Monthly Archives: August 2015

Sanders, the Invisible Candidate

Political conspiracies are not my cup of tea.  When I was tracking criminal intelligence on outlaw bikers for  the Knox County Sheriff’s Department, I kept running across a phrase used among that group of sociopaths:  “Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

Experience has taught me that human beings are blabbermouths. Even among police officers, who have more reason to practice discretion that most people, I have had an officer tell me something along the lines of, “This is between the two of us and it goes no further,”  only to have it come back to me a day or two later from several different sources with the same warning that the secret — whatever it is — must be kept.

When someone tells me what their intentions are, I take them at face value until I have reason to believe otherwise.  I never subscribed to “the great right wing conspiracy” or “the great left wing conspiracy.”  In most cases, both sides are upfront about their intentions.  I believed the political right when they say they want to shrink social services to a size small enough to drown in a bathtub  — a form of social Darwinism — and the left when they say they want a government that protects people and provides assurance that nobody will ever starve or go without healthcare — a capitalistic –socialist state, not either or.

In the matter of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who was elected as an Independent, caucuses with the Democrats and does not shy away from what he has described as “Democratic Socialism,”  it appears that  for all intents and purposes, he is nonexistent. The right wing concept of Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton as radical liberals, does not carry over to the left wing of the Democratic Party, where the two of them are viewed as moderates, at best. It’s a matter of perspective.

The conspiracy I have almost come around to believing is that the media in general is pretending as if Bernie Sanders does not exist, despite the crowds of thousands he is drawing and a popularity that matches or exceeds that of Clinton in some early primary states.

While the media seems to be totally focused on Donald Trump and the Republican majority continues to try and disgrace Clinton with continuing and pointless investigations, as if she is the only possible Democrat strong enough to threaten their quest to regain the White House, Sanders continues to draw large crowd everywhere he goes.

The journalistic non-existence of Sanders became suddenly acute when Joe Biden, Obama’s loyal VP began to cause rumbles by making noises that he might enter as a candidate for president. When Biden went to visit Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite of the genuine left wing of  her party, there was an explosion of interest in the media at a possible marriage of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party and the left wing.

Sanders was not mentioned as a part of the possible marriage, even though he has been saying what Warren says for decades longer.  Why is Sanders still being treated as a nonentity? Is it his age — he’s 73, not much older than Clinton — or is it because he is viewed as being unelectable because he has been upfront about building on existing socialist programs such as Social Security and Medicare? Or is it just that Sanders is not as colorful as some?

If I believed in conspiracies, Sanders’ journalistic nonexistence would qualify.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Luther Strange, Alabama’s, Attorney General — within hours of Obama’s proposed plan to lower carbon emissions — put out an e-mail that said the average annual household energy bill could rise by more than $800 a year if  Obama’s plan is  implemented.

Obama had already said that the average utility bill would probably increase slightly under his plan, but he did not attempt to read the future.  Strange felt compelled to come up with a number because most Conservatives — meaning a majority, not every single one — take things literally and must somehow arrive at a fixed number or factoid.

Always present in literal minds is a compulsion to have an “exact” figure or definition, whether it be global temperature change, a prophecy about future utility prices or an interpretation of the Bible. Such people will come up with a figure in some manner even if it means opening a Bible and putting their fingers on a verse — a form of divination called ”bibliomancy.”

Liberals are no better at prophecy than Conservatives and if they had used the term climate change rather than global warming to begin with, most of today’s debate wouldn’t be taking place.

Many conservatives believe in climate change as an act of God, and don’t want to admit the stuff we have been putting into the atmosphere since we started burning fossil fuels and raising more and more belching cattle have anything at all to do with the changes.

The year 1816 is known as the “Year Without a Summer “ when many people in the Northern hemisphere froze or starved. We now know that it was caused by a massive  eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) in 1815, the largest volcanic eruption in at least 13,000 years.  Our own Benjamin Franklin was one of the first scientists to figure out what caused it.

Let me repeat; if Liberals and scientists had called it climate change to begin with, the Conservatives wouldn’t have needed to measure temperature by exact degrees in order to refute global warming and the idea that human beings had anything to  with obvious acts of God.

When change is measured over a relatively long time, the exact amount of change seems miniscule, but it doesn’t take much of a rise or fall in temperature at all to wreak havoc with climate, and then return to what it was in a relatively short time.

When the Vikings colonized Greenland around the 13th Century, it really was green. Shortly thereafter, what is sometimes called “the Little Ice Age,” hit and the seas around Greenland froze over and glaciers appeared.

Four hundred years later when Europeans were able to go back, the colony had almost died out because the animals and crops that they imported from home died out because of the drastic climate change.

Now Greenland is green again and the glaciers have retreated.

When the Romans invaded what is today Britain in the 1st Century, among the things  they wanted were the vineyards that produced superb wines. At the same time Greenland was freezing over,  British vineyards and wine became a thing of the past. But with the climate changes made that Greenland green again, the climate in Britain increased slightly and it  is once more producing vineyards.

For one last time, words are important. If had Al  Gore and others had first called it climate change instead of global warming, fewer Conservatives would have had  reason to deny the entire thing.

Literalists can be very dangerous because they don’t think logically.



Finding Gold on The Independent Film Channel

I just saw a film on an a television channel that specializes in Independent, off beat, didn’t quite make it films. It was made in 2003 and is called Masked and Anonymous. I’d neither seen nor heard of it. It was directed, produced and written by Larry Charles, who penned the first five seasons of the Seinfield sitcom. Bob Dylan co-authored the script under the pseudonym “Sergei Petrov.” I have no idea why Dylan, who also was the central character and star, used a pseudonym.

According to Wikipedia the people’s encyclopedia, the film was funded by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and filmed in 20 days.

Despite the the obvious low priority and short shooting schedule, here is a partial list some of actors who have commanded millions for roles they’ve played, who signed on to work for union scale . The current Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) daily rate, is $880; and the weekly rate is $3,280. Here are some you will probably recognize: John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, Penélope Cruz, Val Kilmer, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Cheech Marin, Ed Harris; Christian Slater and Fred Ward.

Let’s face it, the opportunity to work with a living legend like Bob Dylan doesn’t come along every day, even for stars to work for what was minimum wage to them, just to be a part of it.

Masked and Anonymous is set in an undated future world in which chaos and a dictatorial, third world type government reign. Dylan plays a washed up but legendary music icon, Jack Fate, who is obviously supposed to be Dylan himself. Fate is the estranged son of the the President/Dictator of the United States is in prison when the film begins.

Fate is sprung from prison by Uncle Sweetheart (John Goodman) — a shady concert promoter — to be featured in, a giant charity concert, with which the desperate promoter plans to pay off his own debts. Goodman’s character is being pursued by criminal types to whom he owes a lot of money. He. has described the concert as “something that will be bigger than Woodstock.”

It seems that this film is mostly a platform for Bob Dylan’s music, politics and philosophy, and that’s all right with me. Not an actor, the former Robert Zimmerman still manages to deliver his lines and voice-overs in an acceptable, though somewhat monotone voice and the actors working for scale seem to try no less harder than if they were starring in a film based on a Nobel Prize winning novel.

Goodman plays as the blowhard con man who will say anything to make the concert a success, is very believable; Val Kilmer gave an exceptional performance as a hippy-like prophet who loves animals and hates people; the always beautiful Jessica Lange, plays an aging former world famous actress, working as a go-between manager is superb as usual — implementing orders from the unidentified criminal syndicate bosses through Goodmans’s character, who must in turn persuade Fate to go along with the orders disguised as “requests;” Christian Slater is outstanding as a philosophical stagehand, watching and commenting on the often chaotic situation.

Last but not least, Mickey Rourke Plays, Edmund, a sort of foster brother to Dylan’s character, who says to the music legend at one point: “I’m the man your father always wanted you to be.”

I will not give a way any more of the rice paper thin plot or the ending. As an example of cinematic art, most critics gave it a violent thumbs down, but I’m not a cinematic critic. If you came of age in the sixties, saw Woodstock as an almost religious event — and especially if you are a Bob Dylan fan — you need to watch this film. I just ordered it on CD for a few dollars and I generally don’t collect films or CDs. It can also be downloaded directly for immediate viewing.

This film is worth seeing, especially if you fit the criteria of an aging Dylan fan who came of age in the 1960s, or a student of the music of that era. Here are a few quotes from Masked and Anonymous:

Uncle Sweetheart “As long as I keep talking, I know I’m still alive.”

Jack Fate: “ All of us in some way are trying to kill time. When it’s all said and done, time ends up killing us.”

Edmund: “There will be no more stupidity. There will be no more mistakes. It’s a new day. God help you all.”

Desk Clerk: “I do not belong to any political party, sir. I guess you could call me… a feminist.”

Bobby Cupid: “Jack … Continue reading