The Atlantic Looks Forward to America’s Next Authoritarian

This post is a discussion on and response to Tufekci’s “America’s Next Authoritarian Will Be Much More Competent”.

I said four almost exactly four years ago that it wasn’t Trump people needed to worry about but what came after.  On this Tufekci and I agree – but not much more.  I shall begin with a distinction the author does make, consider the Trump presidency using a couple of distinctions she does not make, and go from there.

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The Last Word Part 6 – Legacy

Continue reading The Last Word Part 6 – Legacy

The Last Word Part 5 – The Cave

Continue reading The Last Word Part 5 – The Cave

The Last Word Part 4 – Philosophy of the Force

Continue reading The Last Word Part 4 – Philosophy of the Force

The Last Word Part 3 – The Last Jedi

Continue reading The Last Word Part 3 – The Last Jedi

The Last Word Part 2 – Mutiny on the Raddis

Continue reading The Last Word Part 2 – Mutiny on the Raddis

The Last Word Part 1- The Problem With Rose

Continue reading The Last Word Part 1- The Problem With Rose

Index – The Last Word on The Last Jedi

I am so late to this party that the hot new thing is complaining about a completely different Star Wars film: “Solo”.  However, being late has never stopped me from having an opinion before, and the The Last Jedi is worth examining, both on its own merits and for the internet firestorm that it triggered.

Reviews of The Last Jedi were not mixed, for ‘mixed’ implies some level of equivocation. They were divergent. Opinions fell into two camps, and then those two camps seem to have been rapidly absorbed into the fog that is the larger culture war, in the process erasing any certainty as to why the film might or might not be relevant to the larger war. Going into the movie I had two questions.

First: is The Last Jedi a good film? This is a question to asked in terms of writing, character, cinematography, effects. You may consider this the question of whether the film succeeds on its own merits. One would imagine that the legacy of Lucasfilm, the might of Disney, and the general risk-aversive attitude of blockbuster directing would preclude anything below competence, but Rogue One had terrible writing, worse plotting, and nonexistent characterization. People moved from scene to scene, arguing, fighting, killing, & dying with out believable – or even consistent – motivations or rationales. Thus, it was an a priori live option that The Last Jedi might turn out to be a terrible film.

Second: is The Last Jedi a good Star Wars film? This is a matter of theme, tone, mood, philosophy, and consistency. As Star Wars is THE space opera of the Western canon, consistency of details is actually not the most important factor so long as the philosophy and mood hold together, and since I’m hardly a die-hard fan I am not in a position to judge detail consistency anyway.

I initially expected that the divergence of reviews meant that Last Jedi would be a good film, but a bad Star Wars film, and such was even suggested to me. However, having seen it I find it deeply flawed on both counts. Though I am probably close to the last person to watch it, I will warn: this series of posts will have spoilers.

I. As A Story

  1. The Problem With Rose
  2. Mutiny on the Raddis
  3. The Last Jedi

II. As Star Wars

  1. The Force & The Jedi
  2. The Cave
  3. Legacy

III. What The Film Got Right [Coming Soon]

| begin -> The Problem With Rose

Down The Rabbit Hole: Congressional IT Scandal

Great swathes of the internet are aflame with news about Imran Awan, his family, and their various entanglements with the halls of power and law enforcement.  The interest is most noticeable among the right-wing alternative media, but there are representatives of both the so-called “mainstream media” and internet conspiracists circling the fringes of this story.  I ask, and attempt to answer, three questions: 1) What is it about this story that is so motivating alternative right-wing media?  2) What even is the story?  3) Behind all the partisan reporting and conspiratorial thinking, is there anything to this story?

1. The Partisanship

First, all Congressional members connected to this story appear to be Democrats.  That makes the partisan nature of the reporting and investigation crystal clear.  Second, one of the Congressional members is Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose compound yet strangely un-hyphenated name may sound familiar.  For the purposes of this story, she is a Florida Representative who kept Imran Awan hired right up until the day Awan was arrested while trying to leave the country.  Yet her fame comes from one of the most sordid stories of an election that had no shortage of sordid stories.  Wasserman Schultz was head of the DNC right up until WikiLeaks broke and it was discovered that she had been working hand-in-glove with the Hillary Clinton campaign to ensure that Clinton, not Sanders, won the Democratic primary.  She was the one who provided the Clinton campaign with advance notice of Democratic debate questions.  After resigning from the DNC in the wake of this scandal, she was within days working for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, a move that was so obviously, terribly tone-deaf that a number of talking heads and outside observers couldn’t believe even Hillary Clinton could be that stupid.  It became a bipartisan theory that the best explanation was that Wasserman Schultz “knew things” that made it dangerous for Clinton’s campaign to leave her adrift and uncompensated.  Depending on the observer’s political stance and level of conspiratorial thinking, these hypothetical “things” ranged from more damaging details of the efforts to derail Sanders’ campaign to deep dark Clinton family crimes.  Republicans, of course, gleefully tore Wasserman Schultz to pieces at the time, tarring Clinton as much as possible with the accusations of subverting democracy.  It didn’t take much effort to do that tarring.  Democrats have not been gleeful but there antipathy for Wasserman Schultz is, if anything, even stronger.  It’s easy to find videos of Wasserman Shultz getting booed by crowds of Democrats.
So, Wasserman Schultz is a bipartisan paria who nevertheless remains an influential Democrat, perhaps more powerful in the DNC machinery than the Congressional sausage-maker, but powerful one way or the other.  And now we have this scandal, where there’s similar circumstantial evidence that some people (Imran Awan and family) “knew things” about Wasserman-Schultz that ensured she kept him hired even past the point of political liability.  There’s something more than a little karmic about the turnabout.
To the point of the partisanship question, however, a large number of Republicans are hoping that computer evidence will show what Awan was blackmailing Wasserman Schultz with, and desperately hoping that this is the same information or at least related to what Wasserman Schultz had over Hillary Clinton.
In short, they hope that Imran Awan is the Watergate thread that will finally put Hillary Clinton in prison.  Thus, many of the reporters are emotionally motivated whether they are honest (by word or tone) about it or not.

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The Only Surprising Thing…

…is the tone of surprise.

“Sanctuary Bills in Maryland Faced a Surprise Foe: Legal Immigrants” the New York Times declared.

Continue reading The Only Surprising Thing…