’s Lego set.
Vinson started looking for undervalued I.P. to guide his next movie. He wanted something an audience would already be familiar with, something that was culturally ubiquitous but could be made new again. He started his search in the public domain. He had succeeded with his Jules Verne and Brothers Grimm adaptations, and besides, old material like that had the advantage of being free. Nothing caught his eye.
Next he started looking around for a big-name console video game to acquire. Perhaps something in the mold of ‘‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’’ or the ‘‘Resident Evil’’ series, which has made well over a billion dollars at the box office. ‘‘The video-game companies can be really hard,’’ Vinson says. ‘‘Ubisoft and Activision have their own in-house film-development arms so people decide to spend their money on games and hardware as the vs248h monitor for gaming. A lot of the others are hard to get rights from. They feel like Hollywood can’t figure out how to make a good video-game title. Why give it to them to have them screw it up? That can hurt game sales.’’ Not only were the companies difficult to bargain with, only a few titles even made sense for an adaptation. Vinson’s analysis revealed that megaproperties like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto sold tens of millions of units per installment, but after those top titles, sales dropped to levels that would make an adaptation risky.
So Vinson started looking at mobile games. A cursory investigation revealed that the very best selling mobile games didn’t move tens of millions or even a hundred million units — they could reach into the billions. He happened upon Fruit Ninja, a wildly popular series of games that, since its debut in 2010, has been downloaded well over a billion times. A million people play Fruit Ninja per day. He contacted Halfbrick, the company that developed the game.
As usual…it is all about the money…and sales.
Vinson found the mobile-game developers at Halfbrick to be more approachable than their console counterparts. They’re usually smaller, younger companies. They see Hollywood as a good opportunity to sell more games. And, most important, they aren’t protective of already existing characters and plotlines — generally because they don’t have any to speak of.
Vinson worked out a ‘‘shopping agreement’’ with Halfbrick, a contract that gave him exclusive film rights to Fruit Ninja for a limited period so that he could recruit writers and then take a proposal to the studios. If the project sold, Halfbrick would then negotiate a deal to sell the film rights to the studio, a deal that, based on the ubiquity of the game, could run up into the high six figures. Vinson then realized that he was faced with a formidable predicament. There are no protagonists or antagonists in Fruit Ninja. There’s no mythology. No moral. The game play involves staring at a wall as pineapples, watermelons, kiwis, apples and oranges fly up into view. The only thing you do is swipe at the fruit with your finger, cutting them in half. Sometimes there are bombs, and you’re not supposed to swipe at those. ‘‘There’s a fun game to play, but that’s it,’’ Vinson says. ‘‘The challenge was: What the [expletive] am I going to do with Fruit Ninja?’’
Have some fruit on the screen farting? Hey, it will win an Oscar for best screenplay!
This trend toward I.P.-based movies has been profound. In 1996, of the top 20 grossing films, nine were live-action movies based on wholly original screenplays. In 2016, just one of the top 20 grossing movies, ‘‘La La Land,’’ fit that bill. Just about everything else was part of the Marvel universe or the DC Comics universe or the ‘‘Harry Potter’’ universe or the ‘‘Star Wars’’ universe or the ‘‘Star Trek’’ universe or the fifth Jason Bourne film or the third ‘‘Kung Fu Panda’’ or a super-high-tech remake of ‘‘Jungle Book.’’ Just outside the top 20, there was a remake of ‘‘Ghostbusters’’ and yet another version of ‘‘Tarzan.’’
This year there is more of the same — the third installment of ‘‘XXX,’’ the Smurfs, ‘‘Pirates of the Caribbean’’ (a franchise based on a theme-park ride), a King Kong movie, Thor, the sequel to ‘‘Blade Runner,’’ a remake of ‘‘Beauty and the Beast,’’ ‘‘CHIPS,’’ ‘‘Power Rangers,’’ another ‘‘Star Wars’’ movie, a ‘‘Guardians of the Galaxy’’ sequel, two Stephen King adaptations (‘‘The Dark Tower’’ and ‘‘It’’), ‘‘Wonder Woman,’’ ‘‘The Mummy,’’ ‘‘The War for the Planet of the Apes,’’ a retelling of Agatha Christie’s ‘‘Murder on the Orient Express.’’ Every stripe of intellectual property is represented: from comic books to best sellers; from the public domain to unnervingly recent source material like ‘‘Baywatch.’’
This environment has fostered, in some producers, a sense of desperation. When I asked Vinson if the changes his business has undergone over the past decade have inspired him to panic, he told me: ‘‘Absolutely. It’s forced me to look at everything as though it could be I.P.’’ Increasingly, that means nonnarrative I.P.: stuff with big followings but no stories, or even characters, already cooked in.
‘‘The Angry Birds Movie,’’ which was based on a mobile game, was released in 2016 and took in over $349 million worldwide. The game itself consisted of flinging birds at pigs, but it at least provided its writer, Jon Vitti, with protagonists (the birds) and antagonists (the pigs). There was also Adam Sandler’s 2015 movie ‘‘Pixels,’’ a disaster story that united characters from classic 1980s arcade games. Allspark, a subsidiary of Hasbro, has scored two big successes with a pair of movies based on the Ouija board. The first installment, ‘‘Ouija,’’ cost an estimated $5 million to make but managed to earn more than $103 million in the worldwide box office; the sequel, ‘‘Ouija: Origin of Evil,’’ made $81 million on a reported $9 million budget.
Fucking Hell! You know what? I will stick with TCM and other classic movies via DVD.
This summer’s most prominent example of nonnarrative I.P. is ‘‘The Emoji Movie,’’ a film that dramatizes the imaginary lives of emojis. The film’s director and co-writer, Tony Leondis, told me that ‘‘The Emoji Movie’’ actually began with a quest for some other form of I.P. About two years ago, he was thinking about what his next project should be, and he asked himself: ‘‘What are the newest and hottest toys out there in the marketplace?’’ He looked down at his phone and realized they were right there in front of him: emojis. Everyone uses them.
Unlike board games, emojis don’t have rules to play with. Or mythology. They don’t even exist in the real world. So Leondis created a universe for them: The emojis live inside your phone and are on call 24/7, waiting to be sent to your screen when needed. Each has to make the same expression every time they’re summoned. He created a character, Gene, a ‘‘Meh’’ emoji who is born multiexpressional, violating the rules of the emoji universe. ‘‘The idea that each emoji has one expression only was the key to figuring out the whole story,’’ Leondis told me. ‘‘Then we asked ourselves about the world: What do the apps look like to emojis? What happens when you delete an app? And what would happen if emojis were wreaking havoc inside other apps than their own?’’ Leondis told me that production moved along at a breakneck pace — it was two years from pitch to release. A lot of studios, he told me, think ‘‘The Emoji Movie’’ has the potential to be the beginning of a multifilm franchise.
And if you think I am kidding about the Ass movie and this Fruit Ninja thing, take a look at who is writing the script for Vinson:
The pair came up with a reality competition show called ‘‘Green Card.’’ The concept was simple: An ultra-nerdy American guy is set up with beautiful contestants flown in from all over the globe, who compete for his affection. The winner receives a green card. (The State Department wouldn’t allow it.) There were other near misses for the duo in the reality field — a competition called ‘‘Jocks vs. Nerds’’ that a producer told them MTV liked so much it had considered putting the show on TV five days a week. (The show never aired.) They developed a hybrid scripted-reality series called ‘‘Anchorwoman’’ (tag line: ‘‘Would you trust a bikini model to deliver the news?’’) that Fox canceled after its first night.
When they were approached by Vinson, the first thing they did was download Fruit Ninja. Lavin called Damiani after playing for a while. They agreed: There was nothing there. Just fruit. Their work on projects like ‘‘Flat Stanley,’’ though, had shown them that having less to work with provided a greater degree of creative freedom. Lavin and Damiani spent hours discussing the essence of Fruit Ninja. ‘‘For me, it is the messiness, the immediate release of destroying fruit,’’ Damiani told me. For Lavin, the soul of the game is the feeling of ‘‘frenzy.’’ ‘‘There’s like a 60-second version of it where you can see how fast you can kill fruit,’’ he says, which ‘‘puts your brain in this weird, bizarre focused place.’’ As he sees it: ‘‘This would be the movie to go see stoned. I can imagine going in and seeing it in 3-D — just imagine a 20-foot-high pineapple monster. That shot of yellow and orange. I’d go see this movie a dozen times.’’
Okay, if you think this is some kind of joke…this is a fucking article published in The New York Times.
While they were developing the movie, Damiani and Lavin were also attending career days at elementary schools in the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood. Sometimes they went to four classes a day. These gave them the opportunity to do some informal market research. Every time they brought up the script they were working on, they found the same reaction. The kids would ‘‘put their hand in the air, raise a finger and start swiping like crazy.’’ Lavin told me, ‘‘Whatever movie we wrote, it had to be an extension of that energy, that desire to tear up everything in your path and take charge.’’
Early on, Lavin and Damiani struggled to find a narrative entry point. They started with the premise that there was a magic book and an evil fruit overlord. Vinson rejected that idea. Their next concept involved scientific experiments on fruit gone wrong. Vinson didn’t like that either. Eventually, a working narrative emerged: Every couple of hundred years, a comet flies by Earth, leaving in its wake a parasite that descends on a farm and infects the fruit. The infected fruit then search for a human host. The only thing keeping humanity from certain doom is a secret society of ninjas who kill the fruit and rescue the hosts by administering the ‘‘anti-fruit.’’ The produce-slaying saviors are recruited from the population based on their skill with the Fruit Ninja game. With civilization in imminent danger, a cadre of unlikely heroes materializes — a little boy, a college-age girl, two average guys. The action starts after each of the story’s heroes returns home after a horrible day and plays Fruit Ninja to relieve some stress. Damiani told me this aligns with the Fruit Ninja brand: ‘‘Anybody can play. Anybody can be a master.’’
Ah…a movie for anybody…from a game for anybody, that comes from Hollywood…a place in a city where dreams are made of…La La Land…which is part of a bigger nation run by a lunatic. Fuck us all to hell! Why can’t some Fruit Ninjas just go and take care of that monster orange bastard hanging out in the White House? They can do away with the rest of his sad sacks of melon balls and apple twats. Now that…that is a movie I would gladly pay to see.
This is an open thread.ga
It’s a very hot Friday here in New Orleans. I’d like to be doing anything but watching the most incompetent person in the world make kissy ass with a KGB trained despot but here it goes. How much damage to the standing, democracy, and reputation of the United States will happen because a bunch of bigoted, superstitious, white throwbacks joined a Russian conspiracy to wreck our country? Will the poster child for dementia and narcissism give away state secrets and sell out the joint goals of our NATO allies?
Has he offered us for membership in a Warsaw Pact yet?
Foreign ministries around the world are filled with anticipation over what will happen when Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump meet for the first time at the G20 summit. But veteran U.S. spies who’ve studied manipulation tactics, particularly from their Russian counterparts, are confident they know what’s going to unfold.
Putin, a former KGB operations officer, will not just be practicing interpersonal diplomacy, they say. He’ll be putting his tradecraft as a spy to work. His main asset: Trump’s massive, delicate ego.
It won’t just be the expected flattery, from the spies’ perspective, though flattery is key to dealing with the “sociopathic narcissist” tendencies one ex-CIA interrogator sees in Trump. Putin is likely to stoke Trump’s ire, encourage him against his perceived enemies and validate his inclinations – particularly the ones that move U.S. policy in the directions Putin wants.
Nowhere are the stakes higher than in Moscow. The Trump-Putin meeting, say Russian politicians and Putin’s former KGB colleagues, is an overdue opportunity to equalize the Washington-Moscow relationship.
“Putin,” one-time KGB general Oleg Kalugin told The Daily Beast, “he has been in power for so many years and, by character, he knows how to handle things and how to outsmart others, including presidents of the United States.”
While everything about this meeting is momentous, the two sides are not on equal diplomatic footing. Russia’s interference in the 2016 election – something U.S. intelligence characterizes as a certainty, while Trump, again, casts doubt on that conclusion – has created a political maelstrom for Trump. Everything resulting from the meeting will be scrutinized in Washington, particularly amongst Trump’s political opposition, for signs of a quid pro quo. Meanwhile, observers have a hard time understanding what U.S. policy toward Russia, its decades-long adversary, even is anymore.
Putin is filling that vacuum. Ahead of meeting the U.S. president in Hamburg, his foreign ministry has said the agenda will concern everything from Syria to Ukraine to returning two intelligence complexes on U.S. soil – even to gay rights in Chechnya. Meanwhile, Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster has said there won’t be a “specific agenda” for discussion, beyond “whatever the president wants to talk about.” There is confusion on the U.S. side about whether McMaster’s Russia chief, the Putin skeptic Fiona Hill, will attend the meeting.
Putin, former spies say, is well-positioned to dominate the meeting.
Russia has found a huge gap in the American psyche and is moving on in. Just coddle those insecure and visibly lacking white christian men and their house marms. The Russians have stepped up the spying game here.
The officials say they believe one of the biggest US adversaries feels emboldened by the lack of a significant retaliatory response from both the Trump and Obama administrations.
“Russians have maintained an aggressive collection posture in the US, and their success in election meddling has not deterred them,” said a former senior intelligence official familiar with Trump administration efforts.
Russians could also be seeking more information on Trump’s administration, which is new and still unpredictable to Moscow, according to Steve Hall, retired CIA chief of operations.
“Whenever there is a deterioration of relations between countries — the espionage and intelligence collection part becomes that much more important as they try to determine the plans and intentions of the adversarial government,” Hall said.
Since the November election, US intelligence and law enforcement agencies have detected an increase in suspected Russian intelligence officers entering the US under the guise of other business, according to multiple current and former senior US intelligence officials. The Russians are believed to now have nearly 150 suspected intelligence operatives in the US, these sources said. Officials who spoke to CNN say the Russians are replenishing their ranks after the US in December expelled 35 Russian diplomats suspected of spying in retaliation for election-meddling.
“The concerning point with Russia is the volume of people that are coming to the US. They have a lot more intelligence officers in the US” compared to what they have in
other countries, one of the former intelligence officials says.
Russian hackers are the chief suspects in recent efforts to meddle with the computer networks that run various nuclear power plants and other energy facilities.
If Russia is indeed responsible, it suggests that they could attempt to forcibly shut down parts of America’s power grid like they are believed to have done to Ukraine in the past, according to a report by Bloomberg.
The hackers, regardless of nationality, are believed to be responsible for breaching the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation in Kentucky among a number of other facilities since May, according to the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The New York Times confirmed the joint report with security specialists who have had to cope with the hacking attempts.
‘We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States,’ Trump said at opening of highly anticipated meeting.
President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that “it’s an honor to be with you” as the two leaders kicked off their much-anticipated bilateral meeting, one that was scheduled for just 30 minutes but wound up lasting nearly two-and-a-half hours.
Neither Trump nor Putin, who were accompanied by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, respectively, offered specifics of what they would discuss once reporters left the room. Trump did not respond to a shouted question as to whether or not he would raise Russia’s efforts to interfere in last year’s presidential campaign, according to reporters in the room.
“President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it’s going very well. We’ve had some very, very good talks. We are going to have a talk now and obviously that will continue,” Trump said as photographers snapped photos of the two presidents, whose meeting took place at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. “But we look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States and for everybody concerned, and It’s an honor to be with you.”
Putin, through a translator, echoed his U.S. counterpart’s friendly welcome and said he and Trump “will really need personal meetings” in order to resolve certain policy issues.
“We have spoken on the phone with you several times before on very important bilateral and international issues. But phone conversation is never enough,” Putin said. “I’m delighted to be able to meet you personally, Mr. President. And I hope, as you have said, our meeting will yield positive result.”
It’s believed that Trump wants to “team up” with Putin in Syria. This would mean keeping brutal dictator Assad in power.
For once, Rex Tillerson is not freelancing.
Late Wednesday, ahead of the first-ever meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the secretary of state suggested that the U.S. is willing to explore “joint mechanisms” with Russia to stabilize the vicious Syrian civil war.
After a dizzying series of policy shifts on Syria, administration and congressional sources tell The Daily Beast that Team Trump is introducing the beginnings of a new strategy for Syria—one that, in the short term at least:
• leaves dictator Bashar al-Assad in power;
• acquiesces to the idea of “safe zones” proposed by Russia and its allies;
• leans on cooperation from Moscow, including the use of Russian troops to patrol parts of the country.
A knowledgeable senior administration official discussed the emerging strategy with The Daily Beast on the condition that what the official said could only be paraphrased, not quoted, as the official was not cleared to discuss the issue publicly. The account was backed up by two White House sources and a congressional source.
This is obviously an unfolding story. So, I’d consider this a live blog thread. Share what you read and hear please!
Coverage from The Guardian: ‘G20: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin conclude lengthy meeting’.
“Putin went straight from meeting Trump to talks with Japanese leader Shinzo Abe. He apologised for his lateness due to the talks with Trump overrunning, and in opening remarks reported by Interfax, Putin said he and Trump had discussed “Ukraine, Syria, and other bilateral problems. We returned to the problems of fighting terrorism and cybersecurity”.
A lot more links are coming as reporters file their stories.
LBJ made them a big deal, when signing legislation…he would sign his name…each letter with a different pen, and then give this special pens out to those individuals “worthy” of receiving this particular enhanced acknowledgement. If you were lucky enough to get a pen from Johnson… you were a big deal in Washington. Those pens were like a gift from the king.
It was just another form of manipulation that LBJ used to get what he wanted through congress.
The pen give away has been used since then. We always see Presidents signing bills with a series of pens next to the documents. It is what it is.
Now we come to the pretender in chief.
This ridiculousness has happened:
This is not a bill. This is a fucking memo.
It is like a Postit note to Congress.
Now for the cartoons. *
*Sidenote here. I’ve written this post on Tuesday morning because my mother is meeting with the oncology surgeon on Wednesday…and I knew I would never be able to write the post the same day it was to be published. I’m sure tRump has done something totally embarrassing, so please be sure to update us all in the comments section below.
I think the hands are drawn too big in this one:
I’m going to end this post with this report from Pro-Publica.
This is an open thread.