Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

Jonathan Chait got it mostly right on the toxic identity politics of today

Jonathan Chait's epic race fail: How a story about racism and Obama goes horribly wrong

Left-of-center writer Jonathan Chait has committed the sin of telling the truth about our self-appointed political-correctness police, those who use their membership within an historically victimized and oppressed group to victimize and oppress others (men, mostly, and mostly white men, but sometimes white women as well). It indeed in so many quarters is open season on all white males, who are deemed automatically to be oppressors and victimizers because of their immutable characteristics of being male and being white. (As a gay white male, my non-heterosexuality gives me only so much cover for being a member of a class of victims, as homophobes widely consider homosexuality to be mutable. [Of course, it doesn’t fucking matter whether it’s mutable or not; we all should have the freedom to express ourselves sexually as we please, as long as we do so consensually.])

New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait started a shitstorm when he wrote about toxic PC (political correctness) police. Had he been completely wrong, he probably would have been ignored, but since he spoke so much unflattering truth, I’m one of only a handful of Internet commentators who have yet to comment on his comments.

First off, it’s necessary to describe the environment in which all of us Americans operate: to such a large degree stupid white men (emphasis there on “stupid”) still rule, as evidenced by the popularity of “American Sniper.” Not only is the Clint Eastwood film still No. 1, despite Eastwood’s penchant for talking to a vacant chair (actually, for “American Sniper’s” target audience, I’m sure that was in Eastwood’s favor), but the book American Sniper is No. 1 on amazon.com, and in amazon.com’s top-100-selling book titles there are no fewer than four different versions of the same fucking book (as I type this sentence) — plus an apparent knock-off book about yet another American sniper called The Reaper.

So mindless, blind worship of stupid, murderous (or at least violent or at least aggressive) white men widely misconstrued as “heroes” continues. (This could be its own blog piece, and indeed, was going to be, but I’ll get it over with here: “American sniper” Chris Kyle, who died by the sword as he lived by the sword, was no “hero.” He was part of an illegal and immoral occupying force in Iraq. As part of that illegal and immoral occupying force, he slaughtered a bunch of people who were, at least in their own eyes, defending their nation from a foreign occupying force [duh]. As Iraq had posed zero threat to the United States, as Iraq had not killed any Americans and had had no capability of killing Americans en masse [yeah, those Iraqi “WMDs” claimed by the war criminals who comprised the illegitimate Bush regime have yet to be found], there is no valid argument that Kyle was “protecting our freedoms” or some other jingoistic, Nazi-like bullshit. Kyle very apparently just really, really liked to slaughter people, and if he were Muslim instead of “Christian” and weren’t taking the big dirt nap, he probably would be a member of ISIS right now, slaughtering people left and right with gleeful abandon.)

So that is the nasty backdrop (part of it, anyway) against which those of us who aren’t stupid white men (again, emphasis on “stupid,” not on “white” or on “men”) or one of their worshipers must live in the United States of America.

That is the kind of background and context that Jonathan Chait’s piece is largely if not wholly missing, and I fault him for that fairly glaring omission, as well as for apparently not having allowed his piece to gestate long enough before birthing it upon the nation. (I often if not usually let something gestate for at least a few days before I finally give birth to it, such as this piece.) Further, the gravity of the topic — political correctness (which falls under the umbrella of identity politics) — could merit its own book, so no magazine article or blog piece (not even this one) could do it more than partial justice.

But Chait describes fairly well the phenomenon in which so many members of historically oppressed groups identify so much with being oppressed (whether these members as individuals actually have been very oppressed as individuals themselves or not) that they are hyper-vigilant about any signs of oppression.

Seriously — it used to be that people were just oppressed. And oppression was a bad thing. You didn’t want to be oppressed.

Now, being a member of an historically oppressed group is très chic. And apparently maintaining your membership in your très-chic group of oppressed people means constantly finding fresh meat, fresh new examples of how you have been oppressed, so if there aren’t any actual examples of how you have been oppressed, you’ll wildly exaggerate or even fabricate such “examples.”

Since you haven’t been (very) oppressed yourself lately, you’ll gladly piggy-back on to others’ (real or exaggerated or fabricated) oppression. That’s always fun.

If you didn’t jump on the Michael Brown bandwagon, for instance, to many that means that you are a white supremacist who supports the gunning down of black men, especially young black men, by white fascist cops who enjoy killing black men.

Never mind that it still remains quite unsettled as to whether or not Michael Brown actually went for the cop’s gun before the cop shot him dead. The cop claims that Brown did, and not only was the cop not indicted by a grand jury (which, indeed, might have been a bogus process), but the U.S. Department of Justice also declined to bring charges against the cop for civil-rights violations (granted, proving a civil-rights violation can be a high bar to clear, I know from personal experience).

It’s disturbing that so many people jumped to conclusions and have held fast to them. If your identity politics is that of the oppressed black American, then of course Michael Brown was innocent, a “gentle giant,” and was gunned down by whitey primarily if not solely for his race, and if your identity politics is that of the right-wing white person whose worldview at least verges on white supremacy if it isn’t already fully there, then of course Brown was a thug (and the phrase “black thug” would be redundant) and of course the white police officer only did what he had to do.

Either Brown went after the cop’s gun or he did not. (If I went after a cop’s gun, I’d expect to get shot.) The cop, under our existing (deeply flawed) legal structure, used deadly force against Brown legally or he did not. But whatever actually happened on that August day in Ferguson, Missouri, has little to nothing to do with identity politics, yet for many if not most Americans, their identity politics dictates the “facts.” That’s scary.

(The Eric Garner case, as I have written, at the bare minimum was a clear-cut case of manslaughter by the thuggish white cop, and, entirely unlike the Brown case, we have video of Garner incident, so “I can’t breathe” is an apt slogan of protest, whereas I never was on board with the “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” meme because there is no evidence that Brown ever put his hands up in surrender — there are only biased claims that he did.)

The case of Woody Allen, too, also wasn’t about the actual knowledge of actual facts but was about identity politics.

Women whom Rush Limbaugh might call “femi-Nazis” have asserted that of course Mia Farrow, being a woman, told the truth that Allen had molested their adopted daughter, even though the allegation came during a nasty custody battle — and that of course Allen, being a man, was guilty as charged. Never mind that none of us was there and has any actual knowledge of what did or what did not happen; we have only the claims and counter-claims of the members of a deeply broken family whose dirty laundry has been scattered all over the public square.

This is some highly toxic shit.

The case of Bill Cosby, though, and that of Arnold “Baby Daddy” Schwarzenegger when he was running for California governor in a bullshit recall election in 2003 that had amounted to a do-over election since the bumbling Repugnican candidate had lost the election in 2002: When several women have come forward publicly to state that a man has sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them, to call all of them liars (as so many did to the at-least six women who came forward about the past deeds of the future Gov. Groper) very most often is a misogynist, patriarchal thing to do.

I have little to no doubt in my mind that Bill Cosby (and Baby Daddy Schwarzenegger) serially sexually harassed and sexually assaulted women.

But actual victimization is diminished when victimization is falsely claimed or is claimed whether or not there is any evidence to support the claim of victimization — usually out of identity politics. Perversely, many if not even most members of an historically oppressed group very apparently want the latest example of possible victimization (such as the shooting death of Michael Brown) to be true victimization because, in their eyes, it strengthens their political power as claimants of oppression.

It’s perverse that oppression has morphed from something that no one wanted into something that so many cherish to the point that they’ll happily fabricate it if they deem that to do so will advance themselves somehow.

(In his piece, Chait correctly notes that “It [identity politics and its concomitant claims of perpetual and ubiquitous victimhood] also makes money. Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity.” Indeed, both Slate.com and Salon.com, two of my favorite websites, have resident identity-politics writers, taking the feminist and the black angles, mostly, and I routinely read these writers’ pieces, and often if not usually I agree with them [Slate.com’s Jamelle Bouie rocks], but sometimes, yeah, it’s apparent that they’re really milking it. [Sorry, Salon.com’s Brittney Cooper, but in his article Chait calls you out on your frequent hysteria and hyperbole fairly fairly.])

This professional “victimhood,” is, I suspect, what has eaten at Chait, but that he perhaps did not articulate well enough in his now-infamous article.

And of his article, this paragraph, I think, is the money shot:

If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt. (Here one might find oneself accused of man/white/straightsplaining.) It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called “tone policing.” If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous. A white person or a man can achieve the status of “ally,” however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue. A community, virtual or real, that adheres to the rules is deemed “safe.” The extensive terminology plays a crucial role, locking in shared ideological assumptions that make meaningful disagreement impossible.

The emphasis there is mine. In the most rabid “p.c. culture,” indeed, “There is no allowance … for the possibility that the accusation [of an act of oppression or victimization] may be erroneous.” Within this toxic, tightly closed-off atmosphere, facts and evidence have no place at all; the politics of group identity rules supreme. Woody Allen molested his adopted daughter. Period. If you disagree with this, then you hate women and/or you are a pedophile yourself. Michael Brown was a “gentle giant” (never mind the very inconvenient video footage of him roughing up a convenience store clerk while he stole cigarillos from him on the day of his death) who was gunned down in cold blood by a white supremacist police officer. Period. If you disagree with this, then you are a white supremacist.

And indeed, as Chait writes, “A white person or a man can achieve the status of ‘ally,’ however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue.” Yup. That means going along with all manner of blatantly bullshit groupthink in order to get along, lest you be called a misogynist or racist/white supremacist or worse.

The goal of “p.c. culture” as it stands today indeed so often seems to be to push all white men into a corner, indeed, to destroy all white men or, minimally, to make all white men feel perpetually guilty (and thus perpetually disempowered) because, of course, merely by their having been born white and male, they inherently are the evil victimizers and oppressors of others (of women and of black people, mostly, but of other groups, too, of course). It’s not their individual deeds that make white males automatically-guilty victimizers and oppressors, but their mere membership within the group of white males, you see.

This is the sorry state of affairs even though the origin of “p.c. culture” was the fact that white men were pushing too many others into a corner due to those others’ immutable differences from white men, and pushing others into a corner based upon their immutable differences from oneself is a bad thing to do.

To such a large degree, the victims (well, in so many cases, the “victims”) have become the victimizers, and today the victims don’t even have to be actual victims to call themselves victims, and their actual victimization of others isn’t victimization because they are victims, and a victim cannot also be a victimizer, you see.

Get it? These are the new rules.

These new rules have got to go.

Jonathan Chait got it (mostly) right, which is why we’ve seen the reaction to him that we’ve seen.

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Reading between the conventions’ lines

Cardinal Dolan shakes hands with U.S Speaker of the House Boehner after delivering the closing benediction during the final session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa

Reuters photo

Repugnican Tea Party Speaker of the House John Boehner shakes the hoof of right-wing New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan after Dolan gave the closing prayer at the Repugnican Tea Party Convention in Tampa, Florida, on August 30. Not to be outdone in wingnuttery, the Democratic Party had the right-wing Dolan also give the Democratic National Convention’s closing prayer, in which Dolan expressed his and the Catholick church’s opposition to abortion and to same-sex marriage. Yet the shameless Democratic Party hacks cry foul when those of us who are sane and who reject evil pieces of shit like Dolan claim, correctly, that the two right-wing, pro-corporate parties (which I can think of only as the Coke Party and the Pepsi Party) are becoming more indistinguishable from each other day by day.

About the last thing that you want to pay attention to at the Coke Party’s and Pepsi Party’s quadrennial conventions are the politicians’ speeches.

The vast majority of political speeches are just shameless propaganda, false proclamations of actually giving a shit about the average American, and are not an actual reflection of reality (what it has been, what it is now or what it will be).

No, you look for other clues at the partisan duopoly’s conventions to inform you as to what’s really going on.

The two things that you have needed to know about the Repugnican Tea Party convention are that a black camerawoman for CNN had food thrown at her by white delegates and was referred to as an “animal,” and that an addled, doddering, grumpy old man who wants to take us back to the 1950s (or before) in a way-back machine still is the face of the Repugnican Tea Party. (It was John McCainosaurus in 2008, and Clint Eastwood this time.)

Of course, if you watched any of the Repugnican Tea Party convention coverage (even just brief clips, as I did), you saw, as the camera panned across the convention attendees, that it was a sea of lily-white faces. Seriously, why don’t they go ahead and don their pointy white hoods already? We all know that they want to.

I’ve seen only snippets of Mittens Romney’s acceptance speech. He wore way too much makeup, which only made him look even faker than he already comes across, and his whisper-like, condescending, faux-compassionate voice makes me want to hurl.

This man is a multi-millionaire Mormon. He cares only about his fellow millionaires and his fellow Mormons. If you believe otherwise, then there is something seriously the fuck the matter with you and your grasp of reality.

I don’t need to listen to Mittens’ words. I have only to listen to the strong voice within every time I see even a brief clip of Mittens: This uber-phony man is evil. He has to be phony because if he showed us his true self, enough of us would be repulsed that he’d never win the election. It wouldn’t even be close enough for him to steal it, as appears to be his party’s game plan, a la 2000.

Not that the establishmentarian, Clintonesque Democrats are much better.

I haven’t bothered to watch even a brief clip of Barack Obama’s convention speech. Why? What would be the point? We know what we’re going to get with four more years of Obama: more broken promises, more of the same, more concessions to the corporations and to the right wing, more excuses as to why Obama absofuckinglutely refuses to head an opposition party, which is what the Democratic Party used to be until the slimy baby boomer Bill Clinton destroyed it, as the greedy, corrupt, talentless baby boomers have destroyed or are about to destroy all of our nation’s best institutions (including, of course, Social Security and Medicare. [They destroyed even capitalism, too, but of course, capitalism needed to be destroyed]).

We know that while of course Mittens would be worse than would be Obama (except for Mittens’ fellow Mormons and his fellow millionaires, of course), the prospect of another four more years of Obama is nothing to be excited about.

There were two stand-out events at the Democrats’ convention that, for me, tell me what I really need to know about the party. And again, you won’t find this shit in politicos’ propagandistic speeches.

First, there was Barack Obama once again capitulating to right-wing and “Christo”fascist criticism, demanding that the Democratic Party’s platform, which the delegates had already democratically approved, be changed to add the word “God” and to add that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

As I wrote, the selfish, anti-democratic actions of the convention’s chair, the slimy Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, were repugant. Clearly Villaraigosa didn’t have the two-thirds voice vote by the delegates that he needed for the alteration of the platform to pass, but he shoved the changes to the platform down the delegates’ throats nonethefuckingless.

The Los Angeles Times today published Villaraigosa’s “defense” of his repulsive actions. He said:

  • “It was a lot of ado about nothing.”
  • When he was told that others didn’t hear a two-thirds voice vote, he replied smart-assedly, “That’s nice to know. I was the chairman and I did, and that was the prerogative of the chair.”
  • “It’s more a media concern than a delegate concern. I can tell you this — the president of the United States said, ‘Wow.’ The president said, ‘You showed why you were speaker of the California Assembly.’ The president, the vice president, Mrs. Obama, all of them acknowledged the decisive way I handled that.”
  • “The president of the United States and the leader of my party asked me to do this, and so I’m proud I have a president who believes God and Jerusalem should be in the platform, and so do I.”

What a fucking weasel Antonio Villaraigosa is. To call a blatantly anti-democratic move “decisive” is sick. No, Villaraigosa, you are not “decisive.” You are a fucking self-serving coward.

And it was not “a lot of ado about nothing” and not only a “media concern.” (Blaming shit on the media is quite Palinesque of Villaraigosa, however.) It was the hijacking of the platform that already had been democratically approved, and that is a serious matter. I’m not even a registered Democrat — because of slimeballs like Villaraigosa I’m a registered Green Party member — and I wasn’t even there, but when I watched the clip of Villaraigosa’s actions, I was incensed — as were many delegates who were there, for whom the lying Villaraigosa pretends he can speak. (It wasn’t a “delegate concern” — because he says so!)

“I was the chairman and I did [hear a two-thirds vote], and that was the prerogative of the chair,” Villaraigosa huffed. Bullshit. He did not hear it, which is why he had to hold the voice vote three fucking times (watch the clip yourself), and so when he claims that he did hear it, he fucking lies, but then immediately after his lie, he inadvertently tells us the truth: “that was the prerogative of the chair.”

I’ll translate that from the weaselspeak that Villaraigosa speaks into English: “I was able to abuse my position of power and trust, and so I did so. Fuck you for even questioning my authority.”

And then, Villaraigosa does even more quite inadvertent truth-telling: “The president, the vice president, Mrs. Obama, all of them acknowledged the decisive way I handled that,” and “The president of the United States and the leader of my party asked me to do this, and so I’m proud I have a president who believes God and Jerusalem should be in the platform, and so do I.”

Well, yes, indeed, Barack Obama (and, if Villaraigosa is telling the truth — it’s hard to know, because he’s such a fucking liar — Joe Biden and even Michelle Obama) wanted Villaraigosa to ram the last-minute, “Christo”fascist- and wingnut-placating changes to the party’s platform down the delegates’ throats, and so Villaraigosa the shameless fucking sellout dutifully did so.

But that is a “defense” — that he pleased his puppeteers? That makes what he did OK?

And what does it fucking matter what Barack Obama and Antonio Villaraigosa believe? The party platform already had been democratically approved by the convention delegates. Why bother to have the delegates at all if they can be overriden by power-drunk autocrats like this?

I’ll never give the slimeball Antonio Villaraigosa my vote even for dog catcher. He has demonstrated his character amply.

As has Barack Obama, of course.

Not content that he had alienated enough of his base by anti-democratically using his tool, the fool Villaraigosa, to change the party’s platform against the wishes of the delegates (who clearly are just window dressing, if that), Barack Obama decided that it would be a swell fucking idea to have the right-wing, anti-choice, anti-same-sex-marriage Catholick Cardinal Timothy Dolan give the closing benediction at the Democratic National Convention.

The “Christo”fascist Dolan said these two things in his “benediction” to the Dems:

  • “Thus do we praise you [he’s talking to “God” here, you see] for the gift of life. Grant us the courage to defend it, life, without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected.”
  • “Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.”

If you claim that these are not thinly veiled references to the Dark-Ages Catholick church’s “Christo”fascist stances on abortion and same-sex marriage, then you are a fucking liar or you are a fucking moron. (Or both.)

Dolan also talked about “freedom” and “liberty” in his “benediction” (“bene” is from the Latin word for “good,” but Dolan is evil, so to call it a “benediction” is a contradiction), but in Dolan’s and the Catholick church’s worldview, women may not have the freedom and liberty to make their own fucking reproductive choices, and same-sex couples shall not have the freedom and liberty of marriage equality, but are to be continued to be treated as less than equal human beings, as they have for centuries.

“Freedom” and “liberty” are reserved only for those who agree with Dolan and the right-wing, dying dinosaur that is the Catholick church under the command of Pope Palpatine, you see.

Know that this is how much brazen contempt Barack Obama and the ossified Democratic Party (the best of which it can do is wheel out the right-wing fossil that is Bill Fucking Clinton every once in a while) have for you: to invite a known — a well-fucking-known — right-wing, misogynist, homophobic, patriarchal piece of shit like Timothy Dolan to give the closing “benediction” of the Democratic National Convention.

Barack Obama isn’t concerned in the fucking least about delivering for his base.

He never fucking has been and he never fucking will be.

Barack Obama is way too busy catering to the right wing, you see, pushing the Democratic Party further and further to the right, making it more and more indistinguishable from the Repugnican Tea Party, and his stance toward you is the same arrogant, power-drunk stance that Antonio Villaraigosa has toward you:

Fuck you.

It’s his prerogative.

What are you going to do about it anyway?

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Thoughts on the Repugnican Tea Party convention I did not watch

Full disclosure: I haven’t watched even one second of the Repugnican Tea Party National Convention that happened this past week. Not even one second of a video clip. I probably will watch a clip of Clint Eastwood’s infamous, reportedly surreal performance later, but in general, for me, watching any of the quadrennial KKK convention is like how it is for the characters in that scene in “Lord of the Rings” in which Gandalf speaks the dark language of Mordor: unpleasant, perhaps even painful.

I will make some remarks, though.

It’s interesting that one of the biggest news items that came from the convention is that two delegates were tossed out for having thrown nuts at CNN camera woman Patricia Carroll, who is a 34-year-old black woman and a native of Alabama, and for having remarked at the time: “This is how we feed animals.”

(Funny — animals throw shit, yet these animals were referring to an actual human being as an “animal.”)

Carroll said of the incident: “This is Florida, and I’m from the Deep South. You come to places like this [she apparently was referring to Florida and/or to Tampa and/or to the Repugnican Tea Party National Convention in the Tampa Bay Times Forum] [and] you can count the [number of] black people on your hand. They [white people] see us [black people] doing things they don’t think I should do.”

Carroll also said that such an incident “could happen to me at the Democratic convention or standing on the street corner. Racism is a global issue.”

Racism indeed is a global issue, but I’d be shocked if she were treated like that at the Democratic National Convention. Not that the Dems are perfect — far from it; thus, I’m a registered member of the Green Party — but your chances of facing discrimination at a Democratic crowd are much lower than at a KKK convention.

I mean, come on. Does Carroll really feel that way or does she feel pressure to parrot the false equivalency between the Repugnican Tea Party and the Democratic Party (“Both parties are responsible for/guilty of [fill in the blank]!!!”) that the corporately owned and controlled mainstream media, including her employer CNN, love to spout, despite its demonstrable falsity?

Some have claimed that the “feed[ing] animals” crack was a slam at members of the media in general, and that therefore it wasn’t an incident of racism, but would the apparent white supremacist fucktards have thrown food at a white male camera operator? Fuck no. (Similarly, President Barack Obama has been publicly disrespected by wingnuts in ways that a white male president never would be.) 

The other big news item from the KKK convention was that Pretty Boy Paul Ryan told so many lies during his speech that members of the stage crew had to rush out with a fire extinguisher because his pants had begun to smoke.

I won’t delve into Ryan’s lies, because with Ryan it’s like it is with Condoleezza Rice: How can you tell that they’re lying? When you see that their lips are moving.

I will say, however, that I take issue with Ryan’s remark, early in his speech: “I accept the calling of my generation to give our children the America that was given to us, with opportunity for the young and security for the old — and I know that we are ready.”

Um, Paul Ryan is not ready to be even vice president, and certainly is not ready to be president if it came to that, and Ryan wants to destroy Medicare and Social Security as we know it, yet here he is, claiming like George W. Bush used to claim, that it’s vitally important to him to ensure that our young people of today will have what our old people of today have — while at the same time proclaiming that of course today’s young people can’t expect to receive what today’s and yesterday’s old people have received; there will have to be significant cutbacks in Medicare and Social Security. Or hey, better yet, privatize both programs to ensure that the treasonous plutocrats can then loot the Medicare and Social Security funds entirely!

They want it both fucking ways.

They can’t have it both fucking ways.

And it incenses me that Paul Fucking Ryan claims Generation X when Generation X does not claim Paul Ryan.

Generation X is not about aiding and abetting millionaire baby boomers like Mittens Romney in sucking up every last crumb before the greedy fucking baby boomers finally kick off, leaving nothing for those of us who have to follow behind them like circus slaves have to follow elephants with shovels.

Of course, Paul Ryan, like Mittens, is a millionaire. (While Chris Matthews recently quipped that Mittens was born on third base, I’d say that it’s more accurate to say that Paul Ryan was born on third base, while Mittens was born on home plate.)

Both Ryan and Mittens come from wealthy families. Neither is a rags-to-riches story. Ryan isn’t the millionaire that Mittens is, but he is Mittens’ Mini-Me.*

And in his big speech yesterday, Mittens himself proclaimed, in part:

“This president [Barack Obama] can ask us to be patient. This president can tell us it was someone else’s fault. This president can tell us that the next four years he’ll get it right. But this president cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office. America has been patient. Americans have supported this president in good faith. But today, the time has come to turn the page.”

It’s true that Barack Obama has been a disappointing president. It was only last night that I finally gave Obama a penny toward his re-election — I gave him an online donation of $30, and that was inspired more from the unfair Repugnican Tea Party attacks upon him, especially this past week, than it was inspired by any hope or change that he’s actually delivered. I may or may not give him a little more money, and I most likely will not vote for him, since he’ll win my state of California and all of its 55 electoral votes in the winner-takes-all Electoral College no matter how I vote, even if I vote for Mittens. We’ll see.

President Obama’s failure is not that he has governed too far to the left. It’s that he’s too beholden to his corporate sugar daddies (he took much more from the Wall Street weasels than even John McCainosaurus did for the 2008 campaign, and then proceeded to put Wall Street weasels in charge of his economic policy) and he has focused too much on this “bipartisanship” bullshit (whether he sincerely believes that there’s any such thing or whether that’s just been rhetoric, I don’t know) instead of taking care of his base — you know, those of us who actually put him in office.

Consequently, Obama has not enacted the progressive vision that he at least implicitly promised us he would. The pro-corporate, center-right Clintonista brand of the Democratic Party has been killing us, just more slowly than has the Repugnican Tea Party.

A real — that is, an actually progressive, and not a Clintonista — Democratic president would have taken advantage of having had the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives controlled by his party in 2009 and 2010 and would have pushed through an actually progressive agenda, not thoroughly squandered it by having tryied to sing a rousing round of “Kumbaya” with the fascists in Congress who never are going to support anything that he says or does anyway (largely, in this case, because of his race).

But if I had to choose between four more years of Barack Obama or four (or even eight!) years of Mittens Romney, if a gun were pointed to my head and I had to choose the lesser of the two evils, it would be Obama, hands down. No question.

Mittens Romney declared in his speech yesterday that “the time has come to turn the page.”

What he doesn’t say is that he wants to turn the page of the American history book back to the 1950s, when women and non-whites had no rights, when gays were arrested solely for being gay or even just being suspected of being gay, when the nation lived in perpetual fear of overseas enemies (real or fabricated, but largely fabricated), when those who disagree with the right-wing fascists were called “anti-American” “Communists” and oppressed (many of them lost their jobs), when there were no environmental protection laws or agencies, when it was easier to suppress the voting rights of the “undesirables,” when, in short, right-wing, “Christo”fascist, (presumably) heterosexual, vulture capitalist, planet-killing, war-mongering white men — like Mittens Romney and Paul Ryan — ran the whole fucking show. 

Indeed, did the Repugnican Tea Party unearth its 2012 party platform from a time capsule buried in the 1950s?

I’m betting that more than half of us Americans on Election Day will reject Mittens’ agenda of dragging all of us back to the time when only people just like Mittens ran the show. The only way that I can see Mittens “winning” in November is if his treasonous, fascistic party is able to suppress enough Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters. They’re certainly trying.

And Clint Eastwood — the man has made some good films, but really, if you have to have a senile old man make your case for you, then maybe your case is not that strong.

*Wikipedia notes of Paul Ryan:

Ryan was born in Janesville, Wisconsin to Elizabeth A. “Betty” (née Hutter) and Paul Murray Ryan, a lawyer, and was the youngest of four siblings. A fifth-generation Wisconsinite, his father was of Irish ancestry and his mother is of German and English ancestry….His great-grandfather, Patrick William Ryan (1858–1917), founded an earthmoving company in 1884, which later became P. W. Ryan and Sons and is now known as Ryan Incorporated Central. Ryan’s grandfather was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin by President Calvin Coolidge.

Ryan attended St. Mary’s Catholic School in Janesville, where he played on the seventh-grade basketball team. He attended Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville, where he was elected president of his junior class and subsequently named prom king. As class president Ryan also gained a seat on the school board, making it the first time he held political office.Between his sophomore year and junior year, Ryan took a job working the grill at McDonald’s. He was on his high school’s ski, track and varsity soccer teams and played basketball in a Catholic recreational league. He also participated in several academic and social clubs including the Model United Nations.R yan and his family often went on hiking and skiing trips in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

When he was 16 and working a summer job, Ryan received a worried phone call from his father’s secretary. He came home to find his 55-year-old father lying dead in bed after suffering from a heart attack.His grandfather and great-grandfather also died from heart attacks, at ages 57 and 59 respectively, inspiring Ryan’s later interest in health and exercise. Following the death of his father, Ryan’s grandmother moved in with the family and because she struggled with Alzheimer’s Ryan had to help care for her while his mother studied at college in Madison, Wisconsin. Due to his father’s death Ryan received survivor’s benefits through Social Security until his 18th birthday, which were saved up in order to pay for his college education. …

So Social Security sure worked out pretty well for Paul Ryan. But since he already got his

Before he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Ryan worked for the construction company founded by his grandfather (Ryan Incorporated Central), and Ryan’s wife was a tax attorney when they met, so again, we’re not talking about an impoverished family here. Ryan’s net worth (due mostly because he married into a rich family) is in the range of $4 million to $5 million — which, again, compared to Mittens’ net worth of more than $250 million, makes Paul Ryan Mittens’ Mini-Me.

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Clint Eastwood’s ‘J. Edgar’ is not your father’s gangster movie

Film review

Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer J. Edgar

Clyde Tolson (played by the Adonis Armie Hammer) and J. Edgar Hoover (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) have a lovers’ quarrel in Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar.”

Woe to the heterosexists who don’t bother to research the movies that they see who stumble into Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” thinking that they’re going to see an action-packed gangsta movie (he-man Clint Eastwood is directing, after all) but who instead get “Brokeback Mountain” meets “Bonnie and Clyde” — in which “Bonnie” is the late long-time FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

As others have noted, “J. Edgar” isn’t going to wholly please either side. The heterosexists don’t want the slightest flowery whiff of male homosexuality contaminating their gangster movies, as evidenced by the male homophobe behind me in the audience who twice uttered “faggot!” (and who once uttered “AIDS!”) during the movie and the female homophobe behind me who vocalized her disapproval during the scene in which a distraught J. Edgar Hoover dons his recently deceased mother’s dress.

And gay men like me are going to feel, as I do, that screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (who won an Oscar for his screenplay of “Milk”) and/or director Eastwood wussed out by having portrayed the very apparent real-life same-sex relationship between Hoover and his long-time “assistant” Clyde Tolson as essentially sexless.

No, I didn’t need a steamy sex scene, although I can’t say that I would have minded one; Armie Hammer, who plays Clyde Tolson in “J. Edgar” (and who played the “Winklevi” twins in “The Social Network”) is achingly beautiful, and much more handsome than was the real-life Tolson, just as the real-life J. Edgar never looked anything like Leonardo DiCaprio, even with all of that makeup piled atop his baby face.

But are we really to believe that although the real-life Hoover and Tolson were inseparable and never heterosexually married — and that although Tolson inherited Hoover’s estate after Hoover’s death and later was buried near Hoover — that the two of them never did more than hold hands and share just one (bloody, very conflicted) kiss?

“J. Edgar” apparently would have us believe so, and while many movies about gay characters have a closeted feel to them, this closeted feel can be artful if it is intentional and thus helps us to understand the characters and their sufferings better, but if this closeted feel is a result of the filmmakers’ own cowardice and/or discomfort with the material, then it diminishes the film, and this appears to be the case with “J. Edgar.”

“J. Edgar,” as others have noted, also tries to do too much. Hoover’s time as head of the FBI, which spanned from 1935 to 1972, can’t be captured in one film. Not that it has to be; “J. Edgar” is a fictionalized film, after all, not a documentary, but because “J. Edgar” portrays so many of the historical events during Hoover’s decades-long tenure at the FBI, it has lent itself to be criticized for what it leaves out — such as the “Lavender Scare” of the 1950s, which surely was relevant to the real-life Hoover and Tolson.

And because “J. Edgar” tries to capture so many historical events, the examination of Hoover’s psyche gets short shrift.

Judi Dench is good as Hoover’s mother, even if she is portrayed as a textbook case of the overbearing mother who lives through her son so that of course he turns out gay.

Perhaps the most memorable scene in the film is the one in which Hoover’s homophobic mother tells him the story of another young man who turned out to be gay and who killed himself, which was a good thing, in her eyes. Many of us gay men (my husband included) have been told by a homophobic parent that he or she could never accept a gay son, as Hoover is told by his mother in “J. Edgar,” so I expect that scene to resonate with millions of gay men.

Still, “J. Edgar” doesn’t go far enough with the examination of J. Edgar Hoover’s homosexuality. My guess is that that is a result of the combination of Dustin Lance Black’s upbringing as a Mormon, which, I surmise, keeps him on the “safe,” conservative side, and of the generation of Clint Eastwood (he’s 81 years old), who, while he reportedly is pro-gay, on other issues leans to the right (he reportedly can recall having voted for a Democrat only once, and that was former California Gov. Gray Davis in 1998), and who might be one of those individuals who is much more intellectually accepting of homosexuality (that is, in theory) than he is viscerally accepting of it (that is, in practice) — you know, the kind of person who says that he’s OK with gays as long as he doesn’t ever actually have to see two men kissing. (Thus, we could see Tolson and Hoover kiss in “J. Edgar” only if violence was involved. [The scene, by the way, is fairly reminiscent of a similar scene in “Brokeback Mountain” in which our two conflicted lovebirds who live in a homophobic place and time pummel each other.])

“J. Edgar” probably should have picked one path and stuck with it: the documentarian path or the psychoanalytical path. Hoover’s professional life alone was interesting enough to carry a film. It was because of Hoover’s gross abuse of power, including his notoriously illegal monitoring of prominent individuals, that directors of the FBI need the Senate’s approval to serve more than 10 years, indicates Wikipedia.

But also interesting are the psychological dynamics in which those who have something to hide — such as homosexuality in a society in which homosexuality is stigmatized — react to their inner conflict and their self-loathing by becoming anal retentive and relentless moralists who viciously attack others in order to ease their own self-hatred. We saw this not only in J. Edgar Hoover, but in Roy Cohn, the gay assistant to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who isn’t portrayed in “J. Edgar.” (I’ve wondered about the sexual orientation of McCarthy, too, since he was an alcoholic who viciously attacked others and since he picked Cohn to be his assistant, but that’s purely conjecture on my part.)

If I had made “J. Edgar” and were focusing on Hoover’s personal life, I’d have left out all of the Lindbergh baby stuff and focused more on the relationship between Hoover and Tolson, and I especially would have focused on the “Lavender Scare,” which bizarrely gets no real mention in “J. Edgar.”

And I would have left out the scene in which Hoover tries on his dead mother’s dress. The account that the real-life Hoover was seen in a dress is dubious, and in any event, it wasn’t as it is portrayed in “J. Edgar,” and we gay men have enough problems as it is for Black and Eastwood to give homophobes the idea that all gay men like to wear women’s clothing (not that there is anything wrong with that; it’s just that it’s a tiresome stereotype, and Black’s screenplay shows keen gay sensibility except for this fairly unfortunate scene).

Still, despite its flaws — which include the fact that it tries to do too much and that Armie Hammer’s old-man makeup is bad (maybe there’s just no way to make such an Adonis look unattractive) — and despite the fact that it doesn’t belong in the pantheon that includes “Brokeback Mountain” and “Milk,” “J. Edgar” is worth seeing.

My grade: B

Update:I don’t think that I’ve been unfair here to Dustin Lance Black. In a recent interview with the Advocate, he remarked, “I grew up in a military family, which was also Mormon and conservative, so he [J. Edgar Hoover] was seen as a bit of a hero.” Again, Black’s conservative upbringing seems to have greatly colored his portrayal of Hoover in his screenplay. And of the historical Hoover and Clyde Tolson’s relationship, Black stated:

I don’t know how much sex they were having. I couldn’t anchor that in anything provable. I also didn’t need it for what I was trying to say. They may or may not have [had a sexual relationship], but frankly, I wouldn’t want to see it. What’s important to me is they were not straight. They were two gay guys, in my opinion.

What is it with this phenomenon of de-sexing gay men, of stripping them of human sexuality? We don’t do that to heterosexual people! I can’t say that I would have wanted to watch the historical J. Edgar Hoover (who, again, was not an attractive man) getting it on with anyone, either, but was the only alternative to making “J. Edgar: The Gay Porn” making a film that portrays him as a celibate, frustrated closet case?

True, we cannot “anchor” the assertion that Tolson and Hoover had a sexual relationship “in anything provable” — we have only the very strong circumstantial evidence that they had a decades-long sexual relationship — yet the scene in which Hoover puts on his deceased mother’s dress very apparently was fabricated from whole cloth. Why was that liberty OK, but we couldn’t take the liberty of having the two of them ever do anything more than occasionally hold hands and share only one frustrated kiss? 

Critic Roger Ebert also apparently has jumped on the no-sex-for-gay-men bandwagon, proclaiming in his review of the film:

Eastwood’s film is firm in its refusal to cheapen and tarnish by inventing salacious scenes. I don’t get the impression from “J. Edgar” that Eastwood particularly respected Hoover, but I do believe he respected his unyielding public facade.

So to have made the two men sexually active human beings, I suppose, would have been “cheapening,” “tarnishing” and “salacious.” Since they were gay, much better to make them celibate! And apparently “[respecting Hoover’s] unyielding public facade” means going along with Hoover’s having been in the closet, because to do otherwise would have been “disrespectful.” (Fuck the truth!)

Ebert also notes in his review:

In my reading of the film, they were both repressed homosexuals, Hoover more than Tolson, but after love at first sight and a short but heady early courtship, they veered away from sex and began their lives as Longtime Companions. The rewards for arguably not being gay were too tempting for both men, who were wined and dined by Hollywood, Broadway, Washington and Wall Street. It was Hoover’s militant anti-gay position that served as their beard.

That reading of the film is correct, because indeed “J. Edgar” intended to keep the two lovers celibate, since gay sex is so dirty, you know, and while we can posit that Hoover was gay, we just can’t go so far as to assert that he ever actually had gay sex (ick!).

Again, the real film in the story of Hoover and Tolson’s relationship is the one indicated by Ebert’s assertion that “It was Hoover’s militant anti-gay position that served as their beard,” and I still find it rather stunning that the film glosses over the Lavender Scare of the 1950s. Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn should be in any film about the very-most-likely-gay relationship between Hoover and Tolson, it seems to me.

And speaking of McCarthy, I’m not the only one who has wondered about his sexual orientation. David K. Johnson, author of The Lavender Scare (The University of Chicago Press, 2004), notes (on page 3) that although McCarthy in early 1950 first raised the specter of Communists and gay men having “infiltrated” the U.S. government, McCarthy went on to pursue only the Communist angle, having “mysteriously recused himself” from the witch hunt against gay men. Johnson goes on:

A knowledgeable observer at the time suggested that [McCarthy] did not pursue the “homosexual angle” more aggressively because he was afraid of a boomerang. As an unmarried, middle-aged man, he was subject to gossip and rumor about his own sexuality.

I find the parallels between Hoover and Tolson and McCarthy and Cohn to be striking. Maybe Dustin Lance Black can redeem himself somewhat for his wussy “J. Edgar” screenplay and pen a movie with balls about Joseph McCarthy and his relationship with Roy Cohn, the latter of whom we know for sure was gay. I’ll even give Dustin a highly creative working title: “McCarthy.”

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