Movies Can Be As Frustrating As Politics

Somehow, in the midst of Open Left, the subject of movies came up.  David Sirota was asking whether the recent spate of remakes and sequels to 1980s-era film and TV series was due to some kind of political nostalgia or influence.  I thought no, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to vent my opposition to worthless remakes and sequels, as you’ll see below.



The following is cross-posted from Open Left here, dated December 21 2010.

I would caution against reading too much politics in our pop culture (0.00 / 0)

Without having seen either Tron or Tron: Legacy and thus unaware of any political messages in either film (and please don’t share them with me until after I’ve seen them, in a few weeks’ time), I think the revival of 1980s-era film and TV series is due to a far less pernicious reason: enough time has elapsed to allow remakes and sequels that are “fresh”.

You see, contemporary Hollywood seems to be utterly incapable of creating – or perhaps, utterly unwilling to finance – new and original ideas for movies, instead preferring to revive franchises that were long thought dead and resting in peace, solely because of the perception of those franchises being a sure-fire box office winner.  This is done mostly through remakes (which are almost never worthwhile or equal to, to say nothing of better than, the originals) but also through long-spaced sequels.  For example, see 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, released 19 years after 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and 2008’s Rambo, released 20 years after 1988’s Rambo III (though Rambo was actually better than some of the other Rambo films, IMO).  And now, we have Tron: Legacy, released a stunning 28 years after 1982’s Tron.  Is this a record for the longest gap in time between sequels?

Unfortunately, remakes and sequels tend to work commercially, because 1. Fans of the series go see it 2. There’s a sort of brand recognition in place and 3. Anecdotally, some people my age (early 20s) refuse to watch any movie older than, say, 1990, because they apparently have a weak stomach for inferior visual effects.  So they settle on watching subpar remakes and sequels instead, as long as they’re made with more recent technology and feature more familiar contemporary actors.

We’re seeing 1980s remakes now because filmmakers seem to have decided that a gap of at least 20-25 years or so is required to distance the remake from the original.  Strike too soon and moviegoers will reject it as the original is still fresh in their memories.  By waiting long enough, you not only avoid that problem, but you can also attract younger moviegoers who are probably not even aware that the originals even exist, or if they are, refuse to watch it, as I discussed earlier.

I don’t know what’s the deal with sequels, which are usually not spaced out that far.  The aforementioned examples are probably exceptions rather than the rule.  I don’t know what the case is with Tron: Legacy specifically; I suspect they just thought it was a “cool” idea that could be commercially successful with a gigantic budget and even more gigantic helping of 2010 visual effects, which I’m sure are far more visually impressive than anything they had back in 1982.  But I don’t know why they decided to go with a sequel rather than a remake.

Anyway, long story short, this is a case of bad cinema, not bad politics.  But both vex me to no end.

by: liberalmaverick @ Tue Dec 21, 2010 at 06:29

Blaming Ralph Nader

The Master of the (Electoral) Universe, apparently.  Source: Huffington Post.

A topic that has come up several times lately is how much responsibility Ralph Nader bears for Al Gore losing the Presidential election in 2000.  As I wrote when it came up here:

I acknowledge Nader had some minor role in Al Gore’s loss, but it’s far more trivial than what you’d think listening to Nader-bashers. I made a list of reasons why Gore lost and I put Nader way down near the bottom of the list, behind the voters who actually voted for him (the infamous five Supreme Court Justices were at the top).

I decided that I might as well throw that list up here, as I had already posted it on Open Left.  Enjoy.


The following is cross-posted from Open Left here, dated December 19 2010.

He deserves just a tiny bit of the blame (4.00 / 1)

but he is seriously near the bottom of the list of reasons why Al Gore didn’t become President in 2000.  As I’ve said before, blaming him for Al Gore’s loss is like blaming Osama bin Laden’s parents for 9/11, because if bin Laden’s parents never had him he would not have been alive to plan 9/11.

Nader gets an inordinate amount of blame relative to how much he actually deserves.  Whenever the topic of Al Gore’s loss comes up, people on liberal blogs almost always pounce on Nader, while ignoring George W. Bush (apparently, he wasn’t even in the race), the Supreme Court, Katherine Harris, etc.  They also ignore the 250 000 Floridian Democrats who voted for Bush (because that‘s somehow okay) and other leftist minor party candidates such as Monica Moorehead of the Workers World Party.

Here are the reasons why Al Gore lost in 2000, arranged from the most consequential to the least.

1. Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas

2. Katherine Harris

3. Other members of the George W. Bush team in Florida

4. Voters who voted for George W. Bush in Florida

5. Voters who voted for George W. Bush in other states besides Florida

6. George W. Bush

7. Al Gore

[maybe a few others I can’t remember]

8. Voters who voted for Ralph Nader in Florida

9. Voters who voted for Ralph Nader in several other close states such as New Hampshire

10. Voters who voted for other leftist minor party candidates in Florida

11. Voters who voted for other leftist minor party candidates in several other close states such as New Hampshire (possibly)

12. Ralph Nader

13. Other leftist minor party candidates

14. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, for appointing the five Supreme Court justices listed in #1

15. The Founding Fathers, for creating the United States and its system of Presidential elections in the first place

16. The parents, grandparents, and other ancestors of everyone in this list (back to the first primitive humans), for giving birth to everyone and allowing them to exist

17. God (or other equivalent), for creating the universe to begin with

by: liberalmaverick @ Sun Dec 19, 2010 at 21:07

NOVEMBER 10 2012 UPDATE: Found this in the deep recesses of my hard drive:

The hysterics surrounding Nader’s role in the 2000 election are overblown.  Look, every candidate has to earn every vote they get.  No Democrat owes another Democrat their vote simply as a consequence of them both being Democrats.  If Gore can’t convince a voter to vote for him instead of another candidate, that’s Gore’s fault, not the voter’s fault and not the voter’s preferred candidate’s fault.  And those who blame Nader should know that, because for some strange reason they never go after all the Democrats who voted for Bush instead of Gore.  But Democrats who chose Nader over Gore are somehow fair game.

Why is this?  I have a feeling that for many of the Nader-blaming bullies, there’s a psychological difference between attacking a ConservaDem vs. attacking a lefty.  ConservaDems are always portrayed as big and scary and itching to hop over to the dark side at the slightest provocation.  They have to be dealt with carefully and respectfully and wooed over.  Leftists, on the other hand, are never taken seriously.  Whenever leftists try to make demands or threaten to support someone, they’re laughed off before being berated, like some idiot child, about how stupid/naive/disloyal they are.  You never see ConservaDems receiving such disrespectful treatment.

Blowback on the Individual Mandate

Some protest against Obamacare?  Source: Huffington Post.

Finally!  U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson struck a blow against Obamacare’s individual health insurance mandate by ruling that the government does not have the power to compel individuals to buy private products.  While I can’t say I have the legal expertise to offer my own ruling, my opinion is that it’s immoral for the government do compel individuals to buy products from private parties, and conceptually I was and am against the individual mandate.

For some reason, this challenge to what is essentially corporatist policy is somehow seen as a victory for the right rather than the left, because the mandate was the centerpiece for Obamacare.  Well it was also the centerpiece for Mitt Romneycare, Heritage Foundationcare and Bob Dolecare, but no one’s really keeping score.  In any case, as I wrote on Open Left, you know things are going bad when forcing people to prop up a failed industry is somehow the “liberal” position.

Make no mistake, this is a victory for liberals.  Not only do many liberals oppose the individual mandate (at least, without a public option), but if the mandate does end up getting repealed and Obamacare collapses as a result (as the liberals who defend the mandate argue so strenuously), it will force politicians to finally consider real solutions that were previously deemed “unthinkable”, i.e. Medicare for All.

WH 2012: The professional left better learn to live with disappointment

The following is cross-posted from Open Left here, dated December 11 2010.

WH 2012: The professional left better learn to live with disappointment (liberalmaverick)…

(Also, see this similarly-themed piece from the same author.)


Here’s the key part for me:


White House officials do not take seriously any talk, no matter how preliminary, of a credible primary challenge to the president, and the larger view is that the more Obama is seen as a centrist, the better off he’ll be.

Liberals, they think, can shut up and get on board to help Obama paint the portrait of moderation the White House is hoping to have framed before November 2012.


This resonated with me because I fear that’s what’s going to eventually happen.  We saw that vividly with the health insurance debate earlier this year, when many liberals – including quite a few here on Open Left – vigorously shilled for a corporatist insurance bailout originally written by the Heritage Foundation and passed by Mitt Romney.


Now, that same Mitt Romney may be President Obama’s opponent in 2012.  And like useful little idiots, those same liberals that argued for ORomneycare will now tell us how important it is to reelect Obama so we’re spared from the horrors that will be a Romney presidency.


And I ask, what horrors could Romney – or any other Republican nominee – do, that Obama hasn’t already done or tried to do?


Pass a corporatist mandate?  Obama already did that.


Extend tax cuts for the wealthy?  Obama is trying to do that, and if anyone thinks that Obama’s behavior will magically be any different when those tax cuts expire again in 2012, they better give me the full psychoanalysis.


Gut Social Security?  Obama’s Deficit Commission proposed that, and the payroll tax holiday in his tax cut deal could potentially spell the beginning of the end for Social Security’s finances.


Perpetuate the war in Afghanistan?  Continue Bush-era abuse of detainees?  Kill American citizens?  Don’t worry – President Obama’s got all that covered.


Really, I wonder if these pro-Obama liberals even analyze politics beyond a partisan tribalist lens.  I mean, would they have supported Obamacare if it’d been a President Romney or McCain or Palin pushing for it?  I have a feeling they wouldn’t have because it was a dirty Republican supporting it.  After all, I barely heard a peep from Obama supporters when Obama smoothly assumed Hillary Clinton’s position (for individual mandate) and John McCain’s position (for excise tax on high-end plans) despite having opposed those positions during the election.  What, was it somehow okay now that it’s Obama and not Clinton or McCain behind it?  Really, how are these so-called liberals any different from someone like Joe Lieberman in their mindless reflexive “oh they’re for it so I have to be against it!” decision-making process?


And of course we’ll get lots of spooky horror stories about how crazy the Republicans are, so that’s why we have to support Obama.  Save your breath; what I’ve seen from Obama – the thinly veiled corporatist positions, the mindless support from so-called liberals who ought to know better – is scarier than any of the naked but honest wingnuttery coming out of the Republican Party.

Posted at Sat Dec 11, 2010 at 22:39


The following is cross-posted from Open Left here, dated December 11 2010.

Just to clarify

My point in this Quick Hit is not to say that Obama is exactly the same as a Republican President.  There are good things that Obama has done that a Republican probably would not: a (watered-down) stimulus, a (watered-down) financial regulation law, student loan reform, a decent budget (at least for his first one).  I’m all for giving credit where credit is due.

But on other issues, Obama has enabled a great deal of corporatist policy that probably would’ve drawn a lot more opposition, at least by grassroots Democrats (since Congressional Democrats did cooperate a great deal with George W. Bush), had it been proposed by a Republican President instead of a Democrat.  And in some very startling cases, Obama reversed his positions without so much of a peep of protest from his starry-eyed supporters.  That‘s what I’m arguing against: mindless tribalism-based support or opposition.


If you like Obama’s record and what he plans to do in the future, by all means support him for reelection.  But don’t support his reelection based on a fantasy image of him being something he’s not.  And don’t tell me to support him because a Republican President might enact scary legislation that Obama himself has already enacted far better than a Republican ever could because of the free pass he gets from liberals for being a Democrat, which unfortunately seems to count for everything in our mindless tribalism-based political system.

by: liberalmaverick @ Sun Dec 12, 2010 at 20:46

[ Reply ]

Bill Clinton Visit to White House: Is Obama Borrowing His ‘Triangulation’ Strategy?

The following is cross-posted from Open Left here, dated December 11 2010.

Bill Clinton Visit to White House: Is Obama Borrowing His ‘Triangulation’ Strategy? (liberalmaverick)…

Funny, didn’t this President campaign on NOT being a triangulator, and NOT reliving the 1990s, and NOT being like Bill Clinton, who was his larger, narrative-level opponent in the primaries?


President Obama has been very consistent about defiling his campaign promises (which makes his claim that he’s been faithful to his campaign promises a farce), and this is no exception.


NOT being a triangulator: Now he’s visibly triangulating, and in a typically Obama assholey way, I might add.


NOT reliving the 1990s: Obama is making his Presidency a straight replay of Bill Clinton’s: a first two years of policies ranging from weak sauce to outright Republican (compare Clinton’s NAFTA with Obama’s Romneycare and Korea FTA), followed by electoral disaster in the midterm, followed by calibrated triangulation and symbolic bashing of the left.


NOT being like Bill Clinton: Not only is he being like Bill Clinton, he literally brought out The Man himself to the podium and let him be President again for twenty-plus minutes.  Not only is Obama reliving the 90s (and thus breaking his promise not to), he’s doing it to the point of bringing back the same old master idiot who made that decade hell for liberals.


Maybe for his next press conference Obama should invite George W. Bush back to the podium to make the case for extending the Bush tax cuts that he pushed for.  It’d jive very nicely with his campaign promise to NOT be like Bush.

Posted at Sat Dec 11, 2010 at 01:40

The Obama-GOP Bush Tax Cut Deal

I obviously oppose the deal President Obama made with Senate Republicans, to extend the expiring Bush income tax cuts on all incomes until the end of 2012 and reinstate the estate tax at a 35 percent rate on values above $3.5 million, in “return” for a 13-month unemployment insurance extension, a payroll tax holiday, and various other tax credits.

This deal is bad on both policy and political grounds.

On political grounds, I have previously explained that Democrats had the upper hand in tax cut negotiations, since tax cuts – in particular, George W. Bush’s tax cuts disproportionately benefiting the very wealthy – are the Republicans’ baby.  For the full explanation, see “Am I Completely Missing Something About the Politics of the Bush Tax Cuts?”

Furthermore, Paul Krugman has written both about how making this deal signals to Republicans that Obama will simply surrender again when we have to go through this all over again in two years, and how the premature expiration of the deal’s most stimulative effects will actually endanger Democrats’ electoral fortunes – and Obama’s own reelection – in 2012. (Not that I really care about Obama being reelected at this point.)

Finally, Jon Walker at FDL has explained that most of the concessions that Obama putatively “won” were ones Republicans were probably inclined to hand over even without an agreement to extend tax cuts on the top income levels.

On policy grounds, there are a few good things but also plenty of bad.

Tax cuts for upper income levels: Obviously a bad idea; those upper income tax cuts are not needed and have little stimulative effect in an economy that’s sagging because of lack of demand.

Tax cuts for lower income levels: Fine for an extension during this economic downturn, though I oppose making all the tax cuts for lower income levels permanent (the only ones I for sure support making permanent are the 10 percent bracket, the child tax credit (in fact this should be expanded) and elimination of higher rates for married filers).

By the way, since income taxes apply to dollar amounts of income rather than the people who make that income, rich people will get the full benefit of these tax cuts as well.  Contrary to what some might think, the rich do not get shut out of tax cuts only applying to below $250K – a guy who makes a million dollars a year would still get tax cuts on all of his income up to $250K.

Estate tax cut: I’m glad some estate tax is being reinstated, though I don’t think 35% above $3.5 million is high enough.  By way of reference, I believe the pre-2001 rate the estate tax would revert to without the deal would be substantially higher at 55% above $1 million (I could be wrong on those numbers).  So if anything, this is a conservative ask and we’re going backwards in the area of estate taxes.

Unemployment Insurance Extension and Other Liberal Tax Credits: Obviously good, though I don’t understand why the extension on UI is only for thirteen months whereas the one for tax cuts for the very wealthy is for twenty four.  And again, a lot of this is stuff Republicans would support or at least wouldn’t oppose.

Payroll Tax Holiday: It isn’t getting a lot of coverage, but this might actually turn out to be the worst part of the deal.  I don’t mind a payroll tax holiday if it’s guaranteed to be temporary (given that the payroll tax predominately affects lower-income people) but the problem is that it might not turn out to be temporary, because of the fucked-up nature of tax politics in this country, and then it could end up potentially undermining Social Security’s finances.

Just as much cause for concern is that, apparently, the payroll tax holiday would actually mean those who make less than $20 000 a year would see a tax increase.

The Asshole-in-Chief

The President this week served up not only a disaster of a deal on extending the Bush tax cuts for upper income, but also a fresh serving of condescension pie:

Now, if that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of a preexisting condition. Or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.

That can’t be the measure of how we think about our public service. That can’t be the measure of what it means to be a Democrat.

You know, it’s one thing to be completely incompetent, weak-willed and vacillating.  It’s another thing to, upon having failed so disgracefully, proceed to LECTURE YOUR OWN ALLIES (if we can keep up this charade of still being on the same team) about how bad they are.  Uh, Mr. President, I could’ve handled this tax cut issue far better than you did in my fucking sleep.

Oh, what’s that you say?  “That can’t be the measure of what it means to be a Democrat?”  President Obama, you have completely surrendered any credibility as to what it means to be a Democrat.  After the Blue Dogs and Senator Ben Nelson, you’d be the last Democrat on Earth I’d ask for the meaning of being a Democrat.  Asking Barack Obama what it means to be a Democrat would be like asking Hannibal Lecter about the virtues of vegetarianism.  In a just world you’d be promptly run out of the Democratic Party, with the roaring, mocking laughter of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Ted Kennedy and Paul Wellstone faintly ringing in the distance behind you.

DECEMBER 13 2010 UPDATE: Looks like the White House is playing nice now.  I guess they must’ve realized that leftists get to vote too.

Well I appreciate any civility they can muster up for us dirty leftists, but Obama still doesn’t get my vote.  I’m not a big fan of the whole battered wife routine.