Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Reviews That Time Forgot: The Green Berets (1968)

In which John Wayne wins Disney Vietnam and walks heroically into a sunset on the wrong horizon.

From the New York Times:
The Green Berets (1968)
Screen: 'Green Berets' as Viewed by John Wayne:War Movie Arrives at the Warner Theater

Published: June 20, 1968

"THE GREEN BERETS" is a film so unspeakable, so stupid, so rotten and false in every detail that it passes through being fun, through being funny, through being camp, through everything and becomes an invitation to grieve, not for our soldiers or for Vietnam (the film could not be more false or do a greater disservice to either of them) but for what has happened to the fantasy-making apparatus in this country. Simplicities of the right, simplicities of the left, but this one is beyond the possible. It is vile and insane. On top of that, it is dull.

The film, directed by John Wayne and nominally based on a novel by Robin Moore, has no hero. It is vaguely about some Green Berets, led by John Wayne, trying to persuade Wayne's idea of a liberal journalist (David Janssen) that this war is a fine thing for Vietnam and for America. The movie has human props taken from every war film ever made: a parachute jump; an idea of Vietcong soldiers, in luxury, uniform, champagne and caviar, apparently based on the German high command; a little Asian orphan named Hamchunk, pronounced Hamchuck but more like Upchuck than anything; battle scenes somewhere between "The Red Badge of Courage" and "The Dirty Dozen"; a pathetically dying dog.

There is inadvertent humor: "He's dying," a Negro medic says, thoughtfully spooning Jim Beam bourbon down the throat of an elderly Oriental. "Poor old thing can't even keep his rice down any more." What is clearly an Indian extra in a loincloth somehow straggles in among the montagnards. A Vietcong general is dragged from a bed of sin (which, through an indescribable inanity of the plot, the Green Berets have contrived for him) with his trousers on. He is subsequently drugged and yanked off into the sky on a string dangling from a helicopter. A Green Beret points out to the journalist some American-made punji sticks (the movie is obsessed with punji sticks): "Yup," the Green Beret says, "it's a little trick we learned from Charlie. But we don't dip them in the same stuff he does."

What the movie is into is another thing entirely. What is sick, what is an outrage and a travesty is that while it is meant to be an argument against war opposition—while it keeps reiterating its own line at every step, much as soap operas keep recapitulating their plots—it seems so totally impervious to any of the questions that it raises. It is so full of its own caricature of patriotism that it cannot even find the right things to falsify. No acting, no direction, no writing, no authenticity, of course. But it is worse. It is completely incommunicado, out of touch. It trips something that would outrage any human sensibility, like mines, at every step and staggers on.

The first Green Beret comes on speaking German, to show his versatility in languages. When the VC have just been sprayed with flames, a Green Beret is asked about his apparent affinity for this kind of thing. "When I was a kid," he says modestly, "my dad gave me a chemistry set. And it got bigger than both of us." When the VC, nonetheless, win the Special Forces camp in hand-to-hand combat, a soldier calls in air support. "It'll only take a minute," he says, like a dentist, as the VC are mowed down from the air. The journalist, "the former skeptic about the war," the press kit synopsis chooses to say at this point, "leaves to write about the heroic exploits of the American and South Vietnamese forces."

The point is that Wayne is using spoken German, lunatic chemistry sets, machine killing of men who have won fairly hand-to-hand, without apparently noticing that this is not exactly the stuff of which heroic fantasies are made. This is crazy. If the left-wing extremist's nightmare of what we already are has become the right-wing extremist's ideal of what we ought to be we are in steeper trouble than anyone could have imagined.

The Least Surprising Story Of The Week

From the NYT:
Obama’s Twitter Debut, @POTUS, Attracts Hate-Filled Posts

When President Obama sent his inaugural Twitter post from the Oval Office on Monday, the White House heralded the event with fanfare, posting a photograph of him perched on his desk tapping out his message on an iPhone.

The @POTUS account — named for the in-house acronym derived from “President of the United States” — would “serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him,” a White House aide wrote that day.

But it took only a few minutes for Mr. Obama’s account to attract racist, hate-filled posts and replies. They addressed him with racial slurs and called him a monkey. One had an image of the president with his neck in a noose.

The posts reflected the racial hostility toward the nation’s first black president that has long been expressed in stark terms on the Internet, where conspiracy theories thrive and prejudices find ready outlets. But the racist Twitter posts are different because now that Mr. Obama has his own account, the slurs are addressed directly to him, for all to see.

Within minutes of Mr. Obama’s first, cheerful post — “Hello, Twitter! It’s Barack. Really!” it began — Twitter users lashed out in sometimes profanity-laced replies that included exhortations for the president to kill himself and worse.

One person posted a doctored image of Mr. Obama’s famous campaign poster, instead showing the president with his head in a noose, his eyes closed and his neck appearing broken as if he had been lynched. Instead of the word “HOPE” in capital letters as it appeared on the campaign poster, the doctored image had the words “ROPE.”

The accompanying message said “#arrestobama #treason we need ‘ROPE FOR CHANGE.’ ” It was addressed to @POTUS by a user calling himself @jeffgully49, who has posted other images of Mr. Obama in a noose, and whose Twitter profile picture shows Mr. Obama behind bars. “We still hang for treason, don’t we?” his post said.

The writer, Jeff Gullickson of Minneapolis, subsequently posted on Thursday that his reply to Mr. Obama had earned him a visit from the Secret Service at home. Reached for comment, Mr. Gullickson responded by asking in an email how much The New York Times would pay him for an interview.
The Right long ago lost all pretext of civility and has fully embraced their Inner Klansman.

Twitter is the internet's roadhouse bathroom wall.

And -- surprise! -- it turns out the place where these two things intersect is the shittiest digital sewer on Earth.

Now, about that conversation about race we're always just about to have...


Friday, May 22, 2015

Team Neocon Reconquers Iraq

Over in the Better Universe, a family has a run-in with Bill Kristol on the subway.  The Poors beat reporter David Brooks has the details:
Lisa Miller is a professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. One day she entered a subway car and saw that half of it was crowded but the other half was empty, except for a homeless man who had some fast food on his lap and who was screaming at anybody who came close.

At one stop, a grandmother and granddaughter, about 8, entered the car. They were elegantly dressed, wearing pastel dresses and gloves with lace trim. The homeless man spotted them and screamed, “Hey! Do you want to sit with me?” They looked at each other, nodded and replied in unison, “Thank you” and, unlike everybody else, sat directly next to him.

The man offered them some chicken from his bag. They looked at each other and nodded and said, “No, thank you.” The homeless man offered several more times, and each time they nodded to each other and gave the same polite answer. Finally, the homeless man was calmed, and they all sat contentedly in their seats.
Sadly, over in this Universe, Bill Kristol is not a, eccentric homeless individual shouting harmless nonsense at a few people on the train.  Over in this Universe, Kristol is a wealthy, respected, multimedia sociopath, braying malignant drivel at millions of Americans every week.

And while Sean Illings of Salon ably summarizes what longtime readers of this blog have know for years, he makes a fundamental error in juxtaposing Bill Kristol and David Brooks like so:
Bill Kristol’s latest Iraq nonsense: Dumber and more dangerous than David Brooks

The man who laid the foundation for our Iraq blunder is still unbelievably disengaged from reality
Bill Kristol, and his former employee, David Brooks, are neither ignorant nor disengaged nor are they competing in some kind of dumbassery claiming race which Kristol is currently winning by a half a length.  Instead, they are both helping the Right to successfully nail down the upper and lower thresholds of the Overton Window for any future public debate of the Iraq war (which they both so eagerly and profitably pimped) in a way that:
A) Insures that none of their neocon fellow travelers or media enablers will ever be held accountable for the catastrophic war they lied us into.  And,

B) Delivers a set of clear talking points to every GOP candidate running for President in 2016 with which they can weasel their way out of any unpleasant Iraq-based conversations.
Neocon David Brooks' side of the frame is that Operation Endless Clusterfuck was a noble cause undertaken in good faith by honorable men who mismanaged it terribly:
Which brings us to Iraq. From the current vantage point, the decision to go to war was a clear misjudgment, made by President George W. Bush and supported by 72 percent of the American public who were polled at the time. I supported it, too.

What can be learned?

The first obvious lesson is that we should look at intelligence products with a more skeptical eye. There’s a fable going around now that the intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was all cooked by political pressure, that there was a big political conspiracy to lie us into war.

That doesn’t gibe with the facts...
Neocon Bill Kristol's complementary side of the same frame is that Operation Endless Clusterfuck was a noble cause undertaken in good faith by honorable men who did a great and difficult thing, which was subsequently fucked up by the Kenyan Usurper (emphasis added):
William Kristol: We were right to fight in Iraq

Obama threw away hard-earned gains.

We were right to invade Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein, and to complete the job we should have finished in 1991.

Even with the absence of caches of weapons of mass destruction, and the mistakes we made in failing to send enough troops at first and to provide security from the beginning for the Iraqi people, we were right to persevere through several difficult years. We were able to bring the war to a reasonably successful conclusion in 2008.

When President Obama took office, Iraq was calm, al-Qaeda was weakened and ISIS did not exist. Iran, meanwhile, was under pressure from abroad (due to sanctions) and at home (due to popular discontent, manifested by the Green uprising in the summer of 2009).

The Obama administration threw it all away...
This is aggressive neocon pincer movement designed to drive any discussion of the lies and liars who marched us into catastrophe -- any discussion of accountability and atonement -- the hell off the table.

And from presidential candidate Lindsey Graham (emphasis added) -- 
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: You want to be president of the United States. You're running for the Republican presidential nomination. Was the Iraq War a mistake?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): No. I don't think so...

BLITZER: But, Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.

GRAHAM: Well, he had a lot to do in terms of destabilizing the region. He had invaded his neighbor (Kuwait), he was violating U.N. mandates about inspecting sites as part of the ending the first Gulf War, he was shooting at American aircraft patrolling the skies over Iraq as part of a no-fly zone, he was gassings the Kurds. I am glad he is gone. At the end of the day, I blame President Obama for the mess in Iraq and Syria, not President Bush.
-- to presidential candidate Scott Walker (emphasis added) --
Any president would have likely taken the same action [President George W.] Bush did with the information he had, even Hillary Clinton voted for it, but knowing what we know now, we should not have gone into Iraq. President Bush deserves enormous credit for ordering the surge, a courageous move that worked. Unfortunately, President Obama and Secretary Clinton hastily withdrew our troops, threw away the gains of the surge, and embarked on a broader policy of pivoting away from the Middle East and leading from behind that has created chaos in the region.
Jeb Bush's new Iraq strategy: Blame Obama

Jeb Bush is back on offense against President Barack Obama’s strategy in Iraq, following a difficult week in which the likely presidential candidate struggled to clean up his answer on whether he would have invaded Iraq knowing what he knows now.

“It got a little bumpy, but all is well now,” Bush said at a roundtable event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Wednesday. “The ship is stable.”

Perhaps a better focus, Bush posited, is “Knowing what we know now, Mr. President, should you have kept 10,000 troops in Iraq?” Bush said that Obama “abandoned” Iraq and lamented the fall of Ramadi to Islamic State terrorists, saying that “ISIS didn’t exist when my brother was president” and that Al Qaeda was decimated under his brother.
-- this is exactly what is happening.

Professional Left Podcast #285


“I am circling around God, around the ancient tower, and I have been circling for a thousand years, and I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.”
-- Rainer Maria Rilke, writer

  • This Week plays both sides!  on Iraq.... (Driftglass)
  • From Science Fiction University:  Tony Curtis tells the Yvonne DiCarlo joke.

Look Who's Suddenly Interested

In playing the "See, I was right all along!" game?

Golly, David, I had no idea you wanted to play this game, but that's great!

Let's start with George W. Bush and Iraq, shall we?
Ten Years Later, David Frum Can't Get the Most Basic Facts About Iraq Right

Gun Nuts and Creepy Fundamentalists

Turns out, at least two of the Five Pillars on which Modern Conservatism stands (Ammosexuals and snake-handling Christopaths -- the other three being Bigotry, Corporatism and, most important of all, Dogmatic Denial That The Other Four Pillars Exist) don't fare so well when cable teevee fame and big money are in the mix.

The Duggars Deliberately Covered Up Child Molestation in Their Ranks

 Chez Pazienza on May 22, 2015

The schadenfreude would be absolutely delicious if the story weren’t so sickening. 27-year-old Josh Duggar, the eldest son of the Duggar family — the Christian zealots who parlayed their unwillingness to stop churning out children into a multi-media empire — now admits publicly to molesting several little girls when he was a teenager, many of them his own sisters. He was forced to come clean after an In-Touch magazine article, published earlier today, detailed a 2006 police report revealing that Josh had confessed his acts to his father, Jim Bob Duggar, but the family patriarch withheld the information from police for a full year. Five young girls apparently had their breasts and genitals forcibly touched and groped by Josh, both while they were sleeping and while they weren’t. According to In-Touch, the report had remained hidden until the magazine filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The investigation treated Josh’s crimes as felonies.
From Fox411 (emphasis added):
Trouble just keeps mounting for former “Sons of Guns” star Will Hayden.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Disgraced Unshaven Neocon Hobo Says What?

For a wildly overpaid professional writer (former Bush Regime speechwriter, Iraq war pimp and author of such scintillating works of scholarship as "The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush") David Frum seems to have a severe problem grasping the meaning of very simple, everyday English words.

Words like "irony".

And "hypocrisy".

Good News, Citizens!

To serve you better, at our New and Improved MSNBC, disgraced, unshaven, neocon hobos eat free!

Lying What We Lie Now...

Honestly, I have only one, slight disagreement with the estimable Mr. Fallows here:
Now, the little history lesson. I am reinforcing a point already made in different ways by Peter Beinart for The Atlantic, Steve Benen for the Maddow Show blog, Greg Sargent in the WaPo, and Paul Krugman in the NY Times. But it is so very important, and in so much danger of being swamped by the current “Knowing what we know...” bomfog, that I feel I have to weigh in.
  • The “knowing what we know” question presumes that the Bush Administration and the U.S. public were in the role of impartial jurors, or good-faith strategic decision-makers, who while carefully weighing the evidence were (unfortunately) pushed toward a decision to invade, because the best-available information at the time indicated that there was an imminent WMD threat.
  • That view is entirely false.
  • The war was going to happen. The WMD claims were the result of the need to find a case for the war, rather than the other way around. Paul Krugman is exactly right when he says:
The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that.
This is blunter than I usually sound. Why am I putting it this way? I laid out as many details as I could in my book Blind Into Baghdad, and in an Atlantic article with the same name and one called “Bush’s Lost Year.
I would correct Mr. Fallows in one particular: in addition to "Peter Beinart for The Atlantic, Steve Benen for the Maddow Show blog, Greg Sargent in the WaPo, and Paul Krugman in the NY Times" I would add "...and most of what remains of the once mighty Liberal blogosphere has been all over this shiznit for the last decade, including driftglass, who has specialized in patiently vivisected the lies of David Brooks and Company almost every day for the past 10 years."

Sorry I don't have so much as a byline or occasional guest column in a major dead tree publication, James.

Lord knows I've tried :-)

And I don't mean to sound peevish.

But it is vexing to watch from the bleacher seats a national, Liberal conversation that boils down to "Can you believe these fucking Conservatives trying to get away with rewriting history?",  and which pivots in no small measure on the perjured testimony of Mr. David Brooks.

Bill Kristol Makes A Funny

And what will the outline for Neocon U's required "Introduction to Modern American History" freshman seminar look like?

I'm glad you asked. From USA today, one of the many, many media outlets where Bill Kristol is still given a national platform and you and I are not:
William Kristol: We were right to fight in Iraq

Obama threw away hard-earned gains.

We were right to invade Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein, and to complete the job we should have finished in 1991.

Even with the absence of caches of weapons of mass destruction, and the mistakes we made in failing to send enough troops at first and to provide security from the beginning for the Iraqi people, we were right to persevere through several difficult years. We were able to bring the war to a reasonably successful conclusion in 2008.

When President Obama took office, Iraq was calm, al-Qaeda was weakened and ISIS did not exist. Iran, meanwhile, was under pressure from abroad (due to sanctions) and at home (due to popular discontent, manifested by the Green uprising in the summer of 2009).

The Obama administration threw it all away...
Eventually and predictably Mr. Kristol gets around to advocating spending even more of the blood and treasure of others on the Reconquest of Iraq.

As I may have mention once or twice or 4000 times in the past 10 years, once it became clear that not only was our Elite Media going to spare blood-drunk ghouls like Bill Kristol a trip in the career tumbrel and hand them a whole pile of "Get Out Of The Righteous Judgement of History Free" cards, but were actually elevating these liars and sociopaths to ever greater levels of professional esteem, this shit became inevitable.

From me back in 2014:

"It is now impossible to stop Bill Kristol from lying" Edition.